Top 5 Best Handguns for First Time Shooters

New handgun shooter learning how to shoot
By Ammunition Depot
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Top 5 Best Handguns for First Time Shooters

Shooting for the first time can be a little scary, especially if you didn't grow up around guns. Everyone is nervous their first time trying anything new, and the same holds true for guns — it's a natural thing we all go through.

But what can you do to best mitigate that anxiety and ensure your first shooting experience is enjoyable? One thing is using the right gun. You don't want to start off on high-powered hand cannons or rifles that kick like mules.

Whether you're shopping for your own first gun or taking someone to the range for the first time, it's best to ease into firearms and shooting. Consider guns that are fun to shoot and don't have as much recoil. Here are five guns we consider to be best for first-time shooters.

5. Glock 44

Glock 44 pistol

A good introduction to shooting and the Glock ecosystem, the Glock 44 is a polymer-framed pistol that's a fantastic introduction to modern shooting.

Don't be intimidated by the name; the Glock 44 isn't a big gun or one that shoots .44 magnum rounds. The number actually has nothing to do with the caliber of round that it fires; Glock just has an odd model numbering system. The Glock 44 is actually a .22 caliber gun.

The .22 caliber is perhaps the best way to ease into shooting. The smallest round to shoot, it has almost no recoil and is not extremely loud. The round is fantastic for target shooting and, if necessary, can still kill small game or unwanted varmints.

A great thing about starting with the Glock 44 is that it lets you try one of the most popular brands in the world. Despite being a .22, it still has the same look, feel, and shape of other Glocks, so it lets new shooters see if they like the ergonomics and operation of the Glock without committing to larger calibers. Plus, the polymer design and small size of the .22 round means it's a very lightweight gun. It truly is an all-around fun gun and a great entry-level firearm for the first-time shooter.

4. Walther PPK/S

Walther PPK/S pistol

Bond. James Bond. What more really needs to be said? The Walther PPK is one of the most recognizable guns in the world, and the Walther PPK/S is that same gun chambered in .22 caliber. How could you possibly go wrong with that?

The Walther PPK/S is a metal-framed gun, which gives it more weight to absorb recoil. When that's combined with the low recoil of the .22, it becomes a dream to shoot. Imagine being a first-time shooter and getting to tell people you were shooting same gun as James Bond; that kind of introduction to shooting virtually guarantees a lasting impression.

3. Sig Sauer P238

Sig Sauer P238 pistol

The first gun in something larger than .22 on the list, this is a perfect introduction to what could be considered a legitimate concealed carry option. When introducing someone to shooting a gun that could be carried defensively, why not break them in with a small gun, a small caliber, and a solid metal frame construction? The Sig Sauer P238 meets all those criteria. It's a 1911-style gun, so it's got a metal frame to help reduce the impact of felt recoil.

In addition, it isn't a scary looking gun due to its size. It's actually a fairly small firearm, clocking in with a six-shot magazine capacity and only a 2.7-inch barrel. Add that to the fact that it's chambered in .380 ACP and you have a recipe for success. No large booming fire, no fierce recoil, and a beaver-tail grip to protect from accidental slide bite combine for a safe, non-intimidating way to introduce somebody to shooting.

Regardless of whether you're a first-time shooter purchasing your first gun for personal protection or just trying shooting for the first time, the Sig Sauer P238 is an excellent choice.

2. Beretta 92

Beretta 92 pistol

The first "real" full-size pistol on the list, the Beretta 92 is an iconic gun. It was famously wielded by Bruce Willis in the blockbuster Die Hard; it was a weapon of choice for the U.S. Navy's original Seal Team Six; and was adopted by the U.S. Army to replace the venerated 1911.

On top of that, the Beretta 92 is another steel-framed gun, but in a full-size pistol package. The weight of a steel framed gun of that size makes it a bit on the heavy side, but that weight effectively mitigates the minimal recoil from the 9mm round it fires.

Being chambered in 9mm has its advantages, too, because it's a legitimate carry round. This is a plus for first-time shooters, because it gives them an opportunity to shoot a genuine duty gun used by both police and military. Since it's a full-size gun chambered in what is arguably the most popular round in the world, it also enhances the feeling of excitement at shooting a "real" gun. This can really go a long way to solidify the experience as a positive one.

1. Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0

Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 pistol

The M&P line from Smith & Wesson is an outstanding line of polymer framed handguns designed with military and police in mind. That's actually what the M&P in the name stands for. Designed to fill the needs of those specific jobs, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 is the second iteration of the brand's full-size 9mm pistol.

As with the Beretta, this is a full-size gun chambered in 9mm, but this gun has a polymer frame rather than a steel one. This drastically reduces weight, making for a less fatiguing shooting experience. However, despite this weight reduction, the recoil is not much worse than the Beretta.

Polymer pistols such as the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 are the current standard in handguns. For a first-time shooter, this is a great way to ease into the more modern style found in many competition and carry guns. The M&P has a noticeably smaller grip than some of the other polymer guns on the market, and this helps people with small hands get a better grip and not feel overwhelmed by the gun. Those with large hands enjoy the size of the M&P because they're able to better wrap their hands around the gun and feel more in control. To assist in this, the M&P 9 2.0 also has various grip additions that help to fit the gun to your hand. The beauty of this gun is that it could also be a fantastic home defense or EDC firearm. These things altogether make for a  fantastic experience for the first-time shooter.

Sharing your passion and introducing a new shooter to different guns is almost as much fun as shooting them yourself. The same holds true if you're the new shooter looking for advice on what to try. The discovery is part of the fun. Whether you're looking for ideas to share or suggestions for yourself, getting the first time right helps increase your long-term enjoyment of firearms.

2 years ago
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2 years ago at 2:34 PM
I would beg to differ. Many first time shooters are women and find it difficult to rack a slide on most semi autos. For both men and women (first timers), I've always recommended a small to medium frame revolver. No slide racking, no safeties, slide stops releases, de-cockers and no accidental discharges with a round left in the chamber after releasing the magazine. Another benefit is the cylinder may be left slightly opened as an absolute safety and simply closed to ready the pistol. Lot's of advantages! I say this from experience as there's nothing like putting a pistol / revolver in the hands of someone who has never used one.
2 years ago at 2:34 PM
I'm not sure I would agree on a revolver as a first time woman gun own. First many of the revolvers are now very light and short barrels which equates to more recoil and muzzle flip. Even if upgrade to say a .357 but shoot .38 caliber the double action trigger is a heavy pull. Single action shooting takes time to cock. Accuracy is more difficult with a short barrel revolver. If practicing the gun is heavy so you get tired more than with a semi- auto. If you want to conceal at some point it is more difficult on the body to do that with a bigger revolver. The smaller ones again goes back to snappy recoil which can be intimidating to some. What happens bad habits of pushing through anticipated recoil. Started with medium size semi automatic. You have the weight over the micros and barrel length to reduce muzzle flip and recoil. This gives time to build confidence and skill without someone giving up. I'm certainly not anti-revolver as in my 20s I had .38 snub-nosed, now in my 50s I have a .357 but shoot .38 out of it. Sold my airweight .38 for all the reasons above. I also have a .380 1911 ( my fav), .22 for practice and learning fundamentals, 9mm ez S&w.
2 years ago at 2:34 PM
I simply agree. I started with my first gun and still love shooting it. I am 81 yrs old and shoot and train often. I shoot a S&W M&P 380 EZ with a thumb safety and I love it. just sayin'
Robert Eddins
2 years ago at 2:34 PM
Hi I.m almost 68. I love my guns, and Yes I.m a conservative Democrat. There.s a lot of us and I resent Republicans thinking we all hate guns. All my shooting friends are democrats too. I agree with this person. Revolvers are the best for many shooters for the stated reasons. got arthritis bad now and in a year or so won.t be able to rack the slide anymore. Then I.'ll carry a revolver. Every time my wife and I go to a movie theater I have my Ruger and an extra magazine, and I point out the exit so my wife and I know where we can escape hopefully should a hater or mentally ill person start shooting. Revolvers are very RELEVENT are wise for Manny. Last. only carry a firearm you are comfortable with, if you can, control it, you can.t shoot it safely. Also, if youre in our beautiful forests police your brass and recycle or reload!
Billy M
2 years ago at 5:29 PM
Let's start with the obvious problem. Support hand cupping the pistol? My instructors would ride my ass for doing that. Definitely start shooting with a .22 to get the feel for and understand recoil. By-pass the .380. The recoil on a small frame weapon in .380 is more like a .45. The S&W is a good weapon to transition to next. Light weight and with 115 grain ammo, recoil is very manageable. I'm not a fan of the Beretta as I found them heavy with a their 15# double action trigger pull. I would include the Glock 17 or 19 in that group.
Heather K Flanders
2 years ago at 5:29 PM
I noticed the hand position also, my Navy Seal instructor would do the same to me me
2 years ago at 5:29 PM
Dont forget the beauty of hammer fired is you can always cock the hammer instead of the 15lb beast of a double action pull on the Beretta 92 I do that all the time when Im shooting for accuracy Same for my 357 revolver !
Dobbin Callahan
2 years ago at 7:05 PM
I instruct beginning handgun classes. I have found that for some a revolver is by far a best first gun. For some, the manual of arms for a semi- auto is intimidating. I have had great success in starting with a revolver then moving to a semi-auto after the student becomes comfortable. For some who are never going to practice enough to become skilled with a semi- auto, the "pick it up and pull the trigger" simplicity of a revolver may be the best long term also. A six shot revolver in the purse is infinitely better than a six+ shot semi that a person is afraid to shooti A revolver with an easy trigger pull in double-action is perfect. Ruger LCR is a little pricey for some, but a great stsrter6.
Bob Webb
2 years ago at 6:16 PM
Why do you show the incorrect way to hold a pistol. Cup and saucer in not the way.
2 years ago at 9:13 PM
Good article. The whole "new" gun owner situation gets a lot of coverage and no one can even number how many articles have been written about it. I will just share one story of which I had personal knowledge. A female coworker was afraid of her ex husband and bought a gun. She was adamantly advised by several people to buy a Ruger LCP because she was a woman and needed a small gun, So, she bought one and took it to the range exactly one time. It was her first handgun and she hated shooting it because it was so small and difficult for her to control. One night a few weeks later her ex shaded her car down and ran her off the road. He opened her door and terrorized her, although fortunately didn't physically harm her but could have any time he wanted to. I asked if she had got her gun out of the console and she said no. She didn't have confidence she could use it. Moral of the story . . . don't buy what people say you should, try out several guns and buy what fits you then practice with it. The Ruger LCP is a good gun and a great fit for some people, but not for everyone. She would have been far better off with a Beretta 92 or a Glock that she actually enjoyed shooting and would practice and train with so she would be confident in using it if she had to.
2 years ago at 12:22 AM
Just remember if youre teaching a first time shooter with a revolver the left support hand is a different grip STRESS that to a revolver shooter . Also the smaller 380's hurt like hell after a mag of 6 shots its snappy and stings .Most of first time shooter friends and family hate all of my small 380s I have 6. I carry when bike riding or hiking . Its not a range gun and as people already pointed out new shooters wont use them after their experience on the range . I tell new shooters to go to a range under the guidance of the range master or an experienced friend NOT some friend with video game or youtube experience and rent a few firearms in various calibers and grip styles . Then have them show you the proper grip and know what to expect after pulling the trigger . They'll find out immediately which style, type and caliber of firearm they feel comfortable shooting . A 380 or a nine in a medium size poly single stack automatic gun is the way to go if its CC . I suggest any single stack low bore automatic which will mechanically and physically have a more controlled recoil . The most common low bore auto whether people like it or not is the Glock design. Poly which will be light weight and single stack which means thin . And yes theres also others that fit this criteria Google them . I found most new shooters find Revolvers are bulky and heavy and find them fun but cant picture them carrying discreetly . Also don't write off a small 22 automatic , it sure beats a stupid key or a pen when you need a firearm. It's loud and with minimags or stingers can do some serious damage to a face since most encounters are only a couple feet away. Joggers and hikers are known to carry a small 22 with ratshot for protection against snakes or dogs . Best advice is TRY before you BUY . A gun in the safe because you hate shooting it is pretty useless if you dont have it with you !!
Richard pellicano
1 year ago at 9:29 AM
Renting a gun first to test the actual feel of the gun and the safety issues while firing at targets gets me to decide if Want a gun for the long haul for range practice ,otherwise why buy a gun you will hate and never use it .
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