the best handguns for beginners in 2024


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Alright, so you’re looking for the best handguns for beginners and home defense? Whether you’re new to the scene or just looking to up your home defense game, we’ll help you out. 

There are countless options out there so think of this guide as a roadmap through the myriad of options. We’ll break down everything from bullet calibers to handgun types to fit and to accessories, so you can navigate the world of handguns with confidence. We’ll have a list of some of the best handguns out there and resources to get ahold of them.

We’ve rounded up some of the best handguns for beginners, so you can skip the guesswork and get straight to finding the best fit for you.

Best Handguns For Beginners Quicklist

Our Pick
glock 19

Glock 19

Affordable, reliable and sets the standard for a compact 9mm handgun.

*Price accurate at time of writing

my personal Pick
jay rembert e0kgA5otj0Q unsplash

Glock 45

Perfect blend of full-size and compact that shoots well.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Bronze Pick
smith and wesson mp m20

Smith and Wesson M&P M2.0

Popular and proven.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Defining the Criteria For The Best Handguns For Beginners

When it comes to choosing the best handguns for beginners, think of it as finding the perfect tool for a specific job. Just like you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to hang a picture frame, you want a handgun that aligns with your intended purpose. 

Are you leaning towards having a reliable home defense tool, looking to sharpen your skills in sport shooting, or maybe even considering delving into the world of competitive shooting? Defining your handgun’s purpose is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together.

If you understand the criteria and options out there, it helps shape your decision-making.

Are you not really sure and looking to have just a do-it-all handgun for general use? That’s perfectly fine too. Some of the best handguns for beginners are useable for all purposes.

These are the criteria you should look at before even going to the gun store to narrow down the options for you and not get sucked into buying whatever the man behind the counter sells you on (which is why you’re reading this guide):

  • Intended Use
  • Handgun Size
  • Handgun types
  • Handgun Calibers
  • Other Important Considerations

Let’s look with more detail.

best handguns for beginners

Intended Use:

If your focus is on safeguarding your home and loved ones, a handgun with a home defense purpose in mind is your ticket.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking to get into a bit of competition at the shooting range, a competition-oriented handgun might be more your style.

Are you searching for the best concealed carry gun for self defense?

Each purpose demands different features – self-defense calls for reliability, safety and ease of use, while sport shooting might prioritize accuracy and precision.

Looking for a general purpose gun that can do-it-all? Most of the best handguns for beginners fall into this category.

All things considered, having an idea of your intended purpose beforehand helps guide you in your decision making. We will touch on all intended uses but for the purposes of this guide, we are going to move forward with an all-around general purpose gun for our intended use for the best handgun for beginners.

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Handgun Size:

The size of your handgun isn’t just about looks; it directly affects how it performs in different situations. Whether you’re focused on concealed carry, home defense, or honing your skills at the shooting range, the size of your handgun plays a significant role.

Generally speaking there are two categories of handguns, compact and full-size handguns.

Furthermore, the size of the handgun you choose will depend on the size of your hands, your intended use and how it feels in your hands. Your skill level also plays a role because generally speaking smaller handguns are harder to shoot accurately than full size handguns.

To summarize, for simplicity’s sake there are two general size categories of handguns: Compacts and Full-size.

Compacts:

Compact handguns, often referred to as “concealed carry” options, are designed to be more discreet and easily hidden. There are subcategories as well, like sub-compacts, which refer to how small they get. Most of these handguns have shorter barrels than 5 inches.

In contrast, being that they are primarily made to be more easily concealed, they carry less ammo.

Compact handguns win in terms of portability and ease of concealment but are a little bit harder to shoot even for an experienced shooter. Additionally, they have a smaller ammo capacity, meaning they carry less because they are smaller.

best handguns for beginners

Full-size:

Full-size handguns have a larger grip and a longer barrel usually around 5 inches. That gives you more to hold onto and gives you a longer sight radius (distance between the front and rear sight) which translates to better accuracy and control.

While they might not be as easy to conceal, they can be more comfortable to shoot, especially for beginners. They also have a larger ammo capacity because of the larger grip of the gun.

All things considered, if you’re searching for the best handgun for a beginner, and it is your first one, I recommend that you go with a full-size option for the reasons mentioned above. 

However, that is not set in stone. How a handgun fits in your hands definitely matters when choosing the best handgun for you. We’ll talk more about this further in the guide.

Handgun Types:

When searching for the best handguns for beginners, you’ll encounter various types, each with its unique mechanics and characteristics. To best inform you of your options, let’s look at the major types out there.

You have striker-fired handguns, hammer-fired handguns, revolvers and the sub categories of double-action, single-action and DA/SA configurations. To weed out the confusion, let’s quickly break them down.


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Striker-Fired Handguns:

Striker-fired handguns are the most modern handgun type and probably the best option for a beginner handgun. They’re known for their simplicity and ease of use.

The trigger pull both cocks and releases the firing pin, eliminating the need for external hammers or manual cocking. This results in consistent trigger pulls and is a great choice for beginners, as there’s no need to deal with the intricacies of manually cocking the hammer or needing to know about double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger pulls.

Every time you pull the trigger it will be the same making them very predictable and easy to use. Most of the modern handguns on the market today are striker fired and are our recommended type for the best handguns for beginners.

Hammer-Fired Handguns:

Hammer-fired handguns come from more traditional designs. They come in single-action, double-action or both DA/SA configurations. In a single-action hammer-fired handgun, the hammer must be manually cocked before the first shot, after which the cycling action of the gun cocks the hammer for subsequent shots.

Double-action hammer-fired handguns, on the other hand, allow for both the hammer to be manually cocked and a longer, heavier trigger pull for firing. These guns offer versatility but are more complex handguns for beginners. However, it doesn’t rule them out exclusively.

Revolvers:

colt 5102472 1280

Revolvers go back to the classic era and are the classic guns you see in cowboy movies.

With a rotating cylinder, they hold multiple rounds in individual chambers but not nearly as many as magazine fed handguns.

Revolvers come in both single-action and double-action configurations. Single-action revolvers require manual hammer cocking, while double-action models offer an all-in-one trigger pull for both cocking and firing.

While these are fun to shoot and are a classic design that shaped this country’s history, they are outdated and don’t perform as well as more modern handgun designs.

If you are looking for the best handguns for beginners, with the intentions of performance and home defense, I do not recommend relying on a revolver. However, I do encourage you to try them out and add to your collection some day because who doesn’t love more guns.

Double Action, Single Action and DA/SA:

Double-action (DA) handguns are known for their long and heavy trigger pull. Pulling the trigger both cocks and releases the hammer therefore firing the gun. This mechanism offers the advantage of a safe and relatively long trigger pull, making it harder to accidentally fire the gun.

Single-action (SA) handguns need to be manually cocked before firing. The trigger pull is exceptionally light and crisp, enabling superb accuracy. However, it’s crucial to note that they require manual cocking for the first shot, making them better suited for experienced shooters who are comfortable with this and the sensitive trigger.

Additionally, DA/SA combines the two into one handgun that utilizes both action types. This means that the first shot you take will be a long and heavy double action pull to engage and drop the hammer. Then, every shot thereafter will be a light and crisp single action pull. If you decide a hammer fired handgun is for you then I recommend this configuration.

In summary, each handgun type has its own personality and purpose. Striker-fired handguns prioritize simplicity, hammer-fired ones offer versatility and a more traditional feel and revolvers are a classic/proven design. When choosing the best handguns for beginners, it’s best to think about your intended use, comfort level, and the kind of shooting experience you’re looking to embrace.

Calibers For The Best Handguns For Beginners:

IMG 5221

Handguns come in a wide variety of calibers, which refers to the size of the cartridge is fires.

To be concise I will only talk about the most popular calibers which are the 9mm, the .40S&W and the .45ACP.

There is a lot of debate on this topic. However, most “pros” say the 9mm comes out on top and I’m with them. Not only for the best handguns for beginners but for most shooters out there.

Here’s a quick layout on these calibers to see why.

9mm:

The 9mm has gained immense popularity due to its versatility and balanced characteristics.

It offers a blend of manageable recoil, high magazine capacity, and effective stopping power. It’s used by law enforcement and armed forces worldwide. The 9mm is easy of use, affordable and performs great, which makes it an ideal choice for the best handguns for beginners.

This is my recommended round for the best handgun for beginners.

.40 S&W:

It was developed by the FBI to bridge the gap between the 9mm and .45 ACP. The .40 S&W is known for its blend of power, capacity and precision.

Also for its really snappy and lame recoil impulse…

It delivers a slightly heavier punch than the 9mm, which actually makes it a good contender for self-defense. However, its recoil is noticeably snappier, which might require a bit more practice to comfortably handle.

The FBI adopted this round but ultimately returned to the 9mm because it is just better overall. This is just my opinion, but the .40S&W seems to be becoming obsolete, despite its popularity in certain crowds.

image

.45 ACP:

The .45 ACP is loved for its stopping power. It has a history dating back to the early 20th century. It’s known for its larger bullet diameter and slower velocity, meaning it creates a substantial sized hole in whatever it hits.

It does have slightly more recoil than the 9mm, but it’s favored by people who prioritize raw stopping power, especially for home defense scenarios. This round has a pretty dedicated fanbase and was the round used in handguns in multiple world wars.

The real down sides are its low ammo capacity, ammo prices and the low velocity at which the bullet travels.

In summary, all these calibers have their merits.

However, the 9mm stands out as a favorite due to its overwhelming benefits. It offers manageable recoil, ample magazine capacity, and widespread availability of ammunition at a better price. Furthermore, the advancements in ammo quality has brought the 9mm to perform remarkably close to the .40S&W and .45ACP in terms of “stopping power”.

In a word, that makes the 9mm the choice for the best handguns for beginners.

Other Important Considerations:

best handguns for beginners

Additionally, there are some other various things to consider when searching for the best handguns for beginners. In this section we will bring up some thought-worthy considerations for you to keep in mind when narrowing down your search for next handgun.

Reliability/Reputation:

For one thing, reliability is paramount. Look for well-established brands with a strong reputation for producing handguns that consistently perform under various conditions.

Secondly, a reliable handgun ensures safety and functionality making it a cornerstone of any purchase decision. Top brands like Glock, Smith and Wesson, Sig Sauer, and Walther to name a few make reliable and proven handguns

Budget:

Meanwhile, you should set a clear budget range and stick to it. There are many options across various price points. Keep in mind, that investing a bit more upfront can often lead to a more reliable and enjoyable shooting experience.

Factor in not just the initial cost but also potential expenses for accessories, training, and ammunition because investing in training is more important than even the gun itself. Moreover, most of the go-to striker fire handguns can be had for $500-$800 making them very affordable.

Popularity:

At this point, popularity can be a good indicator of a handgun’s quality and acceptance within the firearm community.

Widely embraced choices are likely to have undergone thorough testing and proven their worth to a lot of people. This also can put different models’ weaknesses out into the spotlight for the others to see. This always becomes very evident on Instagram.

Availability/Aftermarket Support/Customizability:

gun 5947350 1280

Additionally, ensure the handgun you’re interested in is available in your area. Knowing your local laws will tell you right away what you can and cannot buy.

Furthermore, availability can not only impact the purchase itself but also future support. Namely, this includes spare parts, magazines, and potential upgrades.

Keep in mind, how much you can customize or enhance your handgun after purchase. A handgun with robust aftermarket support provides options for personalization, whether it’s adding accessories, upgrading components, or fine-tuning the firearm to your preferences.

Customizability allows you to tailor the handgun to your specific needs and preferences. Look for handguns with modular designs or those that offer a variety of compatible accessories. All things considered, a customizable handgun grows with you as your shooting skills and requirements evolve.

Fit:

Lastly, the fit of a handgun directly influences your shooting ability. A handgun that fits well in your hand ensures comfort which breeds confidence.

Also, having a handgun that feels good in your hand lays the foundation for a proper grip leading to more controlled and accurate shooting performance. On the other hand (pun intended), a handgun that doesn’t feel right in your hand can lead to unnecessary tension which affects your accuracy and overall enjoyment.

For example, constantly having to fix your grip isn’t productive and just straight annoying. Keep in mind, that developing a proper grip is part of the learning curve to grow as a shooter even with a handgun that has a good fit.

Finding the right balance between these will lead to a handgun that best aligns with your shooting goals and individual preferences.

Now that you’ve considered everything you just read it’s time to figure out how to actually look at some of the best handguns for beginners, and experienced shooters alike.

The Best Handguns For Beginners

Next, we’re onto actually picking out your next handgun! We’ve narrowed down by all the criteria and considerations above and are ready to start looking at your next handgun. Here is a list of some of the best handguns for beginners out there.

Glock Handguns

best handguns for beginners
Glock 17 and Glock 19X

Many consider Glocks to be the best handguns for beginners and experienced shooters alike. They are reliable, dependable, in abundance, easy to shoot and fit well in most hands. Not to mention they have the largest aftermarket support of any handgun around meaning you can customize to your hearts content.

There are multiple generations but Gen 3-Gen 5 will be the most sought after. Keep in mind that some states like CA have handgun rosters which limit what you can purchase in those states…

Here are a few Glock handgun models that are worth buying:

Glock 17 (Full size):

The Glock 17 is hard to beat and you cannot go wrong in choosing this handgun. This model is the full size option and is most likely the best handgun for beginners who aren’t considering concealed carrying. The full size is a little easier to shoot and manage recoil with but is otherwise identical to other 9mm models (Glock 19 up next) in the same configuration.

Easy to shoot
glock17 gen 3

Glock 17

Affordable and reliable full size option

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here: 

Glock 19 (Compact):

Probably the most popular handgun is the Glock 19. Identical to the Glock 17 in every way aside from size and ammo capacity, it finds itself the favorite due to its ability to be concealed more easily. If you ever are considering concealed carrying or if you have smaller hands then this will be the gun for you.

Our Pick
glock 19

Glock 19

Affordable, reliable and sets the standard for a compact 9mm handgun.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here:

Glock 45 (Hybrid):

The Glock 45 is the perfect combination of the Glock 19 and Glock 17. It utilizes the 17’s full-size frame while sporting the barrel/slide length of the 19 to bring us the Glock 45. With this in mind, it gives you the benefit of a full-size grip/ammo capacity with the concealability of the shorter slide. I personally carry and shoot this gun so I thought I’d put it on the list. If you can’t decide between the two previous models, this one might be for you.

A very similar model, the Glock 19x, is also available and they are nearly identical.

my personal Pick
jay rembert e0kgA5otj0Q unsplash

Glock 45

Perfect blend of full-size and compact that shoots well.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here:

Sig Sauer Handguns

best handguns for beginners
Sig Sauer P320

Sig Sauer has been a big name in the firearms industry for a long time. A list of the best handguns for beginners wouldn’t be complete without them making the list. Especially since they have landed numerous weapons contracts for the U.S. military and are now the face of the Army’s sidearm. Additionally, Sig Sauer is a favorite among law enforcement agencies and the civilian population for many different weapons platforms.

While most of their offerings are usually priced higher than others, they have created a handgun to fit into the affordable polymer/striker fired handgun market. 

Sig Sauer P320

The P320 has just been adopted as the U.S. Army’s new sidearm (well the M17 version of the P320 has been at least). It’s gained a lot of popularity among the military, law enforcement agencies, competitive shooters and civilians. It comes in so many variations and sizes that it can be tailored to just about anyone.

Not only that, the only portion of the firearm that is serialized is the firing control unit (FCU) so you can swap out grips and slides to create almost any size or type of handgun you want. This makes this handgun incredibly modular should you want to change things up after purchase.

I personally carried this as my duty weapon when I was in law enforcement and it was a great pistol at the time.

Modular
sig p320 e1697025647659

Sig Sauer P320

Modular and extremely versatile.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here:

2024 UPDATE: There has been some “viral” legal/functionality issues with these pistols that are concerning. My personal experience with this handgun has been positive but there are a large number of catastrophic failures taking place across the U.S. which is worth taking into consideration. Do your own research before any purchase.

Sig Sauer P320-M17

If having what the Army uses suits you, then here is the U.S. Army approved model they use in a civilian configuration.

U.S. Army approved
p320 m17

Sig Sauer M17

Civilian version of the Army’s P320

*Price accurate at time of writing

Another Sig handgun worth mentioning is the P365 and its variants. However, it is a concealed carry purpose pistol. It has made waves in the handgun arena the last few years and is worth a mention. You can see more models and learn about it here if it interests you.

Smith and Wesson Handguns

best handguns for beginners
Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0

Smith and Wesson is a well known and historic firearms manufacturer.  The over 100 year old “Military & Police (M&P)” line by Smith and Wesson keeps on winning the hearts of the gun community. As a trusted name in the industry, they definitely make the list for the best handgun for beginners and home defense. 

Smith and Wesson M&P M2.0

Their newly updated Smith and Wesson M&P M2.0 certainly does not disappoint. With some major upgrades (especially to the trigger) from the 1.0 models, they take their place in the most popular handguns for beginners list. Additionally, these handguns have become extremely popular with both the law enforcement and civilian crowds.

They also come in models both with or without external safeties so you can decide what is best for you.

These handguns fit very well in most hands and they come with different palm swell attachments to fine tune to different hand sizes. Another upgrade is the more aggressive texturing that they added to the frame. It really helps get a solid grip on the gun and isn’t to aggressive should you decide to conceal carry one.

Most improved
smith and wesson mp m20

Smith and Wesson M&P M2.0

Popular and proven.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here:

Smith and Wesson M&P Shield

The M&P Shield is just like the larger M&P but the Shield is considered a micro-compact and is designed for the purposes of carrying concealed. While its not the best handgun for a beginner or home defense, it makes the list because it is worth looking into.

ccw pick
mp shield

M&P Shield M2.0

Good concealed carry option.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Hechler and Koch VP9

best handguns for beginners
Hechler and Koch VP9

Another addition to the polymer framed striker fired 9mm chambered group is the HK VP9. This ergonomic handgun is a great option for those looking for the best handgun for a beginner but don’t want the look or feel of a Glock or M&P.

In addition, these handguns come in a couple unique setups. The VP9 is available in a compact and full size option and it also comes with a magazine release lever versus a magazine button release. The lever isn’t for everyone, but it comes in a standard button release if it doesn’t suit you.

ergonomic
hk vp9 41 17 round 9mm pistol black

H&K VP9

Ergonomic and comfortable 9mm handgun.

*Price accurate at time of writing

There are many versions of the HK VP9 including compact and tactical options here.

Also Available Here:

CZ Handguns

best handguns for beginners
CZ P-10 M (Micro compact), P-10C (Compact) and P-10F (Fullsize) Models

I’ve found the CZ P-10 to be either completely ignored by most shooters, loved by their die hard fans or made fun of by critics. I’m not one to care what people on the internet think.

When I first got my hand on this handgun I was genuinely curious as to its performance and the first time I pulled the trigger I was really impressed.

It was smooth and had a nice break. In addition, the gun also sits in your hands extremely well. For an extremely affordable handgun (at the sale prices) it performed really well. The P-10 makes the list of the best handguns for beginners for strictly those reasons. 

Although, the aftermarket support for it might be lacking compared to other brands but I’m sure that will change down the road.

Great price
cz p10f

CZ P-10

Extremely affordable and great trigge.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Also Available Here:

Latest and “Greatest”

best handguns for beginners
Springfield Echelon. Photo by American Rifleman

Although the Springfield Echelon doesn’t make the list officially, it has caused a real buzz in the industry since its release this year. It hasn’t been on the market long enough to create a real reputation.

Springfield fans are hopeful that it is here to stay and critics are sure its a flop. Only time will tell.

It has numerous patent-pending features to try and carve its place at the front of the pack. I think for someone in the market for a new handgun, it may be an option for you to look into.

Most modern
springfield echelon side

Springfield Echelon

New design with modern features from the factory.

*Price accurate at time of writing

Other Notable Mentions

Lastly, there are countless guns out there that could be considered the best handguns for beginners. The top choices we mentioned were all striker fired for simplicity and ease of function. As well as, popularity and cost are also factors to keep in mind. If you think something should have made the list but didn’t, let us know!

We also really liked these handguns even though they didn’t make the list:

To sum it all up, if something didn’t make the list share what you think should be on here as well!

Recommended Accessories

best handguns for beginners
Streamlight TLR-7 Weapon Light

Lastly, we are very briefly going to suggest some accessories that we feel are absolutely essential to any handgun. Especially if it’s going to be used for home defense or even just on the range.

With this in mind, we recommend you put on a quality:

The reason for this is that half the time we live is dark out and without a weapon light it poses a significant safety risk. Therefore, it basically renders the weapon useless.

In addition, we recommend a red dot sight for a few reasons. First, they pose a lot of benefits in terms of field of view because you keep both eyes open when using this sight system. Secondly, a red dot sight allows the shooter to acquire and transition targets at a faster pace. Thirdly, low light visibility of your sights is far better with a red dot sight.

There are so many options for weapon lights but we recommend Streamlight as a budget option. Surefire is the go-to brand for the best of the best.

What’s more, we have the red dot sights. There are far more options for them to choose from. Some really good, some really bad and some really expensive. In summary, get what works best for your budget but won’t fail when you need it.

We recommend you look at these brands to start:

You can view my round up of the best pistol red dot optics out there for more information.

And here is a review of the popular Holosun 507c I wrote that might be helpful.

Final Thoughts

There you go. That’s all there is to picking out the best handguns for beginners. Just be sure to define your intended use, choose a size, go with the type that best suits you, choose the best caliber, and stay within your budget and what fits in your hand the best.

Here’s one last overview of our recommended criteria:

  • Full size
  • Striker fired
  • 9mm
  • Reputable
  • Good fit
  • Throw on a light and a red dot sight (at some point)

Of course, everyone has their own opinions and it isn’t the end of the world if you just cannot decide on one and have to get multiple.

Put your new handgun in a quality holster on a proper battle belt setup and you’ll be off to the range!

Feel free to share this article if you find it helpful.

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