Picking out a handgun for a woman isn’t an easy task, but it’s an important one. We’re often asked what the best handgun for a woman is, and the answer is quite simple despite what you might read elsewhere online.
Over the years, we’ve seen and heard a lot of men push certain guns on women because they’re “the best gun for a woman to carry.” But the truth is there is no “best gun” for a woman. However, there are many guns that are great for specific purposes, which every gun purchase decision boils down to at the end of the day.
Choosing the right gun for a woman is virtually the same process men should, but don’t often, use. First, you must determine how you plan to use that gun. Then you should evaluate your skill level and the level of your physical strength.
We’ll cover a couple of examples below and what questions you should ask yourself before determining the best gun. Consider this an entry-level guide to guns that covers the basics. And the first place to start is by answering three critical questions.
- How to choose a handgun?
- How do you plan to use the gun?
- Is home defense or concealed carry right for you?
These answers are essential. There is no best tool for all jobs, but there are specific tools for specific jobs.
If your answer is home defense, then why are you set on a handgun? Are there space restrictions on the area you can safely store a gun? Do you have kids and need a weapon you can shoot with one hand so you can reach for a child and keep them from danger and out of your way?
If so, that’s a valid concern and looking for a handgun for women is a good option. But you may want to consider a long gun if you live alone or with other fully functional adults. Long guns tend to be more terminally effective and easier to use. Though their size might seem intimidating, it shouldn’t.
If you’re interested in concealed carry, you will be limited to a handgun– a pistol or a revolver–and your method of carrying will play a big factor in what gun you select. If you’re carrying off the body in a purse or bag, the size of the bag narrows down the gun you can carry. The same goes for on-body carry. If you plan to carry on the body (the safest method), then you’ll want to determine what type of holster and where you plan to carry that holster. Your clothing style and body type will dictate what size gun you can conceal.
From there, you can start to figure out what works for you from a shooting standpoint. You will want to question how easy it is to get a good grip on the gun and trust your intuition about whether a handgun is too large for your hands or not.
Getting a good solid grip is an essential part of controlling the weapon. Frequently, men try to push women into getting tiny guns because that’s what they feel a woman should use. Or they veer into the other side of the spectrum and recommend a heavyweight gun because they believe the more mass in the gun means less recoil. However, reducing recoil via mass only works if your hands are large enough to maintain control of the weapon.
Recently, I was in a class with a woman under 5 feet tall with proportionally sized hands. The instructors pushed her to shoot a Glock 17 that she could barely wrap her hands around. She couldn’t easily access any of the controls. To say she struggled with it is an understatement. I offered my Glock 43 for her to try as a much smaller gun that would fit her hands the way the Glock 17 fits my hands as a 6-foot tall male. She shot the Glock 43 incredibly well even though it had more recoil. All because she could grip the gun in a manner where she had complete control over the recoil.
The moral of this story find a gun that fits your body and the role you intend it to fill. Don’t be afraid to try multiple options even if they go against the norm.
Suggested Handguns for Women
Small Handguns for Women
My cousin is a realtor and she actually carries a Glock 42. The Glock 42 is a very small 380 single-stack pistol. The great thing about it is it’s extremely easy to shoot. It has excellent ergonomics for either large or small hands and very low recoil.
While the 380 cartridge isn’t the most powerful, this gun is extremely accurate. Having a gun that you can shoot well and shoot accurately can often be better than having a gun with a more powerful cartridge.
The Glock 43 is a bigger, scaled-up version of the Glock 42. This gun is in 9mm, and unfortunately, it doesn’t have the low recoil of the Glock 42. That said, it’s definitely a gun that people with smaller hands can shoot very well.
The ergonomics of this are not quite as good if you have larger hands, but if you have really small hands, this gun will likely handle like a much larger gun like I’ve mentioned in the story above.
The Glock 43X uses the same slides as the Glock 43, but it has a longer grip and accepts a different magazine. This gun holds 10 rounds of 9mm in its factory format, and it holds 15 rounds if you use aftermarket shield mags.
This gun is going to be much better than the Glock 43 if you have larger hands, but if you have smaller hands, you’ll likely have the same amount of recoil as a Glock 43. The only advantage is going to be the extra capacity. This is a very good gun for most average-sized people. Another gun to take a look at would be the larger Glock 48.
The only difference between the Glock 43X and the Glock 48 is the length of the slide. You will likely feel slightly less recoil with a Glock 48 but the longer slide may be an upside or a downside depending on how you plan to carry.
If you’re carrying off the body like in a purse, the extra length may take up more space. Whereas if you’re carrying on the body, the extra length of the gun will actually balance it out and likely make the gun more comfortable to carry.
The Sig P365 is an extremely small gun. Sized between the Glock 42 and Glock 43, the Sig P365 holds 10 rounds of 9mm with the option to run 12 or 15 round magazines. This gun holds a lot of ammo for its size. The recoil impulse on this is also extremely soft. While not as soft as the Glock 42, it’s definitely milder than the Glock 43 or 43X.
If you have small hands, this might be the best gun for you, period. The Sig P365 is extremely ergonomic for people that have small hands, and it comes from the factory with a very good set of sites, which is a plus.
The Sig P365 XL is a larger version of the Sig P365. It has a slightly longer slide as well as a slightly longer grip. This gun comes standard with 12 round magazines and also has the ability to add a red dot.
Having the ability to add a red dot is a major plus in my opinion, but that’s an option I would only suggest for people that are going to shoot and train regularly.
Springfield Armory Hellcat
The Springfield Armory Hellcat comes in two variants, or actually three. You can get it in the RDP, which comes with an optic and a compensator. You can get it in the OSP model, which just has the ability to add an optic. Or you can get the gun without an optic.
All these versions come with a very good set of iron sights. This gun is even smaller than the Sig P365 although not by much. Personally, the ergonomics of this gun do not feel as good in the hand as the Sig P365 , but I seem to be able to get more control on the gun than I can with the Sig P365. If you’re running this gun with 13 round magazines, it’s extremely controllable.
The pinky of the hand is a very important finger when it comes to controlling recoil. I can get my pinky on the grip of the Sig P365 with a 10 round magazine, whereas I can not do the same on the Hellcat. If your hands are smaller than mine, the Hellcat may be a better gun for you but if your hands can’t get the pinky all on the Hellcat with a 10 round magazine, then you may be better off running the Sig P365 if you plan to run the gun with flush fit magazines.
Out of the guns we’re talking about, this gun has the best set of factory iron sights. It really is a great gun. My biggest complaint is going to be the mediocre slide serrations. This can be a hard gun to manipulate if you’re not used to manipulating small firearms. It can be quite difficult to load and unload.
Best Handguns for Women of Average Size
The CZ P10c is a larger gun but it has excellent ergonomics. If you’re wanting a larger gun to carry that’s extremely shootable and natural to shoot, then check out the CZ P10c. It has some of the best texture I’ve ever felt on a firearm while also pointing naturally. This gun just shoots well, the ergonomics of the gun force you to get a very good high grip on the gun and aid you in controlling recoil.
This is a gun where the ergonomics are really built around the shooter. The only issue with this gun is it’s a little big and could be an issue to conceal for some people.
The CZ P10s is just a smaller version of the CZ P10c. While not quite as controllable when it comes to recoil, the CZ P10s has a lot of similar features to the CZ P10c. The ergonomics are almost identical. The gun just has a shorter frame and a shorter slide.
So, if you have smaller hands and you can get your entire hand on the grip, this may be as good of an option for you as the CZ P10c. Although I will warn you, you will likely have slightly more recoil due to the shorter slide having less mass to absorb that recoil.
The Glock 19 is the quintessential do-it-all handgun. It can work for concealed carry, for home defense, or for some sort of duty use. It’s just a great gun with lots of aftermarket and lots of part support. You’re not going to have a problem getting a Glock 19 fixed if it ever breaks and they rarely break. The biggest complaint I can see about the Glock 19 is the grip is somewhat larger.
If you have medium to larger-sized hands, this will likely be fine, but if you have smaller hands it may be difficult to reach the controls. Generation 4 and generation 5 Glock 19s have smaller grips than the generation 3s, yet those grips are still quite large. I would definitely suggest handling one of these to see if it’s for you before you buy it.
SIG P320x Compact
The Sig P320 X Compact is one of the most excellent double-stack guns I have seen for smaller statured people. The Sig P320 XCompact grip is extremely small and easy for most people to get their hands on. I, myself, have larger hands and find the grip to be just a tad bit small. It’s a little bit short for my liking. That said, this gun still shoots extremely soft.
Being such as soft shooting gun with a small grip, I think it’s an excellent choice for smaller stature women who want something closer to a full-size gun. This gun is going to have much less recoil than the Sig P365 or the Springfield Armory Hellcat. And it’s also going to have more magazine options. You can run 15 round magazines or you can run any Sig P320 magazine that’s larger than 15 rounds. If I had smaller hands, I would likely be carrying the Sig P320 compact. That’s how much I like this gun.
Many people want to push female shooters towards revolvers when because they assume women have less knowledge of firearms and won’t be as skilled with them. This is the reality. You’re either going to be all-in on learning about firearms, take it seriously and learn to use it well. Or it’s going to be something that you want to have and want to know how to use but you’re not really willing to put the time.
If you’re not willing to put the time in, a revolver is a good choice even if most revolvers are not good choices. You have to be careful with the one you pick. A lot of people tend to pick revolvers without ever shooting one. Revolvers have more recoil than a semiautomatic handgun even in the same caliber due to the lack of a spring-operated recoil system. The spring-operated recoil systems on the semi-autos do a lot to reduce recoil.
Another issue with these guns is the trigger pull. The trigger pull on revolvers tends to be extremely heavy. I remember when I took some buddies out, who played D-1 college football, and they had trouble even pulling back the 12-pound trigger on a Smith and Wesson J-Frame. These triggers are not easy to use and it’s just something I would try to avoid.
One option people might look at is getting a rimfire caliber revolver, something in .22 or .22 Magnum due to the reduced amount of recoil. The problem with this is these rimfire cartridges require a heavy hammer spring to ignite the round. This means that you’re going to have a heavier trigger pull on these than you would on the centerfire cartridges. For this reason, there are only a couple of revolvers I would suggest getting for most people and really one gun is the top pick.
Ruger LCR 327 Magnum
The Ruger LCR in .327 Magnum is the gun I would suggest getting. The .327 Magnum will shoot 32 long and 32 shorts as well. So you can shoot a variety of different calibers that have less recoil than the .327 Magnum. This is great for training and even for self-defense as having a gun you can shoot accurately is much more important than having a gun that has more power. At the end of the day, any handgun is going to be inadequate when it comes to stopping power. So getting shot placement is key and having a gun you can shoot accurately should be of the utmost importance.
The Ruger LCR series also has excellent double-action-only triggers. I say the Ruger LCR and not the Ruger LCRx as the LCRx trigger is substantially heavier and not nearly as good as the double-action-only triggers on the LCRs. The Ruger LCR in .327 Magnum has a simple manual of arms, has a variety of ammo offerings, and has a fairly easy-to-use trigger. All these features make it a great revolver for somebody who doesn’t feel comfortable with a semi-auto. Other calibers such as .38 Special and .357 Magnum have a lot more recoil so I would definitely suggest staying away from those.
Another option is to get a gun like the Kimber K6s, the Ruger SP101, or the Smith and Wesson model 60 or 640 performance center guns. These guns are much heavier than most small revolvers, but they also have that heavy trigger pull. Having a heavier-weight gun means you’re going to make the recoil a lot less.
Rifle/Long Gun Suggestions
As I mentioned before, if your reason for buying this gun is strictly home defense, I recommend considering some sort of long gun. They’re much more terminally effective and easier to shoot.
One thing I’ll mention right away is shotguns in real life don’t work like they do in the movies. You can’t just point it in the general direction and hit your target. At 21 feet, a shotgun with buckshot or birdshot will likely have a 1-2 inch spread, not a 3-foot spread.
A standard answer will be to get a shotgun. Probably a pump shotgun. I don’t suggest this. While the guns are reliable, they are very susceptible to human error. Under stress, it’s easy to short-stroke a pump shotgun which can cause a malfunction. I hate to admit it, but I have done this bird hunting, but I’ve never done it on the shooting range. I’ve also seen newer pump shotgun shooters do it as well. This is not something you want to happen when you’re defending your life.
You can find low recoil 12GA ammo. This ammo will have slightly lower velocities which means less power, but they’re a lot easier to shoot. This ammo with a break action shotgun is going to be easy to use and reliable. But you’ll likely be limited to the ammo you have in the gun. Usually 1-2 rounds.
Semi-auto shotguns are also a good option, but they require a lot of homework to ensure reliability. They might run great with one brand and model of ammo but not with another. You’ll need to pick ammunition type and then run at least 50 rounds minimum through it to get a better understanding of how reliable it will be. The manual of arms can be complicated. Know how to run the gun if you go this route. I would suggest it over a pump—especially for an inexperienced shooter.
The AR15 will have the least amount of recoil, and you can adjust the stock to fit you. My photographer recently told me about going shooting with her dad. She was surprised the AR15 was the most intimidating gun from a distance. Yet when she shot it, she found it was the mildest of all the options. She regretted getting a shotgun for home defense and wished she had gone with the AR15.
Another gun to mention is the Ruger PCC. This gun has a straightforward manual of arms and is easy to shoot with plenty of capacity. Another reasonably priced option that is an easy to use option. It’ll also be much quieter than an AR15.
The Best Handgun for Women
There are many handguns for women on the market, but ultimately, the shooter in question needs to make an informed decision about what works best for them. Remember to start your search by identifying what you’ll use the gun for and consider if concealed carry is right for you. If a small handgun doesn’t feel right in your hands, don’t be afraid to look at something larger and “non-traditional” for women. You will be the one using it should a need arise to defend yourself, so your comfort and experience with the gun is what matters most.
Also, there is no hard and fast rule that says women can only use small handguns. If your goal is strictly home defense, don’t be afraid to explore long guns or rifles.They might be easier for you to maneuver and control in a home invasion.
If you’re beginning to research the best handgun that will work for you and you have a question, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Harry’s Holsters and let us know. We have decades of experience around handguns for women and men of all shapes and sizes. You can reach us by sending us a note here or following us on Instagram.