Armed and Responsible
Whether they’re kids or adults, new handgun shooters play a key role in keeping the shooting sports going. And when it comes to selecting a handgun for a beginner, it can get a little overwhelming. There are a lot of handguns on the market, and there’s really no such thing as a one size fits all model. When choosing a first handgun, several factors need to be taken into consideration. We’re here to help simplify that process and explain why the following guns are our pick for the best handguns for beginners.
What to look for in a first handgun
Before getting into specific models, let’s consider what you should be looking for when choosing a handgun for a brand new shooter.
- Decide the gun’s purpose. Is it only for learning or also for concealed carry or home defense?
- Be sure the gun fits the shooter’s hands.
- Reliability and accuracy. Is it a well-made gun that performs well?
- Is the caliber of the gun appropriate for its purpose and also for a beginning shooter?
- Is the design of the gun simple or more complex?
- Does the gun need to be optic ready?
- Does the shooter require or prefer an external thumb safety?
Should you choose a handgun for a beginner?
The straightforward answer to whether you should choose a handgun for a beginner shooter is, no. It’s important for people to handle guns themselves and choose the fit and model they’re comfortable with. This can be more of a challenge when it comes to newcomers to handguns because they’re probably not going to know what they’re looking for. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Be patient, explain the basics, and help them get hands-on time with a variety of handguns. A new handgunner should be involved in the selection process.
Side note: Keep in mind that the idea that smaller calibers are more accurate and produce less felt recoil and muzzle rise is false. It’s the size, weight, and design of the gun that impacts those things. Don’t steer someone toward a smaller caliber handgun just because you think it’ll be easier for them.
This isn’t an all-inclusive checklist, but it’s a great place to start. Here are some of our top picks for guns to get the new shooter in your life started on handguns.
The Taurus FX4XL T.O.R.O. (Taurus Optic Ready Option) is a microcompact, semi-automatic pistol that’s the ideal size to fit a wide range of hands. Yes, fit of handguns really is an important factor when purchasing a firearm, meaning it’s wise to get the beginning shooter’s hands on the gun prior to purchasing one.
This pistol is chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, which is a popular and common defensive caliber. It has an 11 +1 or 13 +1 capacity depending on the magazine being used. The grip is aggressively textured to make it easier to keep a firm hold on, even with wet or slippery hands, and it comes with two palm swell inserts for a better fit. Factory sights are a fixed white dot front sight and a serrated, drift adjustable rear sight. Of course, because it’s optics ready, it’s easy to add a red dot sight to this gun as well. This pistol doesn’t have an external safety; instead, it has internal safety mechanisms.
Thanks to the GX4XL’s overall balance and 3.71-inch barrel, felt recoil is negligible. The gun weighs 20 ounces empty and has an overall height of 4.40 inches and length of 6.43 inches, making it relatively easy to conceal.
Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 Metal
For beginner shooters looking for a full-size gun with a bit more weight, there’s the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 2.0 Metal. This is another 9x19mm Parabellum chambered gun, but it has a 17 +1 capacity and an empty weight of 30 ounces. The metal frame and weight in the slide help mitigate felt recoil and muzzle rise. Keep in mind that smaller shooters might struggle with the loaded weight of this gun during the learning stages.
The M&P 9 2.0 Metal has a 4.25-inch barrel, length of 7.4 inches, and height of 5.5 inches. Features include the manufacturer’s trademark wavy serrations at the front and back of the slide, a reversible magazine release, and factory white dot sights. It does have an optics cut slide for easy addition of red dot sights. It doesn’t have an external thumb safety but does feature numerous internal safeties.
For beginning shooters interested in revolvers—or handgunners wanting to branch out from semi-autos—there’s the Taurus 856 Defender T.O.R.O. Yes, this is an optics-ready revolver, making it unique and useful (it’s the first of its kind). It’s chambered in 38 Special +P and has a six-round capacity. This is a small-frame revolver with a 3.0-inch barrel.
Because the 856 Defender T.O.R.O. is chambered in 38 Special, felt recoil and muzzle rise aren’t extreme. Yes, shorter-barreled handguns in general do generate more recoil than those with longer barrels and higher overall weights, but this remains a manageable gun. It also weighs 23.5 ounces, empty, so it has enough weight to offset recoil somewhat as well. Due to its being a revolver, it’s a good idea to get speedloaders or speed strips to go with it so the shooter can learn to do reloads. There’s no reason for anyone to be loading a revolver one round at a time.
The one-size-fits-all gun
Remember, there’s no such thing as a single gun that fits the hand size, strength, and skill level of every gun owner out there. What works for you won’t necessarily be good for a new handgun shooter, and vice versa. It’s wise to apply your knowledge and experience to the selection process while remembering their needs are different.
Getting new shooters going is an important part of keeping the shooting sports alive and well. If you know someone who’d like to get started on handguns, invite them to the range. The industry can always use more shooters.
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