Best Handguns for Beginners

Some firearms are easier for novice shooters to handle than others. We were all beginners once, so we understand how hard it can be to find that perfect fit. That’s why we’re sharing some of the best handguns for beginners in 2020. Hopefully, this list will save you some major headaches and help set you up for shooting success.

All of the handguns on our list are chambered for 9mm (also known as 9x19 Parabellum or 9mm Luger). Not only is 9mm ammo relatively cheap and (usually) easy to find, but it also has mild, easy-to-handle recoil. This makes it a great option for most beginners.

We’ve also kept the list to full-size handguns. Why? Because believe it or not, full-size models are easier for new shooters to control. Some shooters may feel drawn to smaller pistols because they seem less intimidating. However, full-size handguns have heavier mass, which helps absorb recoil. They also have a longer sight radius which makes aiming much easier, especially for inexperienced shooters.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other awesome handguns perfect for first-time shooters. If your favorite didn’t make the list, please don’t take it as a personal insult. Space is limited, so we tried to keep the list short. We think the models on our list offer the perfect mix of performance and approachability that the newest shooters need.

Best Handguns for Beginners

Semi-Auto Pistols Vs. Revolvers for Beginners

Striker-fired, semi-automatic handguns are generally best for inexperienced shooters. These modern pistols are easy to load, easy to shoot, and the trigger pull is exactly the same every single time.

While striker-fired pistols are a great option for novices, it doesn’t mean the traditional revolver should be completely overlooked. A good old-fashioned wheel gun can be easier to operate for some shooters, especially those with weaker hands.

Revolvers are incredibly reliable. It is also much easier for the shooter to deal with the occasional malfunction when he or she is using a revolver.

The one serious drawback to the standard wheel gun is the limited round capacity. Most are limited to 5 or 6 rounds, which is significantly less than the 15-17 round capacity of most full-size pistols.

Most of the handguns on our list are striker-fired pistols. However, we’ve included a few top-notch revolvers that are also great options for beginners.

Our Top Picks

Glock G17

G17

Type: Semi-Auto

Length: Barrel - 4.49" | Overall - 7.32"

Weight: 22.04 oz

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 10 round

Glock has quite a large fan base, and for good reason. Their lightweight, polymer frame, semi-automatic pistols are ultra reliable.

The G17 was Glock’s first pistol design. Introduced in 1982, the G17 has been a favorite of military forces, law enforcement personnel, and civilian shooters for decades. Truly one of the most versatile handguns in current production, the G17 feels right at home in a duty holster, at the range, on the nightstand, or concealed on your body for self-defense.

Today’s Gen 5 G17 has a few design changes over previous models. The most notable is the lack of finger grooves in the grip. Now, shooters can customize the grip using different back straps.

The Gen 5 model also features a flared mag well with a cutaway section on the front of the frame. This new feature is designed to make mag changes faster and more intuitive, which is perfect for new shooters.

Glock G17 For Sale >>

S&W M&P 9 2.0

M&P 9 2.0

Type: Semi-Auto

Length: Barrel - 4.25" | Overall - 7.5"

Weight: 24.7 oz

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 17+1 round

The M&P also has a lower slide profile which keeps the barrel axis close to the shooter's hand. This design reduces recoil and muzzle rise, helping the novice get rounds on target quickly and accurately.

This awesome handgun is also a great option for budget-minded gun owners. The S&W M&P offers plenty of performance and reliability at a price point that won’t send new shooters into sticker shock.

S&W M&P 9 2.0 For Sale >>

Sig Sauer P320

P320

Type: Semi-Auto Pistol

Length: Barrel - 5" | Overall - 8.5"

Action: Double Action Only

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 17 round

This is Sig’s flagship model. It’s also the current sidearm used by the United States Army. Because this weapon is used by military forces in dangerous places, it has endured the most rugged and grueling testing protocols on the face of the planet.

The P320’s rear sight plate allows you to easily add a red dot optic for even easier shooting. It is lightweight, hyper reliable, and has one of the best quality stock triggers on the market.

Sig incorporated a number of reliable safety features into the P320’s design, including a striker safety and a disconnect safety to provide comfort and peace of mind for wary and concerned shooters.

Sig Sauer P320 For Sale >>

Springfield Armory XD-S MOD 2

Springfield Armory XD-S MOD 2

Type: Semi-Auto Pistol

Length: Barrel - 3.3" | Overall - 6.5"

Action: Double Action

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 7+1 & 9+1

The MOD 2 is the newest incarnation of the super reliable Springfield XD-S. With a low effort slide and super smooth action, the XD-S has always been a solid option for beginners.

The MOD 2 is basically an exterior update of the reliable XD-S. It has a redesigned grip with more aggressive texturing. Honestly, this is a comfort upgrade, and the newer version is much easier to shoot because of it.

The original external safety is still there on the MOD 2. Positioned on the rear of the grip, your hand must be firmly positioned for the weapon to fire. Many shooters prefer a handgun without an external safety. However, this one is easy to engage and requires no extra steps, making it perfect for the newest shooters.

XD-S MOD 2 For Sale>>

Heckler & Koch VP9

HK VP9

Type: Semi-Auto Pistol

Length: Barrel - 4.09" | Overall - 7.34"

Action: Double Action

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 17+1

The VP9 is HK’s addition to the world of polymer frame, striker fired, 9mm pistols. It has great ergonomics, a light, yet rock-solid trigger pull, and an ergonomic, adjustable grip. The quality and performance of the VP9 certainly gives similar pistols from Glock, Sig, and S&W a serious run for their money.

The new 2020 VP9 model features a 17-round magazine (that’s two extra rounds over previous models), new high-visibility sights that are perfect for low light shooting, and an optional optics-ready cut so you can easily mount a red dot or reflex optic.

VP9 For Sale>>

Canik TP9SFX

Canik TP9SFX

Type: Semi-Auto Pistol

Length: Barrel - 5.2" | Overall - 8.27"

Action: Single Action

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 20+1

Canik is a relative newcomer to the handgun market, but this Turkish manufacturer is quickly making a name for itself. If you’re a new shooter who likes to stretch a dollar, the Canik TP9SFX offers some serious bang for your buck.

When it comes to reliability, this gun does not disappoint. It isn’t at all finicky with regard to ammo and runs through both brass and steel case rounds with ease.

It also features a nice ergonomic design with ambidextrous controls, interchangeable back straps, and a textured grip that makes it easy for beginners to hold consistently.

While the iron sights are fairly standard, the slide on the TP9SFX comes ready for a red dot. It even includes a mix of mounting plates to fit most standard pistol optics.

Canik TP9SFX For Sale>>

Ruger SP-101 (Model 5783)

SP-101

Type: Revolver

Length: Barrel - 2.25" | Overall - 7.20"

Action: Double Action

Caliber: 9mm

Magazine Capacity: 5

This is a great stainless steel, double action revolver from a great company. Sturm & Ruger produces fine firearms, and their SP-101 is a perfect option for beginners. With a cushioned rubber grip and no exposed metal, this revolver sits comfortably in the hand.

The SP-101 weighs a solid 25 ounces unloaded and the heft of the durable metal construction works wonders for absorbing recoil. The SP-101 also features a transfer bar mechanism for extra protection from accidental discharge.

Ruger SP-101 For Sale>>

Final Thoughts

Many first-time gun owners choose a handgun based on appearance or price. While those are important aspects to consider, they shouldn’t be your top criteria. Just because a gun “looks cool” doesn’t mean it will be easy to shoot, and most budget options will cause far more headaches than they are worth.

If you’re a new shooter, you need a handgun that is simple, reliable, and easy to shoot. All of the firearms on our list of the Best Handguns for Beginners fit that criteria. We also think they look pretty cool, too, but that’s just an extra perk.