Top 5 Handguns for Kids: Not Just 22 LR

Teaching our kids about firearms and gun safety is about more than self-defense or hunting, it’s about raising the next generation of gun owners. Of course, some platforms can seem more daunting than others to introduce. Handguns, specifically, might appear to be a greater challenge when it comes to teaching kids to use them properly and safely. That’s why it’s so important to select the right guns. To learn more, check out our list of five handguns that are solid choices for kids learning to shoot.

1. Walther PPQ 22 M2 5

Walther PPQ 22 M2 5
The Walther PPQ 22 M2 5 is chambered in 22 LR and has features that make it good for right or left-handed shooters. The gun has a 1.3-inch width which is a pretty good fit for smaller hands. If possible, try different grip sizes before choosing a gun for kids.  (Photo credit: Walther)

Yes, the first gun on the list is chambered in 22 LR. There are reasons 22 LR is a frequent flyer on new-shooter handgun lists. It’s soft-recoiling, has basically no muzzle rise, and tends to present an unintimidating platform for learning. So while there’s more to life than 22 LR for kids, it’s a good idea to consider it at times.

The Walther PPQ 22 M2 5 is a great example of the reliable performance and comfortable shooting experience the company’s guns offer. Its polymer grip is textured and has a gentle palm swell and subtle finger grooves for a better grip and its slide serrations are broad enough to take it easy on younger shooters while remaining useful. The gun has a five-inch barrel, which might seem large but serves to balance out the gun and further mitigate recoil. It has a 10 or 12 round capacity depending on the magazine and has an ambidextrous slide stop and reversible magazine release.

2. Ruger SR1911 Commander

Ruger SR1911 Commander
The gun has a lightweight aluminum frame and a 1.34-inch width. (Photo credit: Ruger)

A 1911 for kids? Absolutely! The Ruger SR1911 Commander is, as its name suggests, a commander-sized pistol. That means it’s compact rather than a full-sized 1911. It’s also chambered in 9mm, which is typically a better idea for younger shooters than 45 ACP. This is a good option for slightly older kids whose hands and skills are capable of keeping up with the grip safety.

Being Commander size means the SR1911 has an overall length of 7.75 inches, a height of 5.45 inches, and a 29.3-ounce empty weight. It has a 9+1 capacity and a 4.25-inch barrel length, which is standard Commander size. Rubberized grip panels make this pistol a pleasure to shoot and a Tungsten Cerakote frame helps the gun stand up to wear and tear. This is an accurate gun and fantastic for kids who are capable of learning the controls of a 1911, like the grip safety.

3. Smith and Wesson Model 19

Smith and Wesson Model 19
The Smith and Wesson Model 19 is chambered in 38 Special/357 Magnum and built on a medium-sized frame. (Photo credit: Smith and Wesson)

Revolvers can be good for kids to learn with, and that doesn’t mean handing them a snubby or some other tiny model. It’s a common mistake to believe a smaller gun will produce less felt recoil. In reality, larger frames and longer barrels reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise while shorter ones can make live fire uncomfortably snappy. Guns like the Smith and Wesson Model 19 can work well for kids because they’re medium-sized, have a fairly ergonomically-friendly grip, and are chambered in a moderate caliber (38 Special, not the 357 Magnum).

If you prefer 22 LR, there are revolvers available chambered in it. However, 38 Special is fine for kids to run through handguns, and when they’ve mastered that, you can eventually try out 357 Magnum. The Model 19 is a K-frame revolver with a 4.25-inch barrel and a six-round capacity. It ships with a red ramp front sight and a black blade adjustable rear sight. This is a good size and design for youth shooters and you’ll find kids are perfectly capable of handling 38 Special. One of the pros to using a revolver is that slower cycling; although it’s certainly possible to run the gun fast, most kids will be more methodical than they might be with a striker-fired pistol.

4. Glock 43X

Glock 43X
Yes, Glocks can be awesome for kids. The 43X is particularly nice with its slimmer frame and 9mm chambering. (Photo credit: Glock)

There will be naysayers when it comes to Glocks whether they’re meant for grown adults or for kids of whatever ages. No, Glocks don’t have external thumb safeties, but they do have an entire series of internal safeties. And frankly, when it comes right down to it, you are the safety. Putting excessive faith in a tiny piece of metal isn’t a good road to go down. It’s far wiser to adhere to the four safety rules.

The Glock 43X is a nice choice for kids because it’s part of the Slimline model lineup, meaning it’s a single stack rather than a double. It has a slimmer grip, which is easy to hold for those with smaller hands, and it’s lighter weight, too. Glocks are inherently reliable, durable pistols, and the G43X is a good example of the brand’s progression.

If you prefer a slightly longer barrel, for whatever reason, there’s the Glock 48. It’s basically the same thing as the 43X other than barrel length. Both guns are chambered in 9mm and can be shipped with night sights installed at the factory. These are viable options for kids. If you’re concerned about negligent discharges, you need to spend more time on safety and trigger awareness. Also, only load one round at a time when you’re in the early stages of teaching kids. This is a good, basic, reliable pistol for beginners and seasoned shooters alike.

5. Walther CCP M2+


Walther CCP M2+
The Walther CCP M2+ is an ergonomically-designed, user-friendly 9mm pistol. (Photo credit: Walther)

The reason there’s a 2nd Walther on this list is simple: Walther makes stellar handguns. They aren’t aesthetically beautiful and most people don’t have bragging rights over owning one, but they’re solid performers. Most of them are comfortable to shoot, many models are awesomely precise, and they’re well made. Function over form is a thing, and Walther makes the kind of handguns that last.

The Walther CCP M2+ is a compact 9mm pistol that uses the company’s Soft-coil gas technology. According to the gun maker, that’s what makes this gun recoil more softly and also makes the slide a lot easier to manipulate. Those are two important side effects for any shooter, but especially for kids of smaller stature. With a 3.54-inch barrel and an overall length of 6.41 inches, this gun is definitely compact, but it remains large enough to mitigate felt recoil and to be easily held by the shooter. The way Walther texturizes the grip is also good because although it provides a secure hold on the gun, it’s not overly aggressive.

What do you think the best handguns are for a child? What was your favorite handgun as a kid? Share your experiences in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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