What’s the Best Handgun for Women?

Questions about the best handgun for women are common on social media and on internet forums. It’s enough to make a gun owner—or soon-to-be gun owner—wonder if gender really affects firearms selection. Taking it a step further, does gender matter when it comes to shooting skills? Firearms are often referred to in the self-defense world as the great equalizers, and that’s the key to keep in mind when choosing a handgun for a woman (or a man)—guns are equal opportunity. Choosing a gun isn’t about gender, it’s about size, fit, and skill.

Glock 48 and spare magazine in Crossbreed holster
The Glock 48 is a popular handgun among shooters. Shown here in a Crossbreed holster with a spare magazine attachment. (Photo credit: Kat Ainsworth Stevens

What guns should women get?

For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on the handguns that are best for women. When choosing a handgun for a woman, the first thing you do is stop. You shouldn’t be choosing a gun for a woman, not unless you’re extremely familiar with the aforementioned factors (size, fit, skill). Every shooter out there benefits from selecting their own guns.

Hand size varies from person to person. Finding out if a gun fits your hand is as simple as following these steps:

  • Confirm the handgun is unloaded, by sight and by touch.
  • Aim the gun in a safe direct.
  • Hold the gun in your support hand.
  • Place the distal pad of the trigger finger of your strong-side hand on the trigger.
  • With your finger on the trigger as you would while firing, roll your hand back onto the grip.
  • Look down and see if the long bones of your forearm line up with the barrel/slide of the gun (with your finger remaining on the trigger).

Other things to look for when searching for a handgun that fits your hands include:

  • You shouldn’t be forced to adjust your grip to reach controls (safety, mag release).
  • The distal pad/joint of your trigger finger should rest comfortably on the trigger.
  • Your wrist and the palm of your hand shouldn’t be rotated or twisted away from the gun.
  • You shouldn’t struggle to maintain a firm grip.
  • Your hand shouldn’t be so much bigger than the gun that your fingers hang off the grip and it becomes awkward
1911 handguns
There’s a whole, wide world of handguns out there. Finding one that fits you properly can be a challenge, but it’s doable. (Photo credit: Kat Ainsworth Stevens)

It’s easy to think tiny fractions of an inch don’t matter, but they do. Those slight differences in grip width and trigger reach can have a significant impact on accuracy and comfort while shooting. Take the time to find a gun that fits you well. That doesn’t mean every gun in your collection has to be a perfect fit, but it does let you know what will work best for you. With time and practice, you can and will master guns that don’t fit your hands so perfectly. That said, it’s always more of a challenge to run a gun that’s far too large or small for your hand size.

Women should get guns that fit their hand size, among other things, and that varies from person to person.

Should women get revolvers as first guns?

It’s a myth that women, as a whole, benefit from using revolvers. In fact, revolvers can be more challenging platforms for various reasons. The average semi-auto, such as a Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P, are a bit more straightforward, and felt recoil is typically better mitigated. There’s also the fact that running revolvers requires different skills than shooting semi-autos, and it makes sense for a new shooter to learn the semi-auto platform first. This is partly a matter of opinion, but if you stop and think about it, it’s logical.

If someone—anyone—wants to learn how to shoot on a revolver, that’s their choice. But forcing a revolver on someone isn’t great. Let shooters try different guns and decide for themselves. The “give the little lady a snubby 38 Special” mindset should stay in the past where it belongs.

crossbreed holster with handgun
The right holster makes all the difference when choosing a concealed carry method and gun. (Photo credit: Crossbreed Holsters)

What’s the best handgun for women to carry concealed?

Concealed carry guns are, as with all guns, a matter of personal preference. If you’re looking for a starting point, though, these are some things to consider:

  • Carry method (OWB—Outside the Waistband, or IWB—Inside Waistband)
  • Clothing (What size gun needs to be used to work with your wardrobe?)
  • Caliber (It’s a myth that 380 ACPs are easier to shoot than 9mms, for example.)
  • Fit to hand size
  • Comfort
  • Holster selection (This goes hand-in-hand with carry method, but does vary, and not all holsters are produced for all guns.)

Specific features to look for in a concealed carry gun for women include the following:

  • Reliability
  • Durability
  • Accuracy
  • Capacity
  • Fit (Can you reach the various controls without needing to adjust your grip?)
  • Factory features (significantly customized handguns are typically not suggested for carry due to the negative impact it can have on a self-defense case if you were forced to defend yourself)

There are a number of popular carry gun models, and they’re well-used for a reason. These models include:

  • Glock 43X/48
  • Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 2.0
  • Mossberg MC2SC
  • Walther CCP
  • Ruger SR1911
  • Ruger Max-9
  • Glock 17/19
  • Heckler and Koch VP9SK
  • SIG Sauer P365XL
  • Springfield Armory Hellcat
  • Walther PPQ SubCompact
  • CZ USA P10S
Kat Stephens with 44 magnum revolver
Snubby revolvers for women? Guess again. Just like with any handgun, revolvers are use-specific. This one is chambered in 44 Magnum and is used for hunting. Not exactly CCW/EDC material, but certainly not gender-specific! (Photo credit: Kat Ainsworth Stevens)

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best revolver for a girl?

“What revolver should I get my wife” is something you frequently hear at gun shows and counters. Revolvers aren’t ideal for new shooters, despite myths to the contrary, and they definitely aren’t meant specifically for females. If a shooter who happens to be a woman wants a revolver, great! Let them choose. Don’t assume or stereotype someone into a corner about revolvers, though. And when it comes to selecting a revolver by choice, avoid snubby models. Their muzzle rise and felt recoil is far greater than what you get with larger revolvers.

What is the best handgun for women to carry?

The best gun for women to carry is one that fits their hands and that they’re comfortable shooting. Everyone has different preferences and it’s important for gun owners to not just tolerate but actually like their handguns. Trying to train with a handgun you hate is an unpleasant experience. It comes down to a combination of personal preference, fit, and experience.

Is a purse good for concealed carry? 

Using a purse to carry your handgun is considered off-body carry, and it comes with a lot of downsides. For example, the purse must always stay in your control, no matter what; as soon as you put your gun in there, it becomes a holster. Problems include loose objects interfering with the trigger or barrel, a much slower draw stroke, and theft. We aren’t saying you can never, ever purse carry your gun, only that it requires platform-specific training, a lot of practice, and serious attention to detail.

What caliber gun is best for women?

The current favorite in the self-defense shooting world is 9mm. It’s a capable defense round and it’s widely available. Many people assume a smaller cartridge like 380 ACP is best for women, but that isn’t accurate. Aside from 380 ACP being a smaller, less capable round, the majority of guns chambered in it are snappy and more difficult to shoot accurately than the slightly larger 9mms. It’s very common for people to say that shot placement matters and any gun is better than no gun, and both those things are technically true. Wouldn’t you rather be properly prepared? Do the research and decide which caliber you prefer for your carry gun. And remember, your research includes trigger time with different guns.

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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