In this post, we’re diving into the best handguns for women. With the growing interest in self-defense and shooting sports among women, it’s crucial to understand that the ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t apply when selecting a firearm. Women, like all shooters, come with diverse needs, preferences, and physical characteristics, all of which play a pivotal role in determining the ideal handgun.
In this post, we will explore some things women should keep in mind when selecting a handgun. I’ve gathered insights on some of the most popular handguns in the market.
We’ll discuss factors like caliber, size, ergonomics, and recoil – elements that are crucial in ensuring comfort, confidence, and efficiency in handling a firearm. The goal is to provide you with informative and practical handgun advice for concealed carry, home defense, recreational shooting, or a mix of these.
Table of Contents
Glock 42: Its compact size and light recoil (due to being chambered in .380 ACP) make it a good choice for shooters with smaller hands or those sensitive to recoil.
- Ruger LCP Max: Known for its ultra-compact design, the LCP Max is easy to conceal, which might be a priority for women looking for a self-defense handgun.
- Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ: The “EZ” in its name stands for “easy,” and this gun is designed for easy use, with a slide that’s simple to rack and a grip safety, making it ideal for those new to shooting or with limited hand strength.
- Glock 43: This is another compact option that’s easy to conceal. However, it may have a bit more recoil due to its lightweight and small size.
- Springfield Hellcat: It offers a high capacity for a micro-compact, which is a plus. But, like other small guns, it can have a snappy recoil.
- Sig Sauer P365: Known for its high capacity and compact size, it’s a popular choice for concealed carry. The ergonomics are generally good, but the recoil might be sharp for some.
- Glock 43X: The 43X provides a slightly larger grip than the Glock 43, which can aid in handling and control, making it a good balance between size and usability.
Glock 19: While a bit larger, it’s known for its reliability and ease of handling. It might be more suitable for home defense rather than concealed carry due to its size.
Popular Handgun Calibers For Women
The 9mm shoots faster, flatter, and has more stopping power but at the cost of a bit more recoil (still quite manageable though). Is still quite concealable. If you can shoot this caliber it is recommended over the 380.
The 380 is generally more concealable. It has less stopping power than the 9mm but it’s adequate for self-defense.
If you’re looking for a detailed comparison of the two calibers you can check out my article: 9mm vs 380 Comparison (with Ballistic Tables & Graphs).
If you’re wondering what other caliber options there are and how they compare to the 9mm and 380 you can find that information in my article: 9mm vs 9 Popular Handgun Cartridges (Ballistic Graphs & Tables)
Best Light Recoil Handgun For Women
Glock 42 (.380)
- Compact Size: Its small size makes it highly suitable for concealed carry, particularly for individuals with smaller hands or those who prefer a lighter, more compact firearm.
- Reliability: Glock is known for its reliability, and the Glock 42 is no exception. It performs well under various conditions and is less likely to jam or misfire.
- Simple Design: Like most Glock models, the Glock 42 has a minimalist design with fewer parts, making it easier to maintain and clean.
- Lightweight: Its lightweight design, due to the polymer frame, makes it easy to handle and carry for extended periods without fatigue.
- Recoil Management: The Glock 42, chambered in .380 ACP, offers manageable recoil, which is an advantage for shooters with less experience or those sensitive to recoil.
- Caliber Limitation: Being chambered in .380 ACP, it’s considered less powerful compared to 9mm calibers, which might be a concern for those looking for more stopping power.
- Magazine Capacity: The Glock 42 has a limited magazine capacity (typically 6 rounds), which might be a disadvantage in a situation where more rounds are desired.
- Cost: Glocks, including the model 42, can be more expensive compared to other handguns in the same category, potentially making it less accessible for budget-conscious buyers.
- Aftermarket Support: While there is significant aftermarket support for many Glock models, the Glock 42 might have fewer customization options compared to more popular models like the Glock 17 or 19.
Ergonomics: Some users might find the grip and ergonomics less comfortable, especially if they are used to larger or differently styled handguns.
Best Handgun For Small Women
Ruger LCP Max (.380)
- Ultra-Compact Design: The Ruger LCP Max is designed for extreme concealability, making it an excellent choice for concealed carry, especially in situations where discretion is key. It’s even smaller than the Glock 42.
- Increased Magazine Capacity: Despite its small size, the LCP Max offers a higher capacity than many pistols in its class, with a standard magazine holding 10 rounds, which is a significant improvement over its predecessors and similar-sized firearms.
- Enhanced Ergonomics: Ruger has made efforts to improve the ergonomics of the LCP Max, including a better grip texture and a slightly larger frame for improved handling, without compromising its concealability.
- Build Quality: Ruger is known for its robust build quality, and the LCP Max continues this tradition with a sturdy design that can withstand rigorous use.
- Improved Sights: The LCP Max comes with better sights compared to the original LCP, offering improved visibility and accuracy for the shooter.
- Recoil: Due to its lightweight and small size, the LCP Max can have more perceived recoil, which might be challenging for inexperienced shooters or those sensitive to recoil.
- Caliber: The LCP Max is chambered in .380 ACP, which, while adequate for self-defense, is generally considered less powerful than the 9mm caliber found in larger pistols.
- Trigger: Some users might find the trigger pull on the LCP Max to be less than ideal, either too long or heavy, which could affect shooting accuracy and comfort.
- Limited Customization: Due to its specific design and size, there may be fewer customization options available for the LCP Max compared to larger, more popular pistol models.
Price: While not the most expensive in its category, the Ruger LCP Max might be priced higher than other .380 ACP compact pistols, which could be a factor for budget-conscious buyers.
Best Handgun For Elderly Women
Smith & Wesson M&P Sheild EZ (.380)
The .380 Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ is a semi-automatic pistol that’s part of the popular M&P Shield line. It’s designed with ease of use in mind, particularly for those who might have difficulty with the operation of standard semi-automatic pistols. Here are the pros and cons based on its features and user feedback:
- Ease of Use: True to its name, the Shield EZ is designed for easy operation. The slide is easier to rack compared to many other semi-auto pistols, which is a significant advantage for shooters with limited hand strength.
- Comfortable Ergonomics: It offers a comfortable grip and is well-balanced, making it easier to handle, especially for shooters with smaller hands.
- Built-In Safety Features: The Shield EZ comes with several safety features, including grip safety and optional thumb safety, which enhances its appeal for new shooters or those who prioritize safety.
- Recoil Management: The .380 ACP caliber, combined with the design of the Shield EZ, results in manageable recoil, making it a good choice for inexperienced shooters or those who are recoil-sensitive.
- Good Accuracy: Users often report that the Shield EZ is quite accurate, especially considering its size and intended use.
- Caliber Limitation: As with other .380 ACP pistols, there’s a trade-off in terms of stopping power compared to 9mm pistols, which could be a consideration for self-defense purposes.
- Size and Weight: While it’s designed for ease of use, the Shield EZ is slightly larger and heavier than some other .380 ACP pistols, which could be a downside for those seeking ultra-compact carry options.
- Price Point: The Shield EZ can be more expensive than some other .380 ACP options, potentially placing it out of reach for budget-conscious buyers.
- Limited Magazine Capacity: While it has a reasonable capacity for its size, some users might prefer a higher capacity, especially when compared to compact 9mm pistols.
- Specific Audience: The ease-of-use features, while beneficial for some, might not appeal to experienced shooters who are comfortable with standard semi-auto pistol mechanisms.
Best Concealed Carry Handguns For Women (that are also good for home defense)
Glock 43 (9mm)
Slim and Compact Design: The Glock 43 is very slim and compact, making it an excellent choice for concealed carry. Its small size allows for easy concealment without compromising on grip and control.
- Glock Reliability: Like other Glock models, the Glock 43 is known for its reliability. It performs consistently in various conditions and is less likely to jam or misfire.
- Lightweight: Due to its polymer frame and subcompact size, the Glock 43 is lightweight, making it comfortable to carry for long periods.
- Good Ergonomics: Despite its small size, many users find the Glock 43 comfortable to hold and shoot, with ergonomic design features typical of Glock pistols.
- 9mm Caliber: The Glock 43 is chambered in 9mm, which offers a good balance of stopping power and recoil, making it suitable for a wide range of users.
- Limited Magazine Capacity: The Glock 43 has a standard magazine capacity of 6 rounds, which is less than many other compact or subcompact pistols.
- Recoil: Due to its lightweight and small size, the Glock 43 can have more perceived recoil compared to larger 9mm pistols, which might be an issue for some shooters.
- Price: Glock pistols are generally more expensive than some other brands, and the Glock 43 is no exception. Its price point might be a bit high for budget-conscious buyers.
- Aftermarket Accessories: While there is a wide range of aftermarket accessories available for the Glock 43, customizing it extensively can add to the overall cost.
Sights: The stock sights on the Glock 43 are basic, and many users opt to upgrade them for better visibility and accuracy.
Springfield Hellcat (9mm)
The Springfield Hellcat is a micro-compact semi-automatic pistol designed for concealed carry. It’s part of the growing market of ultra-compact 9mm handguns. Here are the pros and cons of the Springfield Hellcat based on its features, performance, and user feedback:
- High Magazine Capacity: One of the standout features of the Hellcat is its high magazine capacity for its size. It comes with an 11-round flush-fit magazine and an extended 13-round magazine, which is impressive for a micro-compact.
- Compact and Lightweight: The Hellcat’s small size and lightweight design make it ideal for concealed carry. It’s easy to hide and comfortable to carry for extended periods.
- Good Ergonomics: Despite its small size, many users find the Hellcat comfortable to hold and shoot, with a grip texture that enhances control and handling.
- Optics Ready: The Hellcat comes in an optics-ready version (Hellcat OSP), allowing users to easily mount a red dot sight, which is a significant advantage for a pistol of this size.
- Build Quality and Reliability: Springfield Armory is known for quality construction, and the Hellcat follows this tradition. It is reliable, durable, and performs well under various conditions.
- Recoil Management: Due to its small size and lightweight, the Hellcat can have more perceived recoil compared to larger 9mm pistols, which might be challenging for some shooters.
- Trigger Feel: Some users report that the trigger feel is not as smooth or refined as they would like, although this is often a matter of personal preference.
- Price Point: The Hellcat is priced higher than some other pistols in its category, which could be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers.
- Sights: While the stock sights are adequate, some users prefer to upgrade them for better visibility, especially in low-light conditions.
- Limited Customization: Due to its unique design and size, there may be fewer customization options available compared to larger, more popular pistol models.
Sig Saur P365 (9mm or 380)
The SIG Sauer P365 is one of the most popular micro-compact semi-automatic pistols, well-known for its innovative design and ammo capacity. It’s particularly popular for concealed carry. it’s comparable to the Springfield Hellcat. Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of the SIG Sauer P365 based on its features, performance, and user feedback:
- High Magazine Capacity: The P365 stands out for its high magazine capacity relative to its size. It comes with a standard 10-round magazine, with options for 12-round and even 15-round extended magazines, which is exceptional for a pistol of its size.
- Compact and Lightweight: Designed for concealed carry, the P365 is very compact and lightweight, making it comfortable and unobtrusive to carry all day.
- Good Ergonomics: Despite its small size, the P365 is known for having a comfortable grip and good ergonomics, which enhances its shootability and handling.
- Night Sights: The P365 comes standard with SIGLITE night sights, which are high-quality and provide excellent visibility in low-light conditions.
- Quality and Reliability: SIG Sauer is known for its quality craftsmanship, and the P365 lives up to this reputation with its durability and reliable performance.
- Recoil: As with most micro-compact pistols, the P365 can have a snappier recoil than larger framed pistols, which might be a concern for some shooters, especially those with less experience.
- Price Point: The P365 is generally more expensive than many other pistols in its class, which might be a factor for those with a limited budget.
- Trigger Feel: Some users have commented on the trigger feel, suggesting that it could be smoother. Trigger preference, however, can be very subjective and varies from shooter to shooter.
- Initial Release Issues: The P365 had some reported issues (like trigger spring problems and firing pin breakages) when it was first released, but SIG Sauer has since addressed these in newer models.
- Limited Customization: While there are aftermarket options available, the customization possibilities for the P365 might be more limited compared to larger, more popular models.
Glock 43X (9mm)
The Glock 43X is a subcompact semi-automatic pistol, part of Glock’s slimline series designed for concealed carry. This is one of the most balanced handguns on this list. It’s an enhanced version of the original Glock 43. Here are the pros and cons of the Glock 43X based on its features, performance, and user feedback:
Increased Magazine Capacity: The Glock 43X has a slightly larger frame than the Glock 43, allowing for a 10-round magazine capacity, which is an improvement over the standard 6-round capacity of the original Glock 43.
- Slim and Compact Design: The Glock 43X has a slim profile, making it ideal for concealed carry. Its balanced dimensions provide a good compromise between concealability and shooting comfort. It’s also smaller than the Glock 19.
- Improved Ergonomics: The larger frame and improved grip design offer better ergonomics and control compared to the smaller Glock 43, making it easier to handle, especially for shooters with larger hands.
- Glock Reliability and Durability: As with other Glock models, the 43X is known for its reliability and robust construction. It performs consistently under various conditions.
- Versatile Caliber: Chambered in 9mm, the Glock 43X offers a good balance of stopping power and recoil, suitable for a wide range of users.
- Recoil: For a compact handgun, it has some weight which helps to reduce perceived recoil compared to other smaller and lighter framed pistols.
- Limited Aftermarket Options: While there are aftermarket parts available, the options for the Glock 43X might be somewhat limited compared to more popular Glock models like the 17 or 19.
- Price: Glock pistols are generally priced higher than some other brands, and the 43X is no exception. Its cost might be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers.
- No Rail for Attachments: The Glock 43X does not come with a rail for mounting lights or lasers, which might be a drawback for users who value these accessories.
Stock Sights: The stock sights are basic, and many users choose to upgrade them for better accuracy and visibility.
Best Home Protection Handgun For Women
The Glock 19 is a compact semi-automatic pistol, part of the Glock series of handguns. It’s one of the most popular firearms for law enforcement, military, and civilian use, known for its versatility. Here are the pros and cons of the Glock 19 based on its features, performance, and user feedback:
Versatility: The Glock 19 is known for its versatility. It’s small enough for concealed carry but large enough to serve as a duty weapon or for home defense.
- Magazine Capacity: It typically comes with a 15-round magazine, providing a good balance between firepower and size. It can also use higher capacity magazines from larger Glock models.
- Reliability: Glock’s reputation for reliability is well-reflected in the Glock 19. It’s known for its consistent performance in various conditions, with minimal maintenance.
- Aftermarket Support: There’s extensive aftermarket support for the Glock 19, offering a wide range of customization options, from sights and triggers to grips and holsters.
- Ergonomics and Handling: The Glock 19 is designed to be comfortable in the hand with a good balance, making it easy to handle for a wide range of shooters.
- Recoil: Some users might find the recoil of the Glock 19 a bit sharp, especially those who are new to shooting or have smaller hands.
- Trigger Feel: The stock trigger is often described as being on the heavier side and not as smooth as some might prefer. However, this can be modified with aftermarket parts.
- Aesthetics and Design: The Glock’s utilitarian design is not to everyone’s taste. It’s often described as blocky and lacking in style compared to other handguns.
- Size for Concealed Carry: While compact, the Glock 19 might still be too large for some users who prefer an ultra-compact firearm for concealed carry. It’s a great option for home defense though.
Price: While offering good value, the price of the Glock 19 can be higher than some other compact handguns on the market.
- Weight: Because it’s a bigger gun than others on this list, it is heavier. However, this extra weight can reduce perceived recoil.
Worst Handguns For Women
Revolvers can be suitable for some women, but there are characteristics of revolvers that might make them less ideal. Here’s an overview of why revolvers might be seen as less favorable:
- Recoil Management: Revolvers, especially those in powerful calibers and with lighter frames, can have significant recoil. This might be challenging for shooters with smaller hands, less upper body strength, or those who are sensitive to recoil.
- Ergonomics and Size: Revolvers often have a different grip shape and size compared to semi-automatic pistols. Some women (or men with smaller hands) might find the grip of a revolver less comfortable or harder to hold firmly, which is crucial for accurate and safe shooting.
- Trigger Pull: Many revolvers have a heavier and longer trigger pull in double-action mode, which can be difficult for shooters with less hand strength or dexterity. This can affect shooting accuracy and comfort.
- Capacity and Reloading: Revolvers typically have a lower ammunition capacity (often 5 or 6 rounds) compared to many semi-automatic pistols. Additionally, reloading a revolver is generally slower and can be more complex, which might be a concern for self-defense scenarios.
Weight and Balance: Some revolvers, especially those built for reduced recoil, can be heavier. This might make them less comfortable for extended periods of shooting or carrying.
Try Before You Buy
It’s very important to physically go to a gun shop with an indoor range and test the guns before purchasing. Everyone is built differently and you should test them for yourself to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.
I recommend making a list of 5 guns or so you’d like to shoot based on your research and then going to a gun range and testing those 5 guns to see which you liked the best.