Top 5 Beginner Handguns: What You Need to Know

Handguns 101

When it comes to picking out the right handgun to fit your personal needs as a first time gun buyer, it is important to look at all of the key factors before buying. Being educated on guns before buying will greatly help influence the decision making process. Key factors when it comes to buying a gun include ammunition size and cost, the size of the gun/caliber, overall gun price, ergonomics, budget, as well as safety. Combining these factors while browsing and testing guns can help one make the safest and most comfortable decision for themselves. 

Let’s dive into the top 5 beginner handguns and learn about their different uses and the overall quality of each pistol, but first, some general information to keep in mind while you are browsing gun selections as a first time buyer.


beginner pistols

Picking the right caliber of ammunition when starting out can greatly affect how one shoots and what kind of gun to get. Here are some key points that make the 9mm caliber one of the best choices

  • Balanced Performance: The 9mm cartridge strikes a balance between stopping power and manageable recoil. It offers sufficient stopping power to incapacitate a threat effectively while allowing for quick follow-up shots, which is crucial in high-stress situations.
  • Availability and Affordability: 9mm ammunition is widely available and relatively affordable compared to other calibers, making it more accessible for training and practice. This availability contributes to its popularity among law enforcement, military, and civilian shooters.
  • Capacity: Firearms chambered in 9mm typically have higher magazine capacities compared to larger calibers like .45 ACP or .40 S&W. This means more rounds can be carried in a magazine, providing more opportunities to neutralize a threat without the need for reloading.
  • Low Recoil: The 9mm cartridge generates less recoil compared to larger calibers, making it easier to shoot accurately and allowing for faster target acquisition and follow-up shots. This characteristic is particularly beneficial for shooters of varying skill levels and physical abilities.
  • Versatility: The 9mm cartridge is suitable for a wide range of applications including self-defense, competition shooting, law enforcement duty use, and military operations. Its versatility makes it a popular choice for individuals seeking a single handgun for multiple purposes.


Choosing a gun is all based on the person shooting. Being sure to find a gun with the right fit for yourself is very important and contributes highly to the safety aspect while shooting. Getting a full sized handgun, meaning that the barrel is close to about 5 inches is one of the best recommendations and here is why:

  • Improved Control and Stability: Full-sized handguns typically feature longer barrels and larger grips, providing better control and stability during shooting. This can result in improved accuracy, especially for shooters with larger hands or those who struggle with managing recoil.
  • Increased Magazine Capacity: The larger frame of full-sized handguns allows for higher magazine capacities compared to compact or subcompact models. This means more rounds can be carried in a single magazine, providing greater firepower and reducing the need for frequent reloading, which can be critical in self-defense or tactical situations.
  • Enhanced Comfort for Extended Shooting Sessions: The larger size and weight of full-sized handguns can help absorb recoil more effectively, reducing fatigue and discomfort during extended shooting sessions. This makes them ideal for training, competition shooting, or recreational purposes where prolonged shooting is common.
  • Longer Sight Radius: Full-sized handguns typically have longer sight radius due to their longer barrels, which can contribute to improved sight alignment and accuracy. This can be advantageous in both target shooting and self-defense scenarios where precision is important.
  • Accessory Compatibility: Full-sized handguns often feature accessory rails that allow for the attachment of lights, lasers, or other accessories. This enhances their versatility and customization options, making them suitable for a wide range of applications including home defense, duty use, or competitive shooting.
  • Deterrent Effect: The larger profile of full-sized handguns can act as a visual deterrent, potentially discouraging potential threats from escalating a situation. This can provide an added layer of confidence and security for concealed carry or open carry purposes.

The Best Handguns

Let’s dive into the best beginner handguns to add to your kit.

Glock 19

glock 19

Image courtesy of Glock

The most well known beginner friendly pistol is the Glock 19. It is a compact pistol renowned for its reliability, versatility, and widespread adoption. Introduced in 1988 by the Austrian firearms manufacturer Glock Ges.m.b.H., it quickly gained popularity among military, law enforcement, and civilian users worldwide. Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, it offers a balance of firepower and manageable recoil. Its polymer frame, pioneered by Glock, provides durability while keeping weight low. With a standard magazine capacity of 15 rounds, it excels in both defensive and sporting applications.

The Glock 19's simple design, featuring a striker-fired action and few external controls, ensures ease of use and maintenance. Its popularity has led to an extensive market of aftermarket accessories and modifications, further enhancing its adaptability to individual preferences and needs. Overall, the Glock 19 stands as a benchmark in the realm of compact handguns, prized for its reliability, simplicity, and performance.

Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0

Smith and wesson m&p

Image courtesy of Smith and Wesson

Coming in second is the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0. It is a modernized iteration of the renowned M&P (Military & Police) series, representing a culmination of innovation and feedback from users. Launched in 2017, this pistol line builds upon the success of its predecessor with several enhancements aimed at improving ergonomics, performance, and versatility. Available in various calibers including 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, the M&P M2.0 offers a range of options to suit different preferences and requirements. Key improvements include an upgraded trigger system for a crisper break and lighter pull, along with an aggressive grip texture for enhanced handling and control.

The steel chassis inside the polymer frame enhances rigidity, contributing to improved accuracy and durability. Additionally, interchangeable backstraps allow users to customize the grip size to fit their hands comfortably. Whether for law enforcement, personal defense, or competitive shooting, the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 continues to uphold its reputation for reliability, performance, and adaptability.

Heckler and Koch VP9

hk vp9

Image courtesy of HK

The Heckler & Koch VP9 is a striker-fired semi-automatic pistol celebrated for its German engineering, ergonomic design, and superior performance. Introduced in 2014, it quickly gained acclaim for its innovative features and reliability. Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, the VP9 offers a smooth trigger with a short, light take-up and a crisp reset, enhancing accuracy and control. Its polymer frame is designed with customizable grip panels and interchangeable backstraps, allowing users to achieve a comfortable and personalized fit. The VP9 features a Picatinny rail for attaching accessories such as lights or lasers, further enhancing its versatility for tactical and self-defense purposes.

Additionally, its low-profile slide design with front and rear cocking serrations facilitates easy manipulation, whether during loading, unloading, or clearing malfunctions. With its reputation for durability, accuracy, and user-friendly features, the Heckler & Koch VP9 continues to be a popular choice among military, law enforcement, and civilian shooters alike. This is a great first pistol choice because of the versatility and easy handling of the gun.

Sig Sauer P320

sig sauer p320

Image courtesy of Sig Sauer

The Sig Sauer P320 stands as a groundbreaking pistol platform renowned for its modularity, reliability, and widespread adoption. Introduced in 2014, the P320 represents a departure from traditional handgun design with its innovative interchangeable trigger group system, allowing users to easily swap frames, slides, and grip modules to customize size, caliber, and fit to suit their preferences. Adopted by numerous military and law enforcement agencies worldwide, including the United States Army's M17 and M18 variants, the P320 has earned a reputation for durability and performance in diverse operational environments. Chambered in various calibers such as 9mm, .40 S&W, and .357 SIG, it offers a smooth and consistent trigger pull, contributing to its accuracy and shootability.

Its striker-fired operation, combined with a modular design and ergonomic grip, makes it suitable for a wide range of applications including concealed carry, duty use, and competition shooting. With its versatility, reliability, and adaptability, the Sig Sauer P320 continues to be a popular choice among shooters seeking a customizable and dependable handgun platform.

Walther PDP

walther pdp

Image courtesy of Walther

The Walther PDP (Performance Duty Pistol) is a cutting-edge handgun designed to meet the demands of professional duty use, self-defense, and competitive shooting. Introduced in 2021, the PDP represents a significant advancement in Walther's handgun lineup, combining innovative features with proven reliability. Available in various sizes and chamberings, including 9mm and .45 ACP, the PDP features a reinforced polymer frame with an ergonomic grip and interchangeable backstraps, ensuring a comfortable and customizable fit for a wide range of shooters.

Its Performance Duty Trigger provides a smooth and crisp break, enhancing accuracy and control. The PDP's optics-ready slide with a low-profile, integrated mounting plate system allows for easy attachment of red dot sights, further enhancing precision and target acquisition. Additionally, front and rear slide serrations and an ambidextrous slide stop make manipulation and handling effortless. With its combination of advanced features, ergonomic design, and reliability, the Walther PDP stands as a formidable option for those seeking a modern, high-performance handgun for duty, defense, or competition.


How much do I spend on a pistol?

It is always important to have a budget while buying a pistol. It is personal preference but when you make a budget be sure to stay at or below the price you decide on.

How much do pistols cost?

A good quality pistol usually starts around $400 and can go as high as $800 based on the customizations chosen and brand of the gun.

Why not a revolver?

Revolvers are a good handgun to start with, but not necessarily the best choice because it only holds 6 rounds. Pistols on average carry around 10-15 rounds in the magazine. With modifications available like bigger magazines and barrels, more rounds can be used in a shorter span of time. 


As one can see, the amount of variables that can affect the buying process for a first time gun owner can seem like a lot. Taking into account each of these factors while buying a handgun will provide a better experience for the buyer and send them home fully satisfied with their purchase. Being sure to test out and look at numerous pistols to find your best fit will ensure optimal safety while shooting. Although there are many different pistols out there varying in size and caliber, the 5 mentioned with 9mm calibers are the way to go when choosing a first time gun.

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