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What is the Best Handgun for Female Beginners?

What is the Best Handgun for Female Beginners?

Posted by XS Sights on Sep 21st 2023

There are various subgroups of shooters: male and female, seasoned and novice, competition, hunting, and defensive. Each subgroup of shooters has its own needs for a firearm. This article is going to combine female shooters and beginners. It will focus on the needs particular to the female population, and the advice will be geared toward novices rather than experts.

Founded in 1996, XS Sights is a leader in the firearms and shooting industries. For the past three decades, XS Sights has manufactured sights that are innovative and true market differentiators. XS Sights are used by top competitors, defensive firearms trainers, law enforcement offices, and hunters the world over. We’ve learned a lot and would like to pass some of that knowledge on to shooters who need it the most: beginners. Let’s get started.

Understanding the Needs of a Female Beginner

Female shooters have some needs that are more prevalent than other shooters. One of those needs is a fairly compact handgun. If you think we’re about to go into the trope of “girls can’t handle big guns,” we’re not. But the fact is, women’s clothes aren’t cut like men’s clothes. Women’s clothing is often more form-fitting, has fewer pockets, and very often lacks belt loops. This can seriously impact the type of firearm that can be successfully concealed by the average female shooter.

Choose the Right Grip

Next, on average, women also have physically smaller hands than most men. Of course, this is a generalization, meaning it is generally – but not always – true. As a male with smaller hands, the author of this blog can certainly sympathize. This is not to imply that some women are not extraordinarily capable with large, big-bore handguns. But all shooters must find a grip that fits them well. This makes the proper presentation of the handgun, correct trigger reach, and recoil management all attainable goals.

Minimize Recoil

When it comes to understanding the needs of beginner shooters, we have a couple more things to consider. First, beginning shooters are typically less tolerant of recoil than very experienced shooters. This is why the .22 (rifle or pistol) is touted, rightfully so, as an excellent training tool: recoil is off the table, allowing the shooter to focus on various other points of performance. Excessive, painful recoil can make an otherwise productive shooting experience a struggle.

Find the Optimal Weight

While we like lightweight guns for carry, they aren’t necessarily a great choice for a beginner because they tend to accentuate recoil. This is especially true when the gun is especially slim, causing recoil forces to be channeled into a narrow area of the hand. Small guns also have a short sight radius, and cramped controls, making accuracy a challenge. Finding a good gun for female beginners requires a balance of something small enough to accommodate the shooter’s hands, and large enough to shoot well.

Read the Manual of Arms

Secondly, beginning shooters have a lot of information to cope with:

  • 1.Grip
  • 2.Stance
  • 3.Sight alignment
  • 4.Sight picture
  • 5.Trigger control
  • 6.Manual-of-arms

All of these are old hat to experienced shooters but brand-new information to novices. Firearms for new shooters should have a simple manual of arms. That means the fancy H&K pistols that can be carried cocked-and-locked, or DA/SA, with a de-cocker, and half a dozen other difficult functions are out.

Essential Features to Look for in a Handgun for Female Beginners

When selecting a gun for a very specialized purpose – a police officer’s backup gun, for instance – it is appropriate to value one attribute above all others. In the given example, an ultralight revolver would be an excellent choice, even though it sacrifices in a lot of other areas. When selecting a firearm for a newer female shooter, several criteria must be kept in mind at once.

Simple to Operate

A striker-fired handgun is a good choice, as is a revolver (provided it is not so small that it introduces other complications). A manual safety is at the discretion of the shooter; some shooters are more comfortable with a manual safety. If that describes you, feel free to look for a pistol that meets this need, but also be willing to put in the extra time and energy to truly master its operation.

Balance in Size

If you are looking for a home defense gun, you can afford to go with a larger model, as long as it isn’t too large for your hand. If the gun will be carried concealed, you will likely skew toward the smaller end of the spectrum. Use caution here, though. This is where many beginning female shooters are led astray by well-meaning gun store clerks. The ultra-small, ultra-light pistols will fit just about anywhere and be very unobtrusive. Unfortunately, they are also very difficult to shoot well, and are more malfunction-prone than larger pistols.


Firearms in this category also share some “common-to-all” considerations with other defensive firearms. They should be reliable, above all. A gun is no good if it doesn’t work when you really need it to. We will do our best to recommend high-quality handguns with trusted reliability, while also meeting the other criteria we’ve discussed here. Now let’s get into some specific recommendations

Review & Comparison of Handguns Ideal for Female Beginners

Striker-fired guns are the latest, greatest, modern handguns. They strike an excellent balance of simplicity and reliability, and they are available in nearly any size/caliber combination your heart desires. They are also adaptable with Picatinny rails and optic mounts and well-supported with holsters. Not to mention, a wide selection of XS sights is available for them.

Sig P365

The Sig P365 Family tops our list of striker-fired pistols. It is very compact and small enough to be suitable for even the smallest-handed shooters. In its standard configuration, it holds 10-1, with higher capacity 12-, 15-, and 17-round magazines available. Larger X and XL versions are available with longer slides and interchangeable grip modules. The standard P365 is chambered in 9mm, but it is also available in the lighter-recoiling .380 ACP. The Sig Sauer P365, available with or without manual safety, is the most popular handgun in America and has been for several years. This is a near-perfect pistol for personal protection and target practice.


Honorable mentions go to the Glock 43, 43X, and 48. The Glock 42 is also worth mentioning; it’s light, .380 caliber is very easy to shoot. Unfortunately, it only has a 6+1 round capacity. The Springfield Hellcat/Hellcat Pro is a contender with its small size and relatively high capacity in a user-friendly package. Sight upgrades for all of the above are readily available from XS Sights!


The Smith & Wesson EZ family of pistols (part of the Smith & Wesson Shield Line) is a single-action, hammer-fired pistol designed for use by smaller shooters. It comes in both .380 and 9mm. The slide is designed to be easy to rack, the magazine easy to load, and the whole package to recoil as little as possible. This S&W EZ has proven itself reliable and accurate, is compact enough for concealed carry, and is an outstanding choice for new shooters.


Revolvers are often given as the ideal choice for women. Revolvers do have some pros: they are very simple to operate, they are very tolerant of neglect, and their long, heavy trigger pull makes them safe to carry. However, you should avoid the advice to go with very small revolvers. First, their light weight makes recoil painful and difficult to manage. Their small size has little room for the geometry needed for a sufficient hammer strike to detonate a primer, so the spring weight is increased, making for very heavy trigger pulls. The author’s own mother gave up a S&W J-frame because she requires both index fingers to pull the DA trigger.

Kimber K6S & Colt King Cobra

We really like the Kimber K6S and the Colt King Cobra. Featuring a stainless-steel frame, barrel, and cylinder, both are bigger and heavier than the very light revolvers, like the Ruger LCR. Both of these double-action revolvers are also much easier to shoot fast and accurately. Loaded with .38 Special ammunition, both are very pleasant to shoot, though. Both hold six rounds, and the grips of both can be replaced to accommodate various hand sizes.

XS Sights & Choosing the Right Handgun

The best handgun for self-defense is the one that you shoot well and will actually carry. If the gun is so small that it is painful to shoot, you are unlikely to target practice and develop skills with it. If it has a huge caliber with plenty of stopping power, but you can’t hit the target with it, that stopping power is useless. The perfect handgun is the one that strikes a balance between comfortability and usability.

Regardless of which handgun you choose, there is probably an XS sight available for it. With XS’s high visibility front sights, unique V-shaped rear sights, and a huge array of night sights, you will be faster and more accurate with whichever handgun you choose. Visit XS Sights to shop handgun sights for Glock, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Kimber, Colt, and more!