Let me start off by saying that whenever you write a generalized article like this, you will always have people that chime in who have differing opinions and experiences. The information here is purely our opinion based on interviews with plenty of female shooters and our own experiences alike. Many women have firearms outside of this list that they swear by and that’s not saying anything is wrong with those choices.
With all of that now being said, the comprehensive list below is taken from conversations with some of our good friends that are casual and sometimes competitive shooters that just happen to be women (including my wife).
Below you’ll find a few common themes and some great picks if you are just getting started in the world of shooting. While most of the guns in this list are great firearms if you don’t have any experience shooting a handgun, a couple of them are top choices even for competitive shooters.
First we will look at our favorite choices in the most popular calibers and later on we will go into our favorites for specific situations. Feel free to use the quick jump menu below if you are looking for something specific. We’ve listed the calibers in order that we feel most women should start with from top to bottom. If you are an inexperienced shooter, start with a .22 caliber handgun and work your way up in size. The 9MM’s and .380 ACP’s are somewhat interchangeable, and you can get more details on each caliber plus their differences below.
Without further delay, let’s jump into our top choices of each caliber that most of the ladies we interviewed rave about.
Best .22 LR Semi-Auto Handgun For Women: The Ruger SR22
The Ruger SR22 tops the list for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s my wife’s favorite gun and it’s her favorite choice when she carries, but also one of her favorites when she keeps it locked up in a safe in her car. It’s light, easy to shoot, easy to clean and it’s built to withstand a lot of abuse. The .22 caliber in general is usually a great first choice for anyone just getting into shooting. More advanced shooters may complain that the .22 lacks stopping power, but the truth is that in any self-defense situation, owning a gun that you can feel comfortable with and actually shoot is better than having something that’s hard to shoot due to recoil and only allows you to get off one shot.
My wife’s first trip to the range with her Ruger SR22 left her with a full magazine of bullets at 15 feet into her range target with 90% of them hitting center mass. She is not a competitive shooter. Her follow up shots were quick and easy due to the fact that the Ruger SR22 has a low recoil effect due to the caliber and the build of the handgun. It also comes equipped with a safety which some shooters do not prefer but is usually popular with novice shooters for ease of use.
While this may be a great handgun for men & women alike that are in the beginner stages of shooting mechanics, my wife will still tell you that she’d take this gun over anything we have in our safe to this very day. .22LR caliber ammo is also cheap which makes it easy to practice with.
One of the most enticing things about this gun is the price tag. For the price, there are not many better handgun choices for a woman to start with. The only downside to this gun would probably be the size. It’s not a compact gun which means that it’s not as easily stored in a purse as some of the other guns on our list, which we have heard is an enticing feature from some women.
The Best 9MM Semi-Auto Handgun For Women: CZ 75B 9MM
This is probably our most controversial pick. The Glock 17 and 19 both deserve some consideration here, but the CZ 75B wins the race for best all-around as it appeals to both beginners and competitive shooters alike. The local shooting range actually turned me on to my first CZ 75B and my wife loves it. We shot everything from Rugers to Glocks to Smith & Wesson’s as well as XD’s. My wife wasn’t a fan of polymer-framed guns (recoil reasons) and all the girls at the shop happened to own CZ’s. They had us try shooting a CZ 75B and both my wife and myself were hooked.
While the Glock would probably win out from a practicality & survival standpoint (easy to find parts), the CZ 75B wins from a hands-down fun to shoot and own perspective. The CZ 75B does a great job balancing recoil and is one of the few 9MM firearms that boasts a full metal frame as a distinguishing characteristic.
The base model CZ 75B comes with a hard plastic grip, and we’d recommend you replace it with the rubberized version as it’s one of the most comfortable grips you can shoot with from an ergonomic perspective. The tactical model comes equipped with these grips right from the factory but is slightly more expensive.
The 75B is the most popular gun in Europe and is used by European Law Enforcement as well as Special Forces across all of Europe. It’s also the most replicated firearm worldwide outside of the 1911. It’s hard to go wrong with this fantastic firearm and we’d recommend it if you decide that a 9MM is your caliber of choice.
The Best .380 Semi-Auto Handgun For Women: Sig Sauer P238
The Sig Sauer P238 is a small yet powerful handgun. This particular model scores high marks for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s a perfect size. It can easily fit into a handbag or purse and can tuck right away in your pocket if you are wearing something that has pockets. It also fits well into a waistband or an ankle holster, even if you happen to wear more form-fitting attire. It leaves a minimal imprint and is light given that the frame and components of the handgun are almost all metal.
From a shooting perspective, the P238 is a blast to shoot and does a great job with recoil management. The full metal frame seems to help keep some of the recoil suppressed making this gun one of the top choices for concealment. The .380 ACP caliber bullet is close to a 9MM bullet in size and has as almost as much stopping power at close range. The Sig P238 is best used by shooters in the intermediate category but it’s hard to ignore them for beginners that have decided they plan to carry their gun on a daily basis. The .380 caliber itself is snappier than a 9MM, but that is also due to the frame of most .380 ACP firearms being smaller than their 9MM cousins.
While there are only a few drawbacks to this gun, but they are worth mentioning. Sigs are notorious for their break-in period. Expect to shoot 500+ rounds through the gun to get it functioning the way it should. Sigs are notorious for jamming up initially and cycling a few boxes of ammunition through the P238 will ensure that it fires properly every time. Sigs also like to be well oiled, so make sure you properly lubricate the barrel & slide after cleaning the gun. That can make it a little messier when it comes to both shooting (oil will spit back at you during firing) and carrying the gun (oil leaks) if you aren’t careful. This obviously adds some additional cost to the purchase which is the next drawback – price. The sig is one of the pricier picks on the list. Sigs Sauers have some of the best quality when it comes to components and manufacturing build, but you should expect to pay a premium for it.
The P238 is an excellent choice if money isn’t an object, but at double the cost of some of our other choices on this list, there are others you should look at if you are on a budget. If you plan on carrying it every day, this pistol is one of the most concealable guns you can purchase and is popular with most women that carry it on a daily basis. This particular model is also one that my wife has kept locked up next to her bed in a biometric gun safe for quick and easy access.
The Best .40 Caliber Semi-Auto Handgun For Women: The Ruger SR40
You may call us slightly biased by listing two Ruger’s in our “best of handgun for women list.” But before we jump into that, we want to cover some of the basics about .40 caliber ballistics in general.
For starters, a .40 caliber gun is not the caliber we’d recommend anyone picking up that’s not at least somewhat experienced in shooting. It’s snappier than a 9MM and the caliber alone tends to have more muzzle flip than a .45 caliber firearm. It’s a good choice for more experienced shooters that want a little more stopping power than a 9MM might give you and the ammunition is usually only slightly more expensive than the 9MM caliber as well. It’s still not a caliber we’d recommend unless you are more experienced in shooting, but many experienced female shooters we talked to enjoy this caliber more than it’s larger cousin, the .45 caliber ACP.
Now onto the gun itself. The Ruger SR40 combines a slimmer grip along with a reasonable price tag. This gun attractive from a price point. We do want to point out that almost all of the .40 caliber Glocks are fantastic choices. In most cases, a lot of the women we’ve interviewed complain about the Glock grip being too wide for their hands. The Gen 4 Glocks do have customizable grips that can help in this area, but you’d have to decide if that is worth the cost. Glocks do win out for survivability and parts availability but we still like the Ruger for looks, ergonomics, and cost. Ruger also makes an SR40C if you decide that the .40 caliber is the right choice but the SR40 itself is just too big to carry. The SR40C comes equipped with two 10 round magazines and is also a great choice for a carry gun due to its light weight.
The gap is pretty narrow in the .40 caliber category with the Glocks high on our list, but you can’t go wrong with the SR40. The cost and ergonomics make this a great choice if you enjoy shooting a firearm with a little more “bite.”
The Best .45 Caliber Semi-Auto Handgun for Women: Remington 1911
We are biased here again, but that’s what reviews are for, right? If you are a beginner, then you should know that the 1911 is a type of handgun that’s made by MANY different manufacturers. It’s a classic firearm and is a true piece of iconic American firearms history that dates back to World War I. You can read up on the history of the gun here.
Before we jump into why we feel that the 1911 is the one gun that makes the best impression for .45 caliber firearms, let’s talk a little about the cartridge itself before we jump into why we like the 1911 as the best choice for women in this category.
The .45 ACP caliber firearm is not what we’d recommend anyone start off with, guy or girl alike. It’s a jarring caliber and as a novice, your shooting arm will be sore after putting 100 rounds through any .45 caliber handgun at the shooting range. With that being said, it’s the most practical caliber if you want loads of stopping power in a bullet that’s been tried and tested for over a century. You’ll feel more “push back” than muzzle flip out of a .45 which is why most women we interviewed said they actually prefer the .45 to the .40. The only exception to that rule is when we were talking to women that shot their .45’s on a polymer-framed handgun. Bring in the full metal 1911 and that makes this particular style of a gun a top choice amongst all recreational shooters.
With all that being said, let’s talk about the Remington 1911 and what we love about it. Like we stated earlier, there are tons of manufacturers that make a 1911 firearm, and most of them are made with decent enough quality. Most of these guns shoot similarly with the main exceptions being the Sig Sauer 1911’s. Sig Sauer makes tons of different variations of 1911’s (Jason used to collect them). Even though Sig makes the best shooting 1911 in our opinion due to recoil management, it loses the battle here because of price.
Springfield Armory has also made 1911’s for years, but Remington makes them with about the same quality at a cheaper price. You can have the Remington R1 Stainless (looks better in our opinion), and the Blued version f. Both prices are an absolute steal for a gun made by an American manufacturer like Remington. Remington has been around for years making quality firearms and their 1911 is no different. It’s durable, easy to clean, and looks like it’s been pulled right out of a history book. It also shoots and my wife actually preferred shooting this gun to any of his Sig Sauer branded 1911’s. She was grouping in 5-inch clusters up to about 15 feet in distance which is outstanding for someone that does not like guns that carry a lot of recoil.
We have compared many of the polymer-based handguns (XD’s, Glocks, Smith & Wesson’s) when making this choice, and the Remington 1911 just flat out takes the cake no matter the person that we talked to. While many female competitive shooters don’t use 1911 for competition shooting, every one of them we interviewed has 1911 in their arsenal and most agree that it’s the most fun to shoot. The Remington is a great buy and should satisfy any girl looking for big stopping power on a budget.
Thanks for taking the time to read through our thoughts on each of these top firearms. We plan to update this guide as we go, and as things change, we will be sure to add other models or calibers to the list that we think are worth mentioning. We plan on doing a complete breakdown on the top revolvers for women as well quite soon and hope that this guide serves its purpose to help any ladies out there who aren’t sure which guns might be a good fit for them.
As with any firearm purchase, it’s important that you shoot each gun before buying it and make sure that you have the appropriate safety measures picked out to secure your firearms. Biometric safes are a great choice to keep your handguns secured and if you plan to own rifles, make sure you look at buying a larger gun safe that you can grow into as you grow your gun collection.
Good luck, and as always, please feel free to leave us feedback if you feel there’s something out there that we may have missed!