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7 Best First Handgun Reviews of 2020 | Top-Rated Models For Beginner Shooters

The best first handgun for anyone doesn't have to be military-grade, super-expensive, or highly feature-packed. Instead, it has to fit your current needs, hand size, skill, budget and personal preference. Learn what makes a good first gun by checking out some of the best beginner handguns we've painstakingly researched, compared and tested for various needs such as the models we covered in our concealed carry gun reviews and those for home defense. We included best of the best from various categories in our lineup suitable for novice shooters and gun owners. If you find single-action easier, we have single action revolvers reviews, as well.

Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver

Editor's Rating 

4.9/5

2.[Best Budget First Handgun]
 Semi-Auto Ruger LCP II 

ruger lcp

Editor's Rating 

4.8/5

3. [Best 9mm First Handgun]
 Beretta 92FS 9mm Pistol

beretta 92fs

Editor's Rating 

4.8/5

What to Look For in Your First Handgun 

Even the firearm experts you look up to now used to be a beginner overwhelmed at the choices before them. As with anything new, understanding the terms of handguns and firearms in general can be downright confusing. Even conducting research today could lead you into an information-overload black hole that would do more harm than good. 

On this comprehensive post, I'll keep it simple, easy to understand, and informative. Plus watch out for my recommended beginner handguns at the end. 

Product Name

Benefits

Rating

Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver

  • Ball-Detent Lock-Up


  • Two-piece barrel


  • Full-length extractor rod

4.9/5

ruger lcp

  • Comes with an extended 7-round magazine



  • Internal hammer


  • Anti corrosive, gorgeous black finish

4.8/5

beretta 92fs

  • Open slide design for maximum jam prevention


  • Semi-automatic double and single action


  • 3-dot system (single dot front sight and 2-dot rear sight)

4.8/5


Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard
  • Double action


  • Drift adjustable, stainless steel front and rear sights


  • Stainless-steel barrel and slide 

4.7/5

Ruger Super Blackhawk
  • Traditional western style



  • Designed for 44 magnum cartridge


  • Ultra durable coil springs results to maximum reliability

4.6/5

CZ bren usa


  • AR-15 level quality, but much affordable


  • Significantly more lightweight than past models


  • Durable and solidly built

4.6/5

GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol
  • Exquisitely designed tactical handgun


  • Shoots 10mm cartridge


  • MOS (Modular Optic System)

4.5/5

Even Starter Guns Require Gun Handling Fundamentals

It doesn't matter if you're looking for the best first handgun for a man or a woman, but every gun owner goes through gun handling fundamentals. For example, your grip and stance could be totally debatable (and subjective), but they can be simplified with these basics: 

  • Grip - Your hand's grip on the gun should be comparable to a firm handshake, nothing too light that the firearm becomes unstable, or nothing too tight that would make it difficult to fire.
  • Stance - All gun owners will have their own idea about proper stance, but experts recommend that the most important thing is balance and stability. As long as you fire the gun standing up without falling over, then your stance is considered ideal. 

What Is the Best Caliber Bullet for a Handgun?

The best handguns are always paired by the best kind of bullet. If you're in search of the best handgun for the first time buyer, go with 9mm rounds because they are affordable, available anywhere, and are generally much easier to use due to less recoil. 

In fact, police and military personnel use 9mm guns on a regular basis. 

Best First Handgun Reviews 

  • Ball-Detent Lock-Up
  • Two-piece barrel
  • Full-length extractor rod
  • 5-shot cylinder
  • First Smith & Wesson L-Frame in .44 Magnum®
  • Comes with lifetime service warranty
Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver
Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver Specifications


Manufacturer

Smith & Wesson

Type

Revolver

Caliber/Gauge:

.44 Magnum

Capacity

5

Magazine Type

N/A

Sight

screw-adjustable rear sight and red ramp front sight

Safety

Manual

Grip Type

Black Synthetic

Frame

L-frame

Weight

34.4 oz.

The Smith & Wesson® 69 Combat Magnum® Double-Action Revolver can definitely be the best first time handgun if you're becoming a legit firearms enthusiast. It's also the best 44 mag revolver to date. 

The company has been manufacturing dozens of handguns for over a century, so expect some hits and misses, but the Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum revolver is definitely a hit. 

Based on the Model 69 (released in 2014), the newer 69 Combat Magnum features two-piece stainless steel barrel and standard 1.56-inch-wide L-frame cylinder designed to comfortably hold five rounds of .44. These combined features translate into a super-durable and long-lasting handgun that members of law enforcement enjoy for enabling them continuous Magnum usage. 

This revolver from Smith & Wesson features a stainless steel frame and black all-black synthetic grip with unique fish-scale texturing. The grip seems hard, but is actually soft to touch.  

69 Combat Magnum has a spring-powered ball bearing in the frame that locks in place in the crane of the revolver. This system makes it durable enough to withstand even the heaviest .44 loads without it getting damaged. 

The "double action" in the name of this revolver means you can use the 69 Combat Magnum in either single or double action, so you should be well-prepared for the trigger pull ratios (3.5 lbs for single action pull  and about 11 lbs for double action pull). And because it has an adjustable blade rear sight and red ramp front sight, you are given added accuracy when shooting the 69 Combat Magnum. 

The only disadvantage of the Smith & Wesson 69 Combat Magnum Double-Action Revolver is that it has limited hunting capability because of its 2.75-inch barrel. However, what it lacks in this department, the 69 Combat Magnum definitely makes up for as a concealed-carry revolver in the personal defense market. 

Pros

  • Reliable brand that produces high-quality handguns
  • Classic design with traditional elements
  • Can be used as concealed carry
  • Takes .44 special ammo

Cons

  • Not ideal as a hunting handgun

  • Highly concealable, affordable handgun
  • Single-action trigger
  • Locked-breech system
  • Glass-filled nylon frame with hardened steel slide
  • Auto slide, hold-open latch
  • 6-round magazine
ruger lcp
Semi-Auto Ruger LCP II Specifications


Manufacturer

Ruger

Type

Semi-Automatic

Caliber/Gauge:

.380 Automatic Colt Pistol

Capacity

6+1

Magazine Type

Removable

Sight

Larger, serrated sights

Safety

YES

Grip Type

Black textured grip

Frame

Black Polymer Grip/Frame

Weight

10.6 oz.

If you consider the best beginner gun to be small and highly concealable, then check out Ruger's semi-automatic LCP II. Design-wise, the sharp edges found on the original LCP were replaced by smoother, round edges to improve concealment and prevent wear on the user's clothes. 

Ideal for those buying first handgun, the Ruger® LCP® II .380 ACP Pistol is designed with alloy steel slide and barrel, textured-finish glass-filled nylon grip frame and easy-to-rack slide. It features a single-action trigger pull with an internal hammer, so expect virtually no snagging when drawing the gun. 

Ruger made LCP II with larger and serrated sights to enhance visibility, and backstrap redesigned for better and more textured hold. It makes a good first pistol thanks to its lightweight, but highly durable built and faster-reloading auto slide hold-open feature. 

Many of the best handguns that are small and semi-automatic come with blowback action, but the LCP II is different. It uses a locked-breech system, which makes it easier for the users to load because they no longer need to slide back with too much force, and in turn, lessen recoil. 

This model already comes with one 6-round magazine, a pocket holster, and a design that enables the users to pick any holster they desire. 

Pros

  • Comes with an extended 7-round magazine
  • Internal hammer
  • Anti corrosive, gorgeous black finish
  • Expanded floorplate and extended grip
  • Controlled recoil thanks to the glass-filled nylon frame

Cons

  • Only 1 6-round magazine included (most small handguns have 2 included in the box)

  • Open slide design for maximum jam prevention
  • Semi-automatic double and single action
  • 3-dot system (single dot front sight and 2-dot rear sight)
  • Safety system in place
  • Internal firing pin block system
  • External loaded chamber indicator
beretta 92fs
Beretta 92FS 9mm Pistol Specifications


Manufacturer

Beretta

Type

Semi-Automatic

Caliber/Gauge:

9mm

Capacity

15 + 1

Magazine Type

Detachable

Sight

3-Dot

Safety

YES

Grip Type

Plastic

Frame

Lightweight aluminum alloy

Weight

33.4 oz.

The Beretta 92FS isn't just the best beginner 9mm handgun, it is also one of the most widely used and duty proven semi-auto pistols in the industry. The 92FS has been the US military's official sidearm (designated M9) since the 1980s and has been proven to be accurate, reliable and solidly built for years. 

If you're aiming to have only the best first pistol, then the 92FS must be it since not only did this pistol meet all U.S. military requirements, this particular make and model actually made history and completely rewritten the testing guidelines. 

The 4.9" Beretta 92FS is designed with black matte, highly durable Bruniton™ non-reflective black finish, which provides corrosion resistance and additional grip to users. 

Safety-wise, Beretta 92FS has an open-slide design to prevent jamming when loading the cartridge and an internal firing pin block system that only moves when the trigger is pulled. It is also made with a quick and easy disassembly latch, making it easy to field stripping when conducting maintenance and preventing accidental drops or loss.

The 92FS also has a de-cocking system with a positive thumb safety, an ambidextrous safety lever, and reversible magazine release. There is also a red indicator (which you can also feel when in the dark) when your pistol's chamber is loaded. 

Like other Berreta pistols, this 92FS also has an external hammer design, which gives users an immediate visual and a reliable energy used for the firing pin. This helps prevent any misfires that may occur from light primer. 

Buying my first gun years ago, I would have been a mess if it weren't for a Beretta pistol that made it easier for beginners to get comfortable holding, aiming, firing, and maintaining a gun. 

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to shoot
  • Sighted perfectly
  • High-capacity magazines
  • Beautiful workmanship
  • Recoil present, but light
  • Mixed ammo capability

Cons

  • Mostly steel (solidly built means it conducts heat and could be heavy for some)

  • Double action
  • Drift adjustable, stainless steel front and rear sights
  • Stainless-steel barrel and slide 
  • Centerfire pistol
  • Thumb safety
  • Comes with 2 magazines and a nylon case
Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard
Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 Semi-Auto Pistol Specifications


Manufacturer

Smith & Wesson

Type

Semi-Automatic

Caliber/Gauge:

.380 Automatic Colt Pistol

Capacity

6 + 1

Magazine Type

Detachable

Sight

Stainless steel, drift-adjustable front and rear sight

Safety

Manual

Grip Type

Black Polymer

Frame

Stainless-steel barrel and slide with fish-scale serrations on the rear of the slide

Weight

12 oz.

If the best beginner pistol you have in mind is highly concealable, then you better check out Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard. However, most experts would recommend comprehensive training first before actually making this your main pocket handgun. 

The Bodyguard 380 is a 6+1 capacity, double-action-only semi-automatic gun. It is designed with a polymer frame, stainless steel barrel & slide, manual thumb safety, slide stop, external takedown lever and loaded chamber indicator. 

The reason why the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 is a famous, all-around small handgun is because it is much more affordable than most 9mm handguns in the market today. Other plus points include the relatively lightweight feel of the gun and low recoil. 

Although the Bodyguard 380 has a smaller magazine capacity than its big brother M&P 2.0, the trigger pull remains crisp with a significantly quicker recovery time. Like any other best pistol in this small-sized category, the smaller round translates to less recoil, which in turn, gives more shooting accuracy.  

Pros

  • Small, compact, but solid feel
  • Ideal for concealed carry and personal defense use
  • Highly controllable leads to accurate shots
  • Crisp trigger pull with little to no recoil

Cons

  • May not fit users with bigger hands
  • Traditional western style
  • Designed for 44 magnum cartridge
  • Ultra durable coil springs results to maximum reliability
  • Transfer bar ignition system
  • Super Blackhawk hammer spur
  • Patridge-type front and click-adjustable rear sight
Ruger Super Blackhawk
Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver Specifications


Manufacturer

Ruger

Type

Single-Action

Caliber/Gauge:

Designed specifically for the 44 magnum cartridge

Capacity

Magazine Type

N/A

Sight

Ramp front sight & adjustable rear sight

Safety

Yes

Grip Type

Hardwood

Frame

All-steel grip-frame

Weight

45 oz.

Those looking for the best beginner revolver may find what they're in search for with the Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver. It's a gorgeous-looking, Traditional Western-style revolver with an all-steel, grip frame that adds a significant weight and in turn, provides balance to the sidearm. 

The Super Blackhawk is Ruger's oldest design, but has remained in the company's line-up until today because it is such a well-built gorgeously-handcrafted gun. Many Ruger SBH gun owners would attest to how comfortable and exceptionally fitted the grip is thanks to the natural pointing grip pattern that's unique to Ruger revolvers. 

The Ruger SBH Revolver is made with a premium steel, solid cylinder frame and specifically designed to handle the recoil of powerful 44 magnum cartridges and pressures of the chamber. The trigger and hammer are both finished shiny silver, which is a smart move as the shine contrasts quite nicely to the tinge of blue metal finish and wood.

Instead of leaf-springs, the Ruger SBH Revolver also uses coil springs throughout the mechanism. Its patented transfer bar ignition is a system that creates reliable security against accidental discharge even with all 6 chambers fully loaded. 

Another thing that makes the Ruger Super Blackhawk Single-Action Revolver a favorite is its sights: the front Patridge-type sight gives excellent sight picture, while the rear click-adjustable sight offers elevation. The entire sight design enables the gun owner to withdraw the revolver from holsters quite effortlessly. 

Pros

  • Exceptional construction and aesthetically-pleasing design
  • Mechanically-sound
  • Accurate and reliable
  • Good beginner pistol for all ages

Cons

  • May not be ideal for those who aren't fans of handloading

4.6/5

  • Folding adjustable sights
  • 30-round capacity
  • Cold Hammer forged barrel
  • Black-finish, carbon fiber-reinforced polymer frame
  • Relatively affordable compared to its direct competition
CZ bren usa

CZ BREN 2 MS Specifications


Manufacturer

CZ-USA

Type

Semi-Automatic

Caliber/Gauge:

7.62x39mm

Capacity

30

Magazine Type

Detachable

Sight

Folding Adjustable

Safety

Ambidextrous Manual

Grip Type

Stippled

Frame

Black finish,Carbon Fiber-Reinforced Polymer

Weight

5.625 lb

If you're reading up on handgun reviews, the CZ BREN 2 MS is understandably not the go-to recommendation for best beginner handgun for home defense. This is simply because the CZ Bren 2 MS looks and feels like an AR due to its mostly AR-style controls, which is why many new gun owners wouldn't dare come close to it. 

But if you do choose the CZ BREN 2 MS over any other "handier" and beginner-friendly types of pistols, I have a feeling you wouldn't turn back. The semi-auto CZ BREN 2 MS is a much lighter pistol with a clean-sheet design, modular forend and AR-style bolt catch/release system. 

Unlike the original Bren 2 design for the Czech military, the CZ-USA Bren 2 MS Pistol is substantially lighter and easier to carry thanks to the carbon fiber-reinforced polymer and aluminum receiver. This new model also made the charging handle non-reciprocating, but swappable from side to side. Its pistol grip has a small sealed storage compartment.

When in pistol form, the Bren 2 Ms features a flush rear plate with capability of attaching an AR-style buffer tube, so you could install an arm brace, cheek rest or other types of pistol-stabilizing accessories.

The Bren 2 Ms Pistol is available in six variations with different barrel lengths (ranging from 8.26 to 14.17 inches) and calibers (either 7.62x39MM or 223/5.56NATO). 

Pros

  • AR-15 level quality, but much affordable
  • Significantly more lightweight than past models
  • Durable and solidly built
  • Six varieties to choose frommostly AR-style controls

Cons

  • Not actually a handgun you’d expect
  • Exquisitely designed tactical handgun
  • Shoots 10mm cartridge
  • MOS (Modular Optic System)
  • Ready-to-mount reflex sights
  • Hexagonal rifle grooves
  • Comes with hard case, 3 magazines, MOS adapter and several other tools

GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol
7. GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol Specifications


Manufacturer

Glock

Type

Semi-Auto Double

Caliber/Gauge:

10mm

Capacity

15+1

Magazine Type

3 high-cap mags

Sight

White-dot front sight and adjustable white outline rear sight

Safety

Safe Action®

Grip Type

Rough Texture, Multiple Back Strap System

Frame

Rough Texture grip frame

Weight

4.5 lbs.

The GLOCK G40 Gen4 MOS Semi-Auto Pistol can be the best pistol for beginner and experienced gun owners alike. This all-black, handsome handgun is designed for tactical uses and serious hunting. Its minimalist design has been a trademark of Glock pistols for decades and it continues to wow even for the GLOCK 40 Gen4 in MOS Configuration. 

The Glock G40 Gen4 is somewhat customizable because it: 

  • Accommodates any hand size - This is the "handy work" of the modular back strap design and reversible magazine catch, which both allow you to customize the grip to fit any hand size.
  • Has four grip-adapter options - Glock took most of its time working on how well this handgun will fit its users that it included four grip-adapter options for this model. This gun comes with a tool to let you use any of the adapters.  

Plus, the G40 Gen4 in MOS Configuration makes it easy even for  beginners to mount a reflex sight on the pistol’s slide without the need for a new slide or separate mounting system. 

Pros

  • Distinct all-matte-black, minimalist design
  • Reliable and easy to use
  • Plastic and steel build results to a surprisingly lightweight gun
  • Dependable hunting gun that is powerful enough to take game cleanly

Cons

  • Not the cheapest handguns to feed

Who Should Consider Our Handgun Recommendations?

But if you're part of law enforcement, military or a seasoned gun owner, this may not be the best guide for you. 

Our recommendations are aimed at someone looking for the best handgun for first time owner, but have very little or zero knowledge about gun functionality, ergonomics, proper handling, size and design, caliber and ammo. 

We also have detailed reviews of the best handgun for women to date.

It doesn't matter if this is your first gun to buy, the second or third. As long as you feel confused by the options given to buy at your local gun store, you have to read on to get some clarity. 

How to Choose the Best Starter Handgun for You

Focus on several factors when picking out the best first gun to buy:

Size and Fit

Out of all the factors to consider when buying your first gun, the size, fit and ergonomics of a gun is one of the most important. When you hold and shoot any handgun or starter pistol, the first thing you'll notice is how solidly it feels in your hands (or not). 

The best first handgun for you should be appropriate to the size of your hand. Note that the more secured a gun feels in your hand, the better you'll be able to practice and handle it more confidently. 

Of course there are grip inserts and other accessories that could help improve a handgun's fit on your hand. While this is fine for advanced gun owners, beginners should find that the reliability of their gun's grip will definitely improve user-friendliness and this can only be achieved by buying a proper fit. 

Safety

Safe gun handling is important regardless of skill, so whether you're a beginner or an expert, safety should always be a huge factor. One thing you'll face at the start of your handgun journey is the question: "does a good first handgun require external safety or no external safety?"

Obviously, this is a hot topic and debated about by both beginner and expert gun owners. But here's what you should know: 

Manual safety prevents accidental or negligent discharge

Having external safety gives gun owners peace of mind because of the thought that the gun is "physically locked"

If you do not want to use a holster, having external safety will increase your protection when carrying the gun in pockets

Sights

If you're after the best first handgun for home defense, it is recommended to go with night sights. This is based on data, since gun use usually occurs at night (robbers/intruders rarely come into the house in the morning). 

The most reliable handgun usually has night sight features for front and rear sights. However, if the one you're eyeing doesn't have one, you have an option of adding aftermarket accessories. 

Action

The trigger action, defined as 'the method by which the handgun works,' is also important. This could vary from Single Shot Actions or Repeating actions, with a ton of different subcategories including AR guns. But many experts recommend striker-fired handguns for their consistency and reliability during firing.