Best Handgun for Women: 2019 Buying Guide & Review

This is an article about twelve of the best handguns for women compiled into a list of firearms that actually transcend simple titles in the market.

We’ve always been staunch proponents of individual gun choices for fitment and ease of use. We don’t really feel that women should be pigeonholed into a market segment. However, it’s important to note, that certain guns do actually fit better for those with smaller stature and lend themselves well to shooters who are women, or who have smaller hands, or less desire to shoot certain ballistic profiles.

It is in this vein that we present this article of the best pistols for women. Any women could own just about any gun and be happy with it and feel confident shooting it. This is not about being a woman. This male author actually prefers compact firearms over most full-sized firearms and that is even with big hands. Many of the guns chosen by him would in fact align very well for shooters with smaller hands.

Best-Self-Defense-Pistols-for-Women

A couple of notes before diving into the list:

Some of these guns are chosen for innovative and unique market placement and feature sets that will cater to those with smaller physical stature, have straightforward first shot mechanics and can be operated effectively by shooters of all sizes and experience levels.

Unless you need the extra spring weight, it’s probably almost always a positive to have a gun with a slide that is easy to manually rack, or a trigger that is able to be pulled by anyone of competency. It’s also easier to have more serrations on the slide for the same task. It is features like these that makes some of these guns excellent for women and other shooters who don’t need unnecessary hurdles to shooting in a defensive situation.

Additionally, for any shooter, safety and reliability without undue stoppages are always a good thing. That is why revolvers make so much sense for so many people. Often Revolvers are not considered as “sexy” as other handguns, but they deliver on safety, first shot speed and reliability, all of which are crucial attributes.

No innovation is an excuse to be lax in training and should not be substituted for best practices in catering to a specific segment of the population for a marketing win. We are also not fans of gimmicky hardware. Only legitimate innovations and solid feature sets are considered here.

Note: there are 4 offerings from Smith & Wesson on this list, and 3 offerings from Sig Sauer, that is somewhat indicative of the bigger brand name’s ability to produce a wide range of capable guns for a bigger cross section of the population. It doesn’t mean we only advocate for these brands, but rather that the guns we chose happen to be excellent guns for women also.

Below are the list of best handgun for women; which are also solid considerations for any other shooter who desires the same outlined attributes showcased earlier in this article.

Best handguns for women

Smith & Wesson - 360 PD Airlite

SMITH & WESSON - 360 PD AIRLITE

An absolute no-brainer from the perspective of anyone who needs to be able to trust their firearm every single time, but also needs a safe, small, lightweight gun with big stopping power.

This is easily a top choice in this list of best handgun for women shooters because of the many variables it covers for any shooter, particularly women and as a concealed carry or a purse gun.

The relative value of the gun is immense because it ticks the box on so many fronts for so many shooters. As a revolver, it is reliable and easy to use to get to the first shot. There are no active safeties to forget about and the trigger pull, while functional as a type of safety is still very manageable by shooters with low strength, men and women who have weak fingers or lower training experience.

The caliber is also multi-purpose, because the gun can shoot both the easy to handle .38 Special and the very potent defensive round the .357 Magnum.

The material build is super strong and allows full time use. The sights are easy to acquire, and it is meant as a close range gun; the scenario in which it excels. It is a very nicely sized gun for people with smaller hands too.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 357 Magnum
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 5+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 1.75"
  • Length: 6.3"
  • Weight: 0.75 lbs

Pros

  • High power capabilities
  • Easy to get the first shot off
  • Reliable and easy to understand

Cons

  • Recoil is heavy for smaller shooters, so some additional practice may be necessary (we advocate for training regardless of the firearm)

This is best for

Best concealed carry handgun for women who needs the most potent 5 shots they can find that are foolproof in a carryable/concealable handgun.


Beretta USA - PX4 Storm Compact Handgun

Beretta USA - PX4 Storm Compact Handgun

At first the PX4 might feel a bit heavy, but the total weight is overshadowed by the sublime balance that exists in the platform. The very solid build is a distinct departure from most factory mainstream polymer framed firearms. It gives a certain level of peace of mind and sets the expectation of high performance, which is what this handgun achieves.

Additionally, this is one of the most comfortable guns to shoot in the size and form factor.  The seemingly top-heavy look of the gun actually balances perfectly with a full magazine and the weight and mass of the slide makes a gun that mitigates recoil and muzzle snap exceptionally well.

It has a very low bore axis that helps produce better accuracy and a very good barrel lockup design to ensure a “fixed barrel” benefit, without the difficulties that come with traditional fixed barrels.

The trigger, while long, is quite nice compared to other Double Action style triggers on the market. Manual safeties add to the capabilities of the shooter in certain scenarios.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 10+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.2"
  • Length: 6.8"
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs

Pros

  • Superior balance
  • Very good accuracy and chamber lockup considering the short barrel length
  • Low recoil/good recoil and muzzle flip mitigation

Cons

  • Hard to find anything wrong with this gun at the price point

This is best for

Best handgun for women shooters who find the generic ergonomics of most mainstream polymer framed handguns poor. Shooters who want a small form factor but big gun accuracy. Anyone who needs recoil mitigation on the 9mm.


Sig Sauer - P210 Target

Sig Sauer - P210 Target

A potentially controversial choice for this list, the case for the inclusion of this gun is easy to make, despite high price and legendary tolerances.

Ordinarily it would be hard to find this gun on any list outside of an accuracy specific bent. But the construction and inherent attributes of the Sig P210, especially in this modern version are too perfectly matched with a female shooter to ignore.

The Swiss watch of production firearms, the Sig P210 has never needed to be included on lists to sell its fair share of firearms, but perhaps the most interesting thing about this gun is the amount of people who don’t know it exists or understand why it carries the price tag it does.

Yes, it’s expensive, but for that, you get a legacy gun that cannot be considered in the same ballpark as other lesser guns. This gun breaks the mold for a factory firearm.

It enhances the inherently better pistol accuracy that most women can achieve over men with practice. The thin overall profile of the gun fits any hand size well. The smoothness of the action and the impeccable track record for accuracy and reliability are next level. Plain and simple: this pistol is as traditional as it gets but vastly better built than other competitors.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Single Action
  • Capacity: 8+1-Round
  • Barrel Length: 5"
  • Length: 8.4"
  • Weight: 2.3 lbs

Pros

  • Superior build quality
  • Superior accuracy
  • Great balance and weight to manage recoil and muzzle flip

Cons

  • Expensive

This is best for

This is the finest target and full-size carry gun you can find that is also a 9mm single stack gun. But you probably won’t want to carry it because you’ll be treating it like the extravagant, amazing product that it is. The person who buys this, buys it because they admire the things it can do and the way it accomplishes those things – smoothly. One of the best 9mm handgun for women on the market.


Smith & Wesson - Bodyguard 38 Crimson Trace

Smith & Wesson - Bodyguard 38 Crimson Trace

Very similar to the first revolver on this list, and for most of the same reasons. There is some give, and some take with this variant though.

You get the added benefit of having a fast to target laser included in the build natively, but you have to sacrifice the ability to use full power .357 Magnums. This is a .38 Special ONLY firearm. You cannot use the magnum rounds in it.

Because you will likely never use your carry gun (which this is specialized to be), or that it will be very rare that you would have to draw it, it’s hard to want to give up the extra firepower of the Magnum cartridges. When you need that power, you won’t have it. Because of this, it wouldn’t be the top choice for most shooters.

That said, for women or other shooters who are particularly sensitive to recoil, or have a hard time getting back on target with a Magnum round, this is a fantastic choice. Reliable, lightweight, quick to the first shot and durable. It also has a legacy behind the build that speaks to its capability over the long-term.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 38 Special
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 5 Round
  • Barrel Length: 1.9"
  • Length: 6.6"
  • Weight: 0.9 lbs

Pros

  • Fast first shot
  • Safe and intuitive
  • Reliable

Cons

  • It cannot fire .357 Magnums, and other firearms exist in the same size and weight that can beat it from a shot stopping perspective

This is best for

Best pistol for women shooters who are super sensitive to recoil or who have difficulty coming back to target after the first shot.


Glock - G19 G4 FS

Glock - G19 G4 FS

The classic Glock variant for those with medium or small hands.

With the decided preference towards 9mm for the many benefits it has during a shooting scenario of late, this is a handgun that is perfectly placed for woman shooters or those who want a compact, lightweight; high capacity handgun for self-defense.

The 15 round magazine is more than enough firepower to stop a threat and the mildly recoiling firearm can satisfy both sides of the equation for shooters: it is big enough to help control the gun, but small enough to be comfortable for people with smaller hands.

This slot on the list could realistically be any Glock firearm. The guns in the model range are ALL very good contenders for this list. Even their full-size guns are routinely adopted by female shooters for a variety of tasks.

The legendary Glock reliability, the trigger that allows safe operation with a loaded chamber, and the durability of all the Glock models means you can beat this thing up and it will still work no matter what you do to it.

Perfect for a large purse and concealable on all but the smallest shooters, this is a powerhouse handgun for women. The milder recoil (thanks to the polymer frame and the good balance when loaded) gives an added benefit.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 15+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 4"
  • Length: 6.85"
  • Weight: 1.18 lbs

Pros

  • High capacity
  • Safe if you understand how to use it
  • Proven durability and very good reliability

Cons

  • Trigger isn’t perfect but it’s one of the best on the striker fired guns

This is best for

Best pistol for women shooters who need a bigger gun but cannot have an actual full-size gun. Shooters who need a lot of capacity.


Sig Sauer - P229 Legion Handgun

Sig Sauer - P229 Legion Handgun

Ergonomically, this handgun is excellent for people with medium hands. It is manageable without moving the gun awkwardly in the palm for reloads and for control usage. The weight and heft of the gun is higher than a comparably sized polymer framed gun; therefore, it is a great gun from a recoil perspective. It is also able to be retrofit into other calibers including .357 Sig and .40 Smith & Wesson based on the components available.

The very comfortable and comprehensive controls and user interface means that once you learn the system and have some training on the handgun, you are afforded options other leaner builds cannot do.

Case in point: de-cocking lever; an accessory rail for a light or laser; and forward slide serrations that can aid in cocking the gun or performing a loaded chamber check.

A longer sight plane adds to accuracy. The beavertail protects hands of all sizes. The slide stop is exceptionally well placed. The trigger is sublime for a DA/SA firearm.

All of these attributes transfer into a very usable firearm; and the user interface sometimes, can be everything. In a firefight you need the reliability, the ease of implementation and the ability to stop the threat. This handgun works on all levels.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 15+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.9"
  • Length: 7.4"
  • Weight: 1.85 lbs

Pros

  • Great ergonomics
  • Durable PVD coating
  • Aesthetic is very good

Cons

  • Starting to get to a price point that prices many consumers out of the market

This is best for

Sig Sauer fans; shooters who prefer to have the most comprehensive user interface in a compact form.


CZ USA - CZ 75 Compact

CZ USA - CZ 75 Compact

A lot like the Sig P229 above, the CZ has similar attributes, at a lower price. The trigger is not as good, and the slide is a bit more difficult for someone with weak hand strength to work, but it is a very nice option for half the price.

The same type of accuracy, the long sight plane, despite a compact form and a durable finish, with well placed controls and an ergonomic design. There is a glaring feature difference in the controls, with the slide stop requiring a shift in the palm for small hands or a second hand to aid in actuation.

A legitimate traditional safety gives peace of mind. Immensely concealable, and built around a balanced structure, this is a gun that has performed for decades admirably. It is an extraordinary handgun. The compact version, listed here, is perfect for those with smaller hands who want a low bore axis and a very controllable handgun.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: SA/DA
  • Capacity: 15 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.9"
  • Length: 7.3"
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs

Pros

  • High capacity, great magazines
  • Very good accuracy
  • Exceptional ergonomics

Cons

  • Admittedly, the slide is too low profile for some shooters, and can be hard to actuate manually in some cases without extensive training

This is best for

Best concealed carry handgun for women who hate the generic ergonomics of mainstream guns. Shooters who want a compact, comfortable to shoot handgun that can deliver from an interface perspective.


SIG Sauer P365 Pistol

SIG Sauer P365 Pistol

A truly versatile design that takes advantage of the latest trend in polymer framed compact carry guns but amplifies it with an implementation that keeps it super sleek and snag free but delivers on the integrated approach.

When you pick it up it feels right; the fitment and the closeness that the design offers to your hand is simple but powerful. The slide is big and heavy relative to the svelte frame. It offers an easy manual interaction during high stress shooting and it allows you to mitigate some of the recoil that the lightweight frame will allow.

Exceptional sights offer great first shot time to target. The trigger is pretty good, especially for the price point.

Subtle design elements like the textured palms and the finger grooves and the well-designed trigger guard as well as the deep inset accessory rail makes this a unique firearm that is priced very well relative to the market and offers much more than the smooth outer aesthetic will lead onto.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 10+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.1"
  • Length: 5.8"
  • Weight: 1.11 lbs

Pros

  • Simple, but capable feature set
  • Very good striker fired trigger group
  • Excellent design integration

Cons

  • Very hard to find a CON for the Sig 365

This is best for

Best handgun for women shooters who have not shot a newer style handgun for some time, or who want a game changing move into a different pistol style. Shooters who want smaller grips and more concealability.


Ruger LCP Pistol

Ruger LCP Pistol

The smallest and trendiest gun on the list. Small because it was designed to fit in a pocket or small purse easily and provide backup protection. Trendy because it has a fantastic price point and is very effective at delivering on promises.

It is a very simplistic gun, with a very straightforward charge. It is small and uses a ballistically inferior round to many on this list. But none of that matters if you need the core features of this gun, because for the money and the size there are very few competitors, and the Ruger LCP is a near perfect purse gun or daily carry gun for petite women.

The capacity is not huge, but with training, this can serve as a perfect alternative to much bigger, much harder to control, or conceal handguns.

In full transparency, it’s not built to the same standard as a $1500 pistol. But it is very effective at its core job, and it is not shoddily made. The durability is high, and the reliability is better.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 380 ACP
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 6+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 2.75"
  • Length: 5.16"
  • Weight: 0.6 lbs

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Exceptional reliability

Cons

  • Trigger isn’t perfect
  • It’s quite small, though for many women this is a pro and not a con

This is best for

Best concealed carry pistol for women shooters with small hands who can shoot a lot to get used to the very odd .380 ACP round on the range. Women who like exceptionally lightweight and easy to use firearms.


Smith & Wesson - M&P380 Shield EZ 2.0

SMITH & WESSON - M&P380 SHIELD EZ 2.0

Not everyone’s cup of tea, this is a very innovative handgun for women or other shooters who prefer an easier slide manipulation and a legitimate safety mechanism outside of the trigger.

This is the gun you get when you want something new to the game. This is not last years model, or traditional in any sense of the word. The slide is made specifically to be easy to manipulate by people with weaker hand strength. The grip safety is a replacement for the trigger safety.

The gun is built around the idea that the .380 is not an easy round to build a gun around. And yet, it performs very well for this round, that has become one of the hottest concealed carry calibers on the market.

The accessory rail and the sights give very nice options for the shooter to be on target quickly.

Perhaps not as innovative as the HKP7 series was at the time of its release, this is the type of innovation that makes new innovation possible just like the legendary P7 line by H&K. It’s a way to look at quick-on-shot utilization in a different light. The gun gets high marks simply for solving problems that legitimately exists for many shooters.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 380 ACP
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 8+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.675"
  • Length: 6.7"
  • Weight: 1.15 lbs

Pros

  • New and original
  • Solves legitimate problems like hard to manipulate slides and hard to feed ammunition
  • Very nicely sized for women

Cons

  • It’s still new and relatively unproven in mass scale

This is best for

People with grip strength issues. Shooters who love the .380 ACP for carry.


Smith & Wesson - M&P9 Shield 2.0

Smith & Wesson - M&P9 Shield 2.0

Very similar to a couple other guns on this list, the shield is a culmination of the best trends meeting on the backbone of a proven design philosophy.

The shield is a proven handgun format. The combination of features just works. You can’t fully understand it until you hold it and shoot it. It is both timeless and innovative. The inclusion of a laser sight takes the stress out of iron sights and target acquisition during the expected use case for the handgun.

The size of the gun is intuitive for concealment. The integrated grip in the form of the magazine bottom plate is a design trend that should not remain a trend and should be adopted en masse.

Simple implementation to first shot in the form of a trigger safety makes this gun intuitive for all users. The reliability of the gun design and the legacy of Smith & Wesson completes the package value.

It is innovation paired with simplicity; and reliability made intuitive.

Specs

  • Cartridge: 9mm Luger
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 7+1 Round, 8+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 3.1"
  • Length: 6.1"
  • Weight: 1.19 lbs

Pros

  • Very compact, but still big enough to be controllable
  • More than enough ways to get on target fast, but simple enough to keep from being over the top

Cons

  • Trigger isn’t amazing (even though it is vastly improved over the v1.0)

This is best for

Every shooter who wants a pure concealment play.


Sig Sauer P238

Sig Sauer P238

One of the guns that started the recent compact carry trend way back in about 2009, the Sig Sauer P238 has roots in other micro compact variants that go all the way back to the late 1990’s for Sig and even earlier for other manufacturers.

Ultimately, it’s compared to some of the most beloved guns of all time, especially with the caliber choice (.380 ACP) including the 1911 and of course the closer design inspiration: the Colt .380 Mustang, et al. This is a good spot for it to prove itself, because there is an awkward history in single action carry guns because of the difficulty of the ballistic performance and reliability of the .380 ACP cartridge historically.

The Sig P238 has handled the cartridge, and the market very well; at least judging by its staying power.

Some of the reason you buy this pistol is because it’s so good looking. Some of the reason you buy this pistol is because you carry “cocked and locked” or “condition one” and this is just a thing you do. Some of the reason you buy this gun is because it fits what you need to accomplish. As pretty as it is, and as useful as a single action gun can be, the reason you buy this gun ultimately, is because it does the job you need.

It’s perfectly sized for petite women or shooters who want a micro compact form factor. It gives firepower in a usable format and it does so reliably. It’s got staying power because it’s an excellent gun, not because it pretty; though it is pretty.

Specs

  • Cartridge: Single Action
  • Action Type: Striker Fired
  • Capacity: 6+1 Round
  • Barrel Length: 2.7"
  • Length: 5.5"
  • Weight: 0.95 lbs

Pros

  • Simple, easy to learn and reliable
  • Aesthetically very pleasing

Cons

  • A learning curve for non SAO shooters.

This is best for

1911 enthusiasts. Fans of the Colt Mustang who want more inherent design reliability.


Conclusion

This is ultimately not just a list of the best handgun for women, but the best handguns for shooters who have certain needs to be met. As a full-sized male, the author finds some of these guns the best for certain cases on the market.

Women are no different than any other shooter for some things. But we shouldn’t force them into the mainstream either. A woman shooter deals with specific concerns just like any other shooter.

What we hate to see is that women in the industry are constantly bombarded by pink grip panels and cursive laser engraving. Women shooters are a force to be reckoned with, not an afterthought.

We believe that the feature sets and the build makeup of the pistols on this list are perfectly aligned with what women shooters want. Regardless of size or experience; and absent of pigeon holed narratives. Women shooters can see the importance of choosing the best pistol for them, based on practicality, not some loose interpretation of a gun industry marketing department.

Leave a Comment