Table of Contents
Welcome to Gunivore’s review of the top handguns popular with women. What is the perfect or best handgun for women? The answer, like for men, is that there is no such thing. Everyone has different needs, tastes and usages. Varying factors have varying levels of importance depending on if you need it for home defense, carrying (concealed or not), competition shooting, range practice only (yes there are those who just do that for fun), a job ,etc’…
As a female shooter, I don’t mind that pink handguns exist, as I know that some of my female friends love the pretty colors. For some women, the look of the gun is nearly as important as functionality (just as some men want a “cool” or “mean” looking gun). I personally don’t go for that. I recognize the obvious physical differences between the sexes and understand that in general, men have better upper body strength and larger, stronger hands. That being said, I do not believe that all women need to carry small caliber handguns. Just like not all men are big and strong, not all women are tiny and weak. We are talking about handguns here, not heavy machine guns or rocket launchers. The important thing is to find what is best suited to your grip and needs, and practice, practice and practice some more!
Practice Makes Perfect
I recommend going to the range and getting some lessons with a certified gun instructor on several types and calibers of guns. You’ll be hearing advice from the internet, your loved ones and friends (and some of that might be very valuable), but it is you that needs to feel comfortable with your gun. You probably will want to start at a smaller caliber just to get used to the recoil and feel of it, then work your way up to bigger guns. You want to find something that will allow you to remain in control and be accurate from the first shot to your last.
The handguns size must be considered if you plan on concealed carry. The ability to effectively and comfortably carry it depends on being able to hide it on your body in appropriate holster(s). There are numerous holster options available for women now and further research is encouraged. I am slim, 5’4” and for example I could not carry my CZ 75B on any part of my body without creating a large noticeable bulge. The smaller the gun, the easier it is to hide and the harder it is to grab away from you, but the smaller the gun, the greater the recoil and the less accurate it will be, which means they require a lot of practice and training to really become proficient in their use.
Hand strength and your tolerance for recoil are other issues to consider. If you’re really worried about recoil, keep in mind that there is no right or wrong caliber bullet, and often smaller guns can have larger recoils, so again it is crucial that you find the guns that are most comfortable for you. I cannot stress that enough. Many women blindly buy .380 caliber handguns, or smaller, because it is what their friends or the salesman recommended. The .380 is a good round, but there are other, more powerful rounds available, and models in other calibers that you may find more comfortable to shoot because of the different frame size, or because the design and weight of the gun delivers recoil in a way that is easier to handle, so the bullet caliber is not and should be your only determining factor.
10 Most Popular Handguns For Women
I’ll list, in no particular order, some of the most popular handguns (three of whom I own) for women, just so you can get an idea of what is out there. I won’t list any gun that has a caliber smaller than .380 because in my opinion anything lower than that just does not have the stopping power to be effective. However, if you only use it for recreational range practice or squirrel hunting, or you really are not strong enough to handle anything larger, than a smaller caliber pistol might indeed be right for you (and any gun for defense is better than none). You’ll note that there is only one revolver on the list. I personally do not like revolvers due to their low ammunition load and slow reload time, but I’ll include one anyway for variety, and because there are many women who do like the simplicity of revolvers.
1. Ruger LC9s
The compact size of this 7-round pistol has made it a popular choice for women. It’s slim, lightweight, and the rounded edges of this 9mm make it almost disappear when concealed. The LC9s’ striker design (no hammer like the LC9) allows for a shorter, crisp, lighter, and consistent trigger press with much less resistance for every shot. This model comes with a pinky extension on the magazine that really helps fit your grip snugly on the handle. Like any Ruger, it’s rugged and dependable. The LC9s is certainly no competition gun, but for a defensive concealed carry weapon it is a good choice.
2. Sig P238 .380 ACP
Another good choice for a small concealed gun, the SIG Sauer P238 is chambered for the .380 ACP and has a flush magazine with a regular six round capacity, though extended magazines with finger grips hold seven rounds. The compact P238, modeled after the 1911, has a predominately-metal frame, which makes it relatively heavy for its size, but also helps keep the recoil relatively gentle. I found the trigger pull to be light and smooth and racking the slide was not difficult. The smooth trigger pull, manageable recoil and excellent sights, helped improve my accuracy. SIG Sauer is known to produce quality firearms and the cost reflects that…it isn’t cheap. But in my opinion the old adage “you get what you pay for” truly applies for this baby here.
3. Smith & Wesson Model 638
Revolvers are simple to use, and with their longer trigger pull, you’re less likely to have an accidental discharge. Many people claim that revolvers are just more reliable. While that is debatable, it can’t really be disputed that one can learn how to use a revolver quicker. There is no slide, slide catch, magazine, etc… and you can actually learn the basics of how to use one properly in just a couple of minutes.
The 5-shot cylinder Model 638 chambered in .38 Special is extremely popular. The lightweight, streamlined design makes it an ideal concealed carry double-action revolver. The hammer on this small gun is probably the most interesting feature, because it offers all the advantages of a double action shrouded hammer, and yet retains the ability for single action fire. The shrouded hammer design also eliminates the risk of the hammer getting snagged on clothing, holsters, or purses when drawing the gun, though still allows the shooter to cock the revolver for slower, deliberate, precise aim. Shooting in double-action mode makes the 638 extremely fast to deploy in stressful situations, as there is nothing to remember to do except point and pull the trigger, and the grips do a great job of reducing the recoil.
4. Springfield XDs 9mm
Springfield did a good job with this modestly priced 7-round pistol. The striker fired conceal carry-sized pistol has a nice smooth trigger pull, though racking the slide does take a bit of effort. The 9MM version is definitely more controllable than the .45 version. It has a loaded-chamber indicator, ambidextrous magazine catch, grip safety, picatinny rail and interchangeable backstraps. The sights are pretty good and even with its narrow frame, it points instinctively, as it comes with a hi-visibility fiber optic front sight.
5. Glock 42 .380 ACP
The 6-round Glock 42 is a locked-breech, single-stack pistol, with the exact same controls and operating system as larger Glocks. The locked-breech action rather than the traditional blowback action of previous generation .380s allows the G42 to be smaller, but smaller guns also need firmer grips to keep under control. It performs like every other Glock in terms of accuracy, simplicity, trigger pull, and reliability. Recoil is very manageable, but racking the slide requires a good firm grip as well. The factory sights are like every other Glock, average, but easily replaceable with better offerings, and Glock is famous for their amount of accessories and add-ons. The Glock 26 is another popular model amongst women users.
6. Walther 9mm CCP
The Walther 9mm Conceal Carry Pistol is compact, solid, and very comfortable to shoot. I found the slide to be very easy to rack, even on a new pistol, and the recoil was very minimal. Walther attributes the gentle recoil and easy slide to their SOFTCOIL™ gas-delayed blowback system. Apart from this uncommon blowback system, the CCP’s layout is fairly conventional. It has a reversible magazine catch, but the slide-stop lever and low-profile thumb safety are set up only on one side. The thumb safety and other controls are, like many guns, best suited for the right-handed shooter. This gun’s blowback system will require more cleaning maintenance, but for those looking for a 9mm that has a soft recoil and gentle slide, this is a good option.
7. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield .40
This pistol is affordable, reliable, and with its slim profile conceals well despite being a bit larger than some of the more compact pistols on this lists. It has everything you need in a full size gun, but in a smaller package. Decent sights, manual safety and trigger safety built in. The Shield gives you more power than a 9mm, yet is still small enough to conceal if you’re not wearing anything too tight. If you feel like it is too big for concealed carrying, it is also a pretty good home defense gun.
The trigger pull is firm, but not too bad. It fits nicely in my hand, though racking the slide is moderately difficult, and takes a bit of practice. The recoil was a little more than I initially expected, but has become very manageable with practice. It’s also available in 9mm, but I didn’t like the snappy feel of the trigger with that caliber and the .40 handles better for me.
8. CZ 75B 9mm
A longer barrel—4.25 inches or more—means you get a longer sight radius (the distance between the front and rear sight). Aiming becomes easier, making you more accurate. Because the metal frame weighs more, the gun absorbs the brunt of the recoil, making perceived recoil lower for the shooter, and follow up shots are quicker because recovering from recoil takes less time. It certainly is much harder to carry concealed or otherwise for women, but because of the benefits, many women choose to purchase this and other full-sized handguns like the Glock 19 to keep at home for protection, and it will do that job well.
9. Remington R51
This small 7-round magazine capacity pistol fires 9mm, making it an excellent defensive weapon for concealed carry, especially with its rounded edges that make for a smooth draw. The magazine release is recessed into the frame, giving the side of the gun a very smooth surface with no protruding controls. The magazine baseplate however is also flush with the handle’s metal and this means that you need to ensure it properly clicks into place or it will fall out. You need to do this with all magazine fed pistols, but here it’s just a bit trickier because of the flush. Still, the updated design makes the slide easier to rack and lessens the recoil significantly, that along with the small size and light weight make this an attractive pistol for women.
10. Beretta PX4 Storm Subcompact
The smaller version of the PX4 Storm, this gun packs quite a punch while still offering a size that is very concealable. It is a traditional double-action/single-action pistol in 9mm, and is a bit heavier than most of the other guns on this list, but with Beretta emphasizing the minimal muzzle-jump on this gun, you’ll probably find that the recoil is nothing that you can’t handle. The trigger and slide are both manageable.
This Beretta has interchangeable backstraps allowing for different sized hands to feel comfortable with the grip. Another great feature on this handgun is the latch at the bottom of the magazine, which you can flip down to get a little more room for your grip, though for most women this won’t be an issue. It has an ambidextrous slide lock and safety, the magazine release is reversible, and like most modern guns it has an integral Picatinny rail. You can carry it concealed and/or use it for home defense. This gun is not as slim or smooth as some of the others, but its unique look, I think, makes it seem more powerful, especially if some home invader or mugger was looking down the wrong side of the barrel.
Finding What Fits
The trend today is to build lighter, compact, modern-looking, efficient, reliable weapons, and all of the above would make a good choice assuming it fit your grip and needs. You might also think that none of the guns above are for you, but I hope it has at least given you a good idea as to what to look for and why.
One last thought: When carrying concealed, I never use a purse carry, and I cannot understand any women who do. Maybe it is out of sight, out of mind, and you don’t need to worry about concealing it on your person, but your purse is not always on you, and it can easily be stolen. I might write another article on the various methods of conceal carry, but I felt that I had to put this in here.
No matter what you chose, as I mentioned at the start of the article, keep going back to the range to become more proficient and confident. A gun is not a fire extinguisher that you have just in case of emergencies that can sit for years without being touched. If you won’t spend the time needed to utilize a gun properly and safely, perhaps you should not own one. If you do put that effort into it though, it just may be one of the best purchases you’ve ever made. Stay safe!