As in teaching or training, one size never fits all. The same is just as true in the firearms space. And since most of the trainers out there are men, it’s time to stop training with that mentality. It’s also time for men to stop making really bad recommendations on the best guns for women.
Now, before I go too much further, please allow me to lay down one ground rule: nothing I am sharing has anything to do with capability or capacity. There is no implication here that men are “better” than women or even better shooters. This is all simply about average size, stature, and strength.
Revolvers Are, Generally, Not Good Guns for Women
Male trainers can make bad recommendations like “revolvers are good guns for women.” I still read or hear this recommendation all the time. This bad recommendation was probably perpetuated because revolvers tend to be small in size, so easier for carrying purposes.
Who started this terrible idea? We need to find him and, set him straight. The reality, however, is that this is an old rumor from “back in the day.” I guess we can give whoever started that bad idea a pass and let history be kind. (But it’s still a bad idea.)
On the surface, it might seem that revolvers are simple and therefore easy to shoot. I contend that the reality is that revolvers are not easier to shoot than semi-auto pistols. They are not easier to grip or hold. They are not quite as easy to shoot with two hands as a semi-auto pistol is.
Revolvers might be a bit lighter, and therefore, all other things being equal, they have more recoil. In certain calibers, this recoil can be quite significant. And, most modern revolvers are double-action, which tends to create a longer, heavier trigger pull — a longer trigger pull, even, than their double-action semi-auto counterparts. This more difficult trigger pull reduces accuracy, especially under stress.
Which Are the Best Guns for Women?
The best guns for women are the same as the best guns for men. Those guns are semi-auto handguns. In full disclosure, and by now it’s probably clear, I am a proponent of semi-auto handguns. Hands down. Without a doubt, zero reservations. Their modern designs, higher ammo capacity, heavier weight, and better ergonomics, make for a much better option all around. For everyone. I am all about equal rights for semi-autos.
But this doesn’t apply to small semi-autos. Thinking that small people need smaller guns is incorrect, even when it comes to semi-autos.
Even as guns get better and better, and new “back-up gun” options or conceal carry guns emerge in the market, this does not make the smaller semi-autos “better” guns for women. Smaller semi-autos will have more recoil and often cause women who are new shooters to feel less comfortable with them. This translates into less comfort with the gun, a harder time overcoming fear, and therefore less confidence overall. I’ve seen it over and over.
Even the most amazing offerings in the modern, recent conceal carry guns like the Glock 43 and Sig P365 don’t escape this issue. A smaller, lighter gun simply has less weight, smaller and lighter buffer springs, and, as a result, more recoil.
So then what guns would I recommend as the best guns for women?
Mid-Size Semi-Autos Are the Way to Go
As I’ve said before, I always start new shooters on a Glock 19. Period. Every. Single. Time. The Glock 19 offers the perfect combination of size, comfort, firepower, and recoil management. It’s not so large that a smaller woman might feel like it’s too difficult to control. Yet it is large enough to be a bit heavier with a strong enough buffer spring to easily manage that 9mm recoil. It’s simple, reliable, and helps instill confidence because of that functionality. Time and again, the feedback is the same: “That wasn’t so bad at all.”
For all the same reasons dudes like the Glock 19, women like it, too. My other half prefers her Glock 19 all day long. And she’s quite committed. So, Glock 19 is my first recommendation for women.
Of course, there are many people who think Glocks just feel funny in their hands. I get it. Again, one size does not fit all. After I start every new female shooter on the Glock 19, and once they’ve had some time to put a few rounds downrange, I move them on to the next option. The Sig P320 Compact. Same basic size, same amount of rounds, about the same weight and so pretty close to the same recoil.
In my opinion, as much as I am a Glock fan, I think I prefer the trigger pull and trigger reset of the Sig P320 just a tiny bit more than the Glock 19’s. I also think the shape and angle of the grip are more ergonomic, so that also tips the scale towards the Sig P320 a bit. It seems to be a pretty even split between people who prefer the ergonomics and handling of the Glock, versus the P320. Sometimes I hand that gun to someone after they have fired the Glock, and they like the P320 that much more. Other times, not as much. Shooter comfort equals shooter confidence, especially in new or inexperienced shooters and those of smaller sizes and body frames.
Other Good Options
When it comes to guns for women, my next recommendation for a good semi-auto pistol would definitely be the FN 509.
The FN 509 is the gun that also just recently won the competition to be the next duty pistol for the LAPD. For all the same reasons as the Glock 19 or Sig P320 Compact, with the 509, you will not go wrong.
As much as I would pick this gun for myself or anyone else, I just cannot bring myself to keep buying more guns with incompatible magazines. At least, not at the moment. Maybe one day.
Coming in at fourth place on my list is… nothing I feel quite as strongly about. That is not to say someone else might not have a different or stronger opinion. It’s also not to say that there is not an easily identifiable gun that clearly deserves the spot. I would probably pick the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0. The 2.0 is much better (in my opinion) than the first generation, and I do enjoy how it shoots. I was quite surprised the first time I shot it because I mistakingly had the preconceived notion that I would not like it. But I did. There are also lots of people, who have way more experience and shoot better than me, who like this gun. Think, Jerry Miculek. I am OK with that. One day, I hope to be half as cool as him.
Honorable Mentions and Parting Shots
Without a doubt, there are other guns that can and should be high on this list. The guns I have recommended are all 9mm, about the same size and capacity, and cost about the same price. None of them are more than around $700 or so in their normal configurations. If someone wanted to spend a bit more, the H&K VP9 definitely deserves to be on this list. In addition, so does the CZ 75. If you wanted to go a bit cheaper, Springfield makes really good, reliable options in the XD series. New brands like Canik are making serious waves, as well, and I recommend you check out all of them.
Finding the best guns for women is like anything else: you have to try them out and find what works best for you. Most people will only ever shoot a handgun for sport. Even then, control and confidence matter, because without the proper care and consideration, a gun is still quite deadly.
If it ever comes to a situation of life or death, control and confidence matter even more. Female shooters might find themselves at a size and strength disadvantage if that moment ever arrives. Finding the right gun for you, and a gun that you will not hesitate to use is what matters most.
Go ahead, and shoot like a girl. We got you, boo.