There’s nothing like a person’s first handgun. It’s the base upon which a person’s shooting skills will be built and may be with a person for the rest of their life.
So it had better be a good one, but ideally shouldn’t cost too much. After all, it’s not a good idea to blow a few thousand on a custom shop gun as a first handgun since a person might not like it.
What are some good first handguns? Here are 5 that will fill the bill quite well, due to a number of factors including price, function and other qualities.
One of the most popular pistols in the world, the Glock 19 has a lot to offer anyone. It’s a good pick as a first handgun or a person’s tenth. Some people own multiples.
The 19 is often thought of as a “Goldilocks” gun. Big enough to be a service gun, small enough to be a carry gun. Accurate, reliable, easy to shoot with a light striker-fired trigger and very manageable recoil as it’s chambered in 9mm. You can customize it to within an inch of its life, as aftermarket support abounds. It’s also quite easy to find a concealed carry holster for it.
It’s also in basically every gun store. It’s the Honda Civic of pistols and just like the Civic, is a solid, sensible choice for virtually anyone.
Ruger Mark IV
For some people, a good first handgun is a trainer. This way you learn to aim, you learn some of the basics of trigger control and handgun operation and so on. A .22 LR is perfect for that, which is where the Ruger Mark IV comes in.
The Mark IV is a great platform to learn how to operate a semi-auto. Along with being a great trainer gun, it also lets you do a whole lot of shooting for a pittance and the noble shooting sport of plinking is a type of fun that virtually anyone can enjoy.
The fourth edition of the gun that launched Ruger has been having some teething pains, resulting in a recall, but these guns are being fixed. However, the Mark series has long been the standard by which .22 autos are judged. New, you can pick one up in the $400 range but used models can be had for less.
If a person wanted to get into revolvers, starting with a snubnose is cheaper but also is a bit of an uphill climb. Recoil can be a bit much for novices to handle (given the small size) and while you can be accurate with them, it takes a long time before a person can truly attain it.
So, a revolver that CAN be shot easily, but can let a person grow with it (so to speak) is probably a better idea. You won’t do better than a GP100.
Since the GP100 is chambered in .357 Magnum, it can fire .38 Special, meaning that a lot of easy shooting can be done before going up to the full-house rounds. If you ever do go up to the full-house .357 Magnum loads – or even handloads – the gun will take it.
The GP100 is a tank. People have tried to break them and failed; you will have this gun for life. It’s great as a nightstand gun, backup gun in the backcountry, or hunting handgun. Granted, there’s a rather stiff price of entry for a first handgun – MSRP is $600 – but in-store prices are lower and used models can be had for very reasonable amounts. While – again – the buy-in may be a bit much, there aren’t too many revolvers that are better.
Smith and Wesson M&P
The Smith and Wesson M&P platform is one of the best of the modern plastic fantastics. They’re very affordable, very shootable, are widely considered to have better ergonomics than the Glock 17 and can be had with or without a manual safety, which some shooters prefer.
The M&P comes in 9mm or .40 S&W with a 4.25-inch barrel. Though a tad too large to use as a concealed carry gun though a good number of people do carry them. Aftermarket support is very generous, so it can be heavily customized with virtually any accessory you want.
A big 9mm is a good jumping off point, and the M&P9 is really not a bad place to start. (The M&P40 is also excellent, and also very easy to shoot.) While it may have flaws (some people are really not enamored with the trigger) the amount of gun you get for the asking price – often $450 or less in stores – makes for a very good starter.
Heritage Rough Rider 22
For the complete and total novice, who hasn’t done any shooting and knows next to or definitively nothing about guns, the Heritage Rough Rider is a great first handgun. It’s a single action .22 LR revolver – though some models come with a swappable cylinder in .22 WMR – and it costs next to nothing. You’d have to work pretty hard to blow more than $250 on one.
No double-action trigger to worry about, simple operation and very simple care. You can wither away the hours plinking or load magnum rounds and do a spot of small game hunting – as it will definitely do for a cottontail, squirrel or other small game. There are better .22 revolvers, to be sure, but none that are as foolproof, easy to learn or shoot nor deliver as much value for money.