5 Fantastic Pistols For A First Handgun

first gun

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.

Glock 19

Glock 19
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.

Ruger GP100


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.

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  • Bob

    A Sig SP2022 is another good first handgun.

    – Sig quality, but for a good price.
    – 9 mm, so low recoil.
    – It’s a good all-around gun. It can be used for everything, but it hasn’t been specialized for anything.
    – Several police departments have used it as their standard firearm and the Swiss army used it for awhile, so it does have some “creds”.

    If one is interested in a good DA/SA handgun, then this is a great starter gun, because it is pretty good for whatever uses you might want to try out. After you have more experience, you will probably decide to buy a more expensive gun(s) that better fits your preferred uses.

  • Grimsinger

    Ruger pistols are great starting handguns, but also are reliable, accurate carry guns for later. The LC9s can be found for between the $300-$375 range brand new. I own a couple of these and it is one of my daily carry pustols. It’s light, simple to operate and maintain, has a mild recoil, and is economical to shoot (you can plink and target shoot all afternoon for $20-$30). Shooters with larger hands can use Ruger’s aftermarket extended grip magazines to fill their palms. At up to 25 yards I can effectively shoot anything I aim at. It is also a perfect firearm for women, who find it easier to shoot than a pocket rocket .380, where the recoil can be a bit rough.

  • Grimsinger

    THIS ISN’T SPAM! Why in hell is my post being removed as spam for?

    Ruger pistols are great starting handguns, but also are reliable, accurate carry guns for later. The LC9s can be found for between the $300-$375 range brand new. I own a couple of these and it is one of my daily carry pustols. It’s light, simple to operate and maintain, has a mild recoil, and is economical to shoot (you can plink and target shoot all afternoon for $20-$30). Shooters with larger hands can use Ruger’s aftermarket extended grip magazines to fill their palms. At 25 yards I can effectively shoot anything I aim at. It is also a perfect firearm for women, who find it easier to shoot than a pocket rocket .380, where the recoil can be a bit rough. The article also mentions a Smith & Wesson M&P. The M&P is a double stack mag gun, which isn’t as concealable or easy to handle as it’s concealed carry cousin, the single stack M&P Shield, which comes in 9mm, .40 (I don’t like .40 because it’s too snappy-like an overgrown .380) and .45ACP (which can be somewhat expensive to plink with). The 9mm is one of the best selling handguns on the market and is a direct competitor in it’s class for the Ruger LC9s. The gun is very concealable, easy to fire and maintain, very accurate and runs about the same price as the LC9s. I also have one of these. The grip fits larger framed hands a bit better than the Ruger, but is still comfortable to fire for smaller hands. Amazingly, the .45 version is only a TOUCH larger than the 9 and .40, but is almost the same size and weight, so if the newbie wants to start off with a larger caliber, they’re welcome to it. The Glock 43 is the last of the three popular “big guns” in this class. It’s an exceptionally popular, reliable, easy to fire and carry 9mm handgun itself, and while commanding a slightly higher price, is a major competitor for the other two brands. I would choose the Ruger SP-101 over the GP-100. It costs about the same, but is a better gun, and it’s sleek lines are beautiful. My favorite is the four inch barrel, long enough to accurately to fire at longer distances, and enough to suck up some of the recoil (it also comes in 3, 6 and 8 inch barrels) without hanging halfway down your leg. A beautiful gun, it’s nice to be able to fire economical FMJ .38 Specials at the range all day and be able to carry .38+P for defensive rounds (more power than specials, but without the wallop of a .357), or increase firepower to the unmatched performance of .357 mags, which are still one of the most devastating rounds in any gun ever developed. For those who would desired a fuller sized gun, the Ruger SR9-C can fit the bill. Not as big as something like a 1911, it is still a 3.5″ barreled 6.75″, double stacked gun. I’s easy to shoot and is very trim (only 1.18″ thick). Being a Ruger, it’s also inexpensive as far as guns today go for, and being a striker fired gun the trigger pull is very easy. Again, you can blow stuff up all day at the range for next to nothing with a 9mm. Ruger has the SR22 .22LR semi. I also own one of these. I love plinking and target shooting with this gun. It’s very light and easy to shoot. It feels like one of thos “grab the gun, grab a box of ammo, grab your coffee and head into the back yard and blow stuff up” guns. The thing is super fun to shoot, and very accurate. My wife and son love this little gun as well. Ruger iffwrs it in a 3.5 and 4.5 inch barrel (I own the 4.5″ for better accuracy). The Heritage Rough Rider mentioned in the article is a perfect plinking gun. I found the .22LR on sale for $100 and the .22/.22mag for $169 brand new at times. Heck, if it

  • G50AE

    I notice that a Glock took top bill in this article, a very “tactical” move by the author.

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