“God created men and women, Colonel Colt made them equal.”
Men and women have equal rights to gun ownership and the right to defend themselves. Training and practice lead to skilful gun use and women are just as capable of training and practice as men.
Yet, it takes commitment and discipline and let’s not forget that there is mental attitude and fortitude in the mix. It’s important to remember that a gun should be used for defence and not for attack.
As a gun-owner, you have a moral responsibility to protect your loved ones, not only by defending them with the handgun but also by protecting them from misuse of the handgun.
Moral responsibility leads to safe and responsible gun ownership and use.
Gun ownership is declining for men but on the rise for women, who are increasingly wanting handguns for personal defence and other reasons.
The market in handguns has responded to the changing market trends and research and development by gun suppliers has resulted in improvements and adaptations with female buyers in mind.
The firearms statistics of 2021 indicate that women are a fast-growing demographic. According to The Well-Armed Woman, there are around 20 million female gun owners in the USA.
Gun and rifle associations are catering more and more for female demands. Educational programs and gun schools offering courses for women shooters have proliferated.
Well-established groups, like The National Rifle Association, have created new departments dedicated to women.
If you are new to handguns, joining one of these groups is a good idea, to glean general gun awareness, training and safety codes of conduct.
Most women want a lightweight, low-recoil, easy-to-carry handgun that offers security, confidence and situational awareness.
Gun Digest asked thirty women attendees at defensive handgun courses to rank concealed carry subcompact hand guns. A review into the best handguns for women in a range of categories can be found at AFI, at Gunmade and at The Well Armed Woman.
The individual buyer must not depend solely on reviews. It is essential to actually go and try out different handguns to find the one that calls to you.
You have to develop a working relationship with your handgun. After all, you may be relying on it in a life and death situation.
Choose a handgun because the gun feels right for you. Then try it out at a shooting range and start that training and practice that will ensure you and your gun get on well!
In the meantime, let’s have a look at what these ranking exercises and reviews reveal.
Handguns were assessed over a broad range of factors and the area in which a handgun most excelled determined the winning category in which it was placed.
Our Best Handguns For Women Reviews
Best Overall Handgun For Women – Glock 43 Caliber
This is generally considered to be the most reliable choice for someone new to handgun ownership. It ticks all the key boxes and is popular for a reason.
Glock 43 Caliber: 9mm Capacity: 6+1 is a very popular semi-automatic handgun, used by law enforcement officers. It works well with small hands.
It might not be as concealable as a Smith & Wesson M&P EZ, but is much easier to operate, due to easy slide racking.
A perfect choice for those who are new to gun ownership.
A single-stack magazine capacity of 6+1.
Stopping power of 9mm.
16.4 ounces, so lighter than Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.
No manual safety.
- Cleaning, disassembly and maintenance are simple, requiring no additional tools.
- Easy to find components for disassembling.
- Easy to use.
- Minimal recoil.
- Easy to aim.
- Simple design; no needless gadgets or levers.
- Minimal grip.
- No Picatinny rail (no mounting options).
- Some find the trigger heavy to pull.
- Unique holster.
Other Glock options:
The Glock 19 9mm is a double-stack handgun which is great for self-defence and for competitive shooting.
The Glock 42 .380 ACP is a semi-automatic 6+1, with a flat-bottomed magazine for compactness, and support for the little finger. Easier to customize with night and lazer sights than the Glock 43.
Best Concealed Handgun For Women: Sig P365
This gun is recognized as offering high performance whilst being very concealable. People with smaller hands favor it.
Since most women will have smaller hands than men, it’s a good choice for women.
Sig Sauer P365 Caliber: 9mm Capacity:is made of polymer, is striker-fired and 9mm.
Extended 10, 12, and 15-round magazine capacity; excellent for target practice and shooting galleries.
1” wide ergonomic grip works well if you have small hands.
Stainless steel frame and slide, short trigger reset, non-intrusive iron sights, and 3.1-inch barrel greatly contribute to the P365’s solid balance and accuracy.
The standard weight slightly lessens recoils, but some may still feel a kick.
Slightly heavier, at 17.8 ounces, than the Glock 43, but smaller in stature.
- 15-round magazine (a bit heavier than the Glock but a lot more compact).
- Night sights as standard.
- Optional manual safety.
- Takedown lever, so easier to field-strip than the Glock or Smith and Wesson.
- Fire control system can be removed easily for ease of maintenance.
- Trigger is good.
- Reset is short and positive.
- Sights are sufficiently large to work well without being intrusive.
- Marginally larger than the LCP II in profile but heavier and blockier.
- The most compact of the guns in this ranking, alongside the Ruger.
- Quick response.
- Recoil stability.
- Excellent magazine capacity.
- Great sights.
- Good price, considering its features.
- Easy maintenance.
- Striker drag issues.
- Somewhat unreliable.
Best Self Defence Handgun For Women: Smith & Wesson M&P .380 EZ Shield
This gun is perfect for self-defence because it is easy to operate and this is what you want for unexpected close-range encounters that require you to defend yourself.
Small size and lightweight polymer construction make this handgun discreet.
It has a 0.95” profile, which makes it 0.2” slimmer than the M&P Compact.
Optimized grip angle is 18-degree.
With or without safety. If it comes with the thumb safety, this can be left off most of the time. The switch is very secure. The risk of switching it on or off accidentally is low.
No sharp edges or unnecessary bulges, so easy to conceal, with no snagging.
Works well for small handed people and those lacking physical strength, like the arthritic and elderly.
- Reliable performance.
- Simple operation.
- Excellent grip due to grip texture and ergonomics.
- Easily concealable.
- Easy to load.
- Easy to rack.
- Easy to work with safety.
- Easy to shoot.
- Very safe.
- Easy maintenance.
- Larger yet still lightweight.
- Large enough for a good sight radius and a very reasonable capacity.
- Ease of handling.
- Exceptional accuracy.
- Low recoil.
- Sleek looks.
- Heavy trigger pull.
- Only the magzine release can be reversed for left-handed shooters.
Best Pocket Handgun For Women: 4Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard
A gun that is made to fit in a pocket without getting caught up in things and performs well when required.
Semi-automatic and double action only.
Perfect for pocket, handbag, or large purse.
Fairly long trigger pull; smooth, rated at 9.5 pounds.
Bobbed hammer won’t get caught on anything.
Very small but has all the necessities: slide stop, manual safety, and steel sights.
Serrated safety catch is flat and barely protrudes. It’s fairly stiff, so it’s difficult to engage or disengage accidentally. Makes a very audible click. Triggers can be staged at the end of the pull.
- Very accurate.
- Highly durable.
- Very slim.
- Highly concealable.
- Quite pronounced recoil.
Highest Capacity Handgun For Women: 5Springfield Armory Hellcat 3” Micro-Compact 9mm
This gun offers added capacity with innovative firing potential.
Awarded highest ranking by the National Tactical Officers Association.
11 shot flush fit magazine and a 13 shot extended magazine: one more bullet to fire. Firing 13 x 9mm rounds from such a small gun is innovative.
Choice of sights.
High-quality grip. Tests showed it’s really good at overcoming ‘slippery when wet’.
Removable sights. The HC9319B has standard steel sights. The HC9319BOSP has optic sights (OSP stands for Optic Sight Pistol). The Hellcat OSP accepts a Shield RMSc red dot sight and other brands.
Highly ranked design.
Flat-faced trigger with a good feel.
Longer length of pull suitable for longer fingers.
- Large magazine capacity.
- Excellent sight options.
- Nicely textured grips.
- Award-winning design.
Best Compact Handgun For Women: 6SIG Sauer P238 Nitron Micro Compact Pistol
A highly compact option that is very kind to the wrists.
‘Cocked and locked’ with safety features. Disengage the manual safety on drawing. The gun won’t fire unless you want it to.
Lenient on the wrist, unlike many small handguns.
- Safe and secure.
- Simple maintenance.
- Excellent reliability.
- Easily concealed.
- Light recoil, so back on target quickly.
- Starter kit is a bit light.
Best Handgun for Women with Sight Upgrade: 8SIG Sauer P365 SAS Micro Compact 9mm Pistol
If its sights that matter most to you, then this is the handgun for you.
Complete upgrade to the sights. No standard fitting. Flush-fitting Bullseye sight in fiber-tritium.
Displays a green circle centered inside a green ring. Shooter focuses on the rear of the slide and the green circle and dot, which are very visible.
Recessed slide lock and removed takedown lever for smooth, no-catch draw.
Ported barrel and slide, and 30% muzzle flip reduction, so recoil minimized.
Flush fit 10 round magazine. It can take company-made 12 and 15 round magazines.
- Great safety features.
- Quick, clean draw. Nothing that may catch. Side catch, and magazine release, minimized.
- Minimal recoil.
- Spare magazine.
- Takes time to get accustomed to the sights.
Most Comfortable Handgun for Women: 9 Springfield XDS
Prioritising comfort? Consider this handgun.
Chunky ergonomics give it a nice fit in the hand. Grip provides a good firm feeling. Reliable grip safety; the gun will not fire if dropped.
Slightly less concealable.
Useful ambidextrous magazine release.
Takedown lever and slide stop on the left side are low profile to avoid snagging.
Choice of magazines. The 7-round mag has a great flush fit. Optional 9-round magazine gives the compact a full handgun feel.
Will take a variety of standard weapon lights that are not XDS specific.
Trigger pull is slightly on the heavy side but very reliable.
Accurate with a variety of ammunition.
Recoil on the light side for a handgun.
Pro-Glo front sight with Tactical-rack rear allows good target acquisition. Performs well in low light. Option for a red or green front sight.
- Innovative sights.
- Rail for adding accessories.
- Safe grip.
- Well-equipped starter kit.
- Reliable performance.
- Easy to clean.
- Chunky design.
- Trigger pull is a bit heavy.
Best Concealable Lightweight Handgun for Women: 10Ruger LCP
If a lightweight handgun is what you’re after, this is the answer.
LCP is a lot cheaper than LCPII and a better buy considering what you get.
Tuckable in a purse or a pocket.
5” long and 10 ounces unloaded.
The .380 doesn’t have the grunt of a 9mm.
The 7-round magazine is sufficient for self-defence.
Standard steel sights are above average for the range, and contribute to ease of draw.
Most rounds work well.
Recoil is not intrusive enough to affect short range.
Manual slide hold over lever makes cleaning much easier.
- Great value price.
- Easy to clean.
- Low recoil.
- Concealed easily and discreetly.
- Holster can slow down draw.
As the review shows, a lot depends on what matters most to you: comfort, concealability, weight, compactness, capacity and sights.
Reason For Wanting A Handgun
You’ll be looking for different things in a handgun for self-defence than you would for one you want to take regularly to the shooting range or to enter competitions.
For shooting ranges, manageable recoil is not such a big factor. Look for good drawing speed and lightweight handguns.
Self-defence handguns usually mean short range encounters. Something like a Smith & Wesson Shield would suit better than a long range powerful gun..
Compact And Subcompact Handguns
Self-defence handguns need to have low-recoil, be lightweight, and easy-to-conceal.
What To Look For
- Comfort and ease of operation.
- Weight and concealability.
- Reliability and safety features.
- Generally speaking, 9mm, full-frame, striker-fired handguns are easy to use with just enough stopping power.
Check the Concealed Carry Weapon laws in your state.
Try Before You Buy
Make sure the grip, handle, ergonomics, recoil, and slide-racking suit you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Best Handgun For A Woman To Carry?
It depends on what matters to you most. The Glock 43 is the best overall choice.
It has solid stopping power, an affordable price, and reliability as a concealed carry weapon. The Glock 19 is an alternative with increased magazine and stopping power.
The lightweight Smith & Wesson Shield is easy to operate with a smooth slide rack.
As the review shows, different handguns offer different key selling points.
Does A Smaller Gun Have Less Recoil?
All guns have recoil and it’s a fallacy to think that handguns have less recoil. There’s actually a shorter gun barrel and less weight to absorb the recoil in smaller guns so recoil is an issue to consider.
If you flinch at recoil, anticipate recoil or are intimidated by recoil, it can affect accuracy. Balance size and recoil. A larger gun is better for those intimidated by the recoil, and want a better grip.
It’s a general rule of thumb that weight lessens recoil. In principle, .308 calibers have lesser recoil.
If you have weak hands and handling problems then the Smith & Wesson Shield and the Shield EZ are worth looking at.
Are Smaller Guns More Lightweight?
Not necessarily. Lightweight does not mean a smaller gun. Some find the Glock 43 comfortable and handy.
What Should I Look For If I Have Small Hands?
The Sig Sauer P365 or the Smith & Wesson Shield.
Consider height, width, texture, and overall feel of the gun.
I’m Concerned About Concealability For Close Range Encounters
Women’s clothing varies with the occasion and is much more fitted. A small, lightweight, concealed carry with smooth grips and no snagging risks is a must. Some women find racking slides difficult.
Concealed carry guns are made for short to mid-range confrontations, and don’t offer you much space for reaction.
A holster or purse is necessary.
Do I Need A Holster?
A holster has more benefits than a purse in terms of safety and draw.
Shoulder holsters and ankle holsters worth considering. There are also holsters for the pocket, belly, hip and lower back.
Be sure to research the options when it comes to concealing your handgun because it has to be both comfortably and safely concealed.
There’s a collection of waist and bra holsters on Flashbang.com.
Owning a handgun is a big deal. You need to choose the handgun that suits your purposes and yourself.
Once you own that handgun you need to practice with it, train yourself up in using it effectively and, most importantly of all, you need to be responsible with your handgun.
Unintentional injuries, suicides, and assault-related injuries are a hazard of gun ownership. Always remember to store your handgun safely in a place that children and animals cannot reach.