For those of us who have been shooting firearms most of our lives, the simple act of using a rifle, shotgun, or pistol is not that big of a deal. For the beginning shooter, it can be extremely intimidating until he or she actually does it. Handguns offer the beginning shooter a level of confidence that can’t really be explained, but it can be enjoyed. More beginners become hooked from shooting handguns than you’d think possible, and there are some great choices for shooters of all levels available. Here are just a few of the best starter guns including some of the best .22 pistols on the market.

Ruger Mark III and 22/45

ruger mark iii

Ruger’s .22 LR rimfire pistols come in many variations that fit plinkers, hunters, and competitive shooters perfectly. They’re simple in design, yet technologically advanced. The Mark III and 22/45 pistols have a lot to offer. Holding one in your hand will make you want one. Without a doubt this is one of the best .22 pistols and shooting one will make you not want to put it down.

Ruger rimfire revolvers

rimfire revolvers

These rimfire revolver classics from Ruger bring that same feeling as Henry rifles—you’re holding something in your hands that ties you to the heritage of the West. Rugers may have not won the West, but they certainly feel like it. With single-action style and variations on how many rounds the cylinder holds, finish, and grip configuration, there is a Ruger rimfire revolver that will undoubtedly stir something in you to make you want one. The single-action style is also a perfect tool for teaching the beginning shooter the basics of handgun safety and shooting.

SIG Sauer Mosquito

sig mosquito

It’s no coincidence that many law enforcement agencies choose SIGs for their duty guns. They are accurate, reliable, and dependable. The Mosquito offers everything that makes the legendary Sig P226—but it’s 90-percent of the size and in an economical .22 LR chambering. Beginning shooters are drawn to it as a chance to train and practice with the same basic version of a handgun they may choose to carry. It’s also just a whole lot of fun to shoot.

Browning Buckmark

browning buckmark

The Browning Buckmark is another one of those classic, time-tested designs that a ton of shooters are drawn to. Buckmark pistols are known for their accuracy and reliability, and are built to exacting tolerances. They start with a solid block of 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum and CNC machine the receiver from there. With many variations, there is a Buckmark for every shooter. They make outstanding hunting, target, and competition pistols and are a great way to introduce a beginning shooter to the legendary Browning name.

Ruger LCR

ruger lcr

Revolvers make for great carry guns, but they generally have one flaw—weight. Ruger solved this with the LCR line, taking the bulk out while keeping all the things that make a revolver great. The Ruger LCRs are all five-shot, compact handguns. They are available in a few variations of easy-shooting .38 Special, 9x19mm, and, for a little more bite and bark, .357 Magnum. You can even get a .38 model with laser grip sights. Even if the handgun will never be used for concealed carry, the Ruger LCR a great option for the beginning shooter.

Ruger LCP

ruger lcp

With most states now allowing folks to carry concealed, there has been a wealth of handguns designed just for that purpose. Ruger’s LCP was one of the first of a new wave of lightweight, compact pistols to hit the market. Chambered in .380 ACP, the LCP is very small. So small in fact that it can easily be concealed in a purse or pocket holster. Available in a few sight options, including a Crimson Trace laser, the LCP is a great choice for the shooter looking for a compact carry handgun.

Smith & Wesson M&P Compact

mp compact

The M&P line from Smith & Wesson quickly gained popularity for the legendary brand by being an all-around great handgun for shooters of all levels. The compact series takes all of the outstanding features of the full-sized handguns and sizes them down for easier-to-carry models. Stainless-steel components on a Zytel polymer frame means these pistols will last a long time. They come with a factory-set 6.5-pound trigger pull and are available in several configurations and in 9x19mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. If you’re looking for a bigger handgun that can be carried, take a look at the M&P Compact line.

This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.

Images courtesy Cabela's

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16 thoughts on “The 7 Best Handguns for a Beginner Shooter

  1. I wouldn’t recommend these for beginner shooters. While they are fine firearms (I own at least one of them), they are not, in my opinion, for beginner shooters in most cases. The regular sized guns with 4 to 5 inch barrels are likely to be far better. 9mm is a good starter caliber, but if the beginner can easily handle a bigger caliber, then go for it (just don’t go big because you think it is more manly). If they favor a semi-auto, then Glocks and XDs are great (as well as others, but these are nice clean, easy to use and easy to maintain guns). If they favor a revolver, then a S&W or Ruger in .38/.357 is an excellent choice, again with the barrel lengths indicated. At least, IMHO.

  2. Carl is way off base, If your a beginner you always start slow and steady with a small caliber firearm. 22LR is best, be it pistol or rifle. You don’t want the firearm to intimidate the shooter with excessive recoil, which can affect the shooter. Larger calibers can always increase as the experience of the shooter improves. Carl is right in one sense, compact pistols are not a good place to start with new shooters. Accuracy will not be there. Compacts are strictly for concealed carry and used primarily for protection. As with any new endeavor, be it sports, musical instruments, etc. start with basics and move up.
    Even before one uses an firearm, learn what the weapon is, how to clean it and by all means, learn gun rules before you ever pull a trigger.

      1. If a person is old enough to concealed carry a firearm, but they can only afford one handgun, I would have them get a Glock 26 with two extra Glock 19 magazines w/XGrips. Unlike a Glock 19, most people can comfortably carry the G26 all year and it shoots like a full-size handgun. In fact, I think the trigger control is better than on my G19 or G17, at least in my hands. That slightly raised hump just hits the spot. I switched out all the internals with my G19 and the trigger pull is always better with either trigger installed on the G26 platform in my hands. I don’t think another pistol quite matches what you can ultimately squeeze out of a G26. Glock is NOT perfection, but a G26 is as close as you can get to it in my opinion.

    1. You are correct . This is not a beginner pistol . A 22 revolver is a starter pistol . No semi auto is a starter pistol . I have 40 years selling firearms . Many times people leave the sport because someone tries to sell them a firearm they can not handle . Only a 22 revolver for beginners . Home protection ? All you actually need is a good alarm system and a can of bear mace . Want a pistol ? A 5 shot 38 special or a single shot 12 gauge is all you need . You don’t need to be shooting through your walls and into your neighbors walls . You can always rent a handgun at a gun range before you decide . Too many people watched too many movies . Real life is 1,000,000.00 per round that you fire at a person . Because that is what it will cost you if you kill someone . Your next purchase is insurance . If not before . Real life is not a movie .

  3. Best beginner pistol is a .22 revolver . Inexpensive to shoot and not much recoil . Ruger also makes a good selection of .22 s . I grew up in a gun shop . Actually started out with a Remington 552 BDL Deluxe . If you want a home defense gun and you are a beginner . Start out with a 38 special revolver . Anyone that tries to sell you a 15 shot semi aut pistol as your first firearm is not experienced in gun sales . I sold guns for 40 years . Gun sales people sometimes are like car salesman . They want to sell you everything you don’t need . I never try to sell any first timer a semi auto .

  4. The S&W 9C was my first gun and still my favorite, very versatile. You can carry it and get an extended mag for your pinky for the range. However, it took an experienced gun owner to show me how to clean it and maintain it, I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner who doesn’t have some hands on guidance.

    1. Any of the guns featured here work. However, if you want a great, all-around shooter that has good beginner recoil (not too light, but not too punchy), I recommend the Glock 19. It’s in 9x19mm, which is an insanely popular round good for both practice and self-defense.

      It’s also small, designed to be smaller than its parent gun, the Glock 17. Should you decide to conceal carry, this gun isn’t too big to conceal.
      On top of that, it’s incredibly easy to take apart and clean if you know how (which you can learn if you look it up on youtube or something).

      They’re all very customizeable. For a beginner, this is a bit out of your league, but if you get into it you can add “crazy” stuff like night sights, laser sights, flashlights, etc.

      You can generally find them for less than 600 dollars. Depending on where you go, it can go much cheaper. They are very common.

      All in all, Glock 19. Get one.

  5. I agree with most of this list, but the Ruger LCP is just plain bad for 1st time shooters. I own this weapon, I carry it, I love it, but it is a b***h to shoot. Especially if you are new to handling a firearm. I do think that .380 auto is a good round for beginners, but maybe out of a more substantial gun like the Beretta 84 or a Sig P232.

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