12 Best Handguns for Women

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By Dennis Howard •  22 min read

I am seeing more and more women becoming gun owners and deciding to get their concealed carry licenses. These new women gun owners are typically full of questions and eager to learn.

Unlike many men who see themselves as experts in the firearms field, most women who are new to gun ownership are open-minded and willing to learn.

One of the most-asked questions that I hear from prospective female gun purchasers is: “What are the best handguns for women gun owners?”

There is no one simple answer to this question. The wide variety of types, styles, calibers, and prices in the gun market precludes any one gun from being the end-all of gun selections for women gun owners.

Some experts estimate that one-third of the new guns purchased last year were bought by women. This represents a huge increase in gun ownership among women over the past few years.

Handgun manufacturers are well aware of this trend in the concealed carry handgun market, and many new firearms are coming to the market aimed specifically at the female shooter.

What Should You Consider When Buying a Handgun?

It really doesn’t matter if you are male or female, if you are an experienced handgun shooter or a novice just starting out – the basic things to consider when selecting a handgun are much the same.

A few basic considerations well thought out before you make your purchase can forestall many problems down the line. I always counsel prospective purchasers, especially women who are purchasing their first handgun, to think about these things.

What are Your Intentions (Why are You Buying a Handgun?)

“My friend told me I needed a pistol” is not a good reason to buy a handgun. You need to think through why you are going to spend several hundred dollars on a firearm and probably several hundred more dollars on accessories.

If you feel the need to carry concealed for personal protection, that will definitely affect your firearms choice. If you are intrigued by target or competitive shooting, you will need an entirely different sort of firearm.

In many ways, the intended use of a firearm, especially a handgun, makes a huge difference in what style of handgun you should be purchasing, the caliber you are considering, and the size of handgun you elect to purchase. Much like buying any other tool, firearms should be chosen for the job the weapon will be expected to perform.

What Size and Caliber Do You Need?

There is a lot of debate about calibers and handgun sizes. Everyone seems to have an opinion about which style and size of firearms are the best handguns for women. I am just like everyone else and have my own opinions as well.

In short, I believe that there is no single answer and that fitting the gun to the shooter and the caliber to the task is the key element for selecting a handgun.

I think there is a minimum cutoff in caliber for any self-defense weapon. For handguns, I do not recommend any caliber smaller than a .380. I am even a little leery of the .380 stopping power, but with some of the new critical defense ammunition, you can get almost the same stopping power at shorter ranges with the .380 as some larger calibers.

On the other side of the page, there is an upper limit to what caliber most women should choose. Larger calibers, by and large, mean bigger frames on the firearm, more recoil, and more weight to carry. For many women, the issue of handling and firing big caliber handguns is the limiting factor.

In my mind, I almost always gravitate to the 9mm cartridge when making recommendations for women who want to carry a gun for personal defense. The 9mm can provide adequate stopping power, a good weight-to-size ratio, and, in the proper gun, has manageable recoil.

Do You Understand the Responsibilities?

Owning a firearm, especially a handgun that will be carried for self-defense, can be a life-altering decision. You should consider what changes will need to occur in your lifestyle when you take this step. It isn’t as simple as buying a handgun and a box of cartridges. It’s important to consider these other responsibilities that you will assume:


Getting a concealed carry permit in most jurisdictions requires a commitment to a training course that can last from a few hours to a few days.

But training doesn’t end with this short mandatory course. You must continue to train and practice with your handgun to reach a reasonable level of proficiency. This means regular and systematic trips to the firing range. I suggest that anyone carrying a firearm for self-defense enroll and participate in more formal training classes taught by professionals.

The Mindset

One of the biggest responsibilities that you should consider when choosing to carry a handgun for personal defense is the change in your mindset. You are assuming a much different role as a protector and guardian – not just for yourself, but also for your family, friends, and those around you.

This change can make a profound impact on some people and is something that many who concealed carry fail to consider until circumstances force them to confront the realities.

The Cost

Responsible gun ownership is not a single-cost issue. Once you make the decision about which handgun to purchase, there are other equipment and accessories that will add to the cost. On-going training is one cost, including range time and ammunition.

How will you carry your handgun? Holsters can be expensive. Keeping your handgun in your home may require that you purchase a safe or other secure lockable devices in which to store your weapon.

Finding the Right Handgun Fit for You

My advice to anyone, especially a woman buying her first handgun, is to avoid rushing to a decision that you may come to regret. Spend some time shopping around. Handle different pistols to see how they feel in your hand and how they fit your grip. Find a gun store with a test fire range where you can shoot a pistol before you make the purchase.

There are many different choices to consider. I have looked, handled, and shot the guns that I recommend for women. I suggest that you do the same before you make any purchase decision.

The guns on my list of recommended pistols are chosen from a concealed carry personal defense standpoint. Target and competitive shooting needs are much different and are not considered in this article.

My Recommended Best Concealed Carry Handguns for Women

I have broken down my recommendations into pistols and revolvers. Small revolvers seem to be making a comeback as personal defense handguns for concealed carry. When it comes to the best-concealed carry handguns for women, there are many choices and options. Finding the best handgun for women is a very personal decision. I want to offer as many possible options in this article as possible to cover what is available in the concealed carry market.

My reviews of the handguns for women on my list are not as extensive as some handgun reviews. My objective is to give a quick overview of what is available and what I believe to be the best choices for concealed carry handguns for women.

Once you have that information, you can do further reading and research to narrow your choices for a concealed carry gun.

1. Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ

The M&P9 Shield is a relatively recent entry into the concealed carry world, having been introduced in 2018. This pistol is a close relative of the Smith & Wesson M&P380 Shield and is almost the same size. I much prefer the 9mm cartridge over the .380, which gets the M&P9 its higher ranking in my list.

Factory Specifications


The Smith Wesson M&P line of pistols is wildly popular, especially with women shooters. These semi-automatic pistols are compact and lightweight. However, they have a light recoil that is more easily managed than some other 9mm pistols. As far as small guns go, there are smaller firearms available, but for concealed carry use, the Smith Wesson M&P is almost the perfect concealed carry weapon.

I think so much of these pistols that I outfitted my daughter with a Smith Wesson M&P 9mm for her daily concealed carry firearm. I believe that these are exceptional choices for a compact handgun with low recoil.

This is my choice to recommend when it comes to the best handguns for women.

2. Sig Sauer P365

The Sig Sauer P365 also made its debut in the concealed carry handgun market in 2018. The Sig P365 has rapidly gained market share and is one of the top-selling compact handguns.

This little pistol is referred to by Sig Sauer as a micro-pistol because of its size and weight. What stands out about this pistol, despite its diminutive frame, is its 10+1 magazine capacity. You can even push that up to 12+1 if you carry the extended magazine.

Factory Specifications


To be honest, it was a toss-up whether or not the Sig would beat out the Smith Wesson M P Shield EZ for the top spot on my list. My only concern with the Sig Sauer P365 is the lighter weight and grip angle. When I shot the P365, I felt like the M&P had less recoil, which is often a huge concern for women shooters.

On the other hand, the size and design of the Sig Sauer P365 make this one of the easiest to conceal handguns for women I have found. If you truly want a concealed carry weapon that is designed for just that use, the Sig Sauer P365 is the way to go. You may pay a bit more than the Smith Wesson M P Shield EZ to get a Sig Sauer, but it won’t be money wasted.

3. Glock G43

Glocks, in general, are not fashion statements, and the G43 is no exception. Glocks are a testament to the concept of function over form. They are not pretty. However, they are functional, reliable, and reasonably accurate. Those three criteria are enough to get the Glock 43 a checkmark as the best handgun for women.

Factory Specifications


I carry a Glock 43 as my everyday concealed carry handgun. I like the way it shoots, and I have found it accurate. The Glock grip and grip angle just seem to be natural in my hand. There are plenty of accessories for Glock pistols if you want to customize or enhance your Glock 43.

The one downside of the Glock 43, when compared to other pistols on this list, is the magazine capacity. The Glock 43 is a single stack magazine that only holds six rounds, giving you a six-plus-one capacity. Since I don’t anticipate getting into a prolonged gun batter using my Glock 43, this isn’t a worry for me. However, some people may want to carry an extra magazine or two.

4. Ruger EC9S

Sturm Ruger may not be as well known for its compact concealed carry handguns as many other manufacturers. However, I have always had a soft spot for Ruger pistols. I like the styling, the quality, and the way these weapons shoot. In my opinion, Ruger has hit a home run with the EC9S line of compact striker-fired pistols chambered for 9mm.

Factory Specifications


Not only are these Ruger EC9S pistols excellent concealed carry handguns, but they can also satisfy some different needs for women looking for a concealed carry weapon. The Ruger EC9S is available in a wide array of different color and pattern finishes. I have no problem with colored guns or different finishes which satisfy some people’s personal preferences

From a shooting standpoint, the Ruger EC9S is easy to shoot and well suited for concealed carry.

The design of the frame and grip results in mild recoil, and the lighter trigger pull makes this one of the best handguns for women I have found. All things considered, the Ruger EC-9S gets a thumbs up as a best handgun for women in my book.

5. Kimber Micro9 Stainless

My next choice is something a little different. The Kimber Micro9 echoes back to the traditions of the original Browning 1911 semi-automatic pistols.

The Micro9 utilizes the same basic operating system with an exposed hammer and single action trigger. This produces a very short and crisp trigger pull. The look of the Kimber Micro9 is just right for someone who wants a traditional look in a compact concealed carry handgun.

Factory Specifications


I have to admit that the Kimber Micro9 is a pretty pistol. The combination of the rosewood grips and the stainless steel finish makes a striking contrast. Couple the looks with the accuracy and the reliability of these Kimber handguns, and you have all the necessary check boxes filled to make the list of great handguns for women.

On the downside, there is the price. Kimber firearms don’t come cheap, and you will pay for the little extras that you get in the styling and materials of these firearms. In addition, the single-action hammer-operated fire control system may not be for everyone.

6. Walther PPS M2

Not many people know that Walther started the move toward compact and sub-compact pistols years ago. The introduction of the PPS M2 with its polymer frame single-stack magazine design revolutionized the industry in many ways.

The thin frame and contoured grip make the PPS M2 a perfect concealed carry weapon for anyone with smaller hands. The design ensures an accurate and controllable striker-fired pistol with less recoil in a highly reliable handgun.

Factory Specifications


The Walther is just a bit heavier than the other pistols on my list, but this can have its advantages. The extra weight can help moderate felt recoil and muzzle flip for some shooters. The fact that a panel of impartial women shooters consistently ranks the Walther PPS M2 high on their best handguns for women is a big plus.

Walther builds a very reliable handgun, and I have no problem recommending a Walther. While this gun didn’t make the top of my list as the best gun, it certainly deserves a place on my list of best-concealed carry guns for men or women. This compact handgun should be on your consideration list as a semi-automatic handgun worthy of a well-armed woman.

7. Sig Sauer P238

I have voiced my concerns over carrying a self-defense pistol chambered for .380. However, for some people choosing this caliber for a concealed carry pistol makes sense.

If a .380 is a better choice, my recommendation is to consider the Sig Sauer P238. This micro-compact handgun is modeled after the venerable 1911 and features an exposed hammer. The classic look of this small pistol is a bonus.

Factory Specifications


If a .380 is your choice as a personal defense handgun, you won’t do much better than the Sig P238. The construction (aluminum frame and steel slide) makes this one of the few sub-compact handguns for women that is an all-metal design. Sig Sauer has managed to keep the weight to a reasonable number for such a small gun with this design.

As with almost all micro-compact pistols, the grip can be a problem for people with larger hands. My pinky finger dangles with no place to rest. The ultra-short barrel is not going to get you any accuracy awards either. However, if you remember what this gun is for, accuracy isn’t going to be a big concern. Up close and personal is a good way to describe how this little pistol is meant to be used.

8. Glock 42

I call this the little brother of the Glock 43. The Glock 42 is virtually identical to the Glock 43, but is chambered for the .380 ACP round.

Many people prefer the .380 ACP cartridge for reduced recoil and a slightly lighter weight when carrying concealed. New ammunition designs give almost the same performance as 9mm at close ranges. Glocks are well known for their reliability and shootability, making the Glock 42 a natural choice as a best handgun for women.

Factory Specifications


If manageable recoil is a huge consideration for you when choosing concealed carry guns, the Glock 42 is a natural. The narrow width of this little pistol makes it perfect for pocket or purse carry when paired with the proper holster system. In my opinion, the Glock 42 may be the best gun you could choose in the .380 caliber for a pocket pistol or for a small purse carry. Is this the best handgun for women? I think it may be when all things are considered.

However, the Glock 42 is not without its issues. Small guns for self-defense are fine in some circumstances. By nature, they have a limited magazine capacity, and the short barrels tend to make accuracy past 5 to 7 yards questionable. Another thing to consider is the textured or patterned grips, since there isn’t much to hold with such a small pistol.

9. Ruger LCP II

If you are looking for a simple semi-automatic handgun, the Ruger LCP II should be near the top of your list. This is by no means an elegant gun with lots of fancy appeals. In my opinion, the Ruger LCP II is a workhorse of a concealed carry handgun. Of all the guns I have reviewed, if you want a simple, reliable handgun at a reasonable price, the Ruger LCP II fills the requirements.

Factory Specifications


The Ruger LCP II can be purchased with a variety of factory-installed options, including laser pointers and sights, Hogue grips, and in different color combinations to meet your style wishes.

A well-armed woman will find that the Ruger LCP II is a good budget-conscious concealed carry weapon that will prove reliable, easy to shoot, and can be found in patterns and colors that appeal to style for many people. This is a solid pistol that will serve anyone well in a self-defense situation.

10. Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38

For simplicity, you can’t beat a revolver. No magazines, no feed problems, and no complicated safety mechanisms with which to worry.

Many people prefer a revolver to a semi-auto pistol for this very reason. The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 makes a perfect small profile concealed carry weapon. The 38 caliber cartridge is easy to shoot and control, even for people with small hands.

Factory Specifications


Revolvers seem to be making a comeback, especially among those who carry concealed on a regular basis.

Small concealable revolvers are a good choice and offer some caliber options not available with semi-automatic handguns. This can be especially important for women who want controllability with less recoil.

I recommend anyone choosing a revolver chambered in .38 special to choose a model with over-molded grips for more comfortable shooting. Smith Wesson offers a factory over-molded grip option with the Bodyguard 38 that can make handling this revolver easier for anyone with larger hands.

11. Rock Island M206

The Rock Island M206 is another entry into the best handguns for women in the concealed carry category that fits the need for a budget model. The M206 doesn’t feature the slick finishes and fine details of other, more expensive, small revolvers. This is a working gun that does what it is supposed to do without problems, questions, or issues.

Factory Specifications


My recommendation is to go with the spurless hammer if you intend to conceal carry this little revolver. This will make for a much smoother carry pistol without the protruding hammer spur being a snag hazard. The spurless model makes a convenient and easy-to-carry purse pistol for an armed woman.

If you are looking for a top-quality revolver that is also one of the best guns on a budget, the Rock Island M206 is a perfect choice. It may not be the prettiest or the slickest finish on the market, but it performs solidly and without question.

12. Taurus 856

Taurus may not enjoy the reputation or popularity of many other brands of firearms, but I have always found their pistols, both revolvers and semi-automatic handguns, are good shooting firearms.

I have always found the fit and finish to be very good, and their designs fit my hand well, making them come to a point of aim naturally.

Factory Specifications


The Taurus 856 is slightly larger than the other compact pistols on my list, but it still qualifies for the category of the best handgun for women. I like the stainless steel frame and construction, and the 6-round cylinder capacity is a plus in the self-defense category.

The additional weight and size of this revolver also work for low recoil and easy controllability. These revolvers also make a good home defense weapon. The internal transfer bar is a great safety feature as well.

Choosing The Best Handgun for Women and Self Defense

There is no trick or secret to choosing the best gun for self-defense or as a concealed carry weapon. It does take some understanding of what features you need and some to consider the options and make the wisest decision.

I hope that this article assists you in working through that process as you choose your personal defense handgun.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.