The Ultimate Beginner Handgun

What would you say is the ultimate handgun for a beginner?

  • Full-sized semi-automatic pistol
  • Compact semi-automatic pistol
  • Full-sized revolver
  • Compact revolver

0 voters

Do you think a new shooter should start with a small caliber (e.g., .22 LR) and work his or her way up to a larger caliber? Or is it OK to go to a larger caliber right away?


Start out big and work down towards comfortable. If its a brand new shooter they are already gonna be nervous(more than likely) so it wouldn’t matter. But it could give them a truer reading on what they a comfortable with instead of what they are less afraid of.


So true! If you can swim with sharks you can swim with guppies.


Full size, steel revolver, in .357 mag. Shooting .38’s is like shooting .22. Simple manual of arms. Can be fired in Single or Dual action. I taught my wife to shoot with a 6 inch GP100. It is still her favorite gun. Mine too.


I understand what you are all saying but I will continue to start a brand new shooter with a .22lr (safer for both of us). Now that does not mean I will not have the .44 mag with me (and a lot in between).
If I gave my wife anything bigger than a .380 for her first time she would never shoot again.



I don’t see a problem with starting off with a 380 auto or 9 mm.


Start out big for sure. And then work down.


I have started my daughter and son-in-law with my Glock 17. They both have shot it very well from the beginning. I would start any new shooter with the G17, or another full-sized 9mm.

Then again, I really like 9mm for self-defense.



Over the course of a few decades I have developed a system that allows me to take a brand new shooter from a .22 pistol through several options and get them proficient enough to defend themselves in a few hours. Almost every shooter ends up with a SD platform they like the best from a compact .380 all the way to full sized 1911s everyone has a favorite they shoot and like best…

Except, NO ONE EVER likes a snub-nosed DA .38 revolver… EVER! and no one has ever shot it well in the first day, at best acceptable. It always amazes me that it’s the default recommendation of just about every trainer and gun counter guy out there when a newbie with no firearms knowledge asks “What is the best gun for me?”.


Indeed. I had some shooting experience the first time I ever tried a .38 snubbie. I didn’t get through the entire cylinder and the friend who had taken me shooting laughed and told me he understood.


A good full size .22 like a Ruger mk (I don’t care what series) a browning buckmark, or an S&W victory.


I always loved shooting the 38spl. Calibers I used to own. The Colt detective special and the S&W Chief. Wheel guns were in style back in the days. I’m looking to add a revolver to my collection.


This is why I love ranges that have rentals/loaners so people can try many different options. I believe handguns with larger frames are easier to handle, regardless of the caliber. A lot also depends on the purpose for getting the weapon. EDC is much direct than home defense which is much different than precision or competition shooting. For EDC, get the largest caliber you are comfortable with and can shoot accurately. For home defense, a shotgun or an AR platform with a short but legal barrel may be in order. For precision shooting, longer barrels are always better, pistol or rifle, and semi-auto is usually not a accurate as a revolver, bolt or lever action.


I started my son on a quality .22lr target pistol to gain confidence, moved to a full size .44 Magnum but only shot .44 spls, in it , which is like shooting .38s in a 357 Magnum----very mild!
Why a .44? I didn’t have a full size .38 Spl!
I don’t have a 9mm. either or we would have shot that somewhere along the way.
From the .44 I took him straight to the .45 acp in a 1911. It worked for him!

I’ve started all my kids on a .22 target pistol because .22 revolvers are a pita to load with 6x itty bitty bullets while trying to be engaging and keep things fun for the kid.
With a .22 pistol you can go straight to stuff like target acquisition, sight picture and trigger control x10!
I think it’s a lot more fun for younger shooters.
On the other hand, adults seem to want a handgun to use for defense right now!. I think a full size revolver is an excellent choice—a longer 4-6" barrel is easier to shoot accurately and real steel mitigates recoil of .38s very well. With more good ammo it certainly can be an excellent defensive tool as well as a gateway drug to the calibers that start with a “4” :laughing:

This little routine is especially enjoyable as I could tell people that my then 18 year old daughter, (who followed the same handgun shooting path as my son) can shoot a .45 1911 and is darned good at it :grin:


I agree! Snubs and magnums, or worse yet snub nose magnums are surefire ways to turn off new shooters!
However learning to shoot one well is quite a rewarding experience (they aren’t inherently inaccurate as popular opinion portends) but I agree they are no gun for a beginner.

1 Like

I have to side with starting a new shooter off with ( depending on what I know about them ) A revolver in .22 or as much as a .38 special shot from a full size .357. My reason is the number of people I have seen pull shots wildly, and dangerously, in anticipation of that “big” gun blast and recoil. We might quickly move on, but that’s where I’d start. If I was mentoring a new shooter in depth, I would begin with a single action .22 and move on from there.

I suppose it depends on the time factor somewhat, and how much time the new shooter will be able to devote to the new skill before putting the skill " in service" . In a case where there is not the luxury of sufficient time for too much detail work, I can see sense in starting out big and working down. just, make sure they are not jerking it with their eyes closed after seeing that .357 belching furry out of the muzzle.

Snubbies and small autos, to me, are a poor choice for a beginner as they are hard to handle, and take practice for even experienced shooters to run properly. I have seen people get very discouraged by being unable to hit anything and, it was because they were trying to shoot a pistol that was not at all suitable. That same person can go from disinterested to excited the moment they see that they CAN shoot if they get things ( including the platform ) right.

That’s how I would approach it with the exposure I have had to teaching new shooters.


I’m going to have to purchase a couple of Glock 44s. They started showing up in classes shortly after they released and I have to say, they are a fine 22 and with it being virtually identical to the 19 in size it’s a great introductory pistol. Lightweight with no recoil and very fun to shoot. I think they, and other compact 22s like the S&W, Walther, etc, are a great way to break in.

With that being said, I feel like it’s very subjective to each individual. The mindset going in plays a huge role. I get many new shooters who are shaking like leafs dreading firing their first shot. For those types a 22 all day long. For them it’s more about building safety habits and overcoming the initial anxiety/concerns they have.

Others can start off with more. If so, I feel like a full size 9mm is a great way to get going. Less felt recoil (usually), longer sight radius, etc can be a great confidence builder.

The smaller is easier myth can be problematic and new shooters coming out with micro 9s or snub nose revolvers tend to struggle more initially, at least in my experience.


I’m going to chime in with a full size semi auto in a smaller caliber.

You guys are probably sick of hearing about my daughter, but she is an example of this theory, in use.

My local range has a huge selection of firearms to rent and those who know me here know my daughter had a terrifying episode of random gun violence happen to her.

So I was very careful with her because I didn’t want to start her on a full frame high caliber gun. So I started her on a full size Ruger .22 that I have at home. We started with that and when she realized it wasn’t so bad, we moved up to the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ in .380, then we tried the 9mm version, and she didn’t like it.

The next week we tried rifles and she didn’t like that so we tried her on her mom’s.45 she liked shooting it but not for EDC. So once she decided she liked the S&W M&P Shield EZ in .380 we got her one, got her a safe, a CCL, and a membership with the USCCA.

My daughter is the kind of child every parent wants, she’s brilliant, good, loving, caring, gracious, smart, wicked funny and a dry sarcastic sense of humor. But because of what happened to her on 12/19/18, she was terrified of guns. (Stupid as heck liberal schools don’t help).

But in her case she needed to be built up from the basics. So I gave her the best foundation I could. But you should see her now. The pride and courage that are so easy to see in her. The confidence.

With my daughter


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I’ve got to go with a Ruger MK I, II, II, IV etc as the perfect beginner gun. Just enough WOW factor to make it cool and more than enough accuracy to get serious. Then there is the disassembly and reassembly process which WILL teach you patients.




@Craig6 you may have something there, to attain the lofty goal of “ultimate” beginner gun, some fun and cool might be a worthy consideration.