With recent events such as the Aurora, CO theater shootings and the complete lawlessness in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Americans are realizing more and more that the only way to truly ensure the safety of themselves and their families is to arm themselves. If you don’t have a gun already, now is the absolute best time to get one before they get more expensive and more limited. But with so much information out there, making a decision on what handgun to get is difficult. This is why we are going to go over how to choose a handgun and get the gun that is perfect for you.

We’ll walk you through the decision process of figuring out:

  • What you will be using the gun for
  • What type and size of gun will work best for you
  • Determining the perfect first caliber
  • Figuring out your price range

This process will hopefully help you solidify much more what you are looking for, and help you make a final decision.

In the end, we’ll actually tell you what gun we recommend more than any other one to be the best overall gun for first-time owners. So stay tuned!

Continued Training

If you are new to the world of handguns, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to educate and train yourself on guns. For this, we have specifically written a guide of all the things that we WISH people would have told us when starting out. It’s titled the First Handgun Boot Camp and is available through Amazon for a fraction of the cost of a handgun class.

So please check out it, and let us know what you think!

What should I look for in a first handgun?

a person showing a handgun in his hands at the store

Let’s clear one thing up before we get started on anything else. If you ask anyone in the gun world about the best first pistol to get, you will likely get a variety of answers, mostly based on personal preference and familiarity. Sometimes all of these recommendations will overwhelm you.

In the end, the best gun to get for your first handgun is always going to be the one that feels the best to you. It should fit comfortably in your hand, be easy for you to use and manipulate, and feel great to shoot. Other factors than that really don’t matter a ton and should be taken with a grain of salt. Bottom line is that you should love your gun.

So now let’s start narrowing down what kind of gun will work best for you.

Purpose of Use

The first thing to consider with selecting your first handgun is what you plan to use it for. Don’t let this intimate you though, many people don’t really have a really specific reason or use for a gun in their day-to-day lives, but still want one, and like to have one around for various reasons.

But some people plan to use their handgun for very specific situations such as:

  • Concealed Carry
  • Home Defense
  • Outdoors / Hunting
  • etc.

For these purposes, there are certain types, sizes, and calibers of guns that will be better in those individual situations.

But for most people, a good, general-use handgun that can do everything fairly well is what they are going to want to select.

What are the 4 types of handguns?

So now let’s take a look at the best type of handgun you should get. Now there are basically two types of handguns out there – revolvers and semi-automatics. Revolvers are the guns with the revolving cylinders that you see in old-time, Wild West movies. Semi-Autos are the newer style guns that have removable magazines and usually a slide that slides back and forth to cycle the action of a gun.

Revolvers are generally thought of to be more reliable, just because of their inherent simplicity, but semi-autos have the ability to fire rounds faster and reload much faster and easier than revolvers.

With modern advances in the reliability of semi-autos, we would have to recommend that you look at one of these for your first handgun type. again, you will have to decide which type feels the best for you, but a semi-auto will give you the ability to carry more rounds in your gun and shoot and reload it faster.


The next thing to think about when selecting your first gun is the size you want it to be. Now there are basically 3 different sizes of guns – small, medium, and large. Both revolvers and semi-autos come in both sizes, and the one you select will largely depend on what you plan on using the gun for.

If you plan on doing a lot of concealed carry, you will obviously want to look at a gun that’s a bit smaller in size, so you can conceal it easier. If you will be packing your gun on your hip while hunting or hiking, then you can probably get away with a bit larger size.

We recommend that for a general-purpose gun, you look at one in the medium size range. These guns will be more versatile in more situations, so you can use them for both concealed carry and hunting.

But we definitely recommend airing on the larger size of guns, just because they are more comfortable and easier to shoot, hold more rounds, and are generally better guns. So unless you plan on specifically carrying your gun concealed, we recommend that you don’t get a small-sized handgun.

What caliber pistol is right for you?

One of the most popular debates in the world of handguns revolves around calibers. There are many different calibers of rounds available, and each performs a bit differently. But for all intents and purposes, there are only a few different calibers that you will be looking at for your first handgun. These are (in ascending order of size/power:

  • .22 LR
  • 9mm
  • .38 Special
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP

Again, there are literally hundreds of other round sizes out there, but these are the 5 that are the most common for people to get for their first gun.

The .22 LR is the smallest common handgun round and isn’t good for anything when it comes to self-defense, but the pistols are fun and easy to shoot, with the bullets costing virtually nothing.

The 9mm is the most common round in the world and is a very common pick for the first semi-auto pistols.

The .38 Special is a revolver-only round that is probably the most common revolver round out there. This round is usually fired from short-barreled revolvers, known as ‘snub nose’ revolvers.

The .40 S&W is now the standard round for most police forces in the US and is a great general round for a variety of uses.

The .45 ACP is a larger round that has been the standard issue round for our military for over 100 years. While you can’t carry very many of these, they definitely pack a great punch.

So in the end, we would recommend that you select either the 9mm or the .40 S&W for your first handgun. These are both rounds that perform great, have good stopping power, and are readily available for cheap.

Price Range

Now is the time to determine your price range. For this article, we’ll say that there are 3 main price ranges to consider for your handgun: low (less than $400), medium ($400 – $600), and high ($600+).

Most solid-quality handguns will fall within the medium range, which is where we recommend shopping if you have the money to. Obviously, there are fantastic guns in the higher price range, and surprisingly quite a few good ones in the lower range, so things all depend on your budget a bit.

But always remember – you get what you pay for, and guns are an investment that you can always resell for a very tiny loss (and sometimes gain).

So after all of this talk, it’s time to tell you what gun we recommend to a majority of people looking to buy their first handgun.

What is the most reliable handgun to carry?

Again, the gun that you should pick is the gun that works best for you and feels the best in your hand.

But we would have to recommend the Glock 23 as a fantastic all-around gun to get for your first one. It’s a great balance of size and power, chambers the very versatile .40 S&W round, and is one of the most reliable guns out there. It will run you around $450 – 550 in most places but is well worth the cost.

Conclusion – How to Choose a Handgun

So in conclusion, just go out there and shoot some guns! See what types, manufacturers, and calibers feel the best for you, and decide for yourself! Welcome to the gun club too, we’re glad to have you!

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    Zachary Tomlinson

    It does make sense to invest in a handgun that you could easily wield and aim whenever necessary! I have a friend who likes the idea of owning a gun for self-defense. I will talk to him about finding a gun store that can help him choose which firearm to use in the future.