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5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition

The Guns & Ammo staff often fields questions about what handguns and pistols are the best options for new shooters. Here are the top five considerations as compiled by our Handgun Editor.

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition

The Guns & Ammo staff often fields questions about what handguns and pistols are the best options for new shooters. Here's the top five considerations as compiled by our Handgun Editor.  

Guns for new shooters is always a very touchy subject. When I tackled the topic last year, I got hate mail for months for having the temerity to suggest that revolvers were often not the best option for new shooters. Based on mountains of empirical evidence and over 30 years as a professional instructor, my mind hasn't changed; revolvers are still not the best answer. Neither are tiny guns, which often recoil more and are harder to handle and manipulate. Also on my No-No list are pink guns, purple guns or any cosmetic treatment that tries to "pretty up" a sub-par tool for a neophyte shooter. Finally, you won't find bottom of the barrel crap guns on this list either. Learning how to shoot is tough, it's tougher if your junk gun doesn't work.

This isn't to say that I'm not going to keep value in mind. More money saved at initial purchase equals more money left to purchase ammo. As a new shooter, you need to be willing and able to put in some time at the range. So, in no particular order, here are my top five picks for new handgun shooters.

1. Smith & Wesson M&P9 2.0 Compact / CZ P-10 Compact / Glock 19

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Compact 9mm Pistol (Photo courtesy of Smith & Wesson)

I know, there are three guns here. That's because they're all basically variations on the same theme, and it's my list. I've also shot thousands of rounds through each of them, making me confident in the comparison. The G19 is the granddaddy of this class, having been around since 1988. This size pistol, though classified as a "compact" gun is really more of a medium or mid-sized option in light of many of the new "micro-compact" guns that are taking over the market.

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
CZ P-10 C 9mm Pistol (Photo courtesy of CZ-USA)

These pistols carry slightly easier than their full-sized brethren but offer the new shooter plenty of grip length and sight radius, making them great tools for learning how to shot well. The pistols are all extremely reliable and there is a robust aftermarket for them, including holsters, magazines and spare parts. They are also available in optic-ready versions, which is nice, because new shooters benefit immensely from slide mounted dot optics. 

2. Mossberg MC2c

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Mossberg MC2c 9mm Pistol (Photo courtesy of Mossberg)

The Mossberg MC2c sits in a unique zone. It's slightly smaller than the G19-sized pistols and slightly larger than the sub- and micro-compact offerings from most manufacturers. Its ergonomic and stylized grip houses what is a product improved Glock operating system that does not require the trigger to be pulled to disassemble the pistol. It also utilizes metal 14- or 16-round magazines, giving it a noticeably slimmer and more comfortable grip than most of the other pistols in the category. If the pistol was any smaller, it would sacrifice shootability. But, as is, it's a great size for most hands. A very good flat-faced trigger also helps new shooters wring the accuracy potential out of the pistol. The MC2c is a bit of a sleeper and is usually available optic-ready for around $500. The MC2c has survived numerous torture tests in the industry and represents a great combination of value, size and quality.

3. Springfield Armory SA-35

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Springfield Armory SA-35 9mm Pistol (Photo courtesy of Springfield Armory)

Sometimes, pistols get included on lists like this because they represent the newest technology and the latest materials. Sometimes, they new renditions of nearly-100-year-old designs made of wood and steel that are proven and easy to shoot. This is the latter. The SA-35 is a Browning Hi-Power clone introduced last year and built with improved materials and on better machines. It's a solid steel, full sized pistol that still manages to fit easily into every hand and is heavy enough to dampen recoil but not so heavy as to induce fatigue. It is a legendarily balanced pistol. The SA-35 lacks some of the more modern features that many shooters want, such as an equipment rail and an optic cut, but it does have great sights and a light, crisp trigger. The SA-35 might not be the gun I reach for when the commies start parachuting in like Red Dawn, but it is the one I reach for when I want a new shooter to have fun and enjoy shooting.

4. Taurus TX22 Competition

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Taurus TX22 Competition .22 LR Pistol (Photo courtesy of Taurus)

Mr. Editor didn't tell me that they had to be major caliber guns! But seriously, regarding the effectiveness of the .22 LR, Jeff Cooper said it best, "... if it is properly placed, it may render good service." Indeed, it may, Colonel, indeed, it may. The TX22 ships with three 16-round magazines, so if you do need to use the pistol defensively, it will be a while before you run dry. The pistol itself is ergonomically shaped, fits most hands very well, and features a very nice trigger. I chose the competition variant because it allows the shooter to mount the red dot of their choice directly to the fixed 5-inch barrel. The barrel also features a threaded collar at the muzzle end, allowing for easy suppressor installation should the shooter choose to go that route. You should go that route, because shooting the TX22 suppressed was the most fun I'd had with a pistol in a long time. Easy to shoot, accurate, reliable and fun, the TX22 is a winner.

5. Smith & Wesson Shield EZ

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Smith & Wesson Shield EZ .30 Super Carry Pistol (Photo courtesy of Smith & Wesson)

When the EZ series was introduced a couple of years ago, I remember the internet experts and gun counter commandos bursting about how it was the "gun that nobody needed or asked for." As usual, the internet experts and gun counter commandos were wrong. The EZ series has been a runaway hit because it was designed for real people with real limitations. The slide is easy to retract and features wings at the rear to assist. The magazines are easy to load, the sights are easy to see, and the trigger is easy to press. I could do without the grip safety, but it does serve a purpose to train the shooter to keep their hands high and tight. In a perfect world, the EZ would have already adopted the optic mounting capabilities of the Shield Plus, but I'm sure that will be forthcoming. Regardless, the EZ in .380, 9mm or the new 30 Super Carry is a solid choice for newer shooters, especially ones that might be dealing with physical limitations.

6. Ruger LCP Max

5 Best Handguns for New Shooters: 2022 Edition
Ruger LCP Max .380 ACP Pistol (Photo courtesy of Ruger)

This is my bonus pick because I know that despite my best efforts, someone is going to want a micro-compact gun as their first purchase. It came down to this or the excellent SIG 365 380, but I chose the Ruger for a couple of reasons. First one is that the slide and the controls are easy to manipulate on the Ruger. For an experienced or strong shooter, that's not an issue, but for a newer, possibly smaller-statured shooter, the Ruger is easier to operate. Second, the Ruger is widely perceived as having the softest recoil for a .380 in its class. While the .380 does recoil less than a 9mm, the recoil from most micro-compact .380 pistols can be off-putting for new shooters. The LCP Max mitigates this through a combination of ergonomics, size and materials.

These lists are always fun, but frustrating with their necessarily short mentions. Did we forget something? Is there something that you think doesn't belong? Let us know!

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