Handguns for Women: Five Great Options

— Patti MillerCADRE Dispatch

Over the last several years, more and more women have joined the ranks of gun owners. Many reasons are behind the “why” of it, and there’s no denying the plethora of female shooters joining the fray — so much so that some manufacturers now have female-dedicated lines of firearms.

With so many handgun options available, making a choice can be daunting. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a fellow woman’s perspective on the different options.

Enter yours truly. While I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I have been in the firearms industry for close to two decades, I am a mother passionate about gun ownership, and I grew up shooting with my father, a then-police officer.

With the steady increase in women gun owners over recent years, many manufacturers offer many different handguns for women to choose from, for training and carry.

Ammunition Choices

When it comes to choosing a handgun for women, ammunition options need to be taken into account. A handgun .22 LR handgun will feel much different than one in .45 ACP. And, if the handgun is used as a concealed carry gun, the weight of the gun and ammunition needs to be considered. 

I, myself, am a tall woman over 6’ tall with larger hands, so I prefer the larger calibers and can easily conceal the larger weapons on my body. But someone smaller than I might require a smaller weapon and caliber. 

That being said, a quick run-down of the calibers might be helpful for starters.


handgun choice begins with caliber. (Photo: Stephanie Kimmell, special thanks to Cooper’s Gun and Pawn)

To begin with, the smaller .22 LR or .22MAG provide very little recoil in the pistols and offer the lightest weight of the rounds I’ll discuss. While it is small and may work for many petite women, the round itself doesn’t offer much in the way of stopping power that someone would need in defensive situations.

Stepping up from the .22 is the slightly larger .380 round, very popular with female shooters. It has better stopping power than the .22 but less than 9mm and is less snappy than 9mm. There are loads of options in this caliber for handguns, many of which are geared towards women shooters.

Next up is the all-around go-to for many shooters, the 9mm caliber. This round is my personal favorite and a great option for self-defense and everyday shooting with more stopping power and higher velocities than the other two rounds. Depending on the weapon, this round may feel harsher than other loads, but in my opinion, overall is the best option for women shooters.

Coming in at the largest round is the .45 ACP. This round provides great stopping power and velocities, but the larger round means stronger recoil and heavier weapons, which can be difficult for some women to handle. 

.380 ACP offers softer recoil, but with less stopping power. In the intermediate, 9mm is the most common carry round nowadays. .45 ACP offers serious power, with stronger recoil.

Gun Models

As a woman, mother, and shooter, I tend to gravitate toward a family of tried-and-true firearms. There’s a little bit for everyone out there, but as always, the best thing you can do for yourself and those you want to protect is to be familiar with your handgun and get training when needed.

Now, on to the handguns I like, in no particular order.

Springfield Armory Hellcat Series

Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP pistol
One great pistol option for women and mothers is the Springfield Hellcat. This series of pistols are chambered in 9mm, have a higher capacity magazine, and have aggressive grip texture for good control. [Credit: Springfield]

Springfield Armory released the Hellcat series of handguns a few years ago and has expanded it to include a micro-compact version and a Pro version. Available in the 9mm caliber, these pistols offer reliable function and cycling with the accuracy and performance you’d want from them. Each pistol offers a base or an optics-ready option, an aggressive grip for better handling, and finish color options to fit the bill. 

The smallest Hellcat, the Micro-Compact, offers a 3” barrel and the highest capacity in the market with 11+1 or 13+1 with extended magazines while staying under 19 ounces in total weight, unloaded.

The Pro model has a slightly larger frame than the micro-compact and offers a 17+1 capacity with the extended magazines, meaning the pistol has more available rounds while maintaining its original smaller footprint.

Both Hellcat pistols are easy to conceal and handle, making them a great option for women.

SIG P365 Series

Sig Sauer P365 pistol
Sig Sauer’s P365 series pistol offers many options to meet the needs of women gun owners, making it a good choice for concealed carry. [Credit: Sig Sauer]

The next series of pistols that I, and some of my close women friends, personally like is the Sig Sauer P365 family of pistols. This series has caliber options for both .380 as well as 9mm, and a plethora of finish options to meet consumer expectations.

This is a popular series of guns used by women over the years and it’s easy to see why. With a smaller frame than full-sized pistols, the P365 offers a pistol that is easy enough to conceal but can still get rounds on target when needed, with double-stack magazines ranging from 10+1 up to 17+1 depending on the model.

My next concealed carry weapon will be a Sig P365XL because I like the way it feels in the hand, has the Sig engineering and performance, and is comfortable to conceal and shoot.

Glock Family

Glock 43 - handguns for women
My longtime carry has been a Glock 43. The Glock is reliable and lightweight. The drawback is the lack of higher-capacity magazines.

You really can’t go wrong with a Glock. Sure, some people don’t like them, or don’t like the lack of an exterior safety. But when it comes down to it, a Glock performs time and again.

The Glock family of pistols has a metric boatload of options in 9mm and some in .380, but personally, I have concealed-carried a Glock 19, 43, and a 48 comfortably. These pistols function regardless of the situation and maybe that’s why I keep finding myself carrying one.

The Glock 19 is the largest of the group and for smaller ladies, it would be harder to conceal. I find the 19 comfortable to shoot but can be a bit heavy for a full day of it being an everyday carry (EDC).

The Glock 48 is roughly the same size as a 19, with a slightly smaller frame. It too is easy for me to conceal and use and still offers the round count needed for a concealed carry.

My current EDC is a Glock 43, which is a micro-compact pistol so it is smaller and lighter than a 19. Unfortunately with the smaller size it has a smaller round count even with an extended mag along with the smaller grip making it harder for me to get a solid hand feel. But the main issue I have with any micro-compact pistol is the grip size since my hands are so large.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Series

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield M2.0 9mm pistol - handguns for women
Another great option for women for concealed carry is the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield pistol. The pistol is a micro-compact option that is easy to conceal and use. [credit: Smith & Wesson]

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield pistol family includes options for 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP. I used to own one in 9mm. This micro-compact pistol has a smaller frame, is easy to conceal and use, and is available in so many different models that finding the right one should be a breeze just by narrowing down which options you want your pistol to have.

The Shield pistols have less grip texturing than the Hellcats or the P365s, so for some, that will be welcomed. The pistol was easy to shoot and performed when needed with mid-range capacity.

FN Reflex

handguns for women - FN Reflex
The FN Reflex micro-compact pistol offers a large 15+1 capacity with the extended magazine and keeps the slim profile for easy concealment.

I have other mom friends who have FN pistols, like the Reflex series pistol, and they like the ability to easily carry and conceal it. The 9mm micro-compact Reflex is touted as the next generation in EDC and offers a higher round count with a 15+1 capacity magazine.

What appeals to me is the longer magazine which gives the handgun a full-sized grip. The pistol also offers the ability to be optics-ready and light-compatible, depending on the model. With the FN name, it features redundant safeties for peace of mind and is said to have a smoother trigger for match-grade accuracy. 

Other Options

While I have the most experience with the pistols listed above, other options are on the market that work great for women shooters.

Handguns from Walther and Ruger generally perform well and can be readily found in .22. Most of my shooting with these pistols has been on the range since .22lr ammo doesn’t have the stopping power I would like. But remember, it’s all in what you are comfortable with carrying and using.

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