glock 19x first time gun buyer
September 26, 2022

First Time Handgun Buyer Guide

New to firearms and want to get your first handgun? With so many options available today, you may be struggling to figure out what to get for your first handgun.

Handguns are mostly used for self defense purposes, as well as for recreational target shooting. If you want to get a gun for concealed carry, a handgun is of course what you’ll need to carry a firearm discreetly.

Follow along as we go over the different things you should keep in mind before you choose your first handgun. Things like your intended use, type of handgun, and caliber are a few aspects you should consider. Also covered will be a few beginner friendly handguns to help make your choices a little easier.

Why Do You Want a Handgun?

First and foremost, you need to ask yourself why you want to get a handgun. Your intended use will dictate more than anything what handgun you should choose.

The two main motivations for getting a handgun are for self defense and recreational target shooting. More often than not, most people buy a handgun for self-defense, but they want the opportunity to have some fun on the shooting range as well. Odds are you fall into that same category too.

Another thing you may need to consider is the size of the handgun of you plan to carry concealed. Not all handguns are suited for concealed carry, so if you plan to carry, make sure you choose a lighter and more compact handgun.

Choosing a Handgun Type

As far as handguns go, there are two main types. These include:

Revolvers – An older design of handgun. 5 to 6 rounds are held in a revolving cylinder. Once a round is shot, the cylinder moves to fire the next round. Revolvers are known for being incredibly reliable and beginner friendly, but they are severely limited on ammo capacity.

Older models of revolvers have an exposed hammer, which can be operated as singe or double action. Newer revolver designs don’t have an exposed hammer and are double action only. For your first handgun, if you go with a revolver, one without an exposed hammer is ideal.

Semi-Automatic – Each time the trigger is pulled, one round is fired and the slide cycles a new round into the chamber until the magazine is empty. Semi-auto handguns have been mainstream since the mid-20th century and are available in a huge variety of calibers.

Within semi-auto handguns, the two main types are hammer fired and striker fired. Hammer fired semi-autos are an older design that allows for double or single action, while striker fired handguns only use double action.

If you’re choosing your first handgun and want a semi-auto, a striker fired is best because they’re easier to use and can be more reliable.

Choosing a Caliber

Next on the list of choosing your first handgun is to choose a caliber. For the most part, some calibers are only available for revolvers, and some are only possible with semi-autos. If you have a particular caliber in mind, keep in mind the decision between a revolver and semi-auto will already be decided for you.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different pistol calibers available, but for your first handgun choosing a caliber that is widely used and manufactured is paramount. If you choose an obscure caliber, finding ammunition will be difficult and expensive.

To keep things simple, choose one of these popular and time-tested handgun calibers:

Revolvers – .38 Special or .357 Magnum. These calibers are the same aside from the fact that .357 is the more powerful magnum version of .38 special. These are extremely popular revolver calibers, so you won’t have trouble finding ammo and several different revolver models to choose from.

Semi-Autos – .380, 9mm, .40, .45. These calibers are available in many different semi auto handguns, so you’ll have a bunch to choose from. They’re also the most popular pistol calibers, so finding ammo won’t be any trouble.


For your first handgun, don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to spend a ton of money. You should be able to find a quality handgun for $300-$400, especially if used. If you have a little bit more money to spare, handguns in the $600-$1,000 price range are often very high quality.

Spending more than $1,000 on a handgun won’t be necessary, especially if it’s your first one. There simply isn’t a need to spend that much on a handgun, and there are plenty of great choices that cost much less than $1,000.

Try Out Different Handguns

Something you should do before you make any firearm purchase, not just for handguns is to try out as many different guns as you can.

Most indoor shooting ranges have handgun rentals, and often have a large selection to choose from. Take some time to rent a few handguns you’re interested in and see which ones feel the most comfortable and are easy to operate. Ultimately, if your handgun is comfortable and you enjoy shooting it, you’ll be much more accurate and effective in a self-defense situation.

In addition to firearms rentals, speak with a knowledgeable gun store employee so they can help you choose the right handgun. Gun store associates are always happy to take out guns from behind the counter so you can hold and get a feel for them, and they will even show you how to operate them.

Beginner Friendly Handguns

For some inspiration for your first handgun, here are couple beginner friendly examples:

RevolverSmith and Wesson Model 638 – This hammerless compact revolver is a great option for a first handgun. The revolver action is beginner friendly and uses the popular .38 special caliber. This model can also use .38 Special +P loads, which have a little bit more power than a standard load.

Semi-AutomaticGlock 19 – This may come at little surprise to most people, but the Glock 19 is a great option for a first-time handgun owner. Chambered in the extremely common 9mm caliber, the Glock 19 provides a 15 round standard magazine capacity and is big enough for a comfortable grip, while compact enough to be used for concealed carry. The Glock 19 is striker fired, making it easy to operate and take apart for maintenance.

These guns are just meant to give you somewhere to start. Make sure to hold and shoot a bunch of different handguns to see which one is the most comfortable in your hand.


Handguns are an invaluable tool for self-defense at home and while on the go. With the many advancements in firearm technology over the last 50 years, there are many great options to choose from. With so many options, choosing a handgun for the first time can be challenging to say the least.

Although the Smith and Wesson Model 638 and Glock 19 are great beginner handguns, take your time and go through the process of thinking about why you need a handgun. Also consider what caliber you want, and whether you want a revolver or a semi-automatic.

Lastly, take the opportunity to hold and shoot as many different types of handguns as possible to see what feels good in your hand. If you do those things, choosing your first handgun is an easy and enjoyable process.