The portion of women owning handguns for self-defense has been growing for the last several years. It’s great that more and more women decide to take charge of their safety. Thankfully, the gun market thrives in the U.S., offering solutions for all defense scenarios.
While choosing a firearm for home defense is pretty easy because your choice isn’t limited by size, picking a concealed carry handgun can be tricky, especially if you aren’t gun-savvy and don’t know what to look for. Therefore we decided to write an article to tackle this complex issue. We’ll explain what criteria a gun for self-defense should meet and provide examples of the best handguns for women, so enjoy reading.
Choosing a Handgun by Size
Size is your primary concern. The size of a handgun is determined by the length of its barrel:
- Full-size / Duty / Standard – 4.5″ or greater
- Compact / Mid-Size – 3.5″ – 4″
- Subcompact – 3″ – 3.5″
- Pocket Pistols and Snub-Nosed Revolvers – 3″ or less
Since we consider women’s handguns for concealed carry, we won’t discuss full-size designs. First, most women have smaller hands and may experience gripping issues. Obviously, a shallow grip on a pistol or revolver results in poor recoil management and constant grip readjustments and lowers accuracy and speed of fire. Second, only open-carry and shoulder holsters accommodate full-size handguns, and that’s not what most women pursue.
That leaves us with the three remaining handgun categories. Looking ahead, we advise focusing on compact and larger sub-compact semi-auto pistols because these provide the best shootability/concealability/firepower ratio and feature decent capacity. We’ll provide a detailed explanation below.
For now, let’s say if you choose to go with compacts and larger sub-compacts, your holster options will include inside-the-waistband (IWB), pocket, belly band, bra, and concealment bag holsters. Each design has pros and cons, so you should decide what method suits you best.
Why Pocket Pistols and Revolvers Suck
Several years ago, most handgun recommendations for women consisted primarily of smaller-framed revolvers and micro pistols like the famous Ruger LCP II. However, small handguns are pretty bad self-defense weapons, and here’s why.
- All else being equal, a bigger handgun will give a milder recoil because it has more mass. A less recoiling gun is not just more pleasant to shoot at the range; it allows you to reacquire a sight picture faster and take more accurate follow-up shots.
- Small pistols lack grip area, which may slow you down and affect your control. Besides, your fingers may grip too deep, which means unevenly applied pressure on the trigger.
- Sight Radius. Due to a short slide, small pistols and revolvers are hard to aim and shoot accurately.
- The shorter the barrel, the less time the bullet spends in the handgun and the less power it accumulates.
- Shooters miss, especially under stress. That’s why having a pistol holding at least ten rounds is vital. Most pocket pistols and revolvers have only 6.
- Micro pistols are chambered for less effective defense cartridges like .380 ACP or .22 LR.
It leaves us with two options: compact and subcompact semi-auto pistols. Of course, if you plan to carry your CCW in an ankle or thigh holster, you have no other options than micro pistols, but we strongly recommend thinking it over.
What Caliber to Choose
If you choose to go with our recommendations, which are compact and subcompact semi-automatic pistols, you’ll be choosing between 9mm Luger, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and .308 ACP. These calibers are the most common in the concealed carry community.
9mm pistols are the best-balanced self-defense weapons. First, the dimensions of the 9mm cartridge allow for excellent capacity. If we take the two best Glocks for women, the Glock 19 compact holds 15 rounds, and the Glock 26 subcompact holds 10 rounds. Wrapped in the right self-defense ammo (jacketed hollow point – JHP), the 9mm penetrates deep and provides decent expansion. Also, the 9mm ammo is the cheapest and widely available, while the 9mm pistol market offers an ocean of options.
The other three calibers provide less versatility. The .45 ACP is very potent but offers reduced capacity and gives stout recoil. The .40 S&W has a larger projectile than the 9mm and provides higher capacity than the .45 ACP, but the ammo is expensive and far less widely available. The .380 ACP is chambered by small-framed pistols but lacks the power to penetrate deep and expand.
Pistols in the .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and .380 ACP are good weapons, but if we talk about the best self-defense carry guns for women, wonder nines are perfect. Now, let’s provide several examples of the best 9mm handguns for women.
Best Concealed Carry Pistols for Women
Glock 19 & Glock 26
If it’s not your first attempt to find a perfect CCW, the chances Glocks have flown under your radar are low. The brand is extremely popular in America and beyond, and while its pistols are not perfect, many people find them outstanding. Besides, the aftermarket for Glock parts and accessories is flooded with options for every taste.
If you want a versatile gun, the Glock 19 suits ideally. It’s a compact design with a barrel length of 4.02 inches. A standard mag capacity is 15 rounds, but it’s upgradeable up to 33 rounds, which makes this model a viable women’s home defense gun too.
Looking for a small 9mm Glock? Consider the sub-compact Glock 26 having a barrel length of 3.43 inches and a magazine capacity of 10 rounds standard.
Sig Sauer P365 SAS
Today, Sigs are just as favored as Glocks, and not for no reason. Sig Sauer pistols are modular, meaning the aftermarket for upgrades and enhancements is large, and the brand’s offer includes various options for different tasks.
The P365 SAS is peculiar for its snag-free design that allows for fast draws without the pistols getting caught on clothes. The model features a 3.1-inch long barrel under a slim, 1-inch wide slide. Thanks to this, the printing is minimal.
The pistol holds 11 rounds – 10 in the mag and 1 in the chamber. By the way, the P365 SAS is shipped with two mags; one is extended for a more positive grip.
The model also features anti-snag FT Bullseye high-visibility fiber-tritium night sights.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ (Performance Center Edition)
The M&P Shield series from Smith & Wesson contains several great concealed carry solutions. The EZ is peculiar for the “eazy”-to-rack slide, which will suit people who lack hand strength. Other features include a 3.8-inch barrel ported to reduced muzzle flip, high-visibility tritium night sights, and a super-crisp tactical trigger.
The M&P Shield EZ holds only 8+1 rounds. However, thanks to the single-stack design, the printing is minimized.
Springfield Armory Hellcat
If you want a micro pistol, the Hellcat is a go-to. It’s the best small handgun for women the market has to offer. Featuring a small frame with a barrel length of 3 inches, the model boasts the best-in-class capacity of 12 or 13 rounds. Outstanding for a 9mm handgun.
Another great thing about the Hellcat is the sights that are the easiest to pick up. The rear is a U-notch, while the front is a luminescent dot.
Walther PDP F-Series
Walther developed the F-Series to meet women’s needs. We’ve mentioned that women tend to have smaller hands, and Walther came up with several solutions to improve their handling experience. First, the Walther PDP F-Series 3.5″ features reduced trigger reach achieved by shortening the length of trigger travel and increasing the tactile response of the trigger break. Second, the reduced-force slide features unique protruding serrations for quicker engagement with the pistol. Third, the grip has a reduced circumference for maximum control. The 3.5″ version holds 15+1 rounds.