The Best Self-Defense Handguns for Women

Posted by William Kirk, Partner | Nov 27, 2018 | 1 Comment

Women are one of the fastest growing demographics in the hunting and shooting markets today. Despite this, major manufacturers still don't specifically design very many guns for women. Luckily, this is changing and there are many more quality self-defense handguns for women on the market than there used to be.

There are several important characteristics to look for when choosing a self-defense handgun. Though you would think from the marketing that all pistols for women have to be pink, that is certainly not the case. Indeed, the color of the handgun should be low on your list of priorities if you're a woman seriously looking for a good handgun for self-defense.

First, the handgun must be in chambered in a cartridge powerful enough to reliably stop an assailant when the shot is placed properly. Now, the purpose of this article is not to debate the merits of the various handgun cartridges that are on the market today. However, we considered the .380 ACP as the bare minimum cartridge acceptable for self-defense when writing this article.

Second, the handgun must comfortably fit the hands of an average woman. This is a very important characteristic to consider because a properly fitting handgun will have less perceived recoil and be more enjoyable to shoot. This provides incentive for the shooter to practice with the handgun, which therefore generally increases proficiency.

On that same note, all other things being equal, while smaller handguns are easier to carry and conceal, they are generally not as easy to shoot as larger handguns. A person only looking for a handgun to use for home defense, where concealability and portability are not as important as someone who wants a handgun for concealed carry, should probably go with a larger handgun.

Finally, the handgun must be reliable and easy to operate. When trusting your life to a handgun, it must work every time without fail. If it constantly malfunctions at the range, it very well might malfunction when you really need it and that's completely unacceptable. At the same time, the handgun must be easy to operate under stress.  In a desperate situation, everyone's fine motor skills are dramatically reduced. For this reason, the best self-defense handguns for women are the ones that require only a few simple movements to operate.

Our choices for the best self-defense handguns for women embody all of these characteristics. However, there are many other good guns for women out there that will also work well. Just because a particular gun is not on this list does not necessarily mean it is a poor choice for self-defense.

Scroll through the images and see our picks for the best self-defense handguns for women.

Ruger LC9s (9mm Luger)

best self-defense handguns for women

First up on this list of the best self-defense handguns for women is the Ruger LC9s. The striker-fired LC9s was designed to improve upon the shortcomings of the Ruger LC9 (namely the poor-quality trigger) while still incorporating a lot of the things people liked about the handgun. Ruger was very successful in those respects and the LC9s is a high quality, but still reasonably priced, pistol that's a nice handgun for women to use for self-defense.

It also uses a 7 round single stack magazine, making it very slim and compact. For this reason, the LC9s is well suited for small framed shooters and those wishing to carry it concealed. Additionally, the LC9s has a reputation for reliability and accuracy and is easy to control, even in the hands of a relatively inexperienced shooter. Obviously, this is a big plus. Finally, the LC9s is chambered in 9mm Luger, which is a great choice for a self-defense cartridge because it is powerful enough to deal with most threats, is commonly available, is reasonably priced, and has manageable recoil. All in all, the Ruger LC9s is an excellent all-around handgun for women to consider for self-defense.

Kahr CW9 (9mm Luger)

best self-defense handguns for women

Produced by Kahr Arms, the CW9 was one of the first handguns specifically designed for concealed carry and it's also one of the best guns for women out there. Though it is a pretty simple design without a lot of the bells and whistles, the CW9 is still a formidable choice as a handgun for women. It is a reliable and accurate handgun and can often be found for less than $400, which is a big advantage for those on a strict budget. Additionally, the CW9 also uses a 7 round single stack magazine. While that is not as many rounds as some handguns on this list, this fact does make the CW9 significantly thinner, which is good for people with smaller hands. At .9? wide, the CW9 is one of the thinnest handguns for women to choose from.

A problem with the CW9 is that it has a pretty stiff recoil spring and some women can have difficulty racking the slide on it. However, it is a nice self-defense handgun for women who can handle this issue.

S&W M&P Bodyguard (.38 Special)

best self-defense handguns for women


There is nothing wrong with using a revolver for self-defense and the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard is a great handgun for women who want to take that route. The Bodyguard revolver is the latest in a line of excellent quality revolvers produced by Smith & Wesson. The synthetic grip makes the revolver easy to hold and noticeably reduces recoil. The Bodyguard also has an ambidextrous cylinder release and comes standard with an integrated Crimson Trace laser sight. Used properly, the laser sight can provide a psychological edge in a stressful situation and allow for easier aiming in reduced lighting. Weighing in at just over 14 ounces, the S&W Bodyguard is the lightest handgun on this list of the best self-defense handguns for women. However, it is so well designed that the recoil felt from +P .38 Special defense loads, while somewhat stout, is still manageable.

Glock 43 (9mm Luger)

best self-defense handguns for women

The Glock 43 is one of the latest models introduced by Glock. Similar to the .380 ACP Glock 42, it is a slimline subcompact chambered in 9mm Luger and is one of the smallest handguns ever produced by Glock. Though at just over 1" wide, it is slightly wider than the Kahr CW9, it is still small enough to be easily concealable and comfortable for most shooters with small hands.

While it only has a 6 round magazine, the Glock 43 is still a worthy entry on this list of the best self-defense handguns for women because it does such a great job combining small size with the legendary reliability Glocks are known for.

Glock 19 Gen4 (9mm Luger)

best self-defense handguns for women

Next on this list of the best self-defense handguns for women is the Glock 19, which is Glock's "compact" 9mm pistol. It is a good compromise between being small enough to carry concealed without too much trouble and large enough that most people can shoot it well, making it one of the best guns for women that money can buy. It is also just generally an outstanding choice for shooters with smaller hands. The Generation 4 variant of the Glock 19 has a dual recoil spring system that also acts to reduce the amount of recoil felt by the shooter. Additionally, the handgun also comes with a modular grip system that allows the shooter to further customize the grip depending on the size of the shooter's hands.

The magazine release on the Glock 19 Gen4 is also easily modified to accommodate left or right handed shooters. The Glock 19 accepts 10, 15 (standard), 17, and 33 round magazines, which gives the shooter plenty of ammunition to deal with a threat.

Keep in mind though that, as a "compact" handgun, the Glock 19 is by definition, a compromise, which won't please everyone. Shooters wanting an even smaller handgun for concealed carry should consider the Glock 26 or the Glock 43, while shooters not concerned with concealing it and who want a larger handgun that is easier to shoot should consider the Glock 17.

That being said, the Glock 19 Gen4 is arguably the all-around best handgun for women and it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the most popular self-defense handguns for women as well.

Sig Sauer P238 (.380 ACP)

If you are a fan of the 1911 pistol for self-defense and want a smaller, yet similar pistol that is perfect for concealed carry, then the Sig Sauer P238 might be just what you are looking for. The Sig Sauer P238 is a compact pistol chambered in .380 ACP modeled on a 1911 frame. Like any pistol from the 1911 family, it has an all metal frame. With a weight of just over 15 ounces, it is slightly (though not excessively) heavier than similar sized polymer pistols, such as the Ruger LCR or Glock 42. However, that could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. For instance, this helps tame the already mild recoil of the .380 ACP cartridge. At 1.1" wide, it is another suitable pistol for a shooter with small hands. One disadvantage of the Sig P238 is that, like the Glock 43, it also has a 6 round magazine. All in all, the Sig P238 is still a fantastic choice and is certainly worth looking into as a good self-defense handgun for women.

Final Thoughts

All women interested in obtaining a handgun for self-defense should experiment with several different handguns before purchasing one. See what fits your hand the best, experiment with manipulating the controls on each handgun, and compare how each gun shoots. Everyone has different needs and what works for one person may not work for another. If you're going to be trusting your life to a handgun, make certain that it is the right one for you.

The work is not over once you purchase the perfect self-defense handgun. Even the best handgun for a woman is useless if you cannot hit your target when it counts and if you're using poor quality ammunition. So, make sure you use high quality self-defense ammunition and spend as much time as possible practicing with it and learn how to use it properly. If necessary, get professional training. A highly-trained woman with a handgun that fits her well is a formidable obstacle for any miscreants bent on doing her harm.

Most experts do not recommend using novelty ammunition (like the G2 RIP) or target ammunition (like full metal jacket or wadcutter bullets) for self-defense. Instead, invest in one of the many proven types of ammunition specifically designed for the task.  (See blog on "Best Self Defense Ammunition."  Additionally, make sure you shoot several hundred rounds your chosen ammo in the handgun you plan on using for defense in order to verify that it shoots accurately and your handgun functions reliably with it. Different firearms sometimes prefer different loads and the only way to know for sure is to spend some serious time at the range and determine what your handgun shoots well.

About the Author

William Kirk, Partner

Bill Kirk has been named a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics Magazine every year since 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Regents to the National College for DUI Defense and is the President of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice. Bill is one of only two attorneys in this state to pass the National College's Board Certification Exam.


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Posted Mar 25, 2021 at 19:39:56

Target shooting is largely conducted within clubs. These clubs will usually have guns and equipment so that beginners can try the sport at minimum expense.

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