There’s an old frontier saying: “God created men and women, Col. Colt made them equal.”
Any person, regardless of gender or physical strength, has the right to defend themselves. With proper training and practice, anyone can develop the ability to skillfully use handguns for self-defense.
If you’re a first-time buyer looking to purchase a lightweight, low-recoil, easy-to-carry handgun, we’ll help you narrow down your choices in this guide.
The Importance of Concealed Carry Firearms
Concealed carry handguns are a self-defense norm. It’s an important and responsible decision to defend yourself with easy-to-carry handguns because they offer safety wherever you go.
Besides, concealed carry boosts confidence.
Looking at the firearms statistics, as of 2021, women are a fast-growing demographic. According to The Well Armed Woman, there are around 20 million female gun owners in the US. Many women are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to self-defense.
That’s why the concealed carry is the almighty equalizer. In other words, a 5-foot woman can quickly defend herself against a 6-foot assailant.
There are many reasons why women should consider an EDC (every day carry). Here are the three most important reasons:
- Security – With the right training and a powerful concealed carry, you’re able to effectively defend yourself and others around you.
- Confidence – No need for further statistics. Women generally feel more vulnerable on the streets. Having a trusty handgun with you at all times feels less stressful and gives you peace of mind.
- Awareness – Ever heard of the ‘bystander effect’? You heighten your situational awareness on the streets when carrying a concealed firearm. It’s a good idea to practice your draw speed in various assailant scenarios and drills.
Of course, there are some that would feel firearms are too much of a hassle or too dangerous for them and their family. If that’s the case, then I’d strongly recommend that they go for tasers or pepper spray, at least.
Here, at gunmade.com, we cannot emphasize the importance of self-defense enough.
Best Overall Handguns for Women
We’ll start with the highly-favored Glock 43.
It’s an all-round, reasonably priced handgun that many would find no problems using for a long time. Haven’t seen any complaints besides aesthetics.
- Easy to maintain and find components for disassembling
- Simple design with no needless gadgetry or levers
- Minimal grip
- No Picatinny rail (no mounting options)
- Some may find the trigger heavy to pull
- Unique holster
There’s a reason why you see Glocks everywhere. They are some of the most popular semi-automatic pistols, and law enforcement officers use them.
It’s a relatively new gun, with a single-stack magazine capacity of 6+1 and a stopping power of 9mm, with exceptional ease of use and simple design.
You can find smaller handguns on the market, but this one is perfect for someone with small hands. The Glock 43 is not as concealable as a Smith & Wesson M&P EZ, but it’s much easier to operate because of easy slide racking.
The trigger pull is lightweight, the recoil is minimal, it’s easy to aim, and it’s lighter than the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, sitting at 16.4 ounces. It’s lightweight, and there’s no manual safety, but it delivers quite the blow.
This gun is fantastic for newbies because cleaning, disassembly, and maintenance are a breeze and require no additional tools.
The downsides are that although it’s comfortable, the grip doesn’t provide good handling, and the trigger can be difficult to pull for some.
Despite the tiny downsides, I placed the Glock 43 on the ‘overall best spot’ because it’s a popular self-defense handgun, of average size and weight. It’s light, reliable, and an all-round, no-nonsense handgun that anyone can use with confidence.
Speaking of Glocks, here are some interesting alternatives that are worth mentioning.
I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you’re looking for more mag capacity, check out the Glock 19 9mm. It’s a double-stack perfect for self-defense or competitive shooting.
You can’t go wrong with the Glock 42 .380 ACP either. It’s a semi-auto 6+1, only it’s a flat-bottomed magazine for compactness, and a pinky support. If you’re looking for adding night sights or laser sights to it, it’s easier to customize than the Glock 43.
- Excellent grip
- Easily concealable
- Nice fit for smaller hands
- Popular on the market, so it’s easy to customize with accessories
- Difficult slide racking
- Heavy trigger pull
- Narrow front sight which affects accuracy
Coming in at number 2 is the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. I see this little number almost everywhere when self-defense is in question.
The S&W M&P (Military and Police) Shield is a striker-fired semi-automatic handgun with thumb safety. It’s slim, and less than an inch wide, making it a very stealthy concealed carry firearm for anyone with small hands.
It has a short trigger pull with an audible reset, and has a low slide profile with barrel axis which reduces muzzle rise and makes it more comfortable for rapid reloading and shooting.
The pivot-style safety feature doesn’t allow any accidental discharges. It’s heavier than most of the guns on this list, weighing 20.8 ounces, but many will find the manageable recoil, handling, and grip texture ergonomics very comfortable.
The Smith and Wesson Shield also has a corrosion-resistant polymer frame with a stainless steel chassis for extra longevity and durability.
However, the rack and trigger might be heavy to pull, and some may find this difficult for shooting. The trigger doesn’t reset if you release it halfway, and it’s not as smooth as the Glock’s trigger.
Additionally, the 5.3-inch front sight radius is okay, but some may find it too narrow, further affecting accuracy as it’s difficult to align properly.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a solid choice for those that want to purchase a handgun on a budget and it’s also easy to conceal. It’s highly affordable for a 9mm, going for around $400 on the market today.
If racking, reloading, and handling isn’t your thing, you can also check out the S&M Shield EZ. Smith & Wesson made this model easier to rack and handle, hence the name.
I didn’t like the uncomfortable grip much, and the stopping power and accuracy aren’t much of a contender to the Shield. However, the low recoil, striker safeties, smooth-as-butter slide rack, and ease of use make it a nice self-defense alternative for starters.
- Excellent magazine capacity
- Brilliant accuracy and sights
- Easy trigger
- Good price considering its features
- Striker drag issues
- Somewhat unreliable
Here’s another polymer, striker-fired, 9mm concealed carry favorite. It’s gununiversity.com’s top-rated for CCW, as their overall favorite choice. It was recognized by Shooting Illustrated as the 2018 Handgun of the Year.
The almighty Sig Sauer P365 is designed for quick response. It’s a precision beast with increased recoil stability. I’d say it’s most definitely one of the most accurate concealed carry guns out there.
It has extended 10, 12, and 15-round magazine capacity, which makes the P365 a good model for target practice and shooting galleries.
The 1-inch wide ergonomic grip feels just right, and I think it can be a nice fit if you have small hands.
It’s slightly heavier than the Glock 43, with 17.8 ounces, but it’s smaller in stature, making it a fine concealed carry for many different clothing options.
The stainless steel frame and slide, short trigger reset, non-intrusive iron sights, and 3.1-inch barrel greatly contribute to the P365’s solid balance and accuracy. The standard weight slightly lessens recoils, but some may still feel a kick.
We strongly recommend the Sig Sauer P365 as one of our top picks for accuracy and ease of maintenance. You can also check out the Sig Sauer 320 if you’re looking for a sleek polymer design, affordable customization, and easy takedowns.
Cleaning and field-stripping is a breeze, almost easier to disassemble than the Glock and S&W, thanks to the takedown lever and fire control system. Regular maintenance means the trusty P365 will serve you well for a long time. Since it’s a popular choice among gun enthusiasts, aftermarket customization is widely available.
To my account, it’s as reliable as any handgun, but I’ve read some reports of problems with faulty hardware.
However, I’ve seen so many happy, long-time fans of the P365, actively praising its features. It really makes you want to try it yourself. And let’s be real, you pay $500-$600 dollars for a ‘pro-grade’ concealed carry sharpshooter. What else do you need?
- Clear magazines for easy mag condition checks
- Unique ‘safe’ takedown
- Good reliability for a newcomer
- Low magazine capacity
- Plain design and aesthetics
I can understand how Mossberg got so much flak for the MC1sc, knowing that they’re a shotgun brand trying to get into the handgun business again. What I don’t get is how gun elitists still shun and dismiss it with no valid points.
They call it a ‘Ruger knock-off’, ‘Shield and Taurus’ baby’, ‘Walther is going to sue somebody’, blah, blah… And I haven’t seen a single valid criticism about its features, besides the aesthetics.
The Mossberg MC1sc is a great budget choice for its value and features. I honestly don’t know what the fuss is about.
It’s a lightweight, polymer, easy-to-conceal handgun with its slim, dehorned design that enables a snag-free quickdraw. Top that with a proper holster and you have yourself a great self-defense firearm.
It has a clear, 7-round magazine so that you can see the condition of the bullets. It also has a nice grip. If anything, it may be too grippy.
It’s heavier than the Glock 43, weighing 22 ounces fully loaded, but it’s highly stable with optimal accuracy and targeting. The trigger is a flat-profile easy-pull, with a Safe Takedown System™, which is Mossberg’s design and it enables you to not pull the trigger during disassembly.
Although a newcomer, the subcompact MC1sc 9mm doubles down on its compact size and ergonomics and is definitely one of the most effective self-defense budget handguns for women.
- A very reliable .380 classic handgun
- Brilliant accuracy
- Short trigger
- Affordable customization
- Small safety that’s difficult to engage
- Short grip – bad for large hands
- Reports of accidental discharge when dropped
Here’s another Sig Sauer classic. It’s a 1911-inspired beaver-tail style frame, .380 beast, perfect for those of you who have problems racking the slide and smaller grip for comfort.
Although some may find the classic style design suitable, it’s widely dubbed ‘the ugly duckling’. People tend to be thrown off by the humpback design but, make no mistake, the pocket-sized P238 is no doubt one of the best .380 ACP pistols for women who are looking for an accurate and comfy handgun for self-defense.
Measuring 5.5” in overall length, 15.2 ounces in weight, with single-action, all-metal frame, and light recoil, the Sig P238 is one of the most powerful concealed carry pistols money can buy.
It’s very easy to rack the slide, offers low recoil, and a smooth trigger for that much-needed accuracy.
Granted, there are reports of accidental discharges when dropped from a 30-degree angle. Not to mention, it has a short grip which many large-handed people will find infuriating. Yet, it still remains a popular market choice.
It’s easy to maintain, featuring no-hassle field-stripping and affordable customization. You have so many colors and configuration designs, that if you like, you could make your gun fancy and everything.
The Sig Sauer P238 will burn a $600 hole in your pocket, and the magazines go from $40 to $60 (7-round) each. But I’m convinced that its reliability and accuracy justify the hefty price.
- Solid grip
- Well-balanced and accurate
- Extremely lightweight
- Slightly snappy recoil
- Not much customization options
Ruger has brilliant concealed carry models that are known for their lightweight design. Sad to hear that the almighty Ruger LCP was discontinued.
If you’re a Ruger fan, and you’re maybe looking for a lightweight, polymer-frame revolver that weighs less than a pound and uses full-moon clips, the Ruger LCR is for you. It comes in various calibers like .22 LR, .357 Mag, and 9mm, which is unusual for a revolver.
But the single-action, hammer-fired LCP II is definitely a nice improvement that will carry on the torch. The biggest difference between the Ruger LCP and the LCP II is that the original LCP has a revolver-like trigger, in contrast to the bladed LCP II.
This is the most lightweight concealed carry we have on this list – it weighs only 10.6 ounces unloaded and is smaller than the Glock 43. Fans of snag-free, lightweight handguns will be delighted to have this gun.
However, some may find the recoil a bit snappy. But, with a little bit of practice and if you spend some time getting a feel for it, this won’t be much of a problem. Additionally, the LCP II doesn’t offer much customization and accessorizing freedom, and the iron sights can be a problem for some.
Other than that, it’s a concealable and lightweight powerhouse with a solid grip and well-balanced handling. The slide lock is a nice touch, and the slide is super easy to pull.
You can find this lightweight classic at Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse for around $350.
- Classic 1911 Colt appearance
- Solid grip
- Highly compact
- Stubborn recoil due to the .45 cal
Here’s a Kimber Pro Carry II with a .45 caliber and a classic 1911 look. It’s also available as a 9mm, if the recoil proves too stubborn for you.
It’s stainless steel, weighs 28 ounces, has a single-action trigger, and extra grip safety which reduces accidental discharge. I believe most would find the satin silver finish and the double-diamond checkered grips really stylish.
The 1911 form really adds to the compact frame and many would find that it’s a breeze to shoot with, as long as you get used to the .45 cal recoil. The low-profile iron sights are really cool, too.
The Kimber Pro Carry II has problems with some ammo brands. It’s important to test this out. Remember that every gun has ammo brands that it likes and dislikes, and you can encounter feeding problems and hear some dings here and there. Here’s a .45 ammo buyer’s guide for your needs.
Other than that, the Kimber Pro Carry II .45 is an impressive $500 dollar self-defense choice, if you’re looking for a scary-looking handgun that kicks like a mule.
- Manageable recoil
- Very thin, easy to conceal
- Reliable manufacturer with excellent warranty
- Ambidextrous, for the left and right-handed
- Difficult slide racking
- Heavy trigger
If you think we missed mentioning a Walther handgun, you’ve got another thing coming.
It’s a nice update of the classic PPS (Polizeipistole Schmall). A thin, single-stack, 9mm compact handgun with an overall length of 6.3 inches. The safety is easily accessed by both left and right-handed shooters. Additionally, the loaded chamber indicator shows you when you’re ready to fire.
Walther went for a highly ergonomic and comfortable handgun, with a 1-inch width and moderately scored grip. So, it won’t matter whether you have big or small hands. It weighs 21.1 ounces, and although it’s one of the heaviest on this list, it has low recoil and a 3.2-inch barrel for steady shooting.
The downside is that the trigger is pretty heavy to pull, with 6.1 lbs of pressure. Still, I personally prefer heavy triggers to prevent any accidental discharges. What’s more, the slide is difficult to rack. If you’re looking for an easier-to-rack Walther, go for the Walther CCP 9mm.
The push-button magazine release is a nice touch, as it offers faster reloading. You can also find the Walther PPS with red laser sights for extra accuracy.
For a Walther concealed carry handgun, a $400-$500 price range is pretty solid if you ask me.
Here are some EDC handguns that didn’t make it on the main list but are still a solid self-defense consideration.
Not that we don’t recommend them – we leave it up to you.
- .357 stopping power
- No slide-racking
- Easy to clean
- Compact for a revolver
- Slow reloads
Somebody might ask ‘what about revolvers?’ Don’t worry. Here’s a good one.
They call this the lightest .357 ever made. The Smith and Wesson 340 PD single-handedly (pun intended) dispels the myth that revolvers have no business in self-defense firearms for women.
The reason why we didn’t include it in the main list is because of the .357 kicking calibers, the fact that it’s loud like an infernal cannon, and that it’s not as compact as the other guns on the list. But, hey, it’s a revolver. It’s your weapon of choice if you don’t want the hassle of slide-racking Glocks.
It’s also very easy to disassemble and clean.
The 340 PD is a tiny, double-action-only, concealed-carry that can deliver massive stopping power. It has top marks in simplicity, safety, and ease of use. The 10 lbs trigger pull is annoying, but this is good for preventing accidental discharges.
It has only 6 rounds and the reload speed is molasses, but it’s fairly light and reliable.
We included this revolver on this list because of its simplicity. Besides, just the sight of it could make an assailant rethink their life choices.
- Excellent no-snag option
- Easily customizable
- Curvier than a Glock
- Ambidextrous handling
- Not available in California
- Long, crunchy trigger pull
- Firing pin is made of plastic
The first thing that comes to mind is ‘look at this cute little baby Glock’. The Beretta Nano is a compact, semi-automatic handgun by Beretta USA.
It features a very compact, snag-free design with excellent ergonomics for concealed carry. With no external safety levers or any other external parts, it’s impossible for the Nano to entangle in clothing, or get stuck in a holster.
It’s curvier than a Glock, offers ambidextrous handling for left and right-handed people. It has a non-reflective, technopolymer design, and the non-serialized grip frame offers customization with various colors and sights.
The trigger pull might be difficult for some, but it’s not much of a problem. The only evident flaw is that Beretta Nano’s firing pin is made of plastic. Continued use bends the plastic firing pin, and the pin may sometimes fail to hit the bullet primer. This is a potential reliability issue.
The size and weight of the Beretta Nano offer ease of use and accuracy for a concealed carry this size. It goes around $500 on the market.
Buyer’s Guide for Women’s Concealed Carry Handguns
Going online for firearms purchases opens up so many choices, and every brand, model, and caliber sounds like a good idea. Of course, it will probably give you option paralysis, and you may end up settling for nothing.
Here’s a buyer’s guide to help you understand what to look for when buying a handgun.
Why Do You Need a Handgun?
Ask yourself: why do you need a gun? Is it for self-defense and home defense? Or maybe you want a handgun for the shooting range?
There are so many interesting choices, and even if you don’t like the gun at first, don’t rush to switch to a new one. You can easily get used to the feel of the handgun, but it’ll take some time to form a habit.
At hunting and firing ranges, you don’t need that much manageable recoil, good drawing speed, and lightweight handguns. Self-defense firearms are a totally different story.
Home-defense and self-defense usually mean short-range encounters. You’re still better off with a nice little Smith & Wesson Shield than a full-size Dirty Harry fame Model 29 .44 cal that can plow through armed concrete.
Compact and Subcompact Handguns
I assume that most people are looking for self-defense handguns, and if that’s the case, then we’re looking at low-recoil, lightweight, and easy-to-conceal guns.
For self-defense, there are compact pistols and subcompact pistols. Preferences vary depending on the comfort of your palms and how you conceal the weapon.
Like anything else, it takes a little bit of practice and habit, and maybe a handgun you’re not fond of in the beginning might become a favorite.
The sole purpose of this guide is to look at self-defense and home defense concealed carry handguns.
What to Look for When Buying a Handgun for a Woman
There are countless different handguns on the market today, and everyone has a favorite when it comes to self-defense.
What you need is a lightweight, easy-to-conceal, and reliable handgun. We recommend 9mm, full-frame, striker-fired handguns for ease of use and just enough stopping power.
When you’re browsing Cabela’s or Brownells, here are 4 important factors to consider:
- Comfort and ease of operation
- Weight and concealability
- Reliability and safety features
Of course, preferences vary for everyone, but with these 4 points in mind, you’ll have an easier time picking the most suitable handgun for your needs. Regardless of gender, these are the essential factors when choosing a handgun for self-defense.
Also remember to check the CCW (concealed carry weapon) laws in your state, as they may vary from state to state.
FAQs and Misconceptions
Here are some frequently asked questions, important tips and tricks, and myths about concealed carry for women.
What’s the Best Handgun for a Woman to Carry?
It has to be the all-round Glock 43 because of its solid stopping power, affordable price, and reliability as a concealed carry weapon. The Glock 19 is also a fantastic alternative with increased magazine and stopping power.
We would also recommend the lightweight Smith & Wesson Shield, for its ease of operation and butter-smooth slide rack.
What Handgun Has the Least Recoil?
While more weight makes things difficult for concealed carry use, it actually lessens recoil.
There are gun enthusiasts with bone problems and arthritis, and heavy recoil is the last thing they want.
What’s the Most Lightweight Handgun?
That would be the Ruger LCP II .380. Coming in with 10.6 oz, and a 4 pound trigger pull weight, it’s the lightest gun we have on this list.
Keep in mind that lightweight does not mean a smaller gun. Some may find the Glock 43 more comfortable and handy.
What’s the Best Gun for a Woman With Smaller Hands to Carry?
Although some prefer different sizes and grip safety, it’s up to you to consider the height, width, texture, and overall feel of the gun.
Short-Range Confrontation and the Women’s Clothing Problem
For men, it’s very easy to conceal a handgun on their type of clothes. But for most women, it’s a struggle with daily concealed carry because of the way women’s clothes are designed.
Women’s clothing varies with the occasion and is much more fitted, which is why women need a small, lightweight, concealed carry with smooth grips that won’t get tangled. Additionally, some women find racking slides difficult on many guns.
Concealed carry guns are made for short to mid-range confrontations, and don’t offer you much space for reaction.
That’s why it’s important to have a holster at all times. Purses work too, but a holster provides additional benefits.
Do I Need a Holster?
Purses and other bags are good for conceal carry firearms, but make sure you have a proper holster on you at all times.
You can find a collection of waist and bra holsters on Flashbang.com that will get the job done.
Smaller Gun = Less Recoil?
Nope. A Smaller Gun Does NOT Mean Less Recoil.
To some, small guns look less intimidating, but they deliver a powerful punch. This is because they have less weight and shorter barrels that fail to absorb all that shock. Depending on the frame, this results in jumpy recoil.
A smaller handgun is easy to conceal, but it’s difficult to operate because of the smaller grip and kicking recoil from the weight. With this, you have recoil anticipation, which is intimidating and doesn’t do you any good.
The trick is to balance size and recoil when you’re considering a handgun for self-defense. A larger gun is best suited for those intimidated by the recoil, and offer a better grip.
Try It Out Before You Buy It
That’s the problem with online purchasing, especially during the pandemic – people don’t get to test products before buying them. I strongly recommend that you go to a gun store and try the gun yourself before you purchase it.
This is very important because you need to make sure that the grip, handle, ergonomics, recoil, and slide-racking are suitable for your needs.
With so many excellent choices for concealed carry firearms on the market today, it’s really tough to pick out a suitable gun for self-defense, especially if you’re only getting one.
Once again, it’s always a good idea to try it before you buy it, and keep in mind the concealability, ease of operation, and the general feel of the gun.
If you want to check out more firearms lists for other uses, check out our Gunmade.com handgun section and read more of our informative guides.
Stay safe. Stay responsible!