Pistols — The Magnificent 7 (For Beginners and Beyond)

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms

Most often, new shooters are introduced to the sport on .22 LR pistols for good reason. They have a low recoil, light Bang!, and offer an easy initial introduction. But what about a “first gun” for new shooters or those who have shot before, but are not familiar with the latest models? Perhaps you have a need for a home defense pistol or carry gun without time to go through the motions of learning on a .22 LR for personal reasons. Fear not, we have a few of our top picks to get you started. There will be plenty of dissension and additions to the list, but here are 7 pistols perfect for any new or experienced shooter.

Beretta's PX4 Storm 9mm compact pistol

The PX4 Storm comes with the hallmarks of accuracy and reliability that end users have come to expect from Beretta.

Beretta PX4 Compact

The Beretta PX4 Compact Semi Auto Pistol is an ideal carry gun for just about anyone. It features a lightweight polymer frame, ambidextrous safety, interchangeable back straps, and a stainless steel barrel which all lead the PX4 to ideal carry gun status. The integral Picatinny accessory rail is ideal when mounting a laser or light. The modular construction allows you to interchange back straps to perfectly fit your hand and shooting style. The slide lock and safety are ambidextrous; the magazine release is reversible, meaning that you can easily train with and use your PX4 with either hand.

 
Beretta PX4 Compact
Action Semi Automatic, DA/SA
Barrel Length 3.27″
Caliber 9mm Luger
Overall Length 6.1″ inches
Weight Unloaded 27.4 oz
Sights Fixed 3 dot
Stock or Grip Textured
Capacity 10 rounds
Frame Polymer
Extras Picatinny accessory rail

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S&W M&P 22 Compact

S&W M&P 22 Compact

The M&P22 is a wonderful for target practice without breaking the bank. Designed as a dedicated .22 Long Rifle handgun, the M&P22 compact pistol combines the look, feel and familiar operating features of the trusted M&P series of centerfire pistols. This particular model features a suppressor ready 3.56-inch barrel and the pistol comes in a black, hard-coat anodized finish. The M&P22 is ideally suited for training or simple shooting enjoyment with the popular and inexpensive .22 LR cartridge.

 
S&W M&P 22 Compact
Action Single Action (Internal Hammer)
Barrel Length 3.56″ Threaded Barrel with Thread Adapter
Caliber .22 LR
Overall Height 6.65” (16.9 cm)
Overall Length 5.03” (12.8 cm)
Overall Width 1.48” (3.8 cm)
Weight Unloaded 15.3 oz. (433.8 g)
Sights White dot front sight
White 2-dot screw adjustable for windage and elevation
Stock or Grip Polymer
Capacity 10+1 Rounds
Frame Polymer
Extras 15% reduced scale version of the full-size M&P Pistol
Fits most 1/2×28 thread suppressors
2 magazines included
Ambidextrous manual safety
Reversible magazine release
Picatinny-style accessory rail
Magazine Safety – Will not fire without magazine inserted
Internal lock
Captured recoil guide rod & spring for easier assembly/disassembly
Black, hard coat anodized finish

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Black Remington 1911 R1 on a white background with the barrel pointed to the right.

Remington Arms 1911 R1 Enhanced

Remington Arms 1911 R1 Enhanced is an excellent modern take on the venerable classic 1911. With modern day features, the R1 Enhanced is an absolute must for 1911 enthusiasts who want a sweet shooter or a new shooter wanting a handgun they will them as far as they want to go over a hooting career. Not just for range or competition use, the R1 Enhanced will serve as an excellent duty sidearm. Warning: This is not your grandpa’s 1911.

 
Remington Arms 1911 R1 Enhanced
Action Semi Automatic
Barrel Length 5″
Caliber .45 Automatic Colt Pistol
Overall Height 5.5″
Overall Length 8.5″
Weight Unloaded 39.5 oz Empty
Sights Adjustable Rear Sight
Fiber-Optic Front Sight (Red)
Capacity 8+1 Rounds
Extras 1:16″ Twist
3.5-5 lbs Trigger Pull
Satin Black Oxide Finish
Enhanced Laminate Wood Grips
Front/Rear Slide Serrations
Beavertail Grip Safety with Checkered Memory Bump
Enhanced Hammer
Anodized Aluminum Match Trigger
Enhanced Wide Thumb Safety
Flat Checkered Mainspring Housing (20 LPI)
Match Grade Stainless Barrel and Bushing
Front Grip Strap Serrations
Custom Grips with Thumb Groove and Ambidextrous Cut
8-Round Magazines with Bumper Pad (2)

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HK VP9 pistol left side

H&K VP9

The wait is over, after more than four years in development the VP9 is Heckler & Koch’s latest handgun and is a return for HK’s roots in the striker fired arena. The VP9 shares similar aesthetics with the P30, which has a direct influence on the design. However HK engineers we dissatisfied with current striker fired technology, and in particular the triggers. The VP9 trigger has a consistent pre-travel pull with a positive crisp break, while the trigger reset is short and fast making follow up shots a breeze. The VP9 is also sports a MIL-STD-1913 picatinny rail as well as HK’s hostile environment finish.

 
Heckler & Koch VP9
Action Semi Automatic, Striker Fired
Barrel Length 4.09″ Polygonal Barrel 6 groove, 1:9.8″ right hand twist
Caliber 9mm Luger
Overall Height 5.41″
Overall Length 7.34″
Overall Width 1.32″
Weight Unloaded 25.56
Sights Three Dot Sights
Stock or Grip Interchangeable back strap inserts
Capacity 10
Frame High grade fiber reinforced polymer frame
Extras Ambidextrous magazine release
Firing Pin block
Trigger latch safety
Tool-less field strip
Mil-STD-1913 picatinny rail with four segments rated to 5.6 ounces for lights, lasers and accessories
Extended service life
5.4 lbs trigger pull
.24″ trigger travel
.12″ return trigger travel
Recoil operated with browning-type modified linkless locking system

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Ruger LCR 9mm right

The Ruger LCR polymer-framed revolver is available in 9mm as well.

Ruger LCR

Ruger’s LCR Double Action Revolver .357 Magnum with 1.875-inch barrel is ultra concealable, lightweight, powerful and backed by Ruger’s legendary quality. The LCR was designed to be carried all day without the discomfort of heavier firearms. Weighing in at a mere 17 ounces and firing the potent .357 Magnum cartridge (or lighter recoiling .38 Special), this gun is destined to become a favorite among revolver fans or neophytes ready to become a fan.

Here are a few highlights of Ruger’s LCR:

The monolithic frame, which supports cylinder and barrel, is made from aerospace grade, 7000 series aluminum in LCR models and from blackened 400 series stainless steel in the powerful LCR-357 models.

The Friction Reducing Cam is a next generation design in fire control systems with an optimized cam that results in a smooth, non-stacking trigger pull.

The Polymer Fire Control Housing holds all the fire control components in their proper dimensional relationships, reduces weight significantly, and helps reduce recoil.

The Grip Peg allows a variety of grip styles to be installed, leaving ample room for recoil cushioning. Standard model has a Hogue Tamer grip, which is highly effective at reducing felt recoil

The High-Strength Stainless Steel Cylinder is extensively fluted (reducing weight) and is treated to an advanced form of Ruger”s Target Grey finish for excellent durability.

 
Ruger LCR
Action Double Action Revolver
Barrel Length 1.875″
Caliber .357 Magnum
Overall Height 4.50″
Overall Length 6.50″
Weight Unloaded 17.1 oz
Sights Rear: U-Notch Integral
Front: Replaceable, Pinned Ramp
Stock or Grip Hogue Tamer
Capacity 5
Frame Black Polymer
Extras Twist: 1:16″ RH
Cylinder Finish: Advanced Target Grey

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Glock_34

Glock 34 Gen 4

You were running late to meet up with your friends and ended up parking a lot with limited space so you are in the back. Now it’s after 2 a.m. and you find yourself walking along a dark, isolated street and your situation is about to get hairy. This is a scenario that plays out more than ever with financial times as tough as they have been in decades. Like countless military, law enforcement, and concealed carry aficionados you carry a Glock for just such an occasion.

Glock is used by law enforcement and security personal world wide as well as here in the USA because of its rugged dependability and combat reliability. In fact, when it comes to iconic firearms, Glock is at the top of any list because of its innovation and quality components that has made Glock world famous. No other firearm is relied on more than a Glock for defense and duty use. Pick up a Glock 17, 21, 22, 31 for duty use; Glock 19, 23, 32, 30 for duty and carry, or Glock 26, 27, 33, 36 for deep concealment.

The Glock 34 Gen4, in 9×19, introduces revolutionary design changes to the “Tactical/ Practical” Glock designed to be the same overall length as the Government Model 1911 pistols. The Modular Back Strap design lets you instantly customize its grip to adapt to an individual shooter’s hand size. The surface of the frame employs the new scientifically designed, real-world-tested, Gen4 rough textured technology. Internally, the new Glock dual recoil spring assembly substantially increases the life of the system. A reversible enlarged magazine catch—changeable in seconds—accommodates left or right-handed operators.

 
Glock 34 Gen 4
Action Semi Automatic, Striker Fired
Barrel Length 5.31″ Right Hand Hexagonal
Caliber 9mm Luger
Overall Height 5.43″
Overall Length 8.74″
Overall Width 1.18″
Weight Unloaded 25.95 oz
Stock or Grip Polymer, Textured
Capacity 17+1
Frame Polymer
Extras Trigger Pull: 5.5 lbs
Length of Twist: 9.84″

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Armscor M200 Revolver

Armscor M200 Revolver

Rock Island Armory M200 Revolver

The Rock Island Armory M200 Revolver is a great bargain for the money! Featuring a 4.02″inch barrel with a cylinder that holds 6 rounds. Rock Island’s M200 revolver shoots .38 Special, making it a good choice for personal protection.

 
Rock Island Armory M200 Revolver  
Action Revolver, Single and Double action
Barrel Length 4.02″
Caliber .38 Special
Overall Length 8.78″
Weight Unloaded 1.76 lbs
Sights Fixed ramp front sight
Fixed wide square notch rear sight
Stock or Grip Black combat-type plastic checkered grips
Capacity 6
Frame Steel
Extras Matte Black Finish
Fluted cylinder
Right hand 1 turn twist 6 groove
Floating firing pin
Transfer bar system safety
Wide finger radius trigger

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Do you agree with the guns on this list? Which ones would you have added? Share your picks and opinions in the comment section.

SLRule

Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (68)

  • Mrs. Brown

    |

    I chose a Glock 43 as my first handgun/edc gun. I was alone the first time I shot it, and boy, was I glad of that. I was all over the target, sometimes struggled with the slide, and my hands felt too big for the frame. I was tired after only 18 rounds. I nearly cried, thinking that I had made a very expensive mistake.
    That was 3 1/2 months ago. Now even at 10yards my shot groupings are inside a 3-4″ circle, the slide is not an issue, and I can blow through 50 rounds and wish I had more.
    My point? Give new shooters a chance. Don’t assume we can’t handle anything more than a .22.

    Reply

  • Jim

    |

    I can’t disagree with most of the guns in this article but I strongly disagree with the inclusion of the PX4 compact. The only reason for the compact version is to make a smaller package for concealed carry and the PX4 is a terrible choice for that use. It is fatter than Rosie O’Donnell and the ambi safety sticks out so far it is sure to catch on something no matter which side it is carried on.

    Reply

  • Tom

    |

    I gave my wife my S&W Bodyguard 380 as her first gun. She hated the slide and even cut her thumb while trying it out. So, I got her the Ruger LCR in 22 cal. She loves it. My every day carry is the Bodyguard but I got a PX4 Storm subcompact 9mm that I sometimes carry instead. It can make anyone an accurate shooter. Beretta makes great guns that are easy to break down and clean. I would recommend all 3 to anyone looking for concealed carry and reliability.

    Reply

  • Peter

    |

    While I do agree that most of the weapons listed are fine firearms. I wholeheartedly disagree with the premise that most of these guns are great choices for a first time carry weapon. I mean, of all the Glocks available, you chose a G34 as a first time carry weapon? You ever carries a G34? Not even a good time in a full duty rig much less a concealed carry holster. The slide is so long that every time you bend at the waist you get stabbed or hung up depending on how you carry it. Also, a full sized 1911 as a first time carry gun? Talk about scaring new shooters off. I can just see a 100 pound woman trying to comfortably conceal a full sized 1911. You may as well clip a boat anchor to her hip. Sorry if I’m coming across as a jerk but I am just shocked by your choices.

    Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

      |

      Peter,

      I do not believe the article ever stated these were all carry guns. Some people buy a first gun for plinking or competition. Others have different preferences or want the same gun they use on the range for carry, home defense etc. It is a personal choice. And let’s not forget those who open carry. Lots of angles to all be considered when boiling the list down to only 7 guns. Thanks for reading and commenting! ~Dave Dolbee

      Reply

  • Mikial

    |

    @Adam

    Can’t argue with you there. The big push for subcompact handguns has resulted in a few really good guns and a lot of really poor ones. I am always amazed at some of the stuff being pushed on mew shooters.

    As always, as you point out in your comment about getting past being recoil sensitive, it’s a matter of training. I am really happy that a lot of new shooters are coming into the fold, but too many buy a gun, shoot a few shots, and then that’s it. If you’re going to carry, or even own for home defense, then learn to shoot the darn thing.

    Reply

  • Bill

    |

    I agree with the .22 scenario, but would suggest a revolver over a pistol. In a fearful situation, bordering on panic, it is quite possible that a new-ish gun person could have trouble with the safety on the pistol, or forget to rack the slide. A double action revolver works first time, every time. Point, pull, BANG. Ruger’s LCR, for example, would offer 8 rounds of .22 hollow points. At the close range of an encounter, that would be a major ouch (if the bad guy didn’t run upon seeing the gun in the first place)!

    Reply

    • Adam

      |

      Why do you assume a full cylinder for the revolver but an empty chamber for a semi-auto pistol? Revolvers are no more or less safe to store loaded.

      Reply

  • Mikial

    |

    I have to say that I don’t get all this “beginners can’t handle large guns” discussion. My first handgun was a Ruger stainless Security Six in .357 Magnum, and my next gun was a 1911 and I did fine with both of them. I have also taught many women and men to shoot and while we sometimes do a few mags of .22 to get them used to it, we quickly go to 9mm and .45ACP.

    As I’ve said, my wife shot a few mags of .22 and then went to 9mm and now .45 with no issues. Are we saying that humans have somehow become less capable to shoot guns above .380 in the past few years, because I have to tell you, I’m not seeing it.

    I think a lot of this is being driven by the gun industry as they try to entice women to shoot with the promise of little guns that won’t hurt them to shoot. I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense, but i will continue to evaluate each shooter, new or experienced, individually and train them to carry and shoot the most practical and powerful gun they can responsible and efficiently handle.

    I’ll say it again . . Dave’s list is realistic and I agree with the calibers even if i might have used some different makes of guns.

    Reply

    • Dan

      |

      @Mikial

      The calibers listed are good starting points for some who are not recoil sensative, but the 22LR is a good starter for all. I also still enjoy shooting my 22s 50 years after buying my first one. I have added larger calibers to my collection with no problems but learned to shoot with 22s.

      Reply

    • Adam

      |

      There’s definitely benefit in using 22 LR with someone who has never shot a firearm before. They’re likely a bit nervous to begin with (especially if they’ve had no positive previous exposure to firearms), so it’s best to make the experience as pleasant as possible. The reduced noise and essentially zero recoil of the 22 LR lets the shooter focus exclusively on fundamentals and fun.

      Other than that, though, most shooters absolutely can start with 9mm, 38 Sp, 45 ACP, or similar serious calibers. The exception would be shooters that are very recoil sensitive due to nerves or physical condition.

      Reply

    • MacII

      |

      Mikial,
      Perhaps I am unusual but I suspect not among people of my age. Yes, I began shooting a .22 as do many — but it was a rifle. In the 1950’s in rural mid west I suspect few people other than law enforcement officers owned or had any use for a pistol. We shot rifles and the point was to put food on the table, or butcher a cow, hog or put down an injured animal. I was not exposed to pistols until going into the military and then it began with the 1911 in .45 ACP.
      It wasn’t until a couple years later that I was exposed to a .22 pistol and that was when I was privileged to become a member of our service team. By that time, I had shot as much as I could in the .45 and really thought that there wasn’t much purpose to a .22 pistol other than target competition.
      We began shooting the .45 and while we were aware that it had a certain amount of recoil, I cannot recall anyone who complained about it or thought of it as a problem. The recoil, like the loud noise, the rise of the muzzle and the occasional hot brass down your collar were just part of the process and something to learn and deal with. Everyone I knew who either enjoyed shooting or wished to develop skill with the handgun just adapted and moved on without a lot of fuss and feathers. I am not sure that I understand all the hoopla about .45 recoil or the need to be gentle with those who wished to learn to shoot.
      It was a skill to be developed and mastered and was no particularly big deal, other than as an impediment to better shooting. You trained and learned to deal with it. In those days, other than the .38 or the 9mm (which not many considered worth the effort), there was no real alternative to the .45. We relied on the caliber and did not focus on specialty whizbang bullets to replace accurate shot placement.
      Perhaps we have progressed and should now mollycoddle our new shooters so as to not unduly expose them to any harsh rigors, like noise, a pushback in the hand of recoil or any other perceived unpleasantness or personal distress. My how times have changed.
      Perhaps it is for the better now and perhaps not. Who am I to say? But, I can observe that attitudes and opinions are different now than 55 years ago when I first shot a pistol. I believe then that we were more concerned about achieving a skill level and less than concerned about a sense of a violation of our personal comfort as something to be avoided at all costs.

      Reply

    • Ralph S.

      |

      Well said sir, well said.

      Reply

    • Adam

      |

      After reading your post, I imagined an elderly driver whose first vehicle was a Model T complaining how “mollycoddled” modern drivers are due to innovations like the electric starter and seat belts.

      Your combination of appeal to tradition and ad hominem is similarly lacking in substance.

      Reply

  • Dave

    |

    Even a “small” .380 can be TOO much for beginners to handle. They are — SNAPPY. Especially a short barrel model like an LCP. They only LOOK easy to shoot and conceal. They can, in fact turn new shooters OFF, to shooting for self defense, because it’s hard to shoot one with – accuracy. I’d rather have a high capacity SMALL caliber gun that I could shoot ACCURATELY – than a pocket CANNON, that can’t be concealed, or put rounds consistently ON target. Stick to .22’s with 10 or more round magazines, they WILL get the “job” of self defense DONE. Most PERPS will run, when the see ANY gun in the hand of a potential “victim.” A Taurus PT-22 in a GREAT C.C. option.

    Reply

    • Bob Edwards

      |

      My wife has severe arthritis in her wrists and cannot handle recoil, but she wants to have access to be able to shoot. We tried every .380 & .32ACP out there and she couldn’t tolerate the light recoil. She finally settled on the Taurus PT-22 (vs the Beretta 21A “Bobcat” because of the better grips on the Taurus and the mag release) and she loves it. I’d be confident of her ability to hit her target at least 5-6 times with a .22LR vs. none from a .32 or larger.

      Reply

    • Adam

      |

      Many manufacturers now make light-recoil loads for their defensive ammunition lines. Hornady, for instance, has light versions of their 9mm Luger and 38 Special “Critical Defense” offerings.

      There are certainly some shooters out there who truly can’t handle anything heavier than a 22 LR, but I would advise anyone considering that to least try a “light load” in a more common caliber first.

      Reply

    • Mia

      |

      As a new trainee, acquiring her CWP 2 years ago, I am Just getting comfortable enough to Carry. A lot of this comes down to wanting to train properly, with the best – my father who is Adept in all facets plus Safety a major concern… and has taught courses in the past.
      I am 103 lbs., 5 ft and have nearly no where to carry… But By God, I will Carry what I feel most comfortable with. Even though the 380 is best for my frame, the one we own does not suit me, It IS quite small. I do not mind the rudimentary sites, It just feels so small. I will Carry My RUGER LC9S until I am more experienced… I’ll enjoy reading all of your articles, love learning about new models, and think of new possibilities for the future…
      By the way, Dad and I always start with a 22…
      Imagine if u went to a Dr and he treated every patient the same… Obviously, everyone is different. It is very Smart to start a smaller statured person out with something they are completely Competent with, it creates confidence, less doubt… Why wouldn’t you want that?

      Oh, little food for thought, never underestimate a little woman.

      (Any ideas for conceal carry holsters, I would love to hear!)

      Reply

    • Dave Dolbee

      |

      Hello Mia,
      I had to smile reading your post. You sound like a real firebrand with just the right amount of pep and confidence. As a petite woman, you may want to try a Flashbang holster for certain clothing options. You can also check out off body carry options such as BlackHawk’s Diversion Bags or any of Bulldog’s purse options.

      Not to be sexist in anyway, there are also plenty of Inside the Waistband (IWB) and OWB options worthy of checking out. One of the simplest and least bulky (least expensive too) that I often employ is the VersaCarry.

      Please keep in touch and let us know if these, or any others, work better for you. ~Dave Dolbee

      Reply

  • Thomas

    |

    I never said I lumped anyone into a .380. You run the gambit with a 9mm and a .380. But when you hand over 5 or so guns and they cannot pull back a slide….then hand them the P238 and it’s like night and day difference. You have a winner for what they want. Now the compact size and lighter weight is a good for someone who isn’t used to having the weight of a handgun at the end of an outstretched arm. The most important thing I let them in on is go to a gun range and rent some guns for comparison.

    Reply

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