Most Popular Handguns For Women
By Ginger Hallberg
There are so many options out there for concealed carry and range guns; it can be overwhelming at times! Best thing I recommend is to try out a few on the range before you purchase, to get a feel for what you will enjoy shooting. The great thing at West Coast Armory North is that the staff are very knowledgeable and always willing to help answer your questions. Handguns I highly recommend trying are the Glock 19, Springfield's Sub-compact, Smith and Wesson's M&P 9C and the Sig Sauer P320C. I know, I know you might be saying “BUT I want something cute and little that's easy to conceal.”
Let’s first talk about the Glock 19: this is a 9mm, its magazine has the capacity of holding 15 cartridges, and it has a 4-inch barrel. Now the reason I mention barrel length and magazine capacity, is because these are the most important things one needs to take into consideration when looking for a range or concealed carry firearm. Barrel length plays an important role in comfort of shooting and conceal-ability. So, the shorter the barrel, the snappier or more powerful the firearm is going to feel when it recoils during shooting. Then, if you go with a barrel longer than 4 inches, it will be a bit harder to conceal, but NOT impossible! It's all about the holster, placement and clothing of course! Good excuse for a new wardrobe; but I digress. So back to the Glock and the others! The size of the grip on the G19 makes it comfortable to practice with and acquire a good grip, making it very enjoyable to shoot. Another thing that makes this a joy to shoot is the low bore-axis. With this feature it reduces muzzle flip and helps reduce recoil; a point that helps to have a visual aid to explain better.
Second pistol is Springfield's subcompact. There are several models. The thing with these is that they vary from 3 inch to 4-inch barrel lengths. Even though they are called subcompacts they really are just compacts, which does give you diversity when looking for concealment. The magazines have two different capacities: one flush that holds 13 cartridges and an extended magazine that holds 16 cartridges. They also have a low bore-axis, so even on a 3-inch barrel; recoil is not horrible and easily manageable. I wouldn't necessary recommend this as your first gun unless you've shot it quite a bit on the range. The shortened grip is barely 1/16 of an inch shorter compared to the Glock 19's grip, which may be perfect for some and too short for others.
Moving onto the Smith and Wesson's M&P9C: this is a compact 9mm also, but does not come with an extended magazine. When you purchase this handgun it comes with two magazines one with a pinky extender and a flush one, each has the capacity of holding 12 cartridges. The pinky extender does not extend the magazine in capacity, just has a base plate to rest your pinky on. Having a low bore-axis makes this enjoyable even with a having a 3.5-inch barrel. So it's easy to conceal and enjoyable to get in some range time.
Last one I highly recommend is the Sig Sauer P320C. The magazine holds 15 cartridges, same as a Glock 19, and it has a 4-inch barrel. That's as far as the similarities go between the two. The P320C has a much higher bore-axis, which can make this a little harder to handle the recoil and it makes it a bit bulkier to carry for concealment. Completely possible though! Though we've found that the grip can be found too big for smaller hands. It's a very enjoyable gun though to shoot, so definitely try it out on the range!
Once you've mastered one of these or even all, and you still want a smaller concealment gun, here are a few I recommend: Glock 43, Springfield's XDS, Smith and Wesson's Shield, and Sig Sauer's P938. These are all subcompacts and some consider them sub-sub-compacts. Biggest thing is that they all are single stacks. Which means that the cartridges sit on top of each other in pretty much straight line, and creates a very small grip, but holds fewer rounds. Unlike a double stack magazine where the cartridges stagger like wine barrels, which gives the firearm still a slim comfortable grip and more capacity in the magazine.
The Glock 43's magazine holds 6 cartridges and has a 3.3-inch barrel, which makes it rather smaller than the G19. So you might be thinking “That's what I want!” Along with a smaller barrel length, you also get a smaller overall grip size. Which makes it snappy and a little harder to hold onto. This is why it's not recommended for a beginner. I personally really like the G43, but it wouldn't be my everyday carry. Everyone is different though and has their own criteria for a firearm, so keep that in mind when shopping for a firearm. For a small gun it's pretty enjoyable to shoot, but with using the magazine with the pinky extender, not so much with the flush, at least for me. Without that pinky extended magazine it moves around way too much when shooting.
Then you have the Springfield's XDS9, a single stack also and again, the barrel lengths 3-inch to 4-inch. You have some choice in barrel length, but grip stays the same and it comes with two magazines. One magazine is a flush one that holds 6 cartridges and an extended magazine that holds 8 cartridges. This means it’s obviously way more comfortable with the extended magazine, which almost gives you the feel of a full grip length. The texture of the grip can be a little aggressive and not be enjoyable for a lot of range time.
Smith and Wesson's Shield has a 3 inch barrel, and also comes with a flush and an extended magazine. Flush magazine holds 6 cartridges and the extended holds 8 cartridges. I find the grip to be too smooth and a little boxy for me, which translates to a long reach for the trigger. It's slim in size just like the others, so makes a good concealment option.
Now I've not had the pleasure of shooting Sig Sauer's P938, but I've heard it's a fantastic firearm. For me the factor that it's single action only and has a light trigger, which does not make it appealing as an everyday carry for me. I find the small 1911 platform appealing; but having to make sure it's cocked and locked is a step I don't want in my EDC (Every Day Carry). These beauties have a 3-inch barrel, which they compensated with by making it out of a steel frame. So a nice solid heavy little gun chambered in 9mm and they come with one flush magazine that holds 6 cartridges. You can purchase extended ones that hold 7 cartridges and they run about $50.00 per magazine. When looking at P938 there are vast options but the options are all on the look of the grips and the color of the frame.
Now for the super itty-bitties, and these all are chambered in .380acp (.380 is considered a "9mm short"). This caliber has the same diameter in the base of the cartridge as a 9mm, but squished down and less power; which doesn't mean it's an easier round to shoot. It's actually a lot snappier than a 9mm. Of the .380acp's that we sell the most I recommend the Glock 42 and Sig Sauer's P238.
I've shot the Glock 42, and I was surprised how snappy it was. Granted it has a 3.25 inch barrel, and the overall grip is slimmer than the G43. It comes with two flush magazines that each have a 6 round capacity. So ultimately holds the same amount as the G43, but less power in the caliber in the G42.
Sig Sauer's P238: I've not had the pleasure to shoot this one either. It has the same exact features as the P938, but has a 2.75-inch barrel and is chambered in .380acp instead of 9mm. Also comes with one flush magazine and they run about the same price as the P938's. They also come in many flavors of design.
If you're still wanting something smaller, there's Ruger's LCP and Smith and Wesson's Bodyguard. I really don't recommend either of these and have not been inclined to try shooting either one. Both have a 2.75-inch barrel, but they don't compensate the short barrel with a heavy steel frame like Sig Sauer does on their P238. They both have a polymer frame. They are very light, with a short barrel and both of them have a magazine that holds 6 cartridges. Their grip is about 1.5 inches in length, I have relatively small hands and the grip sits about half way into my palm, which does not help me get a good solid grip on the firearm. I know I wouldn't want to practice with something that I can't get a solid grip on to be able to aim consistently. Some love them but I've also had a lot of ladies want to know where they can sell theirs after they finally shoot it. The triggers on both of these have a very heavy, hard pull and are double action only; so no chance of a nice, light trigger.
Obviously the itty bitties are little and easy to hide, but when shopping for your first gun, try them first! Make sure you're taking advantage of the 70+ firearms we have for rent at WCAN and trying them out. Don't feel shy to ask questions and make use of the staff's knowledge. When looking at a new or additional firearm make sure you're looking at barrel length, grip length, capacity of magazines, firing mechanism and “does it need a physical safety, or is the safety there for my peace of mind?” It’s important to be clear about your criteria for a handgun before you commit to a purchase. Listing what your needs are for a firearm, is a great place to start. Gather all the information you can from reliable sources as you develop this list of criteria. This does not need to be a fast process.