Buying your first gun can be a stressful time, especially if you’re inexperienced and new to shooting. As an instructor, I often get asked, “What’s the best first gun?” 

Many factors come in to play when you’re looking to purchase a gun, especially if it’s your first. Sometimes buyers are looking to buy a first gun for home defense. Some are looking to buy a first gun for target shooting, plinking, or self-defense. Your motivation in making the purchase will play a hand in what’s the best first gun for you. 

What’s right for someone else may not be what’s right for you. A handgun needs to fit your hand; there is no one-size-fits-all. Because everyone’s hands are different, ensuring that you can safely reach the trigger, a manual safety if you choose one, and magazine release all affect what you’ll buy. When the frame size, grip angle, and ergonomics all feel right, you’ll know it’s the best gun for you. 

If you’re a brand-new shooter, find a mentor. Someone to show you how the gun works, how to perfect your grip, body mechanics, etc. Local ranges can refer you to a certified instructor, who will ensure you’re learning the correct, safe way to shoot. It’s important to develop proper technique and safe habits right from the first shot you take. 

If you’re looking for a first handgun, I highly recommend starting out with a .22 LR for many reasons:

  • They’re relatively inexpensive.
  • They’re fun to shoot!
  • 22 ammunition is inexpensive (or should be when ammo starts coming back into stock again).
  • They offer very little recoil, which aids in accuracy, confidence, and enjoyment.
  • Because of the reduced recoil, you’ll fatigue slower. This will also help reinforce proper body mechanics and fundamentals, helping you become more confident and proficient faster.
  • Starting with a .22 can get you used to the mechanics of a handgun. They’re affordable and available in both semiautomatic pistols as well as revolvers. 

Several manufacturers make .22s with the same basic (or very similar) dimensions as their larger caliber handguns. This is an awesome way to transition to more firepower in the future, and you’ll already be familiar with the mechanics, trigger, etc. of a particular brand of gun. Occasionally, because the frame is so similar, you can share a good holster between the two.

There are a ton of great options if you decide to go with a .22 pistol. I’ve listed a few terrific options below in alphabetical order: 

Browning Buck Mark
 

The Browning Buck Mark is a ton of fun to take to the range. (Photo: Noah Alkinburgh/Guns.com)


Available in a variety of different models, with barrel lengths ranging from 4 to 7.25 inches, you can’t go wrong with a Browning Buck Mark. Versatile and fun to shoot, the steel barrels make the Buck Mark a little heavier than some of the other choices on this list. The extra weight helps control the muzzle flip and recoil (which is minimal on a .22 to start with), making the Buck Mark a dream to shoot. 

  • Type: Semi-automatic rimfire pistol
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 4 to 7.25 inches depending on model
  • Weight Empty: Starting at 27 ounces 

Related: Turning the Browning Buck Mark Into the Ultimate Range Gun

SHOP BUCK MARK

Glock 44

 

The Glock G44 made a big splash among Glock fans everywhere. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


Relatively new to the market, the Glock 44 is a .22 caliber that’s based on the same frame size as the popular Glock 19 in 9mm. Historically, Glocks are super reliable and easy to shoot. Several backstraps are included with the pistol, so you can customize the grip to best fit your hand. Glock’s Safe Action trigger has three built-in safeties, ensuring a very deliberate trigger pull before the gun fires.

  • Type: Semi-automatic rimfire pistol
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 4.02 inches
  • Weight Empty: 14.64 ounces

Related: Going 2,200 Rounds with the new G44 in .22 LR

SHOP G44

Smith & Wesson M&P .22 Compact

 


A smaller version of the popular full-size M&P pistol, this is another great option. Featuring an ambidextrous manual thumb safety and a reversible magazine release, this a great choice if you’re a lefty. The Picatinny-style accessory rail is perfect for integrating an aftermarket flashlight or laser sight onto your pistol. 

  • Type: Semi-automatic rimfire pistol
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 3.6 inches
  • Weight Empty:  15.3 ounces

Related: S&W M&P22 Compact Suppressor Ready Review

SHOP S&W M&P 22

Taurus TX22

 

The TX22 is a solid plinking choice at an affordable price. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


Touted by Taurus as “the most advanced .22 LR rimfire pistol on the market” the TX22 is a solid choice. Features on this gun include a polymer frame with an ergonomic grip, a manual safety, a trigger safety, and adjustable rear sights. The trigger pull is enhanced due to the precision-designed Taurus Pittman Trigger System (PTS), which comes standard. It’s a competition-grade pistol at an entry-level price. 

  • Type: Semi-automatic rimfire pistol
  • Capacity: 16 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 4.1 inches
  • Weight Empty: 17.3 ounces

Related: Taurus TX22 Brings Plinking Fun to the Whole Family

SHOP TAURUS TX22

Walther P22

 

The Walther P22 is a reliable and fun plinking gun. (Photo: Jacki Billings/Guns.com)


With interchangeable backstraps and an ambidextrous safety and magazine release, you can be sure you’ll get a great fit with this one. Modeled in a similar style with the same ergonomic features as some of Walther’s other larger caliber handguns, this is another great choice if you think you’ll want to move up to a 9mm in the future, and you like the fit and feel of Walthers.

  • Type: Semi-automatic rimfire pistol
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 3.42 inches
  • Weight Empty: 16 ounces

Related: The Walther P22 is a Plinker for Beginners

SHOP WALTHER P22

Ruger LCR

 

The Ruger LCR offers many chamberings including .22. (Photo: David Higgenbotham/Guns.com)


Crafted from aerospace-grade 7000-series aluminum, the Ruger LCR is a lightweight revolver packed with heavy-duty functionality. The frame size is the same basic dimensions as other Ruger LCR revolvers in larger calibers, including .38, .357, and 9mm. This makes moving up to a larger caliber a breeze should you decide to do so. The integrated Hogue grip helps to reduce recoil and makes this gun really easy to shoot. 

  • Type: Revolver
  • Capacity: 8 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 1.87 inches
  • Weight Empty: 14.9 ounces

Related: Ruger LCR in .22 Review

SHOP RUGER LCR

Smith & Wesson Model 317
 

The S&W 317 is a great intro gun for new shooters. (Photo: Guns.com)


Part of Smith & Wesson’s AirWeight series, this revolver is built on an aluminum-alloy J-frame. Classic in design, it’s the same size and frame as other larger caliber revolvers built by Smith & Wesson. The 317 is known as a “kit gun” because it’s the perfect lightweight size to keep on you in the outdoors. As the name implies, it’s also small enough to stash securely in a hunting or fishing kit bag (just make sure the trigger is protected). 

  • Type: Revolver
  • Capacity: 8 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 3 inches
  • Weight Empty: 11.7 ounces

SHOP S&W 317

Conclusion


Once you’re comfortable and confident shooting, you’ll be looking to move up to something more powerful. Modern-day popular calibers are all very manageable once you have your basics of grip and body position down. Don’t be afraid to go to a public range and rent a variety of guns with different calibers. One size does not fit all, and you’ll know what feels right in your hand the second you grip it: 9mm, .380, .38 Special, and .40 S&W are all great next steps once you’re comfortable with .22s.

You’ll never go wrong starting with a .22. Their versatility is endless, and it will be the gun you take to the range time after time, even when you move up to bigger calibers. Handguns are like potato chips … you can’t just have one! 

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