Best Self-Defense Handguns For Women


When helping a woman choose which handgun is best for her, firearm dealers take on the responsibility of educating the consumer. By instinct, a woman might be drawn to a smaller handgun because they’re easier to carry and conceal. However, what she might not realize is they generally aren’t as easy to shoot compared to larger guns.

“In our experience, a 9mm tends to be the preferred caliber of choice for women,” said Adam Ruonala, chief marketing officer for Palmetto State Armory. “It offers the stopping power you need without being too intimidating. Overall, it’s a great all-around caliber and reasonably priced.”

Palmetto State Armory is a South Carolina-based retailer selling through brick-and-mortar stores as well as in the e-commerce sphere. Jamin McCallum, an Iraq War veteran, founded the company in 2008 — initially operating out of his garage as an online ammunition store.

In nearly a decade, the company has grown to a full-fledged firearm manufacturer and retailer, and has expanded to operate six brick-and-mortar retail locations throughout South Carolina — four of which include indoor gun ranges. Additionally, Palmetto State Armory operates an outdoor shooting facility.

Initially, women made up less than 20 percent of Palmetto State Armory’s total customer base. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen that number double to around 40 percent,” Ruonala relayed. In the process, the company has learned a few things about which handguns work best for women looking for personal protection.

In terms of highest sales volume, Palmetto State Armory sells more 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shields (MSRP $449) than any other. “Even most inexperienced shooters have at least heard of Smith & Wesson,” Ruonala shared. “And with their brand recognition comes confidence that you’re purchasing a quality-made firearm.”

Weighing in at 20.8 oz., the M&P Shield is both thin and lightweight, allowing it to be carried comfortably all day. The synthetic grip features an easy-to-handle design, even for smaller hands. The single-stack Shield includes two magazines — one flush with the handle with a capacity of seven plus one round in the chamber and an extended magazine with eight plus one.

A 3.1-inch barrel contributes to an overall length of 6.1 inches. Not too big and not too small, this “just right” sized semi-automatic handgun produces manageable recoil. The short, consistent trigger pull contributes to the gun’s overall accuracy and enables the shooter to fire multiple shots rapidly. The only drawback is women may find this gun difficult to rack.

More Ladies’ Choices

Other great 9mm options include the Springfield XD-S (MSRP $499) — which is compact enough to carry, but performs like you would expect a larger pistol — and the GLOCK G43 (MSRP $529).

“GLOCK spent a lot of time developing the G43, taking into account a lot of customer feedback from their other models,” Ruonola said. The uniquely designed textured grip allows for easy operation and a comfortable high and tight grip. However, those who prefer a slightly smaller caliber might prefer the G42 .380 — the smallest pistol GLOCK has ever produced.

For women searching for a quality handgun at a conservative price point, look no further than the Taurus Millennium G2 PT 111 (MSRP $319). The double-stack magazine with a capacity of 12 rounds is so thin it can easily be mistaken for a single.

A woman in the market for a self-defense handgun likely values safety. Notable features on the PT 111 include a loaded chamber indicator for verification there’s a round in the chamber at quick glance, and the Taurus Security System — a built-in defense allowing shooters to secure this pistol and make it inoperable with the turn of a key. With the system engaged, the pistol cannot be fired or cocked and the manual safety cannot be disengaged. Personally, as the mom of a toddler, this feature is intriguing. I’d be willing to bet other moms would agree.

While most women tend to purchase semi-automatic handguns for self defense, some will prefer a revolver. Though revolvers are often known to be bulkier and heavier, the Ruger .357 LCR (MSRP $699) features the shortest barrel of the guns in this article at just 1.87 inches. It also happens to be the lightest at 17.1 oz. The Ruger .357 LCR includes a Hogue Tamer rubber grip that not only helps reduce recoil, but makes it easier to hold onto. The drawback here stems from the nature of a revolver — the lack of a safety. Instead, the long and hard trigger pull acts as the safety.

No Two Are Alike

Just like no two women are the same, neither are two guns. Ultimately, the woman purchasing a handgun for self defense is entrusting it with her life. The most important thing you can do as a dealer to earn her trust and future business is to help her find the right gun for her.

Firearms purchased for self defense can be for home defense, concealed carry or, in some cases, both. Recommendations should be made based on the purpose for which the gun will be used most. If home defense is a woman’s number-one priority, portability and concealability won’t be the most important features.

Don’t assume women want the smallest, lowest-caliber handgun you offer. What they want is a gun that can shoot effectively, accurately and do what a gun is supposed to do — stop an attacker.

To help women feel comfortable with their purchase both before and after the sale, Palmetto State Armory hosts a “Ladies Shoot Free” day every Wednesday at all of their range locations. It’s a perfect opportunity for customers try out a variety of handguns or to practice after choosing one.

Additionally, Palmetto offers several women-only courses throughout the year including concealed weapons, personal protection safety, personal awareness safety and non-lethal measures of self
defense like properly using pepper spray or Tasers.

“The female shooter is a dynamic audience that deserves acknowledgement,” said Ruonala. “We consistently strive for creative ways to keep our female customers engaged.”