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10 Best 9mm Handguns for Women [Self Defense & CCW]

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Are you a lady looking for a 9mm handgun? I’ve been there, and I know what a struggle it can be to find advice by women, for women when it comes to choosing a new 9mm.

Women buying 9mm handgun

The problem is 9mm handguns are just about the most popular firearms around, and with good reason. It’s a great caliber that can do anything from self-defense to high-level target shooting and competition, so there are hundreds of options out there to choose from.

Don’t worry. We’re going to handle this problem together.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the very best 9mm pistols for women. I’ve spent the majority of my career testing and reviewing all kinds of firearms, especially firearms that work well for women like me. 

We’re going to look at the top 10 best 9mm pistols for women on the market today. Then we’re going to take a deep dive into how to choose, what features to look for, and everything you could ever need to know about choosing the best 9mm pistol for your specific needs.

Click here to get our FREE PDF checklist on the “10 Things Every Woman Should Consider Before Buying a Handgun!”

What is the Best 9mm Handgun for Women?

The Sig Sauer P365 XL is the best 9mm pistol for women in our opinion, but the rest of the pistols on our top 10 list are great choices as well!

  1. Sig Sauer P365 XL

    My pick for the best handgun for women is the SIG Sauer P365 XL. If someone held a gun to my head and asked me to pick the best gun in general, this might be it. It’s certainly at the top of my list of favorites.

    This is a variant of the popular SIG P365, but with a longer slide and barrel, as well as a slightly larger grip module. This provides an increased sight radius and greater accuracy while also improving handling and comfort. In addition, the greater mass helps reduce felt recoil.

    Still, the P365 XL isn’t overly large, at 6.6 inches long and 20.7 ounces, and can definitely be used as a concealed carry weapon. The double stack, 12-round capacity magazines add that function. It comes with two. 

    This striker-fired pistol is available with or without a manual safety lever and features an XSeries straight trigger with a nice, crisp break. The takedown lever makes cleaning and maintenance incredibly easy. 

    The SIG Sauer P365 XL comes with X-RAY3 Day/Night Sights, SIG’s tritium three-dot sight system, but is also optic-ready, meaning that the stainless steel slide is milled to accept a red dot. A SIG rail under the barrel lets shooters attach a laser sight or weapon light. 

    The polymer grip is comfortable and nicely textured, while the stainless steel frame adds durability. The carbon steel barrel is 3.7 inches long. 

    In addition to the standard P365 XL, SIG recently introduced the Rose, a version of this pistol specifically designed for women in partnership with a champion shooter, Lena Miculek. While I haven’t gotten my hands on the 9mm yet, I have shot the .380, and it’s just as much of a delight to shoot as the standard version, just in a more elegant package. And if you want something a little smaller, the P356X is another great option.

    • Nicely balances size and capacity
    • Optic ready
    • Great factory sights
    • Good value
    • Early versions had some issues with quality control on the firing pin, so you don’t want to buy used ones.
    • So popular that gun stores often have a hard time keeping it in stock, so it can be hard to track down.
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6.6”
    • Overall Width: 1.1”
    • Height: 4.8”
    • Barrel Length: 3.7”
    • Weight: 20.7 oz.
    • Capacity: 12+1
    • Sight Radius: 5.6”
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    Check SIG SAUER Check Palmetto State Armory
  2. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ

    While the SIG Sauer P365 is my pick for the overall best handgun for women in 9mm, the S&W M&P Shield EZ is the best handgun for beginners. It’s also great for older or disabled shooters who have low hand strength.

    The Shield EZ’s design is based on Smith & Wesson Shield but is made to be easier to use. To start, it’s a hammer-fired pistol, which makes the slide easier to rack than on striker-fired pistols. 

    This little pistol is still pretty easy to conceal at 6.8 inches long and 23.68 ounces. It still manages to keep a relatively long barrel for the overall size, though, at 3.68 inches. That’s just a hair shorter than the barrel on the P365, despite the Shield being more than an inch and a half shorter overall. 

    It is a single stack, which alongside the size, limits its capacity, but eight rounds still aren't too bad. The two magazines boast a load assist tab for easier loading, and the magazine release is reversible. There’s also a tactile loaded chamber indicator, and the M&P9 Shield EZ is available with or without an external safety. Either way, it has a grip safety. The grip and frame are polymer, while the slide has an Armornite corrosion-resistant finish. 

    The Smith & Wesson Shield is not optic-ready but has white dot sights, including an adjustable rear sight. It also has a Picatinny rail, allowing you to add a laser sight or weapon light easily. 

    • Designed to be easy to use
    • Easy to conceal
    • Adjustable rear sight
    • Picatinny style rail
    • Low capacity relative to other pistols on this list
    • Not optic ready
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6.8”
    • Overall Width: 1.04”
    • Height: 5.05”
    • Barrel Length: 3.68”
    • Weight: 23.68 oz
    • Capacity: 8+1
    • Optic Ready: No
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Brownells
  3. Glock G19 Gen 5 MOS

    The Glock 19 is probably the most popular handgun in the country, especially for compact-sized carry guns. No list of the best 9mm handguns would be complete without it, and any list that omits it should be immediately treated as suspect. 

    In many ways, the Glock 19 has fallen behind the times due to a sub-par trigger and some pretty terrible plastic factory-issued sights, but it still remains the “default” recommendation for a first handgun in general or first carry gun. Why?

    It's just so good at what it does.

    It’s incredibly reliable, affordable, and easily the most customizable handgun on the planet. You can replace every single factory part if you want until, like Theseus with his ship, you have to start asking yourself if what you have is still technically a Glock since there’s not one Glock-brand part left. 

    (In fact, an old favorite of mine was a Glock 19 without a single factory part on it other than the magazine).

    By default, though, it’s still an excellent, reliable handgun with a good-enough trigger that has a fabulous reset, 15-round capacity with the option to upgrade to 17, 33, or 50-round magazines depending on your needs and preferences (though don’t plan on concealing the last two unless your daily outfit includes a trench coat).  

    The bottom of the polymer frame features an integral rail for a light or laser, and the black nitride-coated slide on the MOS version is milled for an optic should you decide to add a red dot later. There are also a variety of factory and aftermarket backstrap options to change the grip size and geometry if you want.

    You can also skip the MOS version and just get the regular Gen 5 G19 if you aren’t interested in an optic (though I highly suggest adding one, even for carry). 

    All in all, the Glock 19 is a great do-it-all option that you really can use for everything from carry to competitive shooting to home defense without any issue. Concealing it might be a bit difficult depending on your wardrobe since it is a double-stack gun, but it is very doable if you plan your outfit around it.

    It's also a great option if you like to tinker with and personalize your guns since you can build out a Glock 19 in an infinite number of ways. Besides the AR-15, the Glock 19 and 17 are easily the two most well-supported guns on the planet regarding aftermarket upgrades.

    If you want something that can do it all right out of the box or something that you can build out to be really great at one specific thing with a little customization, then this is a great option for you.

    • Most customizable/upgradeable handgun on the market
    • Incredibly reliable
    • Slide is milled for an optic
    • Three different automatic internal safeties to prevent accidental discharge
    • Glock trigger design is starting to show its age
    • Factory sights, while easy to swap out, aren’t great
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 7.36”
    • Overall Width: 1.36”
    • Height: 5.04”
    • Barrel Length: 4.02”
    • Weight: 23.63 oz
    • Capacity: 15+1
    • Sight Radius: 6.02”
    • Optic Ready: No
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Brownells
  4. Springfield Armory Hellcat

    The Springfield Hellcat is one of my absolute favorite concealed-carry weapons. Its main selling point is that it’s the highest capacity micro-compact 9mm. It has an 11-round capacity in the standard magazine and a 13-round capacity with the extended magazine. 

    This little lightweight handgun weighs just 18.3 ounces and is 6 inches in overall length, making it the smallest gun on my list. The aggressive grip texture helps manage recoil despite the pistol’s petite size.

    The Hellcat is available with or without a manual safety, and all models have a trigger safety. On models that do have the manual safety, the safety lever is ambidextrous and enlarged for easier manipulation. 

    The Hellcat OSP models are optics ready, and the pistol can be purchased with a Shield SMSC red dot. The factory sights are tritium u-dot sights. 

    The slide features aggressive serrations to help with racking and has a loaded chamber indicator. The mag release is reversible. Finally, this pocket pistol has an integral rail underneath the hammer-forged barrel.

    • High capacity, especially relative to its size
    • Highly reliable
    • Crisp trigger pull
    • Easy to operate
    • Snappy recoil
    • Relatively pricey
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6”
    • Grip Width: 1”
    • Height: 4” (4.5”)
    • Barrel Length: 3”
    • Weight: 17.9 oz (18.3 oz)
    • Capacity: 11+1 (13+1)
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    • *Specs in parentheses are with the extended magazine
    Check Brownells Check Palmetto State Armory
  5. Glock 43X

    If you like the idea of the Glock but want something a little more concealable, then the Glock 43X is a phenomenal option.

    It has the same grip size as the Glock 19, but in a thinner form factor, so while you lose five rounds of capacity (bringing you down to 10 in the mag) you gain a lot in concealability. This makes it an especially great option for women as we tend to wear more closely-fitted clothes.

    Like the Glock 19, it is extremely reliable and extremely customizable as well. You still have the same Glock ecosystem with a huge variety of sights, grips, slides, and controls you can swap in, just in a more compact form factor. 

    It’s also a slightly newer model, so there aren’t quite as many upgrade parts out there, but there’s still enough available that your Glock 43X need not contain any actual Glock brand parts if you don’t want it to. You also have a huge variety of holsters of all types available so you won’t struggle on that front. 

    The trigger is the same roughly 5.3lb trigger you’ll find in every new generation Glock, and it has the same enlarged reversible magazine catch and three-part Glock safety as well. 

    Overall, this is a great pocket pistol that is incredibly reliable and customizable like all the other great 9mm Glocks out there, but it adds the awesome micro-compact form factor that so perfectly blends concealability and shooting performance. 

    If you want the extra capacity of the new lineup of micro-compact pistols, from the company that taught the world how to do striker-fired guns so well, then the Glock 43X is the gun for you.

    • Compact-size grip gives extra capacity and grip
    • Incredibly reliable like all Glocks
    • Easy to modify and customize
    • More concealable than the double-stack Glock 19, but with the same size grip
    • No rail
    • Not compatible with double-stack Glock mags
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6.5”
    • Overall Width: 1.1”
    • Height: 5.04”
    • Barrel Length: 3.41”
    • Weight: 18.7 oz
    • Capacity: 10+1
    • Sight Radius: 5.24”
    • Optic Ready: No
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Brownells
  6. Walther PPS M2 9mm LE Edition

    Next up is the Walther PPS M2. I specifically recommend the LE (law enforcement) version over the standard version because the LE edition comes with night sights and three magazines, one each in 6, 7, and 8-round capacities.

    The capacity is limited relative to some of the other pistols I recommend here because the Walther PPS M2 is a single-stack pistol. The flip side of this is that it allows the PPS M2 to be an incredibly low-profile weapon, just one inch wide and 19.4 ounces in weight. It’s also relatively short, 6.3 inches overall, which further helps with concealment.

    Nevertheless, the grip is surprisingly full for a gun of this size. That’s good in that more surface area means an easier-to-grip surface. On the other hand, if you have very small hands, you may find the grip to be too large. I don’t think that will be a problem for most shooters, though. 

    The factory sights are nice, but the slide is also optic-ready if you want to upgrade it with a red dot. 

    Another high point is the trigger. It has a balanced 6.1 trigger pull weight and a short trigger pull, just 0.2 inches. The movement is smooth, and overtravel is not an issue. 

    • Crisp, smooth trigger
    • Very easy to conceal
    • Shoots surprisingly comfortably for a gun of this size
    • Great factory sights, but also optic ready
    • Low capacity relative to other pistols on this list
    • On the costlier end of guns on this list
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6.3”
    • Overall Width: 1”
    • Height: 4.4”
    • Barrel Length: 3.2”
    • Weight: 19.4 oz.
    • Capacity: 6/7/8+1
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Guns.com
  7. Ruger Max 9

    Ruger is one of my absolute favorite gun manufacturers because they make consistently excellent products. While I don’t always find myself recommending one of their guns as the top in its class, I rarely write up a recommendation list like this one without including at least one Ruger firearm. In this case, it’s the Ruger MAX-9.

    One of the standout features of the Ruger MAX-9 is its impressive magazine capacity, thanks to the double-stack magazines. It comes with a flush-fit magazine that holds 10 rounds plus an extended magazine that holds 12. Sure, that’s not much compared to some of the other pistols here, but it is a lot for its size.

    Measuring just 6 inches long and weighing just 18.4 ounces, the Ruger MAX-9 is almost the same size as the Springfield Hellcat and only holds one less round. But don’t dismiss it for the Hellcat based on that one-round difference. They’re both excellent pocket pistols, so let’s do some comparing.

    The Ruger’s factory sights far exceed the Hellcat’s, with a tritium fiber optic front sight and a drift adjustable rear sight. Like the Hellcat, the Ruger MAX-9 is optic-ready, too, so you can add your red dot of choice.

    And like most Rugers, the MAX-9 also packs in safety features. It has an integrated trigger safety, a visual loaded chamber indicator, and an external manual safety lever. 

    The trigger itself is also superb, with a short but smooth pull and a positive reset. The break is nice and crisp as well.

    The glass-filled nylon frame is durable and provides a nice textured grip, but the ergonomics are so-so. It’s not uncomfortable, but Ruger could have done more with the grip to help with recoil control since this pocket pistol is so small. 

    • High capacity
    • Redundant safety features
    • Very concealable
    • Good factory sights but also optic ready
    • No accessory rail
    • Recoil control will be difficult for new shooters
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 6”
    • Slide Width: 0.95”
    • Height: 4.52”
    • Barrel Length: 3.2”
    • Weight: 18.4 oz
    • Capacity: 12+1
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Brownells
  8. CZ 75 P-01

    The CZ 75 is one of the most popular handgun lines on the planet, and it's easy to see why. A DA/SA hammer-fired metal-frame gun with a buttery-smooth trigger built by a company that has become a byword for reliability and performance… what's not to love?

    The P-01 trades the steel frame for a slightly lighter aluminum one, adds a rubber grip pad, and shortens the grip frame down into sub-compact territory to make it a touch more concealable without compromising shooting performance.

    It is used extensively as a duty pistol in Europe and is the primary sidearm of the Czech police, so you’ll probably see them if you ever spend a lot of time walking down the streets of Prague. 

    Here in the US, they aren’t quite as popular as some of the other offerings on our list, but don’t let that fool you. CZ may be the hipster-friendly Indie band of the firearms world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make excellent guns. 

    The P-01 in particular was torture tested by US Army, and they found it to only malfunction about once every 2,000 rounds, which is better than just about every other pistol out there. 

    It’s a heavy double-stack gun, so this one is more for home defense or open carry, but if that’s what you’re looking for it’s hard not to recommend the P-01. The extra weight of the aluminum frame helps to soak up recoil, and that, combined with the low bore axis, makes for a very soft-shooting gun.

    The DA/SA hammer means you have a heavier trigger pull on your first shot and then a very light trigger pull thereafter, or you can manually cock the hammer for your first shot for a very crisp single-action trigger pull that allows for amazing accuracy.

    On the frame, you’ll find a very comfy and grippy rubber panel, plus an integral Picatinny accessory rail for mounting a light, laser, bipod, bayonet, coffee grinder, or what have you. Inside, you’ll find a firing pin block safety, a decocking lever, and a safety stop on the hammer.

    If you’re looking for a beefy duty-style gun for open carry, keeping in a nightstand or glovebox, or even for shooting in competition without spending a fortune on a competition-tuned gun, this is a great option.

    • Incredible trigger
    • DA/SA
    • Very accurate even with fixed sights
    • Perfect for home defense or even competition
    • Heavy
    • A little bit too big to be concealed easily by most women
    • Hard to find in the US sometimes (Though, thankfully, this is getting better)
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 7.2”
    • Overall Width: 1.38”
    • Height: 5.03”
    • Barrel Length: 3.75”
    • Weight: 28.1 oz
    • Capacity: 15+1
    • Optic Ready: No
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Guns.com
  9. Walther PDP
    • Optimized for red dot use
    • Modular system allows you to customize your pistol
    • Larger mass can be more manageable for new shooters
    • Large capacity
    • Even the smallest configuration is relatively large and may be hard for petite women to conceal
    • On the costlier side
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 7.5”
    • Overall Width: 1.34”
    • Height: 5.4”
    • Barrel Length: 4.0”
    • Weight: 24.4 oz
    • Capacity: 15+1
    • Sight Radius: 6.4”
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    • *For the PDP Compact with a 4” barrel
    Check Palmetto State Armory Check Brownells
  10. Sig Sauer P320 X-Compact

    Finally, we have the SIG Sauer P320 X-Compact. This last pistol is similar to the P365 but larger and is an upgraded version of the standard P320 that made so many waves when it was adopted by the US military.

    The basis of the gun is a serialized fire control group that isn’t actually attached to the stainless steel frame or slide in any way, so you can freely swap frames (called grip units by SIG) or slides to get whatever combo of sub-compact, compact, and full-size frames and slides you may want.

    SIG also has a number of different versions of the P320 out there, but we’re going to focus on the X-Compact version just because it is the “Goldilocks” of the line: not too big, not too small, and just right for many people. 

    It features the truly excellent X-series trigger, which is in the running for the best factory striker-fired trigger in my opinion, especially on a gun at this price point. The smooth trigger pull and crisp break are hard to top. 

    This reliable pistol also features a few more X-series upgrades, like an undercut trigger guard and extended beavertail, which enhance shootability and retention under recoil.

    It also makes it easier to reach the controls, and easier to choke up on the gun to really take control of the recoil, all of which are great things for female shooters as we typically have less grip strength and smaller hands.

    The X-Compact version has a 15-round capacity, but there’s also a 17-round full-size version, or you can run the larger mags if you want. 

    The frame and slide are both stainless, which helps soak up a lot of recoil, and there’s an integral rail for mounting whatever Picatinny accessories you see fit.

    The P320 XCompact might be the most versatile option on this list because it's the only one that can shapeshift its way into a variety of form factors. This is a great option if you want one gun that can truly do it all.

    • Swappable X-series grip frames
    • Excellent X-series trigger
    • Optics-ready
    • Heavy
    • Hard to find some grip frames and slides in stock
    Quick Specs:
    • Overall Length: 7”
    • Overall Width: 1.3”
    • Height: 5.3”
    • Barrel Length: 3.6”
    • Weight: 25.3 oz
    • Capacity: 10+1
    • Sight Radius: 5.5”
    • Optic Ready: Yes
    Check SIG SAUER Check Brownells
Lasso Brag

Why a 9mm Handgun for Women?

Joe Farewell teaching marksmanship fundamentals

There are several very good reasons why the 9mm Parabellum (also known as 9mm Luger or 9x19mm NATO) is the most popular handgun round on the planet.

Click here to get our FREE PDF checklist on the “10 Things Every Woman Should Consider Before Buying a Handgun!”

First and foremost, it is more than sufficient for defensive use in terms of velocity and penetration, but it also has very controllable recoil. This means that, if you’re carrying for protection, you have something very easy to shoot but also effective at stopping a threat.

As handguns go, 9mms are also generally more reliable than smaller calibers because of the increased case capacity (and therefore recoil energy) over something like .22LR, .32 ACP, or even .380 ACP, which means the slide cycles more forcefully. 

This aids reliability greatly as you have a slide that moves faster and with more authority, which helps with extraction and ejection. This helps cut down not only on general malfunctions, but it helps eliminate “limp wristing” which is a common problem for newer shooters or those with less than stellar grip strength.

On the other side of things, 9mm is right in the sweet spot where it doesn’t have too much recoil, so most people find it very easy to control, even under rapid fire or in high-stress situations where adrenaline degrades fine motor skills.

Higher caliber guns can have a lot more recoil!
Larger calibers can have a lot more recoil!

It also has a much better capacity when you compare similarly sized guns or magazines with 10mm or .45 ACP due to the smaller cartridge diameter. This gives you more rounds on tap compared to the bigger guns, so you spend more time shooting and less time reloading (always a good thing).

This ease of use and improved shootability are what have made the 9x19mm the most popular caliber for military and police sidearms as well. The recoil is controllable, but the round is still powerful enough to be reliable.

Military using 9mm pistol

Also, because of that popularity and because the round is so ideally suited for everything from defense to plinking to competition, manufacturers overwhelmingly gravitate towards 9mm handguns, which means there are a lot of choices out there.

Just in this article, we’ve seen 9mm guns in various forms, including high-capacity race guns, cheap plinkers, high-end target guns, full-size duty pistols, and diminutive pocket/purse guns. 

With 9mm, you have many options to choose from, giving the average person the highest possible likelihood of finding something that works for them. Having a variety of choices also means you can have a 9mm that fills any purpose you may have.

Whether you’re looking for something small enough to disappear under light clothing or beefy enough to give you 20 rounds in the mag and a full-length slide, you’ll have dozens of options.

Gun accessories

That kind of market support also means you’ll have no trouble finding accessories like holsters, lights, grips, sights, and optics for a 9mm handgun most of the time, which is always nice. You can even get carbine conversion kits for a lot of 9mm handguns that will add a carbine-style frame to your handgun, further adding versatility and function.

This is especially important when choosing a holster because it is often difficult to comfortably conceal a handgun beneath the average woman’s wardrobe. 

Having many holster options available for a variety of handguns means you’re more likely to find something that works with your preferences, body type, and just general style.

Choosing a 9mm Pistol for Women

The best handgun for you is going to depend on a few different factors that are particular to you, so let’s take a moment to talk about how to choose not just one of the best guns for women but the best gun for you.

Click here to get our FREE PDF checklist on the “10 Things Every Woman Should Consider Before Buying a Handgun!”


Woman carry glock 19 concealed in her purse.

First and foremost, you need to think about what you want to use your gun for.

Are you looking for a gun to carry concealed or for something for competitive shooting? Or maybe you’re looking for something for home defense or even just recreational shooting? The best handgun for you will depend on the purpose.

You typically want to try to balance concealability and capacity for a carry weapon. For example, our top recommendation for women, the Sig Sauer P365 XL, is a great example of a gun that is comfortable, concealble, and carries lots of rounds.

A carry gun is no good if it’s too bulky to conceal effectively or so heavy that you frequently leave it at home or in the glove box because you don’t want to bother dealing with it.

A gun that’s too small may be a bit harder to shoot, so there’s a balance to be observed here. A super-small pistol might be easy to carry, but recoil will be snappier, and you’ll have less real estate to grip and less mass to help dissipate recoil.

For a home defense gun, you can just focus on capacity and shootability. In other words, you want a full-size gun with 17+ rounds in the mag. In fact, a larger gun will typically have milder recoil, making it easier to shoot in a high-stress situation. 

Wilson Combat Sig P320 review

You should also get something that has a rail for a light, and ideally is cut for an optic or has night sights out of the box.  

For competitive shooting, you’ll want to look at the parameters of the type of competition you want to do, but generally, accuracy and controllability of recoil are the most important things. Keep the rules for the various competition divisions in mind, and make sure the gun you want is legal for the classification you want to shoot in.

Look for something with a heavy frame and slide, like an all-steel gun or one of the tungsten-impregnated polymer options built specifically for competition. Since you’re not carrying this type of gun regularly, mass works in your favor because it soaks up recoil.

Also, high capacity to minimize reloading is key, as is a low bore axis which will help reduce muzzle flip.

Finally, you can go with any gun you want for recreational shooting. Typically, however, you’ll want a low-recoil weapon that isn’t picky about what ammo you feed it. That way you can comfortably shoot over longer sessions and don’t have to empty your bank account to go to the range.

Magazine Capacity

Pistol magazines

Obviously, a greater magazine capacity is ideal, especially in a self-defense situation. It comes at the expense of size, though. Clearly, more rounds take up more space, requiring the gun to be larger. 

Double-stack magazines help you balance the two by holding the rounds in a zig-zag pattern. This allows the gun to hold more rounds in a shorter grip. However, guns that use double-stack magazines have to have wider grips to make room for all those extra rounds. That said, a wider grip can help get a firm hold on your weapon. 

Single-stack magazines are the more traditional style, where rounds are stacked on top of each other. This forces a lower capacity but also allows for a slimmer grip, which makes for an easier-to-conceal weapon. 

You also have newer micro-compact magazines with some geometry witchcraft to give you almost a 1.5-stack magazine. This is, in many ways, the best of both worlds for a carry gun, and why we have so many micro-compacts (like the SIG P365 XL, Springfield Hellcat, etc.) on our list of top 9mm pistols for women.

Safety Features

Sig Sauere P365 XL
SIG P365XL with Internal Safety Features

First, all pistols I recommend here have at least some sort of safety feature to prevent accidental firing. 

However, some have internal safeties, which don’t need to be manually operated and automatically activate or deactivate with the pull of a trigger. 

These safeties ensure that the gun cannot fire unless the trigger is pulled. Guns that rely on internal safeties will often utilize multiple internal safety features to be more effective. 

GLock 43x
Glock 43x with Trigger Safety

(While an external safety, a grip safety works the same way. It doesn’t allow the trigger to be pressed unless the shooter has a firm hold on the grip).

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ
Smith and Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ with Grip Safety

Others have manual external safeties. Manual safeties are what people typically think of when they think of gun safeties. There’s a button or lever. If it’s in one direction, the safety is engaged, and the trigger can not be depressed. If it’s in the other, the safety is disengaged, and the gun can be operated. 

Ruger Max 9
Ruger Max 9 with Manual Safety

There are pros and cons to both designs. Manual safeties make the gun slower to operate, so they’re not favored for concealed-carry handguns. 

On the other hand, they’re more secure than internal safeties, which can be overridden by an object slipping inside the trigger guard and pressing the trigger. To avoid this, a holster with complete trigger coverage is essential when carrying a weapon that only uses internal safeties.


A gun needs to comfortably fit your hand, but this can be tricky for women, who typically have smaller hands than men.

You should be able to easily hit any controls, like the safety or mag release, without adjusting your grip. The trigger reach should be short enough that you can place the center of the pad on your trigger finger on the trigger face itself.

The pistol should have a comfortable grip that makes it easy to hold the gun firmly. A grip with a beavertail will encourage you to keep your hand high up on the grip while preventing painful slide bite. 

Guns with swappable backstraps on the grip can go a long way in making a gun more comfortable to shoot. Many pistols feature this kind of system these days, which is great for those of us who want a slightly longer length of pull or need to adjust the grip we get out of the box.

If you have particularly small hands, you may want to stick to a single-stack gun to minimize the amount of gun you have to reach around to operate all of the controls. You can also opt for something very customizable to get a different trigger or extended slide release, mag release, or what have you if needed.

Striker Fired vs. Hammer Fired Pistols (vs. Revolvers)

Striker Fired and Hammer Fired Pistols

Hammer-fired pistols tend to make it easier to rack the slide, which is a common issue for newer shooters who haven’t built up their hand strength yet or for older shooters who’ve noticed their hand strength reducing over time.  

Note, however, that hammer-fired pistols don’t have the consistent trigger press of a striker-fired pistol, so you might need more training before you’re as fast and accurate as you would be with a striker-fired pistol. 

Hammer-fired pistols are also more prone to malfunction since the action isn’t sealed like with a striker-fired pistol. You can help combat this by staying on top of routine cleaning and maintenance, which requires extra work. 

This also seems as good of a time as any to note that we’re only talking about semi-automatic handguns here. Revolvers are also an option, but I haven’t included any in my list of the best handguns for several reasons. 

.44 magnum revolver

First of all, a revolver kicks a lot harder than a semi-automatic handgun. For smaller, weaker hands, a revolver will be much harder to control, especially in the smaller sizes that women tend to prefer. 

Second, the average revolver is going to have a significantly lower capacity than a semi-automatic handgun, even a single stack. Even a high-capacity 9mm revolver will cap out at 7 rounds. In contrast, several pistols on this list have a capacity of about twice that. 

Third, 9mm is not a typical round for revolvers. Generally, revolvers require a rimmed cartridge, and 9mm use centerfire ammunition. Most revolvers, therefore, require a device called a moon clip to function. While using moon clips isn’t a huge deal, it’s just extra complications for a gun I don’t prefer.

For those reasons, I wouldn’t consider revolvers as one of the best handguns for women, at least not in 9mm and certainly not for beginners. 

Recoil vs. Size

The size of a gun can dictate felt recoil.

Low recoil makes a gun easier and more comfortable to shoot and allows you to make quick follow-up shots since the sights will stay closer to alignment. Fortunately, 9mm is a relatively low recoil round, at least as far as self-defense rounds go. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but look for a full-size weapon for lighter recoil. A lot of women are tempted towards tiny pocket pistols for their first weapon, but these guns actually have more felt recoil because they have less mass to disperse the energy. Instead, you get to absorb that energy.

On the other hand, for an easy-to-carry handgun, it is usually better to go small.

So, if you’re looking for a daily concealed carry handgun and need to balance recoil and concealability, you can go with a compact, but stay away from subcompact handguns, as the snappy recoil will be stronger than you’re looking for.

A gun’s grip design can also make a big difference in felt recoil, regardless of size. For one, a larger or textured grip is easier to hold firmly. Grip material also matters, though. A rubber grip texture can help reduce felt recoil.

Glock 19 with Grip Stippling

Aggressive stippling can also help, so look for something that offers this, plus maybe a checkered front and backstrap so you have a little bit more positive traction once your hand is on the gun.

You can also go old school and add something like skateboard tape to your gun if you want to turn up the level of grip, but be careful as this can be a little too rough on your hands and the skin near where you carry your holster.

Click here to get our FREE PDF checklist on the “10 Things Every Woman Should Consider Before Buying a Handgun!”

Shooting Technique for Women: Special Considerations

Most of the shooting advice out there is geared toward men, but it works perfectly fine for women as well.

Some exceptions will be dealing with smaller hands and (generally) lower overall grip strength. The average woman is going to have smaller hands and less grip strength than the average man, which can be detrimental when it comes to shooting.

This makes training for a firm grip incredibly important for women in particular, as a firm grip is a key part of shooting safely and reliably. A weak grip can lead to malfunctions such as a failure to eject or a failure to go return to battery (where the slide doesn’t quite go all the way forward).

It also makes it harder to shoot rapidly and control recoil, which is a key factor in competition and defensive shooting. It can even make it difficult to rack the slide on a particularly small gun or a gun with a very stiff recoil spring.

If you have these issues, I recommend investing in a grip strength trainer, such as the ones rock climbers use. This will help quite a lot with maintaining a solid grip during repeated shooting, and hey, it helps with opening jars, too.

Grip Trainer

Beyond that, if you have small hands, do the best you can to try before you buy so you know you can reach all the controls on your gun (trigger, slide release, mag release, safety if present) without having to use your non-firing hand. 

Many gun ranges will have trial guns available for rental, so you can take them for a test drive if you aren’t sure. Do some drills and ensure you can hit all the controls quickly and when in a hurry. 

Girls shooting at a gun range

If you can’t get your fingers where they need to go when you’re safe and not under any real pressure at the range, you’re definitely not going to be able to hit the controls properly when you’re dealing with a threat or trying to cut down on your split times in a competition. 

If you can’t find a rental, try asking if anyone you know has one you can borrow (maybe offer to take them shooting and pay for some ammo), or at least go to your local gun store and ask to hold one. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Pistol for Women

In my opinion, the SIG Sauer P365 is the best self-defense pistol for women. However, due to its small size, it’s not necessarily beginner friendly. For women without gun experience, I recommend starting with the S&W M&P Shield EZ as a concealed carry weapon.

Struggling to pull back the slide is a common issue for new shooters, especially women with smaller, weaker hands. To combat this, look for a hammer-fired pistol like the S&W M&P Shield EZ or CZ 75 P-01. Aggressive serrations on the slide also make it easier to grip.

If you’re like me and have teeny tiny hands, look to the Glock 43X or SIG Sauer P365. These two pistols both have a short trigger reach, which should make shooting more comfortable for those of us with short fingers.

If you’re looking for less recoil, avoid small guns. This is because the greater mass of a larger weapon absorbs more of the energy from the blast, putting less of that energy on you. 

The Springfield Hellcat, Ruger MAX-9, and Walther PPS M2 LE are three small guns that I recommend here. However, all of these pistols are relatively small, falling within the compact or sub-compact category, or are at least available in a compact model.

The Bottom Line

To be honest, 9mm is my go-to handgun round, so I’d consider these pistols not just the best 9mm pistols but the best handguns for women in general. 

The SIG Sauer P365 XL is my favorite handgun, but the other handguns on this list are also excellent options. Whether you’re looking for a concealed carry handgun for self-defense, a competition pistol, or just a range toy, there’s something for you on this list.

Every gun on this list is a solid pistol; you can’t go wrong with any of them. So take your time to consider your needs and your options. Then get out there and get shooting!

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About the author

Megan Kriss

Megan's love for recreational shooting dates back to her childhood, and she's excited that she can now merge this interest with her writing passion. Besides firearms, Megan writes about pets, the great outdoors, and various lifestyle topics.

2 thoughts on “10 Best 9mm Handguns for Women [Self Defense & CCW]”

  1. Wondering why the Walther CCP M2+ isn’t on this list — it was so much easier to rack than others when I was testing them out.

  2. CZ P-07 for women, CZ P-09 for large men or very large women. They’re the best, safest, and most reliable 9mm pistols for the money. The recessed slide is easy to manipulate. The DA/SA with decockers functionality makes it a very safe pistol, and it’s drop safe as well. The grip height, thinness, and capacity, make these pistols best in class for high capacity concealabilty. The CZ P-09 holds 19+1 rounds, and it’s the same height as my Taurus G3 with a 17 round magazine. In the box, they give you the parts to switch from a decocker, to a safety, if that’s what you’d prefer.


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