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Question of the Day: What’s the Best “My First Handgun”?

And no, Playskool is not introducing its own line of licensed .22 replicas of Berettas, Glocks, or 1911s.  A good friend of mine has two adolescent sons who already froth at the mouth whenever they see, smell, or even think about guns.  They already have the damn-near-perfect “First Rifles” for young shooters, Marlin bolt-action .22s, and they shoot them with adult supervision as often as the weather and their parents’ schedules allow. My friend wants to introduce his boys to handgun shooting, but his current brace of 9mms and .357s are too large and heavy for young hands to grip securely.  He’s looking for the right tool for the job, and asked me to recommend a good beginner’s handgun for his young shooters . . .

And so I put the question to you, our Armed Intelligentsia: which gun would you use when safely introducing your adolescent sons to the joys of handgunning?  Small grip size, mild recoil, and cheap ammunition are prerequisites; everything else is open for consideration.  I’m pretty sure most of us would choose a .22 of some flavor, but in the interests of inspiring a lively discussion I’ll hold my fire for now and weigh in after hearing some of your suggestions.


  1. avatar Mark says:

    Ruger MKII..This is the the gun I used to introduce my daughter and many nephews to shooting..My daughter now carries a Glock nephews now have G.I. M9s and M4s

  2. avatar Donal says:

    “You’ll put yer eye out!”

    1. avatar Chris Dumm says:

      They already have BB guns, and no, they’re not Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Range Model BB Guns With The Thing In The Stock That Tells Time.

  3. avatar TTACer says:

    One of my buddies just got a S&W revolver, I think it is a 617. Pricey but awesome. Last time we went shooting it was the piece that everyone wanted to use/steal. For a lot less money I think the Walther has a pretty small grip, but the pull length looks long. I like the Browning BuckMark more than the Ruger but I think the grip might be too big.

  4. avatar Travis says:

    Mk II with skinny grips. You can get an aluminum bull bbl if it is too heavy.
    Maybe a Ruger Charger? That is the 10/22 pistol. Could be fun.

  5. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    Just the kinds of suggestions I was hoping for!

    I’ve got a Buckmark myself, and I concur that the grips are a tad too large for really small hands. Ruger .22 pistols are iconic (and for good reason) but is the .22/45 a sensible alternative to the Mark II?

    OTOH, is a single-action semi-auto the way to go for a new shooter? My first gun was a .22 revolver by Harrington & Richardson, and it sure was easy to tell if it was cocked or not. A long D/A trigger might be a more reliable preventer of accidental discharges than any ‘safety’ lever on an automatic.

  6. avatar Tam 212 says:

    A .22LR autoloader or revolver is hard to argue with… I have a S&W 22A-1 that I use to introduce friends to the shooting sports. The economies of this cartridge also means I can give them a freebie session – $15.99 for a 525-rnd Federal Value Pack. Some noobs get a little stymied by range fees, rental fees, eyes/ears, targets and store bought ammo costs. This helps.

    For those who are less recoil sensitive and want to shoot something more substantial, I tell them to go rent a 4″ medium-frame .38/.357 revolver and grab a box of .38Spl or the ubiquitous polymer 9mm and a box of cheap 115gr. Or they can buy just buy ammo and shoot my SR9.

    For those who are recoil senstive, I offer them my GP100 chambered in .327 Federal Magnum… it’ll fire .32 S&W Long and this cartridge is similar in many respects to a .22LR with very low recoil, minimal report and no muzzle blast from this 40-oz. gun. .32 S&W Long is not as readily available and costs more than 9mm but since I have started reloading, I can bypass this.

  7. avatar Tam 212 says:

    Oops… For smaller hands, a SP101 in .327 Fed. Mag. can be utilized.

  8. avatar RB211 says:

    The Ruger Mk II or III would be a great gun, but it can be tough to dissemble and clean. Ill assume your friend doesn’t know much about guns either. I have a Beretta Neos that is cheap, and easy to maintain. The trigger was not the best though, so maybe a Buckmark? Smith makes a .22 also. Its ugly as sin (my opinion) but is supposed to be a good shooter. To keep it really simple, any .22 revolver would do.

    My son is 12, and for his birthday I passed on my Taurus 66 in .357. We started with .38 specials, moved on to +p, and when he wasn’t looking, I loaded a .357. So far, the recoil of the +p in a full size gun is ok with him. He also shoots my PT-99 with no problems, although the grip on that gun is a little large. Who still makes full size 9mms with a single row magazine? I know a number of compact 9s, but then the recoil starts to be an issue.

    Anyway, thats my $.02. A .22 for basic safety, sight and trigger training. Move up to the bigger stuff later.

  9. avatar Tam 212 says:

    Try a Ruger SR9/9c. With the reversible backstrap insert flipped, you have a flat backstrap in a gun that already has a very narrow grip. Seems to work well for folks with smaller hands and/or younger shooters.

  10. avatar Roy Hill says:

    I too, vote Ruger Mark II, or Mark III.

    Or even a Ruger 22/45.

    When I introduce brand new, really young shooters, I let them use my wife’s Mark II, and load only one or two in the magazine, and stay right there on top of them.

    A Ruger Bearcat .22 LR single action would be great, too.

    Or a Heritage Rough Rider, or just about any well-made .22. My bro-in-law has a .22 Sig Trailside that’s an absolute dream.

  11. avatar Gunner442 says:

    Walther P22? German quality, nice looking pistol….22LR.

  12. avatar Tom says:

    Same as my first handgun – although I was not exactly a kid…

    Colt Woodsman! Small grip, light weight, accurate as all get out, nice safety, simple, simple, simple.

    Ok I admit that a vintage beauty of a gun might not be exactly practical for beginning shooters, but I sure enjoy mine!

  13. avatar Bob H says:

    how about one of these?

    Seriously, my first gun was a fullsize 1911. I couldn’t hit the broadside of the barn with it. After that, a long barrelled .38 special with about an 80lb trigger. I disrecommend them both.

  14. avatar Troy says:

    I started my wife and both my kids on a Ruger MKII, 6-7/8″ barrel stainless.
    My wife had never handled a gun and thought the Ruger was a waste of money until she shot it once. That was all she needed.
    The kids learned at 10 years and loved every minute of it. They learned to load and unload, shoot and use the safety in one afternoon easily.The Ruger 22 pistol is very easy to operate, is very accurate and fun to shoot.
    I learned to shoot pistol with an early Ruger. I bought a MKII and my brother is using a 22/45 Hunter after owning a MKII. I think the 22/45 with adjustable sights might be the best choice, but all of these guns are great.
    Keep in mind a new shooter doesn’t realize the gun is ready to fire immediately after pulling the trigger so a shooting table and close supervision is required.
    Just as a side note, my smallish 12 year old daughter tried the SR9 with light loads and one shot was all she wanted to take.

    Good luck

  15. avatar Ed says:

    I introduced my wife and kids to hand guns with an “American Arm” PK 22 (.22cal). It looks like a scaled down 1911. Light weight, inexpensive, relieable and fun to shoot!

  16. avatar jack burton says:

    I’ve taught many a kid to shoot with the ruger 22/45. Great gun for the task.

    However, I have changed over to a little SSA .22 revolver such as the Heritage Rough Rider. It’s a safer gun to use with the need to first cock it, and it teaches good manners and gun handling. Plus, there is just something special about being a cowboy (or cowgirl).

  17. avatar Martin Albright says:

    Rugers are nice but IMO overpriced.

    (Funny thing about the Ruger is that the grip angle is about the same as the Parabellum P/08, A/K/A Luger, which is about the same as a Glock. And yet…a lot of folks who diss Glock because of the grip angle own or have owned a Ruger and don’t seem to remark on it.)

    Anyway, the S&W M22a that was already mentioned can be found for at least $100 less than a Mk II. Very nice pistol with a full rubber grip and great sights. I bought one new in 1995 and kept it until this January when I sold it to fund my AR build.

    DA revolvers are nice but the only DA .22 that can be found at a non-exorbitant price is the Taurus M94.

  18. avatar pete says:

    Recommended: Smith & Wesson J-frame .22 revolver, in steel or alloy (depends on hand strength and what they can hold without hands/arms shaking), grips that do NOT cover the backstrap (reduces “trigger reach” for shorter fingers), adjustable rear sight, and standard velocity ammo so they can hit something. If that is a bit too pricey, look at the Taurus and Charter .22 DA revolvers. I like the Ruger Bearcat single action, but that gun requires you to rotate the cylinder and inspect it through the loading gate to be sure it’s unloaded. Double action swing-out cylinder revolvers can be cleared simply by opening the cylinder – quick and obvious to see if they are loaded. Also, a double-action revolver lets you teach them both single-and double action trigger manipulation. I would also point out that a good quality S&W revolver is something your kids will be able to use to teach your grandkids. They really are an investment in the future of shooting.

  19. avatar W. J. Liles says:

    Ruger Bearcat. Small and lightweight, easy for small hands, Have to manually cock the hammer for each shot so no tendancy to rip off a magazine and less likely to forget the round still in the chamber when the magazine is out. Tends to foster a more careful and deliberate style of shooting which I think is important in the neophyte. I like the autos, especially the Rugers but think they aren’t ideal for a first pistol.

    Jerry Liles

  20. avatar Xmaddad1 says:

    I will have to add my vote for thr Ruger MKI, MKII, MKIII and 22/45’s. After you disassemble it a couple of times it is’What’s the big deal’. Great shooters out of the box, and I have used a MKII 6-7/8 Comp Target for 10 years in competition. After the Noobs get used to the gun you can drop in a Vorquartsen target trigger and really increase the accuracy. There is even an apperature sight that matches up with a front ‘firesight’ that mahes a ‘poor mans red dot’ that still qualifies as ‘open sights’. Sounds all good to me.

  21. avatar 2yellowdogs says:

    Lots of votes here for the Rugers which are great guns. But like Chris’s Buckmark, the grip/LOP are too large for small hands. I had my heart set on a Mark II or 22/45. But I have small hands and the Buckmark is a much easier reach for me. So if the Buckmark is too big for the little boogers’ hands, I’m pretty sure the Rugers won’t work either.

    If you want to go with a revolver, a great choice is the Taurus Model 94 Ultra-Light. The 617’s great, but every bit as big and heavy as a .357. The Model 94, even though it’s light, wont’ be a kickback problem in .22 and is about half the price of the S&W.

    If you want to go with an automatic, the Walther P22 is a great option. It works really well for small hands (I had one), will shoot all day with just about anything you feed it and, like the Model 94, is very reasonably priced.

  22. avatar joe says:

    With the extreme shortage of .22 ammo I choose a Security Six for beginners under close supervision and using snap caps discriminately.

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