Best Concealed Carry
Handgun for Women
Women represent the fastest-growing market of gun buyers in the United States. In 2021, roughly one in five women owned a gun, slightly less than half of the 43% estimated for men.
Specific Needs for Women
Women look for a handgun that suits their specific needs. The size, style, recoil, and fit of a handgun are different for many women than for their male counterparts. Selecting a handgun, especially one small enough to conceal can be a challenge.
Most women purchase firearms for self-defense, and concealed carry presents a unique challenge for women. Men are larger as a whole to begin with. The loose jackets, pants, and shirts they wear offer ample space to conceal a sidearm.
Women don’t always have that option, with tighter fitting clothes and their overall smaller size.
Concealing Handguns Under Women’s Clothing
Women have many options despite the challenges. They can purchase smaller handguns, find a custom holster that can be concealed under a dress, skirt, or loose pant leg, and use fashion accessories like scarves, sweaters, and wraps to aid in concealment.
In the world of concealed carry handguns, the big is always better message just isn’t true. Dirty Harry (Inspector Harry Callahan played by Clint Eastwood) carried a Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver. This beast weighs just a few ounces shy of four pounds. Even though Hollywood insiders reveal it was a .41, not a .44 Magnum used in the film, the point is a gun that big is hard to hide.
Finding a gun that fits your hand is the first step, followed by recoil, size, and weight. Smaller guns weigh less obviously, but there is a caveat with a lighter weight firearm. Whether it is a shoulder weapon or handgun, lighter weight means greater recoil.
No one enjoys getting knocked back when they fire a weapon. Women who purchase a handgun for protection, and who are not avid shooters don’t appreciate a strong recoil.
Find the Gun for You
On a personal note, my favorite handgun remains my Taurus 1911 .45 ACP. I could conceal it with a back holster even though it’s a good sized firearm. The weight and recoil are too much for my daughter-in-law.
When she moved to Wyoming from Minnesota and took a job that required a 50-mile commute each day along isolated rural roads I purchased a tiny, inexpensive 9mm Kel-Tech for her to carry.
The gun is so small that my ring and pinky fingers are below the bottom of the grip when I hold it, but it fits her small hands perfectly. My son and I took her to the range and after she fired a box or two of 9mm rounds through it, she had good patterns at 25 yards. The recoil didn’t bother her and the size was perfect.
My son, a former college football player at 6-2 and 225 pounds doesn’t have an issue with many handguns and prefers his .44 Ruger Blackhawk when we’re hunting or fishing in grizzly bear country.
It fits him and I enjoy shooting it as well, but we’d never have his wife try it. With his concealed carry permit he uses a 9mm Ruger LC9.
Can You Hit Anything with It?
Most smaller handguns have smaller barrel lengths as well. It’s harder to hit a target with a snub nose handgun than one with a longer barrel. Hitting what you’re aiming at is the purpose for a concealed carry sidearm to begin with. It does no good to fire at an attacker and miss. To protect yourself you need to hit the target.
It’s a demanding dance to find a handgun with a comfortable grip, that is light enough to carry but has a barrel length adequate for shots up to 30 yards away and that doesn’t create “shooter’s flinch” with a strong recoil.
The good news is that there are wide selections of handguns that meet almost everyone’s needs.
Which One is Best?
With these considerations in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best handguns for women. These are small, lightweight guns that are easy to use and easier to conceal. Everyone has different needs and preferences, but this guide should help you in your decision. With the exception of the Ruger LCP II which uses .380 caliber ammunition and the Smith & Wesson 340 PD in .357 magnum, the remainder of the eight handguns in our list are chambered for 9mm, with the Bersa BPCC9 offering additional caliber configurations.
Catridge Size & Specifications
|Cartridge||Grains||Barrel Length||Muzzle Velocity FPS||Velocity - 50 yds FPS||Velocity - 100 yds FPS||Muzzle Energy||Energy 50 -yds||Energy 1 - yds|
|.380||90||4"||1000||912||856||200 lbs.||166 lbs.||143 lbs.|
|9mm||115||4"||1135||1025||949||329 lbs.||268 lbs.||230 lbs.|
|357 Mag||125||8"||1500||1312||1163||624 lbs.||478 lbs.||376 lbs.|
|.40 S&W||155||4"||1180||1060||748||497 lbs.||387 lbs.||329 lbs.|
|.45 ACP||185||3"||900||853||811||333 lbs.||299 lbs.||270 lbs.|
Smith & Wesson Shield EZCheck Price
Ease of operation is the hallmark of this handgun. Weighing just over a pound at 18.5 ounces, it is slightly heavier than others in this review, but the reward is lower recoil. Since most of the handguns listed here are available in 9mm the lower recoil might be the deciding factor for many prospective buyers.
Less shooters flinch from the lighter recoil will always increase accuracy. The Smith and Wesson grip safety is a nice feature for the novice, as is an easy to load magazine.
The single press of a button releases the magazine.
The Shield EZ is on the large end of the scale in this review, but the larger size increases accuracy, making it easier to operate and easier to shoot.
A three-dot sight helps even the beginning shooter to get on target and stay there.
Glock G43xCheck Price
Shooters often debate that a longer grip can compensate for a shorter barrel when it comes to accuracy. The G43x extended the grip by just 3/4ths of an inch, but the length creates a much more solid feel than its shorter predecessor.
The handgun arrives with a 10-round magazine, Glock’s easily operating slide, and good trigger tension. The 16.4-ounce total weight makes it easier to carry, but the added grip length, even though it's less than an inch is a concern for some users in a concealed carry application.
Women with small hands may have trouble with the longer grip, but overall the light weight and ease of use make it a good choice.
An added feature comes in an after-market 15-round magazine that maintains the flush grip. Shield Arms has created a unique 15-round magazine that feels the same as the Glock original with just the extra weight of five additional rounds.
Sig Sauer P365Check Price
At just 5.8 inches long, with a height of 4.3 inches, a width barely over an inch, and a barrel length of 3.1 inches, this is on the smaller end of handguns in this review.
Sig Sauer still managed to fit a 10-round magazine into this tiny footprint. It’s not the lightest gun on the list at 17.8 ounces, but the overall feel makes this handgun a consideration for women with small hands.
The short barrel length will affect accuracy, and the overall lighter weight is going to deliver substantial recoil. Just because a woman has small hands doesn’t mean she’s not strong, and this handgun requires a strong, steady hand for accurate use.
The P365 has an optional 12-round magazine available as well.
Available with night sights, and an optional manual safety, it is one of the easier handguns on the list to break down with a takedown lever.
A fast action allows rapid firing, but the recoil requires target reacquisition with most shooters.
Ruger LCP IICheck Price
If you’re looking for the smallest pistol in this group, you found it. The LCP II is tiny, weighing officially just 10.6 ounces. It has a smaller magazine as well, holding just six rounds of .380 ACP ammunition.
The .380 ACP is less powerful than a 9mm as you can see from the chart above, but for ultra concealment, this handgun is hard to beat.
At a lower price than most competing handguns, this gun is small, just 5.17 inches long, 3.71 inches high, and with a barrel length of just 2.75 inches. You’re not going to win any long-distance target shooting contests with the LCPII, but an attacker won’t know you’re armed either with a handgun smaller than many cell phones.
It is easy to hold for smaller hands and has less recoil than other models since it fires lighter powered .380 ACP ammo rather than the standard 9mm of most of the guns in this review.
Smith & Wesson 340 PD
Jumping back to Dirty Harry for a bit, “Did I fire six or only five?” The answer is easy with the 340PD, it only holds five rounds.
This handgun is unique in our review, it is the only revolver, and the only gun to use substantially more powerful .357 magnum ammunition.
The 340PD is light, very light, at just 12 ounces, and has a tiny barrel length of just 1.9 inches, making it a true snub nose revolver.
The hammerless design creates the need for stronger hands in pulling the trigger. Its rate of fire is much less than the competing semi-automatic models in this list, but the slower rate of fire is more than compensated for in the right situation with the powerful .357 magnum capability.
In a sustained shootout, which we all doubt any woman looking for a concealed carry handgun is likely to find herself in, the 340PD has the disadvantage of a revolver since you can’t just slap in another magazine as you can with a semi-automatic. You’ll have to take the time to load cartridges individually with this revolver.
The trigger pull is over 10 pounds, requiring a stronger grip, but also lessening the chance of an accidental discharge.
The short barrel length requires more time at the range to learn how to shoot this gun accurately.
The combination of small size, and big power, make this a handgun worth considering.
Mossberg MC1-scCheck Price
If you can get by the look of the clear magazine this handgun has a lot of positive features. The most striking though is the transparent magazine that allows clear viewing of the spring, and the six rounds of 9mm ammunition it holds when full. The MC1sc also comes in a slightly larger seven-round capacity magazine.
Mossberg isn’t known for its concealed carry pistols, but they produced a good one here.
At 19 ounces it’s on the heavy side, which reduces recoil.
The three-dot sight and blade trigger with comfortable, functional grips makes it a great shooting platform, albeit, maybe a little too heavy for some women.
If those clear magazines bother you, can use a Glock 43 magazine as well, and it’s not transparent.
Bersa BPCC9Check Price
Versatility is the story with this handgun. Bersa produces the BPCC9 9 in a wide variety of cartridge sizes. The handgun comes in four varieties, .380, 9MM, 40 S&W, and .45 ACP. That’s a lot of choices in one shooting platform.
It is the heaviest of the handguns reviewed here at 20.9 ounces. The magazine capacity decreases as you move up the list from .380 to .45 ACP.
In the popular 9mm version, it has an eight-round magazine.
The footprint is a little on the larger size as well with a 3.3-inch barrel packed into an overall length of 6.35 inches. The gun is 4.8 inches high and just about an inch wide.
The larger size and weight may be a limiting factor for some women.
A smooth trigger, combined with the lesser recoil in the heavier weight makes it easier to keep on target.
This handgun may require a little wardrobe thought before finding a way to conceal it.
Beretta NanoCheck Price
Fashionable shooters may be drawn naturally to this handgun since it is available in five designer colors ranging from basic black to sniper grey, along with pastel shades of brown, green, and the ever-popular pink.
Aside from the color schemes, this is a heavy handgun at 19 ounces. The 9mm has a 3.07-inch barrel with a length of 5.63 inches, a width of .9 inches, and a shorter height of 4.17 inches.
The smaller footprint, with heavier weight, is better suited to women with small hands, and the recoil is less as well.
Advertised as an ambidextrous pistol, it has a small six-round magazine, Beretta was obviously aware of their market with this handgun in the color scheme but added a nice feature in a smooth frame that lessens the chance of catching it on clothing.
Smith & Wesson ShieldCheck Price
One in five concealed carry handguns are Smith and Wesson Shields. A 20% foothold in the conceal carry market makes this the most popular single handgun in this review.
To understand this huge market share, take a look at the metrics. At 19 ounces it is heavy for a women’s concealed carry handgun. The 3.1-inch barrel offers better accuracy while the heavier weight reduces recoil, two of the most popular attributes a concealed carry gun can have.
The overall 6.1-inch length, with a .95-inch frame coupled with an ample 4.6-inch height creates a gun easy to hold, and therefore easier to control. Available with either a seven or eight-round magazine it doesn’t have the 10 or 12 round capacity of larger competing models, but it doesn’t have the loaded weight either.
A solid 6.5-pound trigger pull offers additional protection from an accidental discharge.
A very competitive price rounds out with the other features to create a very popular choice.