Best First Gun Choices for a Variety of Applications

These are solid options for the first-time firearms owner.

More people than ever are interested in guns for self-defense purposes. Many people are finding themselves stepping into a gun store for the first time, too. Most likely have lots of questions.

Should they buy a handgun or shotgun? Full size or subcompact? Hopefully we can help answer some of those questions here as we're going to make some recommendations on solid choices for new shooters for a variety of purposes.

Whether you're looking for a home defense shotgun, a rifle for hunting or a slim pistol for concealed carry, there should be something of interest on this list.

Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38

The first gun on our list is simple, double-action revolver chambered in .38 Special, a solid self-defense round. This firearm's cylinder holds five shots and is rated for +P rounds. The "hammerless" design means this gun is less apt to snag when drawing from concealment. This is a nice option for people with a smaller hand size. It's also a very safe gun. The barrel is very short at 1.875 inches. That just means it is not meant as a long-range weapon. Smith and Wesson offers two different options for this handgun. The more expensive version comes in at $499, but also includes an integrated Crimson Trace laser for quick target acquisition. This firearm only weighs 14 ounces, making it the perfect handgun size to use as a concealed carry or even as a purse gun.

Ruger LCR

This is a solid first handgun choice because of the slim design. It makes this firearm easy to quickly draw from the holster and is safe for newbie gun owners to operate. Ruger offers this gun chambered in .38 Special, 9mm Luger and even .357 Magnum for maximum stopping power. The frame is a durable stainless steel. This is a top choice by many women for the compact size and reliability. The weight varies from 13.5-17.1 ounces depending on which caliber you choose. Houge Tamer grips help with ergonomics and reducing the felt recoil from this firearm.

Glock 19 Gen 5 MOS

Even people who are totally unfamiliar with know the Glock name. These 9mm pistols are available at almost every gun shop. This semi-automatic polymer gun features a 4.02-inch marksman barrel and a 15+1 round magazine capacity. Glocks are ultra-reliable in operation. They can get covered with mud or dropped on a hard surface and still function. This gun is often the sidearm of choice for law enforcement. The Glock is easy to clean and disassemble using no tools.

The Gen 5 is the latest version of this gun and features an accessory rail to attach aftermarket accessories like a laser sight or flashlight. Glock also includes extra backstraps to adjust the fit to your hands. Just keep in mind these guns don't feature a manual safety. It has a trigger safety system and it takes some getting used to. We highly recommend stepping on the range with an experienced instructor if you choose this model.

Sig Sauer P320 Compact


This gun is often considered one of the best handguns on the planet. Sig Sauer is known for their accuracy and amazing reliability. The P320 is available in either 9mm or .45 Auto (also known as .45 ACP). These striker-fired guns get high marks for their exceptional trigger pull and customizable frame. The P320 has a three-lug picatinny rail for adding aftermarket accessories. The front and rear slide serrations make it easy for new gun owners to rack the slide. With the proper holster to negate the weight, this makes for an excellent carry gun.

Walther PK380

For the new shooter who wants a semi-automatic pistol that is light and easy to conceal, this Walther is a good choice. This gun only weighs 18 ounces thanks to small size and polymer frame. It holds 8+1 rounds of .380 ACP. This round is smaller than the larger calibers most guns are chambered in, but that means the recoil is much easier to handle. The gun is topped with three-dot sights. It also has a loaded chamber indicator for extra safety. We also really like the non-intimidating $349 price point too.

Remington Model 870 Express

A shotgun is a solid choice for a home defense or hunting gun. Remington makes one of the best budget-friendly options on the market. The 870 is available for under $400. This one comes with a vent-rib barrel and a fully rifled barrel for use with slugs. That means you can hunt upland game, turkeys and deer all with one firearm, saving money. This is the compact version which means it's a little bit shorter, lighter and easier to control for new shooters. These guns do have some kick, but most of it is soaked up through the generous recoil pad. If recoil is a huge concern, go for 20 gauge over 12 guage. This gun can chamber 2-3/4 or 3-inch shotgun shells.

Mossberg 500 Tactical

Another solid defensive shotgun choice, this gun comes chambered in 20 gauge, which will make the recoil more negotiable for newer shooters. This one holds 7+1 rounds. The fiber optic front sight and ghost ring rear make it easy for newbies to get on target and stay there. The stock is adjustable up to six positions to fit a variety of frames and body types. There are a few different variations of the 500, but we chose this one because the pistol grip will make it easier for newer shooters to pick up and hold correctly from the beginning.

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II

For anyone new to semi-automatic sporting rifles, the M&P comes at an affordable $700 price point and is chambered in 5.56mm NATO. Ammo is easy to find, and it is a reliable round for fun on the gun range or as a home defense firearm. It is also a safe firearm with a large manual safety on the lower receiver. This gun has 16-inch barrel with a 1:9 rate of twist for excellent accuracy. We chose this platform over other AR-style platforms because this one comes with a Magpul MBUS rear sight right out of the box. Most shooters will eventually replace this with their own optics, but it will work when you're just starting out.

Ruger 10/22

One of the best ways to get started in the world of firearms is with a rimfire gun. The Ruger 10/22 is a legendary .22 long rifle platform that is ideal for plinking and small game hunting purposes. This semi-automatic rifle has a capacity of 10+1 rounds and weighs only five pounds. These guns are highly customizable as you learn more about guns and want to increase the performance. The list of aftermarket parts for 10/22 rifles is nearly endless. These guns also have little to no recoil thanks to the small caliber meaning this the ideal gun for nervous first-timers or younger shooters.

Savage Arms 110 Hunter Bolt-Action

For a newer hunter looking for their first hunting rifle, the Savage is a great choice. The company offers this bolt-action rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield, 7mm Remington, .270 Winchester, .243 Winchester, .300 Winchester, .223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. The synthetic stock gives this firearm a light weight ideal for spot and stalks. The AccuFit system allows you to adjust length of pull and the comb quickly to fit a variety of shooters. This gun is also pre-drilled and tapped for a scope. It's sure to fill your freezer with meat season after season.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels