What is the best semi-auto for women?

What is the best semi-auto for women?

Written by Mark Buff, GunZee founder and CEO.

Women increasingly carry concealed guns for self-defense, and semi-automatic handguns are a popular choice. 

Women have unique needs when it comes to choosing the right handgun for concealed carry. They have different body types and often have less experience with firearms than male shooters. The ideal women's semi-auto balances usability, concealability, and reliability.

Quick links:

Smith & Wesson Shield EZ

Sig Sauer P238

Glock 19

Walther CCP

Springfield Armory Hellcat

Let’s explore some of the best women's semi-auto options and highlight the important features to consider.

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What is a semi-auto pistol?

semi-automatic pistol, commonly called a semi-auto, is a handgun that fires a single shot each time the trigger is pulled, automatically loading the next cartridge into the chamber. This allows for more rapid firing compared to manually operated firearms such as bolt-action or lever-action guns. 

Semi-auto guns use the energy from each shot to eject the spent casing and chamber the next round, reducing the required effort by the shooter between shots. 

The term "semi-automatic" refers to the mechanism that enables this self-loading action, not the rate of fire. Semi-auto guns fire only one round per trigger pull, in contrast to fully automatic firearms which will continuously fire as long as the trigger is held. 

The top semi-automatic guns for women

When exploring the best CCW handguns for women shooters, most ladies opt for a semi-automatic pistol. However, not all semi-auto handguns fully address women's needs out of the box. 

The following semiautos balance shootability, concealability, and accuracy—all the qualities that a gal needs.

Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 EZ

Smith & Wesson Shield

Image source: https://www.smith-wesson.com/product/m-p-9-shield-ez-manual-thumb-safety

Feature

Detail

Caliber

9mm

Capacity

8+1 rounds

Barrel length

3.675”

Weight

18.5 oz


The Smith & Wesson Shield EZ measures 6.7 inches long and 4.6 inches tall with an 18.5-ounce polymer frame. This compact single-stack 9mm pistol has a manual safety.

The easy-rack slide and soft recoil make the M&P9 Shield EZ ideal for women and beginners. The 8+1 capacity, crisp 5.5-pound trigger, and Crimson Trace laser provide an effective mode of defense.

Interchangeable palm swells allow custom grip fit for smaller hands. The thin, snag-free profile allows for discreet carry. Female shooters love the effortless slide, minimal recoil, and lightweight durability.

“The muzzle of the barrel is 0.2" longer than the standard version in order to accommodate a single recoil reduction port. It's one of the smartest porting options I've seen on a carry pistol because it gets the job done without bulking up the pistol or increasing the price with added modifications to the slide.” — B. Gil Horman, NRA Women

Sig Sauer P238

Sig Sauer P238

Sig Sauer P238. 

Image source: https://www.sigsauer.com/p238-two-tone-ca-compliant.html

Feature

Detail

Caliber

.380 ACP

Capacity

6+1 rounds

Barrel length

2.7 “

Weight

15 oz


The Sig Sauer P238 is a micro-compact .380 ACP handgun with a 6+1 round capacity. It measures 5.5 inches long, 3.96 inches tall, and 1.1 inches wide on an aluminum alloy frame weighing 15.2 ounces unloaded. The rifling has a right-hand 1:10 profile.

The single-action hammer-fired trigger with an exposed hammer provides crisp, short trigger pulls. Safety features include thumb safety, disconnect safety, and internal firing pin block. The all-metal frame handles recoil smoothly.

The ergonomic pistol grips ensure secure handling, with a choice of multiple styles. Night sights come standard for low-light shooting. Accessories can be added, such as laser sights and holsters for concealed carry.

Female concealed carry enthusiasts love the P238 because it is a highly concealable, lightweight pistol. It also offers accessible firepower in an elegant, compact design.

“I was originally attracted to this gun [P238] because of the beautiful rainbow titanium slide that was available but I bought it because for the functionality. This is the easiest racking gun you’ll ever shoot. I don’t have grip strength issues, but I know women who do have issues due to arthritis and they can rack this gun. Smooth as butter.” — Paula, The Well Armed Woman

Glock 19

Glock 19

Glock 19. Image source: https://us.glock.com/en/pistols/g19-gen4

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 15+1 rounds
  • Barrel length: 4.02 inches
  • Weight: 23.63 oz

The compact Glock 19 boasts a 15-round magazine capacity. This 9mm measures 7.28 inches long, 5.04 inches tall, and 1.18 inches wide on a polymer frame weighing 23.63 ounces unloaded. The rifling has a right-hand hexagonal profile. The striker-fired trigger has a 5.5 lb pull.

The Glock 19 features a polymer frame with finger grooves for a secure grip. Interchangeable backstraps allow custom fitting to hand size. A Picatinny rail accommodates tactical lights or lasers. The consistent trigger, light recoil, and ergonomic design contribute to accuracy.

With only 34 parts, the G19 is easy to disassemble and requires little maintenance. The cold hammer forged barrel ensures long service life. The automatic firing pin and trigger safeties add security. 

Many women find the Glock 19 to be a comfortable, controllable concealed carry option. It offers accessible firepower in a durable, straightforward handgun.

“I thought that with a gun this size, I would not be able to get a good grip. However, I can by using the small backstrap. (the G19 comes with 3 options) The grip finger grooves (not on all generations) fit my smaller hands perfectly. I can get a firm, comfortable, and functional grip quickly and easily.” — Carrie Lightfoot, The Well Armed Woman

Check out our memory foam pad. It is so comfortable that it will make everyday carry seamless.

Walther CCP

Feature

Detail

Caliber

9mm

Capacity

8+1 rounds

Barrel length

3.54”

Weight

22.3 oz


The Walther CCP is a semi-auto 9mm pistol with an 8+1 round magazine capacity. It measures 6.41 inches long and 5.12 inches tall on a steel-inserted polymer frame weighing 22.3 ounces. The barrel has polygonal rifling.

The DA/SA trigger provides a smooth 8.1 lb double action pull and a 4.1 lb single action pull. It uses a gas-delayed blowback system for low-felt recoil. Interchangeable backstraps accommodate hand size.

The Picatinny accessory rail fits tactical lights and lasers. It strips easily into main components for basic maintenance. Internal safeties prevent misfires when dropped.

Many female shooters find the Walther CCP comfortable to operate with mild recoil.

“Slide racks easier than a lot of guns I tried. Trigger pulls smooth and doesn’t take forever to get there. This gun [Walther CCP] is made to have less recoil and it does have less than a number of guns I tried out.” — Liz, The Well Armed Woman

Springfield Armory Hellcat

Feature

Detail

Caliber

9mm

Capacity

11+1 rounds

Barrel length

3”

Weight

18.3 oz


The Springfield Armory Hellcat is a micro-compact 9mm pistol with an 11+1 round magazine capacity. It measures 6 inches long and 4 inches tall on a polymer frame weighing 18.3 ounces. The hammer-forged barrel has traditional rifling.

The striker-fired pistol trigger has a clean 6 lb break. An optics-ready slide accommodates red dot sights. Extended magazines are available for greater capacity. The adaptive grip texture aids recoil control.

Loaded chamber and trigger indicators provide status at a glance. It includes a loaded chamber viewport and rear slide serrations. The Hellcat is easy to disassemble for maintenance.

The Hellcat is a popular model among female shooters for its slim profile and substantial 9mm firepower in a controllable design.

“It [Hellcat] shoots really nice for a small gun. Recoil is minimal. It’s accurate and fun to shoot. Over 1000 rounds and I’ve never had a misfire. I enjoy shooting this gun, it’s kind of like a sports car, small and quick.” —Jennifer, The Well Armed Woman

Don’t settle for discomfort; buy a GunZee holster pad and enjoy carrying your Hellcat concealed and comfortable!

Factors for women to consider in semi-automatics

Not all handguns are created equal when it comes to fitting women's needs. These key considerations can make finding the perfect semi-auto easier.

  • Size and weight. Compact and subcompact options suit smaller female frames. Lightweight polymer construction helps avoid fatigue for women.
  • Caliber. Low recoil rounds like .380 ACP and 9mm work better for beginners and manage recoil for female shooters.
  • Ergonomics. Thinner, comfortable grips, reduced trigger reach, and slide pull suit smaller female hands. 
  • Capacity. More rounds (8+) means less reloading, but added weight can be harder to manage for some women.
  • Customization. Swappable grips and backstraps allow for a personalized and optimized fit for female physiques and hand sizes.
  • Functionality. Safeties and smooth trigger allows precision shooting for women who are newer to firearms.
  • Accessories. Female-specific CCW holsters, sights, and practice ammo cater to women's needs and physiques.
  • Training. Formal training builds confidence and skills among female shooters at all levels.

Semi-auto for women FAQ

Is a 1911 good for a woman?

The 1911 is a good option for women who are serious about self-defense and comfortable shooting with a full-size pistol. Though on the heavier side, the slim, single-stack grip fits smaller hands well. The all-steel construction absorbs recoil smoothly, while the crisp single-action trigger allows for great accuracy. 

Is a 38 special good for a woman?

The .38 Special is a very good revolver for women. The moderate power is easy to control while still effective for personal defense. 

Revolvers chambered for .38 Special like the Smith & Wesson Shield Model 10 or Ruger SP101 are perfect for women who want a simple, reliable firearm that's comfortable to shoot and carry.

How do most women conceal carry?

Most women conceal carry handguns in waistbands or purse holsters to keep firearms hidden but accessible. Some popular methods are holsters that clip inside the waistband, small-of-back holsters, specially designed concealment purses, and even thigh holsters allowing wardrobe flexibility.

What is the most powerful semi-automatic?

The most powerful semi-automatic gun is the .50 AE Desert Eagle. The "Deagle" has become iconic as a magnum big-bore semi-auto, delivering over 1,500 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. 

What is the best Glock for a woman with small hands?

Glock's slimline 9mm pistols like the G43X or G48 are ideal picks for female shooters with smaller hands. The reduced grip circumference combined with the secure texture and moderate 9mm recoil make these great concealed carry options for women who still want a confidence-inspiring amount of firepower.

Why is 38 so popular?

The .38 Special remains one of the most popular defensive handgun cartridges because of its versatility and shootability. The manageable recoil allows most shooters to handle .38 Special accurately and confidently. It's offered in everything from small snubnose revolvers to full size semi-autos. With a wide choice of ballistics for everything from plinking to self-defense, .38 Special maintains its popularity.

What are the 2 types of semi-automatic?

The two main types of semi-automatic actions are blowback operation and recoil operation. 

  1. Blowback designs use the expanding gases of the cartridge to force back the bolt and chamber the next round. 
  2. Recoil operation utilizes the movable barrel and slide to harness recoil, eject the empty case, and feed a new cartridge. 

Both systems reliably cycle ammunition with just the shooter's trigger finger power.

What is the fastest semi-auto round?

For raw velocity in a semi-auto, it's hard to beat the .224 Valkyrie cartridge firing a 60-90 grain bullet. This stainless steel necked round can achieve upwards of 2,700 fps from an AR-15 platform with the right load. 

In terms of handgun ammo, the .22 TCM offers blistering velocities around 2,000 fps from a semi-auto.

Is automatic better than semi-automatic?

While fully automatic firearms unleash more total firepower, semi-automatics are generally better choices for civilian defensive use. Controlled pair shooting allows rapid aimed fire from a semi-auto. Full auto fire is less accurate, has more demanding legal restrictions, and runs through ammunition very quickly.

Can a woman handle a Glock 19?

With proper training and technique, the Glock 19 is well within the capabilities of most female shooters. The mid-size frame, moderate 9mm recoil impulse, and lightweight polymer construction make the G19 a versatile, manageable option for women seeking a compact semi-auto pistol.

What is the best handgun for an elderly woman?

The best handgun for an elderly woman is a small, lightweight revolver or semi-automatic pistol in .380 ACP or .38 Special. These provide manageable recoil and simple operations suitable for those with limited strength and experience while still offering adequate self-defense capability when concealed in a purse or elsewhere on the body.

About the Author

Mark Buff is the founder and CEO of GunZee. He is an ardent firearms enthusiast and has been carrying concealed for more than 15 years. He created GunZee to solve his own problem: that of uncomfortable KYDEX holsters. His patented GunZee memory foam holster pad makes inside-the-waistband carry super comfortable.

Further reading

What are the best double-action revolvers for concealed carry?

What is the best Smith & Wesson for women?

What is the best IWB holster for women?

What is the best AIWB holster?

What is the best snub nose 38 Special revolver for backup?

What are the best CCW guns for big guys?

How do I wear an inside-the-waistband holster?

What is the best IWB KYDEX holster?

What is the best compact handgun for IWB carry?

What is the best undershirt for IWB carry?