Shooting well is a lot harder than it looks. Pointing a gun at a target and pulling the trigger appears to be such a simple thing to do, right? Yet, almost without fail, I see first-time shooters fire shots at a target that’s way too far away. It looks so easy that they can’t comprehend missing. Those first few shots inevitably end in frustration when bullets impact all around the target, but not where they want. Like anything else, shooting is a skill, and no matter how easy it seems, you’ll never be really good at it without structured practice over time.
I think the need for consistent practice is why 99% of gun owners out there aren’t very good shooters. As a GunsAmerica reader, obviously you’re part of the 1% and care about continuing your shooting education with enthusiasm, so I’m talking about all the others.
So, just being real about this issue, there are a lot of folks out there who buy a gun for self or home protection. However, for whatever reason, they’re just not going to invest a lot of time in practice and skill development.
We thought it would be a good idea to point out five handguns that might be best for those folks. In other words, which guns on the market require the least amount of skill to operate with some proficiency? Just to be clear, I am in no way, shape or form advocating that people run out and buy certain guns so they won’t have to practice. I’m simply accepting the reality that some folks out there don’t value the lives of themselves and their loved ones enough to invest in quality self-defense training. In fact, as you look at the list below, you might agree with me that all of these choices are equally, and probably more, valuable to expert shooters.
To come up with my list, I am considering what I think are the three factors that are most challenging for new shooters to master.
I think the number one cause of misses is a poor trigger press. For almost any handgun, the force required to press the trigger is more than the weight of the whole gun. That means the gun will want to move off target as you apply pressure to the trigger. It takes practice and lots of repetition to pull a trigger and break a shot without pulling the sights off target. For this reason, the guns in my list below have “easier” but not necessarily lighter triggers. You’ll also notice that the guns on my list are larger and, therefore, less likely to move off target during the trigger press.
I’ll use sight radius as a catch-all to reflect the fact that, within reason, guns that are physically larger are easier to shoot. Part of the reason is extra weight, part is the fact that there is plenty of surface area to grip, but much of this relates to the ease of shooting accurately with a longer sight radius.
For accurate shooting, you must line up front and rear sights precisely and keep that relationship intact from shot to shot. If the front sight moves as little as 1/100th of an inch relative to the rear sight, then you can be a couple of inches off target at 25 yards. With a longer sight radius, a small movement of the front sight has much less error down range. Small pocket guns are just the opposite. They may be every bit as mechanically accurate, but they are much harder to shoot accurately.
For the very first shot, recoil matters not a hoot. The bullet has left the barrel before panic sets in and the gun starts moving. However, for every subsequent shot, the shooter just might anticipate a recoil thump and flinch just before the shot is broken. A gun that has manageable recoil is much less likely to freak out an unskilled shooter, so they’re less likely to flinch shots into the next county.
So those are the three big criteria I’m using to pick my list of five best guns for bad shooters. Oh, one more thing. Ideally, this list would be chock full of guns in .22LR caliber, but we’ll keep this list to practical home and self-defense appropriate chamberings. Here we go:
I’d vote for the classic Smith & Wesson M&P full-size model chambered in 9mm. While the Shield is a fantastic gun, the small size and sight radius make it harder (not necessarily hard) to shoot accurately than the bigger sibling with its longer sight radius.
I pick the M&P full size because of ergonomics. It’s an incredibly comfortable gun to shoot. I love the grip profile. It fits well in the hand and the shape lends itself to easy trigger reach for shooters with varying hand sizes. The frame design also helps soften recoil and that helps avoid the flinch monster. Better yet, you can choose to have a manual safety or not.
The M&Pc Compact model is a second option, as it still has plenty of surface area to hold on to. You can purchase the M&P on GunsAmerica in the $400-$500 range.
You can get this gun in three sizes: Full, Carry and Compact. Other than sight radius tradeoffs, it doesn’t matter which you choose because the fire control assembly is a removable part that goes into different size frames. The action and trigger are therefore identical across model sizes and calibers. For this list, I would choose the 9mm with any of the three frame sizes.
The primary reasons that the Sig P320 makes this list of easy-to-master guns are the trigger, ease of operation and ergonomics of the frame. It’s a striker-fired design like a Glock but has much better trigger. The combination of smooth, stack-free pull and a clean break make all the difference in ability to shoot accurately without being a trigger sensei. The trigger itself is also smooth and rounded metal, and to me, this makes it easier to operate smoothly. Also as a striker-fired pistol, operating controls are simple. There’s a slide stop lever. That’s it. The frame is well contoured, which helps reduce the felt part of recoil.
Combine all that with traditional Sig reliability and I think you’ve got a winner for shooters with an aversion to practice. Of course, like the others, this makes a great experts gun too for many of the same reasons.
Depending on which option you choose, you can pick up a Sig P320 for $450 and up on GunsAmerica.
OK, so maybe “Combat Magnum” sounds all tactical and warrior-like, and it certainly can be. However, this is one simple and comfortable gun to shoot. As the name implies, it’s designed to shoot .357 Magnum cartridges, which certainly would be a handful for a less-than-expert shooter. However, the .357 Magnum holes in the cylinder also shoot .38 Special, and these have a long track record of success, but without the huge muzzle blast and recoil. In fact, in a gun like the M66 with its 4.25-inch barrel, .38 Special rounds are very easy to shoot accurately. This gun holds six rounds and is super simple to load and operate.
This particular model is built on the K-frame, which is not so huge to hold, but plenty big enough to easily control. It’s got a firm, but squishy enough grip to dampen recoil and the bright orange insert on the front sight makes it a breeze to aim quickly.
Of course, while it’s easy for beginners, it’s a great option for a handgun aficionado too. Depending on condition, I’ve seen them listed for as low as $530 on GunsAmerica.
I didn’t feel like it was fair to include only full-size guns in this list, so I picked a compact and very concealable model. The Springfield Armory XD-S is a very flat gun. It’s small enough for pocket carry, and I do that frequently using a Galco Pocket Protector leather holster. However, the grip is long enough to get your fingers on, even when you’re not using the extra-length magazine extension. Using that makes hand purchase even better. The XD-S has no controls to operate and most importantly, has a good trigger.
In short, it’s easy to get hits with this gun considering its compact size. While the .45 ACP version of the XD-S is a handful, the 9mm shoots relatively tamely. If concealment isn’t the primary issue, the four-inch barrel model is an even better choice.
You can pick up an XD-S on GunsAmerica for under $500.
Hey, it’s my list so I can pick something a little non-traditional if I want. Why such an oddball caliber here? I choose it because of the balance of felt recoil energy as compared to down-range effectiveness. Because it takes the lighter bullet at higher velocity approach, felt recoil is surprisingly tame for a cartridge that delivers between 430 and 780 foot-pounds of energy.
In this case, the gun that tames this little beast of a cartridge is a steel revolver with a 4.2-inch barrel. It weighs just under 30 ounces, so there’s plenty of weight to make it an easy combination to shoot. A front fiber optic sight makes this one a piece of cake to aim too. Yeah, it’s got a double-action revolver trigger, which might be considered a drawback for a new shooter gun, but I think that’s overcome by the other advantages. Ammo is hard to find, but remember, this list is for folks who don’t shoot very often anyway. There’s this nifty invention called the InterWebz that can have a box delivered right to their door every six years.
You can grab this Ruger wheel gun on GunsAmerica at or around the $550 price point.
Honorable Mentions and Not Invited to the Ball
First, let’s address the elephant in the list. Glock. Remember, this list is about guns that are easier to shoot for those who aren’t going to put in the practice time, as bad of an idea as that is. Glocks are great guns. They’ll work, all the time. They’ll take the abuse that a bad shooter will heap on them in the form of neglect. They’re just not all that easy to shoot accurately without practice. Maybe it’s the blocky shape. I know the stacky, Glock-y trigger has a lot to do with it. Heck, just watch a first-time shooter with a Glock. They’ll swear to the grave that the sights are off because it’s hitting low and to the left. Nope. That’s called “Glock Trigger” and it can only be overcome by aftermarket service and/or parts or practice. Fair enough?
I came really close to including the Beretta PX4 and Sig P226/P229 models and only left those off the list because of the double-action / single-action trigger design. I love that and consider it a feature, but for a shooter who won’t put in the practice time, the transition can be tougher to master.
I arbitrarily limited my list to five. Because. With that said, what would you include? Remember, we’re talking about the easiest guns to shoot well, with minimal practice, not necessarily the best or most powerful.
Also, remember, we’re not advocating that one shouldn’t practice or that buying one of these firearms means one does not have to practice! Shooting is not a hobby but a discipline that requires practice, practice, practice! And those who fail to practice or refuse to practice when possible are neglecting their duties as competent and responsible gun owners.