The gun world is full of lists, and one of the most common is “X Number of best guns for new shooters”
We’re not knocking them, they are great, and we have…just a few ourselves. But this time, we’re going in a slightly different direction.
We want to name the worst guns for new shooters.
Not that there is inherently anything wrong with these guns; well, nothing wrong with most of them. Some suck, and some are eww .40 cal. However, in general, these can be great guns…
…For experienced shooters.
Table of Contents
Guns For Beginners To Avoid
Magnum Caliber Handguns
Magnum handguns are so much freaking fun. The recoil, the noise, the power! They can be a real handful, though.
They are not for new shooters. Desert Eagles, S&W Model 29s, and certain Ruger Blackhawks are legendary firearms in the shooting world, as well as pop culture.
Movies like The Matrix, the Dirty Harry series, and Wind River have placed big-bore revolvers and hand cannons into the American psyche.
While they are both fun and cool, they are not good for beginners. The massive recoil is not beginner-friendly, and at best, it will make you develop a flinch, and at worst, it will smack you right in the face.
Actually, at worst, if you don’t know what you are doing, and you accidentally shoot yourself. This happened with a young lady firing an S&W 500 revolver.
She fired the gun and in twisted in her hands, resulting in her pulling the trigger as the weapon was pointed at her own head.
I would never place a magnum-caliber handgun in the hands of a beginner. It’s insanely dangerous and foolish.
Outside of the danger level, the ammunition for these weapons is expensive, and that will dissuade many from the shooting necessary to establish proper shooting habits.
Speaking of ammo, when you get magnum calibers, you get a lot of specialty loads that you’ll need to be able to read and understand before you toss in your gun.
A box of Winchester .44 Magnum ammunition is going to be a lot different than a box of Buffalo Bore .44 Magnum.
And that’s before we get into the .500 family!
If you don’t understand bullet weights and velocities, then you are gonna have a bad time.
That Buffalo Bore or Double Tap is going to kick your ass.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Magnum caliber handguns are for experienced shooters, and beginners should only use one under the supervision of an experienced shooter.
If you are a new shooter and looking at a powerful revolver, there is one magnum caliber I’d say is okay for new shooters.
That is the .357 Magnum.
It’s magnum light in many ways, especially compared to modern magnums.
That being said, get a full or mid-sized revolver or even a Desert Eagle in this caliber.
Avoid snub nose revolvers in .357 Magnum. A .357 Magnum does allow you to shoot .38 Specials, which are much softer recoil-wise and cheaper for training purposes.
I love shotguns. Love them an absolute ton. They are amazing weapons.
They ain’t for new shooters, though. Twelve gauge shotguns and firearms have hefty recoil, a limited capacity, and expensive ammunition.
When I say firearms as a new gun owner, you might be confused, all guns are firearms, but at the same time, some firearms are different.
Guns that look and operate like shotguns but lack a stock and often have 14-inch barrels but an overall length of 26 inches is technically a firearm.
Like magnum handguns, a firearm can be a dangerous weapon that jumps and kicks from your hands like a trout trying to free itself.
On top of that, these guns can easily give you a kick to the face if you aim them without being ready for the punch the gun is about to throw.
For those who know nothing about guns, especially 12-gauges, you’ll quickly find out the benefit of training and experience. Even a shotgun with a stock can be uncomfortable.
I like to think I am a journeyman shotgunner, and I’m pretty good at recoil reduction, but a day with a shotgun will still leave me with a beat-up shoulder.
An amateur is going to develop a flinch quite quickly.
The most common type of shotgun is a pump-action, and if it’s for defensive use, you have to get real good at working that pump if you don’t, you are bound to short-stroke the gun and give yourself a nice jam to work your way through.
If you get a semi-automatic, you are going to have to learn how to feed it the right ammo and how to keep it clean.
Semi-auto shotguns are finicky and require the right ammo and a good level of maintenance.
A single shot or double barrel is going to be lightweight, and that will just increase your felt recoil.
Start out with a 20-gauge. A 20-gauge is a powerful weapon with a lot less recoil than any 12-gauge.
If you are looking for a bird hunting or skeet/trap gun, a 12-gauge shotgun might be the right ticket.
The only reason why is the use of soft shooting sporting loads designed for super small game and busting clay pigeons.
Recoil will still be a jolt, but it won’t be near as punishing, although a 20-gauge can still be a good bird gun and a more challenging skeet or trap gun.
Small, pocket-sized carry guns are everywhere. They are an attractive weapon for concealed carriers, especially if you are new to carrying and shooting.
There seems to be a mindset among a lot of new shooters and first-time shoppers that smaller guns are a better choice for new shooters.
People think the smaller the gun is, the easier it is to handle. This is, unfortunately, not true.
Pocket-sized .380s and, even worse, 9mms are a handful. They slap your hand like a hard high five and try to work their way out of your hands with every shot.
They aren’t pleasant to shoot, which means training will be less of a priority compared to not beating up your hand daily. Also, they often lack proper sight, and the tiny grip makes reloads a hassle.
This sucks cause you likely only get six to seven rounds at most, and you can barely aim, much less reload under stress.
These guns also tend to be picking towards limp wristing. Limp wristing is not holding a firm enough wrist while shooting. This can cause some serious reliability issues and give you some fun jams.
I don’t really have one. Don’t go with anything smaller than a Glock 43 or 42. My personal favorite is the P365 from Sig Sauer.
Subcompact .40 S&Ws
If you are a new shooter just learning the ropes, a .40 S&W can be an inviting weapon. They are common, and a lot of people feel that .40 S&W is a good compromise between 9mm and .45 ACP.
If you are a new shooter and you want a gun you can carry, a subcompact .40 might look even better.
By subcompact, I mean Glock 27-sized firearms, not Glock 23-size. These subcompact frames in .40 S&W can be rough shooters. Recoil and snap will be at an all-time high.
The gun will try to wrestle its way out of your hands and give you a nice dose of slide bite with every other round. If you are a new shooter learning the ropes of a handgun, a subcompact .40 will be an unpleasant experience.
Not only that, but the ammo is more expensive than 9mm, and the round is falling out of favor. It may be around for the rest of my life, but we won’t see a lot of development for the round between then and now.
.40 S&W Law Enforcement trade-ins are often easy to find and relatively cheap. You can get a Glock, an S&W M&P, or any number of polymer-frame striker-fired pistols that are of extremely high quality.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
If you see one at a great price and you can afford it over a lower-tier handgun, go for it.
But shoot it a lot, and get some training with it.
Anything In the Ring of Fire Family
The Ring of Fire guns are small, super cheap guns from companies like Lorcin, Raven, Bryco, Jennings, and Phoenix.
These companies are mostly dead, but lots of their guns are still floating around.
These cheap pot metal guns are small, and available in a variety of calibers. Their main appeal is their often sub-$100 price tags.
The downsides are, well, it’s easier just to bullet point this:
- Poor fit and finish
- Magazines suck
- Heavy recoil due to blowback design
- Sloppy construction
- Terrible triggers
Did I mention these are unreliable? They’ll jam, misfeed, fail to fire, and all that, but they will also crack and fall apart.
None just stay away from them like the guy who hands out apples on Halloween.
Great Guns for Beginners
I won’t leave you guys with just bad guns. Here are a few good choices for your first gun.
1. Ruger 10/22
It’s a classic rifle, one of the most mass-produced in history. It’s reliable, accurate, and cheap!
You can find a Ruger 10/22 in almost any gun shop across the country.
Everyone should have a Ruger 10/22 rifle, and it’s a gun that has staying power. You can upgrade it, customize it, and make it yours.
2. Heritage Arms .22 LR Revolver
As far as first-time handguns go, this is the best one to start with. It’s a single-action design that harkens back to the days of cowboys and western life.
The Heritage Arms .22 LR Revolver is a fun, accurate, and reliable revolver.
Its single-action design also forces new shooters to slow down and take their time between shots. It’s also an easy shooting gun that’s not too big on maintenance.
3. Ruger Wrangler .22 LR
If you’re interested in spending a touch more to get an even better beginner .22 LR revolver, take a look at the Ruger Wrangler!
These are normally in the $175-200 range and offer a major improvement in quality and durability over the Rough Riders.
We highly recommend them, so take a look at the full review!
4. Full-sized/Compact 9mm pistols
If you can’t spend the money on several guns and can only have one, then a full-sized or compact 9mm is a good choice.
Handguns are tough to shoot, but these guns are quite user-friendly and offer you a soft shooting, easy-to-control gun that’s cheap to train with.
It’s also a capable self-defense firearm.
Check out more of our favorites in Best Handguns for Beginners.
5. AR-15 Carbines
AR-15s are awesome weapons for plinking, home defense, shooting sports, and even hunting.
They are also very simple to use. Every year thousands of 18-year-olds with zero firearms experience qualify on the M4/M16 platform in boot camps around the country.
The AR-15 series is similar to the M4/M16 in terms of controls, accuracy, and general layout.
Learning to use one is very simple, and with a little instruction, any new gun owner can learn how to use one effectively.
The AR-15 can be adapted in size for any adult shooter, and the ammo, magazines, and parts are widely available and affordable.
Check out our favorites in our AR-15 Buyer’s Guide.
6. Pistol Caliber Carbines
A pistol caliber carbine is a rifle that shoots pistol rounds. They come in a wide variety of designs and are quite popular these days.
You can find them at any price point with several different magazine platforms.
These guns can be quite affordable, and the ammo to feed them is as well. They are soft shooting, and best of all, most indoor ranges that ban rifles will allow PCCs.
This allows you to train and get sharp and stay sharp.
If you want a suggestion for which one, my vote is for the Ruger PC Carbine.
It’s affordable, simple to use, and allows you to use Glock magazines, which are both cheap and plentiful.
Check out more in our Best PCCs article.
As new shooters become more experienced, they may find that some of these guns might be right for them.
Until then, stick to guns that are well-made, won’t beat you up, and are more practical for new shooters.
What’s the gun you’d advise new shooters avoid? Let us know in the comments! For a LOT more information, take a look at the Beginner’s Guide To Guns and also our hands-on video course…Gun Noob to Gun Slinger!