Women are the largest growing demographic of handgun owners for self-defense. More women than ever are also starting to carry concealed pistols for protection, and also attending beginner classes to learn how to operate a firearm.
However, the struggle to find the right firearm can be difficult. Gun manufacturers design most of their handguns with men in mind because that’s the biggest demographic of handgun owners, but that is slowly starting to change.
Some semiauto pistols stand out as excellent choices for women looking for their first firearm. While we’ve stuck to 9mms for the purposes of this article, there are other options if a .22 pistol is more your speed. But while .45s are another option, we prefer the 9mm for its lower recoil. Let’s dive in and look at our five favorite semiautomatic pistols for women. THE EAA WITNESS PAVONA The European American Armory, or EAA for short, introduced the Witness Pavona a few years ago. It was becoming apparent that an increasing number of women were buying guns for self-defense. EAA saw it as an untapped market, so they decided to offer semiautomatic handguns for women.
The Witness Pavona could have easily been a rebranded “Witness
Compact” with a pretty finish. But instead, they made something women could use with ease. Of course, the first thing most people notice is the multitude of colors and unique finishes the Pavona frames have. This includes blue, pink, purple and black.
The frame features one color but has silver speckles to create an interesting, unique appearance. Interestingly, the all-black models have gold speckles. Although this handgun is attractive, EAA designed the mechanics of this gun especially for women. The Pavona features a lightweight polymer frame that is easier to conceal and carry.
EAA lightened the hammer and recoil springs on this weapon to make the weapon easier to rack. Some women have trouble with reliably and quickly racking an automatic handgun. Anybody, male or female, can learn to rack a weapon. However, this takes time and training. But the bad guys don’t typically wait for a person to get that training and experience.
Why we love the Witness Pavona: The Pavona has an off-the-shelf design that works. And like most EAA automatics, they based it on the classic CZ 75 design. The only major changes are the size and the use of a polymer frame over a metal frame. Also, the Pavona uses a double/single-action design that is hammer-fired. This is a plus because the hammer-fired design allows the shooter to cock the hammer manually, which reduces even more pressure from racking the slide.
The Pavona is medium in size and chambered in .380 ACP, 9mm and .40 S&W. The capacity for the .380 ACP and the 9mm variants is 13 rounds, but the .40 S&W holds just nine rounds. However, this is one of the biggest semiautomatic handguns for women, so another benefit is recoil management. The .380 ACP from this handgun has almost no recoil, so it is comfortable for even the most petite shooters to fire.
Less recoil means greater accuracy and faster follow-up shots. New shooters won’t have to flinch from fear of recoil, yet they’ll still have a capable cartridge. The design of the grip is comfortable for shooters with small hands. Interestingly, EAA sacrificed a few rounds of capacity to ensure a thin and comfortable grip.
The gun also has a low bore axis that adds more comfort and ease of use during rapid fire. But the Pavona is a lot more than a pretty face on a new gun. The design comes from a tested source, so it is superbly effective yet quite affordable. THE WALTHER CCP
The Walther CCP is one of Walther’s newest pistols. The Concealed Carry Pistol was built to be easy to use by shooters of any size or strength level. Also, the CCP is a compact firearm that Walther chambered in 9mm. The CCP is fed by an eight-round single-stack magazine.
It has a polymer frame and is strike-fired. It features a manual safety on the frame and uses a wide set of three dot sights. The Walther CCP is a compact firearm, but it is not a pocket pistol. It offers an appropriately sized grip that fills women’s hands. They comfortably checkered the grip, too, and it features a forward Picatinny rail for a light or laser.
And it has a convenient open trigger guard for use with gloves. The Walther weighs a mere 22.2 ounces and has a 3.5-inch barrel. The overall length of the weapon is only 6.41 inches long. The shape of this weapon makes it easy for women to conceal in today’s modern fashions. For these reasons, it is one of the top semiauto handguns for women.
Why we love the CCP: What sets the Walther CCP apart is its gas-delayed blowback system. This system isn’t unique to the Walther CCP, but it’s not a common type of handgun action. Here are the benefits of this gas system:
You’ll feel a massive decrease in recoil compared to firearms of similar size. Walther calls the CCP’s gas system SoftCoil. This system makes firing full-powered defensive ammunition a pleasure for such a small, lightweight firearm.
You get easier slide operation due to the reduction in muzzle flip. Many women have trouble racking an automatic slide. However, the Walther CCP is one of the lightest and easiest-to-rack slides out there.
The fixed barrel provides more inherent accuracy than a tilting or rotating barrel. Remember, every little bit of accuracy is critical in a defensive situation.
The trigger uses a striker-fired design. This makes the trigger pull light, yet long. For a concealed carry gun this isn’t a major issue. In fact, it’s a safety feature that prevents accidents from happening in high-stress environments. The long trigger pull is similar to the anti-stress option on the Walther P99 series of pistols. Safety is always in the hands of the shooter, but small manual devices can help greatly.
The Walther CCP is quite accurate, yet simple to use. The biggest downside is the use of a tool to take the weapon apart. This isn’t a major issue since nobody carries this firearm in a war zone, where getting a tool would be difficult. Ease of use puts this product on this list of the best semiautomatic handguns for women. THE SIG P938
Sig designed the P938 around the old-school 1911 design. However, the P938 and the standard 1911 have zero parts in common. In fact, the P938 is entirely different from the 1911. Also, the 9mm handgun is single-action only. This makes it small enough to easily fit in a pocket or inside a waistband holster.
As a single-action weapon, it has a manual safety that Sig placed identically to a standard 1911. Sweeping the safety off is easy to do naturally with the thumb in a firing grip. Although the P938 is based on the older P238, the company beefed it up to the 9mm cartridge. Most shooters consider the 9mm cartridge more powerful than the .380 ACP cartridge.
The ballistic advantages of the 9mm include penetration, velocity and projectile expansion. The 1911 design is naturally quite thin. Additionally, the Sig P938 is a single-stack pistol that comes with two magazines. One magazine is a six-round magazine that fits flush inside the pistol grip. This magazine keeps the weapon as compact as possible.
Using this magazine will result in most people having a hanging pinky. The second magazine Sig includes is a seven-round magazine with an extended baseplate. This magazine offers one extra round of capacity that allows most shooters to have a full grip on their weapon. This magazine makes the weapon slightly larger, but it’s still easy to conceal.
The single-action design makes racking the weapon easy, so even those with low hand strength can do it. Simply thumb the hammer back and the slide is much easier to rack. Simplicity is what put this quality weapon on this compilation of the top semiautomatic handguns for women.
Why we love the P938: The Sig P938 takes a slightly different route in terms of materials they use. Most modern handguns use polymer frames to reduce weight and cost. But Sig continued their metal frame tradition with the P938 series, which offers a few advantages to female shooters. The use of premium materials makes everything smoother, giving the slide a feeling of being on ball bearings.
The slight increase in weight with metal reduces the recoil substantially. It’s one of the smallest 9mms on the market, but also one of the most comfortable to shoot. Sig includes their amazing SigLite night sights on the P938.
Also, the night sights allow shooters to easily engage a target accurately in low light situations. Even in defensive situations, shooters must follow safety rules, so proper aiming is an important safety consideration. These night sights are large and easy to see.
The single-action trigger is lightweight and breaks cleanly and evenly. The reset is also audible and tactile. The Sig P938 is a pleasant, easy-shooting handgun that is superbly small. In fact, it is one of the smallest concealed carry firearms on the market. This makes it one of the perfect semiautomatic handguns for women in terms of concealed carry. THE GLOCK 43
The Glock series of firearms is one of the most popular throughout the entire world. Glock has made subcompact pistols before, but their focus has been duty-sized firearms. But Glock has now been paying more attention to the concealed carry market, and accessory manufacturers are also making more aftermarket parts for Glocks than ever. Their acknowledgment brought the world the Glock 42, but more importantly, the Glock 43. The latter is a single-stack 9mm handgun with Glock’s famous polymer-frame design.
Glock pistols are legendary for their reliability, as well as their lightweight nature. The Glock 43 is a sharp departure from the Glock 26, which is its double subcompact 9mm brother. The Glock 43 is much thinner and lighter in nature, and it has a slimmer grip than other competitors in the polymer-frame 9mm market.
The Glock 43 comes with two six-round magazines – the fitted one with a pinky extension and the other they flush fit. The flush-fit magazine is better for concealed carry, but the magazine with the pinky extension is easier to handle and shoot. So the 43 with the pinky extension is one of the best semiautomatic handguns for women.
The Glock 43 is only 22.36 ounces when fully loaded, making it quite light for a loaded weapon. This is mainly due to Glock’s mastery of the modern polymer frame. Also, the Glock 43 features Glock’s standard iron sights, which are well-suited for close combat. Additionally, they are quite large for a subcompact pistol.
Most pocket pistols feature small nubs for sights. However, the Glock 43 has larger sights, so they are much easier to use. If you’re shopping for one, consider the Glock 43 one of the best semiautomatic handguns for women.
Why we love the 43: The Glock 43 is like its bigger brothers in controls and ergonomics. They have placed everything where it is easy to reach. The magazine release is large and simple to engage, yet tucked out of the way for firing. Also, the slide lock is easy to engage and disengage, making reloads a snap.
The trigger is a standard Glock trigger featuring their famous trigger reset. As a stock trigger, it has a 5.5-pound pull, so it is consistent and quite short.
Glock handguns are quite easy to rack and very easy to shoot. They are some of the simplest pistols on the market and are a great choice for a woman who doesn’t shoot as a hobby. It’s a simplistic, effective and affordable design. But one of Glock’s biggest strengths is their popularity Because Glock pistols are so desirable, they have a massive amount of aftermarket support. This includes holster options that are critical for women who want to carry. Due to women’s clothing, their carry options are often limited, so they have to find a holster that is just right. The vast selection of accessories makes this the top automatic handgun for women. THE CZ 75 SP-01
The CZ 75 SP-01, or SP-01 for short, is an odd choice on this list. This all-metal handgun is quite heavy, and not for concealed carry. Instead, this would be an excellent home defense handgun for a woman. The SP-01 is a modernized variant of the classic CZ 75 design. It retains all the advantages of the classic design, while improving greatly where the original lacked.
The weapon features an external Guns Picatinny rail that can accept a white light. A white light allows the user to positively identify targets at night, and positive identification is necessary before shooting. Without positive ID, you may harm an innocent individual who made a simple mistake. And unfortunately, this happens frequently in suburbs with identical houses.
The SP-01 features a double/single-action trigger with an exposed hammer. This allows women to precock the hammer and release almost all the tension on the slide. It’s easy to rack and the tactical model comes with a decocker to return the weapon to double-action safely. Full-size firearms like the SP-01 also tend to hold more ammunition than firearms for concealed carry.
Why we love the SP-01: The SP-01 holds a staggering 18 rounds of 9mm in its magazine, plus two extensions are also available to create a 20-round magazine. If a woman is defending her home from a home invasion, she may face multiple attackers. This means having a large magazine capacity is an absolute necessity when facing multiple attackers. The SP-01 allows the defender to put multiple rounds into an attacker if necessary. And better yet, this handgun is not nearly affected by a miss.
The SP-01’s all-metal construction does make it a hefty beast. But the weight of the weapon helps absorb recoil and keeps the weapon controllable. The CZ SP-01 also features a low bore axis, creating less muzzle rise as you fire this weapon. Most of the energy goes straight back instead of back and up. This makes it much easier for smaller shooters to repeatedly keep their eyes on the sights with a low bore axis.
The original CZ 75 was famous for its ability to house 16 rounds while still having a thin, comfortable grip. And the SP-01 is no different. The grips are slim and easy for anyone to wrap their hands around. Also, the safety or decocker is easy to reach with your thumb and simple to engage. The double-action trigger is long but smooth, and the single-action is short and crisp.
The reset is a bit longer than something like a 1911, but still both audible and tactile. The SP-01 is a well-built firearm that is surprisingly affordable. The weapon comes with two magazines and has night sights. The versatility is what lands this weapon on this list of the top automatic handguns for women. ULTIMATELY IT COMES DOWN TO CHOICE
Firearm manufacturers have predominantly designed their handguns for men. Women’s fashion, relative strength, and hand size are all unique challenges women face when trying to find a handgun. This creates a unique challenge for women who want to find a firearm that fits their needs.
However, the firearms industry is finally catching on and has been offering the best semiautomatic handguns for women today. And as the demographic grows, you’re sure to see increasingly more options. Remember, no matter what you choose, be sure to follow gun safety rules and regulations at all times.
Editor’s note: Author Jason Wilson is a firearms enthusiast and CZ collector. He has a number of CZ 75s that he shoots regularly. He is a firearms hobbyist and has been adding to his firearms collection for over 20 years. He is also the lead editor at GunBacker.com.
STORY BY JASON WILSON • ARTICLE AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF GUNBACKER.COM