As this journalist has mentioned several times before, we at 19FortyFive really do appreciate it when our readers give us ideas for articles. More than one of my topics in my 15 months on the job has been initially suggested by a friend, professional acquaintance, or even readers known only to me by their anonymous usernames on the Comments section of existing articles.
So it happens that Yours Truly was at good ol’ Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor pistol shooting range in Ashburn, Virginia with a friend to whom I shall assign the pseudonym “Barney.” (He’s in a profession that’s VERY Cancel Culture-oriented in general and anti-gun in particular, and therefore his colleagues would have a conniption fit if they knew he was partaking in the joy of shooting.). Prior to our range meetup, Barney, who’d had only limited prior firearms experience, specifically asked me to bring handguns that were user-friendly to shooters with small hands.
Y’see, Barney is 1.60 meters (5 feet 2.99 inches) in height with a corresponding hand size. Anyway, I was more than happy to accommodate his request, he had a tremendous amount of fun, and afterward he suggested that I do a write-up on the best handguns for small-handed shooters. I was only too happy to oblige. I should hereby throw out the caveat that whilst there are tons of handguns out there geared toward small-handed shooters – whether male, female, or non-binary – to narrow it down, I’m basing my selections on (1) personal observations from 33 years of training friends, family, and acquaintances to shoot, and (2) perspectives from friends who are themselves small-handed.
M1911/M1911A1 .45 ACP
Surprise, surprise! Lest anybody think that this article was going to be strictly about pocket pistol AKA “mouse gun” calibers, we’re starting off this writeup with a full-size big-bore pistol. Perhaps this perennial popular and powerful pistol – long thought of as a big man’s gun – isn’t such a surprising choice after all, in light of my recent article titled “Meet The M1911 .45 ACP: The Ultimate Ladies Gun?”
As my lovely girlfriend Lisa, who is 5’1” says,“ regardless of which manufacturer you decide to choose for your 1911, the frame is so easy to work with. There’s enough to the frame that you don’t feel you’re going to break it, but it’s not so much that you can’t get your hands around it. All in all, I’d say this is easily the most universal of all firearms and can be wielded by anyone and everyone.”
As for a short-statured male perspective, I started Barney’s range session with my WWI-era Colt, and here’s what he had to say about it: “The 1911 was the first gun I picked up in more than 10 years. After the first shot, I felt as confident to shoot it as I would a compact 9mm. The design is highly functional.”
Okay, none of my regular readers should be surprised about my inclusion of this pistol on the list; after all, I’d included it in my “Gun Rankings: 5 Best Pocket Pistols On The Planet.” Lovely Lisa says, after trying my personally-owned Bulgarian “Mak,” “this was just a pleasure to shoot. The grip is comfortable without being bulky or irritating. Like a 1911, there’s plenty without being overbearing. The weight and balance are flawless.”
It was the second gun used for my range session with Barney, so here’s his take on the gun: “The Makarov is an extremely balanced weapon. The grip is excellent, and the trigger pull is perfect on single action compared with the many Glock 9mm. For CC this is an outstanding option.”
(The fact that that Ukraine’s defenders are still using the Makarov just adds bonus cool points.)
Walther PPK and PPK/S
Okay, so nobody ever has claimed that James Bond – whether portrayed by Sir Sean Connery, Sir Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, or whomever – has small hands, but nonetheless the gun wielded by The World’s Most Famous Secret Agent, by virtue of its compact size, fits small hands well, whether chambered in .380 ACP (AKA 9mm Kurz AKA 9mm Corto), .32 ACP (7.65mm), or .22 LR. Lovely Lisa had nothing but good things to say about a suppressed .22 LR PPK she recently tried out courtesy of a fellow SEG customer.
Colt .380 ACP Government Model
It’s too goshdarn bad that Colt no longer makes this compact autopistol. Of all the guns on this list, this one has the most sentimental value for me, as it was the very first firearm of any kind I ever shot, back in October 1989 when I was 14 years old, 5’2, 100 pounds soaking wet, with a corresponding hand size. Thankfully I acquired a used one in 2020 for a very reasonable $500.00, and I used it as a teaching tool that same year for my friend “Katie D,” who is slightly taller than Lisa and had no prior handgun experience going into that range outing.
Long story short: Katie took to that little Colt like a fish to water, shooting it like a pro from the get-go!
Smith & Wesson LadySmith Series (Revolver and Semiauto Pistol Alike)
As the name implies, these handguns were designed specifically for the female shooters, but they work equally well in smaller males’ hands as well. Lisa owns one of the autopistols of the series, the 9mm S&W Model 3913 (which is sadly now discontinued but should be fairly easy to find on the surplus gun market): “Absolutely biased on this, but she is my favorite of all the firearms that I personally own. This is the perfect size for my hands and there’s no need to adjust my grip to make the gun fit.”
Meanwhile, the LadySmith revolvers, namely the J-frame Model 60 .357 Magnum and Model 642 .38 Special, are still very much in production. They’re not as much fun to shoot as their semiauto counterparts but are unbeatable when it comes to simplicity and ease of maintenance.
Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.