Three Top Tips for Women Buying Their First Handgun: Guns for Beginners

In the video below, a female gun seller tells the female God family and guns vlogger her top tips for first-time female gun buyers. Just amongst us girls, Maggie at Blue Steel Guns & Ammo says ask a lot of questions (e.g., “what makes this a good gun?”), check out the handgun controls for user-friendliness (including slide rackability), don’t worry about caliber and think about the whole ownership process (including cleaning). All good points, but I’m not sure that’s really female-specific advice.

Here are my top three tips for first-time female handgun buyers . . .

1. Shoot first, shop later

I would advise any first-time handgun buyer — male or female — to go a gun range, rent and shoot a variety of handguns before darkening the door of their local federal firearms licensee. That’s the best place to discover what handgun does or doesn’t work for you. But I think this try-before-you-buy advice is especially valuable for women, some of whom consider gun ranges female-free ballistic mancaves.

To get truly female-specific, don’t shoot with your man. Take the time, spend the money and hire a professional firearms trainer — even if only for an hour — to guide you through the familiarization and selection process. Not only will you get more objective information on what gun to buy, but you’ll start your shooting life without bad habits — which take thousands of rounds to cure.

2. Don’t shop with your man

Gun purchasing tests even the best relationship. The female shopper’s [ostensibly] gun-savvy male significant other has a natural tendency to want to “protect” his female companion from the gun salesperson’s potentially predatory practices and personal pistol prejudices. What usually happens: the male SO gets into it with the salesperson, who starts targeting his spiel to the male decision maker.

If a first-time female gun buyer has sorted out her handgun preferences at the range — which I can’t recommend highly enough — she doesn’t need a male intermediary (or anyone else) in the gun purchase process — which I can’t discourage strongly enough. The first-time handgun purchase is a big deal; there’s no need to add to the pressure.

3. Buy a gun like you buy shoes 

There’s no One Handgun to Rule Them All. That understanding — heresy to millions of GLOCK aficionados — isn’t gender specific. But my friends in the gun business tell me that women are more prone to believe it than members of the twin testicle set. It’s important for women to jettison that “one-gun-and-done” mindset before buying their first gun, and adopt the “guns are like shoes” mentality.

If a woman buys a handgun for a specific primary purpose — concealed carry, range fun, marksmanship, competition, home defense, etc. — she’s more likely to buy the right gun. More likely to be comfortable with it. Better at shooting it. More likely to be able to do whatever it is she wants to do with it.

And yes, it’s OK to factor in style. Men who claim they don’t care about their handgun’s appearance — “it’s just a tool” — are lying. Most of the GLOCK hate you see here and around the intertubes is primarily based on appearance. Some tools look better than others, even if it’s an anti-style style. As the makeup people say, first impressions last. Or something like that.

comments

  1. avatar BLoving says:

    All this.

    “We’re here to buy a gun for her”
    “Excellent, sir! Step up to the counter, ma’am and let’s play! And you sir, just stand back and keep the credit card warm. There’s a chair over there.”

    Seemingly every day…

  2. avatar little horn says:

    buy a gun like you buy shoes

    this just shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to WHY women by shoes; its to match their outfit. which is why they end up with so many. so in essence you’re telling them to buy guns that match their clothes. which means they might end up with 4 different guns and only shoot one.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      little horn,

      Close but no cigar.

      The point of this article is that, just as women match shoes to a specific outfit, they should expect to match a firearm to a specific application. While that isn’t an exact comparison, it is close enough to get the point across.

    2. avatar Hank says:

      I’m a guy and I have guns that go with different outfits. You gotta problem with that? Bigot.

      1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

        • 115F shorts and T-Shirts CCW gun
        • Suit and Tie IWB CCW gun
        • Warm weather (but not stupid 115F) OWB hiking CCW gun
        • Cold weather hiking OWB CCW gun
        • Hiking and roaming about the property open carry gun

        Those are, I’ll grant, ‘clothes-related’, so I guess I’m in with it 🙂

  3. avatar Nanashi says:

    “And yes, it’s OK to factor in style. Men who claim they don’t care about their handgun’s appearance — “it’s just a tool” — are lying.”

    And yet outside of 22s, limited editions/retailer exclusives and low-end cheap guns (including 380s), pretty much nobody offers guns in colors other than black, FDE and gray. Need to Duracoat a gun yourself if you want style.

    1. avatar Huntmaster says:

      Oh yeah? Look at a Sig catalog lately? Check out the 938 or the 238. Then come back here and tell us that nobody offers anything other than black,FDE and grey.

      1. avatar Pete says:

        Or SCCY

        1. avatar Jeff K says:

          How about Taurus Spectrum, Ruger LCP, Ruger LC9S come in a huge array of colors. Even the SR9C & 9E come in different finishes.

        2. avatar Nanashi says:

          “low-end cheap guns (including 380s)”

          As for Jeff K, “Taurus Spectrum, Ruger LCP” fall into the above and almost all the special colored LC9S are retailer exclusive and never in stock (to the point they might as well have been a LE), much less at a reasonable price. Ruger’s website has nothing about the SR9 in other colors.

      2. avatar Nanashi says:

        Aside from the “bling” ones (stainless/nickel/engraved) the only colors are the grips. You could always get fancy grips.

    2. avatar tiger says:

      wrong

  4. avatar Kenneth says:

    I can put my top three pieces of beginner advice into three words:
    1. revolver.
    2. ammunition.
    3. practice.
    Naturally, these will inevitably lead to questions and elaboration. That’s good. That’s how learning occurs.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Gosh, that’s great, Kenny.
      She should get herself a Ruger LCR in .357 Magnum. That gun weighs about 3 ounces so it won’t weigh down her purse too much.

      Then she should load up with several boxes of 158 grain .357 Magnum hardball to practice with.

      Practice, practice, practice.

      1. avatar Kenneth says:

        I never said any of that. Strawman much, Curtis?

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Curtis in IL,

        Several seconds later, I am still laughing out loud at your comment. Thanks for the laugh!

    2. avatar Ian says:

      This month’s issue of American Rifleman had an article they called the “Lady’s Pistol Project”. While I’m a dedicated revolver fan, in this case the women involved hands down did not like revolvers except for the light recoil of a full size 22. I think we’re at the point that firearms technology has advanced to the point that there is little practical advantage to a revolver except for maybe size and weight in the case of airweight J frames. Which is the one model noobs are probably least likely to practice with! On the other hand, a steel frame mid sized 38 with light target loads, like a Mod 10, would be hard to beat for a new shooter. However with 38 special ammo being considerably more expensive than 9mm, I think it would be hard to not recommend your 9mm mid or full sized plastic fantastic of choice as a good all around first gun option.

      1. avatar Anner says:

        Best article I’ve read in American Rifleman in a while:
        http://cdn.americanrifleman.org/articles/2017/8/21/the-american-rifleman-ladies-pistol-project/

        It further dispels the “J Frame for a lady” nonsense that still floats around the interwebs.

        Admin: I’m about to give up on TTAG if this page reloading every 30sec isn’t fixed.

      2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        Indeed if it’s a gun that’s going to be point and click, it’s hard to beat a k-frame. Light stuff is .22 easy and you can go quite a bit heavier if so inclined, even in a .38 Special. They are the Glocks of times past IMO.

      3. avatar Kenneth says:

        “we’re at the point that firearms technology has advanced to the point that there is little practical advantage to a revolver ”
        You’re probably correct. I’m sure there are no beginners out there with slide racking issues, the steep learning curve to clear stoppages, the much less intuitive way of loading, not to mention the safety issues, ESP for beginners… I’m sure none of that is actually an issue any more…. what with technology and all. Because…. NEW and IMPROVED!
        /sarc off/

    3. avatar Pete says:

      A revolver is a terrible idea. Difficult to shoot well, low capacity. The only upside is a simple manual of arms, safety-wise. Even so you have to practice specific reloads. And as a cherry, most revolvers that are useful at all offer a recoil that is sufficient to spook beginners.

      1. avatar Andrew Lias says:

        A small frame revolver is difficult to shoot, I can see why the J-frame and LCR got pushed to the bottom of the pack. I have a Model 38 air weight it is definitely an “expert’s gun.” I could see this being better in a steel version however. A trigger return spring and grips convert this from a “not near a broadside of a barn” to “shootable with practice.” Forget the original target stocks though, the thing will just waller around in your hand.

        My 66es on the other hand are an absolute dream to shoot with awesome ergonomics. As said in another post, light recoil .38 Special up to nasty bear load .357 magnum, not super heavy (I want a model 12 for EDC, wish they’d make a scandium one.) While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for a woman as a carry gun, for a night stand or home gun they’re a good choice if you have weaker hands or don’t necessarily want to have the complexity of a semi auto’s battery of arms.

        Also interesting to note in this is that the mid range ruled the preference pack, it looks like a lot of the $800+ guns got pushed to the bottom. Price doesn’t always mean value is obviously the motto here.

        1. avatar Kenneth says:

          Are you certain you have taken into account the fact that everyone’s hands are different? While those issues might be perfectly correct for your hands, others do not always share the same problems.
          Grip panels are a very user-specific issue. What fits your hand well might be terrible in mine. Like clothing and shoes, guns should be FELT(tried on, to continue the clothing metaphor), before buying, and not purchased on looks or ballistic performance alone.
          Yet another advantage of the revolver, the stocks can be changed for different hands. Not really possible with a semi-auto. The stocks can be changed(sometimes, but not on a plastic fantastic…), but they always maintain the same overall feel. Substantiative change is precluded by the necessity of maintaining the magazine well unchanged.

    4. avatar tiger says:

      4. Do not take tips from men….

  5. avatar Keltex78 says:

    K.I.S.S.

    My mother-in-law (not a shooter) just bought her first handgun, to use for qualification and carry. Went with a P238. Way too many controls for an inexperienced shooter.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      Well?
      Did she qualify with it or did her weak feminine mind lock up at that oh-so-complicated machine and make her fail?

  6. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Pay attention to the grip – how does it feel in your hand. Does your hand start to develop “hot spots” after you’ve shot through a box of 50 rounds of ammo? If so, then you’ll be less likely to practice enough with it. Does the grip shape allow you to have a grip on the handgun so you feel confident you can control it? Does the handgun have sharp points that will annoy you if you try to grab for the handgun in a hurry?

    If a semi-auto: Can you rack the slide without tearing up your fingers, nails, etc?

    If a revolver: Can you reach the trigger when it isn’t in “single action” or “thumb-cocked” mode? Is the cylinder latch where you can get to it easily?

    I always asked my students to worry about the fit of the handgun to their hand before worrying about the issues of cartridge, cost, color, style, etc. If it doesn’t fit your hand well, you won’t shoot it as much as you need to in order to become proficient. Buying a handgun should be a bit like buying a pair of shoes – that you intend to wear to take long walks.

    1. avatar Anner says:

      Well said, and my own advice to new purchasers as well. I have them dry fire the piss out of a potential new handgun, manipulate the controls, swap mags, etc. If they feel a hotspot in the store, it’s gonna be a welt after a couple boxes of ammo. Unless it’s something a dremel can fix, we move onto something that melts in their hand.

  7. avatar ORCON says:

    It’s all fun and games until she comes home with a hot pink SCCY.

  8. avatar Michael says:

    my friends and I have a rule: We don’t train our own wives on handguns or help them choose handguns. We are all still happily married and our wives are all shooters.

    Guys-have a friend you know and trust help your wife!!!!

  9. avatar Hoyden says:

    Learn the 4 basic rules and never cross your thumbs behind the slide, buy a black and purple EEA Pavona.

  10. avatar jwm says:

    Racking the slide is an issue for a lot of people. I wish more companies would make a tip barrel semi auto for just that reason.

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      I miss the Beretta 86 Cheetah… and so pretty too..😢

    2. avatar SouthAl says:

      I had the same thought. Recently had a lady friend at work ask me to take her to the range to learn to shoot a gun she bought for self defense over a year ago, said it was a .22 but she did not know any more than that. Turns out it was a Taurus semiauto with break barrel. Turned out to be a POS. I’m sure the salesman sold it to her based on low recoil and no need to rack the slide. There is a market for these semiautos if they work.

      I started her with a SR22, then a PK380, after several others, her favorite was a full size RIA1911 in 9mm.

      1. avatar Jeff K says:

        I’ve watches people TRY to use those Taurus tip barrels, nothing but malfunctions. Same with the Walther P22 & Beretta Neos. My Ruger SR22 even has eaten the damaged live shells others left on the ground.

    3. avatar tiger says:

      More people need to exercise their hands more than lifting tv remotes and playing on cell phones. Slide springs can be stiff, but should not be a barrier.

      1. avatar Snatchums says:

        I’ve done significant damage to my left hand and have the beginnings of RA, half of my hand doesn’t work very well. Some slides are very difficult for me to manipulate and I’m young(ish) and more fit than your average American. It’s definitely a thing.

  11. avatar W says:

    Buy a gun that you like to shoot, and shoot it a lot.
    If, for example, you cannot stand shooting that 340PD, then do not buy it.

  12. avatar Dr. Srebnik says:

    Don’t shop with your man — really? That’s an incredibly sexist comment which would seem to come from the author’s anecdotal experiences rather than anything else.

    It would be better to simply say “Go shopping for firearms and learn to shoot from a mature, competant, experienced and patient person,” regardless of that person’s gender or relationship to you. I’ve seen plenty of guys give each other bad advice and heard plenty of bad advice from gun store employees and shooting instructors. At least “your man” (incompetant though he may be) should have your best interests at heart.

    Sounds like the author has some baggage and is projecting on all couples.

    1. avatar tiger says:

      it would be better to have said to not take advice from Men. Male shooters ideas of what is great & not always what works for ladies. Nor are all ladies the same.

  13. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    You don’t need to try a gun out before buying it. If it ends up being not quite right get another one. Repeat.

  14. avatar Larry says:

    If I used the women and shoes analogy Id be called sexist . Also my wife and one of our adult daughters don’t give two craps about shoes, certinly don’t a large number of them .

    I one the other hand am a big fan of Allen Edmonds

  15. avatar Matt o says:

    I always liked the idea of a medium size 380 for a beginner. Like a pk380 or beretta 84/85/86 or a browning 1911-380. Just the right size for small or medium hands, very manageable recoil and versatile enough for most uses. Too bad 380 is so expensive

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