Ask the FFL – What Gun for a New Female Shooter?

courtesy Reuters

[ED: This post is the first in a new series. If you have a question for an experienced federal firearms licensee, send it to [email protected] with ‘Ask the FFL’ in the subject field.]

Hi everybody! I’m Hank, and I’ve just started writing for the site. I wanted to talk to all the women out there who are looking for their first gun. Over the years of being a gun owner and a gun seller, I’ve seen folks of all kinds come through the door and I know there’s a lot of good and plenty of bad advice out there.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do is an article specifically tailored towards women buying their first gun. We want to be a resource to you and get you into the right gun, the right way from the start, recommending one that won’t turn a new shooter off to the idea of gun ownership.

I’ve sold my fair share of guns to first-time gun owners and I’d like to start with some of the bad advice and recommendations I’ve heard.

The ugly

Regrettably, there are a lot of gun stores that just aren’t very good at their job of pleasing the customer. Pawn shops seem to fall into this category all too frequently. We see a lot of first-time buyers that wind up with a snub nosed, Airweight .38 special and a box of +P+ hollow points.

That’s fantastic if that’s what you walked into the store to buy in the first place, but frequently, new gun buyers end up with something like that as a result of bad advice and a hard sell.

Does anyone else wonder why working at a pawn shop suddenly gives you credibility in the arena of self-defense? Does three feet of counter space really make the difference between an amateur and a pro?

My biggest pet peeve — what we see all too often — is when a store sells a big bore magnum lightweight revolver to a first-timer. The sales pitch, which I’ve overheard in gun stores, pawn shops and gun shows, usually goes something like this:

“Well there little lady, here’s what you need. A revolver. You need a big bullet to stop a big bad guy. Titanium construction so they’re real light. And they’ve got a lifetime warranty! And since it’s a revolver, its good and loud so when you shoot it at the bad guy, their partner will crap their pants and run away!”

That’s when the Taurus Judge or some light weight snubnose comes out of the display case. The sale is made and the goods and the customer walk out the door.

Back before I worked in the business, I actually asked a seller after they closed a deal like that why the revolver is so optimal for women. The answer I got was uncharacteristically candid.

They get to say they own a gun that’ll scare the bad guys off. When they go and shoot it for the first time – they’ll hate it and come back and trade it in for something else. We get to make 50% on the trade in and 35% on the next gun we sell em. And we keep doing it till they find what they like or they run out of money. Either way, it’s money in the bank.

Back in high school, many moons ago, my shop teacher taught us to measure twice and cut once. Why can’t we apply that lesson elsewhere?

The reality is that many ranges rent lots of different guns. If you have a chance to try one before you buy, you’ll find out quickly that even lots of experienced shooters hate shooting snubnosed .38’s regularly.

Another pet peeve of mine is that we see women typically purchase in droves, and by that I mean – there’s a trend to purchasing habits. If Cindy buys a snubnose .38, her friend Ann will buy something similar along the same lines because, “Well if it works for her, it should work for me.” That thinking couldn’t be farther from the truth about guns.

The worst case scenario for the consumer and the best case scenario for the dealer is that when the store sells one 38 snub, patient zero doesn’t like it, trades it in, and all her friends who bought the same gun, hate shooting them, too.

Did you ever wonder how some gun stores or pawn shops always seem to have five or six of the same damn things in the used case all the time? That’s why.

On a more personal level, a few years ago I was working when I had a beautiful young woman walk in the door. She was wearing nurse’s scrubs, just finished a shift at the hospital and because not all of us wear our scars on the outside, I had no idea that she was being abused.

She didn’t say much as she browsed around, but after the other folks cleared out, she told me what was going on in her life. She had gotten a few suggestions from folks – mostly guys, telling her to buy a gun and she had a short list she wanted to check out.

The only problem is that every single gun on that list was so impractical for her specific application and stature. None of them fit her. Her list of suggestions consisted of a Colt Anaconda (which hasn’t been produced in about 16 years), numerous GLOCK products chambered in .40 S&W, a couple of 1911’s and the ubiquitous Desert Eagle.

How to turn a bad suggestion into a good one

I explained to her as objectively as I could that while these were very nice guns, they weren’t right for her. The Colt was out of production and .44 Magnum isn’t an appropriate first gun. GLOCK makes a good pistol but .40 S&W is remarkably snappy and uncomfortable to shoot long-term. 1911’s are wonderful firearms but they are intolerant of inexperienced users and the Desert Eagle was so off the mark that once I held it up, she realized just how absurd that suggestion was.

One thing my experience has taught me is that the sales pitch you make to a woman has to be different from the one you make to a man. It’s generally best to dial back the technical data and focus on the different things that are important to each individual. By answering every question she had and showing her why every one of these guns is a bad idea, she was then making a decision from a position of power.

I offered to show her a few different options I showed her a few guns that I thought she’d like a little better and than those on her list. Her new short list came down to a GLOCK 19, a Smith & Wesson M&P9 Compact and a Springfield XD. All these options fit her better and we also had them available to rent on the range.

We should be all about measuring twice and cutting once and this is how we do it: looking at the customer’s need, making the options user-specific and empathizing with their needs.

I can’t remember which gun she eventually settled on, but she became a regular and always asked for me when she came in to use the facility. We worked together to make sure she had a good outcome. The firearm retailer that you choose to spend your money with should be committed to the same.

What every first-time buyer should know

Here’s a few notes that I’d like to pass along to women buying their first firearm. Other people have made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Learn from those mistakes. I’d like to start with how we started this article – talking about revolvers and their unique attributes.

Revolvers have a lot of benefits, but they have their downsides as well.

They can be easy to use for those with limited hand strength, that are weight-sensitive and don’t want a giant gun. For instance, someone with limited hand or upper body strength may not be able to run the slide of a striker-fired hammer fired DA/SA semi-auto. But they can maneuver the cylinder of a Smith & Wesson Model 60.

Another factor to consider is that a revolver has a double action trigger pull of around eight pounds or more. That could be of issue to someone with arthritis or a weak trigger finger. As the weight of trigger pull increases, the ability to get shots on target accurately decreases.

On a personal note, all my revolvers have some custom trigger work done to them for a smooth six pound double action pull. To borrow a phrase from Martha Stewart, it’s a good thing.

The lighter the gun, the more the felt recoil.

Recoil is something that we never really get used to, but come to accept as an inevitability. We can’t defeat physics. A lighter gun is just more uncomfortable to shoot and all that means is you’ll enjoy practice less and less until you don’t do it anymore.

Women seem to gravitate towards smaller revolvers more than larger semi automatic firearms. My theory is that a lot of folks come from upbringings where guns are bad, so a big gun is really bad, but a small gun is less bad and therefore okay to own. What they fail to realize is something many longtime shooters know.

The longer the sight radius/barrel, the easier it is to put shots on target.

Is it any wonder why we see folks get dejected from practicing more often after they fire a two-inch revolver for the first time without hitting anything? They get frustrated and quit. If we can make it fun and enjoyable, we can make it a repeatable experience.

One myth I want to bust is that revolvers are infallible and go bang 100% of the time. This is not the case. Like any mechanical item, it’s subject to wear and tear.

Reliability is paramount for a firearm and although I have not seen many revolvers have problems, it is not immune to wear and tear and eventual failure. I’ve heard many a pawn shop employee and gun show carnival barker tell this to a potential customer, and each time I cringe a little inside. It’s simply not true and a dishonest way for them to get your money.

Semi automatic pistols have two broad categories, striker and hammer fired.

Both typically present some difficulty to new shooters because of the strength of the recoil spring and the proper technique that should be used to manipulate it for best performance and ease of use. Particularly difficult are pistols that have a hammer, where the hammer spring is another force that needs to be overcome to rack the slide.

Semi-automatic firearms require recoil to operate effectively. If you do not use the right technique, you can have a malfunction; a failure to fire, a failure to feed, or a failure to eject. This is primarily an issue of technique and with some practice, you can make almost any pistol operate 100%. Don’t be discouraged if you have some problems your first time out.

Magazines can be tough to load sometimes, depending on double or single stack design and technique. For instance, GLOCK pistols are fun and relatively easy to shoot. GLOCK magazines are difficult to load.

Trigger pull on a double action pistol can be so long and heavy it’s discouraging to new shooters. Think about going to a striker fired product that can be a little more forgiving and consistent. Also, you may find it easier to rack a striker fired pistol like a GLOCK, Smith & Wesson M&P, Springfield XD, HK VP9. Hammer fired guns like a SIG 226, 1911 variant, HK USP, Beretta 92 or CZ75 can be more of a challenge.

Stay with a good quality brand for your first gun, one that has sold a lot of product and has a good reputation and warranty department. Don’t buy any product made by Taurus, no matter how affordable or how hard the salesperson pushes it.

“I bought it because it was (insert color here, usually pink)” is the number one reason we see women buy firearms that are unsuitable to their needs and so undesirable that they trade them in.

We really don’t want you to buy a gun just to trade it in so consider all these factors when shopping for the first time. Feel free to ask around for suggestions and know that some of those suggestions aren’t going to be good ones.

Don’t be afraid to rent a gun and ask some questions. A good gun store employee is there to help you and make sure that you’re happy with what you have. In our business, our best advertising is a satisfied customer. We love it when someone comes back from the range all smiles with their newest purchase.

There are more and more women-only firearm groups that can help get you up to speed with group events, training and classes. Some women feel more comfortable in a women-only learning environment. If there isn’t a women-only group in your area, you can start one.

We’ve come a long way in the past 10 to 15 years, because these resources did not exist that long ago. They exist to make you a better, more experienced gun user, gun owner and gun enthusiast. Put them to good use. It’s a good thing.

 

Hank is a federal firearms licensee with twelve years of experience in the business. He’s a former first responder and is dedicated to bucking the trend of poor customer service in the business and making the gun world a better place. 

 

comments

  1. avatar A Brit in TX says:

    Just take any newbies (guy or gal, or any label to be honest!) to the range, rent some different handguns & have fun!

    There’s nothing mystical about firearms and no earthly reason why any ‘group’ can’t make their own decision.

    1. avatar little horn says:

      i guess next we will be expected to ask the Almighty FFL person what blacks, gays, asians, crickets, and aliens should use.
      i just love this logic fail: “i have this piece of paper that says i can sell guns and thus makes me an expect on telling people what guns they should get”
      so once i am qualified to be a truck driver, by this logic, i am now an expect mechanic and car saleman too LMAO

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        I think the article was spot on and is a good approach.
        I’ve seen my share of cringe worthy moments at LGS and on the range.

        1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

          When I mention cringe worthy I mean a gun salesman attempting to sell a Kimber 1911 to a smaller framed first time female gun buyer.

        2. avatar JasonM says:

          When I mention cringe worthy I mean a gun salesman attempting to sell a Kimber 1911…

          You don’t need to continue that to make it cringeworthy.

      2. avatar clst says:

        I did not get from the article that he was claiming to be an expert on telling people what guns the should get. He seems to be very proficient in assisting the first time buyer to purchase a firearm they are comfortable with and will use.

        I kind of expect this type of service from experts.

    2. avatar Terry from Reno,NV says:

      I agree with you 100%. People who have disabilities and other restricting factors may be more limited in what they can use efficiently (and enjoy, which is important imo as a motivation for training). Other than that most people can learn how to handle any handgun in the most common calibers for SD. I have heard many times that .45acp is too much for some folks (ladies primarily), I completely disagree. Most full size .45 have a nice push back type recoil. Don’t let tales and “my buddy who is a cop…my uncle who was a Marine…” discourage or misguide you.

  2. avatar little horn says:

    is this still the 1800’s? do you realize what you are doing here? implying that women can’t make their own decisions so they need a man to tell them what to do. why not ask some of your female employees what THEY recommend??

    1. avatar Harry says:

      Ladies are not supposed to work. They stay at home, and they stay busy. And no it is not the 1800s as in most states you need to pay to have the right to enjoy your 2nd amendment rights.

    2. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

      Who said anything about making decisions for women?

      He said he has 12 years experience in the business, answers every question a customer has, makes a recommendation, and the customer then decides for herself from a position of power.

      Did you actually read the article?

      1. avatar Anner says:

        No good deed goes unpunished, apparently.

        The article was spot-on. The author identified a common disconnect between a specific type of customer and a supplier. The supplier is overwhelmingly male (count how many female LGS employees you’ve interacted with; for me it’s maybe a dozen…compared to thousands of males). When the customer is consistently receiving bad advice from the supplier, in some cases driven by profit motive with full knowledge that the customer won’t receive the desired effect from their initial purchase, places like TTAG host articles such as this.

        I’m no expert, but I have introduced a few dozen new shooters to a variety of handguns. Of the 20 or so females that have limited or zero experience shooting a handgun, and after a couple hours trying out a variety of sizes/calibers, they almost always pick a compact 9mm or 380 as their favorite. Glock 42, S&W Shield 380, Sig P365, and Walther PPS M2 are consistent favorites. I have only had one female pick a small 38 revolver as her favorite, but it was due to the features of that particular model; she shot other handguns better, but made an informed decision to buy the features she liked and practice to improve proficiency.

    3. avatar Hooty says:

      Any first time gun buyers should find a knowledgeable and ethical salesperson to help them make a decision. This piece of advice has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with being a first time gun buyer. The difference between men and women is that a bad salesperson is more likely to try to take advantage of a woman.

    4. avatar PATRON49IFT says:

      My daughter who is 30 made up her OWN mind based on her experience shooting my firearms. I trained her from ground zero in the four basic rules of safe handling, target shooting, sporting clays, etc. We have not done any type of combat shooting. We frequently talk about ‘what would you do if….’ scenarios. She is a level headed, calm, not easily rattled young woman. I trust her completely to be a responsible gun owner. I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of her shot. She is quite accurate shooting targets. Different from self defense, I know.

      BTW, she really likes the Sig Sauer P226 Navy, the CZ SP-01 and the Beretta M9, all in 9mm. She carries a Colt Detective Special in .38 (with speed loader) due to size and concealability. Home gun is 20 guage Mossberg pump. She has several years experience safely shooting these guns. She can field strip and clean weapons with the best of them.

      Unfortunately, not all women have men in their lives who can teach them the proper and safe handling of firearms. As we know shooting, much like flying is a very unforgiving sport if one is careless.

      What I took from the article was that the author was offering advice based on his experience. Providing that advice to new shooters whether male or female is critical to making the purchase decision. Guns are not cheap and folks need honest advice. Maybe one gun is all she can afford. Once armed with knowledge from someone she trusts, she can make the decision that’s best for her. The fact that she can fire the weapon before purchase is even better.

  3. avatar IAmNotTheHulk says:

    Start small, .22LR small. Try revolver and semi-auto rentals first, then move up to .380, small to mid-size 9mm, .40, .357, 45 ACP, 10mm, full-size etc. Point is work into your comfort zone with a rental then research and go for what you feel most comfortable with, get some good instructions from a credible trainer. Drive before you try, and have fun.

    1. avatar MarkPA says:

      Absolutely agree for any first-time shooter. Start with a .22 and get used to the idea that the thing makes a loud bang with a little recoil. Then, eventually, work the newbie up to something in the .30 calibre range. Practice cheap with .22 until comfortable.

      There is no point in considering stopping power when that consideration puts the shooter beyond the point where s/he won’t carry the weight around. A .22 that one carries is vastly more effective than the .357 that is too heavy for the person’s taste.

      Relatively speaking, the manual of arms for a revolver is so much simpler than that for a semi-auto that this is a real consideration. Are we discussing a newbie who plans on becoming a marks[wo]man? One who will practice once a month for the next decade? Or, someone who wants to learn how to use the gun and will practice once-a-year? If the latter, then this user wants a gun s/he can use without needing to learn all the nitty-gritty details of operating a semi-auto. KISS.

      A revolver in the pocket/purse of such a user will NEVER ware-out! It will accumulate dust and lint because it’s not getting cleaned once-a-month whether its fired or not. That gun must go bang no matter how many years its been since it was last cleaned. Most likely, it will do the job by being drawn and before its fired. Rarely will it need to be fired more than once or twice to achieve its purpose if it needs to be fired at all.

      Cops and military need kit that will serve them in a gun-fight. Civilians need kit that will work to dissuade an attacker in the exceedingly rare case that it needs to be used at all. If the gun doesn’t fit the civilian’s lifestyle it won’t be carried and wouldn’t be there if the need ever arises.

      1. avatar BASHer says:

        One thing that the Author hit upon was the value of trying multiple firearms and that has merit for men as well. I would go one step further and say that the first step is to get a knowledgeable, mature friend to take the prospective gun owner out shooting first.

        This changes the dynamic to exclude any sales pressure or time constraint and lets them focus on learning enough to start asking the right questions. It also allows for a progression through multiple firearms.

        Example: I took a buddy and her 17 year old girl to the range the other month. I started them both off shooting a scoped 22 lr off a bag at clays propped on their side. Once they got good at that I introduced a similar rifle with open sights and a long barrel that gave a fantastic sight plane. This does a couple things: 1. Let them develop aim without recoil. 2. Succeed in hitting reactive targets early and build confidence. 3. Learn some of the mundane manual of arms with a long gun. In my experience it is a whole lot easier to get good muzzle discipline from the outset with a long gun and shooting off the bag as the “home position”.

        Having laid that foundation I then introduced a center fire rifle and handguns.

        Having an Elder with their own guns to get someone started and then be a sounding board is huge. This is not to take the place of professional instruction to follow, just a safe, calm, fun start.

        Postscript: The 17 year old was outshouting the punks in the next two lanes to a degree that the punks clued in on it. She had a great time and wants to go again.

  4. avatar FlamencoD says:

    My wife didn’t like the complexity of a semi-auto, so she wanted a small revolver. I tried to tell her the light revolver would be harder to shoot. She didn’t listen. So she ended up with a S&W model 638 snub nose. Fast forward 2 years and she’s never shot it, and I’ve only shot it a few times. Just not enjoyable. A better gun for a newbie would’ve been a 9mm XD, G19, PPQ, or any of the like. If a woman new to guns wants to conceal carry, a metal framed .380 ACP like the Sig P238, Kimber Micro, Springfield 911, or similar is a good choice, not too snappy and fairly accurate, and very easy to conceal.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      My wife is not a shooter. She likes and wants a gun around the house but she is not interested in the nuances of different firearms. A revolver and youth model pump shotgun are perfect for her.

      She cares nothing for the history or mechanics of firearms and having a couple of over flowing gun safes to choose from does nothing for her. She wants a gun that she can just pick up, point and fire with minimal interaction.

      So the revolver in .38 is her choice. I did talk her into a four inch barrel on her small frame 5 shot.

      1. avatar Sheep Dog says:

        Do you think your wife would like/shoot a .9mm carbine for home defense?

        1. avatar jwm says:

          The dread .9mm is only for super heroes. Now if we were talking 9mm carbines she would, maybe, approve. But we live in CA. The state doesn’t give much approval to such dread weapons of war.

      2. avatar Sheep Dog says:

        .9mm ; P

    2. avatar Hooty says:

      +1 on the P238. Potent enough, very small, light, and easy to carry, and it’s actually FUN to shoot.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    2 comments from little dick, both negative. Anybody surprised at that? Didn’t think so.

    The Texas red coat has good advice. I’ve loaded up a wide selection of types and calibers and taken noobs to the range quite a bit. Mostly positive results.

    Had one woman that had her husband killed in a car wreck that left her alone with a young child. No cell phones or PCs then. She wanted a gun but had never touched one and was afraid of them. The best she could manage was a long barreled .22 revolver. It wasn’t perfect but she wasn’t willing to go further and perfect is the enemy of good enough.

  6. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Hello Frank.

    In case you weren’t warned – you are dealing with an offshoot of the Taliban on this blog: if you don’t believe what I believe, you are an infidel, worthy of nothing but a thorough trashing.

    You’re gonna need a bigger….whatever.

    Welcome to the free fire zone.

  7. avatar NotAnFFL says:

    “Trigger pull on a double action pistol can be so long and heavy it’s discouraging to new shooters. Think about going to a striker fired product that can be a little more forgiving and consistent.”
    I personally find myself shooting DA better than SA, as it forces me to focus on sight alignment at all times while making the trigger break a “surprise”. I’ve started many a new shooter on a 22LR K frame with target grips; I still use that as part of my “warm up” for a range session. If you do what Ernie Langdon recommends and make the trigger press a part of your presentation, DA is not any slower than SAO guns.

    “Also, you may find it easier to rack a striker fired pistol like a GLOCK, Smith & Wesson M&P, Springfield XD, HK VP9. Hammer fired guns like a SIG 226, 1911 variant, HK USP, Beretta 92 or CZ75 can be more of a challenge.”
    While hammered guns with hammer down can be hard to cock, they are no different than a fired glock or SAO striker pistol. You must overcome both the recoil and the hammer/striker spring. With a striker gun, you cannot first thumb back the hammer so you’re only fighting the recoil spring.

    Rather, I would say that those with weak grip strength needs to do some stress ball exercises, and do the push-pull method (push the frame, pull the slide) with the gun in their “workspace”. DA work also helps develop some hand strength.

    – Not a Tier1 Operator operating operationally, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Teaching a new female shooter the “push-pull” method of operating the slide is absolutely critical. I have successfully helped several women learn the “push-pull” slide method and all of them were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to rack the slide once they had good technique.

  8. avatar Sheep Dog says:

    I’ve worked in pawnshops; I make my (opinion) recommendation but I leave it up to the customer. I hand them multiple pistols, auto loader, revolvers. I explain my experiences with each, pro’s and con’s. I like revolvers for newbies (I almost NEVER recommend Air/Feather weight revolvers) unless the person is an experienced shooter. Revolvers are compact easy to conceal, and simple to operate.
    I like the LCR .357 (heavier than the 38sp version) loaded with 38sp std load and/or +p. (If they’re dead-set on buying a revolver)
    I let the person hold many firearms; don’t try to sell them on a particular brand or style.
    I try to be an ambassador for firearm ownership, I don’t care if I sell a gun, as long as I can educate the person even if they buy a gun somewhere else.
    I tell them go to the gun range 2miles away Rent the guns that feel good in their hand, try shooting them. I also strongly recommend them taking the 101 class about carry laws, and shooting proficiency, and firearms fundamentals.

    1. avatar Laserbeam says:

      You mentioned that you liked the Ruger LCR in .357 loaded with .38 Sp. Might I suggest the LCR, or even the SP101, in .327 Fed Mag? Thank you and as you were.

  9. avatar El Possum guapo de la Tierra con la papaya del viejito loco says:

    I usually tell them to start with something small and with low recoil. Don’t get me wrong some ladies can handle big guns and they shoot pretty darn well, but some may get intimidated at first so you have to start nice and easy. A .44 magnum or compact 10mm is usually a good way to start imo. Ammo is very cheap too so they get a ton of practice. My girlfriend has big hands so she didn’t any problem whatsoever other than getting used to the stance, target acquisition etc. Now that I am thinking about it maybe she has big hands because she used to go by George a while ago, oh well it’s 2018 you have to be open minded.

  10. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Is this for real?

    I’m thinking the firearm concierge is being re-made and re-branded.

    So…..no.

    Next we will be told how trigger locks are really a good thing.

  11. avatar Kountryboy says:

    When my mom was looking to move up from her .22 revolver several years ago, I got her a 3″ Ruger SP101 in .32 H&R magnum. It gave her a compact revolver with enough weight to handle the magnum loads and the versatility to use the .32 S&W and .32 Long loads as well for comfortable practice. Of course now you can get it in .327 Federal, which allows you to use all the previously mentioned .32 loads in addition to the stout .327 Federal loads.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      KountryBoy,

      I think Ruger’s revolvers in .327 Federal Magnum are quite possibly the ideal revolver for women shooters who insist on carrying a revolver.

      As you mentioned, you have four “power” levels available from the exceedingly mild .32 S&W all the way up to the stout (although not too stout) .327 Federal Magnum. One of those choices are suitable for every woman.

      And you usually get a six-shot cylinder in small revolvers which is another bonus over the same revolvers chambered for .38 Special, .38 Special +P, and .357 Magnum.

  12. avatar Nanashi says:

    Every woman I know chose her CC handgun based on slide rack easiness. With Springfield one of the easier to rack but persona non grata now, the two I’d direct someone to would be the M&P Shield and Walther CCP. The Shield is a genuinely solid gun for a reasonable price anyways.

      1. avatar Just Sayin says:

        We (wife and I) went thru 2yrs of trying to find the right EDC for her.
        And of course, she didn’t like anything I already owned. (Which turned out to be a feature, not a PITA. Hey, I got to buy a new gun!)
        Kept searching until the clouds parted, the doves flew, and viola!, the 380EZ appeared. First time she ever laughed and actually had fun at the range.
        I have loaned it to the LGS NRA instructor a couple times when he was doing group introduction lessons (4-6 ladies). That model has sold itself several times to the newbies. (FWIW- he has them shoot from amongst: G43, G42, S&W Shield and the Bodyguard, Taurus G2, Ruger LCP and LC9)

  13. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I take exception to the author’s premise that popular light-weight snub-nosed revolvers are categorically bad for new women shooters.

    Sure, target shooting a full box of 50 cartridges is harsh enough that most women will not do it. On the flip side, I believe virtually ALL women will say that recoil is totally acceptable when shooting all five rounds in the cylinder during a real self-defense event.

    The only real down side of light-weight snub-nosed revolvers is if someone wants to use it a lot for target practice. Then I agree that their recoil is too harsh.

    For the woman who wants a simple and reliable handgun for basic protection at contact distance (which means no target practice is necessary), the light-weight snub-nosed revolver is ideal.

    1. avatar Laserbeam says:

      Hell, just get ’em a semi-automatic revolver, or a revolving semi-auto, just so long as it’s chambered in 6.5 Creedmore. There, problem solved.

  14. avatar Mike H in WA says:

    I took my then fiancee, now wife shooting. She’s 5’3″ and small framed. We tried several smaller rental 9mm’s and .380 ACP’s, as well as my P226 and P239. She far and away preferred to shoot the rental P238… which I was totally not expecting (I was expecting it would be a Glock 42). She got a P238 Purple.

    Nowadays, I fail to see how anyone would recommend to an inexperienced shooter buying one gun over another without trying it… or something very similar… first.

  15. avatar Slow Joe Crow says:

    How about the next gun for a lady? My wife loves shooting .22 but has been reluctant to try centerfire cartridges after a few quick rounds from .243 Winchester rifle several years ago.
    Do you have any suggestions to address her concerns about noise and recoil. I have an AR, a .308 bolt action and a 9mm pistol available but I don’t want to scare her, or give her scope bite.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      In terms of a handgun, move up to a full size revolver chambered in .38 Special (or .357 Magnum and only shoot .38 Special out of it).

      In terms of a rifle, have your wife shoot your AR-15 chambered in 5.56 x 45 mm NATO. Recoil on that will be negligible.

      1. avatar NotAnFFL says:

        I’ll add that a 6″ Model19 with 38spl is *very* soft shooting. I enjoy shooting that much more than my 4″ model 10.

        As to rifle, I recommend double hearing protection at an outdoor range, and a suppressor if you can. Noise is a big component in perceived recoil.

    2. avatar Juice says:

      A 9mm pistol with regular old ball ammo should be fine if the familiarity of a pistol (like the .22 she’s shot) is desired. If it’s an old steel frame, it will shoot softer but may be tough to lift and point. An AR with an adjustable stock is also really easy for smaller or younger shooters. Download your mags to just a few rounds to start with, and consider removing any heavier accessories like lights and sights if you can, if applicable.

    3. avatar MilitantCentrist says:

      I second most of the first reply to your question: a .38 Special full size revolver or the AR-15 would be fine. A 9mm semi-automatic handgun would probably also be fine, but best with a full size frame to tame recoil and a single stack magazine design so she can get a good handle on it.

      My lady is tiny and handled the AR-15 with no trouble.

      She struggled with a P229 in 9mm because the grip was a bit thick and the barrel too short to help with muzzle flip. Similarly struggled with a Beretta 92 because of the grip circumference and long reach out to the DA trigger. A 1911 chambered in 9mm checked all the boxes, but all she really wanted was to have the Ruger Mk III back!

  16. avatar Cz Rider says:

    Going to have to disagree on the Taurus comment. They can be hit or miss, but my go-to recommendation for a newbie who probably won’t own more than one handgun is the PT111 G2/G2C. I don’t know that I’d take one to war or anything, but I’ve never had a problem with mine in ordinary carry/range use.

  17. avatar MilitantCentrist says:

    There aren’t many absolutes in the wide world of shooting, but IMO if you have a first-time shooter on your hands and you don’t start them on a .22 LR, you are probably setting them up for failure.

    If money is too tight to get a .22 trainer plus something like a .38 or 9mm later on, there’s a good faith case to be made for just getting the .22 and getting confident with it. Very possibly better than staking your life on something you’re not proficient with and maybe even hate using.

  18. avatar Juice says:

    The first handgun my sister shot was a full-size steel-frame 9mm, as it was the lightest recoiling pistol we had at the time. She didn’t mind the kick, but it was difficult for her to hold out in front of her. When the time came to get her a defensive pistol of her own, with no nearby range offering rentals, I took her to the gun store and had her handle and manipulate polymer 9mm’s until she found the one that fit her best. She settled on a Ruger LC9 with a safety and a CrimsonTrace lasergrip. We traded it in for an LC9s as soon as they came out with it, and she’s been good to go since.

    Also, I don’t doubt that many a Taurus Judge or S&W Governor has been foisted on unsuspecting women by old coots behind gun store counters. But on the other hand, I haven’t met a woman yet who has seen the Judge who didn’t want one, as inappropriate of a newbie gun as it might be.

  19. avatar Timothy says:

    Everyone who’s new to shooting, regardless of gender, should shoot a bunch of different guns before they buy and see what they like best. A recommendation for a particular firearm should be taken as a recommendation to try something and see if the new shooter thinks it fits them.

  20. avatar GunnyGene says:

    Women should never be allowed to make decisions. Look at the mess we’re in because of that business with an apple back in the day. 😉

  21. avatar EJQ says:

    Here’s a female perspective. My first gun was a Taurus 380, which I trained myself. It also taught me how to clear jams. At night, I practiced racking an unloaded gun in 9mm and then 45, while watching T.V. My arm strength became better, and I now shoot more 9mm and 45 than anything else, although I did replace that Taurus 380 with a Sig P239.

    I had a 38 revolver for the car. Took it to the range a few times, gave it to my husband. Found a 9mm Shield for the car, on sale.

    A friend of ours found what he felt was a good deal on three Ruger LCP 380’s for the house at $200.00 a piece. Put one in a drawer in rooms not covered by rifles, as he and his wife are primarily hunters. Then found out that the 380 ammo, at 500 rounds to break in, would run him nearly $200.00 per gun. He wasn’t happy.

    If I was going to own one gun, it would be a semi automatic 9mm. It would get the job done, and, the ammo is cheaper than a 380 or a 45.

  22. avatar Icabod says:

    My daughter walked in to one of those “Big gun for the little lady” sales. Compounding it was the boyfriend who likely was looking at getting the gun in the end.
    Being (not) shy, demure and quiet, my daughter told the males to shut up. She and the lady had a discussion.They adjourned to the range with rental guns. Once a couple of possible guns were chosen, they shifted over to how they fit in her purse. Once the gun was chosen, the lady signed up for the introduction gun class. I’m not sure how the boyfriend and the relationship worked out.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I’m not sure how the boyfriend and the relationship worked out.

      Who cares?!?!? Your daughter is now armed and competent: that is a huge win!

  23. avatar Sal Chichon says:

    Glock 29.

  24. avatar Oscar Cannington says:

    I could not dissuade my wife from getting the 12-oz Charter Arms Pink Lady. She loved the cuteness factor but hated shooting it. Lucky for us the POS fell apart after about 100 rounds. She still loves looking at the disassembled Pink Lady but now she shoots a 4″ steel K-frame.

  25. avatar Texican says:

    Everybody’s 1st gun should be a GLOCK 19. Or facsimile thereof.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-QCMOdzlH6I

  26. avatar daveinwyo says:

    EJG; Thank you! Sit and work the slide and dry fire to gain strength. My wife loves to “shoot” cnn talking heads. She has a ruger lcp foe SD but can (sort of) handle my 226. If my wife wanted a revolver (not so much) I would go with the LCR in .38. EDC carry guns DO NOT wear out for most people. Range hogs that shoot every weekend do get more wear and tear. Not so much the normal working person. Even less for the “average” 1 gun household.

  27. avatar GS650G says:

    I’ve had few Taurus guns and never had a problem with them.

  28. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I second the revolver for women who will put it in the bedside table and never practice with it. A .357 loaded with .38 hollow points. Not an airweight!
    10 years from now, all she will have to do is pull it out and point and click.
    At inside the room distance that is fine.
    As others have said, racking the slide is most women’s problem.
    Sig 238, Walther PK 380 and Cccp, along with Smith and Wesson Shield and EZ 380 are the easiest semi auto pistols to rack.
    Any of these and a holster and some practice if they plan to carry daily.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I second the revolver for women who will put it in the bedside table and never practice with it. A .357 loaded with .38 hollow points. Not an airweight! 10 years from now, all she will have to do is pull it out and point and click. At inside the room distance that is fine.

      Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!! We have a winner!

      And the key here is to remember that all that lady needs is “combat accuracy” at “inside the room” (or even at contact) distance. And for that, you don’t need to go the range and practice. If you can accurately point your finger at someone who is standing 8 feet away, you can accurately point a handgun at someone who is standing 8 feet away.

      And when I say “accurately”, I mean good enough to score good enough hits on an attacker such that he/she will either voluntarily surrender, be incapacitated, or immediately leave. Where I come from, all three of those outcomes are good outcomes for the victim.

      1. avatar MilitantCentrist says:

        I’d argue that you do indeed still need to practice for bedroom distances. God bless her but sometimes my lady drops her wrist so hard anticipating muzzle blast that the shot hits the dang floor below the target. This is on a 9mm auto loader. Keeping her back on the .22 for a while to sort that out.

  29. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    I was in one LGS and the guy was showing an elderly couple a Ruger LCP for the wife to use. A family friend had recommended it to them. The only problem was it looked like someone had smacked her hands with a hammer about 10 times. The knuckles were swollen and enlarged. Her wrists were toothpick thin. Her arthritis made me hurt just to look at her hands.

    I like the LCP. It is light and easy to carry. But it is not easy or fun to shoot. There was no way this woman was going to be able to rack the slide. And if she didn’t drop it the first time , and only time, she fired it I would have been very surprised.

    I suggested a LCR in .22 or .32. Not a mega death blaster, but some times physical ability may not be up to what an operational operator will carry.

  30. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Daughters love Nylon 66 and Ruger 10/22.
    Just wish they still made the Nylon 66.

    1. avatar Laserbeam says:

      Roger that on the Nylon 66.

  31. avatar Charlie says:

    Precisely!

    I saw this happen every day at Academy Sports when I worked there, where the chief gunbar dork recommended titanium snubbies to every woman who came in looking for her first handgun!

    A girlfriend of mine was a victim of this tactic, and bought an S&W 442 Airweight that was uncomfortable to shoot even with non-+P loads!

    I took a bit more time with my first time female buyers, and always suggested that they have a friend take them to the range and sample a variety of handguns. I don’t know that I made a lot of sales, but I wasn’t on commission, so who cares.

    Charlie

  32. avatar luigi says:

    if glock is the honda civic of firearms, than the desert eagle is the monster truck

  33. avatar Sora says:

    1911 variant but Colt Mustang, Mustang Defender, and Mustang XSP (lightest there is) are all perfect for women.
    Easy to cock, very little recoil in hand, easy to carry and load spares, 6+1 or 7+1 depending on the mag, lightweight so the purse won’t feel heavy, small and slim enough to tuck anywhere on the body. Can shoot +P rounds including Underwood Extreme Defender that can punch above it’s class.
    Admission price is not cheap, but it is the best small gun for women who needs one.

  34. avatar L says:

    Completely disagree with the Taurus bashing. Obviously guns that cost more will be higher quality, but Taurus still makes decent guns and if you have a lot of expenses on a small budget and you NEED a gun, Taurus is a good choice.

    “Well just save up more” a lot of people can’t and some don’t have the time to if they feel they are in danger like living in a rough neighborhood or crazy exes. A lot of the people who only have 200 or 300 dollars for a gun have probably already been saving up a lot just to get that much.

  35. avatar DaveDetroit says:

    My sister is petite but brought up on guns (back when Californians valued freedom). She recently moved to Utah and wants something for hiking. During a visit, I brought a 686 revolver, a 642 snubby and a full sized 9mm semi auto. She loved the snubby the best! She shot such a tight group that a couple guys came over to see what she was shooting and asked if she was a LEO or military, lol.

    Everyone is different and the best advice I’ve seen is to start small and work up, try lots of different firearms, and then get the best revolver you can afford. -cough- but seriously, revolvers are great for self defense as a close quarters combat weapon easily handled with one hand, easily concealed and not fussy about their care. It seems there’s an effort to over complicate self defense. In that scenario the last thing you want is complexity.

  36. avatar raptor jesus says:

    This stuff doesn’t just apply to women.

    And yes, snubbies are just fucking awful. A P238 performs the same function with more capacity, less physical space, and far better shootability.

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