Reader Christian writes:
So I’m trying to get my very petite Fianceé into shooting. She’s 5′ 2″, and weighs 100 lbs soaking wet. The term “waifish” comes to mind when describing her. So the .22lr is about right for her, since she has small hands and isn’t particularly strong. I happen to agree with you that shot placement is far more important than caliber size, so I’m looking for a small caliber pistol to be her “go-to” piece if she needs it.
Unfortunately It seems as if all the smaller caliber pistols are built off tiny frames – mouse guns meant for deep/regular conceal carry. I’m looking for a full frame pistol that has decent capacity (12-16 rounds) and uses a round smaller than a 9mm. So far I’ve only found 2 serious contenders; the Bersa Thunder .380 and the FN 5.7 pistol.
The .380 doesn’t have as much capacity as I’d like, and is supposed to kick more than the 5.7, so of the two I lean sharply towards the FN 5.7… except mein gott im himmel that thing is expensive. I’m more than halfway to a PS90 by the time I could buy one.
What gun would you recommend steering my Fianceé towards? I’m starting to think she’s just going to have to learn to deal with the recoil from the 9mm. In which case my CZ 75 is the first gun I lean towards, but I really don’t know.
I have two recommendations for you, but first my rationale.
With new shooters, it’s important to work on the fundamentals of shooting before moving up to a larger caliber firearm. This is the reason that I love my .22lr conversion kit for my Sig P226 — it lets me teach the new shooters the proper shooting technique without having them worry about controlling the recoil. And when we transition to the 9mm cartridge, they are already familiar with how the firearm functions. It’s a great training tool, one that I never leave for the range without.
Following the 2008 Obama election ammo shortage, gun companies started coming out with dedicated .22lr versions of their full-sized firearms. These allowed people to practice at the range while avoiding paying insane prices for then-scarce calibers like 9mm and 45 ACP. They also proved to be excellent training guns for new shooters, providing a lightweight firearm with minimal recoil whose controls mimicked the real firearms they were based upon.
While the new .22lr guns are fantastic on the range, they ain’t no slouch at self defense either. I answered a question a while back about .22lr for self defense, and the conclusion I came to was that it wasn’t the best caliber to use but it was effective enough to get the job done. Especially considering the number of encounters that are ended without a single shot being fired — over 500,000 per year by some estimates — the mere appearance of a firearm is often enough to tip the scales and send the bad guy running. And if he doesn’t stop, then the numbers seem to indicate that a .22lr round can still put bad guys down as well as anything else out there.
In short, my take is that a .22lr handgun is the ideal firearm for a new shooter. Which one specifically? The GSG 1911 handgun.
Joe Grine wrote a fantastic review of the gun not too long ago, and I’ve had numerous people I work with (at the day job) confirm his conclusions based on their own personal experience. It’s a fantastic little gun that provides all the wonderful benefits of a 1911 (single stage trigger, good iron sights, and a manual safety for added peace of mind) at a fraction of the price of the real deal — $350ish.
If you really, really don’t want to go with a .22lr firearm, though, I do have one other recommendation: a Taurus 1911 in 9mm.
There are very few 9mm handguns I would recommend for a new (and small) shooter. Most of the modern 9mm handguns focus on shedding weight and being as slim as possible for concealed carry and other applications. Thankfully, the 1911 design Taurus uses doesn’t differ much from their full sized version. This keeps the handgun nice and heavy, which will soak up a lot of the recoil from a 9mm round and keep the gun manageable. Plus, I just think it looks pretty slick. And it costs about half as much as the next 9mm 1911 I could find.
Why yes, I am a bit of a 1911 fan. How could you tell?