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Let’s get this out of the way: the idea that you, a man, should choose a firearm for a woman who’s never had one is sexist and disrespectful. Women are fully capable of making their own decisions. They don’t need you, a man, telling them what gun is best for their home defense. To even think such a thing reveals you as a Neanderthal. Contact your local community college and sign up for some sensitivity training at your earliest opportunity. Now, let’s have a look at the three questions you need to consider before you choose the right gun for your woman . . .

1. Where will you put the home defense handgun?

Most men looking to arm their Significant Other (SO) start with the question “Do you want a gun?” They spend countless hours trying to convince their SO that a home defense firearm with her name on it is a necessity. This involves a lot of discussion about horrific violence and constant entreaties to go to the range.

That strategy depends on wearing her down. Like all long-term campaigns, the “Annie get your gun” battle is fraught with danger. Simply put, you can REALLY piss her off by harping on about “her” gun. Which leads to nasty high volume “conversations” about her lack of situational awareness. Then it’s maison bow-wow for you Boyo.

Hello? Of course she wants a gun. A gun. Not the gun. You know: the gun that’s real, right there in her hand. That gun that makes all that noise and puts her in league with all those crazy gun guys. Unless, that is, someone is trying to rape her, kill her or f with her children. Oh then she wants a gun. Any gun. That gun is OK.

The best method here: an assumptive close. Simply assume you’re going to buy her a gun. Honey, I’m trying to decide the perfect home defense gun for you. I thought we discussed this. I don’t want a gun. [Ignore.] Where should we keep it? Unless she says something like “in the safe,” pay no attention to any statement after that.

Ah, but should you keep her handgun in a safe? I’ve said it here a dozen times (and counting): the proper place for a home defense handgun is on your person. Unless you’re sleeping. In which case a quick access bedside safe is the way to go. (Review of 9G version next week.) But if she’s awake, the gun belongs on her. Where she can get it, but kids and strangers can’t.

Keep in mind the question about her gun’s eventual 10-40 is strictly rhetorical. You’re just getting her adjusted to the idea of gun ownership. The “where” of the matter is something you have to ponder on your lonesome, based on your knowledge of her psychology and your persuasive abilities.

The chances of you getting her to home carry right from the git-go are small. While it should be your goal, you may have to start with an easy-to-shoot larger gun locked in a safe and work your way towards carry. Yes, size matters . . .

2. What size home defense handgun should she own?

In general, really small handguns of a reasonably-effective self-defense caliber suck. The recoil puts new not-to-say-extremely-reluctant shooters right off the whole idea. In the hands of an average shooter, dinky guns are only good for close-quarters combat. Even then it’s entirely possible they’ll miss their target at point blank range. And most small semi-automatic pistols are fiddly and prone to failure through limp-wristing.

On the positive side, small guns appeal to non-gun-o-centric women. They are not as intimidating as hand cannons (which are easier to shoot, counter-intuitively enough). They’re cute! Small guns even come in girl power pink! (Sexist perhaps, but true.) Most importantly, smaller lighter guns are easier to carry.

The general rule of thumb: choose the heaviest version of the smallest gun with the largest caliber that she can comfortably shoot and carry. Base that decision on any prior firearms experience your SO may have; her size, weight, strength and general demeanor. Also your sense of her style. Which one of your guns does she like, if any?

Basically, stay well away from lightweight guns and don’t buy something cheap and nasty looking. The stainless steel .38 caliber Smith & Wesson 642 and Ruger SP101 are the entry level revolvers to beat. (Plan for Home Carry: go hammerless.) Small semi-auto nines are also a good choice, such as the Ruger LC9 or Baby Glock.

For some reason, a lot of guys try to make this selection a cooperative endeavor. Do you like the way this one feels in your hand? Shall we rent this one at the range? How was the recoil on that? How about we try a .22 and work our way up? Would you carry this one in your pocket? That process is the dictionary definition of a fool’s errand.

Have you ever gone shoe shopping with your wife? Well, exactly. Now imagine that she doesn’t want shoes (alternative universe I know) and you’re pleading with her to try on and critique ten pairs that you chose, whilst explaining mind-numbing detail why you chose them. Just buy her the damn gun. If it doesn’t work out, you have another carry gun.

3. How can you convince her to become proficient?

If you’ve listened to my sage advice and bought her a relatively heavy gun, her home defense handgun will not be painful to shoot. That’s good. But not good enough. It’s one thing for your SO to own a gun, it’s another for her to know how to shoot it. To do that she has to shoot it. Which she may not want to do.

If you failed to win the home carry debate, you’ve got your work cut out for you. A handgun locked in a safe is out of sight, out of mind. Even if your SO does consider the gun as “hers,” she may not have (i.e. make) time for range practice. Ever. The trick here: forget about the range. Get her to wear the gun.

Car salesman call the technique “puppy-dogging.” Give someone a puppy (i.e. a new car) for a while and they won’t want to give it back. Get your SO to Home Carry her gun and she’ll “own” the firearm.

If she wears it often enough she’ll naturally want to shoot it. I swear this works. But you have to be patient, and realistic. At the moment, my wife only home carries when I’m not in the house. And shoots maybe once a month. And that’s the way it is.

So focus on the holster. Buy the perfect holster for her gun. Indeed, you might want to start with the perfect holster and work your way backwards to the type of gun that fits in the perfect holster. Back up. Start with the perfect belt to hold the perfect holster to hold the perfect gun for the perfect holster supported by the perfect belt.

This is as at least as difficult as it sounds; as you know from the large number of holsters gathering dust somewhere in your basement. Your SO may reject a holster out for no good reason. She may need—yes need—several different types of holsters to match her outfits. Her holster budget can dwarf the gun buying investment. And she might only wear a gun once in a blue moon and shoot it with the changing seasons. The longest journey and all that . . .

To finish as I started (as a sexist pig), it’s best to think of your SO’s handgun as a fashion accessory rather than a self-defense weapon. Not because you’re trying to trick her into Home Carry but because— no, wait. You are trying to trick her into Home Carry. If she likes the look and feel of her handgun on her person, she might feel the need to look like she knows what she’s doing.

To those of you who didn’t have to resort to deviousness to git ‘er done, I say congratulations! For the rest of you, the ends (getting the one you love to take at least some responsibility for her self-defense and the defense of any sprogs) justify the means.

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    • It takes a little more practice to use a gun safely and effectively than it does to wield a fire extinguisher. It also takes far too long to get to a gun in a safe in a daytime home invasion scenario. Try it. Time it.

      • Who said anything about a safe? A quick-opening lock box might be a good idea if there are kids in the house, but there’s no reason not to have a firearm within easy reach when you are in the security of your own home. And if your home is not secure enough to provide you a few seconds to reach it, then the solution is… to increase your physical security. Something that will have benefits that go well beyond the single limited scenario of a daytime home invasion.

        The solution to every security and safety issue isn’t always a gun.

        If your home defense plan is to reenact a quick-draw contest from the streets of Dodge City, You’re Doing It Wrong™. The whole point of having a home is not to have to live in the street. Or live like you’re living in the street. If I wanted to do that, I could just skip this mortgage nonsense and save myself a lot of money. Homes, properly equipped, can provide a layer of physical security. You’re paying for it. You might as well get some of the benefits. One of which is not having to carry a gun every second of every day.

        • Homes, properly equipped, can provide a layer of physical security.

          And homes, properly equipped, can make an intruder want to go elsewhere. A security door, a few exterior lights and some thorny shrubbery in strategic locations will cost less than the average firearm but it’ll do more to discourage intruders than a gun will. After all, the best possible fire-fight is the one you DON’T get into it.

          It’s important to realize, though, that all that (and burglar alarms, big dogs, etc.) can only deter an attack. If an attack happens, they’re pretty much useless, and it’s up to the attackee to defend themselves. That’s where a gun (and training) comes into play.

          • They give you time and warning, which allows you to get to that gun. That’s far from useless. That’s the difference between living a comfortable life, secure in your castle, and living like a hunted man who has no home at all.

        • Your solution is not a bad one, it just isn’t complete, Jason. Most fights are over in 2 seconds. See FBI database on defense shootings. You mention a couple of seconds but really you have already bought those reacting to the situation. Nothing replaces a gun on hip for reaction and safety of the firearm (kids, burglers, etc…). Even with the gun on hip you are not always in control. It is just fact.

          • According to a training instructor I had once, average DGU is 3 seconds, 3 rounds, at 3 feet.

            He said it was from the FBI, but I can’t confirm that.

  1. A few episodes of Watching the Detectives or Cold Case Files should convert the heathen. If those don’t work, the local crime report will.

  2. I agree with securing your home, but why wouldn’t you home carry as well? I have health insurance; that doesn’t mean I don’t take other steps to keep myself healthy. Why wouldn’t you provide yourself every advantage?

    • For the same reason you don’t buy every form of insurance you could possibly buy. Because it’s not free. Because every $1 you spend on insurance is a $1 you can’t spend on living today. Some forms of insurance have non-monetary costs. Is the difference between a gun on your hip and a gun on the end table so great that you’re willing to give up being able to lie around the house in just your jammies (or perhaps less), with no heavy gun belt on?

      What kind of life is that?

      I’d be ashamed to make such a pitch to my special lady friend. “Darlin’, I am such a bad provider and planner that we live in a horrible neighborhood and a home that provides no more protection or warning against sudden attack than a tissue-paper tent. Actually, it’s worse, because you could at least hear someone approaching a tent. But don’t worry, I have a solution. I got you this gun, and I want you to carry it on you at all times. Yes, even in the shower. And I want you to spend lots of time practicing your speed draw.”


  3. Step Four: See if her friends are into shooting.

    I’m making some gross generalities here so please forgive me, but in general, women tend to be more comfortable working as a group and not by themselves. In my case, I’m the social one and my wife is the go-it-alone kind, which is the exception that proves the rule, I guess. This (and the fact they attract men) is why “Ladies nights” are so popular: If women can feel like they’re not on their own, they’ll show up, and show up in droves. Again, a generalization, but one that proves true in the long run, I think.

    • I agree 100%. My SO is from a very anti-gun family. The only way I have gotten her to the range is as a social occasion with her friends or my sister and her BF. The wifey seems to be coming around to gun ownership, and even tried out the AK and the 870 the last time we were out.

  4. I find that Rophynol helps. No, really, I recommend maybe taking a shootin’ class together, or the CWP course together like they have here. Actually, with my fiance, I showed her my instructor credentials. I acted like it was a job interview, told her how I’ve trained many,many people, and then walked her through all the basics. My S&W 649 with laser grips was a near perfect trainer-dry firing with and w/o the laser, since the laser can be turned on/off. The weight of the stainless helped with recoil. The covered hammer, with just an end of the hammer accessible, kept her from being distracted by the hammer. I put a special paint pen job on the front sight. If all she saw was green, she was lined up with the rear sight. If she saw the white painted under the green-too much elevation. She ripped up the target at 15 yards. The only thing that would make the piece perfect for training would be a 3” barrel on the 649.

    • Before anyone chastises me, of course I use snap caps to protect during dry fire. That and one of my first lessons is teaching everyone NOT to jerk the revolver to slap the cylinder shut. I want to slap the person whenever I see them do that stupid movie crap. Doing that to someone elses handgun is like sitting on someone elses motorcycle w/o permission. You’ll get beat down for that.

  5. I had no trouble getting my wife interested in learning to shoot a pistol. 20 years ago when I was new to the Army and she was half-way across the country from family I got sent on a 3 month TDY. Three weeks before my return two things happened. First, someone rattled the doorknob checking to see if it was unlocked. Then a week later, someone left a threatening obscene message on the answering machine. After that, she wanted to learn to shoot a pistol and shoot my long arms better.

    She still doesn’t see the need to get her CCW as she seldom goes anywhere without me. She does have good Situational Awareness and practices good OPSEC so she is value added when out and about. I home carry and she knows where my other pistol are located and how to shoot them accurately. She enjoys going to the range and has proven to be a good shot out to 20-25 meters.

    For what it is worth, she thinks the pink guns are stupid. She much prefers the lines of a well made modern firearm to the artistry of old muzzleloading arms. Maybe it helps that I married a small town Southern girl.

  6. That has to be the most smoking hot picture I’ve seen in a long time.

    Redheads, man. Gods gift to humanity.

    • And it’s also a message you can use: Tell the woman in your life how good she looks when wearing a gun (DO buy her the best looking leather available…;-) ).

  7. I agree with many of the suggestions here, and I’ve a few to offer:

    1. Take her to a gun store and let her browse. This may see asinine to us fellows but what was a very large contributing factor to my wife’s first gun purchase was appearance. In her case it was a potent revolver – but even if it hadn’t been, with very few caveats – I wouldn’t have cared. I think we forget that the first purchase doesn’t have to be tactically sound – just get past it, and everything after that is easier.

    2. Don’t rush things. Once she has a gun don’t start right into the whole house carry business. Start a regular range visit, then slowly go from there. Baby steps.

    3. Guns should be part of an overall strategy. Hardening a house etc does buy time for when you’ve handsful with laundry, children and so forth – don’t dismiss it.

    Oh and anyone who believes large dogs are useless in an attack doesn’t have any history with most large dog breeds. There are umpteen examples of large dogs dying while protecting owners. My Great Danes will buy time for me to wake up, get armed, and get sights on target – if there’s anything left to shoot at that point.

  8. Robert;
    The issue I have to work through is “don’t we already have a gun?” This is my wife’s response. I have a SW 422 pistol, a 20 gauge BPS upland shotgun for quail hunting and a 30-30- Marlin 336 which I have converted to a CAR – (thanks Mr. Quinn!!, its awesome – I’ll try to post pictures at some point). So getting the SO to see that these are guns for different purposes is tough. I want her to have something she can get to in a hurry and is comfortable with – she likes to shoot – its 2 kids in college and life ($$) in general that probably everyone on this site knows what I’m talking about as far a another gun purchase. My issue isn’t bad guys, its mountain lions and bears, I live at 9200′ and am pretty isolated. I know you don’t have the one answer to solve my “quandry” but any advice from you or the TTAG family is appreciated. MG

  9. I took my better-half to a gun show and let her try a whole bunch of handguns for a good fit to her hand. Eventually she decided on the Walther PK-380. So I bought 2. One for her CCW, one for my CCW. We can share mags as needed. (And, yes, she is a better shot than I am.)

  10. My wife can get pretty upset with me, at times. Especially during that “time of the month”, when all her emotions are running rampant. I’m not so sure her being armed is a good idea. Lol.

  11. My wife isn’t really interested in shooting as a hobby or the games, although she does shoot well. (long story, don’t ask) She does have my back though, and if I hear her yell “Drop!!” I’ll be sucking dirt before the next heartbeat, with my fingers in my ears.

    She really wasn’t interested in CC until she had a couple of heart racing (but fortunately benign) experiences which impressed upon her the wisdom of having and carrying for herself. Then I got LOTs of interest in her going to the range and taking a trip to the local gun shop. She’s shot most of what I own so she had a good idea of what she wanted before going. The guy at the shop spent 2 hours with both her and her girlfriend, letting them fondle almost everything in the store. (and it’s a big store). She made her selection and I wrote the check. My only condition was that she HAD to practice with it, learn it’s habits, deal with its malfunctions, and clean it (to become as familiar with its functioning parts as possible) before carrying. The defensive training exercises are a work in progress though.

    Now my daughter is within striking distance of her 21st B-Day and wants her CCL as well. (She’s BEEN wanting it for the last 5 years but it’s just now become close enough to get excited about) Daddy now has her complete attention with respect to SA, and both unarmed and armed defense measures. It’s amazing how focused people can get when they really want something.

    The SO has also been paying more attention to the training, too and encouraging more of her friends to get firearms and training. It seems that societal, economic and political conditions are raising the security antennae of more and more women these days.

  12. Sorry to be so disagreeable, TTAG, but this is also a bit loopy. Maybe it’s working for you, but that would be, as you put it, maison bow-wow for me.

    For myself, it’s hard enough to convince her that I need a gun in the house. My CCW Kahr PM9 is with me in the pocket, out-of-sight, out-of-mind. The rest of the guns are in the basement safe, and I’ve negotiated the storage of one P226 in the bedroom.

    The sad thing is, she actually enjoys shooting! I’ve yet to meet a girl who doesn’t like shooting. But she still doesn’t want to take ownership of gun, because it introduces an element of uncertainty and possible danger to the house. She has come to accept that I have own guns, but she doesn’t want one. She doesn’t want the responsibility.

    And when kids come? No woman could bear contemplating accidentally shooting their child.

    You gotta respect those fears. There are a lot of risks in life, and home invasion is only one of them. Choose your battles. If I’m going to make her to do something, it will be to check her mirrors more often before changing lanes.

  13. My wife was indifferent about guns abd SD. Then one morning, I was watching an Washington DC NRA rally on TV. Anyway, Suzanna Hupp took the mike and told her story. The wife was in tears and decided to buy a gun, take lessons, and get her CCP. It’s been 12 years or so and she still carries. Her decision was reafirmed when we had kids.

  14. Rule number one when buying your wife a gun.

    Remember, IT’S HER GUN. Buy her what SHE wants.

  15. I would add a note to the good advice above: be sure you get a gun that fits her hand. If she has small hands and/or shorter fingers than you, the “trigger reach” of the gun is critical. This is the distance between the uncocked double action trigger and the grip’s backstrap. She has to be able to get the first crease/joint of her trigger finger on the trigger when she grips the gun normally, or she will lack the leverage to pull the trigger smoothly. I once saw a woman with small hands trying to shoot a Ruger SP101 (hammerless) – she had to use BOTH trigger fingers (left and right hands) at the same time in order to pull the trigger. Her target at 3 yards could best be described as a pattern, not a group.

    If your SO has very small hands, take a look at a S&W J-frame with the backstrap NOT covered by the grip. The Pachmeyer “Compac Professional” grips help, too. They give a secure, cushioned grip with the backstrap exposed, so the “trigger reach” is quite short. Remember, you are theoretically buying this so she can use it, not so you can get a cool gun you like.

    If you are looking for an excuse for a new gun, buy a J-frame size double action .22LR revolver “for her to practice with”. She might actually enjoy it, and if she doesn’t, hey, everyone needs a good .22 revolver. And remember “Pete’s Law’: you are legally entitled to a minimum of one gun of every type for every year of your life. (I will trust you to define “type” – you know, 2″ J-frame and a 4″ J-frame, adjustable sights and fixed sights, .308 AR and .223 AR, etc. – These are all different “types”.)

  16. I have the “don’t want anything to do with guns” wife too (I wonder why I married her at times for this reason, and pretty much only this reason) so I too deal with this problem. Fortunately our 2 daughters do like shooting, altho neither carry. (working on that one) I tend toward the ‘have some hidden weapons around the home’ camp, but haven’t done it because of our youngest’s friends coming over from time to time. Not knowing how they were brought up makes me worry they might find and “play” with a gun. How fast are those ‘gun box’ type things to open? A few of those around the house might be a good investment.

    And BTW, we have several dogs as well, I look at them as early warning and distraction only. Hopefully able to give me enough time to wake up and react or draw and be ready if a daytime invasion.

  17. .40 and 10 mm are being abondoned bt many police agencies in favor of 9mm. 9mm is plenty of power and in the past many police guns had smaller calibers. While that drugged up dex fiend may come into your house and keep comingm no matter how many bullets he takes, that is a rare occurance.
    People are more accurate with smaller caliber, especially on the second shot. A .32 or better yet a .380 is a great round for a small woman, especially one who may have arthritis.
    I understand the desire of the “need” for higher caliber. The problem here is we are talking about a smaller person(usually), one who doesn’t train(or won’t train for long). Get her something that won’t surprise her when she does fire it. How many people have been attacked because they really didn’t want the noise, the recoil, the whatever that causes terror the firet shot? How many wouldn’t fire a second time because they are already scared and that was “just too much!”. I am not just dissing females here, I have seen this in many men, as I am sure you have, also. Unless the wify is or was in LE or the military, get her something easy to handle that she won’t be too shell shocked to fire a second time.

    I don’t have this problem with my wife. I don’t know if I should feel safe myself……

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