Five years ago I walked into a local gun store for a closer look at a SIG Sauer I had been curious about for some time (if you must know it was the SIG Sauer Spartan, the only “molon labe” or bronze gun I’ve ever considered). I’d been looking for a good deal on the popular single-stack 1911 which had lead to my driving to new, more distant locations. But I digress.
So I walked into the new-to-me store and made a beeline for the glass display cases, quickly spotting the firearm I’d driven out there to see. Two things happened. First, I was ignored for quite a while by the guys working the counter even though they weren’t exactly busy and I clearly needed assistance.
Then an older gentleman swaggered – yes, swaggered – over and uttered the words so many women in gun stores have heard repeated ad nauseam for decades on end: “You lookin’ for a gun, honey? We got some nice revolvers over here.” I blew another ten minutes trying to talk to him and he never strayed from his wildly stereotypical attitude.
Sigh. Needless to say I did not buy anything from that gun store (and that was just one can-I-get-you-a-revolver experience of dozens — if not hundreds — over the years).
I’m supposed to be talking about revolvers for women here. This undoubtedly means waxing poetic about the best Charter Arms Pink Lady or Smith & Wesson Model 642 LS Ladysmith snubby for the job and the FlashBang bra holster to go with it. You all won’t mind if I don’t do that, right?
Revolvers have long been peddled as The Ultimate Women’s Gun. The logic behind it varies from our apparently weak hands to our need for a “softer recoiling” pistol – ha! – to our apparent inability to load magazines or understand the enormously confusing moving parts of a semi-automatic. (Magazine release? How does that work?) I am, after all, a delicate flower…right?
Here’s the thing about revolvers. The average revolver has more parts than the average semi-automatic and more parts than polymer pistols like GLOCKs. If your GLOCK experiences a significant failure, odds are good you can home-gunsmith your way to a repair; if your revolver experiences a major failure odds are extremely high it’s going to the gunsmith.
Then there’s the fact that a double-action trigger pull isn’t exactly simple to master (and if you’re using a gun for self-defense you’d better be able to run it double-action, not only single-action). If you think a snub-nosed .38 Special recoils far less than a 9mm, well, there’s nothing I can do to fill the gaps in your knowledge.
Let’s hit “pause” for a moment because this is beginning to feel like an anti-revolver piece. Full disclosure: I love my revolvers. There is a double-digit count of revolvers in my house. I’ve carried them, trained with them, and hunted with them as recently as last week. Revolvers rock. Fight me on that.
However, this isn’t about my personal affection for the Nighthawk Mongoose or the Ruger Super Redhawk…or my sharp, almost painful desire for a Colt Python of my very own. This is about revolvers for women. Women who will typically be after their First Gun and potentially their only gun. Women who, unlike me, do not have a career devoted to firearms. It’s about something else, too, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out what.
You know what’s a good first-and-possibly-only-carry-gun for a new female shooter? A GLOCK 19, if her hand size allows it. Or perhaps a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in 9mm. There are just too many good choices to list here. A revolver is rarely one of them.
But what if the gun is for my elderly mother/grandmother, you ask. Her hands are arthritic and racking the slide is an iffy scenario.
I’d tell you to check out the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ. Is the EZ perfect? No. No gun is perfect. (And I dislike .380 ACP.) But the slide is ridiculously easy to rack and its overall bulk and barrel length dampen recoil significantly. It’s reasonably accurate, too. I’ve spent significant time running one and was impressed by it. My one complaint was that the grip safety could be an issue for truly arthritic, weak hands because it had its finicky moments. However, I would still recommend trying it before a revolver.
Revolvers for women. There’s a phrase that’s a serious misnomer. So are the phrases “1911s are too complex for women,” “best handguns for women,” and “guns for women.” Oh, “holsters for women,” too. Imagine me shaking my head right now because I totally am.
Let me bottom line it for you: guns don’t know gender. Guns are inanimate objects and no more know the gender of the finger on the trigger than they know how to talk sense to an anti. What does affect firearms use are things like hand size, experience, and application. Hand strength and arm strength can be improved upon with minimal effort in most situations – you might be surprised how many shooters use grip strengtheners and lift free weights.
I can easily list a number of shooters I know of both genders who started out barely able to rack a slide who are now competent, dedicated shooters all because they refused to give up. Yes, there are scenarios where a revolver is the only or best option, but those situations are the exception to the rule, not the norm.
I cannot reiterate enough that gender has no place in the gun world. I’m a woman. Who cares? Most of you are men. Who cares? I can tell you what truly doesn’t care. Your gun doesn’t care.
Your gun only responds to your ability to grip and run it. Your gun doesn’t care whether your plumbing is indoor or outdoor. Guns just want to have fun.
When fitting guns to shooters, go by the shooter’s hand size and overall ability. Keep in mind that those abilities can and hopefully will evolve with time and training. Remember there is more to racking a slide than muscling it back; slides should be finessed, not forced.
Revolvers can be fantastic and are certainly an option, but they shouldn’t be your immediate inclination for a new shooter, male, female, or orangutan. They can be used for concealed carry guns, but I’ll go ahead and show what some in the industry see as my younger side by saying I’d prefer to have more than five or six rounds available. I’ve carried them and will undoubtedly carry them again, but revolvers are not my favorite concealed carry guns.
Side note: there are those who believe revolvers are ideal for women due in large part to the idea a revolver will shoot just fine from inside a purse. First of all, don’t encourage purse carry. Explain why on-body carry is highly preferable and help the person in question find a good holster. Purse carry, bad. On-body carry, good.
Although revolvers can function a little better within the confines of a purse than a semi-auto they can still fail and still produce super-heated gases and pressure which blows apart the purse in question and burns the shooter’s hand. Try shooting some guns from inside purses – purses with random crap in them – and get back to me. Been there, done that.
The moral of the story is gender has no place with guns. The idea gender matters with guns is a fallacy. There are men and women who are shorter and slimmer just as there are both men and women who are taller and larger. Small hands and small size are not exclusive to women; there are a heck of a lot of smaller men in this industry, in fact.
Guns are often referred to as the great equalizers and they are, in more ways than one. Put us all on a range together and there would be a wide variety of skills on display, all of which could and would change with training.
Want a revolver? Get one. See revolvers as the go-to choice for women? No. So much no. All gun owners should buy the handguns best suited to their hand and grip size and overall abilities and needs.
Guns know no gender. It’s past time the gun community and industry followed their example. There’s no sisterhood, only guns. That’s what it should be about: guns (and more guns). Who’s with me?