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The decision to carry a loaded gun is, in my humble opinion, a good one. An empowering one. One that all women should consider. But there are a three things women should think about before they jump into guns as their primary self-defense tool . . .

1, Know the Four Rules of Gun Safety

Know them well. Practice them at all times: at the range and off. Failure to do so can result in tragedies that are incomprehensible. Follow all the rules, of course, but there’s one Rule to rule them all: never point a gun at anything you’re unwilling to destroy. If you feel that you are unable to follow this rule, do not buy, own or handle a gun. If you think you might be able to, limit gun handling to those times when you are supervised by a safe gun owner – until you’re sure you have proper “muzzle discipline.”

[NOTE: I know this applies to any new shooter, regardless of sex. But I can’t emphasize this enough.]

2. Make sure you’re willing to use deadly force

Most boys play with toy guns from an early age. They role-play the idea of deadly force, becoming comfortable with it on the subconscious level. Most girls do not. It is imperative that a woman carrying a gun be mentally prepared to use deadly force – should they or other innocent life face the threat of death or grievous bodily harm (when it is legal to threaten or use deadly force).

The best thing to do: go through situations in your mind where you’d be willing to shoot another person and potentially take their life. Every woman will be different in her assessment of dangers. Some will consider the danger of rape sufficient to use their gun. Others may not. Your personal decision is not right or wrong per se, but a gun is a tool that you must be ready to use to its fullest extent.

Along those same lines, look around your house. (Home carry please!) Imagine firing a bullet toward an intruder. Look around, and understand what pulling the trigger in your home could mean. Could it go through a wall and hurt a neighbor? Or heaven forbid, one of your own family members? Think it through.

If you’re not prepared to take another life, don’t carry a gun. In that case, you run the risk of having your gun taken and used against you or other innocent life. Also, carrying a gun you’re not prepared to use may prevent you from using non-lethal methods of self-defense.

3. Purchase proper gear

Men’s bodies are different from women’s. A carry system (gun and holster) that works for a man may not be comfortable or efficient for woman, considering her hand size, grip strength, and/or choice of clothing. Base your decision on your body type and where you want to carry for optimum comfort or concealment, no matter which system you choose. Understand that you may need several different types of holsters to carry in different kinds of clothing. Also, keep in mind that trial and error is part of the selection process.

TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia have repeatedly – and correctly – warned women not to choose a firearm based solely on advice from male significant others or male gun store employees. I’m not saying they’re always wrong. But there is a high likelihood they will be. There’s only way to know if a particular gun is right for you: try before you buy. Do not buy a gun before test firing it at a range. You may well need different types of guns for different carry options, depending on your wardrobe.

Again, the same advice applies to new male shooters. But women must pay particular attention to their gear selection – given the physical and lifestyle differences between themselves and male newbies. Of course, women share the same goal as men: to carry the most efficient tool for self-defense. And that’s a gun.

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  1. step 2 is what i ask every person i meet that wants to buy a gun half of them (male or female) say “no” i then say forget the gun get your self a can of pepper spray

    • As one who tries to avoid obscenities and crudeness and provocative photos or videos on the internet and being too old and dysfunctional now to fetch a hard lesson , I must say the photo attached to this article is beautiful , and I find myself wildly attracted to a well made and well armed lady .
      Those blue practice pistols were a little bit off but the rest of the pick was just fine .
      Now I will pray for forgiveness and go hug my wife whom I absolutely adore .

  2. 4. Repeat ” It was an accident! I didn’t mean to shoot my husband/boyfriend…. really!”

      • No, he’s a troll. On other threads he usually posts something about shooting government employees. Or referring to women as [insert crude term for female genitalia here]. Or some other inappropriate crap.

        • The references may be to the mom’s group or not, they are still inappropriate. And I think you did just fine picking a name.

    • Or more accurately updated to this century, Colt being what it is these days:

      “God created men and women…The proper firearm choice makes them equal.”

      No disrespect to Sam Colt or his pistols, but they are not right for everyone, especially women.

    • I always thought the quote was “Abraham Lincoln may have freed all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”

  3. 1 and 2 — Everyone. Not just “women”.

    3 – Maybe you don’t mean it this way Sara, but sounds way too much like “Make sure you get little pink 380 that isn’t scary.” It seems it’s either “lol let’s make her shoot a Deagle and watch her tits shake” or “anything bigger than a 22 is gonna be too much for you sweetie.”

    90% of the time, Recoil is overblown.

    Now if this is just about skin tight Wranglers and printing, well.. horses for courses. But other than that, I don’t really believe in a “women’s gun”.

      • Gimme a break. “Let’s give the little newbie girl the biggest gun we got and see how she reacts to it ” the first time at the range seems to almost be a time honored tradition.

        And while “hilarious” is a great way to make a beginner never want to shoot again.

        • My ex-wife, 5’1″ tall, 105 soaking wet, raised in Russia until 40 years old. She had never fired ANY gun before coming to America and was annoyed when I took my stepson to his first gun show. Nevertheless, she accompanied us to the range and watched as we fired each of my pistols. Finally she stepped up to the line and chose the S&W 686 with hot reloads. I stood nearby to make sure I could catch her, but she put all 6 rounds in a 6 inch group at 10 yards, put the pistol down, and never asked to shoot again, nor complained when I and Alex went out.

          I think the important take-away is that she should not be surprised or pranked by the recoil, not that a woman can’t handle it.

        • One of my pet peeves. On the other hand, I took my wife out shooting with my dad when we were first dating, and the first thing she she shot was dad’s .44, with full power loads. Several cylinders full. Didn’t like my puny .357 and .45. That’s when I knew she was a keeper.

          • For my future wife’s maiden trip to a range, my buddy and I thought it would be a hoot to let her cut her teeth on his 454 Casull. Potentially disastrous idea, but it didn’t really phase her. It turns out she expected all guns to kick like that. She tried a 1911 next and was pleasantly surprised at the comparatively soft recoil. Once the concept of sight alignment clicked with her, she was hitting 10″ plates at 25′ with every round. Women have amazing hand-eye coordination.

    • How about #3 applies to men, too. It’s about the individual. I myself shoot pretty poorly with the 9mms I have tried, so I stick with my 9x18s. There are obviously boo-coos of women out there who shoot 9mm’s just fine. But your own experience notwithstanding, anyone who ignores the physical differences that do in fact typically exist between men and women (beyond the reproductive set-up) is , well, ignoring reality. Which sometimes doesn’t work out too well.

      • It’s not “ignoring them”, it’s saying that the differences don’t fall within the limits of being able to completely exclude 50% of the population from firing what, – in reality, when you know how to handle them and what to expect – is not a “strength issue”.

        If men had thumbs and women didn’t, I’d agree with you all the way to the mall. But that’s not the case. A 1911 is only going to knock a woman on her ass in the movies, or if she’s never fired one before and is handling it like a wet towel.

    • Recoil is entirely over blown. I once taught a 10 year old boy with a muscular disease to shoot a revolver with .45LC hot loads and hit a target accurately at several ranges from 10 to 100 yards. He loved it.

      • And yet there are actual cases of fatalities when people were given guns that they couldn’t maintain control of because of recoil.

        There was one case of that here when some idiot handed two girls a .460 S&W revolver. One was shooting, the other one was standing behind her. After the first shot, it flew up so high that it ended up pointing backwards, and she squeezed the trigger a second time trying to wrestle control back… killing her friend.

        Another very similar case involved a woman shooting herself in the head with .500 S&W revolver.

        • MOST of the time, int19h, that’s because of experience, not gender. They were new and didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t heard much about experienced female shooters killing themselves because a gun was too big.

          BEGINNERS shouldn’t be given big guns before learning about recoil. It’s not just a sheer strength equation, it’s knowing what to expect and how to deal with it.

          As far as I know, both of those cases you mentioned were not only women, but newbies.

        • Yeah, those calibers are insanely huge. It’s one thing to compare .22 & 9’s to .45s and what not, but those incredibly large magnums are a whole different ball bark. I said recoil is entirely over blown, not to ignore it entirely.

      • When it comes to handling recoil, experience is a lot more important than strength.

        Plenty of women can handle the big guns just fine. But they shouldn’t be the first gun ANYONE fires. You start with a .22 rifle and work your way up from there.

        • Exactly. Learn how it operates, learn how YOU operate when it fires, learn what to expect and then turn the volume up slowly.

    • Thanks for posting that. As a female shooter I found the article a bit off putting because we shouldn’t be making distinctions between noobs by sex.

      The advice works either way, and instead of working about us little ladies just because we are women let’s worry about helping all noobs equally.

      And no, we should never hand a new shooter a gun without warning about recoil and with more than one round in the chamber just in case.

      Carry on.

  4. Lovely belly but different from MOST women’s. Testing holsters while wearing a simulated x months preggers belly would better test for a whole bunch of women.

  5. How about adding:

    4. Be committed to practicing your draw at home and get in some live fire practice at least once every month.

    It’s remarkable how folks think that if they shoot their handgun once or twice, they will then be ready to deal with a stressful DGU sometime in the distant future.

  6. I suppose anyone could fine tune the basic elements here, or expound on them, or adapt them to more specific scenarios; but really, what Sara has here is a solid article length treatment.

    Know how to handle the firearm safely and effectively, and be prepared to use it. That’s a sufficient distillation of firearms ownership for self-defense.

  7. Well, I’d actually consider the one rule to rule them all “keep your finger off the trigger”, seeing as guns can’t fire if the trigger isn’t pulled. “Treat it like it’s loaded” is a great general guideline but not everyone knows how to treat it correctly even when it’s loaded, hence rules 2-4.

    • I completely agree. Everyone that appendix carries breaks the “muzzle rule”; including myself. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

  8. I’m a bit concerned about the idea that there is some sort of reasonable choice to be made between using deadly force to counter a rape attempt or allowing the rape to proceed while armed with a gun. Neverminding the nature of rape being a violent crime of itself, there is serious potential for murder to follow, and more so if one allows oneself to be relieved of a deadly weapon in the process.

    I would argue that a more serious, realistic and pertinent question would be ‘are you willing to use deadly force to prevent yourself being forcefully disarmed?’ If you can’t answer yes to that basic question then you really are making yourself less safe by carrying a gun.

    I see this confusion, and a great many like it, as stemming from a serious misunderstanding of what violence is. Contrary to the OPs assertion, there actually is a right or wrong decision, and if you’re not up to shooting someone who wishes to overpower and violently assault you, while being able to disarm you, you shouldn’t carry a gun, and have some serious questions to ponder that can’t be answered in a gun blog.

  9. I must chuckle when reading certain responses to Ms. Tipton’s “articles”. Some commenters appear to agree with most anything she says, not that she is at all controversial. Merely because a woman writes for TTAG doesn’t mean that everything posited is gospel.

    There was nothing overtly political in this last post, but I tend to wonder what the commenters would say if it was written (unlikely, I know) by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Just spozin’…

  10. My GF came pre-equipped with her first handgun, a Charter Lavender Lady (Undercover Lite), and the search for carry options is on.

    After discussing the options, checking out pics, and reading your posts we selected strong side IWB, and I got her a Bianchi 100 Professional. It works well for concealment, and in the next few weeks we will be working on draw and presentation. And if that doesn’t work we’ll try something else. Buy and try may not be the most cost effective method, but it is “A” method, and sooner or later we will hit upon a solution.


  11. Charlie, if she takes a good, comprehensive CC class she should be able to “test drive” several different carry methods, holsters and guns. I keep a rather large variety of these things available for my classes. We take them all out and shoot with them too.

    • That’s a good recommendation, and I’ll suggest it to her. At the moment she’s a total noob: If she has ever fired a handgun she doesn’t remember it. I’ve got her obsessively checking every firearm I hand her, observing the four rules, and practicing with snap caps on a target pinned to the fireplace.

  12. All good points, but I’d go to mindset as No. 1. And, I’d add that since a woman may change her holster choice for the day based on what she’s wearing, getting dressed and geared up each day should include 20 draws from concealment within a safe dry-fire routine, observing all the rules of gun safety by not sweeping her own body.

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