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Ladies and Gentlemen: A Few Words for Each About Concealed Carry for Women

Choosing a handgun for concealed carry or self defense is a very personal decision. If you are a man wanting to buy a handgun for a woman in your life, or a woman shopping for yourself, Grant Cunningham has some words of advice. The following excerpt is from his recently published book, Gun Digest Book of the Revolver:

To the men in the audience: A word about relational harmony
Guys, I know you want to buy your wife or girlfriend a gun. I appreciate that you want to get her something light so that she’ll actually carry it. I know that you think this will get her ‘into guns.’ I also know that this is a path fraught with danger!

As an instructor I’ve counseled a number of women who were given the gift of a lightweight revolver by a well-meaning significant other. The scene is repeated time and again: she shoots a few cylinders (sometimes just a few rounds) and puts the gun down, vowing never to shoot it again. It hurts, and even with proper recoil technique she finds it difficult to control. I commiserate with her, because I’m of the same opinion.

A gun that she won’t shoot, and won’t practice with, does nothing to bring her into the fold. If she doesn’t get good, professional instruction the fierce recoil may even scare her enough that she won’t carry that particular gun. Neither outcome meets the goal of getting her interested in protecting herself.

Recoil of lightweight guns, such as this S&W Model 442 Airweight Centennial, can be punishing for the inexperienced shooter and painful even for experienced hands.

Take it from a guy who’s managed to stay happily married to one gal for a quarter century: don’t choose her gun. Take her to a range where they rent guns (yes, even if it’s a long drive from home. Make a weekend adventure of it!). Let her shoot what she’s interested in, and let her decide based upon her likes, dislikes, and tolerance. She may still pick a lightweight revolver, and if so more power to her. If she decides on a steel model because of the shooting comfort, realize that she’ll be more apt to get the very necessary training and practice she’ll need to use it effectively.

Though this book is all about revolvers, if she decides she doesn’t like them and picks an autoloader instead, that’s fine too. It’s more important that she get something she likes rather than trying to please either of us.

To the ladies in the audience: Don’t be coerced
I’ve lost count of the number of women who’ve contacted me about the lightweight revolver a gun store employee pushed her to buy. For some reason there is a persistent subculture of men working behind counters who are convinced that the perfect gun for ‘the little lady’ is an ultra-lightweight revolver. A lot of women are given the high pressure treatment to pick one of those, and too many succumb.

Old style splinter grips on the bottom gun make the snubnose difficult to shoot well compared to the well-designed boot grip on the top gun.

If you’re looking for a gun, don’t let the salesman talk you into anything about which you have reservations. Do your research; talk to other women who own guns, or contact a female instructor for guidance. There are a number of online forums dedicated to women who shoot, and they’re a great source of recommendation and encouragement. Go to a store or range that rents guns and shoot a bunch of different models. Find out what you like best, then go shopping.

It’s tempting to believe that the guy working in the gun store is knowledgeable and understands what you need. That’s not always the case; though many gun salesmen are well informed and thoughtful, an awful lot of them aren’t. Here’s a litmus test: if you walk into a gun store and ask to see a gun for personal protection, and the first thing the guy does is put a lightweight snubnose revolver in front of you, just leave. Find a store that respects their customers.

Your ideal store is one where the salesman first asks what kind of experience and training you’ve had, how you plan to use and carry the gun, and if you have any preconceived ideas of what would be best for you. Only after such a conversation will a professional dare to suggest a gun for you, and should give you several options from which to pick. There’s no reason you should deign to suffer the high-pressure tactics of an ignoramus.

While I appreciate your perusal of my book, I won’t be offended if the gun you choose isn’t a revolver. While it’s my choice, that fact shouldn’t unduly influence your choice. Read the first chapter about the revolver’s strengths and weaknesses and carefully consider which apply to you. Try out both autos and revolvers before making a buying decision, preferably by renting suitable models at a range.

If the gun you choose happens to be a revolver, I’ll be happy for you. If the gun you pick happens to be an autoloader, I’ll be no less happy for you!

Grant Cunningham is a world-renowned revolversmith and certified Combat Focus Shooting instructor, with experience teaching general self defense with handguns and revolver-specific courses. His articles and photographs have been published in Concealed Carry magazine, the Personal Defense Network project, and on his popular website, www.grantcunningham.com.

To read more from Gun Digest Book of the Revolver, stop by the Gun Digest Store and purchase your copy today. Get free standard U.S. shipping on your order by using promo code INSIDEGDB. (Promo code fine print: Items which ship directly from the manufacturer do not qualify for free shipping.)

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3 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen: A Few Words for Each About Concealed Carry for Women

  1. redkitty58

    I am female and I carry a concealed .45 or my Glock 19. They are both good choices for women who want to protect themselves. Don’t let another person tell you what is a good choice for you. You must make that decision on your own. Lots of folks think a woman can’t handle a .45. Mine shoots as smooth as silk. I love it. Of course, what else can you say about a Glock…….sheer perfection.

  2. SmithKoWitz

    The Taurus is 2oz. heavier than the S&W 442 and has a longer barrel by 1/8th of an inch. The grips may also be more absorbent on the Taurus and it may have a thicker grip. All these little things add up to a more manageable shooting experience. I have a S&W J-frame revolver that shoots the 327 Federal Magnum; it was supposedly a solution for women that want a powerful gun with almost the same capabilities as a 357 Magnum but less recoil. Well, it’s a nasty little bugger! I would rather shoot my N frame 44 Magnum with 3″ barrel; well maybe not with 185 grain bullets, but most 200′s and 240′s are fine. I would agree, a lightweight 38 is probably fine without +P ammo, but personally I prefer heavier weaponry over lightweight. The LCP is a good example of a popular small caliber weapon that many people hate to shoot as well. It is a nasty little bugger too. The solution is a Hogue Handall Jr. sleeve customized to fit. It doesn’t make you want to shoot 100 rounds through it, but it makes 30 round practice sessions virtually painless. It also depends on the ammo brand being used, even when the grain weight is the same. I find that Hornady lightweight bullets are much snappier than some other brands I purchased, ie: Magtech, Fiocchi, PMC; just to name a few. Lastly, if you won’t carry the gun for whatever reason (or practice with it), then it isn’t a gun worth owning for personal protection. A carried & shot mouse gun is better than an unused gun.

  3. jh45gun

    I disagree with some points of the article nothing wrong with light guns I have a Taurus model 85 Ultra aluminum frame rated for +P and it is not a problem recoil wise.And it is a joy to carry. You do not need to shoot +P for practice. Many women I have seen their first complaint is it is too heavy. With today’s choices of ammo you can compromise on power and still have a good load for self protection.

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