|What Kind of Gun For A Woman|
Sadly, the myth that women are somehow less able or too weak to shoot a powerful handgun exists; it exists in gun stores, on the web or anywhere a woman might go to purchase a firearm. I was at a gun show recently and approached one of the vendors to look at the guns he had for sale. The first thing he said to me was "so, you are looking for a smaller, lower caliber handgun that you can handle, right?" I gave him a "look" maybe "stare" is a better word, and walked away.. What we WANT is a gun that will do what a gun needs to do....stop an attacker in his tracks. The best size and caliber of that gun depends on the same factors it would for a man looking for a gun for self protection. Most agree that a small caliber handgun like a .22 revolver or a .25 or .32 caliber automatic just isn't powerful enough to stop a 250lb attacker, who might be high on drugs, which makes it less of a deterrent or even worse, make him even angrier. So a larger caliber gun is really more of a necessity than of choice.
So what type of handgun is best for self defense? There are two choices, a revolver or a semiautomatic pistol. Your decision will be based on your specific and unique needs, physical traits and your likes and dislikes.
Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols each have their own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. The one best for you will be based on how you prioritize or rank these advantages and disadvantages. The size of your firearm must be considered if you plan on concealed carry. It has been shown that the smaller the gun, the harder it is to grab away from you, but you want the accuracy and power necessary to stop an attacker. Hand strength and your tolerance for recoil are other issues to consider.
There are smaller barreled options in both revolvers and semiautomatic pistols available in the recommended self defense calibers.
For some reason many people recommend that a woman start off with a revolver and then "grow into" an automatic. This is illogical and you should resist the urge to accept this chauvinistic advice. A beginner is a beginner and there is no reason you cannot learn to shoot a semi-automatic pistol as easily as a revolver. I believe this logic is sadly based simply on the fact that semi-automatic pistols are a more complex machine and that somehow women are not comfortable with complex machines. Of course, I have no comment! If you feel that a semi-automatic pistol is your choice for personal defense then go for it! If you like the simplicity of a revolver, then that is the right choice for you. I personally chose a semi-automatic pistol as my first gun.
I am a FIRM believer that each woman should choose their own gun. Just like a pair of good shoes - feel, fit and wearability are things that only you can know. You wouldn't have your husband or boyfriend choose and buy a special pair of shoes would you? If possible get to a range that rents firearms and get a chance to hold, feel and fire different models.
Let's take a look at each type of handgun, how they work and their advantages and disadvantages to help you make the right decision for yourself.
Revolvers have a cylinder with multiple chambers and each chamber holds a round of ammunition. Most models hold 5 or 6 rounds. Pulling the trigger rotates the cylinder and aligns the loaded chamber with the barrel and the gun then fires. A revolver is a very simple machine so therefore there is little that can go wrong with the firing process. This makes a revolver a good choice for self defense. Although all guns should be thoroughly cleaned regularly, the simplicity of the mechanics makes the effectiveness of a revolver less dependent on meticulous cleaning. Revolvers however are overall, bulkier and heavier than pistols and tend to hold fewer rounds. Revolvers lack many of the safety features commonly found on semi-automatic pistols. Revolvers have long and hard trigger pull which makes it very difficult to accidentally pull the trigger, this acts as a safety feature.
The best defensive calibers in a revolver are: .38 Special, .357 Magnum, (If you buy a .357 revolver, it can also shoot the less powerful, but sufficient .38 special ammunition,) .40 S&W and .45. There are a number of lightweight and smaller, hammerless ("hammerless" revolver still has the hammer that works to fire the round, but it is shrouded within the gun) revolvers. The .38 Special and .357 models are very popular with women. The larger the caliber, generally the larger the recoil. Although the .357 Magnum has quite some kick.
Revolvers can come as a Single (SA), Double Action (DA) or Double Action Only (DAO)
In a single-action revolver, the hammer is manually cocked, usually with the thumb of the firing or supporting hand. This action advances the cylinder to the next round and locks the cylinder in place with the chamber aligned with the barrel. The trigger, when pulled, releases the hammer, which fires the round in the chamber. To fire again, the hammer must be manually cocked again. This is called "single-action" because the trigger only performs a single action, of releasing the hammer.
In a double-action revolver, the stroke of the trigger pull generates two actions: (1) the hammer is pulled back to the cocked position while the cylinder is being rotated to the next round, and then (2) the hammer is released to strike the firing pin. This allows for uncocked carry while also allowing draw-and-fire using only the trigger. A longer and harder trigger stroke is the trade-off, but this drawback can also be viewed as a safety feature, as the gun is safer against accidental discharges from being dropped.
Most double-action revolvers may be fired in two ways. The first way is single-action, that is, exactly the same as a single-action revolver; the hammer is cocked with the thumb, which aligns the cylinder, and when the trigger is pulled, the hammer is tripped and the round fired. The second way is double-action, that is, from a hammer-down position which means you do not have to manually cock the hammer into position. In this case, the trigger first cocks the hammer and revolves the cylinder, and then trips the hammer at the rear of the trigger stroke, firing the round in the chamber.
Certain revolvers, called double-action-only (DAO), lack the latch that enables the hammer to be locked to the rear, and thus can only be fired in the double action mode, using the trigger to perform this action. With no way to lock the hammer back, DAO designs tend to have bobbed or spurless hammers, and may even have the hammer completely covered by the revolver's frame (i.e., shrouded or hooded, shown right). These are generally intended for concealed carrying, where a hammer spur could snag when the revolver is drawn, so a good choice for concealed and carry use.
For self defense, a Double-Action or Double-Action-Only are recommended
Here is a brief animation on how a revolver works.
Let's list and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of revolvers.
Simple to operate. Not necessary to "rack the slide". This is a real advantage to anyone with weak or limited hand strength
Highly accurate - Accuracy at greater distances (approximately 15 yards and farther) does go down with the smaller barrels
Overall more moderately priced
Double-Action models shoot multiple rounds quickly
Can allow multiple calibers of ammunition The .38 Special and .357 Magnum, is an example
Easy to clean and don't require as meticulous a cleaning
Harder trigger pull
"Typically" greater recoil
There is no safety catch on a revolver (There are a few models that have locking trigger features such as many Taurus models.)
Single-Action models require cocking for each round to be fired. Harder to shoot multiple rounds quickly
A semi-automatic pistol is a handgun where the magazine which holds the ammunition, slides into the grip of the gun. A semi-automatic pistol uses some of the energy created from firing of the gun to eject the spent cartridge and load a fresh one. Semi-automatic pistols have the benefit of magazines that can hold a larger number of rounds. They also typically have an easier trigger pull, have the ability to shoot multiple rounds very quickly and are slimmer and more compact in shape. Semi-automatic pistols; however, are not as mechanically simple as revolvers and require very good cleaning to insure proper function. Their semi-automatic action is dependent on the first round firing successfully so the next round is cycled into the chamber. The reliability of modern pistols is exceptionally high though and makes this less of an issue. The best defensive semi-automatic calibers are: .380, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP. All of these calibers are available in small sized (compact) pistols suitable for concealed carry.
Special note: In general, a pistol with a long trigger pull that requires a very deliberate and strong pull of the trigger in order to fire is recommended. Under stress when the adrenaline is flowing you want to be sure you really want to pull the trigger and not do so accidentally.
Here is a brief animation on how a semi-automatci pistol works
Slimmer, lighter and easier to conceal
Magazines can hold more rounds of ammunition
Can fire bullets in rapid succession
Easier trigger pull
"Typically" have less recoil
Easy to reload
Meticulous cleaning required
More likely to mis-feed
More likely to be "ammunition sensitive" and not feed all brands of bullets well (practice and trying different brands can minimize these issues).
Overall more expensive
Takes more hand strength to "rack the slide" to chamber the first round. Note: the difficulty in racking a slide may depend on which part of your hands are weak. Some women with hand issues find it more difficult to pull the trigger on a revolver. If this is a serious issue for you, you may want to look at a tilt-up barrel semi-automatics. This type does not require the user to rack the slide for loading. Beretta has one, but I believe it is no longer in production. They are however readily available used.
Once you make your selection, get some training and practice. Learn all the safety rules for the proper handling of a weapon and handle it often (unloaded only) to get acquainted with it. Learn how to disassemble and clean your weapon. And finally, find a suitable firearms instructor and learn how to use it properly. Once you are proficient at using the weapon and have had some good training, you'll be amazed at how natural the gun feels. Most importantly, you will be armed with the confidence that you can handle the unthinkable, should it ever come your way.
Firing at a human being is the absolute last resort and is only justified to prevent death or grievous bodily harm from being inflicted on yourself or a loved one. The decision to possess a gun carries with it the moral responsibly to use the utmost care and good judgment.
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