Help me choose a pistol for small weak hands.


July 11, 2006, 03:09 PM
No, not mine. My only gun is a 4" GP100 for home defense. My girlfriend has very small and weak hands. She cannot shoot my GP100 (with hogue grip) double-action because of the trigger reach. I rented a SP101 for her, and her hand was a good fit, but she lacked the strength to easily pull the trigger in DA. She could pull it once or twice but then she quickly fatigued. Although she could no doubt get stronger with training, she is not a big "shooter" and just needs to be proficient enough to shoot the gun safely and reliably. She is quite good (and fairly quick) shooting my GP100 in single action, even with magnums. The recoil doesn't bother her much.

So I figured an automatic, with its lighter and shorter trigger pull would be ideal. What is a reasonably priced auto with short finger reaches and fairly light controls; i.e. safety or slide lock doesn't require a lot of finger strength. I would prefer something in 40 or 45. Overall weight/size is not an issue as it will not be carried, as long its not a monster. I am in CA, so hicap mags are out.

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July 11, 2006, 03:12 PM
I would suggest a Bersa Thunder .380 but with medium large hands it fits me pretty good.
Suggest you take her to gun shop and check out some. Let her choose.

Good luck on your/her quest.

July 11, 2006, 04:41 PM
If she can't handle the trigger pull on a revolver, then there's no way she'd be able to properly manipulate the slide on a semi-auto. That's just asking for trouble. A revolver is the simplest gun to operate -- anything else just gets exponentially harder. Wracking the slide, operating the slide stop lever or mag release, etc. are much more difficult than pulling a Ruger revolver trigger.

You really have to question whether she should be handling a weapon at all if she can't operate it without extreme difficulty. I understand the idea of self-defense, but it sounds like there are some extenuating circumstances here that make a handgun a poor choice.

Have you considered some physical training to increase her grip strength? It's hard for me to picture that she can handle the recoil from a .45 ACP without any problem, but she runs out of strength to pull a DA trigger after one or two shots. How about squeezing a rubber ball to build strength - like a heart patient does after surgery. I'm not offering the idea to be a wise aleck -- but as a genuine way to get her into the physical condition necessary to operate a handgun safely. The last thing you want to have is a woman with a gun who can't use it -- then it becomes a weapon for her attacker.


July 11, 2006, 05:00 PM
Good points there. I think it is mostly her index finger strength that is weak, as she didn't have much trouble cocking the heavy hammer on my GP100 and she handled a few magnum loads just fine. She could empty all 6 rounds single action on target in about 6-8 seconds. Seems reasonable for self defense purposes, especially since she is likely to have the gun cocked and ready before needing to take the first shot in a home invasion type situation. However if she really need to empty the gun quick, maybe a SA automatic would be a better tool. If she misses the first shot, the second round doesn't come immediately.

Anyway, in my opinion she can handle a gun safely as long as it doesn't require much finger (mostly index) strength. That's why I was hoping there was a gun out there with lighter controls. I realize the slide takes some force, but that is a two-handed affair, not one finger. She was able to rack the slide on a .40cal Glock, though it took most of what she had.

Maybe she should just count on using the GP100 in SA? Perhaps she is strong enough to pull the pin on a grenade...

July 11, 2006, 05:18 PM
look at a S&W Ladysmith. They have a lighter trigger for women.....chris3

July 11, 2006, 05:20 PM
Many women have issues working the slide on semi-autos. Be aware that most 380s are also blowback - so, they will have as much recoil as a 9mm would.

Too bad Beretta stopped making there Cheetah 86 model - it was a 380, but it had a tip up barrel. You could load the mag in, and then load the 1 in the chamber manually with the tip up barrel. No other guns are made like that except for 22's and .32s - little mouse guns.

You probably want a 9mm w/ interchangable backstraps - Like the new S&W M&P, Walther P99, HK 2000, etc. But no matter what, the slide will be an issue.

Doesn't S&W make a lady smith revolver?

July 11, 2006, 05:35 PM
My mom has a ladysmith. I didn't shoot them side-by-side, but I'd say the DA pull was only slightly lighter than the pull on the SP101. It may or not be enough of a difference. Next time we visit the folks, we'll do a little testing.

I'm a bit surprised there aren't some specific make/model pistols that have a reputation for light controls. I realize the slide strength is necessary because of the recoil spring, but what about safeties/slide release? If the pistol already has one round in the chamber with the safety on, its unlikely she would need to rack the slide in a self defense situation. A reload would be a bizarre event, and a jam/misfire would (hopefully) be very rare. And even then I think she'd be able to rack it, just maybe not as easily or quickly as a stronger individual.

Keep the ideas coming.

Ken Rainey
July 11, 2006, 05:43 PM
Having a revolver cocked and being in a defense situation is not a good's easy to trip the trigger when you don't mean to...:eek:

Manipulating the slide on a Glock (or any semi auto) is easier with different techniques - have her hold the (empty) pistol in her strong hand (I will presume it's her right hand for this post) with it pointing toward her left - take her left hand and grasp the slide overhanded at the rear with the base of her hand and thumb on one side and her fingers on the other - then push the pistol to the left while she pushes the slide to the right....both hands working in opposite directions using more of her upper body muscles instead of just her arms....makes racking the slide a lot easier...just gotta be careful where the pistol points and as always, keep your finger off the trigger while racking the slide....if she can lock the slide open easily using this technique, then she can learn to use the Glock....I prefer the 9mms but thats a different story ! ;)

July 11, 2006, 05:47 PM
Perhaps a gunsmith could lighten the trigger on that SP101? If money is an issue, I understand that even dedicated hobbyists can do their own triggerwork (

July 11, 2006, 05:48 PM
Get her a good used j frame Smith or d frame Colt, spend the money you saved by buying used on a good gunsmith doing a trigger fluff, and she's off to the races.

deputy tom
July 11, 2006, 05:48 PM
+1 on the Lady Smith.Make it a 60.YMMV.tom.:)

July 11, 2006, 07:29 PM
Because the .380's are blowback, the force required to pull the slide to the rear is higher than on a recoil-operated 9mm, .40 or .45 -- a fact which I had to demonstrate to my daughter. She couldn't rack the slide on my NAA Guardian, but she had no trouble with the .40 Sig.

I don't recommend .380's for women, primarily for that reason. They're much better off with a .40 semi-auto or .38 snubby.

July 11, 2006, 09:02 PM
Another option might be to buy the Ladysmith (Model 36) and replace the trigger spring/springs with lighter ones from Wolff springs. This can significantly help to reduce the pull weight on DA but beware that if you go too light on the springs the firing pin might not ignite a cartridge if it contains a very hard primer cup. I replaced the spring in my Ruger Redhawk (exact same trigger assembly as GP100) and it helped the pull weight of the trigger for cheap.

With plenty of practice any gun will loosen up in regards to trigger pull weight and semiauto slide force.

July 11, 2006, 09:56 PM
FWIW, my wife is 68 yrs old, 5' short, 100 lbs, small hands. She has been shooting a Kahr P9 (which she picked out after test firing) for about a year now, 50 rounds a week. She loves it. Its never jammed. She handles the recoil just fine. But its not cheap. I paid abt $575 for it. The only other gun she will consider shooting is our (er, her) Ruger 22/45 22lr for target practice after disposing of her weekly dose of 9mm's. Paul

July 11, 2006, 10:34 PM
Women seem to love the Browning Hi-Power. Easy trigger pull, and try the 9mm as its easier to manipulate than the .40. Put one in her hands, I bet she'll like it.

July 11, 2006, 11:25 PM
I dry fired a Para-Ord LDA a few times at the local gun shop, and the trigger is *very* light and extremely smooth. It's a 1911-style gun, but with a different trigger setup and possibly different innards altogther.

LDA stands for "light double action," but it's actually more like "light one-and-a-half action" because you have to cycle the slide once when you first load it, but the hammer is only half-cocked when it goes into battery, something that Para-Ordnance claims makes the thing safer to carry. I'm skeptical on that point, but the smoothness and lightness of the trigger are undeniable. Check it out if you get the chance.


July 12, 2006, 05:21 AM

For all around ease of operation for small, weak hands, I would recommend a Smith and Wesson K frame, new or old, with a good trigger job. Available in a broad range of calibers, barrel lengths, grip configurations, sight options, frame weights, etc. Convince her to dry fire it a lot to build up her trigger finger strength until it is not an issue .Most autos, especially small ones in anything other than light calibers, require a fair amount of finger strength to operate the slide.


July 12, 2006, 01:31 PM
As I mentioned before, she was able (with a bit of strain) to operate the slide on a 40cal glock. I think her overall grip is decent, it's mainly her individual finger strength that is weak.

Thanks for all the various suggestions. I will check them out and see if any are appropriate for her.

She is also a 3rd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, the ability to spray hot lead will be a bonus...

July 12, 2006, 04:55 PM
Another vote for a Kahr. I just went through a similar issue with my wife. She couldn't reach the trigger on most semi autos and she couldn't pull the trigger on most revolvers. The ONLY gun that worked was a Kahr. She elected for the T9 because is was all stainless (heavier- to combat recoil) and had a four each barrel (easier for a newbie to aim accurately).

She can rack the slide, but just barely.

July 13, 2006, 12:53 AM
+1 to everything Navy87Guy said.

If she really wants an automatic, I'd also suggest the Bersa Thunder's. Great for smaller hands, and they were very very easily to manipulate.

My girlfriend even has trouble racking my P99's slide, and yet the Bersa was quite easy to her. Doesn't pack the whallop a .40 or .45 might have, but the .380 is a venerable cartridge and should be more than adequate for SD or CCW.

I'd suggest she try to excercise her arms and hands more though. That's always the best way to feel more comfortable with a gun. It might be dorky, but those finger excercise things they have would work wonders. You can find them at many ranges/websites as well as musicial sites for guitarists, etc. Working on the individual fingers might prove to help a lot.

Best of luck to her finding the right gun!

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