Need Recommendation for New Carry Gun for Wife to use


November 4, 2007, 12:41 AM
Today, my wife and I went shooting -- primarily to practice with our carry and home defense handguns. She had not been shooting for quite some time, so we made sure we took our time - spending about 2 1/2 hours at the range so she could really get proficient again with the various guns that we have available for personal defense. She has carried a Kel-Tec .380 Auto in her purse for awhile - but after today, it is apparent that it is time for a change.

I was rather disappointed with the performance of the Kel-Tec. There were several failures to feed with a couple different types of ammo. I used Winchester white box JHP (I think it was Winchester white box) --- and we also tried Remington Golden Sabers. There was a 20% or so failure to feed rate with each of these cartridge selections. With FMJ however, there were no problems. Even though she has no problems with the slide of a 1911 or a Glock, she seemed to find it difficult to manipulate the slide of the Kel-Tec -- and the magazine doesn't seem to want to stay snapped in place. Because of all of this, it is time for a replacement. The primary reason she is carrying this particular model anyway is because of its diminuitive size and weight. We also keep a .38spl Ultralight revolver in her car that she sometimes takes into her office to keep in her desk drawer during the day (which is not considered taboo at this particular law firm).

ANYWHO - We tried to see if the .38spl would be an acceptable replacement as a purse gun, but she found it too bulky - and also, the 5 round limit is unattractive. We tried a Makarov in the purse - and as far as size goes, that was also ok -- but it is a bit difficult to find ammo for this gun in our area and I would prefer that she have a little nicer carry gun than this one, as the Makarov is beginning to show its age with wear, etc.

So -- that said, let's hear some suggestions. Any type of helpful suggestion would be greatly appreciated.


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November 4, 2007, 01:26 AM

Tried to get the wife comfy with the Sig P232 SL 380, but having the blow-back action requires a much stronger return spring. So having found that between the fact that the 380 gets dirty quick, with powder residue and, it too, had feed jams with any JHP's and, if it did jam, she had a hard time cycling the slide to clear them, I made a change, both to using only FMJ out of that gun, but also to get her something easier to shoot, with more power, and more rounds, that was far easier to handle, all the way around.

I got her the new Springfield EMP 1911 9mm that has a load of 9+1. And, between the much softer return spring, which she has no problems cycling the first round in, but now she doesn't have to deal with the long, hard, DA pull, as the EMP is SAO, with the thumb slide-safety, along with the grip-palm safety, and has the same, consistent, trigger pull every time. Along with, loading the 9 round mags are easy, as opposed to the much harder 380 mags that only held 7 rounds, including a time-comsuming thumb release to get the mags out, which you had to pull them out, as opposed to the EMP's side mag release button that, literally, pops the mags out, effortlessly.

If you can afford one, do take a warm look at one, as our EMP has gone 575 rounds without any problems.. along with using 124gr JHP's.


Here's a comparison shot of both the 9mm EMP and the Sig P232 SL (stainless steel) 380

November 4, 2007, 01:28 AM
Is it heavy? I fear that a 1911 will be too heavy.

November 4, 2007, 01:39 AM

No, not in her, or our, opinion.. it's very balanced

26 oz.. empty

Take a look here:

And watch here:

And, reading your signature, I can assure you that you will find it a tack-driver, up close, or out to 63ft, and with her being trained correctly, (and enjoying the ease of loading the mags, no jams, etc.) with 115gr FMJ range ammo, and we use 124gr JHP, as the gun shoots the same, being that the weights are very close, as opposed to going 135gr or 147gr JHP.. big difference.


November 4, 2007, 10:42 AM

My wife always thought that the grip of the Sig P232 was a bit too wide :what:, that was my reaction.. lol But she also got bit with slide bite by the gun as well, even though it wasn't the fault of the gun, it was her going against the proper 2-hand grip and crossing your support thumb over the back of her shooting hand, which I only figured out when she went to shoot it again and I saw her grip it again, like that.. :eek: That ended, but the mental damage had occurred.

She has no problems with the much slimmer grip of the EMP 1911, along with no fears of slide bite, as the beaver-tail really supports a proper grip, along with keeping her grip right where it should be.

With the Sig 380, she would burn out with it easily at 50 rounds, where as, with her first time with the EMP 9mm, she went thru a box of 100 of the Winchester 115gr FMJ with no problems..

And now she ask, when are we going shooting again?, with this face.. :) She never had that face with the 380 acp, nor asked the question.


November 4, 2007, 10:53 AM
A very affordable option would be the Bersa Thunder 380. My wife loves hers it's light, compact, very accurate (for what it is), and very reliable for about 250 new out the door.

November 4, 2007, 11:04 AM
the xd sub compact would be my 1'st suggestion.if that's to big or heavy I would suggest a range that rents guns/try before you buy.its a good way to find exactly what fits her well.I don't know where you live but I have found that city dealers don't have as many choices as the boonies and can often get a better deal,and more helpful when shopping.I like the kel-tec 380 and haven't had much disappointment with them,maybe its just the one she has I would try another one

Ala Dan
November 4, 2007, 11:30 AM
How 'bout a Kahr CW-9, 9m/m single-stack sem-auto? Its a striker fired DAO
firearm about the size of a Walther PPK .380; but with a lot less weight. It
is economically priced to sell at right about $400, and comes with only one
magazine. I have one myself, that has 'bout 200 rounds thru it and thus far
its been flawless~! :scrutiny: ;) :cool: :D

From Kahr's Website: Actual weight (unloaded = 15.8 ozs; with an unloaded
magazine weighing 1.9 ozs.

November 4, 2007, 11:38 AM
i'd look at the Bersa .380 if she was ok w/ the makarov. i love mine (as does my wife) and it's been flawless for ~700 rds. i've heard some less than stellar reviews of the sig 232. bersa's 1/2 the price, too (and twice the reliability)

Steve H
November 4, 2007, 12:05 PM
Another one to think about................if the 45ACP is managable to her. The Kmiber Ultra CDP II. 26 oz. empty, same empty weight as the EMP but a bigger hole.

November 4, 2007, 12:43 PM
I wouldnt give up on that old mak just yet! Even though my wife carries a j frame .38 she is very comfortable shooting my russian mak! check out this link for 1000 rounds of silver bear JHP

November 4, 2007, 01:35 PM
Thanks very much to everyone for all the great recommendations...

After reading your recommendations and reading reviews of various "candidates", I will likely trade the Kel-Tec in for a Bersa Thunder 380.

Thanks again...

November 4, 2007, 01:39 PM
Quote: After reading your recommendations and reading reviews of various "candidates", I will likely trade the Kel-Tec in for a Bersa Thunder 380.

Yep, as from all the reading I have done on 380's, the Bersa Thunder is the best bang (very reliable) for the buck, bar none.. :)

And further reading from the past also leaned heavily towards using only 95gr FMJ ammo for SD/HD in regards to the most reliable pentetration value.. as well IMHO, which lends itself to far less feeding issues, if any, as long as you keep her clean from powder residue (quick build-up) in the interior walls of the magazines, feed ramp, etc.


November 4, 2007, 02:47 PM
You might want to check out the Bersa Thunder concealed carry model ! also you might want to call keltec and see what they say about it ! maybe there is a factory fix ! i wonder if the 380 has enoough punch to open up a hollowpoint ? maybe in 380 fmj coould be the hot ticket ?

November 4, 2007, 04:19 PM
+1 on the Bursa .380. Better yet, find a 1908 Colt Pocket Model .380. It is simple (safety off, pull trigger) and stout, even with +p loads. I got one for my wife during my Vietnam cruises, and she terrified two would-be burglars with it.

But then, I cannot recommend the Pocket Model for -- um -- pocket carry, for the same reason I would not carry a Glock in my pocket. So I guess the Bursa makes better sense: first shot double action, the rest single action.
Cordially, Jack

November 5, 2007, 12:57 PM
I have pretty much the same conundrum. My wife is just entering the carry scene, and I need something manageable with regards to recoil, and something small, that she can conceal, but mostly that she can work the controls, and reach around the grip with some ease. She didn't like the feel of the EMP, and many other 9mm autos we tried, but the Kel-Tec PF-9 did appear to be a winner. I really didn't want anything smaller than 9mm, but I guess 9x18 might be worth a look. Are the Bersa's really reliable? I hadn't heard much about them, but at a gun counter, the salesman tells me he sells them like crazy, and never hears a bad word about them. My wife has small hands. She has a small .38, and really likes it. I just have this feeling that a semi auto with higher capacity might be a better option.

November 6, 2007, 07:26 AM
The Bersa Thunder .380 shoots very nice. Reliable and priced right. Put some Golden Saber 102 gr in it. Maybe the cc model which is slightly smaller.

Might want to look at the NA .32 or Seecamp .32.

I was commenting yesterday on the ubibiquitous J Frame Airweight Centennial format. 22 mag, 7 rounds. 10 ounces. Nice to have no matter what. 40-60 gr 1500 fps. 15 cents a round or less.

There is always the 442 0r 642 with Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure 158 gr. Low flash. (not Plus P although they do have it).

November 6, 2007, 07:52 AM
Not so fast!

Go look at Kahrs first.

More reliable, better triggers.


Seven For Sure
November 6, 2007, 08:49 AM
Another vote for Kahr.

November 6, 2007, 09:34 AM
kahrs are nice guns:

for the same amt of $, you can buy 1 kahr or 3 bersas. :neener:

November 6, 2007, 09:47 AM
Yeah, a Kahr costs more than the Bersa.

It also functions more reliably than the Bersa, and is significantly easier to shoot because the long trigger is not nearly so heavy and gritty as the Bersa's. Its 9mm ammunition costs less and is more widely available than .380 ammnition, its sights are better out of the box and are replaceable, quality accessories for it are easier to find. The slide is easier to rack, recoil tends to be a bit more pleasant.

Cannot tell you how many times I've stood behind the line watching a woman struggle with the Bersa's heavy trigger. Hand the same woman something with a decent trigger and you'll be amazed how much better the target looks.


Shooters Plus
November 6, 2007, 09:48 AM
I agree with Pax and others. Check out the line of Kahr handguns or better yet, let your wife check them out. My wife loves hers plus you get to move to a 9mm caliber or bigger compared to the .380 of the Bersa.

Good luck :)

Seven For Sure
November 6, 2007, 11:02 AM
Holy cow! It's nice to have a bunch of shooter's with good thing's to say about Kahr. I've had four, still have two. They are great gun's. Go on GT and you'd think they were Kel Tec's or something. I have yet to get an all steel Kahr but my next will be a K or T series.

November 6, 2007, 12:41 PM
Careful on the Bersa's... I had two. Both had problems with FTF's. Never could count on them so we also switched to Kahr's...

November 7, 2007, 12:40 AM
I had problems with my Kel tec .380, but I bought the PF9 in 9mm and it has become my daily carry gun. It shoots accurate and with 200 rounds through it there has been no problem. It has a thinner grip and I bought a hogue grip to cover the rough OEM grips.

November 7, 2007, 02:32 PM
I purchased a Sig P239 for my wife. She also carries my Glock 26 from time to time. Both guns are compact and well balanced. The Sig is a slight bit heavier but has a better trigger. The Glock is nice because of higher capacity and it's about $200 less than the Sig OTD. Both guns are 100% reliable so far, on every type of ammo, without a single FTF, FTE, etc. I would trust my life on either gun. We also tried to go with a .380 for her to begin with, but the inherently poor performance/reliability of the blowback action led us to trade it in. Now days, with how compact 9mm's have become, I see no reason to carry anything less.

If she has small hands, check out the Khar PM9's. I have heard good things, and they are nice and small. Best of luck.

USMC - Retired
November 7, 2007, 02:53 PM
Another vote for the Bersa thunder .380

I've owned one since 97 and never had one failure with it. My wife stole it when she got her license and loves it. Shoots good, small size, and you already have the ammo.

November 10, 2007, 10:19 AM
Just buy her the gun you want next and be done with it .... just kidding :evil:

November 12, 2007, 08:04 PM
A couple of years ago I bought a Walther PPK .380 (S&W model) for my self as a backup pistol. When my wife saw it she wanted to shoot it and she really liked it because it shot real well and was flat and fit her hand ( she had been carring a Ruger sp101 DAO in .357 loaded with 38's). So she adopted my pistol. I had to go and buy another one for me. Both shoot great, never had a failure to fire with either one, double action first shot (or you can cock it) and single action after that. Might let her look at one and see how it fits her hand. rugerman

November 13, 2007, 05:14 PM
How about this:

Let HER pick out the gun she wants! I've found that if I pick ANYTHING out for the wifey and she does not like it, not only will she not use the thing but I hear no end of it either.

I know as men, we want to jump in and "help" or "fix" things but I find choosing a handgun as about as personal as choosing underwear.

If you pick out your wife's underwear I suppose it is appropriate to choose her handgun for her. Otherwise, stand back, bite your tongue, and watch.:evil::fire::D

Best of luck!

November 13, 2007, 06:15 PM
If she says, Kahrs, it's Kahrs. If she says rocks, I'll be asking her what shape and weight.


November 13, 2007, 08:21 PM
Im kind of in the same position. My soon to be wife is quite Self Defense friendly and is getting her CCW.

I showed her all my guns and let her hold and dry fire each one.
She picked the ones she wanted to her at the range and then said she wanted the HiPower on her nightstand and gun like my Colt Gvt .380 to carry.

I knew getting married was expensive but I didnt think I was going to be buying guns!!!

November 13, 2007, 10:08 PM
A CZ PCR might be worth looking at.

John Caile SDI
November 14, 2007, 01:55 PM
Side note - I've been an instructor for more than 30 years, and helped pass Minnesota's Carry Law. One practical rule I have for women who carry:

Never, EVER carry a gun in a purse! (Or a briefcase either, guys.)

Why? First, she'll never get her hands on it if she needs it (any honest woman will admit this - watch a woman try to get a ringing cellphone from her purse and you'll get the idea). Second, not only are you taking a terrible risk by carrying your firearm in something you can put down (how many women have set down a purse in a bar, restaurant, etc), but you are also INCREASING the likelihood of your purse being stolen - purse thieves have a "sixth sense" for picking out a woman who has something valuable in her purse.

No woman in my life, from my spouse to my sister and my daughter-in-law, carries a handgun anywhere but ON HER BODY.

I know, I know - there are all sorts of purses supposedly designed specifically for carry, but sorry, ladies, fashion will have to come after security.

Just my humble opinion...

November 14, 2007, 02:35 PM
Depending on many related issues; price, marksmanship training, ammo, etc, it's hard to say what semi auto pistol or DA only revolver would be best. If your wife has the strength to operate a semi auto pistol(load, aim, fire, etc) then I would suggest the excellent; SigArms DAK model P-239 SAS in .357sig. It's well made and she can get a CrimsonTrace lasergrip to assist her with aiming. The red laser may also stop a attacker from moving on her too, ;).
A Ruger SP-101 .38spl in DA only with a lasergrip or a J-frame S&W model 642/638 with a lasergrip would be smart choices too.
Don't go cheap with handguns either. Kel-Tec is not a brand that many handgun shooters would tell women to buy if they want to defend against violent attacks. :rolleyes: I'd buy a good condition used or like new Ruger, S&W, Beretta, SIGArms, or Glock before I'd buy some of the lower price brands on the US gun market.
Rusty S

November 15, 2007, 08:51 AM
Is your 5-shot ultralight .38 special a small frame like a Smith & Wesson J frame? If it is, and since you said it's too bulky for purse carry, then my opinion is that a Taurus .380 will also be too bulky.

What's wrong with the 7-shot capacity Kel Tec .380 and FMJ's? This caliber needs good penetration, and FMJ will do that. If you want something more powerful then I'd look at a Kahr 9mm. I'm not up on all their models but the PM9 may work for you. Other than being flatter, I don't think it's much more compact than the Smith & Wesson 642 (J frame .38 special) which I carry.

November 15, 2007, 10:09 PM
Thanks again to everyone for all the great responses. Today, my wife and I went to our local gun store -- and we looked at both the Bersa Thunder .380 as well as the Kahr CW9 9mm. We left with the Kahr.

The Kahr was simply much lighter and of course it is a 9mm, not a .380 - so this is a step up as well.

John Caile SDI ...Never, EVER carry a gun in a purse! (Or a briefcase either, guys.) ...sorry, ladies, fashion will have to come after security...

John: It will be carried in a purse or it won't be carried at all. Period. I asked for gun model recommendations -- not carry methods. ;) This is also why I don't go to gun stores where the sales person is commenting and "recommending" everything under the sun - and telling you that you shouldn't even look at half of what the store has in stock. In fact, the last time I went to an unfamiliar gun store and asked to see something and the salesman started on a diatribe of how "that caliber will just make them mad" and idiotic comments like that, I (as politely as possible) told him that I didn't want or need his opinions, I just needed him to show me what I told him to show me. It works out better for everyone that way. :) If I need information or wish to request comments on effective carry methods, I'll ask -- but thanks anyway.

ANYWHO, Saturday - we shall go shooting. I am looking forward to it and so is she!

Thanks again...

November 15, 2007, 10:54 PM
We tried several and have settled on a 357 Ruger Pistol SP101.

She can pull it out of her purse without snagging on anything (we got the model with the bobbed hammer spur (see pic).

What sold this was it was heavy enough to absorb some of the recoil. I set it up with 38 cal Spcl ammo, 125 gr bullet.

She also likes the small grip - she can get her hands around it. It is also 'scared to hell girl proof' as it is point and shoot. No safety, just point and blast. I put a birdshot round in the first cylinder so she has a better chance of hitting something with the first blast out of the purse.

At night, this little beauty is in her nightstand. I feel better when I travel knowing she and our two dogs will make it a bad night for anyone who breaks in...

Here is an interesting review of this pistol:

Anyway, IMHO the 357 Ruger Snub-noded SP101 Pistol may be worth a look!

November 15, 2007, 11:12 PM
My wife wouldn't carry the 38 airweight. She wouldn't carry a fullsize. I was steering towards a makarov or P232. Then some guy she knew (apparently one of her teachers in junior high or something) let her shoot a G26. That guy cost me $500 that day. She had to have it RFN. And who the hell was I to argue. She was putting them through the same hole at 7yds.

Pesky old teacher dude *grumble grumble* cost me $500 *grumble grumble* :D

I'm happy though. She carries that G26 everywhere now.

November 15, 2007, 11:36 PM
tadyson ~

Congratulations to your wife on her new gun! May she keep it near her always, and never need it ...


November 15, 2007, 11:38 PM
Quote: Thanks again to everyone for all the great responses. Today, my wife and I went to our local gun store -- and we looked at both the Bersa Thunder .380 as well as the Kahr CW9 9mm. We left with the Kahr.

The Kahr was simply much lighter and of course it is a 9mm, not a .380 - so this is a step up as well.

Excellent choice, 9mm over 380 as you got my vote on that..

I understand what John was saying, and agree, but also know that learning about a new gun, takes time, as does, carrying it (concealed), especially for a woman as God knows, any extra bulge here or there is a big NO NO.. lol

Seriously though, I understand the carry will happen first with her purse, but make sure the gun is in a separate enclosed area, by itself, with the extra mag (if carried) as God forbid, she does need it, keep it simple, by itself-only, with a quick unzip and she's got it..

Leave the purse, car keys, lipstick, phone, etc., in the center all mixed together.. lol, just don't hide it among other stuff..

I wish her well, in your new HD/SD life plans for her, and together, as having her gun in a purse (loaded, rdy of course) is FAR better than none at all..

We can all agree on that..

My best,


November 15, 2007, 11:55 PM
Yeah -- it is in a pocket by itself. She's been carrying the Kel-Tec 380 in a pocket by itself as well.

This gun is FAR heavier than the Kel-Tec, but she said she is comfortable with it.

One concern is that while she didn't have any trouble racking the slide in the gun store (unloaded), when she is racking it put an actual round in the chamber, she can't hardly get the slide back. This is a bit of a problem. She has no trouble getting the slide back on my Glock 17 at all - whether loaded or unloaded - so....... I'm contemplating whether or not to go back to the gun store and get her to look at the Glock 26.

That said -- unless there was a malfunction, she wouldn't *have* to really rack the slide at all - unless we were at the range, at which time I could do it. But for obvious reasons, this concerns me....


November 16, 2007, 12:01 AM
tadyson ~ has an article that might help, if she's not already seen it. Short version: most women find that it takes a lot less muscle power to punch the gun forward rather than pulling the slide back. It's possible there's a little "newgunitis" going on, too -- a combination of unfamiliar-feeling gun plus a stiff new spring sometimes does that. If so, a little time and a little practice working with it will cure the problem.

The Glock 26 is near and dear to my heart, and even easier to shoot well than the Kahr, but given that she's carrying in her purse, the added weight & increased thickness might be an issue. It isn't that much bigger, but since she's just moved up from the K-T, even that extra little bit might bother her.


November 16, 2007, 12:22 AM

I can't thank you enough for showing me your article. That really helped!

She can now reliably and effectively pull the slide back. The biggest help was holding the gun at waist level and by improving the grip on the slide.

Thanks very much!


November 16, 2007, 12:29 AM
:) Excellent! Glad it helped.


November 16, 2007, 12:33 AM
If it hasnt been said, I would let her decide. Check out for good information. Would you let someone else choose your carry gun?

November 16, 2007, 12:41 AM

Helpful comments only, please. You might find it useful to read the posts before commenting. ;)

November 16, 2007, 01:30 AM
Yeah. Just to tired to read the entire post list.

November 16, 2007, 05:11 PM

I prefer to carry GI issue M1911, but for smaller framed humans to carry concealed, less is sometimes more.

I had the Bersa .380 and gave it to a friend - it was nice for a pocket gun, but kept my East German Makarov I bought some years back - it'd been converted to .380. I started shooting it a lot recently, and have become pretty fond of it - it's absolutely reliable with factory ammo, and way more accurate than it should be. For a carry weapon for the wife, it's simple enough (just load, lower the hammer with the decocker, put it back on fire) and tell her she doesn't need the extra mag. Simple enough. :cool:

I had very bad results with my KelTec P40 - I actually broke the slide release :cuss:after fewer than 500 rounds, and that's just not reliable enough for me. At least the Mak is a proven military design (the Russians do not design fragile firearms). The 9mm Mak and the .380 are about as small as I'd want anybody to carry if I care for them. Price is right, too. 8+1 rounds is way more resistance than most would-be attackers of women expect to deal with. :what: The Mak is steel, not all that heavy - enough heft though that it's pretty tame in .380, something women appreciate.

I did give my ex a Smith M36 figuring 6 shots of .38 jhp was all the firepower she needed, and she liked that piece. I don't know many women that really like big firepower.:scrutiny:

November 17, 2007, 03:40 PM
My wife got a new carry gun about a month ago. After spending about an hour in the store she chose the XD9 subcompact. She looked at a Taurus PT, a baby glock, a Taurus 24/7 compact but chose the XD. She asked for my opinion and I told my opinion didn't mean anything and to pick what she liked. She did

November 17, 2007, 04:30 PM
That XD will go bang whenever she pulls the trigger...that's been my experience with several XDs and many thousand rounds.

November 17, 2007, 05:01 PM
Ruger Alaskan chambered for .500 ??

November 18, 2007, 12:17 AM
The Kahr CW9 that I purchased based on the recommendations of this thread has now been range-tested. I briefly discuss this in another thread on this forum. Read it by clicking here (

Long story short, we like it.

Thanks again.

November 18, 2007, 12:46 AM
Check out the HK P2000sk.

November 18, 2007, 02:52 AM

Again, if you will actually READ the posts it would be better for all involved.

November 18, 2007, 03:08 PM
I'm glad you're having good luck with the Kahr. I love my K40.

November 18, 2007, 05:54 PM
Yes -- I am honestly QUITE impressed with it.

I also thought the recoil would be much more substantial than it is. Most importantly, my wife loves it as well.

In fact, I posted videos of us firing it - as well as pictures on this thread ( the General Discussions forum.

November 18, 2007, 06:19 PM
Can't go wrong with a compact 9mm. My wife's friend is a skinny gal, and she conceals her Kimber CDP (3" barrel) under a T-shirt in a comp-tac IWB, no problem (also carries off-body). Recoil is minimal, even with an aluminum frame. Nice little gun, may have to pick one up :D.


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