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Buying a gun for your wife?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by pax, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. pax

    pax Well-Known Member

    Okay, guys, here is one shooting woman's answer to this perennially recurring question.

    • The best gun for someone who won't practice with it is -- none.

      This is true even if the person is someone you love. It is true even if you really want her to carry a gun and even if she says she is willing to have it or to carry it. If she does not intend to practice with it, there is no point in getting her a gun. A gun is nothing but a dangerous nuisance to someone who cares so little about it that she will not take the time to learn to use it properly and well.

      Yes, I'm heartless. But it's true anyway.

      If this describes your woman, go do something else because the rest of this post isn't for you.

    • There is no one best caliber for all women.

      Oddly enough, women are all individuals. Asking what caliber is best for a woman is exactly the same thing as asking what caliber is best for a man. And the answer is, "It depends."

      While it may be the most important thing about her in your eyes, her sex is simply not much of an issue when it comes to choosing a gun.

    • Your woman's size (or lack of it) has absolutely nothing to do with which caliber will be best for her.

      I've seen tiny little women with great big grins on their faces as they hammered away with full-powered "manly" guns. I've also seen sturdy-looking Amazon-woman types wincing from what I consider to be mild recoil. And vice versa, of course.

      What I'm getting at here is that it doesn't matter if she weighs 90 pounds soaking wet or if she's taller than you are and twice as fluffy. Her hand size will matter when it is time to pick a platform, but the size of her body isn't going to tell you much that is useful about her tolerance for recoil or the caliber she'll prefer shooting.

    • The caliber she'll prefer isn't the one you expect.

      Some women love big calibers but hate small calibers. Some love 380s and hate everything else. Some hate .380s but love 9mms. And a lot of women find the recoil of a .40 too "spiky" for their tastes and think the .45 is more pleasant to shoot.

      Women are individuals, just like men. You can't pick a caliber for her, or even predict which caliber she'll prefer, because you can't crawl inside her skin and feel what she feels when she pulls the trigger.

    • There's more to choosing a gun than caliber!

      Here we're really getting into it. Sorry if this bothers anyone's sacred cows, but a tiny little woman doesn't necessarily need, won't necessarily like, and possibly won't even be able to shoot a tiny little gun.

      There's no point in getting her a .380 to avoid recoil, if the platform is a superlightweight gun which has lousy sights and a crappy trigger. A difficult little gun doesn't suddenly become easy to shoot simply because it eats a lesser caliber; sights, trigger pull, basic ergonomics, and weight will all have their effects.

      You know this when you're picking out a gun for yourself. You may want to remember it when you're helping her pick out a gun, too.

    • Beginners really should start with a .22 -- but that may not be best for her and her situation.

      Another sacred cow here. All other things being equal, someone who starts out with a .22 is going to spend less time fighting the flinch, and will thus find it easier to learn to shoot well. The ammunition is cheap and plentiful, so you have fewer excuses to avoid the range, and we all know that more practice is better. It's not as loud as most other rounds, and so shooting a .22 is generally a more pleasant experience for newbies who aren't yet accustomed to the sound of gunfire. So it's great if she can learn on a .22.


      If she's only going to own one gun of her own, and needs a defense gun right away, a .22 is really a poor choice. The .22 is simply not suited well for defense. While lots of people have been killed with .22s over the years, the record shows that .22 is generally poor at stopping the attacker (which is the sine qua non for a defense gun). All things considered, it is notably easier to learn to shoot with a larger caliber than it is to improve the terminal ballistics of a .22.

      Furthermore, if she's excited about a bigger gun, and annoyed by the thought of shooting a .22, it's probably not worth insisting on the .22. Let her learn on the gun she wants to learn on and even if it's a steeper learning curve she'll be more likely to hike up it.

    • Size matters.

      Hand size, that is. Since women generally have smaller hands than men generally do, and since most firearms are designed to fit the male hand, finding a firearm which fits her hand might be an issue. It is worthwhile to keep looking until she finds one that does fit.

      To assess gun size, triple check that the gun is unloaded. Then check it again. Then, with the gun pointed in a safe direction which includes a backstop, have her put the crease (not the pad, the crease*) of her finger on the face of the trigger. With her finger's crease thus on the trigger and without pulling the trigger back, have her wrap her hand around the grip of the gun. If the grip can be firmly centered in the web of her hand -- not 'scootched' over to one side -- then the gun fits her well. Otherwise, the gun is too big. If the gun is very much too big, the recoil will be going straight into the joint at the base of her thumb when her finger is properly on the trigger. She may be able to shoot with a gun that oversized, but it will probably be painful to fire a lot of rounds. Even if it doesn't hurt, it can cause joint problems down the road and really isn't worth it in the long run.

    • Looks matter.

      Guys, your wives & girlfriends wear pretty underthings that no one else is going to see, even when they aren't in the mood.** Women wear stuff like that even though no one else will see it simply because we like to wear pretty things. If you want her to be happy tucking a gun underneath her clothes next to her pretty underthings, it's a good idea to help her look for a pretty gun and a pretty holster to carry it in.

    • There is no such thing as a healthy adult woman who cannot retract the slide of a semi-automatic handgun.

      If yours can't, it's because no one has ever shown her the correct technique. Get her to a class.

    • She doesn't have to carry in her purse.

      All other things being equal, on-body carry is a lot more secure than off-body carry. If she is willing to make minor wardrobe changes and is stubborn enough to keep trying until she finds the gear she needs, she can conceal a firearm underneath regular women's clothing and still look like the attractive woman she is.

    • Finding a holster is a different ballgame for her than it is for you.

      Newsflash: her body is shaped differently than yours. Your cast-off old holster probably won't work well for her. But there are holstermakers who specialize in women's gear, and it is worthwhile to seek them out.

    • You are probably not the right person to teach her how to shoot the gun you just bought her.

      Yes, really. If you want a list of reasons why, PM me. This is getting too long and I've already offended enough people for one day ... ;)

    Donning my flame suit,


    * We can argue about this on another thread if you want to. IMO, a target gun is fired with the pad of the finger while a defense gun, esp a DA defense gun, is fired with the power crease. In any case, the measurement technique is the same.

    ** This is news?!?
  2. Old Dog

    Old Dog Well-Known Member

    Uh, Pax? You been talking to my wife? You sure enumerated almost exactly every mistake I made when I introduced her to guns ...

    But thank you! Great post, should be a sticky.

    The guy whose wife took his favorite .45 and gave him back the .32 he bought her ...
  3. afasano

    afasano Well-Known Member

    Nice trade. :D
  4. Daniel T

    Daniel T Well-Known Member

    Great advice pax. :)
  5. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Well-Known Member

    FWIW, the same logic applies for big brother giving gun advise to little sister. I've been there and done that. My sister has shot nearly everything I have and a couple I haven't- big, small, pretty, pretty ugly. I like a lot of different stuff and she has her preference that works for her. I don't suggest a perp argue with her and that .38 snubbie she keeps as I've seen what she can do with it- fist sized 5rd group at 20'.

    The part about gun size, caliber size, and the size of the woman not mattering... two of my neighbors have the gun shop I'm in and out of all the time... she carries a Glock compact .40S&W. She says she don't like 9mm because she don't like to waste ammo. I thought of her while reading that part.

    The part about who's the best to teach her to shoot... my sister don't like to listen to me, but she'll listen to Daddy. She used to think I "make stuff up", but now that she's had a few episodes of idiots prowling around outside her house at night and early morning, I think she's starting to realize I was telling her the truth. That and she's married to an ex-cop.
  6. AirForceShooter

    AirForceShooter Well-Known Member

    any time some guy posts that question of what should I get for my :wife, girl friend. mom.
    Here's my reply..........................
    Would you buy her shoes?????


    HSMITH Well-Known Member

    Amen Pax, well done.
  8. pax

    pax Well-Known Member

    AirForceShooter ~

    I know, and I 98% agree, and I've used that line myself more than once.

    But a longish thread earlier this year convinced me that there really wasn't any chance at all of convincing the average gun owning man to simply stay out of his woman's way while she does her own research & buys her own gun (see this link -- deliberately provocative opening post, but lots & lots & lots of good replies on it...)

    So I got thinking instead about how to make the research process a little more painless for everyone involved, & the post above is the result.

  9. taliv

    taliv Moderator

    ok, i'll bite :)

    just because she won't practice with it doesn't mean I can't :)

    heh, in fact, i just got back from spending the entire day at the range shooting two guns i bought for my wife this year and 2 years ago!
  10. Gunfire

    Gunfire member

    Great Topic, who would flame for this?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    The instructor wants $50/hr. for personal lessons. Is that about right?
  11. pax

    pax Well-Known Member

    taliv ~

    When I was 10, I gave my mom a kitten for Mother's Day. She hates cats, but I don't!


    My wife makes the budget work. We do without a lot of things I don't need. -- Milton Berle
  12. pax

    pax Well-Known Member

    Gunfire ~

    You can frequently find NRA instructors who charge almost nothing for their classes. Or you may be able to find a buddy who is a good shooter, knows how to teach, and is willing to take on the task. Not sure what one-on-one lessons are going for, but $50/hr sounds about right for a professional trainer at an established school.

    The reasons someone romantically involved probably isn't the best person to teach her to shoot are manifold. In no particular order:

    * A lot of spouses and long-term partners ignore each other's expertise, but will listen to an outsider. Not saying it's good, but it's the way it is a lot of times.

    * Emotions are involved. Especially for self-defense, learning to shoot often stirs up a lot of really complex emotions. A relative stranger can often impart facts & instill knowledge without triggering an unfortunate downward spiral of emotional reactions, but a family member rarely can.

    * Allowing the student to struggle a little bit and figure some things out for herself is a necessary step in the learning process. But a romantically involved man often has a hard time keeping his hands off the gun, and a hard time just letting her figure out how she can do the basic gun manipulations she needs to know how to do. He sees that it is difficult for her to load a magazine or lock the slide back, and reaches in to "fix it" for her ... cutting short the learning process.

    * Most firearms instructors have experience with teaching all types of people how to shoot, which means they know more than one way to communicate the ideas if the first way doesn't work. In contrast, a self-taught shooter or one without much teaching experience often doesn't know what to do if she doesn't just get it the first time he explains something.

    * Safety issues: a romantically involved man often has a hard time coming down on safety violations the way he must if the beginner is to become a safe shooter. Or on the flip side, if he does come down on a safety violation, his wife/gf sometimes takes personal offense where none was intended.

    * Some women are frankly resistant to being taught by a family member or loved one; they feel resentful of his knowledge and find offenses where the man didn't intend offense. Or they have questions they won't ask because they are afraid of looking bad/being teased/made fun of. (This is not to say that their men do or would make fun of them! Simply that this is a fear that some women have...) See "emotional reactions" above...

  13. GEM

    GEM Well-Known Member

    Now, Pax - you can't cut off the 50 zillion threads of what gun shall I buy my wife or girlfriend?

    My advice - don't buy a gun for both of them at the same time!

    Great post - One thing from my friends, the ones with little training are the ones who want to teach the ladies how to shoot!
  14. Gunfire

    Gunfire member

    Thanks Pax,

    $50/hr would be for private lessons with a certified instructor. That sounds cheap compared to cost of firearms and ammo and if it will give her a good base to start from, it will be well worth a few lessons.

    Your points are well taken. I could see my wife and I bumping heads like you describe.
  15. GoBrush

    GoBrush Well-Known Member


    I bought my wife her first gun a year or two ago and she mainly likes going to the range with me cause she wants to be with me and she knows how much I love shooting. Hopefully with more time she will see the need to get serious about self defense practice more and get her CCW permit. Any way mainly sharing my experience.

    The nice thing is that even though she is still learning I now have one more gun to shoot:D

    Questions for you. Did you become interested in firearms specifically handguns as an adult or where you interested at a young age? If you first got serious as an adult how was the transition for you from casual gun shooter to really breaking out and into serious self defensive shooting?

  16. f4t9r

    f4t9r Well-Known Member

    Good advise
  17. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Pax - great, GREAT thread! And great advice too! Thanks for posting this.
  18. orangeninja

    orangeninja Well-Known Member

    Good post. Of course I don't agree with some of it, but everything else is good.

    I think even a .22lr will deter a criminal...in fact I know it will, I've seen it.

    A .22lr in hand still beats the crap out of whatever else is laying around to throw...and if it's all they'll shoot, get it.
  19. pax

    pax Well-Known Member

    GoBrush ~

    Shooting together is a very different thing from going out to teach her how... :)

    I'm a little jealous of couples who shoot together. My husband isn't much of a shooter. He's taken a couple of classes which he said he enjoyed, and he's got his carry permit, but it's just not his thing. He didn't get his permit or learn to shoot until quite awhile after I got into it.

    I got into handguns as an adult, and was serious about it pretty well from the beginning. I got my carry permit and my first handgun at nearly the same time, and at the urging of a friend, I took my first class only a few months after that. Although I really, really enjoy handgunning, for me it's always been about self defense.

    Unlike most the women I know, I didn't really have one defining catalytic moment or big scare that made me "have to" get a gun. It was just the gradual accumulation of a lot of things, and a buddy who came along at the right time and nudged me into it.

    Because I started taking classes right away, I was privileged to have other women's shoulders to cry on as I figured out what would work for me and what wouldn't. Although the group wasn't there when I first began shooting, what's maybe contributed most to my growth as a shooter has been the chance to work with a really great group of women at FAS in their women's study group (open only to women who've taken at least one class there). I've been spoiled by the opportunity to compare notes, help and be helped by other women as we all learn to shoot better, listen to sob stories and triumphs, and just watch as other women worked through a lot of the same questions I'd faced early on. It's been a rare privilege to have that kind of a support network in place and I kind of feel sorry for the majority of new shooters who simply don't have access to something like it.

    (edited to add: Dunno if that really answered the question you were asking. Hope it came close...)

  20. Sheldon J

    Sheldon J Well-Known Member

    Wife picked out a blued .357

    When I bought my wife her CCW gun I simply took her to the gun store, told the sales person that she was a newshooter, make it a revolver, I want it to fit her comfortably, and at least .357. With that I walked away to drool over other guns.:D

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