Ladies, are you thinking about getting your first gun? Awesome!
A gun can be one of the best self defense tools available to you with proper and consistent training.
But for some, it can be quite intimidating to walk in to their local gun store for the very first time. Fear not, your local gun store is there to help you and appreciates your decision to exercise your right to own a gun for self protection.
Many local gun stores offer classes (usually free of charge) or can provide one-on-one training (paid instruction) designed to teach first-time gun owners how use their guns and educate them about gun safety. Some local gun stores even offer classes exclusively for women. Once you purchase your first gun, you may want to get one-on-one training from a qualified firearms instructor.
A great resource for women interested in learning more about guns from a female perspective is The Well Armed Woman (https://thewellarmedwoman.com) with chapters in 49 states.
Which gun is best for you?
One of the most important decisions you’ll make while shopping for a gun, is to decide which gun is best for you. But determining which gun is best for you depends upon a few factors such as your wrist strength (or lack thereof), your budget and the primary purpose (home defense, concealed carry or one gun that can effectively be used for both).
My wife had purchased a few different guns before finding her “perfect” gun, the Sig Sauer P238 – my wife is small and lacks strength in her wrists. Therefore, she needed a gun with modest recoil and one that had an easy to rack slide…more on that later.
The good news is that nowadays, many shooting ranges not only sell guns, but they rent them too. This means that you can usually shoot the gun you’re interested in before buying it.
A gun can be one of the best self defense tools available to you with proper and consistent training.
Recoil is the backward movement/momentum (“kick”) of a gun when it is fired. The amount of recoil generally depends on the weight of the gun and the energy from the round (which is based on the weight and velocity of the round itself) being fired through it. If you are already a little concerned about gun recoil, it may be better to start with a .22LR or .380 ACP and work your way up from there once you become accustomed to shooting a firearm. The drawback of a lower energy round such as .22LR is that it may not immediately incapacitate the threat, but any bullet can be effective with optimal shot placement. Keep in mind that less recoil means that you should be able to more comfortably and accurately shoot your gun.
Should you get a revolver?
Revolvers, sometimes referred to as “wheelguns” (because they have a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers for cartridges), come in a variety of frame sizes, barrel lengths, calibers and actions. Frame sizes include Small (J), Medium (K/L), Large (N), X-Large (X) and barrel lengths from 1 7/8″ to 14″ (Model 460XVR). The more popular calibers include .22 LR., .22 Magnum., .38 Special, .357 Magnum., .44 Magnum (of course, there are many more options including 9mm, .460 S&W Magnum, .500 S&W Magnum). Actions include double action only, single action, double action/single action. Modern revolvers have frames, barrels, hammers and cylinders that can be made from all stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel with any of the following materials: aluminum alloy, titanium alloy or scandium alloy.
Benefits of a revolver
Simpler Design. Some experienced shooters will recommend first time female shooters get a revolver. That is because revolvers are simpler in design and therefore easier to operate. Simply load ammo into the chambers of the cylinder, close it, point/aim and pull the trigger.
More Reliable. Revolvers are also touted as being more reliable than semi-automatic pistols due to their simpler design.
Drawbacks of a revolver
Weight. Revolvers are also heavier than many semi-automatic pistols because of their all metal construction (although some semi-automatic pistols such as 1911s, have all metal construction).
Trigger Pull. Revolvers also have a longer and heavier trigger pull (in double action)…meaning that the trigger must be pulled a further distance and takes more effort to pull, making it more difficult to shoot accurately.
Slower to Reload. Revolvers cannot be reloaded as quickly as a semi-automatic pistol.
More Expensive. Revolvers also tend to be more expensive than many popular polymer framed, semi-autos made by manufacturers such as Glock, Smith & Wesson and Springfield Armory. Of course, there are some brands of semi-autos such as Wilson Combat, Nighthawk Custom, etc., that are very expensive, high quality 1911 semi-auto pistols.
What about a semi-automatic pistol?
There is an overwhelming selection of semi-automatic pistols on the market…1911, polymer, striker fire, hammer fire, double action only, single action only, double action/single action, single stack, double stack, full size, compact, sub-compact, .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and more. Whew!
Benefits of a semi-automatic pistol
Higher Capacity. Generally, semi-automatic pistols hold more rounds of ammunition than revolvers, especially double stack semi-autos. Many full size double stack 9mm semi autos can hold up to 17 rounds, plus one in the chamber. This gives you a total of 18 rounds vs a typical revolver which might hold only 5-6 rounds. Springfield Armory makes a standard 19 round capacity (9mm) magazine (+1 round in the chamber) for their full size semi-auto pistol, the XD(M); CZ also offers a standard 19 round capacity (9mm) magazine for their P-09. For a home defense handgun, many gun owners feel safer having a higher capacity handgun such as a double stack semi-auto pistol. That might be in part due to the realization that home invasions usually involve multiple assailants. Therefore, having a 5-6 shot revolver may not be enough to fend off multiple offenders.
Speaking of multiple offenders, check out this surveillance video below of a home invasion from Atlanta, GA, that took place on September 16, 2016 just before 4am. Three intruders, all armed with guns, kick open the front door of a home. They actively search for the residents of the home, until a woman emerges from her room and shoots at them. What would have happened if the female resident did not have a gun to defend herself? This could have easily ended up badly for the woman. Thankfully, she had a gun and was able to successfully use it.
Now, back to the benefits of semi-auto pistols.
Faster to Reload. Semi-auto pistols can also be reloaded much more quickly than revolvers, because they use magazines which can be swapped out in seconds.
Less Weight. Some semi-autos have frames made from polymer thus reducing their weight and making them more comfortable to hold and/or carry concealed.
Less Expensive. Semi-autos (particularly polymer framed such as those from Glock or Smith & Wesson) tend to be less expensive than many revolvers. Of course, there are some semi-autos, particularly high end 1911s from manufacturers such as Wilson Combat, Nighthawk Custom and others, which are quite expensive.
Drawbacks of a semi-automatic pistol
More Complicated Design. Semi-autos can be more complicated to operate for some because of the more complicated design…load a magazine with ammo (which for newer shooters can be tricky at first, especially with a magazine of smaller semi-auto such as the M&P Shield), insert magazine, rack the slide to chamber a round, disengage the thumb safety (if your semi-auto has one), make sure to have a firm grip (to avoid limp wristing), learning to ride the reset.
Less Reliable. Semi-autos can jam. Semi-autos can jam for a number of reasons, the most common of which may be due to limp wristing. Limp wristing occurs when the shooter’s grip is not firm enough to keep the frame of the firearm from traveling rearward while the slide of the pistol cycles as a round is fired. That said, a quality, well-maintained semi-automatic pistol using quality ammunition is generally considered to be very reliable when no limp wristing is involved.
Home Defense, Concealed Carry or Both?
One of the determining factors in deciding which gun to purchase as your first gun may be the primary purpose. Do you plan on using your gun only for home defense (to protect against a home invasion) or do you plan to carry your firearm concealed on your person (on your body), or both?
Generally speaking, “full-size” handguns are used for home defense, because they typically (semi-automatics) have the ability to hold more ammunition in a magazine. It can also be argued that larger, full-size handguns offer a longer sight radius and longer barrel for better accuracy.
For concealed carry, most would agree that smaller and lighter handguns are more practical to carry concealed inside the waistband. The trade-off with using a smaller gun is lower capacity (holding fewer rounds of ammunition). However, the benefit of carrying a smaller gun is that it can be more easily and comfortably concealed.
There are plenty of concealed carry holsters and related products especially designed for women. Here’s a link to view some of them: https://thewellarmedwoman.com/product-category/holsters/
One more thing about concealed carry (vs open carry). When protecting yourself against an unexpected assault/attack while you are out in public, concealed carry (as opposed to “open carry”) helps you maintain the element of surprise. That is, you don’t want a potential attacker to clearly see that you are armed with a gun, so that he can then mentally prepare how to handle you. Of course, the first line of defense against an attack is to exercise situational awareness and then act accordingly based on a plan you’ve devised beforehand.
Additionally, most firearms experts will tell you that when you do carry concealed, try to have your gun on your person (on your body) rather than in your purse, car, etc. A firearm that is not accessible to you at the moment you need it, can be like not having a firearm at all. Here is a story of a jogger who was carrying concealed and was able to stop the sexual assault of a female jogger:
Home Defense and Concealed Carry
And for those who would only prefer to have one handgun for both home defense and concealed carry, there are compact guns that can fulfill this dual purpose as well.
Regardless of the primary purpose, always be sure to check the guns laws in your state and local municipality to confirm that you are in compliance. For instance, some states have strict legal requirements as to how you may transport your firearm and ammunition outside of your home and storage of your firearm within and outside of your home. Some states may also have restrictions as to who is able to carry a firearm concealed, whether or not a permit is necessary and under which circumstances you are able to carry concealed. Also be aware that when you attempt to purchase a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer, one who has a Federal Firearms License (FFL), you can expect the FFL dealer to run a federal criminal background check on you in addition to having you complete the forms/application required by law. For more details about this process of legally purchasing a gun, visit your local FFL dealer.
So, which gun should ladies consider?
Sig Sauer P238 Nitron.
My wife recommends the Sig Sauer P238 Nitron because it’s very easy and comfortable to shoot despite its diminutive size.
The P238 is a subcompact, semi-auto pistol chambered in .380 ACP. Recoil is mild and the single action only trigger is crisp with a short tactile reset making it easy to shoot more accurately.
The P238 ships with one 6 round magazine, but you may want to buy the extended 7 round magazine (giving you 1 extra round) as it extends the length of the P238’s grip making it more comfortable to hold/grasp.
The slide is also easy to rack. It is all metal in construction and weighs 15.2 oz and has a thumb safety on its left side for right-handed shooters (seems like the only variation of the P238 that has an ambidextrous thumb safety is the Sig P238 Legion).
We paid $599 plus tax (MSRP $679) for her P238 but it is well worth the money. It is also very easy to conceal IWB (in the waistband) and is super reliable. For more information about the different variations of the Sig P238 offered, you can visit Sig Sauer’s website. Below are is a photo of my wife’s Sig P238 Nitron.
Other guns ladies may want to consider for their first gun:
- Smith & Wesson M&P 22 Compact. This is a compact polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in .22 LR. Capacity is 10+1. Very light recoil, accurate and reliable. MSRP : $389.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store.
- Ruger SR22. This is a compact, polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in .22 LR. Very light recoil, accurate and reliable. Capacity is 10+1. MSRP : $439.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store.
- Kimber Micro Carry. This is a subcompact metal frame, semi-auto, very similar in size and appearance to the Sig P238, chambered in .380 ACP. Modest recoil, accurate and reliable. Capacity is 6+1 (get the extended 7 round magazine for an additional round of capacity and longer grip). MSRP : $651.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store.
- M&P 380 SHIELD EZ. A compact design, length is 6.7″ and height is 5.0″ with a 3.675” barrel. Capacity is 8+1. This polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in 380 ACP offers modest recoil, is accurate and reliable with optional manual thumb safety. Slide is very easy to rack making it ideal for those with wrist weakness issues. MSRP : $399.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store. Read our review here.
- Smith & Wesson M&P Compact M2.0 3.6″ barrel. A relatively compact design, length is 6.8″ and height is 5.0″. Although not a pocket pistol like the Sig P238, this gun can be still used for concealed carry as well as home defense. Capacity is 15+1 (9mm) 13+1 (.40 S&W). This is a newly introduced (May 2018) polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. In 9mm, moderate recoil, accurate and reliable. MSRP : $569.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store. Read our review here.
- Smith & Wesson M&P Compact M2.0 4″ barrel. Although considered a compact design, length is 7.3″ and height is 5.0″. Capacity is 15+1 (9mm) 13+1 (.40 S&W).This is a newly introduced (Oct. 2017) polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. In 9mm, moderate recoil, very accurate and very reliable. MSRP : $569.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store. Read our review here.
- Glock 19. Although considered a compact design, length is 7.36″ and height is 4.99″. Capacity is 15+1 (9mm). This is a polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in 9mm Luger. Moderate recoil, accurate and reliable. MSRP : $579.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store.
- Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Full Size (4.25″ barrel). This is a full size polymer frame, semi-auto chambered in 9mm Luger and .40 S&W. In 9mm, this gun has moderate recoil and is very accurate and very reliable making it an excellent choice for home defense. However due to its size, 7.4” length and 5.5” height, it’s generally too large to be considered a concealed carry gun. Capacity is 17+1 (9mm) 15+1 (.40 S&W). MSRP : $599.00 but you should be able to purchase it for less at your local gun store. Read our review here.
The above are suggestions are just a partial list of guns based on ease of use and reliability while keeping a first time shooter in mind. Of course, there are many, many more easy-to-use and reliable guns available that first time shooters could also consider.
As a side note, rimfire ammo such as .22 LR can be less reliable than centerfire ammo such as .380 ACP and 9mm Luger. If you do choose a pistol chambered in .22 LR, it is recommended that you use quality ammo from a company such as CCI. Another issue is that .22 LR is a smaller, less powerful round, thus many experienced gun owners recommend against using it as a self-defense round.