First gun range experience: Glock?
July 6, 2012 6:11 AM   Subscribe

I want to shoot my first gun at a firing range and I am thinking of starting with a Glock. Is this goal realistic for an inexperienced woman with small hands? Possible further complication: I live in Chicago and do not own any guns.
posted by agregoli to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. I fired a glock my first time. There's little recoil and the slide and trigger don't take too much pressure to operate. Totally doable for someone with small hands.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:15 AM on July 6, 2012

Chicago is a big city and will have many gun ranges. Gun ranges will have lots of guns you can rent, and Glocks will definitely be included, as they are popular. They will also offer safety classes, which you should definitely take if you are a total newbie.

There's no reason not to start with a Glock if you really are interested in that particular gun, but you should ask for suggestions, too, and try out several guns. They may advise you to start with a smaller caliber weapon because the recoil will generally be less, but Glocks aren't bad for that either.
posted by kindall at 6:16 AM on July 6, 2012

I have fairly small hands and my first time was with an M-16. :) It matters more that you have a good instructor - and it matters what guns they have. I suggest you pick the firing range (some are friendlier toward beginner women than others) and ask them about gun selection.
posted by SMPA at 6:18 AM on July 6, 2012

Glock makes some very nice handguns that are suitable for people with smaller hands. They are simple and straightforward to use, and don't have a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

You might also look at some of the smaller 9mms made by Kel-Tec, which is a company one of my female friends, in particular, speaks very highly of.

Out of curiosity, where will you be getting the gun from? You may have to use whatever small gun you can find.

Keep in mind that weight is important for a gun as well as size: the heavier a gun is, the less it will recoil in your hands; the size and weight are a compromise that you will have to make for yourself based on what feels right to you. It's as personal as anything else: you might want to try several until you find something you like.

Have fun and be safe!
posted by gauche at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2012

Oh sorry, and also...if anyone knows HOW in Chicago I go about this, that would be a fee, shoot a gun? Instruction class? Do I need some kind of licensing? Thanks!
posted by agregoli at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2012

Frankly, I would start with something much smaller -- a .22 caliber target pistol, for example -- just to get used to the idea of a big explosion going off right in your face. Once you've done that a few times, then go ahead and move to the Glock. One nice thing about a heavy pistol like the Glock is that its weight will kind of counteract the tendency you will have to flinch as you're pulling the trigger -- which will allow you to be much more accurate than you could be with a lighter weapon.

Being small-handed and a beginner won't be a problem; having little experience with things exploding in your hands may be a bit of an issue, and I would therefore urge you to start a bit smaller for your very first shoot, and then move to the Glock after shooting the .22 for ten or fifteen minutes. However, hey -- it's not really an issue, and no biggie if you wanna jump straight in to the big boy. Just be ready for the big bang; it's actually a really visceral pleasure.

SOURCE: I am a relative neophyte who has been taken to a firing range several times by an enthusiastic gun-toting colleague. And I am a woman with smallish hands.
posted by ariel_caliban at 6:23 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife (with small hands) prefers my full-sized Glock 22 (.40 caliber). The polymer frame and semi-automatic action reduce the recoil so much it's very easy to shoot.

Also a heads-up: a lot of ranges won't let you rent a gun if you are alone unless you already have your own gun.
posted by flyingcowofdoom at 6:29 AM on July 6, 2012

Never been there myself, but I'd go somewhere like this. And the way it generally works is that you pay a fee, buy some ammo, and shoot a gun. You don't need any kind of licensing to shoot a gun at a range (though you should bring ID if you're going to rent a gun).

I strongly recommend an instructional class if you haven't had any experience with guns. This will get you shooting correctly and safely, and often times you'll be exposed to many different types of guns. Go somewhere where you feel comfortable with the instructors. Most ranges will offer these classes or know someone who does.
posted by Mercaptan at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2012

There are no public shooting ranges in Chicago, you'll need to go to the suburbs.
posted by enn at 6:32 AM on July 6, 2012

if anyone knows HOW in Chicago I go about this, that would be great

Do you want to buy a gun? Here's a guide to doing so in Chicago, which is pretty complicated.

If you want to use a rented gun at a range, you will still need a FOID (getting one is step one in the guide).
posted by jedicus at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2012

I would sign up for a beginner's gun safety class. Most ranges should run them fairly regularly. It will start with an hour or 90 minute classroom session, and then you'll go to the range and probably get to fire both a pistol and a revolver.
posted by COD at 6:35 AM on July 6, 2012

I own a few guns, and go to ranges often.

You should start with getting a gun permit. Doing it this way, you will get good instruction and be taught proper handling of weapons. This is the best way to stay safe.

Lots of places use glocks as their basic teaching weapon for a permit. Here is a range, in the city of Chicago, where you can get a permit (which includes class-room and range training). They will train you on a glock - and then once trained, you can return to this range and rent guns for target practice on the range.

Good luck and have fun.
posted by Flood at 6:36 AM on July 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

agregoli, I'd maybe start here. You're going to get all sorts of people: some of them are going to be sort of dudebro-y or have antiquated ideas about women, but some of them are going to be really nice and welcoming and helpful. (For what it's worth, they will skew, statistically, toward the political right.)

I'd call up a range or a gun club and ask them if they have a beginner's class or if they have handguns you can rent. Definitely seek out some sort of safety training -- again, ask the range owner.
posted by gauche at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2012

The only experience I have firing a gun is in Minnesota. My roommate had a pair of handguns and I went shooting with him a couple of times. I never needed a permit or anything, I just needed to make sure that I read the rule for the range. They did have guns to rent there. I don't know about instruction but I suspect this is dependent on the range and I'm confident that you can one that will have a gun safety class or beginner class.

I fired his H&K .45 and his Smith & Wesson 9mm. The .45 was scary and hard to shoot straight. I would always end up aiming low because I would brace for the recoil. If I had to do it over again I would have started with the heaviest 9mm that fit in my (slightly smaller than average male) hands. As pointed out above you'll have less recoil (which was the thing I had the most trouble with) both with a smaller caliber and more mass in the gun.
posted by VTX at 6:37 AM on July 6, 2012

This link may be helpful.
posted by COD at 6:40 AM on July 6, 2012

Frankly, I would start with something much smaller -- a .22 caliber target pistol, for example -- just to get used to the idea of a big explosion going off right in your face.

I agree with this 100%. Start small and work your way up.
posted by gjc at 7:05 AM on July 6, 2012

Do you have any friends who shoot guns / own guns? Going with them would be your BEST option, but if thats not a possibility...

Our PA laws are different than your IL laws (gun laws change state-to-state), but for you, you should be able to find a gun range in your city that rents guns for use there. You don't need any special license for them to rent out. BUT, it sounds like you need some instruction, which they may or may not be able to provide. In which case, I suggest finding a class or something (your local PD / Sheriff will be able to give you good info on a beginners firearms course.)

My tiny girlfriend (5'4", about 105 lbs) happily shoots my .38 Special revolver. She struggles more with a big .45 ACP. If you go with a semi-automatic (like Glock), I recommend 9mm, if you go with a revolver get .38 Special.

Remember the 4 rules of gun safety and you'll never have an accident:
1.) Always handle/treat the gun as if it is loaded (even if you know 100% its empty)
2.) Never point the business-end of the gun at anything that you dont wanna shoot (even if you know 100% that its empty)
3.) Never put your finger onto the trigger until you're on the firing line and aiming at a target (keep your trigger finger out of the trigger area until you're ready!)
4.) Be mindful of what is behind your target (not as big a deal in a range, more important in forests/farms/etc. when your shootin in the boonies)
posted by el_yucateco at 7:10 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with starting with a smaller caliber first as well. My gf started with my dad's .22 which is a lot easier to handle and didn't scare her as much. From there we went to a 9mm which she enjoyed much more.

I would recommend .22 or .380 first and then going to 9mm. They are smaller guns which fit into smaller hands and don't have as much kick.
posted by kookywon at 7:14 AM on July 6, 2012

I grew up shooting rifles, but never handguns. My first time shooting a handgun was while taking a handgun safety course at a law enforcement supply range. The staff helped me choose the right gun for my size, and the rental was included in the course. Ammo was purchased. I would highly suggest going this route.

Shooting a handgun (versus rifle) was a very stressful adrenaline-filled experience for me. The feeling of firing a pistol is similar to getting a piercing or to doing an extreme sport. It may be because I began shooting them as a child, but I find rifles to be much more relaxing. You should try both!
posted by semaphore at 7:26 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recently bought my first Glock, the 17. I am a guy with large hands, and the man at the gun-store showed me the 17, the 19, and the 21, all 9mm, which he described as "Large, Medium, Small." All of my research, as well as a gun-collecting friend, pointed to Glock as an excellent first weapon, and they make them large and small, for different-sized people and for different purposes (home defense vs. concealed carry, for example).

With a kit that'll run about $200, you can convert the 9mm Glock to shoot .22LR ammunition, which is cheaper than 9mm. 9mm costs me about $25/100rnds, so it's out outrageous, though. At a quarter a round, we could be talking about the most important dollar you'll ever spend being sent into the chest of someone who wants to take your life.

In addition to the very important 4, above, there's a 5th rule of gun safety that I've picked up-- don't try to catch a dropped gun. It won't go off when it hits the ground, really. But if you grab for it wrong, a finger can go into the trigger guard, and anything could happen.

Oh, and I'm not a Chicagoan, but I gather that Chicago is rather obstructive about it, ever since getting their anti-gun laws smacked around my the courts.

I found this quick summary of navigating the gun-buying process as far as city/state paperwork and such. It's not clear whether the cost in step 3 includes the crazy bread, but you've got a lot of fees ahead of you, I'm sorry to say.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:31 AM on July 6, 2012

Sure, start with a Glock. You try it, if you like it you can jump through more hoops later, but just standing up and shooting a Glock will be fun and low pressure. There's really no need to do anything other than that to get started.
posted by OmieWise at 7:45 AM on July 6, 2012

sorry, 9mm is *not* outrageous.

Also, some of the gun blogs were alleging for a while that the Chicago government and police built in a catch-22 to the process, something along the lines of "you must have X and Y paperwork to take the required range class, but you can't get X or Y without first having taken the required range class."

Well, some 5000 people have managed to get past this, although perhaps they did it by going outside of Chi-town.

Also, I mentioned concealed carry in my above post, in re: selecting guns. It'll be a while before anyone can overturn the ban on concealed carry in Chicago, I think, despite the generally momentum of the pro-gun legal groups these days. Your gun will protect you at home, so keep it there in a safe fashion. There may also be rules for transporting it to the range-- unloaded, certainly, in the car-trunk or whatnot, I'd imagine. (Dedicate a small backpack or bag for your range trips: use it to carry your gun, range ammo, magazines, hearing protection and eye protection, targets, maybe a towel (I sweat like crazy on the range)) and magazine-loader-- loading magazines with brand-new springs is no picnic.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:53 AM on July 6, 2012

Another thing to consider when comparing a Glock to some kind of .22 target pistol is that they are designed and manufactured for different purposes. Not only is it easier to control a .22 because the recoil is less, but the gun is also designed to be more accurate with its bullet than a Glock is. To put it in really simple terms, greater accuracy requires less play between the parts of a gun, which in turn creates greater opportunity for parts failure. Staff Sergeant Sam needs his Glock to fire every time he pulls the trigger, no matter where he is or what may be blowing around, while by contrast Target Shooter Tim needs every shot to land within a quarter-sized spot and he can spare a moment to tinker with the gun before firing.

So it's worth considering what you want from the experience. I don't think a 9mm is necessarily more problematic for a first-time shooter. If you want the experience of a loud explosion and feeling the gun kick and knowing that you are shooting a weapon (so to speak; no judgment) then a Glock will satisfy that much better than a .22. On the other hand, if you want to bullseye one round after another and then post on Facebook a photo of yourself holding a well-grouped target, then a .22 might be a better tool.

As for logistics...I have no knowledge about Chicago. I can tell you that in Massachusetts, gun laws are a nightmare and asking three different seemingly-knowledgeable people will get you three totally different answers as to what you can and cannot do. I have heard gun laws misinterpreted by firearms instructors. My advice would be to disregard what the Internet tells you about the law, take recommendations for specific gun ranges, and then approach those ranges and ask, "Hi, I'd like to try shooting as easily as possible, can I come in and rent a firearm and a lane?" They get asked this often. One range might tell you that you need to take a class, another might tell you that you're fine as long as you come accompanied by a licensed gun owner, and a third might just tell you to come on down. As long as you follow the instructions of the particular range you choose, you should be fine.
posted by cribcage at 8:01 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a woman with medium hands and own the Glock 19 because it's got a smaller grip than the standard Glock 17, but either would be fine, really.

Firing any kind of Glock will be fine. There will be no "big explosions" from any of them.

That said- firing a Glock is, in my opinion, like driving a Honda. I like it because it's light, and reliable, and didn't cost too much. If the place you're going has a big section of handguns, you might like some of the fancier ones. I shot a friend's old Walther PPK that was a joy to fire, and I've fired a couple of lovely old Berettas. I'm not all that knowledgeable and I'm sure there are a dozen that are more fun than a Glock. (Not that I'm knocking Glocks- I like mine!)
posted by small_ruminant at 8:04 AM on July 6, 2012

And I'm sure there are newer guns that are fun to fire. I'm just partial to the older ones, and often they're prettier than the modern ugly black ones, too :) if they're from back when James Bond was more glamorous than SWAT teams.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:07 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have small hands. I like the Glock 19.
posted by jcatus at 10:41 AM on July 6, 2012

Seconding semaphore. I would recommend rifles and in fact would learn to shoot a rifle first as a matter of technique. Aiming a pistol of any kind (accurately) is extremely, very, super-hard to do. I understand if maybe you have this urge to shoot a pistol. BUT if what you want is to learn to use firearms, I would learn from the ground up and start with a .22 rifle. It is definitely a real gun. Little children in gun cultures don't start with a pistol. First a BB gun, then a pellet rifle, then a .22 rifle, THEN a pistol at 11 or 12, then a deer rifle a/o a 20 gauge (shotgun), depending on what they want to learn to hunt. (There are also pellet pistols--I understand that quality is much higher than when I was a kid.)

(Just as an aside, if civilian self-defense as per Katrina is any part of your gun ideas, as it surely is mine, it is much more possible for the average person to defend herself with a rifle or shotgun. Easier to aim. My father always says that there is no point in keeping a pistol by the bed except for firing in the air, because a person who's not a police officer, himself included, is likely not prepared, psychologically, to shoot to kill at point-blank range. I personally would feel able to defend my apt. with a rifle or shotgun if I had to, but not with a pistol. Listen, I am NOT saying that this is or should be part of your plan...I am just saying that if total gun fluency as valuable life skill and civil liberty is part of what you want, then think about working your way up stepwise.)
posted by skbw at 2:43 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also re: shotguns: you can shoot skeet (clay "pigeons," discs they throw up into the air), which is a lot of fun.
posted by skbw at 2:46 PM on July 6, 2012

I disagree with skbw. Shoot whatever you feel like shooting. It sounds like the point for you is to have fun, not become Annie Oakley.

You're going to a range. You just have to keep your bullets on the other side of barrier; you don't need to be a sharp shooter. Even if you WERE a sharp shooter, you wouldn't stay one unless you practiced all the time, which most of us aren't going to do.

Personally, I like shooting with rifles better- it IS gratifying to hit exactly what you're aiming for and you'll manage it more quickly with a rifle, but fewer ranges let you use them there.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:54 PM on July 6, 2012

Oh sorry, and also...if anyone knows HOW in Chicago I go about this, that would be a fee, shoot a gun? Instruction class? Do I need some kind of licensing? Thanks!

That's exactly what it is.

Except, jedicus is right about needing a Firearms Owner Identification Card to rent a gun in Illinois. So pay that fee and wait for your card.

Then there's a range fee and a rental fee (look for someplace that offers unlimited rentals, so if you don't like the Glock you can try something else). Also, Gun Ranges require you to purchase ammunition onsite when renting. Your best bet is to buy one caliber of ammo and just shoot guns of that caliber.

You're going to want some kind of instruction. The best thing would be to have someone (who is familiar with guns) go with you. Barring that try calling around, some ranges will have someone onsite willing to give some very basic instruction for free, especially if they aren't busy.

If that doesn't work most ranges offer classes. A quick google search turns up an Intro to Firearms Class for $40 at Midwest Guns.
posted by zinon at 4:20 PM on July 6, 2012

As a woman, who shoots, and has small hands, Glocks are not comfortable for me to shoot, a similar weapon (in design, not the way it works) are XDs. I own a XD9 Subcompact and compact, as well as the precursor, the HS2000 and they are so much more comfortable for my hands than any Glock has ever been.
posted by SuzySmith at 4:42 PM on July 6, 2012

I am a small-handed woman, and I did not like the glocks that I shot. The double stack magazine did not fit in my hand, and some of them have a finger grip on the magazine that pinched my finger.

My favorite at my range is the Ruger LC9. It fits in my hand (you should be able to hold the gun comfortably and not need to move your index finger (much) to shoot).

The best thing to do though, is to take a course that will let you shoot multiple guns. My range offers a ladies handgun course that lets you try out multiple guns and calibers.

Good luck! And have fun.
posted by yb2006shasta at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2012

If you've never fired a gun before, the type of gun you are going to fire makes little difference. This is a bit like saying, "I'm going skiing for the first time, and I'm thinking of starting with Rossignols". It really doesn't matter what brand/make of skis/gun you use. Firing a pistol is much easier that skiing, though. Plus, guns are cheap to rent, typically $10. You can rent one of each in an afternoon and pick your favorite.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:29 PM on July 6, 2012

As a person with small hands, I have to say I don't like the Glock, or anything with a double stack magazine, as they feel too wide to me. My fave is the Colt 1911, whose ergonomics I love.
I have to agree that a .22 is the best gun for a beginner. Try the Ruger Mark III or a Browning Buckmark.
You might want to look for a Women on Target class - the NRA program for beginning women shooters.
posted by lawhound at 9:32 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Glocks are less complicated to operate than a lot of other handguns.

I would start with 9mm. No reason to work your way up.

I learned how to shoot with a Glock and got about 40 classroom and range hours training with one.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:43 AM on July 7, 2012

Late to the party, I know, but just wanted to suggest 1) a 22 caliber for lots of enjoyment - the ammo is much cheaper, so your $ go further. We have a Ruger long barrel which my Dad gave us, and have had many a 'date night' (tuesday=ladies night so no 'admission fee') where we have shot to our heart's content for less than the price of a good meal :)
2) you might want to look into the Sig Sauer line of handguns...they are very nicely made, and there are several which are perfect for those with smaller hands!
posted by PlantGoddess at 9:03 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the super responses! I really appreciated other suggestions since I'm totally new to the gun scene. I am not interested in owning a gun at this point in time, since I haven't fired any yet, but I'm excited! Applying for my FOID card in a few days! Should be able to get to the range before my birthday, which is my goal. Thanks again!
posted by agregoli at 4:45 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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