Handgun recommendations for women
August 30, 2007 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Any recommendations for a concealed-carry handgun to be used by a woman? My significant other is getting a concealed carry permit, but finds that my Beretta 9MM is too big and heavy for her hand. She's aware of all the drawbacks of guns, so she doesn't need to be reminded of them. Please post recommendations as comments on this thread, but I've also got this throwaway account: handgunrecommendations@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Shopping (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Springfield XD is a good, small handgun. It's also pretty darn safe (for a gun) and affordable, and it comes in different fun calibers.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:13 PM on August 30, 2007

Kahr MK9. I don't actually carry a gun but forensics training has necessitated a familiarity with small caliber guns. The Kahr is small enough to be a purse gun while still being relatively safe. Whatever that means in relation to guns...
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:21 PM on August 30, 2007

smith & wesson makes a "lady smith" .38 spl she should look at, also check out the little hammerless smiths, nothing to catch on the corner of her purse when she pulls it out.
posted by bruce at 7:24 PM on August 30, 2007

If I was going to buy my mom a handgun for her purse, I'd buy her a Keltec .380 pistol.

Stopping power, hammerless, and pretty solid. My father is an avid gun collector, and this is what he carries in his pocket.
posted by jimmyhutch at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2007

Here is a previous question on this very topic, with excellent answers.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2007

Springfield XD 9 subcompact.

It's small, comfortable for your hand and lighter to carry.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:37 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps it's too big and heavy, but the weight may be significant in absorbing recoil. A lightweight gun may be more unpleasant to shoot, meaning she'll less inclined to practice and less competent in its use. This thread will probably fill up with some good recommendations, but she'll need to try a few things to get a feel for what's good for her.

Possibly something like a 1911 with a single stack would have a narrow enough grip to be comfortable to hold, but still have the power of a .45. I'm a guy with medium or maybe smaller than average hands, and the 1911 feels (to me) like it would be comfortable in smaller hands. But by all means, shop around. Just remember that the size and weight affect the shooting experience too, so it would be best to get to a range where you can try a few sizes and calibers.
posted by knave at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll second the Springfield XD9 Subcompact. Springfield makes a good reliable weapon that is easy and affordable to own and service. I utilize the 4" 9mm service model as my standard service piece and wouldn't consider anything else. I've heard good things about the compact and think it would be a great first (or only) weapon for a novice.

My one caution is that some people might not be completely comfortable with a 'grip safety' as opposed to a more traditional 'manual safety'. The grip safety is something that really belongs in a proper holster and I'd be uncomfortable storing it in a handbag where random stuff might mess with the trigger (you didn't specify how your S.O. will be carrying it). Picking a good holster or carrying mechanism is a trial-and-error thing and you might want to a try a few products to find the perfect one that meets your functional requirements (safety, comfort, accesibility, and ergonomics).

As with any gun purchase, know the features you want and go to a reputable dealer who will work with you and your SO to find the right piece for her needs. A good dealer you trust really makes all the difference!
posted by galimatias at 8:03 PM on August 30, 2007

The previous thread LobsterMitten points out has good info.

Go to a range, even a few ranges, that rent everything. Try everything. Larger caliber isn't always less manageable. knave points out a single stack m1911 can feel smaller than many current guns.

Confidence is the only factor that really matters. She'll need to demo enough products to be certain the one she buys is the one she'll be confident in drawing and using. Someone's perfect choice may not inspire confidence for her for any of many reasons (EG, kick, safeties, size, "stopping power," DA/SA, safe carry, willingness to practice regularly with it, etc).
posted by lothar at 8:15 PM on August 30, 2007

Smith & Wesson Model M&P 340 CT Revolver, aka the "Centennial Airweight."

Then use .38 Special ammo instead of .357 Magnum. All the stopping power you'd need (but not too much kick) in a small, hammerless, double-action-only, frame.

But what lothar says -- it's not about the gun, it's about what the shooter is comfortable with.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:55 PM on August 30, 2007

Hmm, looks like 5.7mm ammo is legally available again in the US for the FN Five-seveN.
posted by porpoise at 10:10 PM on August 30, 2007

I've long coveted the Walther PPK (or is it PPK/S?) as a really nice all-around small handgun, if you can afford it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:59 AM on August 31, 2007

Beretta Tomcat or Bobcat.

Hi-quality, safe, tiny, accurate, reliable, semi-auto and did I mention, tiny? About $300.

I have owned a pile of weapons like this. Hands down, the Beretta is at the top of the list.

Also small caliber. Available only in .22 and .32 center fire.

That really doesn't matter; if she ever pulls it out she probably won't be able to hit a bull in the ass anyway, regardless of the caliber. It just doesn't work that way.

If she buys one and carries it... she should try her best to act as if she doesn't have one. Stay out of dangerous places and get better at proactive self-protection. Guns sometimes have the opposite effect on people... they go places and at times where the should not prudently go, thinking somehow that the gun is some kind of magic talisman.

Nonetheless, I am not at all adverse to concealed weapons in the hands of stable people. (I live in Vermont, where we don't need no stinking concealed carry permits!) Just remember... these things are like Frodo's Ring.. they corrupt the wearer in subtle fashion.
posted by FauxScot at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2007

PPK or some Baby Berettas or a Mini Uzi.
Go with the well-known brands!
posted by spacefire at 6:26 AM on August 31, 2007

I would second the Keltec .380 or even their .32 pistol for CCW. These are very small yet function well. Keltec has a lifetime warranty and fantastic customer service.
posted by Slenny at 7:05 AM on August 31, 2007

The best way to find the gun that fits any person's hand is to test fit the guns, and to know what you're looking for. I'm going to babble on for quite a while here, so I hope you'll stick it out to the end.

There are two major considerations in buying a handgun: trigger reach, and trigger pull. These are the two factors that largely determine how well a particular person can fire a particular gun.

The other, lesser, factors are the manual of arms for the weapon, i.e., how complicated it is to operate, and the weight and caliber of the weapon, which determine the recoil. These don't directly affect a person's ability to hit the target, but do affect their ability to operate the firearm (load, unload, operate the safety, not flinch because the recoil hurts, etc).

So, in order.

Trigger reach is how far it is from the face of the trigger (the front part where your finger pulls against it) to the back of the grip (where the meat of your palm sits). The comfortable range of trigger reach for a given individual is determined by the size of their hand. For any hand, some guns will be too big, and some will be too small.

The way to check the trigger reach is to, with a gun absolutely, positively known to be unloaded (yes, check it yourself, twice if you have to), place the pad of the index finger, just in front (tip-wards) of the joint crease closest to the tip, on the trigger. Then, wrap the hand around the grip, holding the gun more or less as if you're shaking hands. Then, "punch" your fist (holding the gun) straight out in some safe direction. If the gun naturally points so the sights, your hand, and the bones of your arm form a straight line, then your hand fits the gun.

If the gun is pointing off to the side (for a right handed shooter, it will usually point off to the right, the opposite for a lefty) then the gun is too big. That doesn't make it impossible to shoot, merely more difficult (because it doesn't point naturally, the shooter will always have to correct their aim). It also gives a weaker grip on the gun, making recoil control and weapon retention more difficult.

Ok, that's trigger reach, and how to test fit the gun. The second factor is trigger pull, how hard it is to pull the trigger. This is pretty straightforward, the heavier the pull, the harder it is to fire the gun. The usual gotcha here is that the simplest gun to operate, the revolver, has a very long, heavy trigger pull. What fits the hand well may not be suitable if the heavy trigger pull wears out the muscles in your hand after 5 shots.

Next, the manual of arms. Revolvers are the simplest, you put the ammunition in the holes and close the cylinder, and you're ready to go; unloading is the reverse. Malfunctions are generally either trivial to deal with or impossible to fix (during a fight); not much middle ground.

Semi-automatics have the slide that reciprocates along the top, and the shooter needs to be able to lock that open by simultaneously pulling the slide to the rear and pushing up on the slide stop lever somewhere along the left side of the gun. Yes, you can shoot a gun recreationally without being able to lock it open, but for a defensive weapon, it's a valuable skill (e.g., some malfunctions are best cleared by locking the slide open).

Note that some guns, e.g., the Walther PPK (and clones) and SIG-Sauer P230/P232, do not have an external slide stop lever. The Walther is also blessed with a trigger pull worthy of Godzilla.

Next, many semi-automatics have external safeties of various types. As a general rule, the lighter the trigger pull, the more likely there will be a manual safety. The 1911-style pistols, which are known for their light, crisp trigger pull, typically have both a grip safety and a manual thumb safety. Glock pistols, which have a fairly light trigger, has no manual thumb safety (but does have a safety on the trigger itself). The traditional exposed-hammer type of pistol may or may not have a manual safety; the original poster's Beretta probably does, while a SIG-Sauer P22x series pistol does not. Both of them, do, however, have a long, heavier trigger pull. The manual safety's position and operation will also vary from gun to gun. Shop around and see what you are comfortable with.

Lastly, we come to weight and caliber. Light guns are great to carry. Everyone wants a heavy enough caliber to stop the bad guys, but not so heavy that it's too hard to shoot or simply too much (so, something in the range between .380 ACP and .45 ACP, or revolvers in .38 Special or, maybe, if you're really manly, .357 Magnum). Really, any of these calibers, firing modern, hollow-point ammunition are reasonably equivalent (the .380 is clearly the bottom of the tier, but is still suitable).

Yah, yah, you hear that the 9mm is worthless and weak, and only a .45 is a Real Man Stopper. The key here is: modern hollow-point ammunition, not Joe-bob's Gun Show Man-Stoppers, or weird specialty ammunition. There's a lot of hype around ammunition and caliber selection, but the simple truth is that bullet and ammunition design advances, especially in the last 5-10 years, have really leveled the field, and caliber (as long as it's in the .380 - .45 range) is much less important than the other factors. The caliber is irrelevant if the shooter can't hit the target in the first place.

The proper balance varies by person, but I see a lot of women come to the range with the nice, light .38 Special airweight (aluminum frame revolver, weighs under a pound when loaded) that some clerk in a gun store sold them, but they've never fired it. It's very nice until they have to pull the heavy trigger a hundred times in class, and the recoil of even practice .38 Special loads makes their hand sore after 10 or 15 shots. On the flip side, some shooters are just overwhelmed by the complexity of the semi-automatic (all those levers and buttons), and find great comfort in the simplicity of a revolver.

So, after all of this babbling, what would I recommend? The best answer is: It Depends. Really, go to a store or range, and see what fits. Most women tend to have smaller hands, so the smaller frame semi-automatics will generally fit better.
Get a decent, quality brand. If it costs less than $300, be suspicious. For defensive weapons, my personal preference is to buy new, so that I know the full history and that the weapon has never had some moron grind away at it with a dremel tool.

One other thought I'll add: as long as you're buying one gun, think about buying two. Many guns these days come in varying models of the same design, and a heavier, steel, gun can be used for most practice and training, while a lighter, aluminum or polymer, gun can be used for carry. Two gun styles that work well for this are the Smith & Wesson "J frame" series of 5-shot revolvers, e.g., a model 442 airweight paired with a model 640 steel frame, and the Kahr series running from the PM9 up through their T9 in varying sizes and weights.

Lastly, buy decent carry gear, and consider some actual professional training in self-defense shooting. It's different than just learning to shoot.
posted by doorsnake at 10:08 AM on August 31, 2007 [8 favorites]

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