A few years ago, I was working at a gun show to promote a concealed carry course I was teaching. It was pretty obvious that I wasn’t just an assistant or the instructor’s wife keeping an eye on things. Despite this, I had multiple men walk up and start telling me all about what I should be doing with firearms. Unfortunately, one of these Fudds was working at the next table.
“You see, darlin’, the best revolver for women is a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson. It fits in any purse, and even if your lipstick or somethin’ gets into it, it won’t shoot off. I hope you’re teachin’ the ladies in your class that. More important, a lady can’t screw up runnin’ a little revolver. All ya gotta do is pull the trigger.”
In other words, many men believed that women are obviously too stupid and mechanically clumsy to handle a semi-automatic pistol, so what we really need are revolvers, and the simpler the better.
The good news is that a recent survey by The Well Armed Woman and NRA Women shows us that, while there are still those who think that way, this myth is now pretty much dead. Out of 6,000 female buyers surveyed, a snubbie didn’t even break into the top ten.
In Case You Are Still A Believer…
Before I get into what women are buying these days, let’s put the “revolvers are best for women” myth to bed real quick.
As an instructor, I have nothing against revolvers. For some people and some situations, a revolver is a very good choice. I own several wheel guns. Indeed, they are dead-simple to use, as long as you don’t extend a thumb or other digit past the front of the cylinder (and get a nasty power burn).
For concealed carry, many if not most defensive gun uses are over with in under two rounds, less than two seconds, and happen within two feet, so capacity isn’t that likely to be a problem. Probably. You can get some highly concealable and extremely light revolvers that make carrying them a breeze.
If you take good a look at your defensive options and determine that a revolver will best fit your needs, there’s nothing wrong with that. The only time a revolver becomes a problem is when people try to shoehorn it into situations that it doesn’t fit. When someone decides that around 50% of the population should always be carrying a .38 snub nose, they’re giving out bad advice.
Here’s an example of someone in my family (who I won’t identify because this is an embarrassing story). The man decided that his wife needed to be carrying a .357 lightweight Scandium revolver–the S&W 340PD. After all, it’s so light and easy to use, right?
After owning the gun for months, he finally got her out to the range to shoot it, and she could only tolerate one shot of even .38 Special. Years earlier, she had sustained a wrist injury and the lightweight Scandium frame didn’t “soak up” any recoil. The result was a re-aggravated wrist injury and a desire to never touch that gun again.
I’ve seen the same reaction with that gun from others who didn’t have wrist injuries.
For smaller-framed people with less muscle mass, recoil management is a bigger issue than it is for larger-framed people with more muscle. The simple fact is that a somewhat heavier semi-automatic gun with a recoil spring is going to be a lot easier to shoot than a revolver, especially for someone new to guns.
In my classes, even the most elderly and frail women would do great qualifying for New Mexico’s permit with a steel 1911. The heavy gun and the heavy recoil springs I’d put in them would more than compensate for the additional recoil of the .45 ACP round. As a bonus, they got that higher caliber rated on their license (Yeah, New Mexico has some weird laws).
Occasionally, an older man shows up and tells me that his wife is too weak and inexperienced (read: stupid) to use the 1911 to qualify, so he brought along a .38-caliber revolver for her to use. Nearly every time (and to the man’s horror in several cases), I would often have the old lady outshooting her husband with the 1911 within 20 to 30 minutes.
What Women Are Buying These Days
The data from NRA and The Well Armed Woman bears this out. All of the top ten guns that are selling now are semi-automatics, and because they are often used for concealed carry, they are cambered in calibers that the smaller guns’ frames can soak up, making for more manageable recoil.
The #1 choice was the SIG P365, which surely didn’t surprise the NRA Women staff because it’s routinely one of the most popular carry guns in terms of sales.
The #2 and #3 spots were taken up by Smith & Wesson Shield EZ models chambered in 9mm and .380. The EZ versions of the Shield pistols are easier to rack than many other compact guns, but still have the advantage of being relatively easy to handle when firing. The regular M&P Shield (non-EZ) model came in at #7. That the Shields took three of the top 10 spots doesn’t surprise me at all, as I carry a Shield in .40 S&W myself. They’re compact guns that act a lot more like a big gun.
The rest of the guns in the top ten were very similar (G43, Hellcat, G43X…), with two exceptions: the GLOCK 19 and the Ruger SR22. The list wasn’t specifically for concealed carry guns, but today’s increased popularity of concealed carry obviously heavily impacted what people are buying.
The G19 is no surprise because a larger pistol with more capacity is just a lot of fun at the range and is great for open and car carry as well has home defense. The SR22 shouldn’t surprise either because it’s a great gun to learn the basics with. Plus, the lower cost (in normal times) and ultra low recoil make it easy to learn the fundamentals of pistol shooting.
So it seems that the “revolvers are the choice for women” myth doesn’t have the sway it once did. More women are actually getting good advice these days, often from other women. More importantly, more new shooters are going out and trying different guns before they lay down their cash for a handgun.
Most importantly, this also shows that the gun community is getting a lot better at welcoming and bringing on new shooters and getting them started. That’s definitely a good thing.