Are you a woman buying your first gun solo? Congratulations!
Women who are considering buying their first gun for self-defense face a dizzying array of choices, most of which would more or less serve their purposes. Unfortunately, they’re also faced with a dizzying array of other people’s opinions, much of it foolishness. If you’re a woman in search of a handgun for home defense or concealed carry, you may find that it’s easiest to home in on the former by ignoring most of the latter (present humble columnist’s humble thoughts excluded, of course). Although it can be intimidating to start this process on your own, you’re likely to discover that it’s an empowering experience.
The first thing to know about self-defense handguns for women is that, strictly speaking, there really isn’t any such thing. There are handguns that offer varying degrees of felt recoil, handguns that have smaller grips for smaller hands, and handguns that are relatively simple to operate…but those are all factors that can be attractive to men and women alike. What you’re looking for is a gun that is comfortable and intuitive for you to use. Thing is, you might just be surprised by which gun that is. Once you take it out on the range, you may discover that you don’t mind a bit of recoil, or that you prefer a semi-automatic to a revolver. So it’s good to keep an open mind at the beginning of the decision-making process.
One great way to figure out which gun is going to work best for you is to either take a basic pistol course at a range that offers rental guns, or from an instructor who provides some popular choices for students to try. Many ranges even offer classes taught by women, for women. If you think that’s an option that would help you feel more comfortable, try checking out the Women on Target program, the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, or The Well Armed Woman, to name a few national programs. However, you should know that male pistol instructors are overwhelmingly delighted to see a female student in their class, and can certainly help you learn the basics of gun safety and gun handling as well as a female instructor. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
Why do I recommend that you start with a training class before you even buy your first gun? One thing that many women do when they’re interested in buying a handgun for personal protection, but don’t know much about guns, is to bring a male friend or loved one with them to the gun store to help them pick one out. This can actually be counterproductive, and here’s why. First, although shooting instructors tend to be extremely professional and unbiased, it’s a sad fact that many gun-store employees are struggling to catch up with the times. It’s common to assume that the male half of any couple is their actual potential customer…which is irritating enough when you’re trying to get your questions answered.
This isn’t entirely about bias, of course. It’s also a sad fact that any time you have a male/female couple and she seems very uninformed—but is the one filling out the paperwork and paying—there’s a suspicion that what’s happening is a “straw purchase.” (Basically, a person with a clean legal record buying a gun for a felon.) So if you’re really at Square One in terms of your knowledge of firearms, you may actually have a smoother experience if you educate yourself up front with real, practical shooting experience before you pony up for your pistol…and then head out to the gun store by yourself.
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