It seems that after almost every article I write on self defense for women, people write, “Get a gun! Get a gun!” Yes, I agree, a gun is an excellent tool to deter crime and to prevail in a violent encounter. I teach gun safety and the Conceal and Carry class in my state and well over half my students are women. Here are five questions I go through with them to help determine whether they are ready to purchase their firearm.
1. Are you ready for the responsibility of owning a firearm?
You must know quite a bit about how they operate and how to maintain them. You must take the necessary steps to keep your gun out of the reach of unauthorized persons (children, parents with dementia, etc.). And you must have the mental, emotional and physical stamina to use a gun correctly in a violent encounter. Are you willing to meet all these qualifications?
2. What are you looking for in a gun? Do you want only home defense, or do you also want to carry?
If you are looking only at home defense, a 12 gauge shotgun will stop almost any attack, provided you know how to operate this powerful weapon. However, if a 12 gauge is a bit much, try the smaller 20 gauge. There is also an interesting pistol made by Taurus called “The Judge.” It is a revolver that fires either Colt .45 bullets or .410 shotgun shells. You get five shots. Make ’em count. The smaller version of the gun is called “The Public Defender.” It’s good for home defense, but still too big for conceal and carry for most women.
3. If you are going to carry, do you want to carry a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol?
A revolver is very reliable. Every time you pull the trigger, it will shoot (if it has been properly cleaned and maintained). Although they come in a variety of calibers, the standard .38 caliber or a .357 magnum is plenty of firepower. The drawback is that you only have five or six shots. And reloading can be slow, even with a speedload. Several of my students say they want a safety on their gun. Revolvers do not come with safeties. Many older women who have trouble loading a semi-auto (it takes some grip strength to pull the slide back to chamber a round) prefer a revolver. I usually recommend a Ruger LCR. Small, not too much recoil, and it packs five shots of .38.
The semi-auto is what I recommend to most women. It is loaded by a detachable magazine (some people erroneously call these “clips”) through the grip. You chamber the round into the firing position by pulling the slide back and letting it slam forward. (Some have safeties; some don’t.) Now you’re ready for lots of shooting! Many of the compact versions carry 12 rounds of 9 mm ammunition. These can also fire more rapidly and are also much faster to reload. (If you buy a semi-auto, make sure you get at least two mags with your gun! And always carry that extra mag loaded with hollow-point ammo!)
The only problem with a semi-auto is that they do jam once in a while. But if you are properly trained, even in a high-stress situation, you can quickly clear the jam and be back in action.
4. What caliber should I get?
This is a never-ending debate. I don’t care if you get the huge .45 ACP or a 9mm or a puny .22LR. Can you put those rounds on the thing you are aiming at? I would rather have a teeny little .22 and shoot a terrorist in the head than not have any gun at all. Go to a gun range and try out various calibers (some gun stores have their own ranges and will rent guns for you to try out). Which caliber can you handle confidently and consistently to hit the target? Get that one and stick with it. Most women can easily handle the recoil of a 9mm gun. And that ammo is relatively cheap. Since your life is depending on this gun, go for quality: Smith and Wesson, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Glock, Springfield, and Heckler/Koch are just a few of the best out there.
5. Where do I get training?
Good question! Check with your local reputable gun store or police department. Go to a reputable person who offers your state’s Conceal and Carry class. You will gain a thorough knowledge of gun safety, gun mechanics, maintenance, and accurate shooting. A good teacher will also cover the various ways you will be able to conceal and carry on your person.
Remember, you will fight like you train!