Arming Women – First Gun Guide

Effectively arming women is different than effectively arming men. Effectively arming a first time gun buyer is also different than arming an experienced shooter. Since mid-2020, Americans have been turning their stimulus checks and Biden bucks into Uncle Sam’s 2A bonus fund. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported 5 million first time gun buyers in 2020. That was 40% of all gun sales. New and experienced gun owners must remember that with great liberty comes the personal responsibility.

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Back in 2014, my wife mentioned to me once that she wanted a gun of her own. Needless to say, I was much more excited than she was. She had inadvertently given me an excuse to buy a new firearm, like Homer Simpson buying Marge a bowling ball with his own name inscribed on it. In a little bit of stereotyping irony, my wife, a country girl from middle Tennessee had no experience with firearms. I, a suburban boy from California, the son of a preacher man and a school teacher, grew up in a home that is—we’ll say—well defended.

Recently, a military friend of mine, Jeff, who will be deploying soon, began the search to arm his wife, Sarah. Jeff rates himself a solid intermediate with firearms. Sarah, though, is just about as baseline a beginner as my own wife is. With this opportunity, and with the enormous rise in first time gun buyers these days, now is the perfect time to follow the story as Jeff turns Sarah from beginning gun owner to a well-armed woman. In the course of a few articles, we will discuss comparing guns to buy, safety and operator training, and tactical movements. Follow Sarah’s road to arming up with #armingwomen.

When it comes to arming women, I like the Carrie Lightfoot school of thought: any gun is better than no gun. Bringing jazz hands to a firefight makes survival much less likely than even a Kel-Tec boat anchor. If the lady can reliably fire a .44 Magnum hog’s leg, that is literally more power to her. The inexperienced shooter, both male and female, needs something manageable.

Pistol Grips

In the military, hand size is irrelevant when it comes to choosing the sidearm. No matter what, you will end up with the M9 or, soon the XM17. Both are hefty full size firearms. When women are arming up with hefty firearm, that means they may hold the it incorrectly or unnaturally. That means they have to spend time just getting acquainted with the grip to comfortably and effectively shoot the gun. Kelly Ann Pidgeon of the Armed and Feminine YouTube channel has one of the best videos out there on pistol grips mechanics.

Emily Pritt, a firearms instructor in Knoxville, Tennessee, explained that while she can shoot a full size pistol, she has to position the palm of her hand lower on the grip for a proper hold. If that hand has an improper grip, that effects the shooter’s accuracy.

So what firearms are better for arming women? Emily and our own Faye Higbee agree that something light and easy to naturally grab is the best choice. Faye, retired law enforcement, likes an artillery piece like the Desert Eagle or the simpler Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ Slide. It is a single stack designed for minimal effort required to get the shooter into the fight. A single stack magazine makes for a narrower grip, which is easier for somebody with smaller fingers and palms to hold, control, and fire accurately when it counts.

The image compares single stack pistol magazines, where bullets are stacked one round on top of the other. With double stack, the magazines are wider to accommodate bullets stacked in a zig zag for higher capacity.
The grip on the narrower single stack pistol is easier for smaller hands to quickly control

The Trigger Squeeze

The next consideration is the trigger. What is the pull weight? How smooth is the trigger pull? These are intermediate questions at least. So for a new shooter, that question should be asked by the gun dealer. Specifically, it should be asked something like this: “dry fire the weapon. How does the trigger feel compared to this one?” An intermediate shooter may cringe at the thought of dry firing, but any firearm worth its weight can withstand a few dry fires now and then. Centerfire pistols are far less susceptible to damage from dry fire than rimfire firearms, which most new shooters will not be buying.

An interesting comparison between the magazine, grip, and trigger is the Springfield Hellcat and the Sig Sauer P365. The Hellcat is a double stack, P365 is single. According to Guns and Ammo Magazine, the Hellcat’s unique 11 round magazine was sort of a happy accident. The magazine sits flush, but the designer accidentally made its specs to fit one round more than asked. Springfield took that and ran with it. The P365 is one round shorter. Is that one extra round magazine crucial? Just like with all my 30 round rifle magazines, that’s up to the owner to decide.

The team at my favorite local gun shop here in Evans, Georgia, MB Defense, let me test out every pistol in the shop. We honed in on the Hellcat and the P365. They are comparatively priced and sized. Both are 9mm. But there are some great differences to consider for new shooters, especially newly armed women.

In the grips, the single stack P365 is certainly easier for smaller hands than the Hellcat. But the difference in the trigger pull is absolutely astounding. The Hellcat’s trigger pull is crisp and easy. At five pounds, it asks very little of the shooter. The P365’s though reasonably smooth does not have the same precise feel. And with six pounds of trigger pull, it is just a little more demanding than the Hellcat. MB Defense will also be helping Sarah find herself a great equalizer, some steel and lead peace of mind!

At left, the coyote brown Springfield Hellcat carries 11 rounds in a wider double stacked magazine. Its trigger is superior to the trigger on the easier-to-grip dual tone Sig Sauer P365 shown right.

Sum it up for the New Buyer

If Jeff had to choose between the Hellcat and the P365, he would take the Hellcat for that trigger. But he is an experienced shooter, and his hand can comfortably grip a double stack grip. His wife is not an experienced shooter. And because of her hand size, her palm does not naturally fall into place on a firearm grip like the Hellcat. So what is the verdict when buying the pistol for an inexperienced female shooter just looking for something good enough for protection when it matters? Between the two, P365. Smaller hands fall into place quickly on the smaller grip, meaning quicker, safer, more reliable draw.

I’m not saying that women’s hands are too small for double stack pistols. My wife packs a Kahr single stack pistol. She does not like the feel of my P320. And while she enjoys going to the range, she simply does not have the same firearm training enthusiasm I do. She is happy being the beginner shooter, so she sticks to the option she can comfortably rely on.

Keep following these articles as Jeff introduces Sarah to the world of personal defense firearms. We will discuss safety considerations, holster choice and wear, shooting, and tactical movements! Don’t forget to follow #armingwomen.

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Featured photo: Screenshot – Armed women are becoming very prolific members of the gun rights and personal defense community.