Let’s talk about firearms shall we? As a woman who doesn’t consider shooting “fun”, and someone who is definitely not a gun nut, I found it hard to get into them. And as someone who is 5’6” and 120 lbs soaking wet, I found them to be heavy, clunky, uncomfortable, and clearly not designed for women. So why am I talking about the topic now? Because I have learned some extremely important things about guns, and in particular women’s use of them. (Note, while this article focuses on handguns for women, I plan to write a future companion article that discusses other firearms for women).
First off, let’s be real. No firearm with a descent caliber is truly designed for women. Even those colored pink are not truly designed for women. That is, they are too large or clunky to be practical for small hands and small frame. And those that fit women well are generally too small a caliber for practical self defense (e.g. .380). The smaller calibers don’t allow for practical self defense with one shot, but the larger calibers require a bigger gun, and then there’s that recoil. So you’re in a catch 22 when it comes to handguns. Either you can conceal it and it requires several (well placed) shots to stop your would be attacker, or you can’t hide it well, and you need to have a lot of practice to get used to the recoil.
Let’s not forget the number one reason why women prefer revolvers over semi-automatic handguns. That stupid slide is just impossible to rack easily. Who wants to have a weapon for self defense when you can’t use it properly? I was actually able to imagine myself struggling to rack the slide as my attacker laughed at my weakness, grabbed the gun from me and used it against me. Truth be told, my hands were just too weak to rack the slide on most descent sized caliber handguns. Or so I thought.
So here I was with a .38 special snub nose revolver, and not able to conceal it very well due to the cylinder girth. The revolver may be tiny with tolerable recoil, but the cylinder still causes a bit of bulk, and trying to conceal it anywhere on my body is ridiculous. It doesn’t help that women’s clothing is designed to show the curviness of their bodies rather than actually conceal a weapon. I had at one point considered completely changing my entire wardrobe to the 70’s look so I could get away with wearing bell-bottoms and concealing in an ankle holster. But even my widest bell bottoms didn’t conceal very well as you can see in the photo. The only way I found I can conceal on my body is from inside the waist band, but even that requires I wear very loose clothing. Lastly, the weight of the revolver will often pull my pants downwards, requiring I wear a belt very tightly. Thus a problem with revolvers. A semi-automatic is a little easier to conceal if done right.
Yes, there is always the purse factor, which I did utilize for a very long time, since I used to prefer a revolver over anything else. The problem with the purse is that you have to find one that allows you to quickly access the gun in an emergency, but also passes for a purse. You also have to keep tabs on it constantly and can’t leave it lying around. Not that I would ever leave a purse lying around, but some women do; it’s now the fashion actually. Regardless, there are many complications with carrying in your purse, including losing your purse to a purse snatcher, or having to have to go places where a purse isn’t practical, like hiking. Carrying on the body itself prevents many of these problems, if only one can find the right way to conceal. And a revolver just doesn’t work, or at least it hasn’t for me.
Inside the waist band carry was the best way to conceal a revolver, and is what I did for a long time when it wasn’t appropriate to use a purse. But it also came with its own set of problems, such as bringing my pants down due to the weight, and not being able to bend over in any way.
So first, I had to become open minded again about buying a gun that wasn’t a revolver. There were many things I considered this time to talk myself out of revolvers, and the most major item was how many shots you can shoot with a revolver before you have to reload. This was a very limiting number, and the speed loaders for revolvers take a lot of practice, and were even harder to conceal, unless using a purse.
As I eventually learned, the reason I struggled so much with semi-auto pistols is that I was taught incorrectly on how to rack the slide for a woman (even in my military training!). I don’t want to steal anyone’s work, so I must credit this wonderful lady’s site to teaching me the proper way(s) to rack the slide, where I push the frame, rather than pull the slide, and where I use the strength of my entire body rather than just my hands.
Wow, what a difference in my ability to rack the slide and actually be able to use a gun that I previously believed I was too weak to handle. I’m just a tad upset that it has taken so long to learn this. Perhaps someone would have shared these techniques with me at a gun show had they not feared my reaction of a stranger teaching me to rack a slide. (I have noticed many people are very cautious when approaching would be gun buyers.) Alternately maybe they were just trying to get that revolver sold already.
So with my new racking the slide skills we went to the first gun store, and I asked the sales person to show me the first gun. I immediately put my new racking the slide skills to practice, and used my entire body to push the gun and just hold the slide. It worked, but still not as smooth and comfortable as I would have liked. So then we tried the next gun, and the next one, and the next one.
After several stores and a no longer tired hand because I was racking properly, we finally found the right gun. With the slide no longer an issue, we were able to consider other issues, such as the weapon weight, the recoil, the controls, and the mechanical complexity of weapon operation versus my mechanical aptitude. Last but not least, determining where you are going to carry if carrying on your person. Again, the gun does you no good if you can’t get to it. Here is a great article on drawing guns when carrying on yourself.
I’m not going to tell you what I ended up choosing, because I don’t want to influence anyone, as everyone is different and has different needs. But as you can see, there are a lot of considerations when choosing a gun for the purpose of concealed carry, and women have even more to worry about. Here’s an article that tells you someone else’s opinion on the best concealed guns to consider, but note that even though the author talks about guns for women, the article seems targeted towards men.
Most importantly, make sure the gun you choose is comfortable so that you are willing to practice with it. I practice both right handed and left handed (hey, you never know what situation you may find yourself in), and I practice that slide racking regularly, to the point where I can do it without thinking. Practice reloading the ammo, and most important, practice shooting.
And if you really don’t like guns, then I suggest you look into knives. Here’s a video showing a gun vs knife, and hey, a knife is much easier to conceal. Lets face it, times are getting worse, and crime is on the rise. It’s best to protect yourself, however you choose to do it. Personally, I believe in redundancy.
So in answer to the question posted in the title…women should ABSOLUTELY carry! Would love to hear in the comments section what you carry every day and what concealed carry option has worked best for you ladies out there.