Buying A Handgun for the Woman in Your Life


A few years ago, I was riding to a business activity with a female colleague. We began talking about guns, and she told me she had a carry permit and kept a gun in her car. She related how her ex-husband had run her off the road one day and yanked her door open. He was threatening to beat her up. 

She’d had her gun in the center console but had never even tried to get at it while he was chasing her or after she was run off the road. When I asked why, she said she was too afraid because she had never really learned how to shoot it and was not confident with it. She explained that she hated her gun and never practiced with it because it was too painful to shoot. Fortunately, he had only terrorized her for a while and then left without physically hurting her, but she would have been defenseless if he had wanted to.

After asking her permission, I dug her gun out of the console. It was a Ruger LCP. Tiny and light, shooting was so painful that she never took it to the range. Her current husband had bought it for her because it was small and easy to conceal. I told her to sell it and get something with a little more heft and better ergonomics that was comfortable to shoot, like a P365 or S&W Shield. Then get some training and practice with it.

The Perfect Gift

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and for many of us old hands, that means we will probably add new guns to our family collection. In today’s environment, that also means we might be buying guns for wives, daughters, and girlfriends. There are scores of articles that advise us that women should have small guns because they have small hands that’s all they can handle. I disagree.

A gun (and training) for a person you care about is the perfect gift, but we need to approach the topic with a little forethought. I am not a proponent of the school that says women should all carry little guns. Little guns may be easy to conceal, but they are difficult and painful to shoot when compared to something a little bigger. That means the woman who receives it is less likely to practice with it. And if they don’t shoot it regularly, they not only can’t hit anything with it, they don’t have the confidence necessary to use it in the first place, as the conversation related above demonstrates.

Less is Not Better

The firearms industry has jumped in on the small gun idea. If you don’t believe me, just look up the guns that are offered in pink or purple and you will see a rainbow of Ruger LCPs, SCCY CPX-1s, Beretta Nanos, and Kel Tec P3ATs. They are all great guns, and each has a niche of solid applications. But they are not the one-size-fits-all solution for women.

I am blessed with a wonderful wife who enjoys shooting. She has her carry permit and never leaves the house unarmed. She’s trained and confident, and I have no doubt she would make a good showing if she ever needed to defend herself. 

My wife had never even held a gun when we met. I’m happy to say that she was excited about learning to shoot and took to it like a pro. Fortunately, my collection gave her a wide variety of handguns to try out and learn about. Even though she has small hands, she never liked small guns.

She is a very capable shooter and does well with full-size pistols. That comes from both her strength and her mindset. Her EDC is a Beretta 92FS carried in her shoulder bag (no, I’m not getting into the off-body carry discussion here), and she is very proficient with it. If anyone doubted her aggressiveness, all they would have to do is watch her lean into her stance and dump the magazine of her 1911 Government Model.

But she refuses to carry, or even shoot, any of the little guns I carry as a BUG and practice with when we go to the range. They are reliable and shoot well, but I would never give her one to carry. Why? Because she wouldn’t practice with it. Male concealed carriers are always advised to carry the biggest caliber and most powerful gun we can comfortably and practically carry and shoot competently. Why would our advice to a woman be any different?

Other than bragging about my wife’s shooting skills (and I confess I enjoy doing that), my point in telling you all this is that the gun has to fit the shooter, both physically and psychologically. You can’t buy one for someone based on what you think the recipient would like. You must know what they like.

First Things First

The first order of business is to get her shooting. Before you even consider buying her a gun, get the lady in question to the range, but be careful what you give her to shoot. Make sure it is something comfortable and fun to shoot. The last thing you need is for her to have a bad first experience or one where she gets discouraged. 

I have taught scores of people to shoot, and in my experience, women tend to be natural shooters. Just give her something accurate and comfortable, and she will have fun. Once she has a good first shooting experience, work with her to evaluate her style and preferences and then let her try guns that suit her. Some will do well with 9mm and .45 ACP handguns. Others may have less grip strength and be recoil-shy, so might be better off with a .380. But that is something to determine with her rather than decide for yourself with no experimentation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Give her opportunities to try out several brands and calibers of handguns. If you don’t have an extensive collection of your own, talk to your friends or find a range that rents a variety of handguns for her to try out. 

Encourage her to find her own gun ‘happy place.’ For example, my wife does not like striker-fired pistols, she prefers DA/SA pistols with a hammer because she likes the feel of the trigger and wants to feel comfortable carrying with a round in the chamber, the hammer down, and the safety off. 

Because she likes her gun, she practices with it. Because she practices with it, she feels confident with it. 

Because she’s confident with it, she carries it with her whenever she leaves the house or when she is home alone. See the pattern here?

The Online Purchase

The ability to buy a gun online has revolutionized gun ownership. I don’t think I have bought a gun from a store or gun shop in over 10 years. No gun shop can offer the selection or the prices online shopping can. But there is a drawback.

Too many people fall into the trap of buying a gun online that they have never even seen in real life, let alone held or shot. That may work out most of the time for an experienced shooter who has done their homework. Between my military and private security careers and lots of experience, I feel comfortable that I can pick up any gun and be reasonably competent with it right out of the box. But that isn’t likely to be the case for a first-time gun owner, male or female.

If you are going to buy online, be sure you have taken your lady to the range and that she has actually held and shot any model of gun you are considering buying. Anything less is irresponsible and a formula for failure. If you are buying her a gun for EDC, failure is not an option.

The Big Day

We all want to surprise our loved ones with Christmas (or birthday) presents. But a gun for EDC is not something you should pick out on your own and then surprise the lady in your life with. Guns are a very personal thing. The gun you carry should be one that you trust and love, so why should it be any different for the ladies in your life?

The last gun I bought my wife was one we had looked at and picked out together. I ordered it and picked it up at my local FFL. When I brought it home, I wrapped it up and put it under the Christmas tree. Even though she knew what it was, she had fun unwrapping it and taking it out to shoot. I already knew she would like it because she had picked it out.

Finally, just owning and carrying a gun is not enough. She must train with it and learn how to deal with dangerous situations. If you cannot train her yourself, then invest in a class for her and yourself as well. Trust me, taking a class together is a wonderful bonding experience.

Final Thoughts

The gun you give your wife, girlfriend, or daughter should have the following characteristics:

  • She can shoot it well and likes to practice with it
  • She can carry it comfortably
  • It has adequate power to be useful in a life-and-death situation
  • She trusts it and has confidence in herself
  • It is the largest and most powerful handgun she can practically carry and use
  • You have ensured she has had a significant amount of training and knows not only how to punch holes in paper but how to use it to save her life.

Anything less, and you could be setting her up for failure. And failure is not an option.

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