Firearms for women

Okay, first off there will be NO debating here, this is a question about firearms, in particular to women and even more pointedly to smaller women. If you want to debate the use of firearms I kindly refer you to Great Debates (just a standard disclaimer)

I want to thank ExTank for his information but because I didn’t want to email a ton of people and some didn’t have their email addresses posted I wanted to ask you all in a thread. I would like as much information as I can get. This is a big step for me even as an NRA member and I am determined to get a firearm but I value the Teeming Millions on their opinions and knowledge. This was the best place, I felt, to hopefully get some solid answers.

Now, some of you know that I live in Colorado Springs, a small minority of you may recall around Feb - March of last year I was actually thinking about purchasing and getting training for a handgun. With the last 48 hours or so, my area was the subject of finding some extremelly dangerous Texas fugitives, for those of you living outside the country or under a rock, the Texas 7 were in my area and two of them were hiding out in my town before surrendering this morning, about 3 blocks from a client of mine. This cemented my decision to get a gun and get trained.

So, my purpose for posting is to ask those in the know to please help me find or post more information on purchasing and find training on a hand gun. Specifically for women and women with small hands and not with super human strength. I am 5’3" and again my hands are pretty small, about 3 inches from the finger in trigger mode – fully pulled in if you will, to the end of my palm. My strength is not as great as it used to be but probably average for a woman of 32 and my size.

I have done a little bit of research and again I thank ExTank for his information but I think the more information I have going in the more I am able to make the right decision on which firearm and what type of training I need to consider. Too much knowledge never hurt anyone. (BTW I will be taking an AirForce friend with me during the whole process and he said he would go to the shooting range to teach me the basics.)

Your help is appreciated!

I like to pretend I know about guns, but I don’t own any (yet) so I’m not going to reccomend one. I did, however, in previous quests for information, find the NRA website extremely helpful. Here is a list of when and where you can take the “basic pistol” training course. (They’re all in Denver; I don’t know how far that is from you.)

The basic pistol course is ten hours; there’s also a “first steps” course which is three hours. I’m not sure if these are just plain safety courses or safety and actual shooting. There’s a link where you can email the instructor and ask.

Also, here is the NRAs brief rundown on gun laws in Colorado.

Thank you friedo.

As an NRA member I have access to a lot of information but that’s mostly publicity stuff. I really do appreciate it though, I am looking for personal experience and personal knowledge of people here.

I know there are several women here on the boards that can help out. Along with many men who have girlfriends, wives or just women friends that have some information on women and guns. I know that sounds goofy, but personal experience speaks more to me than your typical avenues. This is, a life or death thing I am purchasing and it needs to be well thought out.

However, I will look further into the links – even though I have been to many :wink: – thank you for your kind reply.

I don’t know if this will help, but my sister is 5’2" with very small hands and she carries a Glock 30 (I think it’s a Glock 30, anyway). It conceals well and only weighs a couple of pounds. If you want handgun training, safety and use, try your local gun range.

My brother has a mini-revolver from North American Arms that he picked up in Denver. I’ve fired it before and loved it. It’s a tiny .22LR 5-shot revolver that is great for personal defense. The reason we both like it is that because of its size, you can take it anywhere, anytime. Well, concealed that is…which is a can of worms you might not want to open.

I disagree with most that you should carry the largest possible gun that you can handle. From what I’ve read, most confrontations that involve a gun happen at distances of 9 feet or less (no- no cite, I could be wrong). And for that, I think ANY gun will do. A .22LR mini-mag hollow point will EASILY kill someone. And if you have a gun that you can take anywhere with you, you will always be protected, as opposed to not having a 9mm Glock because you’re on a date and you don’t want the holster to show.

I just don’t believe that most people will ever get into a confrontation where they “would have survived if they had only had a bigger gun.” 99.999% of the time any gun will do in any situation that you will find yourself in (muggings, rape, burgleries, etc). You want a gun that will protect you long enough for you to run away. You don’t want a gun that you will be able to hang around and shoot it out until you win. You want to survive, not win, right? Go for an easily carryable (is that a word?) gun that you will always have and be able to get at quickly.

The website for North American Guns is:

They have a story that illustrates my point on there about a guy in South Africa that was leaving his sister’s house (I think) in the middle of the day. A few guys came out from behind bushes with guns and started to make him go back into the house where they were going to probably rape and steal and then probably kill the whole bunch of them (I work for a South African company and go there a lot- it is a very violent place). But this guy had his .22 mini in his jeans pocket and was able to get it out and save the day because the bad guys never knew he had it until it was too late. My own brother has had to use his in Miami - he stopped the mugging because he reached into his pants to get the money, and came out with a pistol.

Check out the site. They also sell neat .22mags, .22shorts, .32 ACPs and wallet holsters.

Take care, say hi to the Peak for me.

I also am a small woman. (5’1"). I used to carry a Glock 19 for work. Never had any trouble shooting,even with a New York trigger,but it could get uncomfortable to carry,was difficult to draw without hitting my ribs,and was hard to completely conceal.Had I had a choice in model, I would have picked a smaller one.

My personal fave is the .25 Berreta. VERY reliable. Yes- it does not have a lot of “knok down” power- but so what? You are trying to stop or discourage an attacker- not drop some dude with a gun, or some guy on speed. What the police need for a gun, and what YOU need are entirely different things. You need something that is: 1.small & light enough for you to carry- ALL the time. 2. Is reliable. 3. Does not scare you when you shoot it (if you close your eyes & flinch, it’s the wrong gun). Very few “bad guys” will come after you after you pop 6>9 rounds of .25 into their body cavity. And, you can keep it in your pocket, or in your sleeve- ready to use in dark alleys & scary situs. Keep it “cocked & locked”- and train yourself to take off the safety without thinking. Or- get the double-action version > (actually, that is my recommendation).

See, if you get that Glock or S&W- you might not carry it. Or, if you do- there is no way to have it “ready for use” without waving it around & being real obvious. But I can put my hand in my pocket, put my finger in the trigger-guard, release the safety with my thumb - and have it ready for instant use- without being obvious about it.

Tomcat has a good point- but the NA mini-revolver has a slow firing rate & only 5 shots.

After your friend shows you the basics- get a few pumkins or siloette targets & just go out into the country where you can have fun. Buy a few boxes of ammo- shoot them- have fun. Maybe buy an extra magazine, when you keep the gun at home or in the car (only when YOU are at home or in the car). Practice pulling the gun out & firing all the rounds rapidly into a target.

OH- and get a permit to carry, which is your state should be a breeze.

Hmmm, maybe I should emphasis that I am not lookin for a weapon I can conceal so much as a weapon I can safely discharge in my home.

Heck, the other self defense training (outside of a gun) is going to happen but my primary concern is for a weapon for self defense at home. I should have stated that as well. < knocking on head, twice, sorry >

It’s the Libertarian in me, I really don’t want to “have” to request my city for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but honestly my main concern is for my home. I am a pretty confident woman (who woulda guessed, ha) so for the most part I am not your typical target for assault in public. Not that I am ammune but certainly not the mousy type when I walk or talk.

Hey Liz!

One option, albeit expensive - Beretta makes a .380 auto pistol that has a small frame for small hands, is an exceptionally well-made piece, and has a decent punch. Less than a 9mm, but it is easier to shoot without flinching. And, I think you can get the pre-ban models with 17-shot magazines, for plenty of reserve power.

Another good option for more power and easier, more reliable use, is to get a Ruger .357 magnum Revolver. You can load it with .38 to greatly reduce the kick, but still have enough power to stop someone. It also will not jam, being a revolver. Ruger in general makes a few pistols that are good for small hands. Even my Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnum has a small grip.

I would personally absolutely stay away from .22 and .25’s - too small for one, and every .22 pistol I have used has misfired or jammed an alarmingly large number of times. As for .25’s - well, I just don’t like them. I would not want to go smaller than a .380. DITWD, I in fact plan to “drop some dude with a gun or some guy on speed” - a .25 is just too small to give me that comfort factor. But you have to be able to fire it comfortbly too, and thus I would not carry my .44 Mag around either.

Maybe I should modify the “more reliable” statement. A well made and well maintained quality gun like the Beretta will be very unlikely to jam, but you never know. The .357 has the advantage that you can load it with .357 if you do want to have the much greater power available.

As to cost? Well, for a new gun, the Beretta may run about $500, the Ruger about $300. I believe, personally, that if one is really looking for a reliable handgun, one should go ahead and spend the money for quality. Thus, I would not get a cheap automatic. I have seen and used too many cheap auto’s that jam far too often.

Hopefully too, there are gun shops in your area, like here, that have a shooting range and will let you try out a few models too.

However, Liz, if you are talking about home defense only, well, I never consider a handgun to be the best home defense weapon. I would instead recommend a semi-auto 8-shot 20-guage, or a Ruger Mini-14 semi-auto rifle. The Mini-14 is a small gun with low recoil, very light to carry. Put a good 30-round clip in, and no one is going to be messing with you…


For Home self-defense I recommend a shotgun. A 10 or 12 gauge is probably to heavy for you so I think a 16 gauge or 20 gauge is probably better suited. The advantage to these is that with buckshot they wont go much farther then a wall and you don’t have to be particularly accurate. I recommend that you try shooting a few different shotgun models to see what is comfortable for you. There are three major styles: 1) Single Shot (or two with a double barrel). This has the advantage of being light and easy to maintain. The disadvantage is the limited magazine, and recoil. 2) Pump action. This is a little heavier (lowers recoil), has multiple shots, and if you have a misfire it easy to chamber another round. The disadvantages are the weight and increasing complexity. 3) Semi Automatic. This is the heaviest of three three. The advantages is it is easy to shoot quickly, has the least recoil (due to weight and being an automatic.) The disadvantages is the increased weight, complexity of the mechanism, jams are more difficult to clear. I recommend a 16 gauge double barrel shotgun. It is easy to use, easy to load/unload, and has an extra shot.

If you are going with a pistol I recommend that you buy a revolver. I would buy either a .22LR, .32, or a .38. (the .25 round is crap, don’t buy it.) I personally recommend a snub nose .38 pistol. Plenty of stopping power and low recoil. This will knock someone down with a vest. There is a reason that cops use .38’s (9mm is almost the same size, but better suited for a semiautomatic.)

If you buy a gun, get training, buy a gunlock, buy a gun safe or case, and practice a lot. Your local community college probably has a class for police cadets that you can take. These are usually a 3-5 course that teaches the basics of pistol and shotgun use. I also recommend buying a few “fake” bullets that allow you to practice squeezing the trigger. (They are red plastic bullets and are worth every penny.) This keeps you from ruining the firing pin when it is dry fired. Make sure that you keep the weapon clean, or it might not work when you need it.


BTW: If you have a friend with a lot of guns, see if they will let you browse their collection.

This is commonly quoted by people, and I just don’t understand I’m afraid. You’ve fired a shotgun, right? What is the actual effective spread at 10-30 feet, like you would see in a home? 3 inches? You still have to be pretty accuracte with a shotgun. Last weekend I fired a 12-gauge into a paper target at about 20 feet, and saw a 3-inch spread, with of course a few pellets straying around out to 6 inches. But the bulk of the charge was very tight (22 inch barrel, no choke).

I do agree with the rest of your shotgun recommendations, but have never had any trouble with semi-autos that were kept clean.

(Operating without coffee, so bear with me.)

You may want to consider a revolver over an automatic. You don’t have to remember to cock it for the first round (even a double-action auto needs to have a round chambered) and you don’t have to worry about a safety. When you wake up in the middle of the night, just point and shoot. Smith & Wesson makes excellent revolvers, and they even have a “LadySmith” line for smaller hands.

I prefer automatics, but I used to shoot frequently. Also, I don’t have guns for defense; they’re for sport. (Although if you’ve seen my collection you’d think I’m lying.) For a .380, there is the Beretta already mentioned; but I like the Walther PPK. I think it’s “sleeker”. [insert James Bond theme here.]

There are many, many handguns out there. I’d suggest going to the local range and renting several different ones. See what you like before you buy. Be sure it “fits”. That is, does it feel good in your hand? Are you comfortable with the features? Do you like it?

I’m a little more awake now, and skimmed through the previous posts. Anthracite mentions what I was planning to mention next: A handgun might not be the best home-defense tool. She recommends a Ruger Mini-14. I have one of those, and it is an excellent rifle. Mine is pre-ban, so I can put a folding stock on it. I have an almost-exact copy of the factory folding stock. I tend to swap the stocks more frequently than I shoot! Personally I like the AR-15 (or whatever Colt is calling them now) better. I think it points better and it certainly looks nastier. These are illegal in the city and county of Denver, so if you live there the Mini-14 is the choice.

But IMO, a better choice would be a shotgun. First, if you load a shotgun with #6 or #8 shot, there is less risk of the shot penetrating your walls and injuring someone who happens to be outside (or your neighbour whose asleep in his bed). Smaller shot means more projectiles. 00 (“double-aught”) in a 12-guage is about 6 or 7 (I’m not sure) .38 cal. lead balls. Smaller shot means a greater chance of hitting an intruder with something. Also, I have to disagree with Anthracite that your intention should be to kill an intruder. Believe it or not, you can be charged with murder even if you shoot someone who has broken into your house. 00 shot indicates to an anti-gun prosecutor that you intended to kill an intruder. Intent may equal murder. If you go up against a prosecutor, smaller shot supports your claim that you just wanted to stop him (and it’s almost always a “him”) from harming you. A reasonable prosecutor and jury will probably not find you guilty of murder or manslaughter, but why give them any… er, “ammunition”? You do not want to kill your adversary. You only want him to stop his course of action because he is putting you in “immediate fear of death or grave injury”. But you must be psychologically prepared to take a life.

With a shotgun you may not even have to fire. The rack-rack of a pump-action shotgun can be very discouraging to an intruder. He might change his mind and leave.

The downside is that they kick. Hard. My ex-g/f was 5’4" and 100 pounds, but she liked to shoot a Winchester Model 94 rifle, which also had a vicious kick. She put a recoil pad on the butt and didn’t have any problem. With training, you can deal with the recoil. Besides, you are probably only going to shoot it once or twice; not all night long. And in a survival situation you’re probably not going to notice any pain until afterward.

20-guage shotguns have a lighter kick, but I’d rather have the 12-guage. Good models include the Winchester “Defender”, Remington 870 and the Mossberg. All have short barrels for maximum shot dispersement (contrary to popular belief, shotguns don’t “spread” as much as they do in the movies) and for handling in tight quarters. All three of the models I mentioned are excellent. The Mossberg is the least expensive (about $200). The Remington is the most expensive (about $300). I like the Winchester, which is priced between the other two, because I like Winchesters. The Defender also comes with a longer sporting barrel.

If you do go with a rifle (like the Mini-14) or a handgun, look for the “Glaser” (I think) ammo. This is designed to shatter on impact so that it doesn’t penetrate walls. This is safer for your neighbours. Unfortunately, they also tend to shatter inside of a body, which can cause severe damage to the poor intruder.

In summary, try out many different handguns to see which one “fits”. Be prepared physically and psychologically. Training helps with the first part of that. I don’t know about the second. Consider a rifle, as [b[Anthracite** said, or a shotgun. The Mini-14 has very little kick, but a huge muzzle flash (I think flash supressors are now illegal, unless you bought a gun manufactured before a certain date). It’s also very reliable, simple to operate, and cool-looking. Consider a shotgun. Just the sound of it can discourage an intruder. It will do quite a bit of damage if you do have to use it.

Oh, I forgot. Guns are loud! Very loud. Consider that when you make a loud noise in an enclosed area, you may be disoriented by it. A smaller gun makes a smaller sound. This just popped into my head: How about a Ruger 10-22 .22 cal. rifle? You get 10 rounds in a quick-change magazine, it’s quieter indoors, there is no recoil to speak of, and a .22 can kill (look for “Yellow Jacket” or other high-power hollowpoint rounds). Yes, people have told you not to get a .22; but I wouldn’t want to be shot with one.

No one has yet mentioned the Browning Hi-Power, a 9mm automatic pistol with a small grip – an ex-girlfriend who was tiny - 4’11" – and had, of course, small hands - was able to comfortably handle the Browning and deal with the kick. Of course, training is key.

I am going to join the shotgun chorus here. As Johnny L.A. points out, 00 shot is probably not the right answer - I’d recommend #4 myself, but even #6 or #8 is fine. We may quibble on what it takes in terms of accuracy, but there’s no question it’s more forgiving than a pistol.

Someone recommended the Ruger .357 - I’ve shot both the Blackhawk and the GP series, and while I think they’re excellent guns, I dispute the assertion that they’re particularly easy for someone with small hands to handle.

If you can find a range that will rent you guns, you can experiment with a variety of pistols and see what feels comfortable. I’d start the .357 with a .38 wadcutter load, just to get the feel of handling it, before I started shooting boxes of expensive .357 loads and bruising my hand. :slight_smile:

  • Rick

>>This is commonly quoted by people, and I just don’t
>>understand I’m afraid. You’ve fired a shotgun, right?
>>What is the actual effective spread at 10-30 feet, like
>>you would see in a home? 3 inches? You still have to be
>>pretty accuracte with a shotgun. Last weekend I fired a >>12-gauge into a paper target at about 20 feet, and saw a >>3-inch spread, with of course a few pellets straying >>around out to 6 inches. But the bulk of the charge was >>very tight (22 inch barrel, no choke).

Well it depends on barrel length and the choke. In essence smaller barrel and wider choke = greater spread. That’s an ulterior to buying the double barrel. It can be cut to about 22" and you don’t mind ruining something that cheap. (I think that is the minimum legal length, depends on the state IIRC.) Anyhow even at 10 feet with a normal shotgun you would get a spread of about two - three inches. This is much easier then the 1/4 diameter of a bullet. I did accidentally put buckshot on my recommendation and I meant to say shot. I have shot through a car window (an abandoned car BTW) and there was no damage to the interior other then glass chunks all over the place. The shotgun has it’s force divided amongst it’s shot. That’s why it will do a lot of damage to a wall (or person) but It does not go much further. The larger the shot (mass and force is divided between fewer projectiles) the more penetrating power it does have. So buckshot is a poor load because it will probably go through a couple walls.

If you do have an intruder the only thing you care about their safety is make sure it is not a member of your family! On the other hand if you can gather your family to one bedroom you should call the cops and cover the door. If they come in, blow their head off, otherwise anything you own is not worth the danger of ‘burglar hunting.’ Especially if you hear your son / daughter come in at 3am and you think they are a criminal.

That would be 8 .32 cal. pellets, Johnny L.A., (from the box of Winchester’s in the garage).

First- Aren’t those Yellow Jackets the pointy (angled) tip hollow point? I think Ruger specifically says NOT to use those in the 10-22.

Second- I love I love I love I LOVE my Ruger 10-22! Best rifle in the world! Inexpensive (around $150 new, and in October Gart’s in Denver had a sale and they were $125), reliable, fun, comfortable, easy to use, etc. It is SO cheap to use and practice with. There is hardly any recoil, you can buy all types of toys to go with it (30-round clips, composite stocks, heck- get a laser-sight with the money you save! Then you’ll not have to worry much about aiming). And when I was shooting Mini-Mag brand .22’s, I think I had one mis-fire once in hundreds of bullets. I love 'em.

BUT, now that you have said ‘home protection,’ I would recommend a 20 gauge shotgun as well. But, then again…Hmmm. A Ruger 10-22 with a laser sight vs. a 20 gauge…You are not going to find much difference in effectiveness for a home situation…except a 20 gauge won’t go through your windows and into your neighbors bedroom window and cause as much damage as a .22 could. Go with a shotgun though, I think you’d find more consensus doing that. Get a laser sight for that too! :stuck_out_tongue: If I were a thief, I would think twice hearing that Ka-chunk-slide of a shotgun, and then REALLY think again the second I saw this little red dot tracking around the room! It’s overkill, but if you don’t want to worry about aiming, you just want to point and shoot, spend the money on a laser sight.

My $0.02

There’s been some good advice so far, and some not so good. Let me add my 2 lira.

For home defense, nothing beats a good shotgun for power and ease of use. It is limited by its size, which precludes using it as a carry piece.

On the subject of small people and handguns, it is utter nonsense that you should limit yourself to small calibers and pocket guns. I have taught many people to shoot, including women of all sizes. With the proper grip and shooting technique, anyone can handle a 45 ACP, and the best 45 to carry is a compact 1911 model.

People will tell you that a small 45 will recoil hard, and will be uncontrollable for someone with small hands, these people do not know how to shoot! :slight_smile: The secret to handling a compact 1911 is to get one with either an extended or Cooper style low mount thumb safety, and shoot it in a firm two handed grip with your thumb holding the safety down. This technique has the advantage of making the deactivation of the safety part of the draw stroke, not something that you do after you’ve drawn.

My favorite compact 1911s are made by Kimber and Springfield Armory The Kimbers are a little more expensive, but both companies will stand behind their products.

There are smaller calibers that have less recoil than the 45 ACP. They also hit the target less forcefully. They will do the job of stopping an assailant… most of the time. I don’t believe in voluntarily giving up any advantage. :slight_smile:

As for ammunition, avoid gimmick loads like Glasers, Mag-Safe, Triton, Cor-Bon, etc. Buy a 230gr jacketed hollowpoint from Federal, Remington, Hornaday or Winchester and run about 250 rounds through your gun to test it.

If you intend to carry concealed, then do NOT neglect the holster! A good holster will make the gun disappear from view, and a cheap one will make you uncomfortable and dangerous. Check out Milt Sparks for my favorites.

Finally, get training! John Farnam runs an excellent travelling school which will probably be in your area.

Yes, all of this will be expensive. Maybe $1500 or more once you’re done. But the value of being absolutely confident in your skills and equipment when the bell rings transcends mere dollars.

Good luck, and please contact me if I can be of any help!


I also like the Sig P232 .380

Only 6.6 Inches overall. 16.2 ounces. A good pocket
or night stand gun with very few sharp edges. They also have really neat safety features.

For details:

I don’t think a Glaser would cause any more damage than a FMJ in a .223 (the .223 is a nasty little bullet already, and even a full metal jacket causes a whole lot of damage).

As for a recommendation of a pistol, anything less than a .380 is woefully inadequate, and a .380 is marginal. I’d get at least a 9mm, or better yet, a .40 S&W. The .40’s bigger and more powerful than a 9mm or a .380 (which is basically a 9mm with a shorter case/smaller powder charge), but not near as much recoil as a .45 ACP. Most every pistol you can get in 9mm is also offered in .40, so size isn’t really an issue.

If you want a revolver, get a .357 or .44 magnum. you can always load them with the lower-powered .38 and .44 specials, but still have the option for the high-powered magnums. The .44 would be my choice (.38s not being effective enough was one of the reasons John Browning invented the .45 ACP). If you’ll never want/need a magnum, there are some really nice .44 specials that are fairly small, including the Lady Smith series mentioned above.

Here are two things you have to do:

  1. Educate yourself. While advice on this message board is O.K., the single best advice I can recommend is to purchase a good, basic book on firearms. And the very best book, in my opinion, is “Boston’s Gun Bible” by Boston T. Party. This book is very new (and thus up-to-date), and he devoted an entire chapter to “Women & guns” (chapter 22). Trust me; this book would be invaluable to you. Here’s more information on his book:

For fastest delivery, I recommend purchasing it directly from his site.

  1. Get Training. After you decide on (and purchase) a firearm, you need to be trained. And you lucky, since you’re only a hop, skip, and a jump away from one of the very best firearms training facility in the U.S.: Thunder Ranch. More info: