Gun Digest

Ladies and Gentlemen: A Few Words for Each About Concealed Carry for Women

Choosing a handgun for concealed carry or self defense is a very personal decision. If you are a man wanting to buy a handgun for a woman in your life, or a woman shopping for yourself, Grant Cunningham has some words of advice. The following excerpt is from his recently published book, Gun Digest Book of the Revolver:

To the men in the audience: A word about relational harmony
Guys, I know you want to buy your wife or girlfriend a gun. I appreciate that you want to get her something light so that she’ll actually carry it. I know that you think this will get her ‘into guns.’ I also know that this is a path fraught with danger!

As an instructor I’ve counseled a number of women who were given the gift of a lightweight revolver by a well-meaning significant other. The scene is repeated time and again: she shoots a few cylinders (sometimes just a few rounds) and puts the gun down, vowing never to shoot it again. It hurts, and even with proper recoil technique she finds it difficult to control. I commiserate with her, because I’m of the same opinion.

A gun that she won’t shoot, and won’t practice with, does nothing to bring her into the fold. If she doesn’t get good, professional instruction the fierce recoil may even scare her enough that she won’t carry that particular gun. Neither outcome meets the goal of getting her interested in protecting herself.

Recoil of lightweight guns, such as this S&W Model 442 Airweight Centennial, can be punishing for the inexperienced shooter and painful even for experienced hands.

Take it from a guy who’s managed to stay happily married to one gal for a quarter century: don’t choose her gun. Take her to a range where they rent guns (yes, even if it’s a long drive from home. Make a weekend adventure of it!). Let her shoot what she’s interested in, and let her decide based upon her likes, dislikes, and tolerance. She may still pick a lightweight revolver, and if so more power to her. If she decides on a steel model because of the shooting comfort, realize that she’ll be more apt to get the very necessary training and practice she’ll need to use it effectively.

Though this book is all about revolvers, if she decides she doesn’t like them and picks an autoloader instead, that’s fine too. It’s more important that she get something she likes rather than trying to please either of us.

To the ladies in the audience: Don’t be coerced
I’ve lost count of the number of women who’ve contacted me about the lightweight revolver a gun store employee pushed her to buy. For some reason there is a persistent subculture of men working behind counters who are convinced that the perfect gun for ‘the little lady’ is an ultra-lightweight revolver. A lot of women are given the high pressure treatment to pick one of those, and too many succumb.

Old style splinter grips on the bottom gun make the snubnose difficult to shoot well compared to the well-designed boot grip on the top gun.

If you’re looking for a gun, don’t let the salesman talk you into anything about which you have reservations. Do your research; talk to other women who own guns, or contact a female instructor for guidance. There are a number of online forums dedicated to women who shoot, and they’re a great source of recommendation and encouragement. Go to a store or range that rents guns and shoot a bunch of different models. Find out what you like best, then go shopping.

It’s tempting to believe that the guy working in the gun store is knowledgeable and understands what you need. That’s not always the case; though many gun salesmen are well informed and thoughtful, an awful lot of them aren’t. Here’s a litmus test: if you walk into a gun store and ask to see a gun for personal protection, and the first thing the guy does is put a lightweight snubnose revolver in front of you, just leave. Find a store that respects their customers.

Your ideal store is one where the salesman first asks what kind of experience and training you’ve had, how you plan to use and carry the gun, and if you have any preconceived ideas of what would be best for you. Only after such a conversation will a professional dare to suggest a gun for you, and should give you several options from which to pick. There’s no reason you should deign to suffer the high-pressure tactics of an ignoramus.

While I appreciate your perusal of my book, I won’t be offended if the gun you choose isn’t a revolver. While it’s my choice, that fact shouldn’t unduly influence your choice. Read the first chapter about the revolver’s strengths and weaknesses and carefully consider which apply to you. Try out both autos and revolvers before making a buying decision, preferably by renting suitable models at a range.

If the gun you choose happens to be a revolver, I’ll be happy for you. If the gun you pick happens to be an autoloader, I’ll be no less happy for you!

Grant Cunningham is a world-renowned revolversmith and certified Combat Focus Shooting instructor, with experience teaching general self defense with handguns and revolver-specific courses. His articles and photographs have been published in Concealed Carry magazine, the Personal Defense Network project, and on his popular website,

To read more from Gun Digest Book of the Revolver, stop by the Gun Digest Store and purchase your copy today. Get free standard U.S. shipping on your order by using promo code INSIDEGDB. (Promo code fine print: Items which ship directly from the manufacturer do not qualify for free shipping.)

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