TOR notes: You will be getting a special treat today. After her comment on the previous post on the topic I asked AP if she would be willing to write a post on the matter. She is going to talk about firearms experience as a smallish woman and what she would choose for a basic 4.
I am a small framed woman (5’2” approx 110 lbs) who loves to shoot stuff. I’ll give you a disclaimer here: I have not shot every gun out there, not even close. I’m basing my choices on guns I own or have handled or fired, so there might be something better out there that I just don’t know about.
There are a few problems with 80% of the guns available if you are smaller than the average man (which most women are) and especially if you’re smaller than the average woman. First is the weight of the gun. This has to be somewhat of a compromise. A long gun that is too heavy leads to an awkward shooting stance just to get it stabilized. A handgun that is too heavy will also be difficult to hold right. But if it’s not heavy enough, you personally take a good deal more of the recoil since the weight of the gun isn’t counteracting the pressure of the round being fired. This is especially true with handguns. The little KelTec P3AT or Ruger LCP are cute and concealable, but have a nasty bite when they are fired due to their relative light weight, so you’ll probably be cutting practice sessions short.
Another problem small people have with most long guns is that a "standard" length of pull (usually around 14-14 1/2 inches) is too long. They might believe they have an issue with the recoil when actually they have an issue with the gun fitting right. If your gun fits right, you can take more recoil because it hits in the correct place on your shoulder instead of out on your arm somewhere. This would apply to rifles and shotguns. I've only shot one Ruger 10/22 and didn't like it due to weight and length of pull.
I have similar experience with handguns. .45's are not so bad if I can get my hands securely around the grip. I've had a lot of people recommend Glocks/M&P's/XD's/etc., and they are fantastic guns, but I cannot physically get my hand around the grips of the double stacked magazine pistols (even the new ones with adjustable grips). If my hubby brought one of those home for me, he'd just have to keep it (which I’m sure he wouldn’t mind). Being able to get a good, comfortable grip on your handgun goes a long way towards making shooting fun and if it's fun you'll want to do it more and practice makes good shooting.
So after all that rambling, here’s the guns I like:
Centerfire Rifle: For average shooting, I like our Winchester Model 94 lever action 30-30. The stock length is only slightly too long which is manageable. It is a little shorter overall, a lot lighter weight, and has less recoil than our other deer hunting rifle (Remington 742 30.06 autoloader). If I’m actually going to hunt deer, there’s a lot of open country around here and so I use the 30.06 with the scope attached. Even though I don’t like it as much, it’s better for longer distance shots. (I actually do most of my hunting archery, so haven’t had to use the rifle much.)
Centerfire Pistol: I am not a fan of revolvers. Some people are and they are welcome to shoot them. I own and love a Colt Mustang .380. Unfortunately these pistols are no longer in production although you can find them used every once in a while. I’ll tell you why I love this gun and then maybe my reasoning can apply to a more readily available handgun. Remember what I said about fit in the introduction? This gun fits my hands perfectly. For a .380 it is a bit heavy, but that actually helps with the recoil bite—I get very little recoil with this pistol. Another consideration with any gun and especially one that you would rely on to protect your life or the lives of your loved ones is reliability. The gun has to go bang every time, and this one does. Another reason I like it is it is not too “fat”. Thick guns are hard to conceal (if you are inclined to carry concealed), especially on a small framed individual, and I can carry this one in my favorite holster and only I know it’s there (okay, maybe my husband can tell). I have picked up the Kahr pistols and really like the feel of them—maybe someday I’ll move up to a Kahr .40 if I ever have that much cash laying around J
.22: Marlin Model 60. This is no status symbol gun, but it is fun to shoot, accurate, and lighter weight with a shorter stock than the Ruger 10/22. And did I mention it’s cheap? What more could you want for a plinker rifle?
Shotgun: Remington 870. I do not own this one, it’s on my wish list, but I’ve done a lot of shooting with my friend’s. His is a 12 ga right out of the box so I always go home with bruises on my arm from not being able to get it shouldered properly. These shotguns are readily available, dang fun shooters, and cheap in the realm of shotguns. The 20 gauge youth model is a fantastic fit for smaller people. I really want a 12 gauge so my husband can shoot it also, and I can shoot 12 ga. target loads all day long with the right stock fit, so am looking at aftermarket adjustable stocks for the 870 12 ga. Remington told me their 16 ga. youth stock will interchange with their 12 ga 870, so there are options to get a youth size 12 ga. shotgun, I’ll just have to work a little harder for it.
So ladies, if you’ve never liked shooting, but you’ve always just shot the guns your husband/dad/boyfriend used, look for something that fits right and give it another try—you might be pleasantly surprised. Handle as many guns as you can get your hands on, and fire as many as you can before making your decision (most friends with guns would be more than happy to let you try their guns out, and there are ranges that will rent you different guns also—check around). And whatever you decide on, I’d also recommend some training. Some ranges have a ladies’ night if you don’t want to go shoot with a bunch of guys. Husbands/boyfriends/dads, if you’re looking to buy your girl a new gun, make sure to take her with you to handle them—you’ll both be happier with the purchase that way. A comfortable gun makes all the difference between loving shooting and hating it.
TOR notes: First of all thanks a lot for the great post. Seeing as I know as much about using guns as a smallish woman as most smallish women know about peeing standing up you really helped me out. I find nothing to disagree with but do have some thoughts.
When it comes to the weight of guns and caliber the key is balance and purportionality. If a weapon is too heavy to safely handle and accurately shoot it doesn't matter if it shoots like a dream. That being said weapons can also be too light for their caliber, particularly pistols. Beware of guns that are significantly lighter then the average for their size/frame/caliber. Better to carry a couple extra ounces around and have something you can control and enjoy enough to practice with then to have something that is lighter but you are scared of.
Defensive firearms must be reliable. If a defensive firearm proves not to be reliable then find another purpose for it, sell it off or mothball it. Some like auto's and some like wheel guns, like chocolate and vanilla ice cream both are good choices. I have also heard good things about Khar pistols and they are relatively affordable as new firearms go. I think that for a primary defensive firearm .38 or 9mm should be the minimal caliber, .380 if that is the biggest thing you can shoot and conceal but that is it. .22, .25, .32 have a bad tendency to stop people a long time after the shooting. Killing an asshat who attacks you is great but it is better to take them out of the fight and have the EMT's save them then to have them stab you to death, take the $47 you had and go bleed out in a crackhouse after getting their fix. Good ammo helps but the requirement for absolutely perfect shot placement AND good luck is just not what I would want to bet on. If you were having good luck you wouldn't be in a defensive shooting so better carry a little more gun.
If you can't get your hand around it securely you aren't going to be able to shoot it worth a darn.
The Marlin 60 is definitely the icon in affordable .22 rifles. From what I have seen (which is admittedly a narrow view) these either function flawlessly forever or give you nothing but problems. If you've got a good one then enjoy it and otherwise see above.
In a world of limited resources many families have a small collection of firearms. As noted previously I think a basic four with the addition of a spare pistol so both spouses can have one (to carry, have in different locations at the house, etc) is enough guns for most families. If guns aren't really your thing or cash is tight there is no need to frett about not having a dozen fancy guns. One thing to consider (as mentioned by Massad Ayoob) is that it is essential to purchase firearms intended to be used by the couple (family, group of friends, what ever) WITH THE SMALLEST PERSON IN MIND. A large man could shoot his smallish wive's compact 9mm or 20 gauge youth model while she would have a much harder time with his Glock 21 or full sized 12 gauge pump.
There are M4 style adjustable collapsible stocks on 870's now. If they can be put on the defensive ones I see no reason they would not fit on any model 870. It would look kinda funny when hubbby had it in a duck blind but that could let you both use the same gun without swapping stocks every time.
Handling and shooting as many guns as possible before making a purchase is great advice for everyone.