By: Grant Cate
NRA Certified Instructor in Savannah
As a Range Safety Officer at a busy state run range and a long time NRA Certified Pistol and Self-defenses Instructor, I see many women come to the range or one of my live fire classes with a handgun that a man in their life has picked out and purchased for them. On very rare occasions, the pistol chosen for the woman is adequate for her needs. This means, that at some level, she can operate the pistol and is strong enough to actually shoot the pistol effectively. This is by far the exception, not the rule.
Far more frequently, the pistol that is chosen by the man is so inappropriate for the woman's needs that it make the pistol useless for anything more than becoming a large and very expensive paperweight. The best analogy I can use to describe the problem is this: Let's say I am an avid bowler and I want my lovely wife to take up the sport with me, so I go to the pro-shop and I buy her a bowling ball. Naturally, since I use the heaviest ball that is legal, I pick her out a 16 lb ball too. Then, I have it drilled for my hand! Is it any wonder that my wife does not come away from that experience loving bowling? This seems absurd, but that is exactly what can happen when a man, with the best intentions, buys a handgun for his wife, girl friend, mom, etc..
Picking out a pistol is a very personal choice. Hand size, grip strength, and physical limitations like arthritis all come into play in this decision. If the grip on the pistol is too big, then the shooter is not able to place her finger on the trigger correctly, which dramatically hurts her ability to shoot the pistol accurately. If the pistol is a semi automatic, and the grip is too large, she will not be able to reach the magazine release without shifting her shooting hand on the grip. If the caliber of the pistol is too great, or the pistol is short barreled and light weight, the recoil may be more than she is willing handle. If the pistol is a semi automatic, the shooter needs to be able to manipulate the slide. This includes loading, unloading, combat reloading, and clearing stalls or jams in the pistol. Many slides are so stiffly sprung that women of average hand and arm strength can not reliably move or rack the slide. Again, this would make the pistol a $600 paperweight as far as the woman it is bought for is concerned. Even revolvers are not a safe and easy choice for a man to purchase for a women. Frequently, the trigger pull on a double action revolver is too much for anything but the strongest women to handle with enough ease to allow accurate shooting.
So, what is the solution for a man who is concerned about the ability of a woman in his life to be able to defend herself if attacked? Get her enrolled in certified firearms training such as NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Class and/or a Self Defense Shooting Class where she can learn pistol safety and basic pistol marksmanship skills from an NRA certified female instructor.
For those in the Savannah, GA area, check out: Louisa Cate at Emmaus Shooting & Defense, LLC. Many NRA instructors will include the use of a non threatening .22 cal target pistol for the qualification. Once that qualification is complete, then many instructors have a bunch of handguns of different calibers that she can try. This gets the shooter and the instructor, who knows a lot about fitting a pistol to a shooters physical capabilities, involved in making a good decision. This may well cost an extra $100, but it will make a $500 dollar mistake far less likely.
To answer the question: How does a man buy his significant other a handgun? He doesn't. The right thing to do is to see that she gets certified firearms training from an NRA certified trainer who can loan her a number of different pistols to try before plunking down his hard earned money on the pistol.