Choosing the RIGHT Gun – A Female Perspective

Have you ever wondered why snub-nosed .38 Special revolvers are often promoted as a great first gun for a new shooter, especially women shooters?  I have, too…and I still don’t know the answer.

“Snubbies” do have some positive attributes:  they are small, lightweight, easy to conceal, reliable, and it’s pretty hard to have an accidental discharge with that long, heavy trigger pull.   The problem for a new shooter lies in that it is hard to be accurate with a snub-nosed revolver if you don’t have your shooting fundamentals down pat.  The small grip and short barrel length combined with a long, heavy trigger pull makes it more challenging to be accurate.  Many women also find that the recoil from a snubbie hurts their hands.  If a gun is uncomfortable to shoot, it’s unlikely that you will practice with it on a regular basis.

Smith & Wesson Airweight

We thought it would be interesting to have a few women come to BluCore and shoot some snub-nosed revolvers alongside some compact semi-automatic pistols and get their thoughts on these guns.  We selected several of the most popular compact pistols from our rental fleet in a few different calibers.  Unfortunately, the Springfield XDs .45 was out for repair, so we did not have a compact .45 pistol to shoot.  We still had the participants shoot two full-size .45 caliber pistols for fun.

We selected five women to participate in this comparison.  They are all proficient shooters who have trained at BluCore by taking private lessons and group classes for the past 10 months to 2 ½ years.  Most are fairly new to shooting (having started within the last 3 years), but one has been shooting for 29 years!  (We will protect her identity since she claims be 29 every year on her birthday.)  We chose these particular ladies because they are well-versed in the fundamentals and they have a good comfort level with shooting their own firearms.   This allows them to take the “flinch factor” out of the equation and instead just focus on shooting the guns.

They shot 10 rounds through each gun, which included two .38 Special revolvers, five 9mm pistols, and two .40 and .45 caliber pistols.  After firing each pistol, the participants wrote a brief description of what they thought of each gun.   We told them to go with their gut reaction, and the description could be as short as “Loved it!” or “Hated it!”, or it could be longer and include some details about their likes or dislikes.  It’s interesting to note that there were a few guns that elicited completely different responses from some participants.

Shooting a .38 Special

First, we wanted to find out what gun(s) they train with and carry on a regular basis.

Mary M Sieg Mary L Denice Dawn
What pistol do you shoot the most? Glock 34 Glock 19 & 26 S&W M&P 9mm S&W M&P 9mm Springfield XDm 4.5” 9mm
If you carry concealed, what do you carry? Springfield XD9 for now.  Will switch to a Glock soon. Glock 26 S&W Shield 9mm Sig Sauer P938 Sig Sauer P238
Comparing guns

Now, the fun part.  Let’s shoot some guns!

Mary M Sieg Mary L Denice Dawn
.38 Special Revolvers
Ruger LCR Very light. I liked it better than the S&W. I was more accurate. (Better of the 2) Did not like either revolver. Easier to shoot than S&W. More fun, but still hurts my hand. Heavy trigger pull, big recoil. Good weight for a small gun. Didn’t really like it. Double action trigger was hard to pull, but not as bad as Airweight.  Small grip. Snappy recoil.
S&W Airweight Took some getting used to. Trigger is tight. Very little kick, feels small, easy to maneuver. Reloading is slow. (Dislike) Did not like either revolver. Hard trigger pull. Not comfortable, too small for my hands.  Could not shoot fast! Heavy trigger pull. Didn’t like this gun. Big recoil; hurt my hand. Didn’t like it at all.  Found myself wincing.  Not accurate with either revolver. Double action trigger was VERY hard to pull; had to adjust my finger placement on trigger.  Small grip. Hurt my hand to shoot.
S&W M&P Compact Nice feel, heavy, easy recoil, slack OK. (Like) Nice.  Didn’t like the weight. Fun, fun, fun! On target, felt good in my hands. Loved it! Accurate &  comfortable to shoot. Manageable recoil, good trigger pull. Fits my hand well.  Trigger feels mushy to me.  Accurate. Recoil average for a 9mm.
Sig Sauer P224 Better accuracy, little slack. (Like) Love!  Felt great. Kept misfiring or misfeeding. Stovepipe. Liked it a lot. Short trigger. Easy recoil. Short grip, but would be OK for everyday. Hard DA trigger on first shot. Trigger reset seemed long to me (my other Sig has a short reset trigger). Grip is a bit wide for my hands.   Accurate.
Kahr P9 Very light, magazine a little too tight to insert. (Dislike) Pretty good. Shot really well. Magazine hard to load when approaching full capacity. Didn’t like. Short trigger. Not accurate at all. OK recoil. One failure to feed. Horrible trigger.  I was surprised at how far I had to pull the trigger back before the shot would break.  Magazine a tight fit.
Springfield XDm 3.8” Heavy, good grip, lots of slack.  I was pretty accurate with this due to its weight.  (Like) Love this! Quality gun. Had a misfire and stovepipe. Magazine easy to load. Shot easily.  On target. Liked it. Liked the trigger, easy recoil. Liked grip size. Love this gun!  Comfortable to hold, easy to shoot, and accurate.
Ruger LC9 Almost too light, felt really small. I wasn’t very accurate with this one.  (Dislike) Nasty! Really long trigger pull. Shot high. Hard trigger pull. Too small for me. I would not buy it. Ouch! Didn’t like long, soft trigger pull. Not accurate. Ejected shell casings hit me in the face. Didn’t want to shoot all the rounds. The Kahr had the worst trigger; this was the 2nd worst.  Didn’t like the skinny grip.  Snappy recoil hurt my hand. My trigger finger even hurt.
.40 Caliber
M&P Shield Small grip, heavy enough, good accuracy. (Like) Just OK. Lots of misfires. Too much recoil. Liked! Small grip. Accurate. Reasonable trigger, a bit snappy but it’s a .40.  Liked it for a .40. I liked it!  Very manageable for a .40; decent trigger.  Felt good in my hands.
Ruger SR40c Bigger grip, heavy, good accuracy. (Like) Had some failure to feeds. Not reliable. Love it!  Shot well, on target.  Fun to shoot. Snappy.  Easy to find reset. Liked ext mag & grip.  Accurate. Decent trigger and it felt good in my hands.  Fun to shoot. Accurate.
.45 Caliber
Glock 21 Big grip, too big for me.  Good accuracy. (Dislike) Nasty! I think the sight picture was weird. Heavy gun when loaded. Shot well.  Fun to shoot. Huge grip. Liked trigger. Fairly accurate. Smooth trigger. Grip is too big for my hands.  Heavy.  Shot accurately.
H&K USP Smaller grip, but still a little too big. Felt controllable for a big gun. (Like) Love this! Sight picture good. Wow!  Fun also. Liked it but big grip. Accurate and fun to shoot.  Manageable recoil due to size/weight of gun.  Shot tighter groups with this than the Glock.
Doing work!

After the side-by-side comparison, we asked our participants a few more questions about their likes and dislikes.

Mary M Sieg Mary L Denice Dawn
Which gun was the most fun to shoot? H&K USP Prefer striker- fire guns. Didn’t like double-action triggers except for P224. H&K USP M&P 9c and Sig P224 H&K USP
Which gun were you the most accurate with? M&P Shield H&K USP Kahr 9mm M&P 9c and H&K USP Springfield XDm
Which one(s) did you shoot the worst with and why? Ruger LC9. It was too light. .38 Special revolvers.  Not familiar with revolvers. S&W Airweight Revolver.  It was too hard on my hands. Ruger LCR and LC9.  They hurt to shoot, and I found myself anticipating shots. Ruger LC9.  I was heeling the gun due to long trigger pull & small grip.  All my shots were high.
If I could only choose one of these guns, I would pick which one and why. M&P Shield. It has a small grip, but it’s heavier. Great accuracy. Sig P224.  If I could pick two, I’d also pick the H&K USP. Kahr 9.  Shot well and felt comfortable. M&P 9mm Springfield XDm.  It’s accurate, reliable, and easy to shoot.

As you can see, these five women who shoot similar guns on a regular basis (9mm striker-fire semi-automatic pistols) had a wide range of opinions about the guns used in this comparison.  Just because your friend or spouse loves a certain gun doesn’t mean it will be a great gun for you.  The best gun for YOU is the one that you can shoot safely, accurately, and that you’ll practice with on a regular basis.

BluCore has a rental fleet with a large selection of the most popular handguns and rifles.  Shooting several guns side-by-side can really help narrow down your choices quickly.   Even if you’re not looking to purchase a gun, it’s just plain fun to rent and shoot a bunch of guns.

Track your results

Three tips for doing your own gun comparison:

1)      Bring a pen and paper and take notes.  After shooting several guns in a row, it can be hard to remember what you liked/disliked about each gun.

2)      Use a target like our 5-dot target.  Shoot one gun per dot so you can easily compare your accuracy with each gun.

3)      Make a second visit and re-shoot your favorites.  This will reinforce that you are picking the best gun for you.

Fun at the range!

One last thought:  When selecting a gun, don’t forget to think about the ‘purpose’ of the gun.  Are you getting it to ‘plink’ at the range, for competition shooting, to keep on your nightstand for home defense, or to carry concealed?  With that information, our staff can make recommendations for handguns that will suit your purpose.  Then you’ll be armed with good information and ready to ‘test drive’ some rentals on the range.


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