Women’s hands are different from men’s hands. Our hands are smaller and generally not as strong as a man’s (unless of course you happen to be a masseuse). In fact, our bodies are generally smaller as well. It’s just basic anatomy. While this certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t shoot a handgun just as proficiently as a man can, it does mean we may have a preference when it comes to types of handguns we carry and shoot, especially if your goal is to carry the firearm concealed.
It’s not just a handgun’s frame size and grip style that makes a difference, either. The caliber of the pistol is also a factor. Generally, the larger the caliber, the heavier the recoil and power, but the more difficulty you’ll have making accurate repeated shots.
Many women own .380 caliber handguns. While it’s a fine choice, sometimes they purchase them because it’s what the salesman recommended. The .380 is a fine round, but there are other, more powerful rounds available, and models in other calibers that you may find more comfortable to shoot because of the different frame size, or because the weight and design of the gun delivers recoil in a more comfortable way. Here are some common handgun calibers:
.22 Long Rifle: .22s are great pistols to learn on if you’re a new shooter. Both revolvers and semiautomatic pistols are chambered in .22. They hardly recoil at all and are fun to shoot. A .22 doesn’t have much power and so doesn’t make a good choice for a conceal carry pistol, but many popular concealed-carry models in larger calibers can either be purchased with a .22 conversion kit, or have a matching model in .22 caliber. Ammo can be difficult to find these days, though.
.380 ACP: Only semiautomatic pistols are chambered for this round. Many ladies love shooting this caliber because of its mild recoil, and there are numerous full size and compact pistols available.
.38 Special: This revolver caliber is a great “middle of the road” round. It’s a great self-defense caliber, but packs less of a punch than its larger cousin, the .357 Magnum. However, a revolver chambered in .357 Mag can shoot .38 Special rounds.
9mm: This is a semiautomatic round (also known as 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, and 9x19mm), and I’m a huge fan. Fairly inexpensive to train and shoot with, the recoil is very manageable. The round has enough of an impact to make it a solid self-defense/concealed carry choice.
.40 S&W: A popular choice in semiautomatic pistols, I find the recoil of a .40 to be very similar to that of 9mm. There are plenty of opinions as to whether .40 or 9mm make a better conceal carry/self defense choice. I am a firm believer of carrying what you’re most comfortable with. It’s a personal choice. A properly placed shot of either will do the job necessary should you ever need to use your firearm to defend yourself.
.45 ACP: The .45 has always been a popular choice. Whether you’re shooting a classic Model 1911 or any of the other wonderful firearms that come in .45 ACP, you’ll have a powerful load. Recoil depends on the weight and size of the firearm you’re shooting, but it will likely be more than that of a 9mm or a .40.
The following are 10 handguns that I’ve found to be popular with women:
Author Annette Doerr is a Certified NRA Pistol Instructor and Range Safety Officer. The married mother of two lives in the suburban New York City area.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield An excellent choice if you’re looking for an every-day carry firearm. The Shield is small enough to conceal, but big enough to still feel solid in your hand. Smith and Wesson’s reliability and craftsmanship are widely known. I own one in 9mm, which my husband and I both love to shoot. It’s also available in .40 caliber. (See a review of the M&P Shield here.) Unloaded weight: 17.9 oz. to 19 oz. Magazine capacity: 6 or 8+1 MSRP: $449-$589