Ladies Guns

Not The Same Thing As Ladies Underwear

When looking for instruction for a new shooter, especially the special lady in your life, avoid the temptation to try it yourself.
Seek out a professional, or, even better, send her to a reputable school.

Gunwriters and gun store clerks have tossed around the idea of “ladies guns” for a long time. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about self-defense or recreational shooting/hunting, so called experts have tried to define what a gun for a woman ought to be — just like clothiers have established a difference in underwear for men and women.

Why? I think this is partly because gunwriters need something to write about, and partly because men in general need to feel more masculine and assert their alpha status. I personally think all the talk about “ladies guns” means diddlysquat!

Looking For Guns

Back in the early 90s, when I finally found the woman of my dreams, I decided she needed a gun for protection. After all, shouldn’t all law enforcement officers’ spouses carry a gun? So I did what most gun guys do, and purchased a Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special for her. We went to the range and discovered she could hardly pull the trigger. I had a friend do an excellent trigger job on the little revolver, which helped. She could pull the trigger just fine, but then said the revolver was too heavy in her purse.

No problem. I traded the J-frame for an Airweight version that weighed 25 percent less. Guess what? She said it kicked too hard. The result was she wouldn’t practice with it or carry it. I purchased several more handguns that I thought she might build a relationship with, all based on what I thought a ladies gun should be. I never did get it right.

Long story short, as my wife lost interest, I gave up and she resigned to carrying a SureFire flashlight and pepper spray. Lesson learned: A man can buy sexy lingerie for his love interest and she will wear it, but, she wears it to make him happy, not because she likes a thin strip of lace running up the center of her backside. A man can’t buy a gun for his significant other based on what he thinks is right or conventional. Guns, like underwear, are personal things and their selection needs to be made by the person (man or woman) that will carry and shoot them.

Common Sense

There might actually be such a thing as a ladies gun, but what makes it so is not its name or the cartridge it is chambered for. A ladies gun is dependent on the lady that carries it. What I’ve learned as an instructor and by being exposed to ladies that shoot, is the guns ladies like to and can use effectively will very likely surprise you. It’s most likely a gun most wouldn’t consider lady-like design, function or size. It’s just a gun like any guy might select.

Last year my wife and I participated in a ladies concealed-carry class at Gunsite. In attendance were almost a dozen women with a varied mix of shooting backgrounds. Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Kimber, Colt and North American Arms all had handguns there to try. Most of the guns fell in the super compact category, meaning they were small, light and chambered for cartridges like the .22 LR, .22 Magnum, .32 NAA and .380 ACP. You know; “ladies guns.” Without exception, the guns the ladies most enjoyed shooting were the Colt and Kimber, Officer-sized 1911 in 9mm. (Let’s give Bill Wilson some credit here. Wilson Combat’s handgun for women, the Ms. Sentinel, is an Officer-sized 1911 in 9mm Luger.)

This goes against everything gunwriters and gun-counter experts have been preaching for years. Most consider the single-action 1911 an expert’s gun because it has a safety and a light trigger pull. Men, the know-it-all, chauvinistic trolls we are, think a gun like that is just too much for a lady. The women attending the class — one was only 15 years old — unequivocally proved this to be, like I said, a bunch of bull.

Gunsite instructor Il Ling is demonstrating grip and handgun presentation.
Her pistol of choice is a 1911, but in .45 ACP.

Gender Equality

Women are just as smart as men. They can learn how to flip a safety off before they shoot just like a man, they can learn to pull a trigger just like a man and they can buy their own underwear just like a man. (Actually, I bet if the truth were told, women buy underwear for their husbands more than husbands buy it for themselves.) Making the assumption a gun is for a lady because of its size, design or chambering makes about as much sense as cleaning your ear out with an ice pick. It’s almost as dangerous, too.

What is true is most women could care less what a gun has printed on its side, how big of a bullet it shoots or what men think about it. They actually have a more practical approach. They want to know if it is comfortable to shoot, easy to carry and if they can use it to shoot the man attacking them. Men, the “gun experts,” could learn something from this.

So, how do you select a gun for the lady in your life? Um, you don’t. You let her pick it out.

What you can do is provide her with the opportunity to handle and try a variety of handguns until she says, “Hey, I like this gun; its fun to shoot and I believe I could carry it.” What a novel concept. Just because you are a gun guy doesn’t mean you have to impress your will and wisdom onto your lady friend.

Pocket pistols like this Colt Mustang are easy to carry, but can be difficult to control
for men or women, even when chambered for the small .380 ACP cartridge.

Playing It Smart

My suggestion would be to take the woman in your life to a gun store — preferably one with a range. Let her examine several guns until she selects a few that feel comfortable in her hand and have a trigger she can easily manipulate. I would also suggest you politely ask the clerk to keep his mouth shut until she has selected and fired several of these guns. No need to risk letting his chauvinistic attitude ruin the process. (You might only get one shot at this. No pun intended.)

Once the lady has fired several guns, she will be better equipped to make a decision based on experience, as opposed to someone else’s opinion. Don’t be disheartened if she selects a gun of questionable stopping power. I hate using those words. I believe the only stopping power a defensive handgun has is the intimidation factor when pointed at someone. If the situation degrades to the point a trigger has to be pulled, what you should hope for is that doing so provides you the opportunity to create distance and to escape, not that it will obliterate the bad guy. Handgun bullets are notoriously ineffective at stopping fights anyway.

The important thing to remember is IF you are successful in helping a woman find a handgun she likes to and can shoot; you have taken the first step towards bringing her into the world of guns, the concept of concealed carry and the notion of taking responsibility for her own safety. That’s a good thing. Even a man can admit that, and, if you make your lady friend happy by showing her how much you respect her brain and ability, she might just wear that lacy underwear you bought for her.

So you think a 1911 is too much gun for a woman? This lady graduated from the
Gunsite 250 pistol class using a Kimber 1911 in 9mm, and she is only 15 years old.

A gun that is comfortable to wear and shoot is just as important to a woman as it is to a man.


Most women have hands that are smaller and fingers that are shorter than a man’s. To pull a trigger comfortably, the trigger finger needs to be able to reach past the trigger, to the point where the first joint is on the trigger. Now, this isn’t where you place the trigger finger to pull the trigger, but, handguns designed so the shooter cannot obtain a comfortable grip (and extend their trigger finger so the first joint is on the trigger) will very likely be uncomfortable to shoot and accuracy will suffer.

After a lady has found the right gun and mastered the basics of shooting it, quality tactical training is the next step.
Doing this together, with your partner, can be fulfilling and enjoyable.


I believe the addition of Crimson Trace laser grips is a good thing for any handgun. Not only do they have tactical application, they can be a great aid when learning how to shoot. Additionally, most of the Crimson Trace laser grips are soft and comfortable in hand. However, lasers are not a replacement for sights, and I also believe every defensive handgun must have good sights. Good sights are easy to see and fast to acquire.

My wife, like many new handgun shooters, was struggling with obtaining a fast sight picture and getting hits. While we were at Gunsite, Dave Biggers from XS Sights pulled her aside and handed her a Colt 1911 New Agent with XS 24/7 big-dot sights. Unlike the common, notched-rear and post-front sights, these sights are similar in design to the express sights on dangerous game rifles; there is a large front bead and a shallow rear. Drema, my wife, instantly began getting hits … and getting them faster.

Why? New shooters often find it very difficult to precisely align notch and post sights and not disturb the precise sight picture while pulling the trigger. The nature of the notch and post sight makes you want to perfectly align them. With the XS 24/7 sight, you essentially just place the big dot on the target and pull the trigger. They may be one of the best combat-style sights you can put on a handgun, and my experience has shown them to be a great sight to start new shooters on. Almost every carry gun I own has been retro-fitted with these sights and my wife told me, in no uncertain terms, her handgun would have them too.

Give a lady a good 1911 like this Colt New Agent, a good holster like this Galco Gladius Belt Holster and
some quality training and quit worrying about what a ladies gun ought to be.


For new shooters, or for those who don’t shoot a great deal, recoil is a terrible thing. It takes thousands of shots and years of repetitive practice to overcome the detrimental effects recoil can have on your shooting. The thing is; you can’t guess the level of recoil any individual shooter can comfortably tolerate because, like selecting underwear, the ability to tolerate recoil is an individual thing.

Felt recoil, not the mathematical recoil calculation, is what matters. Firearm design, weight and the cartridge a handgun is chambered for all influence recoil. It’s been my experience, most new shooters find the recoil of anything more powerful than a 9mm Luger or a .38 Special in a moderate size (20 to 30 ounce) handgun objectionable. This isn’t a lady thing; it’s a human thing. If you want to turn a new shooter (man or woman) off, start them out with a flyweight or powerful handgun.

A lot of women carry a handgun in their purse. Regardless of what you think about off-body carry,
it is well suited to the way women dress, especially if when done in a purpose-built purse, like those from Galco.

Who says girls can’t shoot or carry 1911s? Women are just as smart as men;
a thumb safety and an easy-to-pull trigger do not exclude the 1911 from consideration.


I believe firearms training is just as important as firearm selection. You may be the best firearms trainer to ever paste a target, but trying to teach your significant other how to shoot can be as much a recipe for problems, as trying to hang wallpaper with them. A shooting range is no place for a big ego, and it’s no place for you to exert your “leader of the pack” attitude most men have.

Firearms can be intimidating to new shooters and combining that intimidation with personal, intense and complicated, interpersonal relationships is a bad idea. I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying, generally something goes wrong. If you have succeeded in helping the lady in your life find a handgun she likes, go a step further and find her a talented instructor or send her to a reputable school to get her started in the right direction.

This works because attendance and completion of a firearms school brings with it a sense of pride and accomplishment someone can’t obtain by spending a few days on the range with their husband. (Um, I’m talking about on the range and shooting guns. OK?) Once the new shooter has mastered the basics, you can then enjoy joint-shooting and training sessions where she will not feel intimated by the gun or you.

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