This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Illinois Shooter
Who among us hasn’t seen the videos of women being knocked on their behinds when shooting a 12-gauge shotgun for the first time? Yeah, yeah, real funny, honey. And I have heard many stories about the man in her life giving her a 1911 .45 or a snub-nose .38 to shoot for the first time. Way to turn her off to shooting for the rest of her life, jackass.
If you want to know what kind of gun will be good for a woman to shoot, best to ask female shooters. Men may be surprised to find out that the smallest gun or the prettiest gun is not usually our selection. I wrote about some groups with which women like to shoot (“A Place of Her Own,” Fall 2017), but what do women like to shoot? I asked some women who are shooters for their thoughts.
Most of the women cited fit as one of the main reasons for their pick being their favorite. Rhonda Ezell, president and co-founder of Chicago Guns Matter and lead plaintiff in Ezell v. City of Chicago, finds the Glock 19 to be a good fit for her “fairly large hands.” Mary Callison of One Million Moms Against Gun Control, who claims to have “large man hands,” likes the Smith & Wesson M&P full-size 9mm. Lisa Lundstrom, administrative assistant for RSB Defensive Solutions, thinks the Gen4 Glock 19 “fits perfectly” in her hand. Suzanne F. Bosi Clarke, owner of Abby Thomas Photography, says her Canik TP9SF 9mm is comfortable and easy to handle. Patty Deiters, owner of Patriot Firearms Instruction, loves her modified Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun that she got for her seventh wedding anniversary, traditionally feted with gifts of iron. “I also had the butt stock made to fit me. A full adult was too large, and a youth was too small. I can shoot 100 plus at a sporting clay event and still be completely comfortable.”
Reliability was another recurring theme amongst the female shooters. JoAnn Holba, a retired teacher and Life Member of NRA, Safari Club International, and Sables, said, “Confidence is knowing my 5-shot Lady Smith .38 will fire every time I pull the trigger.” Chris Bourdage, bookkeeper of Crazy Quail, Inc., and Devil Dog Arms, also likes revolvers because “they are usually free from mechanical issues that will sometimes happen with semi-automatics, such as jamming.” Ezell has no such issues with her Glock: “The Glock 19 runs smooth without any problems, and that’s a big plus for me. It also ate every type of ammo that I have put through it. That lets me know that it’s a very reliable firearm….I also like the fact that it is easy to clean.” Lundstrom says, “You cannot beat the quality that Glock puts into their handguns.”
Callison also mentioned the low recoil of her S&W 9mm. The accuracy of their guns was praised by Clarke and Holba, which can go hand-in-hand with manageable recoil. Lundstrom and Callison both really enjoy the trigger pull of their respective handguns. Lundstrom says, “I’m not sure if the trigger had been worked on, but the trigger is very crisp, and the reset is very distinct.”
While pretty much any gun can be used for self-defense if the need arises, only one woman specifically mentioned self-defense. Bourdage’s favorite gun is her Judge: “It is a powerful ally if an intruder breaks into the house. If the laser sight doesn’t scare the intruder off, the shotgun shells and the large caliber bullets will.”
Three of the women feel their guns have versatility. Robin Zielin, chief instructor and owner of Live Fire, Inc., says her AR-15 rifle is “adaptable for teaching, plinking and target shooting.” Bourdage also likes that the Judge “takes a 410 shotgun shell and a 45 long colt bullet, so it’s very versatile. You don’t have to decide between paper targets or clays; you can shoot both!” Deiters told me, “I like to go deer hunting, and I also like skeet shooting, so I settled on a Mossberg 12-gauge with a barrel that I can switch out….Plus never underestimate the sound of a shotgun to scare away any unwanted intruders.”
Nikki Sanders, newly elected to the ISRA Board of Directors, has a sentimental attachment to her favorite gun, a vintage Smith & Wesson 9mm. It is the first gun she got, and she fondly remembers the stories told by the old man from whom she got it, like riding on the running board of an old Chevy to a bar out in the country south of Joliet. You never forget your first love.
Some had a hard time choosing just one. Bourdage said, “I had a really hard time deciding which gun was my favorite. Ultimately I decided that I love all of them but singled out my Taurus Judge.” I would have to place myself in this camp as well. My first gun, a Sig Sauer P226, is my fanciest and was my first, but I’m digging my Smith & Wesson Sport II AR-15 right now. I was super accurate with it right out of the box, and it’s so much fun to shoot. I’m pictured holding David Lombardo’s Wilson Combat AR-15, however, which I like even more than mine (because it’s lighter). I’ll be honest: I feel like a badass with a modern sporting rifle on my shoulder.
On the topic of looks, some of the other women also admitted they are visually attracted to their favorite guns. Lundstrom seems pleased with the special camouflage finish on her Glock. Bourdage practically wrote an ode to her Judge, ending with, “I like the size and look of the stainless finish. It’s a very attractive gun. Form and function!”
Don’t put “guns for women” in a box that conforms to some preconceived notion. Female shooters don’t choose guns based on looks any more than men do. Women should be encouraged to try a variety of guns that have different uses. You might be surprised what they eventually decide is best for them.
Gretchen A. Fritz is the co-host of OnTarget Radio, AM560, and an NRA Pistol Instructor.