It’s happened again.
I had another lady take my NRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation class wanting to learn how to shoot a gun her husband had purchased. These guns will be used for personal protection, and left in the house. They’ll be “nightstand guns” to be used when the husband is not home.
To date, none of the guns of past students had been purchased to be used concealed on their person or in their purse (remember, we’re in California – land of the “I May Issue A Permit If I Think You’re Worthy Or Are A Political Contributor Or Hollywood Celebrity” CCW laws).
It’s the same old story of ….
Wait. Before I go further, let me get this out in the open, because it’s important:
- Men are stronger than women
- Men are more likely to go to the range on a regular basis
Are there exceptions? Of course. But in general guys are bigger and stronger, and like to go to the range to shoot. Women don’t. On this latter point, if you disagree, go to any range in America and count heads. Neither of these points are a “knock” – they are fact.
I ignore Political Correctness when safety is the issue.
Anyways, back on track – it seems like 90% of the time, the gun chosen by the husband is a horrible match for the wife. Virtually every time, the husband buys a 5-shot, .38 special, ultra-light, heavy trigger/double-action-only revolver with no rear sight.
In other words, a Concealed Carry gun which takes a good deal of strength and skill to properly use.
Almost always, the wife has little to no experience with guns. Most have never fired one before, and that’s why they’re taking my class.
A couple of months ago, this great lady took my class, and showed up with one of these –
It’s a Smith and Wesson .38 Special “Bodyguard” model. This, and similar models from Ruger or Taurus are what these ladies have generally been given.
I hate these guns. At least when purchased under the circumstances described above.
Here’s why: I’m good with it being .38 Special caliber. I’m even good with the 5-shot capacity. Everything else makes it a horrible choice for many women.
Double-action only/heavy triggers – The trigger pull on these things is horrendous. Difficult, at best, even for someone with lots of experience shooting. In the hands of a newbie or a shooter that won’t be practicing on a regular basis, they’re damned near impossible to use for self-defense.
To put this in perspective, when this student came to class, I asked her if she’d shot the gun before. Yep. How’d you do? In 20 shots at 5 yards, she NEVER hit the target. She didn’t miss the bullseye, but the entire target! (I’m pleased to say that after her class, at 7 yards, she put 48 of her 50 shots onto the target, but they were EVERYWHERE.)
I’ve been unable to find the stats on the pounds needed for this trigger pull, but this reviewer made this observation –
We have all heard the expression, “there’s a lawyer attached to every bullet.” Smith & Wesson must feel that there’s also a lawyer attached to every trigger; they make their revolver triggers heavy enough to hoist an entire bench of lawyers with each pull.
By making these guns double-action only, you take away the ability of the shooter to cock the gun and get off at least one well-aimed shot, even when laser sights are used. Realistically, these types of guns are only effective in the 5-yard-or-less range. Too close for my comfort. Again, from the review above –
Locking the BODYGUARD’s laser on target, I watched the little red dot jump by eight to ten inches with every trigger pull.
I’m assuming that you can do a trigger job on these guns to make the pull less onerous. I recommend it to each and every lady that is stuck with one of these, but I haven’t heard back from any, so I don’t know if it worked out.
Ultra-light frame – The S&W above weighs in at 14 ounces, and is rated to take .38 Special +P ammo. The Ruger LCR in the same caliber weighs even less. That’s WAY too much power for such a light gun, especially in weaker hands. And having grips without finger grooves makes controlling the gun even more difficult.
I’m not recoil averse. I’ve never had a problem shooting Smith’s J-frame revolvers. But the BODYGUARD 38 was writing checks that my hand didn’t want to cash. Before a box of bullets went down the pipe, the BODYGUARD 38 began to sting the body electric. After running through a few boxes of standard .38Spl ammo, the web and pad between my thumb and forefinger told me too little mass behind too much power is too much.
Remember – these guns were purchased as nightstand guns, not something weighing down a holster or purse. GET SOME MASS behind the gun. Shots will be more accurate due to the decreased felt recoil of the gun, and the lower likelihood of flinching in anticipation of the recoil.
No rear sight – The way I train folks, I incorporate a combination/hybrid of point shooting and aimed fire. Basically, out to 10 or 12 yards – depending upon your gun – you’ll be inside the center of mass circle the instant your arms come to full extension and you pull the trigger. A second or two more to line up the sights, and you’re regularly inside the 9-ring.
Unless you’re missing the rear sight, as is the case with this style of gun –
They typically have some sort of a “U” or “V” channel along the top of the barrel to align with your front sight, but that will only help with your side-to-side aim. Unless you practice A LOT – knowing how much of the front sight is supposed to sit up on this channel – you can be high or low on your target by 8 or 9 inches when shooting at 10 or 12 yards.
Not acceptable. And very frustrating to new, inexperienced shooters. If they don’t have confidence in their shooting abilities at the range, that uncertainty can translate into poor choices when confronted with a life-threatening situation. I don’t want to put a round through the wall and into my neighbor’s home, so I’m not going to shoot.
Hopefully, your goal when shooting the gun in self-defense is to stop the attacker as quickly as possible. You do that by putting one or more shots on target. If you can’t hit the target, the gun is useless.
Accuracy and confidence is accomplished by matching a gun to your specific physical strength, weaknesses and other physical attributes (such as hand size, disabilities, etc.).
So here are my recommendations:
Guys – back off. Don’t buy them a gun YOU think is best for them. You’re usually wrong.
Ladies – Go read this post (“Buying Your First Handgun”). Then go buy your own gun. Part of the process of self-reliance is taking personal responsibility. If you agree that you need a gun, then own the whole process. Sure, part of that is asking for recommendations, even from your significant other, but the final choice must be yours.
Take an introductory class where you can use rental guns and learn about gun safety. Follow the steps in the post above, get a gun, and then use it regularly.
Unlike riding a bike, shooting skills are perishable. If you don’t use ’em, you lose ’em.
I’m serious as a heart attack here. Get thee to the range!