I just received another call from a woman who is interested in learning about handguns but she is concerned her hands or wrists are too weak. We get this far too often and most often it stems from a perception that you have to be this great, big strong person to quickly and accurately shoot a handgun of substantial caliber.
Also far too often we find this carries over to the gun store “salesmen” who immediately point the poor lady to a ultra lightweight five shot revolver in a substandard .38 special caliber, who then proudly announce to the poor woman that this is just what she needs because it is light and simple to operate. What in fact the person just told her is that she is weak and mentally incapable of operating a semi-automatic. LADIES, what they just said is an insult. Women with the correct training can shoot any gun a man can and more often than not better than men when working on improving their skills.
Here at Liberty Firearms Training our focus has been since inception on teaching women to shoot. Approximately 45% of our business today is women. Our experience in teaching women has shown that ANY woman can shoot ANY gun with proper training and practice using correct technique. Our youngest lady student was nine; our oldest so far has been eighty-three, both took to it like they were born to shoot. Our youngest ended the day shooting a Sig P226 in .40 S&W and did great, our oldest with her horrific arthritis ended up purchasing a Sig P226 in .40 S&W and before she fell and broke her hip she was going to the range monthly to keep up her skill set.
Some limitations talked of are the inability to hold up the weight of the gun, racking the slide of a semi-automatic, the trigger reach and the trigger pull weight as well as the recoil. I would like to offer up some opinions on these items that in fact do not have to be a deterrent to women interested in shooting and self-defense.
The weight of a gun decidedly affects the amount of felt recoil. There is a reason the Desert Eagle .50AE weighs 4.75#, that weight helps absorb some of the terrific recoil that follows when the .50 bullet leaves the barrel with 1230 foot pounds of energy. When shooting a gun you bring it up on target, fire the number of shots you want and then bring it back down. You do not stand there for four hours with your arms extended fully holding up that gun. If you have the strength to place a five pound bag of sugar on your pantry shelf you have the strength to hold a gun weighing 2.0# for the ten seconds it might take you to fire five rounds. I recommend to women for home protection a full size gun for a variety of reasons, the weight helps with the felt recoil and the barrel length helps with the muzzle flip.
Muzzle flip can be a problem but with a good, firm thumb forward grip muzzle flip can easily be controlled as my 83 year old arthritic student proved. If you place the grip of any gun in the bench vise and fire it the muzzle will flip up. However if you place it so the vise is pressing against the front and back strap it will not move. In essence with a proper grip you are creating an isometric vise on the gun pushing forward with the heel of your shooting hand and pulling back hard against the gun with your support hand.
As for racking the slide, it is simply a matter of correct technique. While holding the gun in a shooting grip simply grasp the rear of the slide between the heel and finger tips of your support hand, bring the gun close to your chest for leverage and with burst muscle shove the gun forward with your shooting hand until the slide reaches its furthest most rearward point of travel and let the slide go. In over 950 classes so far, not a single woman I have taught has not been able to accomplish this. If the burning sensation of your support hand fingertips bothers you as you practice this, simply put on a lightweight leather shooting glove. When you go to the range to shoot you will need to rack the slide most often no more than twice, once to load the gun the first time and once to empty the gun when you are finished for the day. Good article from Suzanne at CTD Blog
Guns come in essentially three types of actions; single action (SA) such as the 1911 style gun that employs a manual safety, a double action single action (DASA) such as Sigs and Berettas and double action only (DAO). The term simply means what the trigger does. In a Single Action gun the trigger will release a cocked hammer but the hammer must be cocked in some manner either by manipulating it with your thumb or with the slide of a semi-automatic handgun. In a DASA gun the trigger can perform two separate functions in its double action mode, it will cock the hammer as you pull the trigger rearward and it will release the hammer at some point, thus two actions. The DASA can also be manually cocked with either thumb or slide as when shooting subsequent shots the slide cocks the hammer after each shot is fired. A DAO like a Glock, S&W M&P or Springfield XD cocks the firing mechanism to some degree and then releases the striker (similar to a hammer hitting the firing pin). It is not a true double action like the DASA as the firing mechanism is to some degree already partially cocked.
Trigger pull weights are dependent on the type of action of the gun. A single action gun nominally will require somewhere between 2.5# and 4.5# of pressure on the trigger to release the firing mechanism. A double action gun will require 10# to 12# of pressure to cock and release the hammer. A DAO gun will require 5.5# to 6.5# to release the firing mechanism. People with unusually short fingers will have a problem with double action trigger presses in that their finger is not long enough to really reach the face of the trigger and that is where trigger reach comes in.
Trigger reach is the distance from the back strap of the gun to the face of the trigger when it has met resistance. Out of 950 plus classes I have only found one student who was not able to reach the DA trigger but there are many other guns of reliable manufacturer that can accommodate this. Both Sig and Glock have recently come out with new designs that have reduced the length of the trigger reach.
Although many in sales at gun stores have yet to embrace the female market segment the gun manufacturers are and we are going to continue to see more guns designed with women in mind.
With quality instruction and practice ANY woman can shoot ANY handgun.
Liberty Firearms Training