Ladies, the guy behind the gun counter is not your friend. Really.

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If you’re new to the shooting world, and have decided to purchase a handgun for self defense, you’ll need to do your own research — because the guy behind the gun counter won’t do it for you!

Eleanor Roosevelt and Annie Oakley notwithstanding, shooting is a male-dominated activity. Most of the people in the industry, from presidents of firearms manufacturers down to the counter clerks, are men; most of the writers in the firearms press are men; most of the articles they write are aimed at men; most of the readers of gun magazines are men; and most guns are designed by men, for men; and virtually all of the top defensive shooting trainers are men.

But a funny thing has happened over the past few decades: more women are looking at firearms in an objective light, coming to the understanding that a legally possessed firearm is the best tool to give them parity in a life-threatening attack by a much larger, much stronger male. As this progression happened, more qualified women moved into the industry and took positions of influence where they could champion the needs of the women who are buying defensive firearms.

While we’re not yet to the point where we can call things even, the situation is looking better and better every day. Thirty years ago finding a reliable, efficient handgun to fit a smaller hand was difficult if not impossible; today, there are many choices. (A situation from which I, with very small hands for an adult male, happily benefit!) We still don’t have nearly enough women in our teaching ranks, but the ones we do have are talented and working hard to share their knowledge with other women.

These are all recent developments, however. They’re trickling down to the consumer, but at the local gun store you’re more than likely to find one of the last male bastions outside of the barber shop — complete with the attitudes and the lack of knowledge that would imply.

It’s still common, unfortunately, to find gun store owners and employees who think that the best gun for the “little lady” is a lightweight, snubnose revolver. Over on my gun blog I’ve written about this phenomenon many times, and each time present the same opinion: the snubnose revolver, particularly the lightweight versions, aren’t beginner’s guns; they’re expert’s guns, and we should never saddle a shooter with one unless he or she knows exactly what they’re in for.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this, either, and not the only one who’s reached that conclusion. Luckily, there are experienced trainers in this business who recognize it as well, and have some good thoughts on how women should approach picking out a gun that works well for them.

In my first book, the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, I gave this advice to the women who might read it:

If you’re looking for a gun, don’t let the salesman talk you into anything about which you have reservations. Do your research; talk to other women who own guns, or contact a female instructor for guidance. There are a number of online forums dedicated to women who shoot, and they’re a great source of recommendation and encouragement. Go to a store or range that rents guns, and shoot a bunch of different models. Find out what you like best, then go shopping.

It’s tempting to believe that the guy working in the gun store is knowledgable and understands what you need. That’s not always the case; though many gun salesmen are well informed and thoughtful, an awful lot of them aren’t. Here’s a litmus test: if you walk into a gun store and ask to see a gun for personal protection, and the first thing the guy does is put a lightweight snubnose revolver in front of you, just leave. Find a store that respects their customers.

That remains as true today as when I wrote it. You have some great choices, and should never have to feel that you’ve been pressured into buying something you’re not 100% sure about.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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