One of the things that really gets my wife's dander up is to label a gun as a "woman's" gun - particularly when the only thing that differentiates it from the "normal" models is a shiny finish! After seeing too many such insults to the intelligence of the female shooter, I decided that I could do better!
I consulted with female shooters and instructors, lurked on the forums that cater to women who shoot, and even studied some physiology and the engineering in other products made expressly for women. The result is a gun where everything was "purpose built" for the job at hand.
The base gun - the Smith & Wesson Model 60 in 3" with adjustable sights - was chosen because it is a slim package that can fire a respectable self-defense cartridge. From standard-pressure .38 Specials to the fire-breathing Magnums, the Model 60 can be loaded to suit the abilities of its owner. Such wide-ranging capability makes adjustable sights a virtual necessity. (My discussions with female trainers indicated that women are far less likely to accept the sort of "Kentucky windage" that men employ when shooting fixed-sight guns.) The 3-inch barrel gives a longer sight radius, making precision shooting easier, and the extra weight out front helps soak up recoil.
I started, of course, with my Super Action Job, with the aim to smooth the action to the greatest degree possible with absolute reliability. The double action pull ended up in the 9-pound range; the single action was left completely stock. (Why didn't I render the gun DAO? The new MIM hammers have an incredibly ugly scalloping under the hammer spur, which makes bobbing it impractical.) Of course, the trigger was rounded and polished smooth, front and back - no pinching from this trigger, which is a problem all "J" frame users will recognize!
The chambers were chamfered for easier reloading, and the entire gun was dehorned - every sharp edge and corner was smoothed over so that it is not only comfortable to shoot, but also to carry. Even the rear sight housing - normally an incredibly sharp and serrated part - was smoothed. (Speaking of the rear sight, take a look at the area where the barrel joins the frame - the rear sight housing comes up to this point, and in a stock gun is simply cut off. I carefully blended it to match the frame contours so that it doesn't look like unfinished!
My research uncovered several things that were important about grips for women. I found a general dislike for checkered grips; they are abrasive to the hands in long shooting sessions, and quite uncomfortable carried next to the skin. Of course, smooth grips have less traction, which meant that something had to be done to supply some. I explored common backstrap treatments - checkering and heavy stippling - but they suffer from the same comfort issues as grip checkering. This needed a surface that had an increase in traction without being rough on the skin. What I came up with is an old-fashioned hand matting technique that has a texture not unlike very fine sandpaper. Perfect!
Of course it needed good concealment grips; the trouble with most of them is that they sacrifice comfort for control. The various so-called "boot grips" attempt to regain some control with finger grooves. Someone with small hands will find that their thinner fingers don't fit the grooves properly. This leads to a finger perched on top of the ridge between the grooves, which not only sacrifices control but is quite uncomfortable!
I looked all over for non-grooved concealment grips with no luck. Finally I found custom gripmaker Don Collins, who made exactly what I wanted. What he supplied is a boot-sized grip with no annoying finger grooves and smooth sides - but that's not all!
Don made the grips from beautiful Macassar Ebony with a unique shape that perfectly addressed all the problems of people with smaller hands. If you look at the cross-section of typical "J" frame grips, you'll see that they are oval in shape. What Don did was to make his pear-shaped, with the wide end of the pear to the back. The circumference is the same, but with a wider back end the grips not only fit the palm far better, they also distribute recoil over a wider area. They're more comfortable than any small grip I've ever used, and in concert with the unique backstrap treatment they make gun more controllable, too!
After all that work, the gun was finished in SatinSteel for the frame, with GraySteel on the top strap and barrel rib to cut glare. The cylinder flutes were polished to a mirror finish, which adds a bit of "color" to the gun and makes cleaning easier.
What's the verdict? If the reactions of the various people who've had a chance to play with it are any indication, it's a winner on all counts!
The Menu: Super Action Job Chamber chamfering Round & smooth trigger Muzzle crown Dehorning SatinSteel finish with GraySteel and polished accents Custom grips
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