Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Lately, I have fallen into the sheer attraction of Fisking stupid articles. Given, it's fun, but it is intellectually lazy.

Last night's post is an example of tired arguments trotted out time and time again.

In any case, I need a recommendation. Of course I have sent this link to all of my friends. Thus far one has called me an idiot, another has called me a nut (I guess the blog is aptly named.) Another is a friend of mine,who is married and female, seems to have shifted points of view. I suppose that is the point of a gun blog, but I never really thought it would have any effect; on the vast public or my own circle.

First question: I really like the 9mm caliber. Saying that, I can't argue that the .45ACP is not the most effective defense gun.

This is a debate that has been raging for 30+ years. That's not what I want to know. For a first time gun owner (who is female) what is the ideal cartridge?

By the by, don't recommend .25ACP or .32. We are talking a home defense weapon, as well as something that is accurate on the range. Less than .38 I don't think there is a viable home defense gun. My opinion only.

Also, I have always thought that a shotgun is the best home weapon. It hurts, but you really don't need any experience or accuracy?

Please comment.

OK, there's a bunch of stuff to sort out here.

First and foremost, the key to selecting a first time gun for a lady is to have the lady's involvment. This means finding a range that has rentals, and trying a few out.

The lovely and talented geeketteWithA9mm just HAD to have a full size 9mm Sig 226. She could handle the .45 just fine, but simply didn't enjoy shooting it as much, even though she dutifully practiced with it (of her own volition!) each time she made it to the range. When it came time to file for her carry permit, she balked at the thought of lugging the full sized pistol around on her hip, and dragged her feet until I brought home the little .38 snubbie revolver, which she confiscated in like 90 seconds FLAT.

My repeated observation is that chicks simply dig little revolvers, due to their small size, light weight, and most importantly, their simplicity.

A .38 +p gets you into the neighborhood of 9mm in terms of power, and is roughly equivalent in terms of recoil, so it's a really decent place to start. BTW, there's nothing wrong with 9mm as a defensive round, AS LONG AS YOU'RE USING EXPANDERS of some sort, typically hollow points.

My advice is introduce the lady to a .38/.357 type revolver, but positively DO NOT use .357 magnum rounds until she's experienced and comfortable, unless you want to frighten her away for good!

Above all, follow the lady's cues and preferences, because she won't shoot what she doesn't like.
Now, as for shotguns:

Shotguns are much more powerful than handguns, by several orders of magnitude, and would be the solid first choice for home defense.

It is a myth that you need no experience or accuracy, however.

At the ranges involved in home defense, which are measured in a small number of FEET (like 15ish), the shotstring is essentially still a solid mass of lead not much wider than the 12 or 20 guage it started out as. You still need to have solid gunhandling, safety, and hitting what you're aiming at skills, especially if you've got a pump. Practice counts!

My advice there is try out a 20 guage. It's more than plenty enough for the task at hand, and plenty more comfortable to shoot.

When it comes to 12 guage, I'm like gwa9 is with my ..45: I can handle it, I just don't enjoy it, and therefore default to 20 guage if given a choice.

Also, I'd avoid "cruiser" style shotguns, especially in 12 guage. They're damned near impossible to control when using fighting loads, unless you're a huge guy. For maximum versatility, consider a pistol grip pump with extended magazine and removeable or foldable stock in the guage of your choice.

Autoloading shotguns are neat, but they're picky about what loads you're shooting with them, and therefore not nearly as versatile.
Ditto on the .38 wheelgun.

Bottom line: Whatever she's comfartable and confident with. A hand cannon that she can't shoot accurately is as good as a brick. She might as well try to bludgeon her assailant.

If it's a carry piece, go hammerless for snag-free draws from a handbag holster.

Smith & Wesson: The original point & click interface.
It comes down to a matter of what you expect to be defending against. Drug gang or rabid coyote, for extremes. All that the woman I later married had was a .32, and she missed twice, but that was powerful enough to convince a neighbor that busting into the little lady's apartment wasn't going to be fun.

triticale - the wheat / rye guy
Ditto on the shotgun thing. As I've proven in the 3-gun game, you CAN miss with a "scattergun" spectacularly. Now, the effect of having been narrowly missed by a shotgun blast may be enough to make the intruder lose interest.

In a small wheelgun, .38+P is great. Corbon makes a .357 Mag with a light bullet (115gr?) that's very easy on the wrist.
The .38/357 revolver has much merit. You can load it down to get used to the thing, then load up some fairly reasonable .357's for full power, when the new gun owner is comfortable and ready. Plus, a revolver is pretty simple to use and maintain. Autos sometimes flummox some women. The slide can be hard to pull back for someone with little grip and arm strength.

I love autos, but they are for more advanced shooters. She might eventually want one, but you can't beat a wheelgun for a beginner. Especially a double-action only, or a bobbed hammer on a double-action/single action. Simplicity itself.

Plus, there's something both nostalgic and romantic about a revolver. The whole cowboy mystique comes into play.
Not to be too much of a contrarian here, but just about any .38 special is more or less equivalent to a 9mm IMHO. Second- at most home defense ranges, you're only looking to put your shots into a pieplate at say 15 feet or so, so accuracy is secondary.

Soooo- I'd have to recommend someting along the lines of a .38 special with some sort of really agressive hollowpoints, and NOT a +p or doubly not a .357mag, both of which are pretty much wasted in a short barrel, resulting in an earsplitting report and a huge muzzleflash.

For a handload- you might try a 148gr hollowbased wadcutter loaded base first. If the accruacy is acceptable, they will make an awfully large hole in a human target.

That my humble opinion- as always YMMV. Let the games begin!
Home defense - depends on the person.

I use a .357 magnum. When I lived in a place (apt.) where I had to be aware of what was on the other side of the plaster-board walls, I loaded 38 special with Mag-safe rounds - were advertied to not over penetrate.

I also keep a 12 gauge shotgun handy. Pump a 12 gauge pump action shotgun and the sound it makes grabs peoples attention. Loaded with bird shot it is good at most defensive ranges.

I like the wheel gun for the middle of the night, as there is very little that can go wrong, when loaded with good-quality factory hollow-point ammo. If a load misfires, I just pull the trigger again.

see TFS Magnum for more of my views
self-defense - not home defense (see my previous comment on home defense)

If you are talking about concealled carry, that is also a personal thing. concealable guns are small, but the caliber doesn't have to be. I usually carry a .380 auto, it is the right size, and ballistically, it is not that different from 9mm. I also - very rarely - carry my 9mm. It depends more on how I am concealing the firearm than anything else.

In general, people should carry the largest caliber that they are a) comfortable with - i.e. be accurate with - and b) conceal. I am fairly accurate with my .357, but that hand cannon can't be concealed.

Whatever you (or anyone) does, don't buy a gun for your spouse. Guns are like shoes - they need to fit the individual.
If she decides on a .38 or .357 revolver for a home defense or personal protection weapon, I'd have her consider loading it with a combination of CCI\Speer .38/.357 Shotshells and hollowpoint bullets. For the first three rounds, using 3 shotshells will raise her chances of hitting the bad guy if he's within 15 feet - and they'll scare the crap out of him at any range. These rounds are also less likely to go through walls and inflict unintended consequences. Using hollowpoints for the remaining rounds will give her a 'reach out and touch someone' option that is guaranteed to inflict serious injury - no matter what the range. And since this ammo load is intended for close-in self defense, she won't be worrying about the issue of how to take down a bad guy at longer ranges.

Alan J.
The .38 Special is an excellent home defense round. We highly recommend it and if you are looking for a good gun to use, Taurus is a great brand.

Here is a post in which we explore the topic a little more fully:

For home defense, I would suggest taking a step back from which gun, for a moment, to consider two other tools:

A working flashlight with fresh batteries, and a charged cell phone, both which can be found in the dark in a moment.

My impression is that this is a new shooter--what's wrong with learning the basics on a .22 revolver, then moving up to a .38?

For self-defense outside the home, I'd go with with a snubbie in .38 Special. I assume that the shooter is going to invest in good training and regular practice.

And apropos of .22, I seem to recall a thread on The High Road about a woman shooting an attacker with a .22 Magnum pistol; made a helluva mess out of the attacker!
Another vote for the 38/357 revolver.

I don't like long guns for home defense, at least not as primary weapons. The huge size makes it too hard to bring them to bear on a badguy before he's on top of you, and next to impossible to keep control of in a fight, especially when you have a average-sized woman against a muscular ex-con. Handguns are much better for this.

Autos are good weapons, but they are often hard to manipulate and confusing for newbies. I'd make sure that she could rack the slide fully and knew how to load and unload it before getting one.

The revolver is still the best choice, IMHO, for someone who isn't that into guns, but wants to be able to defend themselves. They're cheap, reliable, and pretty hard to screw up with. A 357 lets you start out with the mild but still fairly effective 38 Special, and move up to the proven 357 Mag if/when the shooter is ready for it.
Feel free to come and check it out if you get time :-)
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