The real ladies gun - Handguns
Guns Magazine, March, 2003 by Massad Ayoob
For too long, women were told that if they wanted to carry a sidearm they needed a "ladies' gun," usually a tiny .22 or .25 automatic with so little power it might or might not stop a charging gerbil. Then the trend moved toward the small .38 Special revolver. The snubnose .38 became a classic "ladies' gun" for modern times.
Smith & Wesson's first "LadySmith" since the 19th century became a roaring success in the 20th century based on the Chief Special, 2-inch barrel, five-shot, .32-frame revolver. There would be other LadySmiths, including the neat little 3913 LS compact 9mm autopistol.
But Smith & Wesson has sold far more short barreled .38 Specials in conventional Chief Special, hammer shrouded Bodyguard, and "hammerless" Centennial configurations than anything of the other models to which they gave the feminine appellation. When Colt made a "ladies' model," they built it on the small D-frame revolver, with a 2-inch barrel, in caliber .38 Special.
Those of us who shoot a lot--competitors, firearms instructors, "serious students of the combat handgun"--can't help but notice that with the hottest loads, the small .38 has a nasty recoil and is hard to shoot accurately at significant distances. There are those who have said that because of these factors, the snubnose .38 is a bad choice for women.
I beg to disagree. And so do a huge number of that legion of the fairer sex who choose to go armed, and who seem to have taken the snubnose .38 as their collective handgun of choice.
Voting With Their Feet
"Shall issue" concealed carry legislation has swept the country. It is the strongest wave of victory in the gun owners' civil rights movement. It amazes the opponents of gun owners' rights how many of the people applying for concealed carry permits are women. And the instructors who train and certify those women for those concealed carry permits are telling us a huge number of those ladies are shooting their qualifications with the guns they, intend to carry: short barrel, small frame .38 Special revolvers.
The women of America know what they want. After a lifetime of getting ripped off by men in male oriented things like estimates on automobile repairs, they've learned to check things out on their own and not take a man's word for what women need.
They appreciate that they can shoot pistols like the Browning Hi-Power and the 1911 .45 and the Glock and the S&W 3913 better than most men realize. They also realize that they can carry a short, light revolver a helluva lot more easily within their daily wardrobe and dress code restrictions than they can even a compact alloy-frame .45 automatic.
Gun dealers tell me the single most popular carry gun they're selling to women is the lightweight .38 Special, 2-inch revolver with snag-free configuration, such as the S&W Centennial Airweight. Yes, it kicks enough to hurt your hand. Yes, it will be one of the toughest guns for you to "qualify" with on the 15 to 25 yard line of a police-style shooting course.
However, the women who buy them for daily carry have no illusions about being involved in across-the-street shootouts. They're worried about the mugger who is within arm's length or maybe even closer when they have to defend their lives.
Women get tired of carrying big guns. The woman with whom I spent 30 years of marriage could count on her annual or biannual gift of what her husband thought was a cool self-defense pistol. She wound up with enough high speed, low drag, often highly customized semiautomatic pistols to outfit a small police department. The HK P7, a Behlert Mini-Custom S&W Model 39, a Trapper custom "bobcatted" Colt .45 auto--the list goes on.
It was always, "That's nice, dear." She'd carry it for a week to placate me, and then go back to one of her Colt .38 snubbies, either the engraved Detective Special or the lightweight Agent with hammer shroud and Barami Hip-Grip that fit neatly into the waistband of her beltless slacks.
Male criminals tend to be misogynists. The man who would surrender to him at gunpoint would die rather than go to prison with it known that he had surrendered to her. He is more likely by far to attack and attempt to disarm a woman. More than 20 years of teaching handgun disarming and retention has taught me the hardest gun to take away from its legitimate owner is a 2-inch barreled revolver.
With a shrouded hammer, this is also the only gun a woman can fire through a coat pocket without a hammer or a slide fouling in fabric and stopping her stream of fire.
Ideal for shooting all day at a training school? No. Ideal for concealed carry in real world circumstances? Yes.
The snubnose .38 revolver with snag-free hammer might just be the best choice for the defensive problems an armed woman in this society is most likely to face.