May 20, 2010

Women With Guns

MrsZ and I hit the range tonight so she could reacquaint herself with the options. This time around, it was the semi-autos. I gathered up the 1911, the 5946, the Thunder .380, and the 22/45 (it ALWAYS goes to the range)... Bag full of ammo and magazines, and off we went.

Set up targets at about 10yd, and dove right in.

First: for those on #GBC who suggested I needed to slow the hell down with the 5946 ... you were absolutely right. If I consciously squeeze through the trigger I can keep a respectable group; as soon as I start trying to rapid-fire it, the shots start stringing down and left. Further practice is indicated, but the problem has been correctly identified.

MrsZ shot a few magazines from each gun, as did I. She continues to impress me - she's slow and steady and plenty accurate with nearly everything she picks up. This morning she made mention of going to one of the NRA "Women on Target" sessions with a friend, which I absolutely support.

One of the hardest things I see for women shooters is the male dominance of the sports and industry. Don't get me wrong, booth babes are fun to look at, but I find the print ads (from Kahr in particular - thin is sexy!) to be ... insulting. Sell me the gun, not a chick in a negligee.

Ignoring that tangent, I can usually count on one hand the number of female shooters at any event I've been to - IDPA, informal trap, Appleseed, etc. I can count on one hand the number of women I've seen in the gun shop other than MrsZ. Guns are sized to fit the "average American male"; many women have hands or arms that are too small for those average size grips and stocks. I'm lucky: the LOP of an off-the-shelf 870 fits me just about perfectly, and my hands are large enough to handle *most* handgun grips with ease.

Of course, manufacturers are catching on to the relatively untapped market of women shooters - by molding their grips in pink plastic instead of black/green/gray. It's a start, I guess, but doesn't address the original issue of *size*. In long guns, it's easy: either cut down an adult stock, or simply purchase a "youth model" to begin with. Handguns? Not so easy. 1911s are perhaps the easiest to adjust to a smaller hand: slim grip panels and a shortened trigger can knock a significant portion off the trigger reach. Revolvers can have the grips changed, but beyond a certain point (i.e., once you've reached the backstrap) it's impossible to shorten the trigger reach.

There's plenty of good information out there for women who want to read it - The Cornered Cat is the standard first reference. There's plenty of BAD information too - a quick peek through ArfCom, THR, TFL, NES, etc, will reveal lots of, "What gun for my girlfriend/fiancee/wife/mother/daughter?" threads. Many of the answers will default to "S&W J-frame", or "Glock" without ever asking for more details.

A J-frame isn't a bad gun, at all. I carry one and would readily trust my life to it. It's a tough gun to shoot well. The grips are small and the trigger reach is short. If she's willing to practice with it, then by all means, a J-frame is a good choice. If practice is less likely, a steel K-frame might make a lot more sense.

A Glock (or any other full-frame semi-auto) is a crap shoot. Some of them will fit well, some won't. The only way to find that out is to hold them, and if possible, try them... and that's where we get back to the male dominance problem.

As an example, at the range tonight, after we'd been there about forty-five minutes with the range to ourselves, another member wheeled in. He's an older fellow, and I've run into him there before. Very nice guy, and knows his shooting. Also likes to talk. A lot. (We made our excuses and packed up to leave after about 30 minutes of suddenly-very-intermittent shooting.) However, among the various tidbits he shared with us, several of them started with, "She ought to..." or, "She should try..." She (and I!) ought to make ourselves scarce!

Which brings us all the way back to "Women on Target" and similar events. (Appleseed Project does a couple women-only shoots each year as well.) By removing the (stereo)typical male shooter from the equation, women can learn about guns without feeling like they're asking dumb questions. (You know, dumb questions, like, "What's the difference between single-action and double-action?" "Dumb questions" that a fair number of male shooters also can't answer but won't ask because they'd rather be ignorant than inquisitive.)

It also gives the shooters a chance to learn a bit about themselves - without fear of mockery for not caring for a hard-recoiling gun, or for doing the brass-in-the-bra dance (about 1:05), or having to worry about a jackass handing her a DEagle .50 without a warning...

I appreciate the answers I got to my recent post about a bedside gun. Seems a 12ga loaded with #00 buck is a popular choice (and rightfully so). For the time being, MrsZ has decided she's comfortable with the 5946, so that'll remain where it is, and I'll accelerate my intention of putting on some Trijicon three-dots. A 9mm may not the BEST gun for defending the home, but it beats a mean look and a shrill scream by a long shot.

(Ladies who shoot - and I'm look at you, Tam, and you, Jigsaw, and you, Breda, and you, Roberta, and Okie, and Dixie, and Lissa, and Christina, and Snarky, and anyone else who reads this - your input is not only welcome, it's desired. If I'm being a male chauvinist pug (like a pig, but canine) for thinking women-only shooting clinics are a good thing, please, tell me - and then tell me why!)


Christina LMT said...

I like pugs! That being said, I don't think you're being one at all. I know as an utter n00b, I'm extremely hesitant to go into a gunstore or to a range by myself as a female. Precisely because I know so little and don't want to be treated like an airhead.

It's good I have friends I can call when I have "dumb" questions, or that I can get on the GBC IRC and ask, without being treated like an imbecile.

mhaithaca said...

Molding the grips in pink plastic is a start? Next they'll come with little flip-down mirrors so the lil' ladies can check their mascara?

Size the equipment for the user, sure, but pink?! That's just gotta be offensive to someone. Wouldn't you think?

ZerCool said...

@MHA: I don't care if it's offensive to *some*. If it makes for a gun that will get MORE people to buy and carry, I'm for it. I have seen a bored significant other (not mine) in the gun shop suddenly stop and say, "Ooh! Can I see the pink one??"

(For the record, I'd carry a pink gun too. Just because.)

Farm.Dad said...

Dammed good post . The only argument i have with you is that i feel a snubby is the last resort for a lady ( or any new shooter ) to try because they are hard to shoot well .

Rhio said...

You definitely aren't wrong about the Size issue, Zer! Ex and I went through many arguements about size and caliber and accuracy while I was looking for a gun that fit MY hand, and suited ME, not some hulking male with gorilla paws.

I would have loved the 1911, but it simply doesn't FIT. If I can't hold it comfortably, I can't shoot it Accurately, regardless of how much range time I put in for practice. I love my Star 9mm because it Fits My Hand, which are tiny. I'm accurate with it, I don't have issues with to much recoil to handle, and I don't feel like a kid attempting to play Dirty Harry when I'm handling it.

As for the whole pink thing... I hate pink. Purple... yes. A nice, deep, Ruby Red.. certainly. Glitter dusted metalic shades of blue or green? Bring 'em on! But PINK? Ewwwwwwwwww.....

Julie said...

ZC - i'm the anti-pink type but apart from that I agree with pretty much everything you've said in your post.

Personally I wouldn't worry about going to an 'all-female' shooting clinic as I've spent my whole working life in 'male dominated' fields and industries so I am quite used to be the only female doing x or y and I find that I get on best with guys anyway.

BUT I know there are women who feel nervous or uncomfortable in front of men especially with learning a new skill so I think it's great that these clinics exist and that MrsZC is thinking of going.

You might like to have a read of a post I did recently too on introducing women to shooting ...

Oh and having TINY hands, finding a gun to fit me was a challenge (yep, single stack 1911 with slim grips and short trigger, extended mag release did the trick in the end).

Lissa said...

I think all-women shoots are a great idea; the Lissaville range has a Second Amendment Sisters Greet-and-Shoot once a month and it's usually packed.

I've definitely hit the problem with handsize -- I can shoot .45 just fine, but single-stacks are significantly easier than double-stacks.

I personally think the best way to introduce a woman to shooting is

1) do Four Rules training with a blue gun in the privacy of your living room, so she can ask all the questions she wants without worrying about people overhearing or folks waiting in line

2) take her to a nice, quiet, uncrowded indoor range and start her on a Mosquito

3) when she's ready, upgrade her to a Sig 239.

(Yes, I am a Sig fangirl. Yes, I think it is the perfect gun for someone with hands my size. Yes, I have named all three of our Sigs. What did you expect?)