Editors Note: We’re pleased to welcome a new ‘riter to the My Gun Culture project – Mary Katherine. I’ve been shooting with Mary Katherine and her family on and off for years. She’ll be offering some women’s perspective on things like guns, gear, concealed carry and more. By the way, she shoots a Beretta PX4, Smith & Wesson Shield and Marlin 30-30 – just in case you were wondering.
I think most shooters, new or experienced, will agree with me when I say we have all had the urge to reach for the biggest, flashiest firearm in the store or on the range. Bigger is better. A larger round means more power and a bigger boom is much more impressive than anything else. Or is it?
I have battled with the instinct to reach for a bigger pistol myself. No one wants to be laughed at for using a “girl gun” even if you are a girl. I thought, “If I prove I can shoot a large caliber, they will stop talking to me like I am clueless.” What I should have been thinking was, “If I shoot the right sized gun for my hands with perfect accuracy, who will care what size or caliber it is?” You should start thinking the same.
While firing a few rounds with the big guns can be a thrill to experience for any level shooter, a handgun that you plan to fire often at the range or use in defense doesn’t have to be big to be the best. The most important thing to take into account is your size and stature. If you have small hands or wrists, you need a smaller pistol with less recoil. This will usually mean going to a smaller caliber. A heavier gun will have less recoil, but heavier often means larger in physical size. Just remember, it isn’t about avoiding the “girl gun” size or caliber. It is about accuracy. After a few rounds, every pistol seems to gain a little weight. Recoil can catch up with you faster than you think. Focus should be on what you are doing, not struggling to keep the front of the pistol from drooping towards the floor. It won’t be the target that is trembling if your arms are tired.
My advice to you is to get a little hands-on when choosing a personal defense or home protection firearm. Don’t let someone else pick it out for you. You need to experience how the pistol feels in your hand. Check the weight, but remember it is going to change a little once a fully loaded magazine is inserted. That will balance out a gun that feels a little front-heavy with a tendency to dip down towards the floor. Next, check out the grip. A grip that is too small can be just as awkward to hold as one that is too big. There are a lot of different sized grips out there so find one that is comfortable and makes the gun feel secure in your hand. If it feels right, try it with both hands. Using two hands while shooting is going to make for a more accurate shot so make sure you can fit both around the grip in a proper way.
The last steps in choosing a pistol involve the mechanics and recoil. Make sure the slide isn’t too tough for you to rack by yourself. Check out this article on how to properly rack a slide so you are prepared. If you are looking at a revolver, check to see if you can release the cylinder in a way that doesn’t feel clumsy. Once it passes those tests, take it for a spin. Rent the same model at the range or borrow it from a friend if you know someone who owns it, but if your gun is the appropriate size and weight for your hands, it is unlikely that recoil will be a problem.
Your personal firearm should feel like an extension of your hand – familiar and reliable. When faced with a dangerous situation, you want to know that you can handle using your pistol without having to think about it. Don’t choose the bigger caliber for the bigger bang because it might be too physically large for your hands. Choose the gun that fits your stature for a more accurate and consistent firing capability. It might save your life and it will definitely make you a better shot.