personal defense for women
I’m writing this article primarily for our female audience. It may help men understand us, perhaps, but it’s addressed to women. (And just maybe it will help men understand how to persuade us of something that they instinctively know.)
You see, I want to spend a few minutes with our female audience talking about why you need more than one gun. Men never seem to need such an explanation or an argument for this – they’re always OK with buying another gun.
When Phil and I started buying handguns a while ago, my questions before every purchase were, “Why do we need another gun?” and “What’s the purpose for this new gun?” Any purchase that exceeds our individual spending limit (which includes all of our gun purchases) have to be agreed upon by both of us. That means hubby needs my permission to make a purchase, and vice versa.
Once I became convinced that we needed to buy a gun for personal protection, I thought we would only need one gun. I figured it would be Phil’s concealed carry gun.
Shortly thereafter I agreed that after I became more comfortable with guns, I’d want a concealed carry gun for me, too. So the logical question for me at first was, “Which is the one best gun for me to carry?” Once we had the answer to that question, that’s what I would buy.
After much reading and research, we decided that we both wanted to carry a 9mm handgun. We judge it powerful enough to serve our needs with ammunition that was more affordable than other caliber options. We weren’t confident that a .22 (even a .22 magnum) would stop a threat, and a caliber bigger than a 9mm would be too much for a novice’s everyday carry (EDC) gun. So we decided that the best choice for us would be a 9mm semi-automatic.
But then Phil began to talk to me about the wisdom of buying a .22-caliber handgun first. “It’s a better gun to learn with,” he said. “Why not learn with the gun you’re going to carry every day?” I countered. Phil explained about the cost of ammunition. It’s significantly lower for a .22 than a 9mm, so the cost-effective way for new gun owners to become proficient at handling and shooting a handgun was to buy a .22 to use for most of our practice, and a 9mm for everyday carry. And we were both adamant that we become proficient with handguns before we began carrying one. That means lots of practice.
OK, I was now at the point where I could agree to two guns — with a plan to buy a third. We’d get a .22 for cheap practice, a 9mm carry gun for Phil, and eventually another 9mm for me to carry.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our first purchase was a Smith & Wesson Model 22A, the same gun that I used to pass my concealed carry license test. We call this gun “Ray” because with its long, flat-topped barrel it looks like a ray gun. But at that trip to the gun store, Phil found another gun that he wanted, one that didn’t fit neatly into our purchasing plan. It was too big and heavy to carry as an EDC gun and it was a .40-caliber, which is larger than the 9mm size we had agreed on. So I asked him, “What do we need this gun for?” Phil was ready with a convincing sales pitch, of course. Neither of us was trained enough to begin to carry a concealed weapon, but we had both gotten to the point where we agreed that we needed to have a gun in the house to protect ourselves. We weren’t comfortable depending on a .22 for that, so this big .40-cal Springfield XD would be our “home defense” gun. Since it wouldn’t be carried concealed, we could get one that was bigger, heavier, and more powerful than what we intended to eventually carry.
“OK,” I said, “I’ll go along with that.” So we bought “Dave.” And that’s two guns.
We started going to the range at least once a week to learn how to safely and competently use our new guns. While we felt that we weren’t really qualified to carry one yet, we quickly got to the point where we wanted to go shopping for what would become our EDC guns. Fortunately, our closest gun shop had a wide selection of carry guns to choose from.
After handling what seemed like dozens of candidates, we each arrived at a decision. Phil fell in love with a sexy little Italian, the Beretta Px4 Storm compact model in 9mm. (OK, I have to confess. Phil proofread this blog before posting. He’s the one that added the phrase “sexy little Italian” to describe his gun, not me.) Meanwhile, I found one that felt like it was custom-made for my hand — a thin and lightweight Ruger LC9. We gave our new guns names so we could talk about them in public places without alerting those around us what we were talking about. Phil’s Beretta became known as Betty and my Ruger LC9 was called Elsie.
For those of you who are keeping score, we’re up to four guns now: a practice .22 (Ray), a .40-caliber home defense gun (Dave), and two 9mm concealed carry guns (Betty and Elsie). Technically, two of them are mine, one is Phil’s and one is ours (if you’re really keeping score).
Our weekly dates at the range were a lot of fun, but they had an element of frustration to them, too. Spending half the time at the range waiting for my turn to shoot the .22 wasn’t my idea of a good use of my time or Phil’s. After several trips to the range I was saying (much to my husband’s delight), “OK, now I see why we need a second .22.” So it was back to the gun shop where Phil selected what would be his .22 practice gun, a Ruger SR22. Gun #5. He calls it the Blackbird.
How many guns do we need? I would think five would be more than enough, especially since just a few months earlier I thought one would be sufficient.
Well, not quite.
I loved the size and shape of Elsie, but every time I shot her my index finger got pinched between the trigger and the trigger guard, so much so that it caused a blood blister. We tried all kinds of things, including having a gunsmith shave a little off the tip of the trigger. Still, I couldn’t shoot it without getting my finger pinched. That meant I couldn’t practice with her, which in my book means I can’t reliably shoot her, which sadly meant that she ultimately wasn’t a good choice for me. (In reading numerous online gun forums, Phil found only one other person that has had that problem with the LC9…and Phil does a lot of reading.)
Let the novice gun buyer beware — the first gun (or holster) that you buy for any specific purpose is likely to not meet your needs the way that you hoped. Sometimes you have to live with a gun for a while to come to find its pluses and minuses. So it was with Phil and his beloved Beretta, too. He loved to shoot Betty, but she was just too thick for him to conceal easily. So Phil inherited my Elsie as his carry gun and we went shopping for a replacement for me to carry.
Despite my issues with Elsie, I had become a real Ruger fan. They tend to be very comfortable in my hand, they have a solid feel to them, and they’re very reasonably priced. One of Phil’s female co-workers had just bought a Ruger SR9c compact 9mm. I handled one at the gun shop and really liked the feel of it, but I was determined not to buy it without trying it first. They have a range in the basement of that store, so they let me test-fire it to see if it gave me the same finger pinching problems that I had with Elsie. It didn’t, so it went home with me that day. Gun #6. We called my new 9c “Nancy.”
I bought Nancy for a carry gun, but I soon found that Nancy was quite a lot bigger and heavier than my sleek little Elsie had been. It was like carrying a brick in my purse. Wearing it on my body was out of the question. This wasn’t going to work.
I didn’t want to get rid of her, but what’s the purpose of a gun that’s too big and heavy to carry concealed? To borrow a line of reasoning from Phil, Nancy became home defense gun #2. Our house has two floors plus a basement. We spend a lot of time on each of the three levels. I decided that I didn’t want to be in the basement and need to go to the bedroom on the second floor to get a gun if someone broke into the house. We work from home in an office in our basement. Having a weapon within reach during the many hours we spend at our desks is a wise practice, so Phil found a holster designed to be mounted on the bottom of my desktop. I love it!
But this repurposing of Nancy left me once again without a carry gun. My first EDC was now Phil’s EDC and my second one was now our office defense gun.
The hottest selling concealed carry gun at that time was the new Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. This was touted by many gun writers and a growing legion of owners as “the perfect gun.” Perfect in every way except availability. It was almost impossible to find one to even inspect, much less buy. Our favorite gun shop (for whom we were quickly becoming their favorite customers) couldn’t keep them in stock, but one of their salesmen was using the Shield as his EDC, and he let me check it out. I think they were right. This very well may be the perfect carry gun. I placed an order for one in 9mm (it also comes in .40-cal.) and waited four months for it to arrive.
A lot can change over the course of four months. I was elated when we got the call saying that my new Shield was ready to pick up, so much so that we left work early to go get it. Gun #7. But when we got it home I was surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to see just how large it was. It was bigger than I remembered it being in the store. Upon getting it home, I realized that yes, it was nice and thin like Elsie had been, but the overall height and length were bigger than Elsie.
I’ve been struggling with how to carry a concealed handgun. I really want to wear it on my body, rather than carrying it in a purse. But it seems that women’s bodies have more curves than men’s bodies and guns have more angles than curves. In other words, carrying a concealed weapon is much easier for men than women. As much as I wanted to carry the Shield, I just couldn’t find a way that worked for me except carrying in my purse.
So in the midst of my frustration, Phil began to do some more research and talked to me about considering a .380-caliber gun. A .380 bullet is the same diameter as a 9mm, but it’s shorter and therefore a bit less powerful. I was totally against this, largely for practical reasons. I didn’t want to have to buy and stock another kind of ammo. But Phil had just read an article in a gun magazine that put forth the argument for having guns of several different calibers as a hedge against scarcity of ammo in any specific caliber. If 9mm ammo is in short supply and all you have are 9mm guns, you’re in trouble. I’m sorry, but that argument didn’t convince me. I didn’t want to buy another gun. How many guns do we need???!!! (And perhaps it’s time for Phil to quit reading…)
Well, we went shopping for ammo one day and he dragged me over to the gun case to try out some .380s.
After handling a few different brands in a wide variety of prices, I found a great one, which happened to be the least expensive of the bunch! My new gun is a Taurus 738 TCP. It’s actually small enough for me to carry concealed on my person and I can shoot it well.
That’s now five guns that have been bought for me alone! A .22, three 9mm’s, and now a .380. All are still in service, all fulfilling different purposes. I’ve opted to keep the Shield because it’s a good gun and there will be times when I choose to carry it instead of the .380. And if you’re keeping score, we’ve bought two for Phil (a .22 and a 9mm) and an additional home defense gun (.40 cal). And that makes eight!
So the bottom line is that now we’ve got a bunch of guns in four different calibers. And I still consider each purchase to have been a wise one. Each one has a specific purpose. Some have been re-purposed, but we’ve found an appropriate use for each one.
How many guns do we need? Well, you might be surprised at your answer to that question. You might need a couple for different areas of your house. You might need a couple different sizes and calibers to accommodate the different type of clothes that you wear (summer, winter, casual, dressy).
Ask a woman how many purses she needs, or how many pairs of shoes she has. We know very well that we “need” more than one purse or pair of shoes for the different ways that we dress. I’ve come to understand that it’s the same with guns. Yes, it’s possible to make do with just one, but for many gun owners — especially women! — it’s pretty hard to find one single, all-purpose gun that works well for every situation or change of clothes. Owning multiple guns in multiple sizes and calibers just makes sense.
If you had told me a few years ago that I’d be OK with that, I’d have said, “Are you kidding me? How many guns do we need???!!!”
Wait a minute. I did say that. Times change.
PS: Don’t keep your guns in a pile like the photo. Treat them with respect. The photo is just an image.
PPS: Before we bought any guns, we attended an NRA Basic Handgun Safety and Ohio Conceal Carry class which included time at a range with the instructor. If you’re new to guns, we recommend training. I’m currently participating in a Women’s Action Pistol (WAP) class and we’re signed up for an NRA Home Protection class. The WAP is at the range and gives me practical experience drawing the gun and shooting in a fast but controlled manner, shooting while moving away from the target, and other good defensive shooting practices. The Home Protection class focuses on how to handle a gun for self protection in your home.
Women, if you have any interest in self defense (and you should), buy Personal Defense for Women by Gila Hayes. It is informative, instructional and encouraging. And it may save your life someday. No, the book won’t save your life, but it may begin or enhance a journey that one day saves your life.
I expected the entire book to be about handguns. I was wrong. Hayes uses the first 20% of the book helping to develop your survival mindset. We have grown up in a culture that doesn’t emphasize surviving, so it is not our first response. In life and death situations, first responses often determine the outcome. Hayes presents very logical and reasoned information that will begin to create a mindset that makes taking whatever action is necessary to survive. As Hayes puts it, “The will to fight has been trained out of socialized humans. If surprised by an assailant, do not expect some defensive instinct to surface automatically. If you have not confronted issues about your right to defend yourself, questions of legality and morality may be foremost in your mind, interfering with the concentration that should be directing your defense.” (page 40)
The author then turns to prevention and non-lethal means of self-defense. She covers safety and crime prevention in the home, on campus and at work. Her practical suggestions made me realize areas where I should make simple, inexpensive changes to reduce the likelihood of ever needing to use my self-defense skills – and that’s the goal of everyone who develops those skills. The information she provides on non-lethal methods of self-defense were largely new information for me. She identified several tools that can stun or stop an attacker giving you time to run to a safe location. (Tools that go well beyond the commonly given advice of carrying your keys in your hand and using them to jab at the eyes of your attacker.)
The final half of the book is dedicated to self defense with handguns. I began learning about and training with handguns about a year ago, so I am still a relative newbie. I found her review of the basics to be an outstanding refresher. I especially appreciated the discussion of the mechanics and physiology of recoil. While I have been taught about stance and how to hold the gun properly, I haven’t fully adopted what I was taught because it feels unnatural and quite frankly I was hitting my target better from a different stance and with a different grip. Hayes explained why the stance and grip I’ve been taught is important. It’s an important issue for women. Proper stance and grip minimize the recoil experienced by the shooter. That means my bones and joints are less stressed when I shoot and it means that I can reacquire my target faster. The first can save my body in the short run; the latter can save it should I ever need to shoot in self-defense. Now I’m motivated to let my accuracy suffer in the short-term while I practice a stance and grip that feels more unnatural but is healthier and safer.
The special attention she gives to women’s issues helped me understand things from a women’s perspective. For example, I have been struggling with the issue of concealed carry. Having only men around me to offer advice, I’ve developed this response to most of their solutions: “Men and guns have angles; women have curves. Therein lie my concealment issues.” In other words, all their advice worked well for men but not so well for women. Hayes offers practical advice based on her experience and the experience of her female friends.
As I said in the first paragraph, I recommend Personal Defense for Women by Gila Hayes. Women, buy it for yourself. Men, buy it for the significant women in your life – your girlfriend, mother, wife or daughters. It’s about more than hand guns – it’s about not becoming a victim.