I was helping teach a firearms familiarization class for spouses at my gun club around the year 2000. The class was oriented toward spouses who had little familiarity with firearms at all. Unsurprisingly, I was doing the handgun portion. The course of fire we had laid out was very basic, just a familiarization fire, nothing demanding at all, given the projected audience.
One of the attendees was a petite lady who brought along the gun her husband had given her for home defense and concealed carry; it was a .45 Colt Commander. She could hardly get her hand around the gun. The pistol was not particularly reliable as she shot it and I had to clear several malfunctions for her. He had never gone over the manual of arms for the pistol in any depth with her. Being the inquisitive type, I asked her if I could shoot it, which she readily agreed to. It didn’t run for me either. It was loaded with the ammunition he had given her, which appeared to be a handloaded H&G #68 lead SWC. I commented to her that perhaps a different pistol would be in order for her. She asked if I would tell her husband that because he was at the club that day and I told her I would be happy to.
At the clubhouse, I spoke to him and commented that the pistol didn’t run very reliably. He admitted he had handloaded some ammunition ‘a little lighter’ for her. I also told him that a different pistol all together might be in order for her. He said: “I was thinking that myself; I’m going to get her an H&K USP Compact in .40.”
Although most likely it fell on deaf ears, my reply was: “Well, I was thinking something more like a Beretta in .380.” I don’t know what the end result was.
For me, that was the beginning of the end of recommending full size service pistols for novice shooters and non-dedicated personnel. The gun has to fit the person and their lifestyle or it’s simply not useful as a tool. While not malicious in intent, the end result of that gentleman’s ‘choice’ for her was not really far removed from those idiots that we see on YouTube who give a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with magnum buckshot to a first time woman shooter.
As a long time “disciple” of Vicki Farnam and her teaching methods, I have focused on teaching women how to shoot for over a dozen years. I have seen this same scenario play out dozens of times. A well meaning spouse or boyfriend will purchase a handgun for their significant other which is totally inappropriate. Super light weight .38 Spl snub nosed revolvers are very common. I use lots of shoe analogies when talking to women and their well meaning partners. I explain that buying a firearm is like buying shoes, you need to try on several before making a purchase. Small, “cute,” handguns are like high heels, they may look good but they aren’t a whole lot of fun to wear, or shoot in the case of the handgun. And, just like high heels the small “cute” gun will probably end up in the closet, rarely used. Firearms, like shoes, need to be selected for their specific purpose and the buyer needs to understand the pros and cons before making a poor decision.