Here are six recommendations for concealed-carry firearms for women as well as my reasoning for them. However, anyone considering carrying a firearm should also entertain these initial “six guidelines” as well, for in many cases, they will affect both gun choice and your method of carry. Choosing the right gun for your needs is obviously important, but clearly identifying and understanding your needs first is essential.
1) What activity will you be performing while carrying the gun? Walking? Driving? Running? Cycling? Something Else?
2) Where Are You Doing It? Home? Office? Public Places?
3) Who Are You Doing It With?
4) What About The Environment? Not only the weather but: Indoors? Outdoors?
5) Your Body Type and Physical Abilities
a) Frame Size, Height, Weight, Torso & Arm Lengths, Breast Size, Hip-to-Waist-Diameter-Ratio
b) Hand Strength, Dexterity, Range of Motion, Previous Injuries, Overall Physical Fitness
a) In most cases, your clothing will be dictated by all or some of the five items above.
b) Additionally, what you wear might be determined by personal preference as well
c) In either case, you have to think ahead about what you are wearing.
While one reads all kinds of articles these days about carrying big caliber and often high-capacity guns for personal defense, I tell people (male or female) to find something they are comfortable with in terms of fitting into their activities, mode(s) of dress and firing accurately under stress. Bigger is not always better. Finding something that you will always carry is best.
Major manufacturers such as Taurus and Smith & Wesson are selling more small-frame revolvers than ever before because of their size, light weight and ease of operation. A 2” barrel, 5-shot, .38 Special, internal hammer, Double-Action-Only (DAO) revolver is convenient as well as highly effective. A .357 is better if one can handle the recoil but loading it with .38 Specials is often a better choice. The lack of a hammer spur makes it less likely to get snagged on the draw and it eliminates the unnecessary single-action (SA) thumb-cocking that is out of place on a gun used for personal defense in the kinds of deadly force altercations that require a firearm as a response.
If recoil is an issue even with the .38’s, a six shot .22 Magnum like the Ruger LCR, loaded with any of the newer rounds that employ a faster burning powder to take advantage of shorter barrels, is a viable option. I would never attempt to suggest that the .22 Magnum is at all within the same level of performance as any of the .38 Special rounds that are also designed for personal defense out of shorter barreled handguns, but for someone who is sensitive to the blast, flash or recoil of the .38 Spl, it can be a useful alternative.
Some men or women can have an issue with the .38 Special, and the .22 Magnum simply allows them to make use of the advantages that the small-frame revolver can offer to anyone with that problem--a problem that, by the way, affects very few people, as the .38 Special is generally a controllable cartridge in a gun like this.
For certain applications, body types and modes of dress, a magazine-fed pistol rather than a rotating-cylinder revolver might be a better choice. In today’s marketplace, extremely small and thin 9 mm pistols (“flat” is the term used most often) make use of our country’s military cartridge but in handgun formats that are easily carried and tucked out of sight, and in loadings that employ bullet designs that were all but unheard of until a few years ago. These true “mini-9’s” as offered by Kimber, Ruger and S&W have represented a sea change in terms of serious performance in small packages, since they were introduced at the start of the current decade.
There is a bit more to learn when it comes to carrying a pistol instead of a revolver, but just saying that sounds scarier than it is and any more “work” (practice, actually) to become proficient with one is more than offset by its reduced bulk, improved ergonomics, pointability and ease of reloading. Again, when it comes to ammo sensitivity (and in this case, the possible need for something smaller still), a step downward to the .380 ACP cartridge finds extremely concealable pistols by companies like Taurus and Ruger launching the same bullet diameter (albeit in a less powerful round) with a noticeable reduction in recoil.
Moving in the other direction for those who can handle it and whose clothing and activities allow it, there are intermediate size pistols (generally positioned in-between the mini-guns we have discussed, and what are normally considered to be full size, “service” or “duty” firearms) again in 9 mm but also in .45 ACP. These slightly larger guns are not for everybody because of their dimensions and, for some, because of the slightly higher recoil of the bigger diameter .45 ACP. But for those who want the larger bullets of that caliber or a greater number of the 9’s within their magazine, these long established “compact” pistols from such firms as Glock, Sig Sauer and Springfield Armory might do well.