The first American Rifleman Ladies Pistol Project, conducted in summer of 2016, grew out of basic curiosity: Were certain guns that were regularly purported to be “good for women” just that—and if so, why?
To test the assertions that these guns, and several others, were indeed the trending favorites by many women, 35 women participated in an exhaustive range session, firing 18 handguns of various sizes, action types, weights and calibers, then offered feedback on each gun through individual surveys. The results of the project were announced in the Sept. 2017 issue of American Rifleman, and became the subject of an American Rifleman TV Show and live seminars at both the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Atlanta and the first NRA Carry Guard Expo in Milwaukee. The full article and results can be found at americanrifleman.org/ladiespistolproject.
The object of the study was to determine how easily women of various ages and hand sizes could operate the guns. How easy was it to reach the controls such as the magazine release, safety and slide stop? How easily could the women rack the slide? How did they perceive the recoil? Results were broken down by hand size.
Beyond the preferences of the guns used for the study, other interesting conclusions were drawn. The most interesting revelation was that women preferred semi-automatic pistols to revolvers, debunking one of the most common schools of thought about what constitutes the ideal firearm for a woman. The data also showed a preference for striker-fired pistols, with barrel lengths between 3.25” to 4.2”, and pistol weights between 20 to 20 ozs.
Ladies Pistol Project II* In the summer of 2017 Ladies Pistol Project II commenced, which focused primarily on .380 ACP and 9 mm semi-automatic pistols that might be used for concealed carry. The number of pistols was increased to 24, and the number of female participants rose to 55.
*Ladies Pistol Project II was proctored by NRA Publications' Firearm Inventory Manager Karie Thomas, an NRA Pistol Instructor, competitive shooter and passionate Second Amendment/personal-protection proponent. Ammunition was provided by Aguila Ammunition and Federal Premium Ammunition.Results compiled and tabulated by Thomas are as follows:
Analysis The Glock 19 had the highest averages of the 24 pistols. Overall, the women showed an equal preference for the placement of features on the SIG Sauer P238, the Glock 19 and the SIG Sauer 938. For ease of use, the Glock 19 fared the highest. In terms of comfort and feel, the women chose the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (Performance Center model), as well as the Walther PK380. The pistol that more women said they would purchase and carry is the Glock 19.
Women prefer 9 mm to .380 cal.
Women prefer 3.25” or greater length barrel Women prefer a gun with a weight of 20 oz. or more
Women are divided on SAO, but prefer striker-fired pistols
Women prefer greater than 6 lb but less than 7 lb. trigger pull
Women preferred the pistols that cost more than $500 (the women were not advised of price in advance)
An important correlation that can be drawn from Ladies Pistol Project II is that the results validated the results from LPP I. While various sizes of handguns were included in the first study, the sample guns in LPP II were decidedly smaller in order to focus semi-automatic pistols that might be used for concealed carry. In both studies the data shows that women prefer a larger handgun in terms of weight and barrel length.
Thus, when fitting a handgun to a particular woman, consideration much be given to the specifications of a pistol as opposed to which specific pistol the women preferred.
Methodology for LPP II followed similar protocol as in LPP I:
The length and circumference of the dominant hand were measured to determine hand size
Each shooter reviewed firearm safety rules and fundamentals of pistol shooting
The features of each pistol and ideal method of carry were highlighted
Pistols were fired in a different order than previous shooters to eliminate fatigue as a factor when determining results
Ammunition and magazines were distributed to participants
Participants were required to load magazines, pistols, engage the safety (when applicable), fire the pistol, release the magazine, rack the slide, then lock open the action
Participants completed a True/False survey (shown here), and answers were converted to binary (1 for Truer; 0 for false). “N/A” answers for questions that referred to an external safety, for example, were given a “1.” Otherwise, it received a zero if there were a safety and received a “False” answer.
The highest possible score a pistol could receive was 18
Which Pistols Were Included?
By the Numbers
Female Participants: 55 Pistols: 24 Combined Range Time: 90 Hours Rounds Fired: 6,500 Highest Possible Score: 18
Right-handed: 91 percent
Left-handed: 9 percent
8 pistols chambered in .380 ACP
16 pistols chambered in 9 mm
Result: Participants preferred 9 mm to .380 ACP by a 2 to 1 margin
12 of the pistols had barrel lengths between 2.58” and 3.25
12 of the pistols had barrel lengths between 3.25 and 4.2” (3 had barrel lengths > 4”)
All of the pistols with 4” or greater barrels were in the top 12.
Result: Participants preferred guns with barrel lengths of 3.25” or greater
Pistol Weight (with empty magazine)
12 of the pistols weighed between 10 oz. and 19 oz.
12 of the pistols weighed between 20 oz. and 28 oz.
Result: Participants preferred pistols that weigh 20 oz. or greater
DA/SA: 3 pistols
DAO: 6 pistols
SAO: 4 pistols
Striker: 11 pistol
Results: Participants prefer striker-fired pistols; participants dislike DAO and DA/SA pistols; participants are evenly divided on SAO pistols.
6 pistols had a 5-6 lb. trigger pull
8 pistols had a 6.01 lb. to 7 lb. trigger pull
10 pistols had a trigger pull greater than 7 lbs. Result: Participants prefer trigger weights greater than 6 lbs. but less than 7 lbs.
Price (participants were not informed in advance of price)
7 pistols had MSRP of $250-$399
10 pistols had MSRP of $400-$4
7 pistols had MSRP of $500 or more
Results: Participants dislike pistols in $250-$399 range Participants are evenly split on pistols ranging from $400-$499 Participants prefer pistols that cost $500 or more
Hand Size More than half of the participants in LPP II had medium-sized hands, which equates to a man’s small hand size. “Top 5” Results were compiled for small, medium and large women’s hand size.
Age The participants ranged in age from 20 to 72, with most falling into the 37 to 54 bracket. As we age, our hand strength, dexterity and overall health changes and can affect our ability to perform the functions necessary to run a pistol. Thus the “Top 5” for each age bracket is also different. The data showed that women aged 20-36, 37-54 and 70+ prefer the Glock 19; women in the 55-69 age group preferred the SIG Sauer P238.
Experience Level Experience in shooting and gun handling can influence preferences as well. In LPP II, it was determined that more than half of the participants shoot pistols only one to five times annually. Hence, the “Top 5” for each experience level is also different. The data showed that women who train weekly prefer the Springfield XD-S 9 mm 3” barrel, and the women who train monthly or yearly prefer the Glock 19.
How Often Do They Shoot? Six of the women reported training on a weekly basis; 20 said they trained on a monthly basis; and 28 said they trained on a yearly basis.