Sunday, September 18, 2011

For Women: Firearms

It’s an appealing movie image: a beautiful but determined woman blazing away with any number of weapons, mowing down foes unflinchingly, firing shotguns freehanded, making impossible shots with .45 s held at impractical angles.

The reality is somewhat different. Very few men can handle weapons the way they do in the movies, and women, due to their lighter frames, shorter stature and smaller hands, are at even more of a disadvantage. Unfortunately, few survival writers take this into account, preferring to pontificate on the ‘best’ weapons and calibers regardless as to their suitability for use by females.

There are a number of things women can do to ensure they are armed with effective weapons that they can handle comfortably. We’ll start with firearms, since that is probably the most ‘macho’ of weapons, and where women have been most poorly served.

First, ignore the bleating of the gun aficionados that argue for a particular caliber or make of weapon. The proper firearm, for men as well as women is the one you can handle comfortably and can use effectively. For women, this comes down to two main issues: recoil and size of weapon. First, firearms such as rifles and shotguns tend to have stocks sized with a particular proportion between butt and fore grip. For some women of shorter stature, this makes for an awkward hold that will affect accuracy and lead to excessive fatigue.

If custom stocks are not an option, you may need to look for weapons particularly sized for women or perhaps the youth market. As well, look at moving down in caliber if necessary. I’d rather have a woman making comfortable, aimed and effective shots with a Ruger 10/22 than doing spray and spray with a heavier weapon unsuited to her.

And that brings us to recoil. If the weapon is of sufficient caliber, it will literally shift a small shooter backwards. I have seen this on a particularly small girl at a range. After every three or four rounds shooting prone, she had to squirm back to her original firing position. She was game, but the weapon she had was obviously far too heavy for her, and she wound up with some spectacular bruises to show for it. Given a long enough time, the bruising recoil will eventually make a shooter shy of the weapon, making effective aim very problematic.

Finally a word about weapon caliber. While you want the most effective round you can get, remember that a light round that hits the target is far more preferable than a clean miss. In fact, in some circumstances, a smaller round may be more devastating. In the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the United States, it is thought that had she been shot with a less penetrating round, the bullet would have caused more damage internally rather than exiting.

In conclusion, the rifle or shotgun for women is one which is comfortable to hold and to shoot, which they can use with accuracy, preferably with a largish magazine capacity. Everything else is at best secondary.

Handguns are also a problem for some women. Grips tend to be sized for male hands, and again, much BS floats about with regards to caliber and make. The same advice applies: use heaviest comfortable caliber (or even one less), good magazine capacity, comfortable to hold. As I said before, caliber doesn’t really matter. I’ve seen a variety of handguns carried by women, including a seven shot .22 caliber automatic called the Escort. Known as a ‘purse’ gun or ‘belly’ gun, the barrel is so short that it is wildly inaccurate beyond a few feet (hence the ‘belly gun’ appellation: you stick it in the opponents belly and pull the trigger.) It is far from ideal, but I’d rather see that carried than nothing at all. At least if the lady carrying it manages to get several rounds into an attacker, it will likely do the job.

Again, custom models, smaller calibers and so on are all options in handguns as well. As well as sizing the gun to the user, it is important that there is enough training undertaken to make the woman confident and capable in whatever weapon she is carrying.

All in all, there is no reason why women should not be as effectively armed as the men in your group. Anything less is putting your life and theirs at risk.

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