I wish I could help you out on this one, but I have the same question myself.
I was at a BUG match last weekend and saw a woman shoot her very nice S&W .38 special with a 3" barrel. She could barely hit the targets. She eventually gave up the match. When I asked her, she said she can't handle the recoil.
Then, I am at the gun show and a salesman suggests to a woman to buy a .38 special snub-nose revolver. I didn't say anything, but that is a horrible idea. I have shot my brothers .38 special and I found recoil very difficult to manage....on a full-sized revolver.
I just don't understand the perception that a .38 special revolver is such a great gun for women. My girlfriend would rather shoot my fullsized 9mm than the S&W Bodyguard 380 because of recoil. There are a lot of better guns for women to shoot with more manageable recoil and one they will practice and get good at, including revolvers and semi-autos.
The bottom line is this: If she won't practice and will not enjoy shooting the gun because of recoil and she cannot hit the target 4 out of 5 shots, then what good is it?
Maybe someone can explain how we got to this point?
I wish I could help you out on this one, but I have the same question myself.
Maybe the choice in handguns and caliber should be left to the person shooting it after the person has shot some to make better choices.......do I pick out a bra for my wife (only at Victoria's Secret after several female sales clerks have modeled it for me...I wish)......JJ
Recoil is subjective and I feel has more to do with fit of the firearm than the cartridge it's chambered for.
All I have to say about it has all ready been said HERE, and probably said better:
A lightweight .38 snubnosed revolver is quite possibly the worst choice for a potential new gunchick because, you know what? Practicing with one enough to actually be able to hit your target is the opposite of fun. The recoil hurts, your hand goes numb, and if the trigger is heavy, JMB help you...your finger will be sore and red long after your trip to the range. You'll be tempted to give up and let your "best gun for a woman" collect dust in a drawer somewhere
I think in general people feel if a Woman can't handle a Semi-Auto Slide, the Revolver is the way to go. 38 Special is a good caliber. The biggest problem is, in my opinion, nobody takes the time to fit the gun to them. If that Lady had the correct grips to absorb recoil and fit her hand and the correct load that did not have a lot of recoil, she would be able to handle the gun much better. Take a J-Frame. It's a great gun. Guys buy them for their Wives and she can't hit anything with it. Put a little bigger grip on it to fit her hand and take the sting away. Dry fire the living crap out of it for her and smooth out the action. Start her out with a light load at first. 110 to 130 grain standard 38 Special. Paint the front sight so they can see it easy. When it is time to shoot, put the target 10 feet away and let her start close in. Before shooting, draw a picture of a set of sights so she knows what it looks like to have a proper sight picture. I could go on but, you get the idea.
I've recommended a S & W 351C for women. It shoots .22 magnums which carry about the same power as a .32, some claim close to a .380 but I don't think so.
Product: Model 43 C
It carries 7 rounds.
It weighs 11 ounces.
It is as reliable as the ammo is. (Premium factory rimfire is pretty good.)
No hammer to snag. So it can be pocket carried.
The .22 magnum has almost no recoil, but a lot of noise.
There are several new .22 magnum loads designed for 2" barrels.
Downside: The cost of ammo is the same as most center fire ammo. Not cheap like .22RF ammo.
Overall, I think this is a good choice. It is far more reliable than very small semi-autos, simpler to operate and simpler to clean. I would not put tens of thousands of rounds through the all aluminum cylinder--I think that cleaning it that often will cause a lot of wear. But it is guaranteed for life. You might have to send it back to the mother ship pretty often if you fire thousands of rounds through it.
But if I were to want that much practice I would get the .22RF sister and the cost of ammo would quickly pay for the extra gun.
The first thing that I would ask of anyone who has difficulty managing the recoil of a .38 special is "Have you sought out and received instruction from a competent instructor?" If you are trying to teach yourself, or learn from your significant other that happens to be a shooter, I would bet that the problem is in what is being taught, or rather, what is not being taught. Proper technique is full of subtleties that are difficult to spot and teach unless the instructor is first aware of them, and second competent at teaching. Being a good shot is not the same as being a good instructor.
Then I would ask about what gun, and what load you find objectionable. Except for pretty extreme cases; very lightweight guns, poor fit to the hand, or well below average hand and arm strength, recoil management has more to do with proper technique than physical traits of the shooter. In nearly 20 years of providing firearms instruction, I have yet to find a person that could not be taught to comfortably manage the recoil of a .38 in anything but the lightest of guns.
I do agree that it is not the best practice to recommend that a new shooter, male or female, begin with a small frame, lightweight revolver in .38, but this can be a very reasonable choice as long as it is prefaced with good instruction. While such guns are not particularly fun to shoot, they are not so miserable that they cannot be used to teach someone. The instructor makes more difference than the gun.
My sister in law has a lady smith 38 special and she can outshoot me and my brother, a true dead eye with the pistol w/ or without the laser, she shoots it better than any of the semi's they own. She's just not comfortable racking slides and never complains about the 38 recoil. I bought a S&W 637 for my mother, I tried semi's w/ her and that was a no go. Her finger did get sore and she was having problems squeezing the trigger in DA after about 20 rounds but did fairly well shooting it. The recoil is snappy and I like the Pachmayer's to help in that department. It's strickly a home defense pistol. The benefit of the 38 special revolver for those who generally won't be shooting any pistol but once a year is that you pick it up, aim, and squeeze the trigger. No racking slides, seating magazines, old spring fatigue, clearing jams etc......it's not an all day range pistol by any means, but it will do the job in it's simplicity and does it well. She shoots the pistol more than adequate and I for one would not want to be on the wrong end of her little 637. . The reason many believe the 38 special is good for women(myself included) is that it is the most simplistic, safe, and reliable platform to be had, especially for those who won't shoot it but once or twice a year and offers a cailber that has some thump.
Last edited by denner; 02-14-2012 at 08:58 PM.
Why do people think a .38 Special is so great for women?
Mostly this whole idea is the fault of the "gunshop commandoes" who have read somewhere that the .45 semi-auto is "too much gun" for even the menfolk.
Not that any of these fools have ever shot a pistol, or, if they've shot them, none of them have had any success doing so. That's why they're "gunshop commandoes," rather than knowledgeable shooters.
They think that "You need a little gun for the little lady."
Well, the .38 Special revolver could be OK for a woman who is learning to shoot, but it should have a relatively long barrel, it should be relatively heavy, and it should have carefully-fitted, hand-filling grips.
It definitely should not be "a little gun for the little lady."
Short-barrelled .38s with small, concealable grips recoil with a vicious snap.
This is not the sort of gun for a beginner.
(The other answer to "Why do people think a .38 Special is so great for women?" is: It's not necessarily the best, because you can hunt women with almost any reasonably-powerful handgun.)
I think a fair part of that comes from years gone by, My mother kept a ruger357 wit 4" bbl in her nightstand and pop had the ruger 44mag.
No insult or intention to demean ANYONE but the women of yesteryear were considerably more "hardy" than today.
Hell my youngest sister has a colt 45 with a 5.5" bbl and Ill bet she can out shoot a lot of people here(me too sometimes).
I have personally recommended revolvers to women, but based on certain reasons. My ex-wife, who was a big woman, could shoot a .45 revolver without any problems. BUT she couldn't load a Beretta 92 magazine OR work the slide. She wanted a .38 Special. BUT I would NEVER recommend any snub-nosed or Alloy framed revolver.-a 4in or more steel model is better And I would recommend they go to the local range and rent one first to see how she liked it.
Old thinking. Most men think women are incompetent when it comes to guns. Anyone who thinks all women need to start with a .38 revolver is really saying they are sexist, and probably incompetent.
My wife and I shop at gun shops together, and we've experienced such nonsense from sales reps just trying to obtain their commission by quickly duping what they mistakenly considered to be just another dumb woman.
.22 rimfires and .380s are recommended for women about as much as .38s. We've had the Glock 42 shoved in our faces at three different shops so far before my wife purchased her Glock 19/G4, which she has become quite proficient with; even when using +P+ ammo.
Lee, my first recommendation to most anyone, woman or man, who has never shot a pistol is the Glock 19. I'm partial to the Gen4 b/c the grip is a little smaller, which fits my hand better than the previous generations, but it is quite simply the best CC platform in my opinion. I have the Glock 42, and love it, but it isn't what I would recommend for a first time gun buyer. My wife chose the M&P Shield in 9mm, but her out shooting my Glock 17 and 26. She did NOT like the 26, but she loves my Glock 17. We rented the Shield, and she liked it best for her EDC gun, and I traded my G26 on a Shield for her, and I bought a Glock 19 for myself. She is a petite 5'3" at 120lbs.
Yeah -- wife usually asks those kinds of pushy idiots how their choice of guns matches up to "her other two". Gets lot of surprised looks when she mentioned they are a H&K P30 and a P229.
Both fine choices.
I've been trying to interest my wife in shooting for over 40 years. She has nothing against guns and is afraid of almost nothing, much less a little recoil. The first handgun she ever took an interest in was a 4" S&W Model 10 (good taste, I think), so I coaxed her to the range with it, and then got her to shoot my Model 63 .22 first. She shot it at 7 yards until the bulls eye was obliterated, so I moved her up to the .38 and she continued to shoot well with it, without even a comment on the recoil, which was light and smooth.
The point, here, is that she can now operate a double-action revolver, in an extreme emergency. Ideally, she would practice with me, a lot, and become proficient with a variety of guns. But, it ain't gonna happen. She is perfectly content that she can operate any one of several revolvers I have, and even hit where she aims, up close. This is a small victory in itself, and if I can just drag her out to shoot occasionally (just to 'humor' me), I may eventually turn her into a decent marksman.
Could I have had this modest success with her, with a semi-auto? Maybe, but in her mind they are complicated and ugly, and she has no real interest in shooting, anyway, so learning to rack the slide and load the magazines, however simple, were just things she considered annoying. However incorrect the idea that revolvers are simpler may be, many people hold this idea and won't be shaken from it because they don't really care, one way or the other.
So, I say (for these people), that it makes more sense to play to their pre-conceived notions than to try to force-feed them something they won't stick with and try to master. Besides, .38 Special is good enough for many self-defense scenarios, and that's a net gain from being completely at the mercy of someone stronger than you.
My wife now isn't really a gun enthusiast, but she wants to have her own and she has learned to shoot it. She doesn't take it with her everywhere like I take mine, but she is proficient enough to use it when she feels the need, and it isn't a revolver.
The Model 10 is a fine pistol, btw.
Most counter salesmen are just playing to the somewhat common idea that women want something small and pretty that they can immediately understand how it works. In my age group (over 60), that is a sales formula that has been fairly productive for them. A woman that likes practicing will quickly discover that there are other very good options, but a lot of them never progress that far. For them, a .38 snub-nose or a Bersa .380 may be good enough, with some luck on what kind of attacker they 'draw.'