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  1. #1
    cclaxton's Avatar
    cclaxton is offline Member
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    Jul 2011
    Northern Virginia

    Why do people think a 38 special is so great for women?

    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?

  2. #2
    Holly's Avatar
    Holly is offline Member
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    Oct 2011
    North Dakota
    I wish I could help you out on this one, but I have the same question myself.

  3. #3
    chessail77's Avatar
    chessail77 is offline Senior Member
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    Mar 2011
    White Mtns. in AZ
    Maybe the choice in handguns and caliber should be left to the person shooting it after the person has shot some to make better 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

  4. #4
    thndrchiken is offline Member
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    Oct 2011
    Recoil is subjective and I feel has more to do with fit of the firearm than the cartridge it's chambered for.

  5. #5
    VAMarine's Avatar
    VAMarine is online now Administrator
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    Dec 2008
    All I have to say about it has all ready been said HERE, and probably said better:

    It sucks.

    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

  6. #6
    chup's Avatar
    chup is offline Junior Member
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    Nov 2011
    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.

  7. #7
    Packard is offline Senior Member
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    Aug 2010
    Poughkeepsie, NY
    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.

  8. #8
    Flyboy_451 is offline Junior Member
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    Aug 2008
    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.


  9. #9
    denner's Avatar
    denner is online now Senior Member
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    Jun 2011
    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'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 07:58 PM.

  10. #10
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
    Steve M1911A1 is online now Senior Member
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    Feb 2008
    Northwest Washington State
    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.)

  11. #11
    scooter's Avatar
    scooter is offline Supporting Member - Legally Armed Scooter Trash
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    May 2006
    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).


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