There's a lot of information and opinion out there on carry guns, what, how and why. A lot of it is very good and some is downright awful. I think the final selection for a self defense gun is dependant on a few things. Shooter experience, needs, strengths, weaknesses and comfort level. Now add in caliber, reliability, ammunition capacity, price (and budget) and local laws. Throw it all in a big bowl, stir well and voila! A new gun is added to armory. Here's Lu's choice (and it was her choice) with the reasoning that went into it.
That's a Smith and Wesson Model 642, aka an Airweight. Price out the door was $421.00.
Caliber: .38 Special +p rated
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Barrel Length: 1.875″
Front Sight: Integral Front
Rear Sight: Fixed
Grip: Rubber Grips
Frame: Small – Centennial Style
Overall Length: 6 3/8″
Material: Alloy/Stainless Steel
Weight Empty: 15 oz.
We looked at a lot of guns but the choices came down to three. The Ruger LC9, the Kahr PM9 and the Airweight. We already have a Sig P230 and my little Glock 26 but I don't particularly care for the .380 and the Glock is a bit large for Lu to tote around. Lu handled them all and has shot the Sig and Glock (as well as the rest of my semi auto pistols) and there the issue finally became obvious to me. She's massively uncomfortable with the semi auto pistols.
It's completely my fault. I spent so much time shooting, going to shooting schools and instructing others on all things shooting that I neglected her training and familiarization. Too busy with my career and subconsciously doing what I think a lot of other gunnies out there are guilty of. Assuming that everyone else is as nuts about guns as we are and that simple instruction will carry the same weight as regular range time and bullets down range. Oddly enough, it's not so.
I noticed that whenever I took Lu out to shoot one of the high capacity bullet hoses she immediately showed trepidation and hesitation. She'd take a gun she's shot before and handle it like it was about to sprout poison spikes. I could see the consternation and uncertainty on her face. I chalked it up to simple nerves and concentration and went on with the lesson, blithely confident that she was soaking up the instruction the same way I, or any serious gunny, would have. Contrast that with her handling of the revolvers. Then she was confident, smiling, happy and in control. Her favorite is her stainless Vaquero which should have told me something way sooner than it did.
Lu is a product of her environment and experience, just like the rest of us. She was raised on bolts, levers and revolvers. Our early life together was a continuation of those experiences as that was what was out there and what we could afford. When I transitioned to the world of semi autos I failed to take her along with me. Again, it's that gunny in me and the assumption I made that she'd simply absorb it all by osmosis or something. But she didn't. She's not a gunny. Oh, she loves to shoot and can do so very well. She loves her guns and the time we spend together making money into smoke, holes and broken bottles. But she's not a gun nut. She doesn't spend hours with the Cabela's catalogue or on the internet browsing forums and gun blogs. She doesn't read and remember everything she sees on the subjects of caliber, ballistics, holsters, ammunition performance, etc. ad infinitum. She likes the things she's comfortable with and knows well. She loves her lever and pump and Vaquero. She's not out there looking for the latest and greatest super duper whiz bang bullet hose and tactical ninja rig. She likes wood and steel and things she can understand without 40 hours of intense instruction. She's great under pressure but, like all of us, pressure she is equipped to deal with. Give her an emergency within the bounds of her competence and she's amazing. Take her out of her comfort zone and she's hesitant, uncertain and slow. We're all like that to one degree or another but we tend to forget when what we're talking about is near and dear to us. Like guns to gunnies.
But in the world of self defense handguns hesitant, uncertain and slow are threats to life and limb and that is unacceptable. Here's an example. When I took Lu out to shoot, say the Sig 226, I'd go over basic safety rules and hand her the gun. I'd go over the manual of arms, have her load up and point her at the target. You could see the wheels turning. I'd tell her "It's ready. There's no safety. Just point and shoot. When it's empty reload and do it again." She trusted me but always acted like there were things she was afraid to forget. She'd look at the controls as if she was supposed to know what they all did but didn't. In my arrogance I put it down to insufficient trigger time (as was indeed the case) but that wasn't the crux of the issue.
She liked shooting those guns but was afraid to trust her life to her ability to manipulate it correctly and competently in a crisis. Shooting for fun is one thing. Shooting for self defense is something altogether different. That was the heart of the matter.
By the time I realized my massive failing (and it is mine, not hers) it was very late in the game. We're in Utah now, not california and though the need for a CCW might not be as dear here as it was there, here we could actually get her a CCW as opposed to the People's Republic where we could not. And I was determined that she was going to have the option of going about armed. Now what?
Training was a potential solution but again, she's not a gunny. But she was competent on those things she knew well and was comfortable with. Bolts, levers, pumps and revolvers. She liked the bullet hoses on the range and within the narrow confines of no pressure shooting. Not so much when the pressure to perform got ratcheted up. Not her fault, it's not even a fault, it's just how she was built based on her experience and training (or lack of. Again, that's on me). So together we went shopping. A search for her perfect carry gun. The journey took us in a specific direction but I was determined that she'd have all the knowledge she needed to make an informed and comfortable decision. She shot every pistol we had and handled those we didn't. We left nothing out from semis to modern revolvers to SAA. It was very instructive for me. Now that I (finally) knew what to look for I could see it on her face every time she even handled a gun. With the pistols she was consistently hesitant and uncertain. With the revolvers she was happy, enthusiastic and confident. In the end she chose the Airweight.
She loved it from the very first time she picked it up. You could see her face light up immediately. Here was a small, lightweight handgun with technology she could understand and manipulate with confidence and speed. I let her choose, right down to the laser. The model comes from the factory either with or without a Crimson Trace laser. She chose no laser. The grip just feels better to her and comfort relates directly to shooting speed and accuracy. I'm good with that. All things mechanical will eventually fail and in that event your shooting skills will make the difference. It's also in a major caliber and since I'm a handloader I can tailor her ammunition to her abilities and needs. Done. Bought and out the door. Lu was giggly with delight.
We took it out on her birthday and ran a few cylinders through it. She's in love. How much so? The DO came out with us and brought her 2 1/2 inch 66. After shooting both Lu remarked that she no longer liked shooting the 66, a gun she used to adore. Stacked against her new Airweight it wasn't even close. Heck, I like it so much I'm considering buying one of my own and retiring the baby Glock. I'm definitely selling the Sig P230. She even did reloads sans speedloaders or strips with speed and aplomb. She manipulates it like it's an extension of her hand. This gun is right smack dab in the middle of her wheelhouse and darn if that girl didn't hit it right out of the park.
It's hard for me to convey how I feel about both my dereliction in her pistol training and my massively incorrect assumptions about her comfort levels with the tools I provided her with. For years I sent her out in the world with a Glock 19 she was ill equipped to defend herself with. My fault. Mine. I've learned a great deal from this though and am taking those lessons to heart. I hope I'm now a better husband and instructor than I was. Frankly, it'd be hard for me to have failed any more completely and a worse failure, in this context, doesn't bear dwelling on. If you're an instructor, whether for family or the larger public, it bears thinking on.
But now the ship has been righted. A few more range sessions and she'll be ready for her CCW class. I sent an e-mail to Michael at Michaels Custom Holsters and a new carry holster for a J Frame Smith will soon be in the outing. Anyone know the proper speedloaders and a good source? Like I said, the girl loves her new gun and wants all the cool stuff for it. It's incredible what happens when you couple the right shooter with the right tool. Amazing.
I feel incredibly good this morning. I've managed to correct a horrible oversight and equip my beloved with a tool that may save her life. That she loves it is pure icing. Today, I am a better gunny.
PS: One thing I forgot to include. In California my wait for a gun was 10 days. I asked the clerk how long the wait here was and he said "It usually runs about 30 minutes but after the first time it's much shorter." Gotta love living in Free America!