Handguns for Women – What a woman needs to know before she buys a gun

Posted by on Feb 12, 2012 in Articles | 6 comments

Ladies, as a female who once knew nothing about guns or shooting, I’ve been in your shoes and I understand how confusing and intimidating buying a handgun can be.  If a woman has little to no experience with handguns or shooting, shopping for and purchasing the right handgun can be a challenging task.  If this is a new endeavor for you, you may go into a gun store and not even really know what questions you should ask about what to buy.   You may receive lots of well intended advice about what’s best for you from the sales person, your neighbors, your co-workers, your brother/son/husband, etc.  All of this advice is definitely good to take into consideration but don’t be sold or persuaded into making a purchase you don’t feel is right for YOU.  You may also already have a preconceived notion of what you believe would be best based on magazine articles you’ve read, what you’ve seen on television, or internet research you’ve done.

However, if you have not already done so, please take into consideration a few things:

What is your PRIMARY reason for wanting to purchase a handgun?  Is it for concealed carry, for home defense, for backyard plinking (where it is legal and SAFE), or to get involved in target shooting or competition, etc?  Do you live alone?  (ALWAYS take safety precautions into consideration if you have small children or minors in your house!)  If you are new to shooting, are going to make a future handgun purchase, or you intend to take a class to get your North Carolina concealed carry permit, I STRONGLY recommend you take a class with John.  He provides you an opportunity to shoot 10 different handguns of different sizes and calibers so you know what you like and don’t like before you actually purchase your own gun.  It also gives you the chance to become comfortable with shooting before you must perform your shooting qualifications test for a concealed carry class.

What is YOUR level of experience?

Do you understand the different calibers of ammunition (.22, .380, 9mm, .40, .45, 38, 357 – to name a few) and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each in relation to recoil?

Will you commit yourself to PRACTICE with your handgun?  Practice = competence = confidence!

How much are you willing to SPEND on this investment?  Remember, after you purchase your handgun, consider the cost of ammunition (some calibers are more expensive than others), extra magazines, a holster, paying for range time, and other additional items you may want such as a sturdy gun belt, a pistol bag or pistol box, buying and having installed different front or rear sights, a gun safe for your home, etc.

Do you prefer a revolver or a semi-automatic handgun?  Both are excellent choices depending on your need and your comfort level in manipulating and shooting a pistol.  Revolvers are easier to manipulate but will limit your ammunition capacity to five or six rounds.  Semi-automatics handguns, depending on the size (subcompact, compact, full size), can increase how many rounds you have available but take more practice and understanding to load and get to a ready condition depending on whether it has external safeties.

Purchasing a handgun is an important decision and it’s best to make the right decision the first time.  John and I are both avid competition shooters, NRA Certified Instructors, USPSA Range Officers, IDPA Safety Officers, and co-founders of ZSA.  Let us help to give you the knowledge you need to make an informed, confident choice and teach you the fundamentals of gun safety!

Mel giving pointers

Mel giving pointers

Mel Zaczek

Learn more about training with John in and around the Raleigh NC area at JohnZSR.com, or call 919-397-3960.


  1. I don’t know if it’s possible to make the right choice the first time if you’re new to handguns. As you mature as a shooter you’ll want different things from your tool. I went through 5 different pistols before I settled on the one I had. Not because I’m flaky or indecisive, because the more I trained, the more I found I needed. Essentially… what we perfect for me 5 years ago is NOT perfect for me now.

    • Thanks for the observation, we appreciate the feedback! As you said, as you mature as shooter your preferences may change and you may later want to graduate from one gun to another. However, from what I’ve personally seen with new shooters or with individuals who have no experience with guns, they are persuaded to buy a gun that someone else thinks they should have but may not be best for them. We really want to give those who are seeking it an amount of knowledge and understanding about what to look for and what questions to ask, so that they can form their own opinion of what’s best. When I was working in a gun store, on many occasions I dealt with females who came in wanting to sell a gun they’d bought because they’d been told it was best for them, and as soon as they shot 25 or 30 rounds from it they absolutely did not like it and wanted to get rid of it. What a shame! We just don’t want anyone to start off with a negative experience. John and I really just hope to give assistance and help to anyone who has questions but don’t know where to get answers!

  2. Thanks for posting this for I have seen so many women show up at the range with a gun they were “told” to get that they can not rack or like to shoot. If you don’t enjoy your first gun you will not shoot enough to be competent in shooing it.

  3. I live a bit too far to get up to Oxford for a class. I sure do appreciate the information, here; too darn many people don’t understand the timidity that many women have to overcome in order to commit to a gun purchase. I’ve felt what Crystal said, and I’m glad she verified the instinct that what I start with doesn’t have to be what I’ll “grow up” to use.

  4. Fabulous article! This asks a lot of very important questions that every one should consider before buying a gun, male or female.

    • Thank you for your positive comment! The mission John and I have is to dedicate our efforts to helping all those in the shooting community, and especially to mentor and empower women who want to become responsible and confident gun owners!


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