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One Woman’s Choice for a Personal Defense Weapon

When you read all the articles on the different types of guns and what’s recommended for self-defense and home defense, you come away with only one conclusion: there’s a differing opinion and rationale for each point of view presented. Of course opinions are like writers – there’s one around every corner! Being a woman, my perspective is a little different than my male counterparts on the site. However, I feel it’s a uniquely female position on the issue, and I’d like to share it with our readers.

First of all, I’m not an Annie Oakley. I don’t take my pistol out and shoot it on a daily (or even weekly!) basis. I’m a mom, and a working mom at that. My “spare” time is spent folding laundry, grocery shopping, helping the kids with their homework, cooking supper and trying to stay ahead of the dust bunnies in my house. What little bit of time I have, after escorting the kids to all their events, is used in catching up with all the other things I didn’t get done that day. I live on enough acreage that I don’t have to go to the shooting range to practice with my pistol, and still I find myself looking up and finding it dark outside and well past the time I could practice.

When I think about the type of pistol I want for self-defense, the 9mm with its half-dozen buttons is not my first choice, simply from the fact that when I’m put into a state of alertness (read that FEAR!), my attention is not on my weapon.

Far from it.

I’m wondering what the noise is, I’m wondering who’s in the house, I’m reaching for my pistol, but my focus is NOT on making sure I’m pushing the right buttons! Let me give you my take on what would happen if I relied on a 9mm for my defense needs:  I’m awakened in the middle of the night by a noise. I’m groggy, and I don’t know what the noise is, so I lay there for a moment…and then I hear it again.

It’s the unmistakable crunch of broken glass under someone’s feet. My heart has started pounding in my ears, and I know the intruder can hear each thudding beat! I quietly reach over to my bedside table and draw out my 9mm. I can’t see anything, and because I haven’t had time to go to the shooting range every day and I don’t live with my pistol every day (like a soldier or policeman), I’m not sure where all my little safety buttons are. I push what I think is the safety, only to find it’s the magazine eject button … and there goes nine rounds of ammunition on the floor … in a dark room.

By this time I’m flustered. Not thinking, I slide the action back because I know I at least have to do this to get one in the barrel … only, I already had one in the barrel so I immediately expel the only shell in my weapon. I still haven’t found the safety button and by this time the intruder is walking down the hall. The only thing I have left is an empty pistol to throw at him.

I can hear my male writing buddies now. “Duh!!!  That’s why you have to PRACTICE!” Again, let me refer you to the second paragraph! In addition, with an automatic, there’re too many things that can go wrong. For example, if the shell doesn’t eject properly, then my gun is jammed. I don’t have to worry about that with a revolver. If there’s a bogus shell in the cylinder, all I have to do is pull the trigger again. The cylinder is going to rotate and give me a new bullet.

I thought about it long and hard and decided that, for me, a .38 Special revolver was all I needed.  The only thing I had to decide was whether I wanted a hammerless model or not.

You can get a standard .38, built on a J-frame (a small-frame revolver), with a hammer and the ability for single or double action. (Single action is cocking the gun by pulling the hammer back, each and every time. The trigger is touchier with this method, and your weapon can accidently discharge if you bump the trigger. Double action is simply pointing and shooting. The trigger is harder to pull, but you won’t accidently shoot someone in a stressful situation.)

The hammerless is also available in a revolver built on a J-frame, but it’s strictly double-action. The hammer is there, but it’s built into the frame. What I like about the hammerless model is that I can carry it easily in my purse (I live in a concealed carry state) and don’t have to worry about it hanging on the tons of stuff I’ve got crammed in there. If put to the test, I won’t hesitate to shoot through the purse.  I’ll worry about picking up my Maybelline later.

You’ve also got the choice of an “in-between” model, such as one of the older models of Smith & Wesson’s Bodyguard®. It has the capability of either single or double action, but the hammer is shrouded instead of built into the frame. The newer model is hammerless and double action only, as well as having integrated laser sights now.

That’s it. There are only three things to learn about the gun:  the trigger, the cylinder latch, and the ejector rod. And none of those three are in the same place or even remotely resemble each other. You can learn to use it in a minute.

Smith & Wesson 432PD Centennial

Smith and Wesson is perhaps the most well-known of the pistol manufacturers with their Centennial series of Airweights, a snub-nosed .38 Special hammerless revolver that’s available in either a stainless steel finish (the 642 model) or blued steel (the 442 model). They have aluminum alloy frames with stainless steel cylinders and barrels. The nice thing is that even though the unloaded gun weighs a mere 15 ounces, the gun still carries an excellent power to weight ratio.

Ruger has a hammerless .38 Special revolver called the LCR, and it comes in at a nice 13 ½ ounces. It’s one of the most popular sellers out there right now. If you want to get fancy, you can order the model with the Crimson Trace® LaserGrips®, but it’ll run you a couple of hundred dollars extra.

Taurus and Charter Arms also build their version of the Centennial that is closely patterned after the original. Taurus has their line of .38 Specials in the Protector Polymer, weighing in at a little more than 18 ounces. It is a hybrid “shrouded hammer” gun, giving you the option of single-action firing if you want.

Charter Arms manufactures a gun called the Undercover Lite®. It’s a 12-ounce gun in the aluminum model, but comes in stainless steel or a matte black finish. The only thing that I don’t like about Charter Arms’ line of Undercover Lite® guns is the choice of all the “fun” colors you have. Ladies, if at all possible, stifle your desire to purchase the cute little pink finish gun. A gun is a weapon. It’s a dangerous, LETHAL weapon. Making it look like a fun toy pistol is not what you want to do, especially if you have kids around the house. Buy the model that looks as intimidating as possible.

These guns, like all J-frame models, only carry five rounds. In a self-defense situation (remember, you’re not going into battle here!) that should be enough. If you want to take into account the Murphy factor (if anything can go wrong, it will) then by all means carry a spare quick-loader with you for those moments you might need to reload.

All in all, you should be able to get into one of these guns new for anywhere from $450 to $800, depending on the type and manufacturer you choose. (Checking online prices, I found that they were much higher. Check out prices with a local firearms dealer in your area to save money.) If you’re strapped for cash however, you can still get the standard .38 Special, 2-inch barrel, 16 ounce pistol for under $400. If you want to carry it with you, buy a purse that is specifically made for carrying a gun. These purses take into account the hammer on the pistol. You can find these at many gun shows and online as well.

Another option you have is to scour the pawn shops and gun shops in your area. Some really great deals can be had buying a used pistol. Unless the gun has been terribly abused or left out in the rain to rust, there’s nothing wrong with a used gun and you can usually save yourself some money.

The choice of a gun is as varied as shoes and clothing. There is no “one size fits all” answer to what you’re most comfortable with when it comes to a gun purchase. Take into consideration your lifestyle, your needs and wants, and the application for your weapon. Will this gun stay in your bedside table? Will you want to carry it in your purse? Decide these answers and then go from there. Don’t be pressured into purchasing what someone else thinks would be good for you. Know your abilities and know your limitations. Design your purchase around the factors that affect you.

Your gun will only be as effective as your confidence in your ability to use the weapon to defend yourself. Sometimes, the simplest gun is the best.

Other articles in this issue:

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