Female Shooters

Finding a Firearm: My Wife’s First Pistol

woman with gun near thief at night in parking lot

Let me start by saying, my wife is not a “gun gal.” She appreciates me having them and sees the utility. She even enjoys the occasional trip to the range, but she’s certainly not as… we’ll say, passionate, about guns as this author. 

Recently, she and I decided it would be best if she had her own firearm. I had been hinting at this for years, but I never wanted to force her into it and she had never really shown any interest or been completely comfortable with it. I was excited to say the least, and my mind immediately began scrolling through manufacturers and models. Then, I hit a hard pause and asked her what kind of gun she wanted.

S&W 640
She had to try a wheel gun!

Hand Fit, Qualifications

We began to develop a list of qualifications. Her main concern was that she didn’t want a gun that was too “chunky.” Full-size and even compact pistols work fine in her smaller hands, but they are not optimal. The thick grip and greater trigger reach are something that must be worked around, this is not something you want in a defensive situation. The pistol should fit your hand naturally. I explained that a smaller gun may recoil a bit more, but it was worth the tradeoff to her. 

She also wanted to go with a 9mm or .38 Spl. She’s no ballistics expert, but she’s heard me gripe enough. Now, although we weren’t specifically looking for a concealed carry pistol, we agreed that having one that could serve in that role in the future would be beneficial, especially since it already met her general size requirements. 

With this, we seemed to have narrowed down the options to slim/subcompact options. This is a popular category, so there’s no shortage of choices. We had to narrow things down. 

Range Testing

Having an idea of what to look for, I selected some guns from my collection that fit these requirements to get a general idea of what she liked. Next, we went and handled a few more options at the store and decided on a final selection to test fire. She shot several pistols to determine which she felt most comfortable with and shot the best. 

Test List:

  • S&W Shield Plus
  • Glock 43
  • S&W Model 640
  • SIG P365
  • Springfield Hellcat

We warmed up by firing a few mags of .22 out of my M&P22 pistol to get a feel for things. Then, started by test firing the Springfield Hellcat, which she liked the grip texture. She fired well, but felt that the gun was very snappy and did not like the U-notch sights. 

Next, she moved to the SIG P365, a natural comparison. These are two of the most popular carry pistols on the market. Again, she fired several solid groups, and was a big fan of SIG’s X-Ray night sights. She felt the P365 was a bit easier to shoot than the Hellcat, but it was still a bit snappy. I was beginning to sense a theme. 

G43 and Shield Plus
The Shield Plus is a little larger than single-stack 9s like the G43.

We then transitioned to the S&W Shield Plus Performance Center. This features a ported barrel to reduce muzzle rise and felt recoil. That is when her face lit up. She’s not the biggest fan of shooting, so this was great to see. The target results were also great to see. After a few mags, her group tightened up a bit, and I began to see her get more confident. 

We began to round things out by stepping down to something a bit smaller for comparison, the Glock 43. This is my personal carry pistol, and I have it upgraded with an HD front night sight and blacked-out rear. She didn’t shoot this one much, it was mainly overshadowed by her good experience with the Shield Plus. However, she did mention that she felt it was too snappy and hard to get a firm grip, but she did like the sight setup. 

Finally, she wanted to try out a revolver, so I pulled a J-Frame. She had fired an old ’60s Colt Agent with great success, but that was just casual slow fire in single-action. For defense, she was going to need to practice double-action. She tested a S&W 640 with .38s but found the long, heavy trigger pull and limited sights to be a deal breaker. 

white and orange target sheet
As she got used to the Shield, her groups began to tighten up.

Final Results

In the end, she decided to go with the Smith and Wesson Shield Plus Performance Center. It seemed to provide the best balance of concealability and shootability for her. The ported barrel also helped reduce recoil — something she is clearly not a fan of. Additionally, although I’m not a fan of the green and red fiber-optic sights, my wife found them to be eye catching and natural to use. If she changes her mind later, these can always be swapped out for any number of other options — perhaps something similar to the Hackathorns she liked on my G43. 

Although she knows the real safety is between your ears, and to keep her finger off the trigger unless she’s ready to fire, the manual thumb safety makes her more comfortable (more for loaded storage than anything else). I’m just glad she has a firearm she’s comfortable with. There’s also the option to use either the flush 10-round or extended 13-round mag. Her hands are small, so either way she gets a full grip. However, she just sacrifices some concealability with the longer magazine

woman holding shield plus
The Shield Plus fits her hand well.

Carry Options

As I mentioned, for now, she doesn’t plan to carry it daily, if at all. Perhaps this will change in the future. It is mainly for emergency defense in the home. Although I have plenty of other options, it is important for her to have something she is comfortable and confident with. A gun that she has made ready and prepared herself — both physically and mentally. It’s also good for her to have a dedicated firearm that she can train with at the range and become familiar with using. 

If she does decide to carry in the future, it would likely be off body in a bag or purse. Although her Shield Plus has a manual safety, she would still need some sort of holster setup to cover the trigger guard and keep the firearm from moving around in the bag. There are plenty of great bags with built in holsters that would work well. 

SIG P365 Two Tone


It’s important you put as much effort into your partner’s CCW or defensive firearm as you do your own. Don’t just stick them with a pink pistol or your old backup’s backup. You want them to be as prepared as they can be in an emergency. Take the time to find out what works best for them. 

What was your first gun? What was your partner’s? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • woman holding shield plus
  • woman holding shield plus
  • G43 and Shield Plus
  • white and orange target sheet
  • S&W 640
  • Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP
  • SIG P365 Two Tone

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. M&P 9 SHIELD EZ. Pretty awesome Christmas gift (yep to me from myself).
    Still getting the slide broke in but at least I was able to fire it right outta the box with the EZ Slide. I’m still not crazy about the slide grip. The ridges don’t provide enough texture for me realistically. Honestly the design of raised area is a bit “sharp” If I get a lot of target time my fingers feel almost raw. Trying different things but mostly using gloves during target practice.

  2. My wife’s first handgun was a Beretta 92. It was love at first sight and she shoots it well. She’s tried some compacts and even a revolver but keeps coming back to her Beretta. She carries it daily in her shoulder bag. My wife’s very well-built and lifts weights with me three times a week, so she doesn’t mind the weight of an all metal full-sized pistol. She is confident with it and well-trained. I’d trust her completely in a SHTF situation. Her favorite range gun is her 1911 Government Model.

  3. My first pistol was a Springfield Armory XD40 service in 2010 in which I still have, use and often carry.

    My wife “stole” my Smith & Wesson SD9VE as her first pistol around 2019.

  4. My wife’s 1st handgun is a Ruger SP101 .357 magnum. When practicing, she prefers .38 Sp. but keeps it loaded with the magnum rounds when using it for self defense. At first, she didn’t care for heavy trigger pull necessary for the double action revolver but I told her “its not a target pistol. It’s for self defense.” When we practice, we simulate immediate threat scenarios. The trigger pull is no longer an issue. She also voiced concern with having only 5 rounds but after seeing the close range energy of the .357 loads, she feels it should provide sufficient deterrent to a single assailant. She really likes that it has a spurless hammer so it doesn’t hang up when pulled from a purse or coat pocket. For warm weather, I purchased a conceal carry Fanny pack style holster and she practices “brandishing” her weapon and has become proficient. In the winter she wears coats or vests with big pockets. When walking in parking lots and other danger zones, she keeps her shooting hand on the pistol grip and her keys in the other hand and exercises vigilance. I feel better knowing she has become cognizant of people that might try to harm her.

  5. Left eyed and right handed, as are both of my kids, while Dad was right eyed and left handed. So, long arms, we shoot left handed. Right hand shooting works fine with handguns, so I’ve lived with: Ruger RST6 Standard Auto .22LR, S&W 657, Browning BDM (added a Sprinco recoil buffer that really tamed muzzle flip), and one day ago received a Sig Sauer Custom Shop P365XL Spectre Comp. Today (04/29/2023) Sig sent an email announcing the promotion that runs until June 30, providing a credit to their web store with the purchase of a P320 or P365, which is increased with the purchase of two (or more) boxes of Sig ammunition. That credit, up to $60, would bring the cost of adding a RomeoZero Elite optic to about $129… Coyote Tan, laser engraved grip module, black TiN barrel and FCU, and I can find TSA locks for the Custom Shop case. A new excuse to visit the LGS and ranges…

  6. I recommend a revolver for a quick and more reliable and easier maintainable handgun, IE S&W Mdl 638 or 642 J frame. Any mechanical device can go wrong but there are no stove pipes with a revolver and if a round fails to fire just pull the trigger again. No two hands needed to make operative.

  7. My first firearm was a Glock 22 3rd generation. I bought a HK compact 40 SS. a month later. Love them both but carried the Glock most of the time.. My wife would shoot my HK 90% of the time at the range. Fast forward 15 years I conceal carry the M&P 40c everyday and everywhere I go. We got my wife her own gun this year. She went with the M&P 9 shield m2.0 center ported. She likes the way it feels in her hand without it being too snappy for her. Nice gun for cancelled carry,

  8. Just a little more the first time we took her .357 shooting I’d brought magnums and .38s thinking the .38s would be best for her to practice with, after a load of magnums I reloaded it with .38s she thought there was something wrong with the gun so I explained they were .38s so she could practice she said “NO !” she has never shot another .38 she shoot’s only full magnum loads and she’s very good with her magnum I know I wouldn’t want to be the one to piss her off even at 50 yards.
    Then a couple years ago she surprised me when I asked what she wanted for Mother’s day, she asked for an AK-47, I asked her if she would marry me ;~)

  9. Congrats on the approach you selected for choosing a pistol for your wife. Too many boyfriends/husbands pick the caliber and gun for their females only to find them no longer interested in shooting or carrying due to a number of dislikes. I used an approach similar to yours, but spent time with her finding out what she was interested in doing with a pistol and what few dislikes and likes she might have had before we even started (granted she had very little to go on initially). We then went to the SHOT Show and the NRA convention so she could work the whole show floor trying out firearms till we narrowed the field down to 2 contenders. One thing I did not factor in was not only the pistol, but the specific LOAD of ammunition turned out to be a factor. My wife, like yours, was worried from the beginning about muzzle whip (snappy). I quickly found that while a lot of that was the pistol type, the AMMUNITION was as much of a factor. The gun she loved worked just great for her in muzzle whip in some loads, while others produced too much whip. So some of the firearms your wife may have eliminated may have had more to do with the load as the pistol itself. Didn’t matter if 2 manufactures both had the same bullet weight, one load would be too snappy for my wife, while the same bullet weight by the other mfgr was just fine. (No, there weren’t any of my handloads involved. Only factory carry ammo was considered.)

  10. My first Handgun was bought in the early 80s, I’d had gun’s pointed at me twice from moving vehicle’s my thinking at the time was a show of force I wanted to stop a moving vehicle and ask them what the problem is ( my attitude has changed drastically since then ) with that being said I bought into the myth of the .44 magnum ( 80s ) I did a lot of research reading magazine articles, I spent hundreds of $ on the magazines alone, the good thing I knew what caliber I wanted, at the time a SW model 29 I thought was it, I found it wasn’t the only option and I am one of those guy’s that isn’t into following the heard I then found the Dan Wesson line of .44 magnums I loved the idea of their legendary accuracy and the wide selection of barrel lengths to be had not to mention I could change barrels at will, the heavy barrel or not, ported or not all these options sold me. I purchased a Pistol Pac which come’s in a briefcase sized and styled hard case, I bought the .44VH ” 44 magnum vented heavy barrel ” Pistol Pac that included 2 hand grips 1 western style and the other a fingered combat grip both made of wood also including 2 barrels 1 six inch and 1 eight inch. I paid to the best of my recollection a little over $900 about the same as a SW model 29. Trust me when I say everything I’d read about the Dan Wesson was true even today it is my first choice for shooting pleasure and at the range it is still an attention getter when you hear the roar of the big magnum heads turn and necks crane but with the vented heavy barrels I can shoot over a 100 rounds and not be sore ;~)
    A few years later I started dating a beautiful full figured woman and of course just had to take her out to the desert for camping and to introduce her to Dan ( my affectionate name for the .44 magnum ) plus my meager collection of other firearms. After she forced me to dive into the dirt once to avoid having a loaded 30 caliber carbine zero in on me ( good times thank goodness there was a nearby bush because I had to relieve myself after that ) but she learned quickly, I may have lost my cool and chewed her out for it, totally my fault though I hadn’t run through range safety before we started having fun :~( the .44 was the only handgun I had at the time and she loved it although she couldn’t shoot it alot it was at the upper end of what she could tolerate.
    She is a divorced woman her EX used to physically abuse her and would stock her, he lived on one coast and she moved to the other still he would pop up from time to time. then one Friday morning she’d gone to work while I working 2nd shift had slept in, while exiting the shower looked out a window and notice a fellow across the street on the corner that looked like her EX ( she had shown me a photo of him ) I got dressed called work to inform them I didn’t feel well and wouldn’t be in that night, then opened the windows making sure corner guy saw me yeah we made eye contact. She was happy to see me when she arrived home and we had a great night in watching TV and eating take out, the next morning Saturday I woke early and woke her saying ” get up baby I’ve got a surprise for you ” she got excited asking what it was and I told her I wanted to go gun shopping then she got really excited ” your taking me gun shopping why ? ” I replied ” oh I feel like buying a .45 today ” which was entirely true I just had motivation I hadn’t told her about. We headed to a shop that was managed by my younger brothers best friends father. We entered the store introductions were made then I saw a Mac 10 under the glass and almost ran to it asking the caliber .45 Mike said I got weak in the knees I’d been looking for one forever but all you could find was 9mm while Mike and I talked my girl came to me asking questions about guns I told her to look at the semi autos in stainless steel, Mike left to attend to other business I actually think he was looking for something to wipe up my drool, she came back saying she didn’t like the semi auto’s I went with her to try and change her mind but she was insistent she liked the wheel guns she called them ” cowboy gun’s ” :~) Mike returned wiping the counter clean my girl friend then asked ” how do you know what gun to buy ? ” I told her to have the clerk show her every one that caught her eye handle them pull the trigger a few times sight it then pick the one you like best, I’d also told her ” nothing less than a .357 magnum ” I said this while looking directly at the clerk, apparently Mike had instructed a young salesman to assist her because the young man never left her alone even though the store had customers now milling around waiting for assistance, I think Mike read me spot on, just then a man barged into the store saying Mike I want that Mac 10 Mike’s son was standing next to it he looked at me and I announced loudly ” to late it’s been sold ” Mike’s son grinned saying sorry your 2 minutes to late and removed it from the case, I walked over while he was boxing it up just as my girl friend came to see what I’d bought she was almost as excited as I was I told Mike let’s get the paper work going then from the other side of the smallish shop the clerk that had been helping my girl friend said this one too holding up a Taurus stainless steel revolver I asked him to bring it over and let me have a look, I took it from his hand checking it out I’d never head of Taurus at the time and asked if they had a Colt he said ” not in stainless ” I looked at my girl ” why this one ? ” she said ” it felt the best in my hand ” I looked at Mike and said ” yup this one too ” now he was grinning and said something like ” my kind of customer “.
    They put 2 set’s of paper work in front of me, this whole time my girl was speechless, I told her to step up to the counter and slid the paper work for the .357 in front of her telling her to fill it out she looked at me dumb struck at this time I explained to her my sighting her EX the day before and how I wanted her to have protection also that we were dating and there was no guaranty I’d be there in the future to protect her but if she fills out the paper work the gun would be hers not mine if I leave it stay’s she said ” your buying me a gun ? ” yes I replied, that’s how my wife got her first gun ;~) Yes we are now married and have been for some 29 years I like to tell people that the first ring I bought her was stainless steel with a .357 magnum setting ;~)

  11. My first pistol was a Beretta .25 with the tilt barrel. That purchase was about 40 years ago, and I knew absolutely nothing about guns. I selected it only for its concealability. It was a lousy choice.

  12. I’ve help my wife, granddaughter, my wife’s friend and our horse trainer find their concealed carry weapons. After trying lots of guns my wife picked the original model S&W M&P 40c, their 40 S&W compact. When it was the granddaughter’s turn she also picked the 40c as did my wife’s friend. They all have small hands. The low bore makes it very controllable in 40 S&W. All three fund the ergonomics excellent for them. Before trying other guns our horse trainer loved her brothers Glock 19. After running through some of mine she changed her mind and went with the same thing I did, a first generation Springfield XD subcompact with the extended magazine. The XD is a far more blocky grip than a 1911 or the M&P but it’s what she found fit her. Unlike to 40 she tested she went with 9mm to be able to share ammo with her mom. It all comes down to ergonomics and what you can shoot well comfortably. Make sure you try a lot of stuff because you may be surprised at what you like.

  13. My Dad was a Police Officer as well as my instructor early on. We lived out in the country and could literally walk out the back door and go hunting or shooting. My first training was with long guns, starting with none other than a Daisy Red Ryder when I was 8. By the age of 10 I had a New Winchester model 74 .22 caliber semi automatic. Between the Daisy and the Winchester I became quite competent with Iron sights. At 12 I was introduced to Shotguns, specifically a Stevens Model 87A in 20 gauge. After much mentoring by my Dad and Uncles who were all hunters Iwas allowed to hunt on my own. While many rabbits fell pray to my Winchester the abundant Pheasant and waterfowl populations provided many happy days in the field or lake shore sitting in the cattails waiting for the ducks and an occasional goose to fly by, At the ate of 14 Dad thought I was big enough to handle a handgun. The only handgun that we had was his duty Smith & Wesson Model 19 .357 magnum. I started shooting .38 wadcutters at targets at 50 feet and 25 yards. We would practice with the Model 19 at least once a week. We would shoot anywhere between 50 and 100 rounds a week. We would shoot but it was my job to clean the trusty revolver. I had a paper route at the time, didn’t pay very much but back then things were not anywhere as expensive at they are these day. I saved my pennies and nickels and at the age of 16 bought my first high power rifle, a Marlin 336T in .35 Remington. I practiced as much as I could afford with money earned on my paper route. I had great plans on going for my first Deer Hunt. Unfortunately the deer hunt was put off since after I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Army which began a whole new chapter in my life. As many did at the time I ended up traveling across the world to a place called Viet Nam. Prior to deploying I bought my first handgun, as you may have guessed by now, A Smith & Wesson Model 19, While in the Army I was introduced to the M1911, M14 and M16. I also got involved in competitive shooting as well as qualified as a marksmanship instructor both in the Army either full or part time as an additional duty. I shot high power rifle competitively. I became a NRA Rifle and Pistol instructor as well as a Hunter Safety Instructor. Here I am many years later and I find myself owning many handguns in various calibers from .22 to 45ACP, but there is always a S&W Model 19 in the gun vault.

  14. I bought my wife her first gun. SW 60 that she likes. She then wanted a semi auto so she got a PX4 Storm, LC9 and Beretta .22. She last got a RIA snub 38 and this seems to be her favorite….though her aim is…..let’s say off. 😉

  15. In terms of concealed carry options, women sometimes have problems developing a good solution. My wife found a company called Flashbang Holsters. The company is run by women, and produces women’s CCW holsters. They have a number of different models, colors, and options. My wife chose a model that attaches to the bra strap on her off-hand side, effectively turning her bra into a shoulder holster. She carries a Ruger LCP Max on a daily basis. She tells me it took a day or so to get used to the feeling of carrying a pistol, but since then the holster has been extremely comfortable and has zero issues with binding or chaffing. She has been using it for a little over six ,months now with no issues. Reaching into the front of her shirt and drawing takes 2 to 3 seconds. Not quite ideal timing, but hopefully the sight of a grey-haired grandma reaching into her shirt will will stun the bad guy(s) for at least that long.

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