I recommend you go to the "Stickies" in this forum and READ "Selecting a Handgun Part 1 - Semi-Automatics" and READ "Selecting a Handgun Part 2 - Revolvers"...
Then, go to Cornered Cat | If you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat. and read the information there and read the section on "Choosing Firearms"...This website is geared toward the female shooters and would be quite informative for your Dad's girlfriend.
Then try to find a range that rents weapons and let her try some...or perhaps YOU or some of your friends have several weapons she could try, ranging from .22 revolvers and semi-automatics, .38 revolvers, .380 semi-automatics, and 9mm semi-automatics... Let the girlfriend communicate to you which weapons she feels most comfortable with and enjoyed shooting.
Now you have begun to narrow HER choice down, NOT your choice. At that point you might want to head to a reputable gun shop and let her do some window shopping and handling of the merchandise... Women LOVE shopping.
By this time, she may have a very good idea as to what SHE wants her first weapon to be. Keep in mind, if it's not enjoyable to shoot for her, then she will not enjoy going to the range with you and your dad and will not enjoy training with HER weapon.
As others have said, I think that I personally would discourage starting her out with a small .38 snubbie and especially discourage her from initially shooting +p ammo. Of course this is my personal opinion..
Good luck to her in her choice!
For a first-timer, a bit heavier revolver with a ~3" barrel can be a decent choice. Any of the snub-nosed revolvers (~1.8" bbl) can be harder to shoot, particularly if it's a revolver significantly below 20oz in weight. A decent Ruger SP-101 3" bbl can be a great option, given that the greater weight and slightly longer barrel can help tremendously, in terms of ease on the hands during firing, making it more enjoyable to practice with, easier to aim, etc. Of course, anyone can learn accuracy with practically anything, but it gets rather pointless if a person can't hit the broad side of a barn and won't train with it.
If a snubbie is what she's shooting well, I'd suggest a S&W 640, S&W 442 or Ruger LCR.
As with any handgun you're going to bet your life on, the "try before you buy" concept is well worth taking to heart.
Since the original poster said he is also open to semiauto suggestions in addition to revolvers, I would recommend that he consider the Sig P238 in .380 caliber. This gun has received many good reviews by female shooters on the Internet. It has the advantage of being small and lightweight (15.2 ounces empty) with moderate recoil due to its 1911-style design. Many .380s are blowback style in which the barrel is fastened directly to the frame, transmitting recoil quickly to the shooters hand. The P238 has a barrel link which slows down and smooths out the recoil force, making it more comfortable to shoot than a blowback gun.
The P238 also has a fairly light single action trigger with manual safety, avoiding the heavy double action trigger pull of guns like S&W J frames or the Walther PPK. All trigger pulls on the P238 are a constant 7.5 to 8.5 pounds, enhancing accuracy.
As for ballistic effect, the .38 special from a snubby barrel delivers about 260 foot pounds of muzzle energy using the most effective ammo available. But the .380 from a short barrel can deliver similar muzzle energy using the best modern ammo in that caliber (Buffalo Bore 90 grain JHP +P at 288 ft-lbs). And you will have 7 rounds on tap with a faster reload than a J frame with 5 rounds capacity.
Thanks for all of the fast replies! The plan is to definitely go to one of the ranges nearby that rents all of their guns and try a bunch out. Just wanted to try and narrow the selection down.
Ruger LCR .38 is hard to beat, but I'd let her at least hold if not fire as many handguns as you can and let her make the choice. I spent two weeks taking a friend to different shops before she picked out her first pistol. It is not a thing to be rushed.
What is considered effective .38 Special ammunition is subjective. One has to deliberately limit himself though if he chooses .38 Special ammunition that delivers only 260 ft./lbs. of energy for there are other choices out there that offer considerably more energy for those who use such things as a yardstick of effectiveness.
38 Special Plus P 100gr Pow'RBall | CORŽBON/Glaser Self Defense | Dakota Ammo
If we can use Buffalo Bore's .380 ammunition products then we also need to take a look at Buffalo Bore's .38 Special selection.
One of Buffalo Bore's .38 Special ammunition offerings chronograph tested from a 2-inch barrel; effectively 400 ft./lbs of energy delivered in actual tests:
+P 158 grain lead SWC-HP
MV 1063 fps
ME 397 ft./lbs.
If a person's willing to experiment with handloading using published data:
I do agree that the SIG P238 is a premium choice. My brother-in-law has one and it's the cat's meow for .380 shooting and for fans of the .380 for self-defense.
also look at member Limatunes' advice on this site about helping a woman choose a gun. great stuff.
You are right about the Buffalo Bore .38 Special +P ammo. Although I was on the Buffalo Bore website I failed to look at it and did not realize how energetic it is. I was using the Speer short barrel .38 Special +P ammo as a comparison, which supposedly does 260 ft-lbs from a snubby.
I will say that firing .38 ammo with 400 ft-lbs of energy from a lightweight snubby would be a real experience for an experienced male shooter, let alone for a starting female shooter. I think the recoil would scare most people away. I do believe that firing the .380 Buffalo Bore from a Sig P238 would be a more comfortable experience.
Get thee to a range that rents guns and LET HER DECIDE! It's going to be her gun, let her pick it out.
harsh. I think there is a certain amount of good sense in starting someone with a revolver.
Now if we were talking about cars, I'd start them with an auto so they don't have to deal with the complexities of 4 on the
floor, and a clutch.
See, anytime you start someone on a new endeavor, it makes sense to ease them into it and add complexity as skills
I will always champion the Colt Detective Special as "Best of Breed" when it comes to snubs. All steel, love the grip frame,the Colt double action lockwork is second to none and the Colt holds 6 rounds not 5. The fit & finish of "Dick Special" clearly shows pride in workmanship.
Yes they are out of print but there out there.
Where oh where is Glockman10mm?
OP - If she decides to go with a light weight revolver, do not think she needs to use fire-breathing +P .38 ammo in order to defend herself. Standard pressure 158 gr semi-wadcutters (SWCs) - which are sold as "target" loads - have mild recoil, yet will cut a full caliber hole in tissue and penetrate quite deeply...all without beating up the shooter. They are what I use in my LCR, which I think is probably the best out-of-the-box snubbie out there right now.
If Gman comes along, I think he can pass on some hunting experience with this load.
I point out a few things to my customers all the time on this matter.
Everyone wants the following:
1. Ease of use
3. decent stopping power
5. low maintenance.
What we forget for many people not used to shooting is what they recieve when looking for those nobel five qualities.
1. heavy triggers on revolvers
2. .38spl is more expensive than 9mm
3. stouter recoil in the scandium and air weight type revolvers
4. hard to use sights for most novices
With that said. I usually recommend a Smith and Wesson Jframe in Stainless and in .357 mag so they can shoot .38 spl +P's. The 640 is my favorite J frame but I also recommend a gunsmith replace the front sight with a more visible front sight or at least paint it a bright color. I also recommend a wolff, wilson combat or other spring kit. If I have a 640 pro to show I usually show that one as it is pretty much done except for a spring kit to make the gun easier to keep the sights on the target. I recommend classes and lots and lots of range time. J frames can be accurate. They can be fast to shoot. J frames can be carried anywhere on your person but the only time that I think they are as great as everyone thinks is when you train alot with them. I recently picked up a used Smith and Wesson Model 19 snubbie. It's bigger than a Jframe and in .357 mag. I like it alot and it is my first revolver in a while. I am practicing what I preach setting aside my semi-autos to relearn a classic. I like it alot and will probably get a 640 to follow it but I will work on it alot to get my speed and accuracy up to as close as it is with my semi auto's.
Good luck in your purchase. With training and alot of range visits the small compact revovlers are up to the challenge as long as you are. If not then I would say a Semi auto and training would work better.
I just worked thorugh the process of helping my sister choose her first handgun. She's 68 (I"m 70). She wanted a revolver. I found her an all steel Colt Detective's special in .38Sp. Short barrel, lovely double action trigger, nice wood grips that fill the hand and spread out the force of the recoil, and enough weight to be pleasant to shoot. She loves that gun. She has over a hundred rounds out of it and asked to go to the range again this coming Monday when she has a holiday and doesn't have to teach school.
It shoots to point of aim at 15 yards with 158g .38 Special ammo. It isn't rated for +P, it was made in the middle 1980's, but so far that isn't a problem.
The closest to it I've found is current production is the all steel version of the Taurus 85 snubbie in .38Sp. I've shot 4 different model 85 all steel Taurus revolvers and they all had nice triggers and were pleasant to shoot. The S&W 642 is easier to conceal, but definitely not as nice to shoot.
The Ruger LCR is "not" pleasant to shoot - my wife had one, it stung her hands to shoot it and she hated it (she has a SIG P238 now and loves it). I've learned not to reach for her SIG with anything I'm not willing to lose. She's really possessive of that little pistol. A good thing.
I bought my own so I could play with one.
The slide on the LCR is a challenge for older women. The slide on a P238 is a piece of cake for anybody.