A common recommendation given to women looking for a concealed-carry firearm is to buy a revolver. While this well-intentioned recommendation stems from the belief that revolvers are simple to use and that it is more difficult to make mistakes with them, it does not mean they are a good fit for everyone. And while a revolver has very simple mechanics, there are other tools in the realm of handguns that would put women in a more advantageous position. Let’s look at three reasons a woman should NOT purchase a revolver.
A Full Magazine—and All That It Implies
Most revolvers hold six rounds; smaller, concealed-carry-style revolvers tend to hold five rounds. Once you’ve fired five (or six) times, you must unlock the cylinder, push it out from the frame, remove out the spent cases with the ejector, insert new rounds, close the cylinder, and if it’s double-action and you’re not great with a double-action trigger, cock the gun. Then you can shoot!
If your handgun was semi-automatic, you simply hit the magazine release with one hand while your other hand grabs a new magazine. Insert the new magazine and go back to pressing the trigger. Most capable individuals can make this happen in just a couple of seconds. Competition shooters do this in fractions of seconds. Reloading a semi-auto is an easy skill to master and means that you are not limited to the very few rounds in a revolver.
The fine motor skills required to reload a revolver, especially if done under stress, are more than for what most people will train. Reloading a semi-auto is simpler, faster and even can be done single handed.
Some people can use special clips (full or half moon clips) to hold their reloads for a revolver, and go faster than loading them round-by-round. But executing this action fast also usually involves speed-loaders, which are special holders for your rounds in the moon clips. And most people carrying concealed are not mounting speed loaders inside their purses. It’s not practical and not very concealable.
Another big reason people suggest a revolver to women is that it doesn’t have a safety (in general). With no external safety to manipulate, and if the revolver is carried with the hammer down, the force required to pull a double action trigger is usually significant enough that even if the gun were to come out of its protection in the holster, it likely wouldn’t go off accidentally, if it met with something in the bottom of a purse. To me, this whole line of thinking comes across as, “silly woman might mistake her pistol for her lipstick and we don’t want that,” or that women are just willy-nilly tossing guns into whatever purse or bag they have without a holster.
More Choices in Firearms and Carry Methods
When shopping for a concealed-carry firearm, there are many more options in semi-auto pistols compared to revolvers. Almost every major manufacturer has compact, micro or sub-compact, and full-size options in semi-auto pistols available. So compared to semi-autos, revolvers as a firearm type are a smaller subset of what’s available. This means that you have fewer choices of guns if you fence yourself into the category of revolver for a concealed-carry firearm.
The concealability aspect of a concealed carry is real concern for women, because they are smaller and have more likelihood of their gun “printing” when carrying on their body. The bigger the field of firearms to choose from, the better the chances of finding the gun that fits the individual. While small revolvers are concealable, so are sub-compact semi-autos, with more rounds in the magazine.
But, But, But …
But what about racking the slide? This is going to be the biggest “but” that we are fed as to why a woman needs a revolver. It implies that women are weak and can’t do this. I’ve seen grown men who have issues racking the slide. It’s not about strength; it's about learning to manipulate the firearm properly, and about buying a gun suited to the consumer.
Moreover, with handguns like the "EZ" models from Smith & Wesson, the "LiteRack" from Ruger and those from other manufacturers now available, there is no reason for anyone to think women can’t rack a slide! And if you are a gun retailer trying to sell grandma a gun with a slide she can’t rack, you’re in need of some training (and maybe common sense).
Just like society had to transition to email addresses and cell phones, there is a need to rethink the revolver as the “go to” concealed-carry firearm for women, or any new gun owner.
My personal choice is to have enough rounds in a semi-auto, in a common caliber (9 mm), and save revolvers for plinking.