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Old March 7, 2013, 09:23 PM   #1
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good HD options for a small-statured single mother?

I realize everyone has differing opinions regarding what is the best option for a home defense weapon. Some say shotgun. Some say carbine. Some say semi-auto pistol. Others say revolver.

Since unanimous agreement will NEVER happen, I'm more interested in the "why" than the "what."

Getting to the point, I have a friend who is considering getting a firearm for home defense. Here are a few details about her situation.

1. She's barely over five feet tall, and she's not very strong physically.

2. As a single mother of two, working full time, her training time would be limited.

3. Budget for the gun, ammo, and accessories would be rather limited. Probably $500 or less for initial purchase, and less expensive practice ammo would be preferred.

4. As alluded to already, young kids are in the house.

At this point, I'm mostly interested in what type of firearm--pistol, revolver, shotgun, pistol caliber carbine, or carbine rifle--people would recommend or discourage for her situation (not necessarily what you choose for your own situation).

***I realize any final decisions need her input, but being able to at least point her in a good general direction would be helpful.

Last edited by idek; March 7, 2013 at 09:41 PM.
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Old March 7, 2013, 10:05 PM   #2
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Just my opinion...

Due to stature, strength and training time limitations I would rule out semi auto pistols. Likely trouble racking the slide and handguns are the most difficult of the weapons listed to master without moderate practice and training.

Revolver...difficult to master without moderate training and range time.

Rifle...any that are suitable for home defense would be expensive and I think for most folks they are overkill for true home defense. Also manual of arms might be more involved than a beginner should try to tackle under stress.

Shotgun...pump 12 or 20 ga would be my suggestion. Easy to use and fairly simple. Would still need some training about how to load and unload safely and how to leave it ready but unchambered with kids around. It might push her around due to her size but with some training on proper technique she should be able to handle it.
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Old March 7, 2013, 10:34 PM   #3
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My first suggestion would be a .38 special revolver, . . . a Smith or Colt used police in 4 inch barrel configuration.

Revolvers for SD are like Kodak camera's: point and shoot, . . . and she's got 6 rounds to either change the perps mind on his persuasion, . . . or make him room temperature, . . . whichever happens first.

It is a proven fact that the vast majority of firearm altercations results in one or the other hightailing it, . . . and she could rely on the Kodak factor and the hightailing probability as factors that would keep her and the kids safe.

Her size and inabilty to train rules out the semi-auto and the rifle from the get go, . . . and I personally see a shotgun as a liability, . . . instead of an asset.

You have to either chamber a round when trouble comes, . . . or you are constantly loading, unloading, . . . making ready or making safe, . . . and sooner or later, . . . untrained hands WILL cause an ND just from the handling. Additionally, . . . the recoil is more than most women want to deal with, . . . and it's a whole lot easier to disarm anyone with a long gun than it is with a pistol.

The .38's are fairly plentiful, . . . I've seen them go in the easy $400 market, . . . sometimes less.

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Old March 7, 2013, 10:48 PM   #4
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My question is, what kind of training is she planning on having? Is she going to be able to take some professional instruction and then be able to carve out some time with her weapon of choice in her busy schedule? I ask that with the fact she is so busy but that she does have small children in the home.
Have you directed her over to Pax's website to read and get some valuable information as well?
I'm a single mom as well with two children and I know what works for me (I ccw on my body at all times a 9mm, I also have another 9mm in a locked gun safe, and I also own an ar15), but without knowing what level of professional training she is willing to take and time she is going to make to get comfortable with her gun, I just can't say which would be the best for her. There are too many variables involved, IMO, especially when it comes to having children in the house.
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Old March 7, 2013, 11:44 PM   #5
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i have a coworker in that same physical issue, and older then the ops friend and my coworker loves her sks loaded down with any american made jsp....

a shotgun in 20 or 12 guage would be a waste of time. to much gun for not enough person. even if you factored in "reduced recoil" ammo, the lack of ability to work the gun cannot be over come. a double barrel .410 or 16 guage with real buck shot would be nice. even in a semi auto format. even youth model shotguns arent meant for someone under 5 foot.

a hi point carbine would be perfect.... in 9mm. even one of the old 9mm ruger police carbines in 9mm would be perfect.
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Old March 7, 2013, 11:45 PM   #6
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When I was a young mom with small children and was looking for home defense options, I chose a semi-automatic handgun. It was the safest way for me to keep the gun securely out of the kids' hands while making it possible for me to get it quickly. It also cost me the least for accessories and necessities (such as ammunition and storage methods).

The sexist idea that women can't rack a slide should have died a long time ago. After spending ten years working at a professional firearms training school, I have still never met a healthy adult woman who could not be taught to rack a slide. It usually takes less than five minutes, which means it doesn't exactly require a high commitment to training. It just takes someone who knows what they're doing to teach the easiest way to do it.

Revolvers are difficult to master for defensive use. If there's any question at all about her hand strength, that should immediately rule out a revolver because of the long, heavy DA trigger pull. (Lots of reasons not to use revolver in SA mode for self-defense -- safety and speed the most important of those.)

So for those reasons, I chose a semi-auto handgun when I was in that same situation. In retrospect, it was also a good choice for me because it really minimized the learning curve; when I was ready to carry outside the home, I did not need to learn a different weapon system. Handguns make good self defense tools because they are easiest to work with in tight quarters (think hallways) and -- for a mom with kids, this one's a dealmaker -- because they let you run them with one hand. That leaves your other hand free to push your child out of the way of the danger.

Personally, I opted not to go with a long gun because they're harder to store out of sight. When my kids were small, I had nightmares about a bad guy coming into the main room of the house, and me needing to retreat into my bedroom to unlock the safe to get a gun -- leaving the kids with the bad guy in the main room. Uh uh, no way, no how, in no universe could I imagine leaving my babies with a bad guy. Wasn't going to happen. So I chose a concealable pistol and carried it at home -- locking it up with me in my room at night so the kids would never have an opportunity to get to it and so that I could always get to it immediately no matter where I was or what I was doing.

If she's not at that point in her personal journey (and it's okay if she's not), she may opt for the long gun instead. My own preference in that case would be on the shotgun side, a "youth" model with a short stock, semi-auto 20 gauge. I prefer the 20 gauge because it's a lot less shockwavy to practice with, and because it's less overwhelming in an enclosed space. I choose a semi-auto because it takes a certain amount of training to remember to pump the pump action shotgun, and we know that home invasions most often involve more than one intruder. However, the financial realities might preclude her going with this choice. If she ends with a pump shotgun, she may have to get more training than she really intends to get.

Practically speaking, an adjustable-stock AR in .223 makes a fine home defense weapon. However, the political and financial realities rule that out for her in her situation.

Now, with all that said, if she's not willing to learn how to use the gun safely and well, and if she's not interested in learning the legal and practical realities of defensive firearm use, and if she won't wade through some of the moral and ethical implications of using deadly force to protect herself and her family ... well, a gun isn't the solution to the problem she's facing anyway. To quote the great John Farnam, "Just as cars that 'drive themselves' are currently unavailable, guns that are effective in the hands of the untrained and willfully incompetent exist only in the minds of the naive."

You cannot go to the gun store to buy a substitute for the hard work of learning how to defend your own life.

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Old March 8, 2013, 12:16 AM   #7
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In my opinion, a shotgun is a solid bet for home defense. They're cheap, reliable, and intimidating. I personally would grab my double-barrel coach gun prior to grabbing anything else. I believe that shotguns are the ultimate close quarters weapon, which in turn makes it my go-to choice for home defense. That being said, it really comes down to shooter preference.
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Old March 8, 2013, 12:58 AM   #8
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good HD options for a small-statured single mother?

I was going to say a good semiauto pistol...but Pax beat me to it and did a much better job of it. The biggest factor is the kid factor. It's nearly impossible to keep a long gun ready to use but out of reach if the kids at the same time. And I've seen so many smaller women struggle with DA revolvers. I winced at my CCW class when the instructor recommended the 70 yo lady with the Judge cock it before firing because she didn't have the hand strength to pull the trigger. Someone did a very poor job finding her a suitable SD gun.
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Old March 8, 2013, 01:23 AM   #9
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I have a grown daughter in that looks like she might be in that situation soon herself. She's 90 lbs soaking wet so she's kind of limited in terms of recoil absorption hand gun or long gun.
We've pretty much settled on a youth model .410 pump loaded with buckshot. Manageable recoil, easier to hit with than a handgun and hits harder than any handgun she can manage the recoil on.
Just had an idle thought. Do you think they make a bayonet mount that could be adapted to a .410 barrel?
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Old March 8, 2013, 02:01 AM   #10
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Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses.

My own HD weapons are a 12 gauge pump (Mossberg 500) and a .357 revolver (S&W 66), but I'm bigger, am much more familiar with firearms in general, and don't have kids, so I didn't want to assume that my choices would be good for her.

I should mention at this point that the first question is "if" she will get a gun. "Which" gun would be a secondary consideration. I don't know if she would have the right mindset to use a deadly weapon or the dedication to become properly trained with one. And maybe the challenges that arise from keeping a gun in a house with kids around would outweigh the benefits for her.

I have some rifles, shotguns, and handguns, so I might just take her shooting and she can decide if it's something she'd like to pursue further. If so, there are defensive firearm classes offered at the local Cabela's (some specifically for women and others for anyone).
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Old March 8, 2013, 10:08 AM   #11
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My 20 ga. semi auto shotgun rests in the closet in its case. It's been there for almost two years and I forget how to use it. I could figure it out in a minimum of time but not in an emergency situation. My rifle is not easy to grab- in the same closet with the magazine somewhere close by and could be found with the light on and a bit of searching. My revolver is loaded in its holster in a box with the Glock, also loaded, on the bedside table. They would be in a small gunsafe if kids were ever in the house.

The semi auto handguns and the revolver were the HD choice because they were easy to grab, uncomplicated to load and use and I seem to get more range time in with those. The shotgun was decided against for HD because of my large dogs. Like kids, they get in the way of the blast and I prefer to have a good chance of ALL of us surviving a Bad Guy intrusion. In addition, they are easier to handle and move about than a long barreled gun in the close quarters of hallways, doorways etc. I am also vertically challenged at 5 feet two, not very strong, and need to consider recoil, maneuverability, speed of use (practice and familiarity here), and speed in accessibility.

She will need to initially take basic gun safety and handling classes and plan to spend ongoing regular range time with whatever firearm she chooses. She will also have to acquire a mindset that allows her to think pulling the trigger is an easy choice versus not hurting the bad guy and having her kids hurt or killed. Some women cannot get beyond that lifelong conditioning society gives us. In that case, even a baseball bat under the bed won't help her. But at least she won't worry about the kids getting hold of it. They will just play ball.
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Old March 8, 2013, 10:25 AM   #12
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The key to any discussion of home defense weapon selection is to decide what is more important to you:

1. Ready access and convenience
2. Power and accuracy

Since just displaying a gun ends over 90% of confrontations and having a gun is an essential element of surviving a violent encounter, I tend to favor ready access and convenience - which usually means a handgun. The problem is that many people are not willing to actually carry the handgun and lose the major benefits it offers for home defense. They find the idea of carrying a handgun in their own home silly - so at that point, the only thing the handgun has left is convenience - it can be carried and operated one handed. If you can't get around that mental block, you might be better off with a long gun that has better power and accuracy and a long gun in the closet is just as accessible as a handgun in the night stand drawer.

Of course, the ideal solution is to carry a handgun and have a long gun stored in the house, as well as the training to use both of them; but that is not a cheap solution.
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Old March 8, 2013, 10:36 AM   #13
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I'd think something with a buttstock would be the easiest to get proficient at quickly. A pistol caliber carbine would get my vote for this situation. Either a lever gun, or - if she can find one - one of the many semi-auto options out there.
Pistols are hard to master, and a lot of smaller statured people find shotguns a chore to shoot.
An AR would also be ideal, but even if you could find one, it would almost certainly be above the given budget. If you find a cache of $500 AR's please PM me
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Old March 8, 2013, 12:10 PM   #14
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I'd think something with a buttstock would be the easiest to get proficient at quickly. A pistol caliber carbine would get my vote for this situation. Either a lever gun, or - if she can find one - one of the many semi-auto options out there.
Agreed. A Beretta CX4 comes to mind, but they are rather spendy right now
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Old March 8, 2013, 12:43 PM   #15
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good HD options for a small-statured single mother?

I want to add something to my suggestion. Even if you could find a place to keep a long gun that's convenient to reach and away from the kiddos, I still think its a bad idea. Rifles, shotguns, and pistol caliber carbines have one thing in common:

They require two hands to operate. I'm well aware of the fact that they can all be fired with one hand, but I'm trying to think like a small woman with kids. In addition, this is a technique that would have to be taught. If she needs to corral the kids, try doing that while keeping a long gun ready to use. Having a free hand is going to be very important in her situation. I'm still going with a 9mm semi-auto pistol for her.

I would also strongly recommend at least some level of training as well, but I understand it might be tough in her situation.
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Old March 8, 2013, 01:25 PM   #16
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HD options

Where does the lady in question live? Apartment, house/duplex? In town or the country? Next, can she own a dog? Are food and vet bills affordable? If she can, I'd check on getting a guard dog. The firearm after that. And I would suggest a handgun over a long gun. Can't keep a double barrel in your purse and there's gaurantee she'll only need it INSIDE the home.

As for the action, I suggest DA revolver. Several reasons, there's no way to accidentally release a cylinder. With an auto loader, if it gets dropped or the release button is hit somehow, your left with a single shot at best. Then there is the matter of malfunctions such as failure to eject properly or a jam. Revolvers don't have those issues.
As for the caliber of said revolver...I'd go with the largest size she is comfortable handling.
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Old March 8, 2013, 02:40 PM   #17
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Question....For all the men who continue to recommend wheelguns for the fairer sex, what is YOUR go to gun for home/self defense?

If its a semi-auto, how do you get around all the possible malfunctions or problems a semi-auto could give you?
We have to get past the misconception that a woman cannot clear a malfunction or will drop the magazine on accident. The gun is a tool. I guarantee you that the majority of us men cannot figure out how to properly use appliances that women use day in/day out.

My suggestion to the OP, if its home defense, dont have to worry much about concealment, a Sig 9mm, maybe a 228?
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Old March 8, 2013, 02:53 PM   #18
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The fact is that none of here can know what anyone, including the person who is the subject of this thread, can best manage. Having helped teach hundreds of beginners, I've learned that we can't really make categorical statements that will be universally valid.

Some good instruction and an opportunity to try different guns under knowledgeable supervision can go a long way toward helping someone new make a good choice.
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Old March 8, 2013, 03:15 PM   #19
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My cc weapon is a wheel gun. Probably always will be. Its not that I don't trust autos, because I do. I just trust revolvers more.
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Old March 8, 2013, 03:18 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Ruger480
My cc weapon is a wheel gun. Probably always will be. Its not that I don't trust autos, because I do. I just trust revolvers more.
That's fine for you. That doesn't mean it's the right choice for someone else.
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Old March 8, 2013, 04:26 PM   #21
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My thought is get her enrolled into a basic firearms course designed for new and inexperienced shooter.

Have her shoot as many types of firearms as possible.

Let her select the one which best suits her situation.

In the mean time get her an ABC Dry Chemical fire extinguisher. It is one of the best non-lethal self defense systems on the market.
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Old March 8, 2013, 05:41 PM   #22
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Back when you could find the ammo, I would have recommended a revolver or semi-auto in .22lr (her preference, of course). With a good quality load, it could defend her home adequately. The practice ammo is (was) cheap, encouraging practice & helping her save for training. And a good .22lr handgun is just plain fun to shoot, encouraging more & deeper participation in shooting. I lean more toward revolvers mainly for ease of maintenance & price of speedloaders vs. magazines. we all know, the .22lr is the "gateway caliber".....get them hooked on it first, then they'll start looking to get on the heavier stuff....
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Last edited by seeker_two; March 9, 2013 at 10:08 AM. Reason: Didn't have time to add the first time....
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Old March 8, 2013, 09:17 PM   #23
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Sorry Frank, you are correct and I should have clarified my last statement. It was an answer to Spacemanspiffs question. I did not mean to imply that a wheel gun was the only correct choice.
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Old March 8, 2013, 09:57 PM   #24
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My usual answer to that question is "Use what you are best with." If she's a new shooter, then she won't know yet what she has the most confidence in using. The point of the current exercise is to get her started in figuring out the answer to that question.

I'm glad to see Kathy's site mentioned early in the thread, and doubly so to see Kathy herself weighing in. As long as your friend is physically healthy she shouldn't have any problems running whatever firearm she chooses. I tend to agree that a semiauto handgun is probably the best starting point for her, and that a small or medium frame 9mm is probably a good way to get started for her in figuring out her eventual solution. But as has been mentioned, hardware (toolset) is the easiest part of the process to master. Mindset and skillset are far more important, and take a lot more work.

Please offer her all the encouragement you can!
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Old March 9, 2013, 03:32 PM   #25
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Agree with everything Pax said, including that if you're not willing to train, you shouldn't be using a firearm.

That said, the woman described does not sound to me like a candidate for a shotgun. After I bought a Mossberg 500 in the wake of a neighborhood murder when we lived in Kalifornia, I hired a police firearms trainer to work with both of us in the use of a 12-gauge. She shot it fine, but hated the recoil. A 20 would certainly be easier to shoot, but the issue of recoil remains, tho to a lesser extent.

My wife has been to the range with me a number of times, and can shoot all my handguns well. But again, recoil is her issue, and the only gun she really enjoys shooting is my Smith 22a. She is not a tiny woman and exercises daily, so strength is not an issue.

All that leading up to the idea that a .22mag revolver or semi-auto might provide our subject with a relatively effective round in a recoil-free weapon. Because of the lack of recoil to deal with in returning to target, it could be the easiest to learn to use effectively. I understand the feelings about sub-caliber guns for SD, but having and being able to use a .22mag would be better, I think, than trying to utilize a gun for which our subject appears to be ill-equipped, both by stature and inclination.

Having children in the house is an issue, but it's the same issue with a .22 or a .50; access must be denied to young children, whatever the gun you choose. Price is also in the ballpark, with Taurus and Charter (I think) offering wheelguns for .22mag. Smith has two, I believe, but both are higher in price, at least when purchasing new.

IMHO, of course.
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