Listen to the Women

by L. Neil Smith

         A guy I know offers what he thinks is instruction in self-defense for women. Among other things, he advises them to buy .22 caliber pistols because they're cheap to feed (true enough), easy to get proficient with (also true), and, in his opinion, adequate for killing or driving off a rapist, mugger, or burglar.
         The trouble is, his opinions and advice are likely to get his students killed.
         Another guy I know had a teenage accident which taught him everything we need to know about the adequacy of .22 rimfire. His single action revolver fell from a bunk bed and fired a cartridge which was (regrettably) under the hammer, putting a slug into his midsection -- the part we all try to hit when we're practicing self-defense. He didn't know he'd been hit until he saw a tiny drop of blood forming in the area of his solar plexus. While his family were running around screaming, he called the doctor, got dressed, and waited for the ambulance.
         Now this isn't just another entry in the Great Stopping Power Debate, an endless, mostly male ritual which never produces useful answers because it isn't really intended to. (It serves purposes of its own which are perfectly respectable, if you follow cultural anthropology.) For the moment, let's agree that, other things being equal, big guns are more effective than little guns and therefore it's reasonable to assume that an individual should learn to use the biggest weapon he or she can handle comfortably, safely, and efficaciously.
         Which brings us to the meat of the question -- or rather the muscle. You can't avoid the plain fact of physical anthropology that women have only about half the upper-body strength of men. Yet all the women I shoot with manifest pragmatic interest in medium to large-bore centerfire weapons ranging from .38 Special to .45 Auto. Some outshoot me on a regular basis; most can do it at one time or another. Not many lean toward .44 Magnum, .445 Supermag, or .45 Winchester Magnum, but that's a far more accurate reflection of our physical differences -- and it's also another male thing, a matter of ceremonial accouterment.
         My 98-pound wife shoots Hunter's Pistol with the same 6" S&W M610 I do, a big sixgun with a full-length lug under a heavy barrel, chambered in 10 m/m. For Falling Plate, she uses a Series 70 Gold Cup identical to mine. The first handgun she ever fired was a 4" Security Six with full-powered .357 Magnum loads (at 25 yards, she kept every shot on the paper) and her deer rifle's a 95 Marlin in .45/70 (I can't shoot the damn thing, it makes my eyes water). In practical circumstance, the same in which I rely on a 3" Detonics .45, she prefers a tiny 2" .38 Chief's Special, not because she's anybody's delicate flower, but because her purse (that of a full-time wife, mother, and Graduate Coordinator) is already heavy enough to qualify as field gear for Infantry Basic Training.
         But what's the point of all that? Simply this: I'm confident we're going to win the battle of the Second Amendment. I've been so ever since JoAnne Hall's column started showing up in Guns & Ammo, and that confidence was strengthened by Paxton Quigley's publication of Armed and Female, by the advent of Women & Guns, and most recently by Nancy Bittle's appearance on Street Stories.
         Why should that make a difference? Our species is divided into halves, each seeing the world a slightly different way, providing humanity as a whole with perspective each would lack without the other. Survivalwise, it's worked well over the million-plus years we've been around. My wife contends that men are strategically oriented and women tactical: male gunfolk typically focus on history, the Constitution, the significance of the Second Amendment in maintaining individual liberty, social democracy, and Western civilization; females tend to focus on protecting themselves from mutants lurking at the edges of that civilization. Both are correct in their priorities, neither is complete without the other.
         Yet there are still gunshops today where women feel unwelcome, and whose proprietors, when they condescend to acknowledge females at all, invariably offer the "little lady" a .25 auto to defend herself with. It seems, just as there are useless, gutless, mindless women who protest that they could never shoot anybody, even to preserve their own worthless lives or those of their children, just as there are cretinous cops (the same cops, in my experience, who get trounced by female competitors) who advise women not to arm themselves because some rapist, mugger, or burglar will only take their little gun away and hurt them with it, there are still male gun people who don't understand that trying to fight this battle without female help is exactly like closing one eye in combat.
         The point I'm making here is not feminist (in fact that movement may be responsible for the remaining communication problems between the genders) but individualistic. Nor is it directed at a majority of male shooters, mostly younger ones, who have gotten the point, but at a minority of fossilized idiots who haven't.
         It's the women among us who've finally gotten the media to listen to us after decades of bigotry and persecution. It's the women and their increasing willingness to provide for their own physical safety in a culture gone berserk, that are at the heart of the effort (of its concerns if not its politics) to make concealed carry of weapons legal. It's the women who will provide the final nudge we need to secure our individual rights, end the insanity of victim disarmament, and recreate a culture where some value is placed on civility.
         The least we can do is listen seriously, not treat them like retarded children when they try to help us by helping themselves. We owe them the courtesy, when they're learning the craft, of offering them the same advice we'd give any male beginner, then let them make their own minds up about what they really need.
         They're going to do it anyway.


L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author -- provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.


Talk to me!: [email protected]

Back to L. Neil Smith's Lever Action Essays Page