by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

This is the continuing fictional saga and guest report of a man teaching a woman to shoot. Today Jack and Jill look at possible defense weapons for her!

Our guest writer is reader, Jack Cooper. Take it away, Jack.

Teach me to shoot

by Jack Cooper

This report covers:

  • Harsh recoil
  • Defense is always a tradeoff
  • Obey the law
  • What about a 9mm revolver?
  • Snub-nosed tradeoffs
  • The test
  • Ouch!
  • What’s next?

B.B. had prepared me for an onslaught of questions from you readers that never came! I told you last time that I trained Jill on a Ruger Single Seven chambered for the .327 Federal magnum, but she shot the smaller, less powerful .32 H&R Magnum cartridge. I thought at least one of you would ask why.

Harsh recoil

The answer was recoil. While the .32 H&R Magnum is a powerful round, the .327 Federal Magnum is much more powerful and would have recoiled significantly more. Besides loading heavier bullets, that cartridge has twice the chamber pressure of the .32 H&R Magnum. Gun writers describe the kick as “snappy,” which is gun writer-ese for “don’t go there.” I did not want Jill to try that round, since her previous experience had been with a cartridge that recoiled far too much for her small hands.

Can some women handle a .357? Certainly they can. I’m not saying they can’t. So can some men — but not all. What I am saying is that when you train someone, you have to be sensitive to what they can tolerate, and don’t exceed that, at the risk of ruining the training. Don’t think you have to toughen them up. That is a military concept; it should not be one that a firearms instructor uses.

Defense is always a tradeoff

But I also don’t want Jill to believe she can defend herself with a handgun chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge that recoils very. Can it do the job? Certainly. Will it do it reliably under most conditions? Almost certainly not. We are going to have to reach a compromise in our choice of defense cartridges, because people have been shot in the head with a .44 Magnum and walked away. It isn’t the norm, but it does happen.

What I want Jill to have is a cartridge she feels confident using, and also one that has the best probability of doing the job it’s called to do. No matter what we choose, big or small, it will be a compromise.

We had a long conversation about this before starting the next phase of her training. She understands that a .357 Magnum is more lethal than a .32 H&R Magnum, but the guns that chamber that cartridge are either much heavier than the guns that chamber a .32 H&R Magnum, or else they recoil viciously. If the gun is too heavy, Jill will be tempted to not carry it most of the time, and if it recoils too hard she will not practice with it as often as she should. We want a gun that will feel comfortable enough to carry in her purse all the time, and also one that feels natural to her.

Obey the law

I say she will carry it all the time, but in fact Jill works at a hospital. In our state it is illegal to carry a firearm into a hospital unless you are a law enforcement officer. Yet one of the most dangerous places Jill goes is into the parking garage where she parks, adjacent to the hospital. We will have to work something out for her, since we cannot leave her vulnerable at this critical juncture!

Today’s session is about selecting a carry gun for her. We probably won’t actually get one today, but we want to start looking at what’s available.

What about a 9mm revolver?

As we looked around the gun store, the proprietor asked why were weren’t considering a 9mm revolver for Jill. He agreed that 9mm semiautomatic pistols are too difficult to rack (pull the slide back to chamber the first cartridge), but he wondered why a 9mm revolver wouldn’t be better than a .32 H&R Magnum. So I had the bullet weight discussion with him. I asked him what the standard weight of 9mm bullets was and he had to pull a box off the shelf to see. It was 125 grains. We wanted to shoot a bullet that weighed no more than 90 grains. Then he told me that certain 9mm defense ammo has lighter bullets that perform very well. I had not considered that, so I said we might give that a try.

This store also has an indoor shooting range attached to it. You pay by the half hour and can electronically run the targets out to a maximum of 25 yards.

They also rent certain handguns, among which was a Taurus 9mm revolver. If you buy the ammo from them, which we did, the “rental” is free, though you still have to pay for the range time. They didn’t have any .32 H&R Magnum revolvers to rent (no surprise), but I brought three with me that I had borrowed from friends. We were set up to shoot 4 different revolvers this day.

Snub-nosed tradeoffs

A snub-nosed revolver may look cut-and-dried to the casual observer, but there are actually many things to consider. For starters, the smaller guns hold 5 cartridges, while the ones that are slightly larger hold 6. That extra round means a lot in a defensive situation.

Also, where some snub-nosed revolvers are made of steel and weigh over 20 ounces, there are lightweights that weigh as little as 12.5 ounces. The light weight means the gun is easier to carry all the time, but it also means the gun is going to recoil more. Now do you see why I want to stick to bullets that weigh 90 grains or less?

The standard barrel length of a snub-nosed revolver is 2 inches, but they range from 1.8 inches to 3 inches. The frames of different models are also longer or shorter — all of which affects their concealability.

The grips are another concern. Wide rubberized grips absorb recoil better, where narrower wooden or plastic grips are easier to conceal and faster to pull out when the time comes. But smaller grips accentuate the feel of the recoil.

Finally there is the hammer — or lack of it. Some people say a hammer can catch on things when you pull the gun. They either want no hammer or a shrouded hammer that won’t catch on anything. But that also means the revolver cannot be cocked single action. It becomes double action only. The proponents say that’s okay because in a defensive situation you’ll only be shooting double action anyway. I would have to agree with that observation. So Jill would test all of these guns in the double action mode.

Smith & Wesson 432
This S&W 432 is hammerless. It can only be fired double action.

Smith & Wesson 431
The S&W 431 has a hammer, and can fire both single and double action.

The test

Jill fired all of the guns I brought, which were an S&W 431, a Ruger LCR and a Charter Arms Undercoverette. She found the Smith to be the smoothest in both single and double action, though the Ruger did have a long smooth double action pull that felt lightest. She was able to control the Smith best of all three revolvers. Both the Smith and Ruger gave her 3-inch groups at 15 feet (5 yards) when fired double action. She really had to concentrate to get the groups that small and she noted that this was nothing like shooting targets single-action.

I had her shooting at a standard silhouette target. At first she wondered where to aim, but once she got used to the combat sights on the guns, she kept her shots in the center of the torso.

The Charter Arms Undercoverette had the worst trigger of the three, plus it was least accurate. Jill just didn’t like it, so we ruled it out. But there was one more revolver to test — the 9mm Taurus suggested by the gun store owner. We bought some reloaded rounds that had a 100-grain lead-free fragible defense bullet that was supposed to leave the muzzle at 1,250 f.p.s. I guessed in the Taurus snub-nose we rented it might go out at 1,000 f.p.s.

Because the 9mm cartridge is rimless, the cartridges had to be inserted into a 5-shot full-moon clip. Otherwise, the revolver’s extractor would have nothing to press on and they would have to be pushed out of the cylinder one at a time.

full moon clips
Cartridges that are rimless like the 9mm Luger need something like these full moon clips, if you want to use the extractor on the swing-out cylinder.

Ouch!

Jill didn’t like the idea of the clips, and when she fired the revolver and felt the recoil, she was definitely turned off. “This recoil is too much for me. The other snub-nosed revolvers we just shot all kick a lot, but this one is starting to hurt.”

I told her if the same 9mm cartridge was shot in a semiautomatic pistol that weighed twice as much it would feel a lot better. But that was why I stopped at the .32 H&R Magnum. She agreed that .32 H&R Magnum was as far as she wanted to go in a revolver.

What’s next?

We ended the session here, but we aren’t finished. There are still a couple more revolvers for her to shoot before she decides. But today was the culmination of months of training. Jill was a good pupil who learned exceptionally fast. I now feel as safe with her on the line as I do any of my other shooting buddies.

She is looking into attending a training camp offered by Babes with Bullets . She said she had no idea organizations like this existed before our training began, but now she feels confident to attend and participate. She knows she will receive different instruction at one of their camps, and after watching some of the videos they post on the Press section of their website (under Who we are), she’s excited to attend.

We have one last training session to go before we are finished, but that won’t be the last you hear of us. Jill and I have grown close through these sessions and through the bible study group we both attend. I have a feeling we will be shooting together for a long time to come.