Help Your Wife Purchase a Concealed Carry Firearm, Part 2: The Search

Depending on where you live, local stores are great for advice, but big-box stores usually have a wider selection.

Now that you know what features your wife or girlfriend wants in her concealed carry handgun (covered in Part I of this series), you’re ready to help her start looking.

If you’re familiar with the wonderful world of compact and subcompact handguns, you probably already have several options in mind. If not, it can be intimidating to weed through the wide variety of semi-automatic handguns and revolvers currently on the market.

With that in mind, I’m going to split this article into two sections. First, I’ll talk about how to narrow your list to a manageable number of solid concealed carry options. Then I’ll go over a few strategies for helping your significant other choose from among those options.

A Few Guns to Consider

If you’ve had The Talk with your wife or girlfriend, you’re already halfway there. In our conversation, Ana (my wife) and I determined that we’re looking for a subcompact, semi-automatic handgun in 9mm with an external safety. She wants an external safety to provide one additional protection against accidental discharge, and she wants the gun to be small enough to fit in a small purse or carry on her person.

So right away I was able to rule out dozens of compact options as well as anything that doesn’t come with an external safety.

That’s a great start, but if you don’t know which guns have which features you’ll still have a hard time.

We started with some good old fashioned internet research. GunsAmerica publishes lots of great reviews on concealed carry handguns. Reviewers of each gun discuss the firearm’s features, its quality, and its affordability. Here’s what we were able to find (more or less) within our parameters:

GunsAmerica also publishes articles like this one that lists 10 of the best concealed-carry handguns. Here you’ll find guns that aren’t on my list above like the Kel-Tec PF9 and the Sig P239. (If you have any firearm options to add, include them in the comments!).

After you’ve conducted a similar search within your parameters, you’ll be ready to visit your local gun stores. I encourage you and your significant other to use this opportunity to talk to the folks behind the counter and ask if they can recommend any options you haven’t considered.

This will also be your wife/girlfriend’s opportunity to hold a few of these guns for the first time, which brings us to the most important section in this series…

Decisions, Decisions

The Sig P938 is a great little gun, but it wasn’t quite right for Ana.

This is how I helped Ana choose a firearm.

We started by visiting several big-box and locally-owned gun stores. We brought our list, and Ana had a chance to hold each gun, rack the slide, and pull the trigger.

“Once I actually started holding guns, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to narrow my list,” Ana told me. “Some of the guns were way too small. Others were too difficult to load or the controls weren’t quite in the right place.”

By the end of the day we’d narrowed the list to the Springfield XD-S, the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, and the Sig P938.

“It was a tough decision, but these three guns really stood out to me as particularly comfortable and easy to operate,” Ana said. “I’m sure others would feel differently, but, for me, the decision was pretty clear.”

Ana and I weren’t comfortable purchasing a self-defense handgun without firing live rounds. Holding a gun is great, but it’s impossible to know how a firearm shoots without actually shooting it. I know some say they can get used to the gun after the fact, but I don’t see why anyone would want to start out at a disadvantage.

So once we had our top-three list of firearms, we started looking around for a place to try them. There are lots of gun ranges that have a wide selection of firearms available for rent, which this is a great way to test lots of guns all at once.

The Shield and the XDS were extremely similar, but the XDS wasn’t as comfortable.

There are several such ranges near our home, but we also know quite a few gun owners, so we were actually able to find all three guns amongst our friends and family. Ana tested each of them, paying attention to accuracy, comfort level, and firearm control. She shot about 50 rounds through each gun from 5, 10, and 15 yards.

After quite a bit of thought, she ultimately selected the M&P Shield.

She liked all three guns, but the XD-S felt a little large for her hands, and the P938 kicked too much and wasn’t as comfortable to shoot. “The gun needs to be comfortable to shoot, both for a self-defense situation and for practice,” Ana said during our range session. “I’m not going to want to go to the range if I hate shooting the gun, and if I don’t go to the range I won’t be confident enough to carry it around.”

The Shield is one of the most ergonomically pleasant subcompact handguns I’ve ever shot, and Ana agreed. Its slim profile allows for easily concealability, but it’s still easy to shoot, especially with the extended magazine. The trigger pull is solid, though there are some aftermarket options we might consider.

Plus, Smith and Wesson’s legendary reliability will give Ana peace of mind as she begins carrying a handgun to use for personal defense. Click here to read a full review of the Shield.

The Shield struck the right balance between size, weight, and ergonomics.

Once we settled on the Shield, we searched GunsAmerica’s firearm listings and found a great deal in our area (local sales are always FREE on GunsAmerica). This saved both shipping costs and FFL fees, which allowed us to really take advantage of the low price we found.

The process you use to find the right handgun might be different, and I encourage you to share your experience in the comments below. But I think stopping by a gun store and a gun range is a good idea no matter what firearm you’re looking for, and I hope our experience will be helpful to anyone in a similar situation.

Most importantly, be sure to let your significant other control the process. Help with research; help in the gun store and at the range. But don’t force it. That way she’ll end up with something she likes, and you’ll both be comfortable with her decision.

Be looking in the next several weeks for the third and final installment of this series. We’ll talk about how to acclimate your wife/girlfriend to their new firearm, what drills to consider, and whether or not to pursue additional training.


About the Author: Jordan Michaels is a new convert to the gun world. A Canadian immigrant to the United States, he recently became an American citizen and is happily enjoying his newly-acquired Second Amendment freedoms. He’s a communications professional, a political junkie, and an avid basketball fan.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at

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  • Jakejayhawk March 11, 2017, 4:07 am

    Love this series and the advice based on life experiences. My wife has a Ruger hammerless .357. I know, too much for a woman, right? YOU tell her that! She chose it for carry. At home she prefers the Taurus Judge. What can I say, she loves revolvers.

    A friendly word of advice. I don’t own a gun shop nor do I work for one. I realize this article is on Gunsamerica but think about your actions. You went to retailers to see the guns, get them in her hands, and get advice. Then you bought used off of the Web. Hey, I have done that too. But if we don’t support our local retailers they won’t be there to provide those services. True for any products. Throw a bone to local merchants now and then!

    Thanks for the articles!

    • Glenn Roland August 31, 2019, 8:57 am

      Mine Also. Taurus 85UL .38 in her Purse, 605 .357 in her Truck, & Mossberg 500 Pistol Grip for the Living Room.

  • Duane Wieden March 10, 2017, 9:50 am

    When I went through the selection process for my fiance, the handguns that I initially chose for her consideration were the Sig p938 and the Detonics Combatmaster VI. It soon became apparent that these firearms were way outside of her skill level, and during the evaluation cycle I selected the Smith & Wesson performance center Shield and the Walther PPS classic, both in 9 mm. After putting well over a hundred rounds through each handgun, both of us preferred the Walther PPS classic. It’s slide was easier to rack it’s magazine ejection control preferred and its combat and target accuracy and overall handling was better for both of us. It’s grip size could be customized, and it could also be equipped with a light or laser on the rail in the front of the pistol.

    While cocked and locked is my standard, for her, a Striker Fired handgun is what she needed… as well as ongoing continuous training

    The one additional comment I would make is that if a woman is unwilling to kill someone if they need to be killed, then her having a gun in the first place is more of a detriment than an advantage. Firearms are useful for their intended purpose. If someone is unwilling to use them for that purpose than owning, carrying, or possessing them is both a moot point as well as a personal liability.

  • Don waters December 30, 2016, 5:44 pm

    I was an instructor when there was a local range available, and brought a good assortment of quality firearms for clients to try. Whatever worked best for them was what they ended up buying. I have had women pickup a g17 and hit the target first shot, some don’t get a hang of it. Whatever works for the individual is best. Grip angle, weight, hand shape all play a part and are different for everyone. I sure wouldn’t let my wife carry any garbage like taurus charter arms kel tec hi point or any off brand and never offered them for a client.

  • Johnny December 30, 2016, 1:28 pm

    Good recommendations for firearms that I’ve seen many female shooters operate better than others, and as others mentioned, sure there’s a few more out there…everyone’s gonna have a different want &/or need. One (actually 2) other things I would add are pretty basic but, also something I’ve seen time and time again be beneficial. While big box stores do give ladies the option of holding many different platforms of handgun, the true test is when live fire begins. Many range’s these days have (very commonly bought) rental guns you can test out before having to buy and realize it doesn’t work for you (your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, etc.).

    But, the BEST advice I can give in new female shooters to find the right gun for them is to find a PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTOR, to teach you how each of those handguns you’re looking at is properly used, and what’s best for you. Time and time again we get female students in class, brand new firearm and once we get to dryfire alone, we find the gun does not even fit them or, in some cases, they can’t pull the trigger. When we ask if they were able to at the gun shop when buying the gun, the general (not always but, majority) responses is, “I didn’t go…my husband told me this is what I needed and he bought me for my birthday.” When we ask how they have loaded the mags (if a semi auto), chambered a round, or with a DA/SA revolver, pulled the trigger prior to not being able to do so in the class they’re attending, somewhat the same answer “My husband does all the mag/gun loading. Loading my mags are too hard, and I can’t rack the slide.” If a revolver trigger can’t be pulled and asked how prior to class, “Oh…first time out I realized I couldn’t pull through the DA trigger so my husband/boyfriend/dad/etc. just told me to cock the hammer.” Well, in a self defense situation that we’re training for, cocking the hammer isn’t an option nor how we train.

    In no way am I trying to bash anyone and all these common mistakes all come with the best of intentions. In closing I’d just say, when picking a gun for your wife (any female new shooter in your life) let them come with you and let them decide what’s best. And when at all possible, just sit back and let the salesman who’s there to make sure the gun fits the individual right do the “selling” (if you don’t think he’s making good decisions or, just sale you anything, that’s when it’s time to step in and go elsewhere). Teach your wife/girlfriend/etc. how to help themselves at the gun shop and again, once it’s time for the training to begin, if you’d prefer to stay a happy couple or happy family…hire an instructor!!! For those that don’t understand what I’m saying, I ask you… Have you ever tried to teach your significant other how to play a sport? Ski, golf, tennis, you name it? No matter how good you are, how did it really work out all in all? I’m guessing for most it’s a quiet ride home.

    I am a professional, certified firearm instructor. I’ve had my own company open for training for about 5yrs now, prior to that assisting in other training classes as an instructor and to this day, I’ve never given my own family members a lesson (i.e. CCW training or even renewals), and when one of my colleagues has a wife, daughter, son, father, etc., who needs to take a class, they send them to me or, one of our other core group of instructors. All in all, everyone just seems to be happier at the end of the day, there’s no question of our family members simply getting “pushed through” (no conflict of interest) and for some reason, non-family member communication just seems to be taken better while giving instruction. Us 3-4 instructors who came up together of course do each other’s family’s classes for free of charge, it’s just about not having family try to teach family.

    And there’s nothing better for an instructor to hear from a female student when asked what type of ammo she’s using and we get an OPERATORS response of “I use a 115gr Winchester White Box FMJ for practice and a 115gr Speer Gold Dot Bonded HP for my self defense rounds” as opposed to “whatever my husband buys, tells me to shoot and loads in my mags.”

    Ladies…find whatever it takes to get you out there on the firing line and learn how to shoot that firearm you’ve always wanted to learn to shoot well but, Woman Up and do it your way the way you want! If just getting in to shooting sports and going with a loved one is most comfortable the first few times, do it but, eventually it’s time for you to learn on your own. We carry a gun because it’s too heavy to carry a cop. Get professionally trained and stay happily married as well:)

    Happy and Safe New Years to All!!!

  • Craig Ramsey December 30, 2016, 1:07 pm

    I wouldn’t do it. Statistically she is probably 40x more likely to shoot you than a bad guy.
    After spending several hours waiting on a gunsmith in a gun shop, it appears lots of women can’t rack the slide on autos.
    Common reaction to being told that the pink .380 is not enough gun is “I don’t want to shoot anybody, I just want it for protection.”

  • Gary B December 30, 2016, 11:43 am

    Overlooked is the Ruger LC-380, it has a external safety, could be front pocket carried (It seems bigger than it actually is) it is easy. It does have a long trigger pull, but it is smooth and accurate. The recoil is a lot less compared to a LC9 or LC9s,. 7+1 capacity. A used LC9 is another option, normally around $200 to $250 locally and are very reliable, they look and feel identical to the LC-380 but are harder to rack and have a good bit more recoil.
    the cheapest new LC-380 on GunsAmerica is $310

  • Chris Surprenant December 30, 2016, 11:11 am

    I was surprised to see the Glock 43 on the short list given your requirement for an external safety.

    Good article.

  • Joe Greco December 30, 2016, 11:09 am

    Offered to get my wife whatever she wanted, tried several pistols, but she prefers the Taurus 85, likes the simplicity, trigger pull is fairly light 7 smooth, with Hogue grips she has excellent control.

  • Russ Trager December 30, 2016, 10:04 am

    We are a gun shop in a small town. We stock a large inventory of varied conceal carry weapons. Female buyers are definitely on the rise. Most want 9mm semi auto and those who can’t rack the slide (no matter what) buy 38 revolvers. Popular brands and models are Ruger LCR, Taurus Model 85 Poly and Charter Arms for revolvers. Ruger LC9s, Taurus Millennium G2, S&W Shield, and Keltec PF9 for semi auto. What is starting to do very well is the Walther CCP. Everyone can rack its slide! By the way, the men like Springfield XD Mod 2.

  • Micah Hills December 30, 2016, 9:54 am

    I screwed up and got my wife a Ruger LCP 380 for Christmas two years ago. She hated it, but still passed her CCW with it. The next week we went shopping and she got a S&P shield and she loves it.

  • Rochelle Hoffman December 30, 2016, 9:16 am

    I also handled and fired several guns before making a purchase. I ruled out any firearm without an external safety. In the end I opted for the Ruger LC9s. It does have a nice kick back, but is very comfortable to shoot. It’s not too big to carry in my purse or on my hip (with a loose fitting shirt). This gun is a good option for any ladies looking for a first firearm.

  • Billybob December 30, 2016, 8:37 am

    SIZE-WEIGHT-RECOIL-cost of target ammo -AMMO AVAILABILITY- RELIABILITY- Strength of the shooter to hold the gun (auto) firm so it doesn\’t stovepipe (short cycle due to arm moving with the slide)
    Flashbang Holsters Bra Holster Marilyn Beretta Jetfire 950 Right Handed Black by Flashbang Holsters
    UnderTech Undercover Womens Concealment Holster Tank Top Belly– Ban Holster
    When your– Coach bag– Money– high dollar Kimber –Drivers license — cell phone–keys –ADDRESS -credit cards- GET RIPPED OUT OF YOUR HAND and after your get the police report made only to find you have no money or car (keys gone) or phone to get you home ! ALL WAYS CARRY A GUN ON YOUR PERSON ! Not in the glove box or trunk !

  • Ron Stidham December 30, 2016, 4:45 am

    I agree with the process of elimination that she, and you came up with. That being said, what if lets say you and Ana were in a gun fight-could or would she be able to handle your gun should you go down, or her to run out of ammo. Lets hope this doesn’t happen, but the question is there. She needs to be able to use what she has in her hand-the best weapon you have IS the one in your hand at that moment. Training with other weapons will make her more self reliant. That needs to be addressed, before she finds herself in a situation that indeed will spiral out of control.

  • Gary Ramey December 30, 2016, 3:37 am

    Be sure to have her also look at the Honor Defense line of pistols.
    Last year a GunsAmerica Author thought the Honor Guard 9mm pistols was the best in the industry.

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