Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Female Firearm Novice's Test and Evaluation of Concealable Firearms - Part 1

Murphy's Law called me asking my opinion on a few small handguns and how I thought a female, non-regular shooter would like them as a self-defense firearm. He's got a female friend getting into shooting and she's interested in a carry firearm.

After mulling over the features and good and bad points of each of the ones he was asking me about, namely the P-64, the PA-63, and the CZ-82, I then had a cunning plan.

Why not get Natasha's opinion?

After all, she's smart, she's female, she's taken a CCW class and had some range time and is safe with firearms. She's tolerant of my shooting and gun collecting habits, but really not an enthusiast. In addition, she's had wrist and hand issues so hand strength was not at a premium, making for a useful test and a different perspective on the firearms in question.

Natasha graciously decided to indulge my request and agreed to evaluate each firearm.

Doing this in a semi-scientific manner we looked at:

1. The ease of working the slide with the hammer down
2. The ease of working the slide with the hammer pulled back
3. The ease of using the trigger in double action
4. The ease of using the trigger in single action
5. Magazine removal and replacement
6. Overall handling / feel

All guns were cleared and verified as empty before being evaluated and all dry firing was towards a safe backstop with no ammunition in the room.

We tested the P-64, The PA-63, The CZ-82, a Bulgarian Makarov, the Kahr PM-9 and a Glock 23.

The results were somewhat surprising.

Kahr PM9
Overall Rank: 1
Slide: perfect with great ease of use.
Trigger: Excellent and easy to use.
Magazine: manipulation was easy.

Overall, Natasha really liked the light weight of the Kahr, the ease of operating the slide, the good sights and overall feel and the smooth and easy trigger the best of all the firearms. If I put a Crimson Trace laser on it it would get an A++ and her absolute seal of approval. The PM-9 is truly a great carry gun.

Overall Rank: 2
Of all the 9x18 pistols, this was her favorite.
Slide: was easy to maniplate and lock back in either condition.
Trigger in double action: easy, trigger described as very good.
Trigger in single action: easy, very good trigger.
Magazine: remove and replace took a bit of work as she had to shift her hand a bit to reach the button but not bad once she figured it out.

Overall this was the best of the 9x18 pistols and very easy for her to operate.

The PA-63
Overall Rank: 3
Slide: was easier to manipulate than the Makarov, and much easier with the hammer back.
Trigger in double action: was not good but better than the Makarov (this is with the 11 lb spring installed, we may try this again with a 9 lb spring).
Trigger in single action: was easy.
Magazine: manipulation was easy.

Overall, The light weight and overall  feel of the PA-63 was quite good, but she did not like the double action trigger. We'll have to see if the 9 lb hammer spring improves the overall score as the heavier double action trigger was a real issue.

Glock 23
Overall Rank: 4
Slide: was easier to manipulate than the Makarov, but rather stiff.
Trigger: was decent but she liked the PM9's and the CZ82's triggers much more.
Magazine: manipulation was easy

Overall, Her greatest issue with the Glock 23 was the weight of the pistol and size of the grip.
Her greatest like about it was the Crimson Trace Laser sight which made aiming a breeze.

The Bulgarian Makarov
Overall ranking: 5
Slide: was the hardest for her to manipulate and impossible with the hammer down.
Trigger in double action: very difficult to almost impossible.
Trigger in single action: good
Magazine: manipulation was fine

Overall, the slide was the biggest issue, followed by the heavy double action trigger pull.

The P-64
Overall rank: 6
Slide: was easier to manipulate than the Makarov or the PA-63
Trigger in double action: was completely impossible and a full trigger pull could not be achieved.
Trigger in single action: was acceptable but getting it into single action was difficult
Magazine: manipulation was easy

This was the smallest of the firearms, however unless the hammer spring can be modified, it is out of the running as a carry pistol for those with limited finger strength.  If it could be improved it would beat the Makarov and PA-63 in her opinion.

So there you have it and hopefully it will give your new female shooting friends some initial food for thought as they consider a pistol to carry.

Lesson #1: Guys, don't assume your female friend / Significant Other / etc,  can use the same firearm you do or will find it enjoyable to use. Make sure you help them find one they can use easily and comfortably, and try it out first to make sure its suitable.  Expect issues that you've never thought of to crop up, most notably hand and finger strength.

If they're a new shooter, think an introduction with a .22 like a Ruger MKII and move forward from there.  Natasha can easily shoot and operate the MKII and its overall weight and light recoil makes for a good introductory gun before moving on to more suitable defensive calibers.  Worst comes to worse, hitting with 11 rounds of .22 from a MKII will give a bad guy something to think about.

Hand strength and size certainly matters when deciding what firearm to carry.  While I can use the P-64 in double action mode without any serious issues, Natasha could not do so no matter how hard she tried. I was also very surprised at the difficulty she had with the Makarov's slide. Hand size and strength also affected her evaluation of the Glock as it was described as the heaviest and hardest to get a decent grip.

I really hadn't considered that Natasha and I had hand strength that differed enough to be an issue with pistol manipulation until we went through this evaluation. While I know there is a real strength difference between us its not something that my conscious mind gave much thought.  You don't think of hand strength disparity much in a marriage as it is not one of the major topics of conversation: Hi Honey, I'm home, how's your hand strength? 

Now I know why I always get to open the stuck jars.

Natasha has generously volunteered to perform round two of these tests - taking the pistols to the range and doing a live fire evaluation, so there will be a follow-up report when time permits.


Murphy's Law said...

You two seriously rock.


ProudHillbilly said...

What ML said! I need to print this so I'll have it to refer to.

Keads said...

That was excellent!