By Deb Ferns
I’ve read over a dozen articles about how to fit a handgun to a woman’s hand. Every article says, essentially, the same thing — suggesting she handle a variety of guns before purchasing, paying special attention to the size of the grip. However, very few of the articles encourage women to actually shootthe gun before the purchase is made. You’ve likely encountered customers like this in your store, and you can be a resource to help her: A “try before you buy” program would be excellent to introduce if you don’t already have one. (For those standalone stores without ranges, perhaps there’s an opportunity to partner with a local guest or affiliate range.)
For the past 15 years, I’ve worked closely with thousands of women on grip, stance, sight picture and trigger press. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to see women actually shoot the gun they’re considering for purchase. What looks like a good fit in a gun store may not turn out to be what she needs once she’s actually shooting the handgun steadily. And it’s understood a full-size handgun versus a subcompact/lighter gun also changes the dynamics. A note for readers: The following insights apply to semi-auto pistols only.
Facilitating A Common Scenario
There are some basic tips dealers can implement to make sure a novice woman gun owner’s trip to the gun store is a more comfortable scenario.
For starters, when a member of your sales staff hands a handgun to a prospective buyer, always have them ensure it’s unloaded — and relay the information to the customer. (Of course, it should already be, but it’s the responsibility of the person handling the gun to confirm.) When I’m looking at a new gun, I prefer to have it in an open slide lock position without the magazine, placed on the counter in front of me so I can easily pick it up. A tip for your sales staff: since most gun counters have glass tops, it’s a nice touch to have a small rubber mat on the counter — it provides more cushion for the gun, and it won’t scrape on the counter. Take special care of new customers, they may not even know how to pick up a handgun, much less keep it pointed in a safe direction while examining it.
WHAT LOOKS LIKE A GOOD FIT IN A GUN STORE MAY
NOT TURN OUT TO BE WHAT SHE NEEDS ONCE SHE’S
ACTUALLY SHOOTING THE HANDGUN STEADILY.
Once the unloaded firearm is presented to the customer, the test of fitting the gun to her hand can start. The first question, before grip size, is does the potential customer know how to release the slide lock, or even have the hand strength to manipulate it? Releasing a slide lock (much less getting the handgun back into slide lock) can be tricky, since the spring is often tight with a lot of pressure behind it.
Grip Is Only Part Of The Picture
For those with access to a range, this next step can be addressed when the customer is trying out her prospective gun for the first time.
If the handgun is too big, the shooter will be constantly re-gripping it each time she pulls the trigger. And, she’ll have more felt recoil if her hands are constantly sliding around. Too often women grip a handgun with a low grip and — to put it bluntly — it just leads to a poorly shot target with the gun feeling like it’s the boss. (As I share with ladies who hold the grip “delicately” — it’s not a tea party. Rather, they’re the ones running the gun instead of letting the gun run them!)
Grip is only part of the picture, as the customer has to be careful to distribute hand power when pressing the trigger. The hand engaging the trigger would be 40% of the power, the support hand 60%. This leads to a solid grip but not a “death” grip. A novice shooter tends to lock her elbows, which doesn’t lead to a better experience (nor a better target for accuracy). Instead, it guarantees engaging targets will be unpleasant and tiring.
Hand Size Comes Into Play
Looking at the image on the facing page of the two hands (me and my “gal pal” Bri), you can see several distinct differences in just a glance. I have a medium-sized hand, while Bri has an extra-small hand. It begs the question: Can she even reach the trigger where the pad of her trigger finger can make the pull? Personally, I prefer not to see the trigger finger go past the first crease, just the pad of the finger. If trying to reach the trigger makes her move her hand off the grip, then the gun doesn’t fit her correctly. The same is true with a larger hand, where there is too much finger on the trigger. In this case, have her try a bigger grip and don’t be embarrassed to show her various model and grip options.
Moving on from the grip to the trigger is another huge consideration for the novice gun owner — although she may not know it. Even if the grip fits well (and she can manipulate the slide lock) is the trigger user-friendly for her? A gun with a great grip that fits well in her hand, but sports a heavy or stiff trigger means the chances she’ll purchase it are practically nil. This is where the “try before you buy” model plays a crucial roleß — as it makes more business sense to meet the needs of the customer with a quality product that fits her well, rather than a one-and-done purchase. (Like the point in the previous section, have her shoot various models to find the right fit.)
Using the grip size as a starting point, your staff’s ability to help a woman fit a gun to her hand will fuel her adventures with firearms and likely facilitate repeat visits!