Every now and again, you get a writing assignment that’s not even work. This is one of those. “Hey, Tamara, would you like to do a piece on some of the worst advice women get in gun stores?”
Oh, honey. Pull up a chair…
I wouldn’t have worked in the gun sales business as long as I did if I didn’t enjoy it, but like all career fields, you get a wide range of quality in employees. You know that one guy in your office who means well but still hasn’t figured out which part of the envelope he’s supposed to lick? Well, his cousin sells guns, and for some reason I have interacted with him from the customer side of the counter a bunch of times over the years. Let me tell you, he has some downright awful ideas about women and guns. Let me share a few of them with you.
1. The worst piece of advice I’ve gotten in a gun store... ...is hopefully an artifact of the past. I haven’t heard it in many years, but who knows? Maybe some dude working in a place out back of beyond is still handing it out. Basically, it’s the “What do you want a gun for? Let your man defend you.” The first time I heard this in a gun store I was dumbstruck. I am standing here trying to give a dude money for merchandise and he’s trying to talk me out of it. That was a unique retail experience.
It didn’t happen often and, like I said, it hasn’t happened for years, but I swear it happened. There was this occasional guy behind the counter who thought I was intruding in his clubhouse, and told me that I didn’t have the defensive mindset or mechanical aptitude or whatever for a gun, because icky gurrrrl.
Closely related to this is the next piece of bad advice, usually delivered by a guy who is affecting the “veteran persona,” which is this: “Oh, what you need to do is load the first chamber with [a blank/snakeshot] because you don’t want to kill anyone. You don’t know how horrible it is…” At which point they gaze off at a far corner of the shop with a 10-yard version of a thousand-yard stare.
I mean, he’s sort of right, in that I don’t particularly want to kill anybody. But another thing I don’t want to be doing is explaining to a judge and jury why I blinded or maimed a person for life when I didn’t think they rated the use of deadly force. Because make no mistake about it, pointing a firearm at someone and pulling the trigger is deadly force, and “snake shot” or “rat shot” is not some kind of harmless stun ray. It’s perfectly capable of blinding and maiming at defensive distances.
2. The second-worst piece of advice I've gotten in a gun store... The second most common piece of bad advice I’ve gotten in gun stores is the “cute gun.” This is where the clerk steers you to the tiniest little nickel-plated, pearl-handled .25 or .32 in the case, apparently on autopilot. Apparently he has decided that those are girl guns, and you’re a girl, and so…Obviously a match made in heaven, right? It sometimes doesn’t even matter if you’re in there to get a trap shotgun or a long-range precision rifle, it can take a crowbar to pry the clerk off trying to sell you that little .25, because you’re fighting his automatic programming.
3. The most common piece of advice women get in gun stores... And this brings us to the most common piece of bad advice given to women in gun stores, and it’s one often given with the best of intentions: The lightweight .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver. If there is a single firearm configuration that has put more novice women shooters off the idea of shooting as a hobby than the lightweight five-shot .38, I don’t know what it is.
Don’t get me wrong, the lightweight .38 snubbie has settled a lot of bad guys’ hash over the years, but it’s not really a beginner’s gun. The light weight amplifies recoil and it also hurts accuracy, in that a 12-pound trigger pull on a 1-pound gun will really test the shooter’s abilities to keep the sights aligned through the whole trigger press. The sight radius is short, the sights are minimalistic and low-contrast, and the grip is tiny.
In short, the little snub is an expert’s gun that gets foisted on novice women shooters because it’s small and light and has a reputation for being effective. I think there’s also this idea that because it’s a revolver that it’s “simpler” and therefore easier for our lady-brains to understand or something. Nothing is more discouraging than being handed a gun that’s unpleasant to shoot and challenging to fire accurately when you’re a novice, especially when you’ve been told it’s the perfect gun for you.
So there are a few of the worst pieces of advice I’ve been given in gun stores, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Hopefully this will become a quaint relic of the past as more and more women get involved in shooting.