New shooter report

My brother was in town with his lady-friend. She’s from Chile, and had never shot a handgun before because guns are VERY strictly regulated there. As far I know, she’d never even held one in her hands, which are tiny. Her hands are even smaller than my ten year old daughter’s. So I offered to take them to the range, of course, as part of her “experience” of America. But what to shoot? Well, .22 LR, of course, but what else that would fit those tiny hands? The S&W 629 and other large revolvers seemed right out. So I grabbed a selection for the range bag and a few hundred round of ammo, and we headed for the range.

She tries the little S&W 22 AirLite first – fits her hand well, low recoil, but a long, heavy, rough trigger. She struggles a bit with the dry-firing as she gets the feel for it. I put the target at 7 yards, and she puts first round in the black. OK, good start. I load another round, and she puts it in the ring just outside the black. The next eight rounds all are inside the rings, and generally centered. Off to a good start!

We try the Ruger 22/22WinMag interchangeable cylinder next, but it doesn’t fit her hands well when dry-firing, so we skip it and go to the Ruger GP100 with 6″ barrel, shooting 38 Special. Dry fire for a bit, load one, shoot one in the black. All righty, then. Looking good. Try some more, all inside the rings. I do some coaching on stance and grip throughout, but she is starting to get the hang of it. She try some more 38s, does well.

We move up to 9mm, trying a Sig and a Glock. She likes the Sig more, but does fine with both. She doesn’t like the Glock trigger much, but the doesn’t like the Sig single-action double-action change of pull feel, either. Eh, pretty typical, I think.

So I got out the 1911 in 45 ACP, and her first three shots were all on the bottom edge of the paper… Hmmm? Night sights, maybe? We explained lining them up properly, and the next three hit much closer to the middle.

I demonstrate some heavy .357 loads (125gr hp with 16 grains of 2400 – they do about 2150 fps in a lever action, and produce a serious THUMP and flame in a revolver), and she says she’s like to try them, so she does, and again they are all in the rings.

She said she’d like to try “bigger,” but I didn’t have any because I didn’t even think the 1911 would fit her hands, so we just tried whatever she liked the most. She mostly moved back and forth between the .45 ACP and the heavy 357 Mag loads, which surprised both me and my brother. But, as I keep telling people, I don’t care how it looks on paper, or what it feels like at the gun-store counter, until you actually try it, you just really don’t know what’s going to float your boat when it comes to shooting handguns. Try a bunch, buy a couple, practice. All in all, another good day at the range introducing a person to the realities of shooting a gun.


5 thoughts on “New shooter report

  1. In my experience many new shooters with small hands and of smaller stature like the 1911 a great deal. Even with the “long” trigger and standard grips the trigger reach isn’t too long and the grip isn’t too big around to get a good hold on. The light, short trigger pull doesn’t take a lot of effort, which can push the gun off target, and the gun’s weight and comparatively slow, low-pressure recoil makes it easier to absorb with less than perfect technique than the more snappy 9 and especially .40.

    The GP100 you used has a lot of bulk, and that barrel weight up front, to help soak up recoil as well.

    I think we as regular shooters and carriers get so used to prioritizing minimizing carry weight we forget that for fun shooting letting the gun’s weight take the recoil is a plus. Most people can hold a gun up for a few shots at a time, weight is only an issue for most reasonably fit folks if you are shooting long strings of fire and/or have to haul the thing around.

    • I agree that the heavy gun and decent trigger help. My surprise was that she liked the full house flame-thrower .357 Mag loads more than the .38 Spl loads. The GP100 is a good gun, one of my favorites; if I had to carry a revolver it would likely be that (or else the .41 Mag). The last new shooter I took that had small hands liked the GP100 too, but with the 38s, and the .357 were just tolerable; she hated the 1911, taking one shot and putting it down, and after encouragement to take another said “no” again. But that one really liked the Glock 10mm. Go figure. In any case, it was a good trip to the range.

  2. I’m not much of a revolver shooter, but I still haven’t found a pistol as pleasurable to shoot as a steel 1911. And a good doublestack 1911 is even better if your hands are big enough to wrap it.

    I took my newest son in law to the range last Friday. He has shot, but not much. I started with a Ruger 22-45 and he liked it, but he moved to my Para 14-45 and was sold. He had no control issues, was shooting plate racks right off the bat, and went through several hundred rounds in a hurry, with a big smile on his face.

    He liked my friends Rock Island almost as much, but he loved the Para.

    Interesting what new shooters find…..

  3. My somewhat petite (though not as tiny as your are describing) sister-in-law shot best with a full-size 1911 on our third and final pre-purchase-decision range trip, but still ending up settling on a Bersa Thunder .380 because of the lighter weight and lower recoil.

    Still, she shot better with the 1911 (and it was nothing special, just a long-suffering range rental gun.)

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