Listen to the Women
by L. Neil Smith
A guy I know offers what he thinks is instruction in self-defense
for women. Among other things, he advises them to buy .22 caliber
pistols because they're cheap to feed (true enough), easy to get
proficient with (also true), and, in his opinion, adequate for
killing or driving off a rapist, mugger, or burglar.
The trouble is, his opinions and advice are likely to get his students killed.
Another guy I know had a teenage accident which taught him everything we
need to know about the adequacy of .22 rimfire. His single action revolver
fell from a bunk bed and fired a cartridge which was (regrettably) under
the hammer, putting a slug into his midsection -- the part we all try to
hit when we're practicing self-defense. He didn't know he'd been hit
until he saw a tiny drop of blood forming in the area of his solar plexus.
While his family were running around screaming, he called the doctor,
got dressed, and waited for the ambulance.
Now this isn't just another entry in the Great Stopping Power Debate,
an endless, mostly male ritual which never produces useful answers
because it isn't really intended to. (It serves purposes of its own
which are perfectly respectable, if you follow cultural anthropology.)
For the moment, let's agree that, other things being equal, big guns
are more effective than little guns and therefore it's reasonable to
assume that an individual should learn to use the biggest weapon he
or she can handle comfortably, safely, and efficaciously.
Which brings us to the meat of the question -- or rather the muscle. You
can't avoid the plain fact of physical anthropology that women have only
about half the upper-body strength of men. Yet all the women I shoot with
manifest pragmatic interest in medium to large-bore centerfire weapons
ranging from .38 Special to .45 Auto. Some outshoot me on a regular basis;
most can do it at one time or another. Not many lean toward .44 Magnum,
.445 Supermag, or .45 Winchester Magnum, but that's a far more accurate
reflection of our physical differences -- and it's also another male
thing, a matter of ceremonial accouterment.
My 98-pound wife shoots Hunter's Pistol with the same 6" S&W M610 I do, a
big sixgun with a full-length lug under a heavy barrel, chambered in 10 m/m.
For Falling Plate, she uses a Series 70 Gold Cup identical to mine. The
first handgun she ever fired was a 4" Security Six with full-powered
.357 Magnum loads (at 25 yards, she kept every shot on the paper) and
her deer rifle's a 95 Marlin in .45/70 (I can't shoot the damn thing,
it makes my eyes water). In practical circumstance, the same in which
I rely on a 3" Detonics .45, she prefers a tiny 2" .38 Chief's Special,
not because she's anybody's delicate flower, but because her purse (that
of a full-time wife, mother, and Graduate Coordinator) is already heavy
enough to qualify as field gear for Infantry Basic Training.
But what's the point of all that? Simply this: I'm confident we're going to
win the battle of the Second Amendment. I've been so ever since JoAnne Hall's
column started showing up in Guns & Ammo, and that confidence
was strengthened by Paxton Quigley's publication of
Armed and Female, by the advent of Women & Guns, and most recently
by Nancy Bittle's appearance on Street Stories.
Why should that make a difference? Our species is divided into halves, each
seeing the world a slightly different way, providing humanity as a whole
with perspective each would lack without the other. Survivalwise, it's
worked well over the million-plus years we've been around. My wife contends
that men are strategically oriented and women tactical: male gunfolk
typically focus on history, the Constitution, the significance of the
Second Amendment in maintaining individual liberty, social democracy,
and Western civilization; females tend to focus on protecting themselves
from mutants lurking at the edges of that civilization. Both are correct
in their priorities, neither is complete without the other.
Yet there are still gunshops today where women feel unwelcome, and whose
proprietors, when they condescend to acknowledge females at all, invariably
offer the "little lady" a .25 auto to defend herself with. It seems, just
as there are useless, gutless, mindless women who protest that they could
never shoot anybody, even to preserve their own worthless lives or those
of their children, just as there are cretinous cops (the same cops, in
my experience, who get trounced by female competitors) who advise women
not to arm themselves because some rapist, mugger, or burglar will only
take their little gun away and hurt them with it, there are still male gun
people who don't understand that trying to fight this battle without female
help is exactly like closing one eye in combat.
The point I'm making here is not feminist (in fact that movement may be
responsible for the remaining communication problems between the genders)
but individualistic. Nor is it directed at a majority of male shooters,
mostly younger ones, who have gotten the point, but at a minority of
fossilized idiots who haven't.
It's the women among us who've finally gotten the media to listen to us
after decades of bigotry and persecution. It's the women and their
increasing willingness to provide for their own physical safety in a
culture gone berserk, that are at the heart of the effort (of its
concerns if not its politics) to make concealed carry of weapons legal.
It's the women who will provide the final nudge we need to secure our
individual rights, end the insanity of victim disarmament, and recreate
a culture where some value is placed on civility.
The least we can do is listen seriously, not treat them like retarded
children when they try to help us by helping themselves. We owe them
the courtesy, when they're learning the craft, of offering them the
same advice we'd give any male beginner, then let them make their own
minds up about what they really need.
They're going to do it anyway.
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