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The Gun Safe

‘Magnum’ Guns for Women: A Bad or Smart Idea?

Smith & Wesson Model 19. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

For the longest time, when one mentioned the subject of “ladies’ guns,” one thought of so-called “mouse guns,” i.e. pocket autopistols and mini-revolvers in calibers such as .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and .380 ACP. And very often those guns were pink!

Thankfully, along came manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and that company’s LadySmith series that showed that female shooters could handle more powerful calibers like .38 Special and 9mm Parabellum just fine, thanks. And with the inroads made by women in the civilian shooting sports and law enforcement professions in the past four decades, whaddya know, it turns out that even bigger calibers like .40 S&W and .45 ACP are also female-compatible.

But what about the even more powerful calibers like .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum? Well, let’s take a look.

From “The Ayoob Files”

Self-defense guru Massad F. “Mas” Ayoob has written on the topic. Well, the work of Mas that is germane to this article was a story he wrote for his “Ayoob Files” column for American Handgunner Magazine titled “No One Ever Raped a .44 Magnum: the Helen Weathers Incident.”

Therein, Mas tells the highly satisfying story of the titular female armed citizen, who used the Dirty Harry Gun, i.e. a Smith & Wesson Model 29, to defeat a rape attempt by a dirtbag who, ironically enough, was packing a so-called “ladies’ gun,” namely an FIE .25 auto! Helen’s marksmanship did the trick: “[T]he two .44 slugs left his forearm resembling two bones with discolored, grafted skin stretched over them, at the end of which hangs an atrophied hand that no longer has any tendons to attach it.”

Personal Observations: 2011

Back in 2011, when I was still living and working in SoCal, I trained three different lady friends on my 6” bbl. Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum and my 8 3/8” Taurus M44 .44 Magnum: my USC friends Alicia and Nic (you might remember the latter’s name from my article on the Smith & Wesson SW1911; she owns one) and my friend Shari. All three of these classy ladies had an intermediate amount of shooting experience prior to our fun-filled sessions at Los Angeles Gun Club, Burro Canyon Shooting Park, and LAX Firing Range, but none of them had fired a Magnum caliber.

Well, they all adjusted quickly and handled the recoil and muzzle blast of the .357 and .44 alike with accuracy and aplomb … and yes, I did indeed have them shoot the full-powered Magnum loads and not just the lighter Specials. Here’s what Shari, with her characteristic wit, had to say about the Taurus M44:

“Should I say something funny? Handling the Taurus is like handling a man, it’s surprisingly easy to handle once you know what you doing, OR … The Taurus may not be considered a ladies’ gun, but it’s surprisingly easy to handle once you get over your initial hesitation.”

Personal Observations: Present Day

Now onto the present day, and my wonderful girlfriend Lisa, whose name you may recognize from my previous articles on the Smith & Wesson Model 3913 LadySmith 9mm (she owns one), Canik TP9 9mm (she owns one of those too). She has 30+ years of shooting experience, but all of her handgun time prior to last week had been with semiauto pistols … and the only Magnum caliber experience with autopistols was a couple of rounds of a Desert Eagle .50 AE. So, when I let her try out my 4” bbl. Colt King Cobra .357 Mag, 6” bbl. Smith & Wesson Model 57 .41 Magnum, and 7.5” bbl. Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum, it was still a new thing for her.

Here’s what she had to say about the .44: “This is an easier larger weapon to handle, even when you have smaller hands, especially when you use a light load ammo. I enjoyed my time at the range with this, as it’s not excessively weighty. While I am used to autopistols, the trigger pull was not unmanageable in finding the sweet spot.”

As for her thoughts on the .357: “This was a little more punishing, even with a lighter load ammo being used. The weight of this takes some getting used to, but once you do, you can easily enjoy your time shooting. Shooting a full load on this is a completely different animal, but still manageable. I would still be okay to use this in an emergency situation, although it wouldn’t be my first choice.”

But what about the “middle Magnum,” i.e. the .41? For her, a comparatively unhappy middle: “I really didn’t like that one. It wasn’t bad, but still wouldn’t be my first choice in self-defense, though in a pinch I could still pull it off. The standard load was fine, but the heavy load was too much, that was painful!”

Overall: “This being my first time shooting a revolver of any kind, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I had some First World girl problems (cut some skin and broke a nail), but still feel good about my performance. The heavier trigger pulls take some getting used to.”

Incidentally, the “full load” of .357 Maggie that Lisa fired was the Federal American Eagle 158-grain jacketed soft point (JSP); this was after warming up and getting the general feel of the revolver with Speer Lawman 125-grain Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) .38 Special loads. As for the .44, she warmed up with the kinder, gentler .44 Russian and .44 Special loads – more specifically the Fiocchi 247-grain lead round nose (LRN) and Fiocchi Cowboy Action 210-grain lead flat point (LFP) respectively – before going up to the “big leagues” (so to speak) with the full-house Remington-UMC 180-grain JSPs. The respective “standard” and “heavy” loads for the .41 were the Hornady 210-grain XTP hollowpoint and Grizzly Cartridge Co. 265-grain Wide Long Nose Gas Check (WLNGC).

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).