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Women and Guns

By Wu Chin

“Ladies, do you want your husband to buy your shoes for you?”

With that theme, Jennie Van Tuyl set the tone for her presentation in our February members meeting. She told us the story of her husband giving her a SIG 225 as her first gun. It was too big for her hands and she couldn’t shoot well with it. But she did fall in love with shooting and she was hooked.

From that humbling beginning Jennie is now an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor, IPSC RSO, Home Firearm Safety Instructor, Firearms Academy of Seattle instructor, owner and operator of a gun shop in Kent, and competes in IDPA and IPSC events.

“If it doesn’t fit your hand, you won’t shoot it. It’ll be in the safe. If you won’t shoot it, you won’t practice. It’ll be in the safe.” So Jennie describes how to size the gun to the shooter. Make sure the grip feels right. Hold the gun so the back of the gun is pressed against the web of the thumb and index finger. This aligns the bone structure of the hand to the arm and shoulder to help absorb recoil. From this position the trigger finger should be able to trip the trigger. If you have to rotate the hand position to reach the trigger, then the alignment would put a lot of pressure on the thumb and wrist. This would aggravate any other injuries or arthritic conditions you may have. “And the gun will be in the safe.”

She also recommends a heavier gun instead of the air weights to help with recoil control. Heavier guns absorb more of the recoil and won’t snap the gun up and back as much as a lighter gun given the same caliber. With practice, the heavier gun will be easier to handle.

Jennie made the point many times that the woman should do the shopping and do not feel pressured by the sales person or husband or boyfriend who “knows what’s right for the little lady.” After you have purchased the gun, take lessons from an independent source, not your husband or boyfriend.

She also pointed out that many women are cross eye dominant. As an example, if you shoot right handed you will use the left eye for sighting. If you are in this category, she recommends the isosceles stance instead of the Weaver stance. She also feels that women’s body structure allows for a lower center of gravity and therefore offers a more stable platform for shooting. Her experiences show that women are quicker to learn and are more natural shooters than men.

So what calibers should a new shooter start with? Jennie recommends 38 S&W Special for the revolver and the 9 mm for the semi auto. The felt recoil on those calibers should be easily handled with training. You can go up in caliber as you improve. (These are also recommended as minimal calibers for self defense by many experts.)

But racking the semi auto slide is hard to perform for many women. Jennie demonstrated the push / pull technique. You should pull the slide back with the support hand and push forward with the strong hand. Meaning that if you are right handed, you should push

with the right and pull with the left. Make sure that your hold on the slide does not cover the ejection port. She recommends racking the gun for 5 minutes every day for a week to develop the strength and grip on the slide.

Jennie also brought a couple of shotguns to demonstrate sizing. To properly size for long guns, rest the butt of the stock on the bend of the elbow. You should be able to reach and trip the trigger. She has custom Remingtons to fit women and smaller guys.

When ask about holster recommendations, she provided a lot of insight to material and design. Women’s body structure requires different holsters than for men. For carry she recommends leather because they snug up on the body to provide a low profile. Kydex is pretty stiff and harder to fit the body curvatures for quick gun presentation.

She cautions the use of Blackhawk Serpa holsters because there have been many incidents with shooters coming out of the draw with the trigger finger on the trigger. She recommends adding some indicator on the release to remind you to index your finger properly after the holster releases the gun for the draw.

She doesn’t like the “gimmicky” holsters that have a magazine pouch built in. When you need to reload you don’t want to be reaching across the body to find the extra mag. Wear your extra mags on the weak side.

You’ll need to practice with ankle holsters to be proficient.

Drawing from a shoulder rig requires practice so your muzzle doesn’t cross your weak arm. She recommends bringing the weak arm up parallel to or above the shoulders to clear the muzzle sweep as you draw.

Pocket carry requires special attention and fit since you need to be able to bend your legs for sitting and such without binding or restricting your range of motion.

For IWB (inside the waist band) carry, you’ll need to purchase pants one to two sizes larger. She said it’s a very comfortable way to carry and also provides for extra inches of clothing hike before the holster or gun is visible.

So what about carrying a gun in a purse? Jennie recommends purses that you can readily access the gun with a quick pull of the purse pocket to expose the gun. Some purses have sleeves that you have to get into, or you need to find the zipper for. Those slow you down; and if your gun is not dehorned, sharp parts could catch on the Velcro or sleeve.

She also recommends that you carry the purse on the shoulder instead of across the chest. You can be dragged if the purse is snatched by someone in a car. It is best to release the purse in that situation and call the police with the fact your gun was stolen with the purse and provide them with model and serial number.

If you are in a situation requiring you to pull out a gun from your purse, it is best to leave the purse if it slides off than to be distracted by it.

Make sure you keep your gun in a holster inside the purse. Some purses have holsters with Velcro positioning capabilities. When you need the gun, you don’t want to search for it at the bottom of the purse. Also there is the potential for something getting caught in the trigger guard which could cause the gun to fire when you set the purse down or bump it on something.

Jennie recommends wearing the gun on the body and use clothing to conceal. She was wearing a vest that covers the holster and the mag holders.

You can contact Jennie at Rivendell Sales and Consulting in Kent at 253-867-0777. The shop is located inside Kent 4 Wheel Drive which her husband owns. She and her staff will be glad to help you get fitted to the right gun. She does consignment and transfers, too.

Thanks, Jennie, for coming out and giving us such an educational experience.



Armed Defense Training Association (ADTA)
A 501(c)7 non-profit organization, founded in 2011
Federal Way, Washington, USA
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