Allow me to tackle an oft recurring question, seemingly making a more frequent appearance on social media and various firearm forums: “What is the best EDC for a lady?” People also frequently phrase this question as “what is the best firearm for a woman?” or “which firearm should I buy my wife?” The latter is a personal favourite of mine.
That questions regarding women carrying firearms have become so prominent is certainly a positive thing. It is indicative that women are taking their own safety (and that of their families) seriously, and that we are successfully busting the demographic stereotype of what South African firearm owners look like. As is the nature of social media, however, too many cooks may very easily lead to spoilt broths. Having witnessed quite a few interesting suggestions coming from men, I think it is prudent to offer some perspective from the female side.
I base the advice I am about to give on my personal experience as a female firearm owner. I include feedback from women whom I have trained, as well as from my clients and friends. The purpose of this article is to provide advice from my first-hand experience. I also explain that you should consider various factors when choosing and purchasing a firearm for every day carry. Not all of us will have the same preferences or personal circumstances, after all.
Choosing the correct firearm
There are various factors to consider when it comes to choosing the correct firearm for you. In no particular order:
- Finances. As much as I am inclined to say that you cannot put a value to your life, the reality is that budgeting is an important factor for many of us. The firearm’s purchase price is not the only cost associated with owning it. It includes your competency training, additional training (which I would highly recommend), an SABS approved safe, the applications for both competency and the licence, ammunition (carry and practice ammo), a range membership, holsters, cleaning kit, eye and ear protection, among others. I recommend making a list of all these items, and realistically budgeting accordingly. In fact, this very blog has dealt with this topic already.
- Concealability. The law states that you must completely cover any firearm you carry in public. I also advise that, for obvious reasons, you choose a firearm that you are physically willing and able to conceal during your everyday life. If your workplace requires a more formal dress code, carrying a full size 1911 is likely to be rather unpleasant. Note that I have not used the word “impossible”, as I do know ladies who are able to pull this off rather successfully. Choose something that you are going to carry. Every. Day.
- Round count. This ties in with point 2: the smaller the firearm, the lower the round count. It is an unfortunate reality due to the laws of physics. You have probably heard the phrase “If you need more than X rounds you are in trouble anyway.” The fact is that every situation is different. Whilst numerous studies have been conducted to determine the average round-counts of self-defence shootings, I treat the issue like packing my suitcase for a journey. I’d rather make use of my baggage allowance than be missing a jacket when it gets cold. There is an amazing way to work around pistols with lower round counts: spare magazines. Carry them and practice reloading with them. Even if you are able to conceal a full size pistol with a 17-round capacity: carry the extra magazine.
- Reliability and after sales service. Just as when you purchase any product, do your research and ask around. There are quite a few reliable, trustworthy brands available in South Africa. My personal favourites are Glock, Smith & Wesson, CZ, Colt and Sig Sauer. Stick to brands which have a track record for top-class after-sales service. This includes the availability of spares and magazines, as well as compatibility with readily-available aftermarket sights, holsters and so on.
- New or Second Hand? Where financially possible, I would strongly advise purchasing a new firearm. You will know it hasn’t seen any abuse, and it gives you the advantage of forming a relationship with the dealership you have purchased it from in terms of after-sales service and spares availability. If finances do not allow you to buy a new firearm, I’d advise purchasing second-hand from a reputable dealer.
- Pistol or Revolver? This is a rather tricky one to address. When this subject is raised, tempers often start flaring! As much as I personally believe that the snubby is obsolete and cumbersome, it is still better than nothing if your budget prohibits anything else. The snubby has a few major disadvantages, and it is advised to be aware of them. Do not discard snubbies outright when considering a second-hand purchase, however.. It trumps many outdated pistols for which intricate parts and magazines are virtually impossible to find.
- Calibre. This is another controversial subject. Without going into excessive detail regarding ballistic performance, I suggest choosing an effective calibre which is readily available and affordable to practice with. Whilst even a .22 can be lethal, I recommend sticking to the popular choices: 9mmS/.380, 9mmP, .38Sp, .357Mag, .40S&W or .45ACP. These calibres are popular for a reason. Bear in mind that more often than not, a larger calibre means a larger firearm. The aforementioned calibres are usually readily available in South Africa, including hollow point and range ammuntion.
- Holsters. Take into account the availability of different types of holsters for the firearm you are considering. Inspect their comfort, concealability and quality. It is important to consider factors like whether or not you need to wear a belt. If so, buy a decent belt. But this subject, ladies, is worthy of an article of its own 😉
How to carry your firearm
Now that we have considered the important factors, let me to share with you how I carry my Glock 42. I am fortunate to have grown up around firearms, and my family supported me carrying a firearm for self-defence. In fact, when I turned 21 my family quite literally told me to choose a gun. They also instructed me to practice with it, and to carry it every day, or risk being shunned! Jokes aside, carrying a firearm for self-defence is a life-changing commitment. You should not take it lightly. Due to our national circumstances, carrying a firearm for protection has certainly become a possibility for South Africans to consider. Although cost played a role in my research, I knew I was not likely that I carry something cumbersome. I was (and still am) unwilling to change my wardrobe all too much.
At the time I already owned several Glocks for sport shooting, and the Glock 43 had not even been announced yet. Sticking to the same platform all round is appealing. I weighed-up the above factors and decided that, for my circumstances, it was important for me to have something I could easily conceal. The disadvantage of the Glock 42 is that it is limited to only a 7 round magazine capacity. I worked around this by adding a +2 extension to my magazines. I also carry spare magazines, which is not nearly as hard as it sounds.
You may have noticed that all the above mentioned factors are just as applicable to women as they are to men. I will likely receive some criticism from those who believe that EDC is not gender-specific, so why bother writing an article when so many already address the subject? The simple answer is that I have seen far too many scenarios of women getting bombarded with advice by men who unknowingly provide either obsolete advice, or fail to realise that women face different challenges to men when it comes to carrying a firearm. For starters, we have different builds and often different wardrobes. These seemingly trivial factors have led to many a woman listening to advice given by stubborn men (allow me to generalise) and ending up with a glorified hand-cannon, which she does not carry on her person, but that is collecting dust in the safe.
Again, I am by no means implying that women should carry smaller firearms or calibres, but rather that we give realistic advice depending on her everyday life and circumstances. Instead of offering generic responses like “the smaller the woman, the bigger the gun”, let us consider her individual circumstances. Yes, in an ideal world I would much rather conceal a Glock 20, but in an ideal world I would preferably not have to carry a firearm at all. The reality is that violent crime is significantly on the rise, and I would rather we are able to defend ourselves. Even if it is with a tiny firearm. Rather that than none at all.
The choice is yours, and yours alone
There is only so much advice one can gather on Facebook and the likes – take the initiative and visit one of the many welcoming shooting clubs in South Africa, and introduce yourself to the ladies and gents there. You’ll find many of us are incredibly welcoming. At the end of the day the most valuable advice I can give is the following: with the all the aforementioned factors in mind, visit a reputable gun shop and make a decision based on your preferences and circumstances. Don’t let anybody tell you the gun just needs to “feel good in your hand”, or “this is the best gun for a lady” – there is no such thing. You are going to carry the firearm, and therefore you need to make an educated choice based on your own circumstances.
Written by Aziza de Villiers.
You can find Aziza at CHS Guns and Ammunition in Somerset West. She runs the CHS Guns Ladies EDC Facebook page, and is the agent and importer of Can Can Concealment. Aziza is not only involved in the gun trade and sport shooting: she also donates much of her precious time to fight for your gun rights as a member of the Gun Owners SA (GOSA) executive committee. You can like her CHS Facebook page here.