Guns are like shoes

You wouldn’t buy a pair of ski boots for a day at the beach, would you?  So why are you buying snubbie revolvers for new shooters? I don’t understand.

Like shoes, different guns are for different purposes.  And like shoes, some guns are good for more situations than others.  My sneakers and boots that I wear almost every day: to work, to matches, for errands; they’re not much to look at but they work when I need them and they get the job done – those are my M&P and my SR9c and my revolvers.  The stilettos I only pull out for certain occasions, that serve one purpose well (even if it is just making me look good) and are really great for that purpose – those are my race guns.

Like shoes, I would never presume to buy someone else a gun.  I don’t know what their exact purpose is, I don’t know what will fit them well and I don’t know what they will like.  Nor would I ever try and tell someone what fits them well.  I would let them go into a store and try on 15 pairs of shoes just as I’d let them go to the range and run the gamut of rental guns.  If you are going to press that airweight snubbie on her stop for a minute and think about her pressing a pair of size 9 brown penny loafers on you.

For those of you who would argue that “the little lady” can’t rack the slide, why are you buying her a pair of cowboy boots because she doesn’t know how to tie sneakers?  It’s not difficult, you just need to teach her the correct way to do it.

Please stop trying to tell people exactly what guns to buy, it’s about as ridiculous as dragging out one particular shoe box in a shoe store and saying “you need these, you should ignore these thousands of other boxes”.


  1. You wouldn’t buy a snubbie for a “new shooter”. The term implies they will become “old shooters” or at least “shooters”. Someone who wants a new hobby, who wants to join the subculture. Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t want that. They want a gun. And they don’t want to practice with it much, if at all.

    If a guy came to me and said he hated shopping, didn’t particularly care about shoes, and just wanted one pair of shoes that he could wear with just about anything, what would I do? Tell him, “No, no, no, you can’t not care about shoes! I love shoes, and shopping for shoes, you must love shoes and shopping for shoes too. You must try on bunch of different things. You must buy several different pairs for different occasions. You must join our shoe fan club!” Or pull out a sturdy, classic oxford?

    I don’t understand how it’s condescending and presumptive to give people exactly what they ask for in the shortest time possible, but it’s not condescending and presumptive to demand that people join our club and jump through all our rituals, to follow the “right” way to buy a gun before we’ll help them.

    It all comes down to this: do you respect your customer’s time and wishes, or not?

    I do. Every single time someone comes to me and tells me he has several thousands of dollars to spend, and a couple of months to do research, and really wants a new expensive hobby… I tell him to rent everything he can, and make up his own mind.

      1. If you can reach the trigger and squeeze it to the break, it fits well enough for those purposes. Other considerations (price, size, weight, simplicity in case they don’t practice with it for years) are far more important. These are not the equivalent of running shoes for serious athletes. They just want something to protect their feet. Worrying about pronation and exact arch height might be appropriate for some customers, but for the guy above, it’s a pointless diversion that’s only going to confuse and frustrate him.

          1. For the vast majority of the population, those words don’t mean what you think they mean. Spend some more time on the range. Count the number of safeties left on, chambers unfilled, magazines unseated, and thumbs behind slides. Contemplate this. The contemplate the fact that those are the people who are actually getting out to shoot their guns.

            “Simplicity” will take on a whole new meaning.

          2. You do realize she runs a gun range as her main job, right?

            Also, the argument that people should buy “simple” guns because they’re not going to learn how to use them is argument for more training, not to endorse people buying guns that they’ll never shoot well.

            And that is also the very end of that discussion, I’ve said before that Gun Nuts is not the platform to advocate for irresponsible gun ownership. You’re welcome of course to comment on posts, but to continue to push your agenda of “cheap guns and no training” will result in comment moderation.

  2. My 65 year old, arthritic Mother can shoot both my 1911 and my 625JM. She shoots them both well, but she is done with the revolver after 12 rounds, and she cannot shoot it in double action more than a couple shots. The 1911, however, she can shoot all day long, and can load, unload, and operate the slide just fine.

    But if she goes into any gun store around here, they will all insist that she needs a snubbie, because that’s the best gun for all women. They usually squeeze in a “women aren’t strong enough to operate a slide” in there as well.

  3. I think there are two separate issues here that are being argued but each argument doesnt actually address each others point.

    Shelley is saying that it isn’t right to assume that one gun fits all, especially one based on gender is ever appropriate. Everyone is unique and the individual should be educated so as to be able to chose for themselves what is right for them. I think the shoe metaphor got a little off her point (may be fun for another post to expand on though) before the end.

    I feel that Jasons point is that there are those customers (who may be in the majority) who wish to remain ignorant, and not train and who are only ever interested in a single gun ever. I think he brings up the question of how do you deal with them? Go the quick buck route and just offer them a “one shoe fits all” option or attempt to push them outside their comfort zone and enlighten them about all the possibilities of gun ownership and training?

    1. One of the stated goals of Gun Nuts, and in fact of any venture that I get involved with is to increase the number of knowledgeable and educated gun owners out there. At Gun Nuts, you’ll never see us advocate for “just enough” training or knowledge, because there is no such thing. The more educated and informed gun owners are, the better we are as a community.

      While some people may not ever want to learn more about guns and shooting, we will always go to great pains to let them know that such training is available and where to get it. If in the end, they choose to ignore the opportunity to better themselves, at least we tried.

      1. Caleb, no one here is advocating for just enough training or knowledge. I think the spinning of Jason’s comments as “advocacy” for irresponsible gun ownership such was honestly a bit underhanded.
        Acknowledging that these people exist is not advocacy, it’s reality.


        “Spend some more time on the range. Count the number of safeties left on, chambers unfilled, magazines unseated, and thumbs behind slides. Contemplate this. The contemplate the fact that those are the people who are actually getting out to shoot their guns.”

        This sounds incredibly condescending.

        1. Greg, I understand that you’re not – I agree that many gun owners simply won’t want to get training or practice with their guns. My issue when people take the stance that such an attitude is “okay, because they’ll probably never need the gun anyway”. I have always felt that it is our job as community experts to do everything we can to educate the consumer and the gun owning community at large. I want everyone that makes the decision to carry a pistol to have access to training and the best knowledge around.

          1. Only flaw with that logic is there are those who only want a gun for protection, have no interest on training, nor practice other than the basic instructions that come in the owner’s manual. Pressuring them to do things they are definitely not interested in doing may cause them to just say ‘screw the whole thing it’s too complicated” and we lose a potential gun owner who would be on our side. Instead we get another anti-gun, and even worse because of his bad experience with gun people, a anti-gun culture person as well.

            Personally I think a “full size” (for the caliber) 380ACP Auto pistol may be the closest to “one size fits all” defensive gun, powerful enough to be effective, yet mild recoil and small and light enough for daily carry.

  4. I don’t think the revolver is a bad gun for someone that needs and wants something “simple”. I wouldn’t recommend smaller than a 3″ J frame though either. At least to someone that may be sensitive to recoil.

    I know that most people should get training but the reality is most people need a gun just in case they need one and it should be as simple to operate as possible. They are not going to spend a lot of time on the range or training. They are most likely better off not having to deal with a safety or a possible malfunction. That’s why the revolver is recommended so much of the time. The lightweight snub is a bad idea IMO. Something with less recoil, I don’t think so much.

  5. I’ve had this debate with caleb before shelly, Let me share my view as an instructor.

    I teach ptc classes, in MN, Here is what I’ve found.

    Most of my students won’t lug around a full size, pistol everyday, most won’t even carry a double stack gun period (it’s to thick). They will leave it in their safe, because it’s a hassle, to large. This is especially true with female students, not because their women, but because they favor tighter fitting clothing.

    They want something small and capable of pocket carry.

    The reliability of many semi auto pocket pistols is borderline questionable for self defense. I think caleb will back me up on that one.(although your favorable review of the new sig pocket gun has me wanting to play with one.)

    I agree snubbys are not what I would recommend for a new shooters first gun. Any pocket gun in caliber suitable for defense is going to be handful, regardless of if it’s a snubby or a semi-auto.

    However many of my students want to buy 1 gun for carry period. A gun they can carry wherever they go, with however they dress. So something small, and reliable.

    Snubby fits that bill…

    my .02 .. remember what you paid for this info!

  6. Also maybe this is part of the disagreement but I see you mention shoot ability.

    From a defensive point of view shoot-ability is the ability to hit a vitals at 21 feet. Which way different than the the ability to a mini popper at 25 yards…(IPSC shoot-ability)

    It all comes down to… what are you going to use it for?

  7. I want to thank Jason for making the thread over at Breda’s blog an actual, thought provoking conversation instead of a bunch of “You Go!” cliches and people kissing up to the host. The real talk was much appreciated, dude. You definitely held your own.

    Btw I’m not sure whether I agree with Jason. Not the point.

  8. Based on a recent “experiment” involving nearly 400 average women (e.g., non-shooters who participated in our club’s Ladies’ Day event), or at least the 12% or so of those I worked with directly, I can testify that very few of them have sufficient hand strength to control even a very smooth DA revolver well enough to be accurate with it, but are quite accurate when firing said revolver in SA, and they are quite comfortable with a semi-auto. When shown how a modern DA/SA revolver works, they will try a couple of rounds DA, then try SA, and never go back to DA. And, that’s with my two student round butt Model 10s that have glass-smooth, non-stacking 8.5-9 lb DA pulls. Just for demonstration purposes I also had a box stock J frame with the usual 12-15 lb gritty DA pull. More than a few didn’t have enough hand strength to cycle it through in DA without having almost all of their index finger wrapped around the trigger. This, BTW, has been true for the last 6 years I’ve worked the event, and it’s also true for a lot of men who come through class. Unless you practice with a DA revolver a lot – and I mean a lot neither sex will have the required hand strength and index finger control to be good with one.

    One woman brought her DA-only .40 caliber P229 to get some tips on it, and her hand gave out halfway through the second magazine; you could see that coming, watching the gun shake as the hammer traveled back I moved her to my P225 and the thinner grip (the 225 is single stack) and DA first/SA for the rest worked well for her. When she had a chance to try a 9MM 1911 I didn’t think she was going to give it back…..

    Nearly all had trouble racking the slide on a CZ75 and the 225 until they were shown the trick about bringing the gun in to their chest to gain arm “leverage;” from that point on they were fine, and preferred the 225 because the grip frame is smaller. The DA first shot still was a hassle for them because of the hand strength required, plus the forward trigger, and the CZ75s thick frame especially, penalizes small hands, something that’s also true to some degree with the wildly popular G19 (I’m waiting for gun manufacturers to figure out that women have smaller hands and need narrower grip frames in order to establish a good control grip; I had to search high and low for a 225/P6 to use in class). I’m reminded of Jeff Cooper’s comment that if one is burdened with a DA/SA semi – what he called a “crunchnticker” – one solution might be to fire that first DA shot into the ground to get the action into “correct” SA mode. Hardly a good solution, but it does point out the difficulty in getting accuracy with that first long pull DA shot. When every shot is a long DA pull, as in shrouded hammer or internal hammer J frames, it is not conducive to ease of use for most shooters, especially when there’s not much gun to hang on to.

    If it’s not comfortable to shoot, it won’t get shot, if it doesn’t get shot skill development won’t happen. Plus, experiencing difficulty with a small, hard to control gun creates a negative attitude toward guns in general because novice shooters don’t often have a chance to experience a broad selection of guns to find one that may suit them better and actually be comfortable to shoot.

    1. One thing to think about is that in a real life threatening situation the women that are in your class will have massive adrenalin running through their bodies. Racking slides, pulling the double action trigger, etc. may no longer become a problem. That situation is different than the one where they are in a class feeling all tense, nervous, cold, and uncomfortable. I’m not pointing directly to your class when I say that either, I’m just saying that it would be more typical in a class than in an event where all that stuff goes out the door and all they care about is dealing with what is in front of them to keep living.

      Still though, I agree that training/practice and having equipment that fits better is always the best way to go.

      1. The thing about “training” and “real life” is that they overlap. When the poop hits the fan several things happen: the “flight or fight” response that’s hardwired into our brains drives a massive adrenaline dump which creates auditory and visual exclusion, destroys fine motor skills, and cuts IQ about 40% by crippling orderly thought processes. It’s been well proven that, without what Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (I’d suggest reading his books) defines as “stress inoculation,” we get real stupid real fast and revert to what we’ve practiced dozens or hundreds of times on the range. If that happens to be manually cocking a DA/SA revolver because it’s easier to shoot it in SA, then that’s what we’ll do. I can provide a number of really dumb, really stupid things cops have done under stress, not because they wanted to, but because that’s what they inadvertently rehearsed on the range over a period of years.

        Our goal, as trainers and shooting enthusiasts, should be to put our students in the best position possible to achieve a successful outcome should they encounter a high stress (read: life threatening) situation. And, to my mind at least, that means training to the best use of the tools they have available. And, while I do my best to not recommend a particular tool, if I see a student struggling I may make a suggestion or two and offer a different tool for them to try.

        1. I think you can find many people involved in extreme high stress situations that don’t “freak out”. You can also find many people that know exactly what to do in the situation without ever practicing it a day of their lives. You can also find people that have trained and trained with the best of them and the “flight” or really “no fight” actually does get the best of them. I don’t think they practiced calling it “quits”. Maybe though, I don’t know.

          I know some have turned into “range chickens” during a gun fight, because of that it can be argued as bad training to pick up brass after shooting. lol for me though, I never have and never will believe any of the talk that pretty much is just an explanation for what the weak do.

          There are different types of people, no doubt about it. I have seen both extremes. To only talk about guns; I’ve seen the “tough guy” the “bad ass with a gun” turn to mush. I’ve heard stories of the same. I’ve also seen somebody take a Glock 19 rack the slide and use it like she was born with it. This was somebody that had never racked a gun in her entire life, but under dire need did it without thinking. She had only shot the gun once prior and was knowing and able to think the rest of the way through as well. There are countless stories of people doing the same.

          I’m not going to follow what some of these experts claim because I think they are concentrating on the negative. I do respect Lt. Col. Dave Grossman though. The same goes for Ayoob. Though, the last I checked neither had actually been in one of these “high stress” encounters. The analogy of Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs is excellent though! Some of what they are saying may have fact to a degree or even to a major degree with some cases. I can look at what you’re saying with “When the poop hits the fan several things happen: the “flight or fight” response that’s hardwired into our brains drives a massive adrenaline dump which creates auditory and visual exclusion, destroys fine motor skills, and cuts IQ about 40% by crippling orderly thought processes. It’s been well proven that, without what Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (I’d suggest reading his books) defines as “stress inoculation,”” and I can agree with it to a point while somebody else may agree wholeheartedly. I also can point to flaws because where I agree with some of it might be after the fact and not actually “during” the immediate or initial time of crisis. Maybe some of those things do happen, but when and to what effect?
          I’ve seen some funny things people do. This actually reminds me of something I saw recently. I went to hail a cab that had just driven up on 1st and Pike in Seattle. It drove up in a hurry and the people were not getting out. We asked if we could get the cab (in a non- threatening manner). The guy in the front passenger seat said “hold on! We just got shot at!” back off!” He was very stressed out. Everybody was talking and acting somewhat normal in the cab besides that. I saw that they had glass on them and that the windows had been shot out on the other side of the cab. The next thing, one girl jumps out and starts going into a panic! Screaming, jumping up and down, just plain freaking out in the middle of the street. Before this she was able to carry on a conversation. The others just wanted to be left alone in the cab. I told them to check themselves for wounds just in case. One girl in the back said calmly “we are ok, don’t worry about it”. The driver was up front and I swear he acted like this was no big deal the whole time. Maybe it’s standard stuff for him I don’t know. Anyways, I proceeded to leave the area, but thinking about it shows how different people can react to the same experience. I don’t know what that total experience includes, but these people didn’t look like they were up to no good, just more so tourists at the wrong place and wrong time.

  9. How about a double action derringer in either .45 or 10mm? 2 shots, safe, mechanically fool-proof and will drop a horse. Super compact and absolutely will not fail.

  10. One thing I’m realizing listening to this discussion – is there a level of training at which we should consider a concealed handgun more of a melee weapon? If you’re trying to hit someone at point blank range, who cares if you put your whole finger on the trigger?

    It’s not as useful as the finely tuned ranged weapon you can use it as with proper training… but I’d still take it over pretty much any other melee weapon you can carry…

    Just a thought… not sure if it’s a reasonable one or not…

  11. Getting back to my army training sometime last century … “We aim rifles. We point SMGs, shotguns and pistols.”

    1. Crocs! People either love them or hate them, and either way, they make you look retarded 😛

  12. Very interesting discussion from all sides. I don’t believe the other Jason was attempting to push not training on anyone, but merely pointing out that a majority of purchasers just don’t have the desire to do what they should do and train properly. It’s a very sad part of reality. I do hope that gun counter salesman around the US push firearm safety, training and proper storage. It serves us all as a community. The question is how hard do you push? I was watching Sons of Guns the other night (I know, I know) and the owner of Red Jacket was rude and condescending in the way he told a couple to go get training first before they continue talking about buying a firearm. Sure he talked about safety and this and that, but that rude conversation would just push them to go somewhere else and have even less desire to actually take a class and learn something. There should be a balance. We need to encourage education but we can be polite and respectful to the customers wishes. Plant the seeds and hope for the best. I have found that works far more often than being a jerk.

    As far as the shoes analogy: I like it. It is true and carries a lot of weight in my book. If someone comes in and says they have no idea, I will always ask more questions and see what I can sell them to fit there needs. Maybe the 2-3″ jframe is a great idea because of it’s simplicity but they aren’t concealing it so the heavier steel variants with some porting is a better option. Maybe a Bersa Thunder 380 is. Maybe maybe maybe. In the end, kind informed words and encouragement to shoot and train, coupled with great customer service will bring people back.

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