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The Weakness of Women: Myth?

In a recent article about the .40 S&W that was posted on our site, we released a lot of information and asked many questions about the differences in calibers and people's preferences. In our comment section, as usual, there was a lot of discussion about guns and about people's personal preferences, and since we're gun owners, the comments were very adamant about their points.

But as comments sections go, things spread to a variety of different topics using the article and prior comments as a jumping off point. One of these comments grabbed our attention.

“The main issue with the 10mm, is that police and FBI were unable to handle the associated recoil of this powerhouse cartridge, forcing them to find another solution. This is where the .40S&W came into play.” It should state: The main issue with the 10mm, is that female police officers and female FBI agents were unable to handle the associated recoil of this powerhouse cartridge, forcing them to find another solution. This is where the .40S&W came into play. We carried the .45 cal. and had to go to the .40 cal. because the females couldn’t handle the kick of the .45 causing many jams. As you can see, I’m not politically correct.”

Now, we're not here to argue political correctness, but statements like this do bring about something that is ever present in the shooting community and something we would like to discuss. The real differences vs. the perceived differences between men and women shooters.


When looking at a subject such as this, it's simply not fair to make any assumption that cannot be backed up by science, so before we dive off into the very rocky subject that the battle of the sexes can be, let's take a look at some of the science.

In an article by Livescience regarding women in combat, a study was done that showed the average differences in strength and muscle mass between the two genders, and there was indeed a noticeable difference on average. The study found that men had an average of 26 lbs. more skeletal muscle mass than women. Women also exhibited about 40 percent less upper-body strength and 33 percent less lower-body strength, on average, and that men had much stronger grips than women. The difference was so big in this category that 90 percent of the women scored lower than 95 percent of the men.

The team also looked at highly trained female athletes who excelled at sports requiring a strong grip, such as judo or handball. Though these women did have a stronger grip compared with other women, they still performed worse than 75 percent of the men on this task.

And these specific tests of strength are obviously very important when shooting a gun, and it is because of statistics like these that many people claim that women are worse shooters than men, but making a sweeping generalization such as that, is not only taking a leap of faith, it's also a good opportunity to show how wrong you can be.


As you can see from the numbers that the Livescience article, in conjunction with the Journal of Applied Physiology brought you, it is fair to say that on average men are going to be stronger and have a tighter grip than women, and on the average that is going to make it easier for them to use a firearm, but “on average” doesn't mean everyone and that is where people can get onto shaky ground.

Saying that women are worse shooters than men is making a statement about an entire gender that simply put is not true. You saw for yourself that the percentages when it came to strength did not show 100% anywhere. And if it doesn't say 100%, then to say that “All” of anything is better than “All” of another is just not true. Saying that men are better than women at shooting is not true at all. If it were, every man on the planet could beat every female Olympic shooter with ease. It's like saying you or I could go up to a WNBA player and beat them in a one-on-one street game, just because the NBA has a better class of players.

No, what is true, is that many times, due to our biology, men have an easier time in learning to shoot, simply because of our muscular structure, but that doesn't mean that an average untrained Tom, Dick, or Harry who gets behind the sights is going to beat a Jane, Jackie, or Jennifer who has put in the time to train. Muscle strength can make up for poor form or lousy technique but if Jennifer is putting in time behind the sights when Dick is sitting watching the game, Jennifer is going to be a better shooter.

Just because people have a starting leg up and an advantage in biology for a task doesn't mean that they are better. It means they have an easier road to get great, and it is likely why more men shoot than women. Overcoming the extra strength that the average woman needs to cultivate to be an effective shooter is tougher for a woman to do, and I for one applaud the women of the world who decide to take that step and enter the ranks of shooters. On average, it is tougher, but when you see a great female shooter, you can tell that she is stronger.


Its funny how we start to make associations based on these gender differences. Here are quotes I've noted down from YouTube videos or in-person classes I've attended over the years:

If you are working with a female shooter you should consider a smaller gun that will fit in their smaller hands.

9mm or 380 auto is a better choice for women because of their lack of upper body strength.

The way I hear a lot of people talk, it is as if, as suggested above, that ALL people with small hands must be women and ALL women have small hands. Or similarly the assumption is being made that ALL people with a lack of upper body strength are women and ALL women lack upper body strength. This is both insulting and counterproductive. As an industry if we want to talk about firearm or shooting considerations for people with small hands then lets call out people with small hands and not make the assumption that by doing so we are talking to all and only women.


So, what are your thoughts about female shooters? What are some things you have heard that cross the line or don't properly represent reality? Let us know in the comments below.

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23 Responses to The Weakness of Women: Myth?

  1. Ken April 21, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Ever since the bike helmet nazis, cigarette nazis, seat belt nazis, soda nazis, thought police, even so called “hate” speech has crept slowly into our society, as if one can assume to know the heart of another though all hearts are evil…..people have become more and more terror stricken to utter opinions whether held by humans for centuries or suddenly realized a certain view is, in fact, the truth….and truth is not relative. It is true or false, right or wrong. Which is the real problem in society…moral relativity. That nonsense is the foundation of present societal idiocy. Are females at a disadvantage in shooting a gun? Generally, perhaps….as I’ve found over 40 years of shooting but it’s refreshing to see them coming to ranges more and more recently, all shapes and sizes! If we’re gonna carry this tool, get trained and learn the law of using lethal force, that’s paramount.! But, we are different and always will be and women I’ve spoken to like it that way as well.

  2. Larry Dirlam April 21, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    Line all of the women shooters up and Congratulate them for choosing to not be a victim.
    They will find the right frame and caliber that works for them

  3. Richard McGannon, Esq. April 21, 2017 at 10:44 am #

    Train 10 guys and 10 women to shoot an AR 15 and after 10 meets at the range my bet is the girls will out score the men.

    Now take the same bunch and put them into a 12 Gauge slug-only match and it may be a different story. Size does matter when it comes to recoil. Most men handle big recoil better simply because they are physically bigger and better equipped to deal with the physics involved.

  4. Virgil Ferguson April 21, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    In the Bible the Apostle Paul said that the woman is the weaker vessel. He has never gone to Walmart with one Christmas shopping !

  5. Nancy April 21, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    My EDC is a Glock 19, but I’ve shot the 10mm Glock and because of its size and design found it to have less recoil than my 9mm.Since ballistic tests have shown that shot placement matters more than caliber in most cases, I find that the 9mm gives me enough punch without costing so much for ammo that it limits my practice time. Yes, women as a group are not as strong as men, but proper technique can often even the field.

  6. james alexander April 21, 2017 at 11:59 am #

    Does that mean that the AR 15 is a girly gun. YES it is! When I was in Vietnam 1967-68 with USMC, I carried a M-14. I know it was heavier but it has a lot more stopping power than a 22cal round.

    Both my ex-wives could out shoot me with my 9mm but not my 45cal. So women are better shots, too bad they have a hard time carrying their packs into combat. And they have a bad time protecting their butts after they run out of ammo. Women should not be in ground combat units ever!

    Flying a plane or chopper,or in support units OK. But not up front. Look at what happen to the nurses in WWII when the Japanese overran the bases in the Pacific. Not a pretty sight!!! Well the Japaneses soldiers were not the best people in the world at that time.

  7. james alexander April 21, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    What you can not say what happen in WWII with the Japanese soldiers?

  8. Steve Skogman April 21, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Truth be told, male or female you are going to shoot best with the size and caliber gun you are most comfortable with.

  9. Ann C. April 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    Using good technique makes up the difference in upper body strength. At least it does for me I was able to take the “Top Gun” award in my police academy class. That was with a Glock model 22 and a 12ga pump with slugs and buck shot.

  10. Becky P. April 21, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    I have been a firearms instructor for a few years now. I take special pleasure in teaching women to shoot because I know they have an intimidation factor going on. Women will listen when you’re teaching them about firearms. They want to understand the mechanics of them. I take a gun apart and show them the guts. When they see that there are a lot fewer parts, that it is a tool, and that it is nothing more than a paperweight without ammunition and someone to squeeze the trigger, they begin to lose their fear of firearms. We talk about stance. We talk about grip. For a semi auto I explain to them how important their stance and grip are in the proper function of the firearm. I train them to work around their physical “assets” and to lean in and support the function of the slide rack. I teach them to rack the slide with push and pull. I answer their questions patiently till they are well versed. And they have a lot of questions. I want them to be comfortable and ready.

    Some women will still be timid. Some will listen to men in their lives who tell them to stick with smaller calibers and, usually, revolvers. But with gentle coaching and training many of these women can shoot any firearm, though they will ultimately (and rightly) choose the one they are most comfortable firing.

    My suggestion to them is to fire as wide a variety as they can before deciding what to buy. Most gun ranges rent guns. Family members and friends are always willing to share. Sometimes people at the range are even willing to allow you to try something they are shooting. But a wide variety of calibers and brands should be experienced before buying.

    My preference is for a .40 caliber Springfield XD. I also enjoy shooting a .45 caliber Springfield XDM and my Smith and Wesson .40 caliber. I own a .380 that I bought for concealed carry but I don’t like it. I have small hands but I don’t like the way it fits my hand. I prefer the bigger, more powerful .40’s. But concealed carry is difficult with a larger firearm.

    Recently I found a belly band holster that allows me to carry my .40. It takes some getting used to but it is possible. For now, I switch back and forth depending on what I’m doing and wearing. But I like to always be armed because you never know in this crazy world.

    I have known both men and women who were intimidated by guns and afraid to even touch one. Yes, women are the “weaker” sex, but they are also less arrogant and more willing to learn from the pros. Men often come to class only because the law says they must to get a CCW license and they act as if there is nothing you can teach them because they’re men and they naturally know how to shoot. Women want to learn. They want to completely understand and conquer. They have a healthy respect for this potentially lethal tool and they want to approach it with respect.

    So yes, the sexes are different, but most of us love and appreciate those differences. This does not make us less. It makes us different. The women can handle a lot more than we’re given credit for.

    PS I also have a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun that I enjoy shooting, but it beats the heck out of me so I only manage about 8 shots before I give over for something with less recoil. I do love shooting AR-15’s too, just for the shear pleasure of it.

    • Doug sweetin June 3, 2017 at 10:19 am #

      We’ll said ! And I agree!

  11. Eric Bruns April 21, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

    Years ago, in Oakland, CA, I went shooting with my gf. We had gotten a Ruger 9mm for her because she had very small hands and was a relativley small women. Stepping up to the firing line, she proceeded to consistently have one misfire after another. When either I or a male friend fired it, we had NO misfires.

    Nancy then suggested she try my Para Ord P13 .45 ACP. I chuckled and told her it was far heavier and had a much larger kick. She repeated her request. Feeling very superior, I loaded five rounds and slid it into the weapon. She proceeded to put all five within the a 4 inch space. We men figured, beginners luck and loaded another five. She did the same thing. Had I not been right there I’d have never believed such a story. I’ve learned to simply NEVER underestimate ANY woman when she decides to do something.

    • Doug May 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm #

      Eric, Isn’t that the truth. “Never underestimate any woman when she decides on something”. That should be the headline of this article and the complete text as well. LOL

  12. Mikial April 21, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

    Some women are weak or have small hands, and some men are weak or have small hands. My wife has small hands, but she also lifts weights, likes to arm wrestle, can drink most guys under the table and has no problem whatsoever shooting her 1911 very well.

    Her sister on the other hand can’t handle anything bigger than a .22. A lot of it is psychological. I think there were a lot of male FBI agents who didn’t do well with the 10mm.

  13. Jerry McNair April 22, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    In early ‘sixties I was a (male), 5’11, 125lb string bean. Leaning to shoot the M-1, I hated it! Couldn’t hit my a– with it, although I managed to qualify (30 out of 100). Then along came the M-14 which is essentially the same rifle, but by then I had gained 20-25 lbs of body mass. Amazingly, my scores had improved to the extent that I loved that rifle. I wish I still had one. – jerry

  14. Peter Wehrmeyer April 24, 2017 at 12:29 am #

    I taught women’s pistol classes for years. They loved the “cute” guns, but understood my Combat Commander was a real gun. They learned to shoot well. Most now use 1911’s or 2handing cz75 variants. Not double action, but single. Many admit to model 19 or 22 at bedside. and almost all carry 38s, but as backup.

  15. Judy Pearce April 25, 2017 at 9:32 am #

    I’m short but sturdy. I won’t use anything but a 38 S&W, long or short barrel. I guarantee I’ll hit whatever target you put up for me!
    You can’t judge a book by it’s cover is so so true.
    Judy Pearce

  16. Matthew Maruster April 25, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    Some people are applying the word weakness to solely a judge of physical strength. In general, women have less mass and muscle than men, however shooting a gun requires limited muscle strength. Usually, and unless there is an injury or some other physical problem, good technique can overcome most issues related solely to strength. This means women can shoot guns just as well as men. And if we are comparing women vs. men on the same firearm, lets compare similarly sized women and men. Some people are assuming every woman is 5’3″ and 100lbs. Obviously this is as accurate as assuming every male is 6’0″ and 250lbs.

    As far as women in combat, this is a more complex issue. I am a combat infantry Marine and belive women can serve in combat roles, but as ground troops it creates issues because of the mixing of genders in sleeping and fraternization. Additionally there are unique hygene issues that are unique to women that can be detrimental in a sustained forward combat position. That being said, I think some women could absolutely carry their pack into combat, deploy weapon systems and be an asset to the mission. I just think that the negative problems outweigh the positives when it comes to ground infantry.

    Women, keep training and you can be just as effective with your firearm in protecting yourself and your family. Don’t narrow yourself down to the smallest and most colorful gun in the display case.

  17. Kathie S. April 25, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    I’m a 70-year old woman of slender build. The two pistols with which I shoot most accurately are a Nighthawk .45 and a Magnum Research Desert Eagle .45. Sadly both are too big for me to use for concealed carry.

    I do find, however, that a 20-gauge shotgun is easier for me to handle than a 12-gauge.

  18. Trey Westcot May 29, 2017 at 10:30 am #

    For starters, we are talking about biological and physiological differences between the SEXES, not genders. Gender is a function of language, which is why some languages, such as English, are genderless (occurred in the transition from Middle English to Modern English), while Spanish has 2, German has 3, and some eastern languages have as many as 5.

    With that out of the way, we are each individual and unique beings. What works best for one is not giaranteed to work best for another, even if both are of similar size and stature. Some women do better with a larger caliber, while others prefer a medium caliber. The same holds true for men.

    Ultimately, it’s an individual decision. While i like the .45 and the 10mm, i carry a 9mm simply because of lower recoil, lighter weight, thinner profile, and greater ammo capacity. My house gun, however, is a .45. Those are the choices i made based on information, comfort, and preference. If i were a duty cop, however, I’d likely prefer a Glock 20 or 21 because weight and profile differences are not as great a consideration in a duty rig.

    Ultimately, it’s not a question of sex. It’s a question of individual choice based on a set of parameters and prioritiies which that individual considers most important. As long as you train with what you choose to carry and you make tthe most informed decision for you as an individual regarding what you choose to carry, the rest is insignificant.

  19. Sandra Hexner July 7, 2017 at 3:47 pm #

    I really love your point about it’s all about science and that comparing women isn’t needed in the gun world. Since I don’t know much about it, but your tests show that women are 75% worse might upset a few people. I hope to be shooting and using the best gun accessories in the industry and I hope to prove that women are just as good as men with guns.

  20. john depeo January 7, 2018 at 8:51 pm #

    Great read! Thanks!

  21. Chris April 1, 2019 at 3:19 pm #

    I turned 70 this year, and though male, I have switched from .40 to 9mm. The .40 had too much torque in a baby Glock. I have always found the .45 easier to handle than .40.

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