We’ve welcomed literally millions of new owners into the firearms world in the last couple of years, and a great many of them are female.  The word that applies is “empowerment.”

But another word which applies is “fit.”  Historically, most firearms have been designed and built for males, who on average run bigger with longer arms and larger hands.  Back in 2011 we discussed this in some depth in Backwoods Home magazine, and it’s worth repeating now:


    • The manslaughter case? She was acquitted on all charges in less than an hour of jury deliberation. Attorney John Colley did a great job for her.

  1. Excellent points. #2 son’s pixie wife’s comment upon firing an AR adjusted to her size was: “This is FUN!”. Don’t think that would have been her reaction to a 12 gauge.

    Love the sourced information about gender strength differences. Copied and archived in case of need.

  2. I’ve avoided shotguns most of my 72 years because of the length of pull made them uncomfortable to truly enjoy. I’m a US Army Veteran and have been a gun guy since I was 8 years old. Apparently Clint Smith from Thunder Ranch likes the shorter stocks also as I found out his Thunder Ranch Mossberg 590 has a 13″ length of pull. I bought one for me and a Maverick with a Magpul adjustable stock for my daughter. Too bad it took me so long to figure this out. Thanks.

  3. I am a 5’1″ 100 lb female. I grew up around firearms, but in a state that, essentially, prohibits adjustable stocks. My Dad is a hunter, and I mistakenly ended up with the disappointed impression that I could not hunt, because all of his guns were way too big for me (even youth stocks were too long).  I was in my 30s when I went to an out-of-state gun show. Someone put an adjustable-stock AR in my hands. I held it up and immediately, with awe and realization in my voice, exclaimed, “So THIS is what it’s supposed to look like when you look through a scope!”

    • AM,

      Thanks for sharing that. I can’t help but wonder why your Dad didn’t buy a wooden, youth stock gun for you, then take a saw to the stock and get it to fit you. After sawing the end of the stock, he could sandpaper it, and screw a new butt plate on. A “sawed off shotgun” is a normal length shotgun that was sawed off on both ends, barrel and stock. They sawed off the whole stock, leaving only the curved, pistol grip. That’s the way they did it in the old days. (Those were the “old days,” but the earth was younger then. Hmmm.)

  4. My son went thru multiple lengths of stocks from his first deer hunt at 9 to his current 6’3” self. My wife has youth stocks on her .22 rifle & deer rifle. I prefer shorter lengths of pull on defensive shotguns & rifles. Much easier to make quick accurate hits of your gun fits properly.

    • And shorter guns — even only a couple inches shorter — handle noticeably better in tight quarters, such as hallways and doorways. The first gun I’d reach for for home-defense is my normal carry pistol, but the long gun designated for the purpose (if needed), not coincidentally, is the one with the shortest length of pull and handle-able by the greatest number of responsible family members, especially indoors.

      YMMV, but for our home and mix of medium-large males and petite females, this works best for us.

  5. A man called and asked me to teach his wife to shoot his shotgun, because, and I quote, he had learned better than to try and teach her that kind of stuff.
    I don’t usually teach shotgun – not my forte – but all she wanted was self-defense shooting.
    When they got out of their car, he was about a foot taller than she was.
    I had her pick up the shotgun, and told him to look at her. He said, “She’s not going to learn to shoot that, is she?”
    We scheduled another lesson after he bought her a 20-guage that fit. She decided she might be interested in sporting clays after all, and I passed her to a shotgun instructor. Pretty soon after that she was hitting more birds than he was. To his credit, he didn’t complain.

    • Had a rifle class last night. Instructor called us deviants (with a smile) because we were the <1% of gun owners who actually get instruction. Guessing that your shotgun dude was one of the 99% because as you note, the problem was obvious to an instructor. Hopefully, he will be inspired to train more.

      • Actually he was trained. His instructors concentrated on improving his shooting, not about what his wife needed. He was embarrassed he hadn’t seen the size problem before I pointed it out. She reacted with the grace of a Texas lady.

        Nobody knows everything about guns. I’ve been teaching 40 years, and I certainly don’t.

  6. A few years ago, I bought a very nice Mossberg 500 Tactical 12 ga. with a Hogue OverMolded stock & forend. The stock has a 12″ length of pull so it can be used while wearing body armor. I added a Limbsaver slip-on recoil pad to lengthen the stock a little so I can shoot it more comfortably when I’m not wearing body armor & I was delighted to find that I prefer the resulting 13″ length of pull to the more common 14″- 14 1/2″ length of pull of my other tactical shotguns. The gun comes up much quicker & easier with the 13″ stock, even when wearing a coat or a jacket, without any fear of snagging. I’ve never had a problem with the longer stocks, but I like the 13″ one better & it has the advantage of recoil reduction as well.

  7. 40 years of shooting trap, skeet, sporting clays etc. and coaching many youth and ladies, I find that “new” shooters also make the huge mistake of not getting good “gun mount” instruction before they shoot their 1st round. Most “new” shooters (ladies and kids especially) want to hold the gun up using their backs instead of their arms. Then the “scrunch” up to look down the gun like they would a rifle. That puts them in a very good position to get slapped in the face when they pull the trigger and they are usually finished with shooting at that point. If they get the proper instruction of where the butt of the stock goes in the shoulder and how to stand with slight weight on the front foot along with where to look, thing go a lot better. Stock length and weight of gun has a lot to do with how they are able to get things going, but I think the instruction of how to hold is just as important as fit. They both work together to make shooting enjoyable.

    • Starting with .410 shotguns may generally encourage shotgun shooting while growing new shooters into their measured “fit.” As a Boy Scout some 62 years ago I even started shooting clay birds with a generic adult .410, and had a blast. Or many blasts, right? I was hitting a good percentage of targets without trouble at age 10. IIRC, somebody hit a record number of clay birds using a .410. Now you can even get .410 shells with self-defense-appropriate loads. The over-and-under .22 LR or .22WMR plus-.410 combinations are versatile “survival” guns that can be used to both target shoot and hunt. I haven’t compared .410 prices lately to that of larger gauges, but.410 should be less expensive.

  8. Mas, you know Bonnie & I have long been advocates of short stocks on shotguns. Proof that it works? We’re now both Long Gun Master Blasters at the Pin Shoot. Bonnie routinely runs a 12-1/2″ LoP on long guns. We have found, over 40 years or so, it’s always easier to use a gun that’s too small/short vs one that’s too long/large. I once ran a stage of a combat shotgun match with Bonnie’s gun and didn’t know it until I cased the gun!

    BTW, Mossberg’s 12″ LoP stock is readily available and easily changed with nothing but a BMF screwdriver – you might even be able to do it!

    -Sam Young

    • I have long gorilla arms, and I doubt there’s any production rifle with a stock that’s too long for me.

      On the other hand, I was astonished at how easy it was to mount and get a sight picture with a generic AK-47 or a “colonial length stock” SMLE.

      I suspect it’s a lot easier for a shooter to deal with a “too short” stock than a “too long” one.

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