Robyn Sandoval of A Girl And A Gun recently took my MAG-40 class in South Dakota, and while there, she gave me permission to share this list she put together.  Though it probably understates how many LCP-size .380s and snub .38 revolvers are being carried by women today, the guns folks take to pistol class are largely indicative of what they keep for home defense, in my experience.

Massad Ayoob and Robyn Sandoval
Massad Ayoob and Robyn Sandoval at a recent MAG40 class in South Dakota.

Courtesy of Robyn:

To know the handguns and gear that are trending for women in 2021, look at what women are choosing to train with and carry. Recently A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League (AG & AG) hosted its 9th Annual National Conference. All 450 participants were required to go through a “gear check” process where their handguns, belts, holsters, and mag pouches were all reviewed and function checked. The following lists the most popular brands and models that the women brought to training.

Women’s Choices of Handguns

A total of 626 handguns were reviewed and logged by brand and model during the AG & AG gear check process. By far GLOCK was the most popular brand among women at the 2021 training conference. More than 32% of the handguns brought to the event were GLOCK pistols, of which the most preferred models were G19s and G17s. The next popular brand was SIG SAUER, with the P320 and P365 models, followed by Smith & Wesson’s M&Ps and Shields.

Brands Percentage

GLOCK 32%
SIG SAUER 18%
Smith & Wesson 14%
Springfield 8%
CZ-USA 6%
Heckler & Koch 5%
Walther 5%
Ruger 2%
STI 2%
Canik 2%
Kimber 1%
Taurus 1%
Beretta 1%
Rock Island 1%
Wilson Combat 0.5%
FN 0.3%
Zev Tech 0.3%
Mossberg 0.2%
Accuracy X 0.2%
EMG 0.2%
Garrison 0.2%
German Sports Guns 0.2%
Girsan 0.2%
Hi-Point 0.2%
SCCY 0.2%
Interestingly, the logs reflect a lot of brand loyalty. For example, if a shooter brought two pistols (typically one for general or competition training vs. one for concealed carry courses), the pistols were usually the same brand, such as a G19 and G43 or a P938 and a P238. Seldom did women with multiple guns cross brand lines. This is noteworthy because it may indicate that if a woman finds a gun she likes, she is likely to purchase more products from the same brand.

Breaking it down further, these are the most popular model of handguns that ladies brought to training:

Models Percentage
GLOCK 19 11%
S&W M&P  7%
GLOCK 17 7%
SIG P320 6%
SIG P365 5%
HK VP9 4%
GLOCK 34 4%
S&W M&P Shield  3%
Springfield XDM 3%
S&W M&P Shield EZ 3%
GLOCK 43 2% SIG P320
Legion X5 2%
GLOCK 45 2%
CZ P-10 2%
GLOCK 48 2%
Walther PPQ 2%
Canik TP9 2%
STI Staccato 2%
GLOCK 43X 1%
Springfield XD 1%
CZ Shadow 2 1%
GLOCK 19X 1%
SIG P365XL 1%
Walther Q5 1%
SIG P238 1%
Springfield 1911 1%
CZ 75 1%
S&W M&P
EZ 1% Walther
PDP 1%

Women’s Choices of Holsters

An appropriate holster properly protects the trigger by covering the trigger guard entirely. During training events and competitions, AG & AG strongly suggests holsters made from kydex. Each holster must be designed specifically for a specific pistol and fits that gun with proper retention (meaning that the shooter hears the firearm “click” into place when seated, and the gun doesn’t fall out without purposely drawing it). While 20% of the holsters were not identified by brand, most of the holsters were from popular holster companies:

Holsters Percentage
Comp-Tac 32%
Blade Tech 11%
Safariland 6%
Concealment Solutions 3%
Alien Gear 3% Fobus 2%
Black Scorpion 2%
Dara 2%
Weber 1%
Crossbreed 1%
Blackhawk 1%
Long Shadow 1%
Red Hill Tactical 1%
Vedder 1%
We the People 1%
Sig Sauer 1%
Other 11%
Unknown 20%

Women’s Choices of Gun Belts

Finding a quality gun belt can be a challenge for a lot of women. It’s critical that the belt is rigid material to provide resistance during the drawstroke, and yet it also has to be flexible enough to accommodate women’s diverse body styles and sizes. Here is a list of the belts that women brought to training:

Belts Percentage
5.11 15%
Nexbelt 10%
Safariland 6%
Blade Tech 5%
CR Speed 5%
Black Scorpion 3%
Blue Alpha Gear 3%
Tuff 2% Ghost 1%
Flashbang 1%
Wolf 1%
Bianchi 1%
Shooters Connection 1%
Comp-Tac 1%
Other 31%
Unknown 28%

Best Handguns and Gear for Women

Choosing the right firearm that fits a woman’s hands and that is comfortable during recoil is important so that she enjoys training with it and carrying it for personal defense. Equally important is selecting appropriate gear that have all of the requisite safety features. While the past decade brought a lot of “pink it and shrink it” product designs for women, AG & AG is seeing a dramatic shift in recent years for efficient, safe, and quality product lines for women.

Note: RISE 2021 Gear Check logs listed brands and models of handguns, belts, holsters, and mag pouches. No serial numbers or personally identifiable data was collected. No information on rifles or shotguns was collected during gear check.

36 COMMENTS

  1. The Democrats have demonized old white men who are obviously racist and cling to their guns. What is their take on the increasing numbers of women who are buying guns & gear & are seeking out professional training in their use? Have they been brainwashed by the evil men in their lives? Has Fox News convinced them that the crime rates are skyrocketing. Do they really believe that Biden wants to take their guns away just because he says he does?

    I think this trend is great & we all need to do our part in introducing women & young people to firearms & shooting. It may very well save the 2nd Amendment.

  2. @ Mas – “…the guns folks take to pistol class are largely indicative of what they keep for home defense, in my experience.”

    While I do not have anywhere near Mas’ expertise in this area, my own (limited) experience, in taking firearm training classes, backs up his observation. In almost all of the classes that I took, I tended to use a service-size handgun for the class. The handguns varied from a S&W Model 19 revolver in .357 Magnum (fired with 38 special 130 gr. FMJ ammo for training) to various S&W 9mm semi-automatics to a FNX-40 to a 1911 clone in 45 ACP. However, all were service-size firearms.

    Most firearm training classes require firing a good amount of ammo. Sometimes up to several hundred rounds. It is simply easier to holster, draw, grip, present and fire a service-size handgun whenever this number of rounds needs to be fired.

    Of all the training classes that I have attended, only one specifically requested that I take the class with my concealed-carry firearm and use a concealable holster. I took this class with a stub-nose 38 special revolver carried in a pocket holster. Every other class was taken with a service-size handgun carried in a conventional belt holster.

    Therefore, the handgun selections given above are, in my opinion, more indicative of the firearms that women would keep for home defense or range use. I would not consider this list as being indicative of the handguns that women would select for concealed carry.

    In my experience, most people (men, women or whatever) that are interested enough in firearms to get a concealed carry license and take extra firearms training are also interested enough to own multiple handguns. They will typically have different handguns for concealed carry versus home defense or range use/training.

    • I’m going to second TN_MAN’s comment. I don’t see too many women regularly carrying a P320 X-Five Legion, a Staccato or a CZ Shadow 2. While all can be carried, these are specifically tailored to competition and target shooting (although someone might carry a Staccato C with less weight than the P).

      Most of the others can be easily carried by a majority of the population, but I would imagine most of the carry guns will tend to be more of the Glock 43, M&P Shield or Sig P365 size of guns.

  3. Given that Safariland pioneered the contoured “Sally Brown” duty belt for women, I’m surprised that 5.11 beat them out on belts. Or maybe, Safariland didn’t carry the design through beyond the duty belts. I’ve noticed that, at least recently, gear makers prioritize the duty/law enforcement and the competition markets and the concealed private citizen market is nearly ignored. Given the current trends, that seems short sighted.

    I also noted that Wilderness Outfitters didn’t make the list at all, unless I overlooked it. Toxiclly masculine? Not sufficiently stylish?

  4. > Finding a quality gun belt can be a challenge for a lot of women.

    Male gun belts are intended to work by compression, as the standard male torso is more or less straight in that area. Some women are built that way, but if she has noticeable hips, the bottom edge of the belt will ride there, creating an uncomfortable pressure spot. A proper belt for that shape would look more like a scimitar when laid out flat, as opposed to a straight strip of leather.

  5. > Therefore, the handgun selections given above are, in my opinion, more indicative of the firearms that women would keep for home defense or range use.

    That would apply to my wife. Her carry gun is a Ruger LCP. Her shooting gun is a Commander-size 1911. She’s a small woman and has fixed ideas about her clothing; with care she can dress around the LCP, but the amount of printing would be absurd with the 1911.

    Both times she had to pass the shooting test to get her CCW renewed, she took the 1911. She carries the LCP because her choice is “micro automatic” or “no gun”, not because she’s all that fond of it. (she says the slide is too hard to rack, the back of the grip is square-edged and hurts her hand, and the trigger pull is gritty and waaaaaay too long) (and for whatever reason a revolver is a hard ‘no’, even though they can be more concealable than you’d expect given their shape)

    Long ago Mas wrote an article about CCW in hot weather, and downsizing guns and gear to accomodate lighter clothing, and eventually you reached the point where it was better to just forget the whole thing and carry a big gun in a paper bag. I haven’t quite been able to convince her of that, yet…

    • TRX,

      From what you wrote, my guess is that your wife needs to get used to a snub-nose revolver. It solves most of the problems she is encountering.

      Mas, as usual, is right about baggy clothes. They are so helpful in concealing handguns. Problem is, American women like to wear tight clothes mostly, so know they have a problem. Do they wear tight clothes and look stylish, or do they wear loose clothing to conceal a firearm that could save their lives? Maybe one answer is to carry in a handbag made for carrying a gun.

      All of this requires trade-offs and compromise. There is no perfect answer, especially in warm weather.

    • If price isn’t an issue, treat your wife to a Kahr P380, CW380 or CT380. Next choice would be an S&W M&P Bodyguard with neither laser nor thumb safety. Sights can be adjusted for windage or replaced.

  6. I’ve stayed with S&W from day one. I regularly suggest that if you like and are proficient with your current carry, it’s a good idea to stay with that platform as the familiarity will pay off with a fluid ease of transition between them. Good to see more ladies taking charge of their self defence. I will hence forth always see my snub 38 as me embracing my feminine side.

  7. Appreciate this article very much as it’s interesting to learn what other women use plus other brands for belts and holsters to check out.
    I was surprised Dara holsters weren’t listed.

    It seems I’m an outlier. My cc pistols, which double as home defense, aren’t the same brand: a CZ P-10 S and Canik TP9 Elite SC. I’m not fortunate enough have a separate larger home defense pistol at this time, but do practice and take classes with both.

    I was surprised Dara holsters weren’t listed.

  8. My wife has a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380. She enjoys shooting it. That’s her go-to gun.

    As to the Glocks (all in 9mm) I own, she says: “I’m proficient with them, but I don’t like shooting them.”

    I respect that.

  9. I see a lot of reasons to be negative about life today, but I will try to look on the bright side and cheer myself up.

    We Americans read the article above and felt it was pretty indicative of normal life. Fact is, a lot of things have to come together for women to be able to go to self defense classes and have with them a variety of guns.

    First, it means we live in a country where the government allows citizens to own firearms.

    Second, the variety of guns mentioned shows that engineers have been able to produce a variety of firearms. This is not necessary. There could be one type of handgun, that would have to work for all circumstances. The fact we have so much variety to choose from is indicative of blessing, luxury, innovation and wealth. These are all good things to have.

    Third, the fact that numerous women can attend these classes means they have wealth to spend on more than necessities like food. They have time to devote to training, so they are not slaves to work. And, no one is keeping them from studying self-defense with firearms because they believe fighting is not for women. In other words, these women are not oppressed.

    These are all good things. Today, this type of training is unavailable in most countries. In the past, we in America had fewer firearm designs to choose from, because technology had not advanced to the point where it is today.

    We have a good thing going here in America. Let’s not lose it.

  10. I know a lady who has a Kimber … because he name is Kim …

    She likes it and runs it well (After the return to manufacturer with one week of purchase. And, abour a week turnaround I might add. If you have a kimber not running well, send it in. They will fix it).

    I haven’t asked her what or even if she is routinely carrying.

  11. Curious about auto v. revolver and how many ladies carried the latter. Also (although I’m sure the 9mmP topped the list) how man of the participants shot other calibers. Very good article.

  12. There could be one type of handgun, that would have to work for all circumstances.
    We’ll have that as soon as someone invents an accurate, very small, light, concealable pistol which fits anyone’s hand, holds a large number of big, powerful cartridges, and doesn’t kick. 😉

    What calibers did the ladies choose?

  13. Very surprising. My Second Amendment Family GunShop has a 30% female clientele. Most are new shooters, and although their male counterparts always suggest a large semi auto, they usually settle on a smaller, lighter, easier to handle revolver.

  14. Take heart Carl,
    My backup carry is a Colt Detective Special snubby!! 🙂👍 EDC Sig P365.
    Best gun belt Nexbelt, infinite adjustability.
    Biggest problem as a female Concealed Carry person……..finding the right AIWB holster that works with Mommy curves…………currently rocking a belly band that I have tailored to fit.
    Love being armed and female.
    Blessings all!

  15. As I noted in my previous comment, the majority of the models, listed above, are service-size handguns rather than carry-size pistols. For example, the top four (4) models (Glock 19 and 17, S&W M&P and Sig P320) are all service-size models and comprise almost a third (about 31%) of the total number.

    As Roger Willco notes above, most women are not interested in “dressing around the gun”. Heck, a lot of men (including myself) are not willing to do it.

    I typically use a S&W Model 642-1 (a lightweight stub-nose 38 special J-frame) as my routine carry gun. I don’t carry this gun because I think it is the optimal tool for a gunfight! I carry it because it is small, lightweight and easy to conceal. Also, I carry it because I have more faith in the reliability of a good revolver over one of the tiny semi-automatics. 🙂

    I carry my spare ammo in two (2) speed strips. Again, I don’t do this because I think speed strips are the best tool for a reload. A good speedloader would work better. No, I carry them because they are thin and easier to carry then a pair of bulky speedloaders.

    I carry the revolver in a pocket holster. Not because it is the best holster for combat. A regular belt holster would provide faster access for a quick draw. No, I use the pocket holster because it is convenient and very concealable. Not because it provides the quickest draw. (I would note that, with a pocket holster, it is possible to put your hand “in your pocket” and grasp the revolver in doubtful situations. This is not perceived as threatening, by itself, but does provide a rather quick draw if necessary.)

    I bet that most of the ladies have to make similar compromises in order to carry a gun for safety without compromising either their comfort or their fashion sense!

    It would be really interesting to know what guns the ladies carry as opposed to the models that they take to a training class. If this questionnaire is repeated at next year’s event, I suggest that the following questions be added:

    Do you routinely carry a firearm for personal protection?

    If so, what caliber and model firearm do you carry for this purpose?

    If so, what holster system or method of carry do you use for personal-protection carry?

    If so, do you carry spare ammunition? If yes, how is this spare ammo carried?

    This would also be valuable information to know.

    • Very good points. If size were a major issue, such the summer months in AZ or down South, I would absolutely prefer a stainless steel revolver over a tiny semi auto for many of the reasons you cite. We also have to allow for other items such as OC, good folding knife, cell phone, and a reliable light.

  16. Great and interesting article. My wife carried a S&W Shield in 9mm until she found the weight too much along with essentials in her purse. Then she went back to her Ruger LCP in .380. She likes the 9mm better but finds the amount of weight difference added to things she has to carry is a little more than she can handle. When things improve I’m betting the Shield goes back in her purse.
    jack

    • A good lady friend of mine recently switched from her 9mm Shield to a P365 and absolutely loves it. She’s in the Denver area and most certainly gets all four seasons.

  17. Good information uncle Mas, as always. But I note that Black Arch isn’t on the list. They’re excellent kit, customer service is second to none; I semi-retired my old Bianchi Pistol Pocket with one of theirs and have been extremely pleased.

  18. Well, here is one area where the Middle Easterners have us beat. If I dressed like a Middle-Easterner, I could easily conceal two full-size pistols, one on each hip, and have extra mags or speed loaders with me. Plus, they seem to wear the same clothes year round, so one rig would do for every season. If I didn’t want to imitate an Arab, I guess I could dress like an ancient Roman instead; white robe with one bare shoulder.

    • Roger:

      I wouldn’t doubt many women (and maybe some men) who wear burkas could easily conceal a H&K MP-5 with several extra magazines in addition to a pair of Desert Eagles in duel shoulder holsters, level 4 body armor, and an 18″ machete under those bulky clothes. Also that burka comes in handy when one is attacked by a swarm of killer bees. Just pull your hands inside the sleeves or carry some gloves.

      I wouldn’t dress like a Roman, especially in bad neighborhoods as you may be mistaken for a member of the KKK who forgot to wear his hood.

  19. Friend TN_MAN, you and Mas have sometimes carried similar handguns for routine carry. From studying many You Tube-documented shootings, I would say that a definite trend towards greater numbers of aggressors is occurring. Mas has sometimes carried two J-frames, and I would suggest likewise for anyone. I now normally carry a revolver and a semi-auto, or sometimes two semi-autos. I carry heavy caliber revolvers in the big, bad woods. My best lady friend won’t yet be persuaded to own more than one handgun, a .38/.357 revolver, but is open to my lending her another in a crisis. You and Mas are the highest recommendations possible for what makes the most effective, comfortable carry.

    • @ Strategic Steve – “I now normally carry a revolver and a semi-auto, or sometimes two semi-autos.”

      I usually do not carry a second handgun when conducting routine local trips. Say to buy groceries or gas from a local business during normal business hours. However, on occasion, I will do so. Usually, it would involve a non-routine trip. Say, a long drive to visit some friends or relatives (involving a multi-day excursion) or some business that requires me to be out-and-about at night.

      What type of 2nd gun I carry (when I do carry one) depends largely upon the weather and time of year. In warm weather where a cover garment is not required, I will go smaller than my J-frame. Typically, I will pack a Remington RM-380 (Remington’s version of the Rohrbaugh 380 pistol). This little .380 ACP is small enough that I can carry it as a backup piece in an ankle holster.

      If it is cold enough to wear a jacket, then I have one with holster pockets that will conceal a service size pistol or revolver. I have packed my S&W 629 in .44 Mag. this way. Normally, I do not go THAT BIG! Rather, I would normally carry a compact 9mm, 357 Sig or 40 S&W as the second gun. In this case, the larger gun becomes the primary with the J-frame becoming the backup.

      In any event, my S&W 642 is always on me. It will always be carried even if I decide to supplement it with a second handgun.

  20. Another interesting, informative article representing an interesting array of of mostly outstanding firearms and gear preferences.

    Go ladies! In a world that seems to be growing more dangerous by the day, it’s good to see so many determined to make it a safer place for themselves and their loved ones.

  21. When a product designer was told “make product X appeal to more women” and he didn’t actually know a real woman to talk to, he would paint it pink. Whether with Cerakote or powder coat.

    I have seen pink guns, pink drills, pink hammers, pink tool boxes… If you go all the way back to 1955 there was the Dodge La Femme, a mostly pink car…

    It got so bad that for a while there was website “Pink Stinks.” Though it was abandoned years ago.

    When I was an NRA instructor, there would often be couples who would show up. He, of course had to buy her a gun. It was usually either exactly what he carried or a .22 long-rifle. Neither of which was usually the right answer. But why would he bother to ask her? He knew all about guns. (You didn’t even have to ask him, he would tell you anyway.)

  22. I don’t pretend to understand women but the correct reason for sticking with a single nameplate for different guns, isn’t brand loyalty but a common operating system. I have Glocks of various sizes and calibers for different purposes but they all work the same. Pretty sure you could do the same with SiG or S&W.

  23. I wonder why Kahr pistols seem to be overlooked. In polymer they have a trigger reach that would be ideal for most women. I know the magazines can be difficult to load, but there are tools to help with that. (Could it be that the slides are too difficult for them to rack?)

    • @ fsilber – “Could it be that the slides are too difficult for them to rack?”

      That could be an issue. Especially on the smaller models. I have a CW-40 and, while the slide takes some force to rack, there is enough slide to get a good grip and do it.

      However, it seems to be a different story with the smaller models. A friend of mine bought a CW-380 to use for concealed carry. He really liked it’s small size when he was handling it in the gun-shop. Once he actually purchased the pistol and began to use it, on the other hand, he discovered its downsides.

      My friend is not a female. Rather, he is an elderly male who no longer has the hand strength of his youth. He found the slide fairly hard to work. Especially since, on the smaller models like the CW-380, the amount of slide to grasp is relatively tiny.

      Before he purchased the gun, I had suggested to him that a slightly larger pistol with an easy-operating slide would be the ticket. I tried to point him toward a S&W EZ 380. However, he had his heart set on a tiny semi-auto that would be super easy to carry and conceal. So, he jumped on the smaller CW-380 without really realizing the downsides of these tiny pocket automatics.

      Now he is talking about setting the CW-380 aside and getting a lightweight, stub-nose 38 special (like my Model 642 which he has seen and handled) to carry.

      It is not easy to find a carry gun that really suits you (in my experience). Simply handling the gun for a few minutes in a gun-shop does not tell the full story!

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