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The top 5 concealed carry pistols for women

Springfield Armory's XDS 9mm
Springfield Armory's XDS 9mm
Marie Searson

According to a report released yesterday by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (membership required to view) the majority of new shooters are urban, young and women. Women were listed as the number one demographic for new shooters looking for concealable handguns. This was based on a study conducted between 2008 and 2012.

Pistols readily conceal in a specially designed purse holster
Marie Searson

For a woman, carrying a concealed weapon provides a unique set of challenges as opposed to a man. From an anatomical perspective women tend to be smaller framed and have smaller hands. This can pose a challenge from the point of view of manipulating and shooting the weapon safely, not to mention dealing with felt recoil and the shape of a woman's body or even the cut of her clothing when it comes to concealment.

Sometimes the best holster for a woman is a specially made purse designed for concealed carry. This Examiner took some time to get an overview from Mary Kirkpatrick, CEO of as to find the best purse holsters on the market.

“We offer holsters of different designs that reflect trends in what’s fashionable, said Ms. Kirkpatrick, “Too many manufacturers offer a simple leather purse that looks plain and might work well as a holster, but if it is not carried and used, it will be useless.”

Ms. Kirkpatrick said that sales are varied, but depend on the customer’s sense of style and the type of firearm that is being carried.

To find out what are the five most popular concealed carry handguns for women; we spoke with Debbie Block, the owner of US Firearms Academy in Reno. She affirmed that 20% of her first time handgun buyers are women. Additionally, so are more than 25% of her students for concealed carry classes.

US Firearms Academy is one of the largest independently owned firearms retailers and training schools in the Western United States. Reno’s unique climate features hot summers and cold winters so that CCW is truly subject to the conditions of the weather.

One of US Firearms Academy's CCW Instructor's, Jay Hawkins, said, "A lot of revolvers have been sold to women, but as we know, women do not like the harsh recoil and they do not train with them very often." Ms. Block echoed his statement, adding, "Unfortunately many men push women to revolvers because they think the learning curve is easier. Women need to try a variety of styles and make their own decisions. What good is any handgun if you will not shoot it in order to become proficient?"

As revolver shooting legend Ed McGivern once said, "Shooting a double action revolver fast and accurately is one of the most difficult skills for any shooter to master", we will look at the top five semiautomatic handguns for concealed carry as recommended by the folks at US Firearms Academy.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield leads the pack and is offered in 9mm and 40 S&W. This striker-fired polymer framed pistol measures less than an inch from side to side and has an overall length just a hair over 6 inches. It weighs in at 19 ounces unloaded and for a woman forgoing a belt and a holster it can easily be concealed in a purse holster such as the Hollister Soft Hobo concealed carry purse.

The Ruger LCP is a polymer framed double action only handgun chambered in 380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). Although the round represents the bare minimum for personal protection, the pistol is very small and weighs a mere 9 ounces. As a result perceived recoil can be sharp, but the design has proven to be very popular with female shooters. Not much larger than a smart phone or an IPod, it can be hidden yet accessible in a purse such as a Raven Shoulder Pouch.

The Beretta Nano represents a compact polymer framed 9mm handgun with interchangeable back straps to better conform to a shooter’s hand. The magazine release is easily removable and can be switched to the right side for left handed shooters.

The Ruger LC9 is the big brother (or big sister) to the Ruger LCP and chambered in the more potent 9mm cartridge. Surprisingly the felt recoil is less than that of the LCP, due mostly to the slightly larger size and weight of the LC9. With an unloaded weight of 17 ounces, the appropriate home for this pistol by the Arizona gun maker might be in a Montana West Original concealed carry purse.

One of the newest handguns that will be clawing its way to the top of the list (as it has only been available for a few months) is the Springfield XDS in 9mm. Sales have been brisk and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from female shooters about this pocket sized pistol. The addition of a grip safety makes the trigger pull of this handgun the smoothest of the five handguns on this list.

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