Imagine this scenario: A man walks into a gun store, and when asked what he would like help with, from the counter employee, he says, “I want to buy my wife a rifle”. This could go really well or really wrong. I do believe that this just might be every gun shop staff member’s worst recurring nightmare.
Ladies are a difficult breed. We are shaped differently. We usually have smaller frames completely, and we have less muscle mass in general leading to less upper body strength. I cannot fail to mention that we have longer necklines usually as well as higher cheekbones for our facial structure. Many of these features make choosing a rifle for a lady much more complex. Many rifles on the market today are built for a general male form. It takes a lot of trial and error for any company to say that they have the best rifle built solely for a lady.
Besides our body differences, there are other things to consider as well. The rifle will have a purpose, and this will make a great deal of difference in choosing what to buy. I would choose something very different for home defense as I would for a hunting rifle, and something completely different just to take and plink around with.
It can get VERY complicated when you go to the gun counter and simply ask for a rifle for your wife or daughter. The answers will vary greatly depending on who is working the counter because many times they simply sell what they are familiar with regardless of how it will truly fit the person it is being purchased or built for. They are usually very helpful and really are trying their best, but the truth is that a rifle is best chosen when the person that it is being bought for can hold it and see if it fits them at the very least. Having the capability to rent one and actually shoot it would be ideal.
If you are choosing a rifle from a gun store, then always ask to see the Junior model rifle or Ladies rifles first. I had the luxury of shooting a Weatherby Camilla a few times while teaching the Advanced Pistol Courses with the Ladies Hunting Camps in Utah.
For a rifle that is straight off a shelf or out of a box, it really fit many of the ladies quite well. There are always variations of someone being too small or tall/strong enough to easily handle a traditionally “men’s” rifle. I personally really love hunting with my husbands Ruger 300 Win Mag.
I got my first Mule Deer buck with that rifle. I honestly do not remember the bang, the recoil, or anything other than my heart beating in my ears so loudly that I just knew it would scare the buck away. I am also a SOLID 5 foot 9 inches and 155 lbs, so I kind of mess up the variables of buying for a lady.
Another consideration is the overall skill and experience of the lady that will be receiving this rifle. You have more options if you are already dealing with a skilled or experienced shooter. If that is the case, then they may have already fallen in love with a brand or caliber. If you already know, then this is a gift!
If you really want a special rifle, then you can always go with a custom build. You can really explore an adjustable stock and the ability to customize the cheek pad and even the length of pull. This can really make sure that the rifle is fit so well that there is hardly any room for error because all of the rifle specs are perfectly tuned to be reproducible every shot and every time that you get into any position.
I personally have a gentle set of DON’Ts to help guide you on this process.
Don’t 1: PLEASE don’t just buy something cute.
I will be the first to admit that I love a good color pattern or splash of something pretty, however I refuse to buy a rifle (or anything for that matter) that is only colored in a cute pattern but slapped on a rifle that will not fit. The truth is that an accurate rifle with a good fit will win the heart of your lady much faster than something cutesy that fires like an angry mule or couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Looking girly is not the way to go.
Don’t 2: Do not just buy something that you wanted.
I have honestly been standing at a gun counter when a man walked up and picked out a rifle that he wanted for himself. He literally told the salesperson that if she didn’t like it then he would keep it. Either way, he thought that he had just hit the jackpot. Be real about getting a rifle for your daughter, wife, sister etc. Focus on finding something that will make them want to shoot and enjoy it. You will always get more guns, but you may lose a lady friend the other route!
Don’t 3: Try not to let the person working the counter be your only source of information.
Feel free to try several staff members, go to more than one store, and even ask around to the other patrons shopping at the counter. You will be better served by really doing research and learning about what a variety of people have tried or experienced. This may keep you from making an expensive mistake or just buying because someone else told you to.
From all 3 of my favorite don’ts, I will leave you with a big DO.
If possible, do discuss this with the lady that you are buying it for.
Gauge her interests and any goals or fears that she may have. If it is a gift and you truly want to keep it a secret, then just do your best. A gift that comes from a good place will always be well received. Try to take your lady to the gun store or even the range to give her the opportunity to hold and possibly shoot a few rifles if you do not want her to know that you plan to buy one for her. I can assure you that being able to get a true feel of a rifle will just make the right one sing in her hands. That is what you are hoping for.
As I was researching this, I came to the realization that so much of the outdoor world is designed for a man. That doesn’t make it a bad thing, but it is very exciting when you have the chance to get a trophy hunt with your spouse or child. The memories that I have made while hunting with my husband and children are some of the most precious moments in my life.
Shooting USPSA matches with my 13 year old daughter and husband were also days that I will never forget.
Take the time to find a rifle that will do well for her.
Be willing to work to find a rifle that she will enjoy. I love an AR platform in .22 for popping steel. I love a .223/.556 for shooting 3 gun matches. I have always loved my .270 or my husband’s 300 WM for hunting. There are too many options and choices out there to not find a great match. Just be able to ask around and get many opinions. Just remember that someone else’s opinion doesn’t mean that it works for you as well. It is just more information to use while making your decision.
Good luck, and I would love to hear your hunting or shooting stories once you buy a rifle for the lady in your life.