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Profiling the Best Handguns for Range Practice

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You can expect to see a variety of pistols at the range on any given day. We take a closer look at one shooting group, the Target Tamers, and profile the pistols that nine women trust for range practice.

By Linda M. Gilbertson

In a small community in the White Mountains of Arizona, you’ll find a group of very enthusiastic women who come together to enjoy the sport of shooting. Calling themselves the Target Tamers, most of them have been through formalized training with me and have since purchased their favorite pistol with which they practice on a regular basis. At several of these practices, I spoke with the ladies to find out about their favorite pistol. For the purpose of anonymity, I’ll refer to them by their initials.

Browning Buckmark .22

C.M. is very enthusiastic about shooting. Having chosen for herself a Smith & Wesson full-size 9mm M&P, she loves it because it is comfortable in her hand, has low recoil for her and hits where she aims. She carries it in a Gun Tote’n Mama Purse called “The Hobo.” She enjoys shooting so much that she has joined the White Mountain Bullseye Club and purchased a .22 Browning Buckmark in order to perfect her sight-alignment and trigger control. C.M. recently told me that she enjoys shooting so much that she does a lot of research on guns and accessories as she’s always in the market for a good buy.


Glock 19 / Glock 43

L.L. practices with two different Glocks. The full-size Glock 19 in 9mm is her warm-up pistol. She then switches to the full-size Glock 43 in 9mm. She’ll be able to transition between the two for her choice in concealed carry. The Glock 43 is currently her house gun as she continues to practice and perfect her shooting fundamentals. She enjoys the Glock as it has for her a natural point of aim. A concealed carry purse is in her future.


Ruger Mark IV

J.S. is a very competent and confident shooter with her 9mm Sig Sauer P938. Just like C.M., she has joined the White Mountain Bullseye Club and has purchased a .22 Ruger Mark IV. J.S. carries her Sig in a variety of methods. She has a Gun Tote’n Mama Purse as well as the Crossbreed IWB and a Sig OWB. She said the Sig is “easy to conceal, reliable and of good quality.”


Springfield XD9

V.M. has issues with her hands and therefore purchased a Springfield Armory XD9 and attached to it the Slide-Pull by Brass Stacker Industries. She carried it for a period until it became too heavy at which time, she also purchased a .38 Ruger LCR which she carries in a pocket. She enjoys it because it is small and does not jam. She can easily carry it in her pocket. Even though the Ruger LCR is more difficult at being accurate, this encourages her to visit the range on a regular basis to practice those fundamentals with the Ruger to better her accuracy. As far as comfort to shoot and accuracy is concerned however, the XD9 is her pistol of choice.


Smith & Wesson M&P Shield .380

B.P. is our oldest member at 84 years of age. She has been with the group since its inception in 2013. She warms up with a Beretta U22 NEOS and has used a variety of revolvers and semi-autos in the past. Recently her son-in-law encouraged her to purchase the Smith & Wesson .380 M&P Shield EZ. She enjoys the ease of the slide as her grip and arm muscles are always a challenge. She regularly practices with weights and hand grippers. She carries her EZ in a Gun Tote’n Mama purse. She keeps us all at the top of our game as she is an excellent shot.


Smith & Wesson Model 66

J.H. has always enjoyed her S&W Model 66, .357 Revolver. This is the only pistol which she practices with and is extremely competent with it. She carries it her vehicle and has it in her home for protection. She told me she has tried many other pistols but enjoys the no frills in a revolver, the ease of its use, and its reliability.


Walther PK380

S.D. has a unique situation. When I instructed her in 2014, she was missing the end portion (up to the knuckle from the end) of her trigger finger on her right hand. She learned to use her middle finger to pull the trigger. We began her introduction to firearms with a revolver and she also learned to shoot left handed as she was facing future surgeries on her right hand. She now shoots a Kimber .380 GTM, a Sig Sauer P238 and a Walther PK380. She has since lost her right thumb (up to the knuckle from the end) and her right index finger (up to the knuckle from the end). She has developed new ways to pull the trigger and load magazines, but her affliction has not affected her shooting enthusiasm. In fact it has encouraged her to overcome these obstacles in order to protect herself. Her targets at 7 yds. are amazing.


Ruger SR22

Another V.M. favors a Compact Springfield Armory 1911 in 9mm. She said she fell in love with it immediately because it fit her hand like a glove. She wanted an external safety because of the secure feeling it gave her. She also has a Ruger SR22 which she uses to practice the fundamentals as it is easier on her pocketbook. She carries her 1911 in a Roma Concealed Carry purse. She recently also joined the White Mountain Bullseye Club and will be purchasing a new .22 to use in competition.


Bersa Thunder .380

L.H. has had several classes with firearms and feels very comfortable with a hand-me-down semi called the Makarov. Its caliber is 9-18mm. She carries it in an OWB cross draw. She also enjoys the Charter Arms Bulldog .44 which she carries in a concealed carry purse. Her favorite is a Bersa Thunder .380 which she carries in either a Flashbang Bra Holster or an Uncle Mike’s Neoprene IWB holster. L.H. has an eclectic taste and is extremely competent with each. She told me that she wants to be prepared for any possibility, whether hiking, riding horses or home protection.


What Makes The Difference

These are only a few of the women who have found a new love in firearms. Many of them realize that they are responsible for their own protection and have chosen a form of protection which satisfies their abilities. If they’re not physically able to fight back, this firearm makes them equal and/or superior to the challenger. Several of these women have also joined a new club known as the Defensive Pistol League, which encourages them to use their carry firearms in practical applications.

What makes the difference between a good shot and a poor shot in many instances is the choice of pistol. If the ladies are not comfortable with the weight, the grip, the sights, the recoil and the ease of use, the pistol will end up as a paperweight in some safe. It will not be taken to the range, shot on a regular basis and made a part of one’s lifestyle. These ladies have taken the responsibility upon themselves to train, to purchase and to practice with the tool that someday may save their life. They are “taming their targets.”



Linda Gilbertson

Linda Gilbertson has been involved with firearms for almost 40 years, as a State Trooper, a Federal Agent, Probation Officer and firearms instructor. A National Rifle Association certified Rifle, Pistol, and Personal Protection Instructor, since 2002 she has been teaching women how to defend themselves, by using handguns and rifles. She competes in International Practical Shooting Association competitions locally, and founded the Ladies Shooting Organization, where women shoot together, supporting each other and sharing equipment and ideas. Linda has been a Range Officer for 3 World Practical Shooting Championships, and 5 National Championships. An instructor for the NRA Women’s Wilderness Escape, she has trained women from all over the country in the safe and effective use of handguns. As a member of the Concho Elementary School Board she instructs a Basic and Advanced Firearms Safety Course as an elective, for grades 6-8. Linda Gilbertson, NRA Endowment Life member, has been awarded the 2015 Marion Hammer Women of Distinction Award by the National Rifle Association!

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