Breda's post today about snubnose revolvers for women reminded me that I had a barely started post sitting in the draft doldrums, so here it is.
I purchased an airweight snubbie for BAG day 2010. I opted for a S&W 432PD chambered in .32 H&R Mag instead of the more popular 642 .38 SPL. Why? Because I'm a "woman"* with girlie hands and wrists. :P In all honestly I purchased it because I didn't want a .38 and liked the versatility of being able to shoot .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Mag out of it. It's also Tam's everyday pocket gun. To date I haven't actually shot any .32 S&W, however I suspect recoil would be next to nothing, even in a little airweight.
Now, let's get into the nitty gritty of this post. As my post title says, I have a "love / hate" relationship with my airweight. I absolutely love the gun for CCW. Riding in a Desantis pocket holster it prints less than an iPhone in my front pocket. It comfortably rides in my pocket when I get home from work. It's light, easy to carry, idiot proof as far as loading / unloading, and in most situations no one is going to know you're carrying. I've actually told someone I was carrying and they couldn't pick out which pocket the airweight was in.
Everything that makes an Airweight a good CCW piece also makes it a less than ideal range gun for anyone, much less for a new shooter. A .38 snubby is lightweight, has heavy recoil, a short sight radius, terrible sights, small grip, and a god awful DAO trigger pull. As far as range trips are concerned none of that sounds like a good thing for a newbie. We want newbies to have FUN at the range, right?
I've never understood the urge to recommend Airweight snubbies to women or any newbie. Gun shops love to recommend cute, light, little guns for women. Frankly I find it ridiculous. Hand size issues aside there's no reason a woman can't effectively manage most semi-auto pistols. The "women are too weak" argument is complete BS as well. If a woman lacks the hand strength to manipulate the slide on a semi-auto how in the hell is she going to be able pull a heavy ass J-frame trigger? Weer'd dry fired my 432PD in Charlotte. He can attest to the general craptastic nature of the trigger.
Opinions are like assholes, and whether a particular gun is "good" depends on what the newbie wants the gun for. If they're buying a CCW piece where concealment is paramount then an Airweight might be a great choice. If not, then I think an airweight is not the best choice for a new shooter for a whole host of reasons discussed in the preceding paragraphs.
As far as I'm concerned the best question to ask is this. "Is the gun easy & fun to shoot?" If not then it's not a good newbie gun. That's subjective of course but I doubt most folks are going to honestly say an airweight snubby is fun & easy to shoot relative to most other pistols. I would bet money that most newbies are going to prefer a Bersa Thunder .380 over a 642 if given both to shoot at the range. I'd bet the large majority would shoot the Bersa better as well.
Airweight snubbies are great for what they're designed for. Easy CCW. They're simply not great range guns. I certainly don't enjoy shooting mine. I think I'd really dislike it if I had a .38.
As always YMMV.
*an inside joke from last years NRA con...