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Old 01-13-2022, 08:44 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2020
Location: Bellingham, WA
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Firearm for lone female?

Hi, I am planning a 2-week solo trip to the SW in May, and am wondering if I should invest in some kind of firearm for a backup to the bear spray I intend to be my go-to deterrent? I have spent the last few hours reading every post within this forum dating back to 2009 that covers this subject, and it seems that most of you (which seem to be all men) carried some kind of shotgun/rifle/revolver/semi-automatic. I had a few minutes today to actually look at firearms (what a weird experience), and the guy helping me said that shotguns are a big deterrent because of the sound they make, but also showed me something called a Mossberg 590 (I liked the compactness of it), and then a fellow customer said a revolver is the way to go IF I do decide to go the route of a firearm.

I realize that having such an item on me requires not only to know how to use it, but to have the emotional, physical, and mental strength to handle the repercussions if it is, in fact, needed. I intend to join a local shooting range class, so I can handle all of the above-mentioned firearms, and get to the point where it's second nature if I do decide to go this route.

I am quite strong and fiesty, trust no one, and have a solid creep-o-meter, but I do not want to kid myself thinking I can win a confrontation between me and a 200-pound human whose sole purpose is to inflict harm. (Sad we're all more concerned about humans than wildlife....).

I also understand that every state has it's own gun laws--and I will be skirting Californina if I do get one --so that point does not need to come up right now.

I appreciate all respectful comments on the subject, and would love an updated discussion on this matter, and what you would do if you were a lone female boondocking....

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Old 01-13-2022, 10:42 PM   #2
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The SW is a huge area and pretty empty. I have been in the far reaches of AZ and UT and was hard pressed to see another person except in designated campgrounds. I guess the real question do you really think you will be able to shoot another person? If so go for it.

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Old 01-13-2022, 11:46 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by PNWschusser View Post
I intend to join a local shooting range class, so I can handle all of the above-mentioned firearms, and get to the point where it's second nature if I do decide to go this route.
This can be a touchy subject so if it transforms into a gun/anti gun thread it will likely be locked. Let's please keep this thread on the OP's topic.

I will say (as a person who carries firearms) I feel a well trained dog is a better choice. But I don't want a dog so depending where I'm traveling I generally carry at least one handgun and prefer out of sight out of mind concealed carry.

As you posted, I'd get some help from those on the range before purchasing anything. It's not for some people. At least in my area, once you get the basics down, you can go to a local gun store that has a range and rent different handguns to find out what feels good in your hand as well as what caliber suits you and your needs. You also need to practice on a regular basis so the cost or availability of the ammo might come into play.

Consider what fits you for each situation you need to have a weapon. For instance a shotgun might be bulky to carry or to use in a confined van compared to a handgun. Maybe you want protection from larger animals as well as the 2 legged types and need a larger caliber. In grizz country I like the much larger calibers where in the normal public areas I prefer a slim profile 9mm. Just me and each person has their own preference. I do like laser or holographic sights especially on long guns or the larger handguns.

Depending on your state laws, you might be able get a concealed carry permit (CCW) that can cover other states than your own. If you take a CCW class, it will teach you how to handle yourself and show you the liabilities of having and using a firearm for your safety as well as bystanders. USCCA insurance may be something to consider. Many state and national parks don't allow firearms, or frown on them even if you can carry legally. Same might be true when on reservation land. Putting an approved safe (in your van/RV) to lock up your handguns (out of sight) might save you a legal headache.
Overall you need common sense plus have the will and mindset to properly use any firearm. You don't want your weapon to end up in the bad guys hands and then used on you.

You also might consider a hand taser. I know people with CCW permits who carry a hand taser in some areas due to the liability of firearms.
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Old 01-14-2022, 05:37 AM   #4
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There are a set of simple rules for carrying a firearm:

Don't carry unless you are prepared to draw.
Don't draw unless you are prepared to fire.
Don't fire unless you are trying to hit.
Don't hit unless you are prepared to kill.

Guns are not force field generators. The act of drawing a gun will NOT always scare the other person off and will NOT always keep them from advancing. Drawing without being prepared to fire is how you get your gun taken away from you and used against you. Also, drawing a weapon without intending to use it is "brandishing a firearm" and can be charged as a criminal offense.

"Warning shots" are just endangering anybody in the area. If you pull the trigger you should be trying to hit the threat. AND you should be aware of what ELSE is along the line of fire, because in a high stress situation you WILL miss at least once, which is why you fire MANY shots.

There are no "non-lethal" options. Rubber bullets, electric weapons like Tasers, bean-bag rounds can all kill, and a full-on lead bullet most certainly can. You don't fire to hit legs, hands, weapons - you fire to hit center of mass, which has a very good chance of killing the target eventually. You had better be trying to "stop the threat", and that very likely means a dead attacker.

And a dead attacker means you WILL be going to jail. It may be self defense, but that is for the court to decide. You will almost certainly be standing trial, and will have to prove you acted in self defense. If you had time to "aim for his legs" or "fire a warning shot" you were NOT in immediate fear for your life, and thus it was NOT self defense. You need to be able to say "he attacked, I was afraid he was going to kill me, I drew and fired to stop the threat."

If you cannot bring yourself to kill someone, don't carry - it won't help, and it will likely make things worse. If you are going to carry, you need to practice drawing and firing A LOT - like ideally every day for several months, and then at least weekly thereafter. Ideally, you want to get a "snap-cap", which is a dummy bullet that allows you to safely pull the trigger without damaging the gun (or the surroundings) and then practice draw and fire whenever you safely can (e.g. sitting at home, NOT in a campground!). And of course you need to be VERY certain when you have the snap cap in, and when you have a live round.
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Old 01-14-2022, 08:09 AM   #5
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I have a somewhat unique perspective on this having had to defend myself against a burglar who'd assaulted my first wife with a fatal gunshot. At the time I was just about 5 years separated from the USMC, was fairly skilled in handgun usage but never thought I'd have to use lethal force defending myself. Its NOT an easy thing to do so do be advised as already suggested here if you're not willing and mentally prepared to use lethal force a gun is NOT for you!

I often ask someone asking whether they should consider arming themselves for self-defense what their very first or initial gut reaction would be knowing they're under assault or attack---I give them "instruction" to answer the question without pondering it---nothing but that immediate emotion they believe they'd experience. If they answer without anything that's NOT sheer outrage and extreme prejudice towards the assailant they should NOT own a firearm. Too many just aren't prepared for that which makes them a danger to themselves.

I've received responses like "well I'm a mother---I'm fearless.." or I'd hate to take a life, would be scared to death but hope I'd not have to shoot......" and many many more of a similar uncommitted nature. Perhaps needless to say I've advised far, far more people to avoid purchasing a firearm--I'd feel horrible knowing someone was hurt when I could have saved them that anguish.

While the physical aspects of shooting are skills you can hone to a high degree and level of proficiency nothing learned at a range with or without an instructor prepares you to a close proximity encounter with someone whose intent is to harm you or those close by. Without a huge resolve to use lethal force long before it ever becomes even a remote but real-life possibility along with first time or novice firearms ownership/possession the weapon you have in-hand is more often taken from you and used against you.

A handgun is the better choice because its more portable and/or concealable allowing to go about life without drawing attention to you have a weapon on your person. However thinking you'd keep it safely put away but easy to retrieve is another fallacy of gun ownership---if its not on your person its mostly useless.

Having a dog is a good idea if your lifestyle allows such a luxury and responsibility. A good trainer can teach them to be a bit of a deterrent to assailants---and for the most part they're good company and non-lethal.

Things like "bear spray" or loud warning devices ALWAYS carried on your person are great choices IMHO as they do work as deterrents in most situations. For someone with a less committed mindset against lethal force they're a far better consideration. They also tend to be fully legal in many more locales than firearms.

I could talk for hours on this topic and hope I've kept to the request for advice PWNschusser.

BTW I want to commend the replies so far---very well expressed, thinking much in the same mindset I have regarding self protection and the tools available.
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Old 01-14-2022, 08:28 AM   #6
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As others just mentioned, the decision to arm yourself should be taken only after careful consideration and training. If you decide to proceed, plan on attending a good course that acquaints you with both the legal ramifications AND practical use of firearms. In my state the typical concealed carry class (one day) is superficial and generally lacking.

A good multi-day program will go much further into hazard recognition, non-lethal options, legalities, liabilities, permitting and interstate reciprocity agreements. You may also decide to get multiple concealed carry permits (which are issued via individual states). For instance my state (Idaho) allows concealed carry without being permitted, but in order to get permits for other states you must first get an enhanced concealed carry permit for Idaho. I've found that having permits issued for Idaho, Utah and Oregon allows for legal carry in most western states, but not all.

In the end, the decision to arm yourself needs to be taken seriously and after getting educated and personal introspection. As to your earlier question referring to what firearm(s) to purchase... you will know that answer if you decide to attend a good multi-day self defense class focused on firearm use.

Best of luck in your decision.
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Old 01-14-2022, 08:37 AM   #7
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I did want to further suggest most firearms ranges have in-house instructors who can and will work with you in a class room setting or personal training walk you through the first time shooting, assuming you've never fired a gun. Its relatively inexpensive but do make sure its with a well trained instructor rather than a friend or aficionado who might think they know enough to deal with a first-time shooter.

Additionally those ranges will have various handguns for rent giving the shooter a few choices. Before signing up for lessons or instructions visit a few ranges and see how comfortable you feel during the visit.
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Old 01-14-2022, 09:16 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Wowbagger View Post
Guns are not force field generators. The act of drawing a gun will NOT always scare the other person off and will NOT always keep them from advancing. Drawing without being prepared to fire is how you get your gun taken away from you and used against you. Also, drawing a weapon without intending to use it is "brandishing a firearm" and can be charged as a criminal offense.
I would like to resonate this paragraph from Wowbagger as it is in a nutshell the conversations I have been part of with law enforcement when this subject comes around. And, is a subject that seems to be massively understated in these discussions.

There is very, very few scenarios where you will draw a firearm in a confrontation/potential confrontation where you will be so righteous in the eyes of the law that there will be no further investigation of YOU. You should arrange for your legal counsel that is going to represent you NOW. Have a plan and more importantly have the MONEY your going to need to defend your actions in the legal system. In some scenarios and locations just "unholstering" a weapon will be cause for an investigation, let alone discharging a round intentionally, or accidentally, or hitting an individual. The conversations of weapon selection, CCW, confrontation training are vast and everywhere but everyone who carries needs to be legally and more importantly FINANCIALLY prepared for the legal onslaught that will happen after the weapon is pulled. No matter what the outcome was. This all becomes even more complex while traveling in a vehicle that is also a home in the eyes of some places but not all. Be prepared that after the incident you may at the least lose your gun and be under investigation until cleared, to detained, to arrested, all of which you will need an attorney. I'm not discouraging anyone from gun ownership I am saying we need to talk more about the after the incident part of gun ownership. I don't want anyone to lose their career, their house, there freedom because some jerk showed up and they followed the advice of jailhouse lawyers on gun laws.

On a different but related note, when I was traveling in the van a few years ago I met an older lady traveling alone also in a van at a dispersed camp spot. She had what I thought was good advice for the ladies, or anyone really. She made her van and camp spots look like there was two people there. In her case a fictitious "man". She would put out two camp chairs, a pair of mens hiking boots outside the door, stickers on the back window that a man would select, hang a mens jacket somewhere, ect. This is low cost, low effort and it dose what a lot of security people suggest, it puts a question in a perpetrators mind enough that they might move on to a softer target.

What I'm suggesting is to not get tunnel vision that a firearm is the only option for security.

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Old 01-14-2022, 09:45 AM   #9
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I carry most of the time, definitely when my wife and I go on trips. You need to make sure you're legal where you travel. Here is one resource, there are others:

I suggest a handgun, for handling and portability. You will need to train.

Keeping a shotgun in the vehicle is OK, but there are some considerations. You don't have it if you are not in the vehicle. There is the possibility of theft if you leave your vehicle and go for other activities.

As far as specific guns, it's kind of up to you. When asked, I recommend a pistol in the 9mm to 45 ACP range, full sized. For revolvers, a 4" .38 or .357. Shotguns I use a 18" full stock pump gun. Avoid pistol grips on shotguns, they are harder to work with.

Quality matters, for guns or ammo. Don't cheap out on something that your life may depend on. Go for good, heavy JHP rounds for handguns. I avoid slugs for my shotgun, I figure I'm better off with a pattern for close defense.
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Old 01-14-2022, 10:51 AM   #10
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FWIW, for many of the reasons stated above I do not carry a firearm. I am a guy and travel solo much of the time and very remote. I'm not exactly a large guy (weighing a whopping 140-ish) and know that I could likely be overpowered fairly easily. I carry bear spray and only had it at the ready once while camping on a remote beach when I thought someone was trying to sneak up on me through the nearby bushes. Turns out he was gathering firewood for his camp on the other side of the hill. I find I feel safer the more remote I am. People you find "out in the middle of nowhere" are typically like minded not to say you can't come across the occasional crazy. Common sense, awareness of your surroundings, and common courtesy can get you a long way.

I hold nothing against those that wish to carry a weapon and am very impressed with the responses so far, it's just not for me. I have a S&W 357 and 9MM for target practice enjoyment only. I figure I'm more likely to die in a fiery crash on the way to where I'm going than by someone out to do me harm. You can only decide if it's right for you.

More importantly ... have fun on your trip and don't spend it stressed about who might want to do you harm.


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