Handguns & Your Characters

Today we welcome firearms expert and instructor Kathleen Kuck to our blog.

Kathleen, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am an NRA instructor here in Tucson, AZ.  I teach all disciplines of the NRA with the exception of the muzzle loading…just haven’t had time to take them yet.  My husband and I co-instruct at the Southeast Regional Park Shooting Range for the Pima County Park and Rec.  We teach all the classes listed below and have included Women Only classes for all of these disciplines.

NRA Certified Pistol Instructor
NRA Certified Rifle Instructor
NRA Certified Shotgun Instructor
NRA Certified Chief Range Safety Officer
NRA Certified Refuse To Be A Victim Instructor
NRA Certified Personal Protection Outside The Home Instructor
NRA Certified Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor
NRA Certified Home Firearms Safety Instructor
Carry Concealed Weapons Permit Instructor (CCW)

We are also Certified Fight Like A Girl & Girls on Guard Instructors (women’s self defense). Other experience includes 10 years volunteer with Probation Dept, 15 years volunteer with Sheriff Dept, Sheriff Reserve Academy, Police/Fire dispatcher & Sheriff Dept dispatcher

We have recently moved to Tucson area from California.  We are CCW instructors for AZ also.  We tried to come up with something we enjoy doing together now that we have an empty nest.  My husband is a retired Deputy Sheriff and I have been involved as a volunteer with probation and sheriff dept for many years as a hobby.  I am a retired secretary who raised 3 great kids and wanted a change in her life.  So my husband and I began shooting International Defensive Pistol Assoc. (IDPA) matches together as a fluke and loved it.  Starting taking NRA instructor classes and fell in love with it and here we are today teaching it.

My mother was attacked and fought off her attacker the best way she knew how.  She was injured and I have felt helpless over this because I wasn’t there to protect her.  Out of this came a desire to teach women to have the confidence they need to defend themselves.    I brought a program to my local community thru the Sheriff Dept years ago, but I always wanted to do more.   This is why I have chosen to learn many different ways to teach women to protect themselves.

1. What type of things should a writer consider when choosing a handgun for her character?
– If the character is a bad person then a .45 cal gun 1911 style perhaps in stainless for the shiny effect (Colt or Kimber model) would best fit.  Standard way to carry this style of gun is with the hammer back, and standard on the ammo for the magazine is 7 or 8 plus one in the chamber.  These caliber guns have a large barrel opening and can be very intimidating to someone looking at the business end of one.  When a gun is pointed at you the barrel no matter how small seems HUGE.  You get tunnel vision focusing on it.
-If the character is that of law enforcement then they would carry a 9mm gun (Glock).  This is a black gun, semi -automatic with a medium/large frame.  Standard ammo for this gun is 17 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.
-If the character is that of a house wife reaching into night stand because of bad guy breaking in then you would probably use a .38 cal revolver stainless, nickel or black finish with a 3 inch barrel.  The standard on shots is 6 however you can get a Lady Smith with 5 shots.  They do go all the way up to 8, however that is not the most common.
-If the character is military they usually carry a 9 mm hand gun (Beretta).   The standard for ammo with this gun is 15 in the magazine with one in the chamber.  This is also a semi-automatic gun.
2. Is a certain type of gun more suited to a woman?
– I feel the gun more suited to a woman is the one that fits her hand and she should consider what is the gun’s purpose (home/self defense, shooting matches, etc).  Then look at the caliber. A .22 cal won’t kick and she will be more accurate than if she was shooting a .45 cal.  If she practices, this will help with her accuracy and she can try a larger caliber.  If you are going to use a gun for anything, you need to make sure you are comfortable in using it.  If your first time shooting it is in a stressful situation, it can be deadly to yourself if you are not familiar with it.  The bad guy will be very familiar with it, and can use it against you.

3. What are some pros and cons of the different ways to carry concealed?
-If you carry by using a gun purse, you need to be practicing using that gun purse and pulling your gun from it so much that it is second nature to you.  Walk around your home with it, pull it while doing chores, and get comfortable with it.  Due to the cumbersome way of getting the gun out of a gun purse, you need to be very smooth and quick if you need to pull it for defense.
-If you carry with a hip holster, you need to make sure it cannot be seen (unless that is the look you are going for, depending on what state you live in).  Practice in front of the mirror pulling it and making sure your clothing is covering it.  When you raise your arms or bend over, do your clothes still cover the gun?  Then practice pulling it, if clothing is in the way practice pulling the clothing out the way with one hand and drawing with the other.   Can you sit down without it sticking out?  Make sure every day the clothing you are wearing gives you the comfort you need to pull quickly and safely but the coverage you need for concealment.
-If you carry an inside the waistband holster, make sure you practice in front of a mirror and see what is needed to pull the gun.  Can you sit down comfortably?  Do your pants fit well enough to hold the gun, are you able to pull it quickly and safely?
-If you wear a fanny pack holster, while it is concealed, just about everyone knows what is in it.  So I would not recommend it.
– If you wear in an ankle holster.  Make sure your pants fit properly and are loose enough for you to grab the gun.   Then practice pulling from your ankle.  I have found they tend to fall down after awhile of wearing them and if you need to chase or run after your children it could fall down.  Some folks like them. I am not a fan.
– Bottom line is practice to any holster is key!  If you are familiar with your gun and your holster choice then your concealed way of carrying will be best for you to pull it quickly and safely.

4. What are the most common TV/Book errors when it comes to handguns?
-Giving women guns that are way beyond the caliber of what they can shoot accurately but look very impressive, because they are shiny or large caliber for the dramatic effect.
-When someone is shot and they fly through a window, this is not the case in real life.   There is not enough impact from the bullet to take the person off their feet through a window.
-When someone is shot they usually don’t fall right away.  With the exception of a head injury.

Thanks so much, Kathleen. You are an inspiration to us all.

Any questions for Kathleen?

21 responses to “Handguns & Your Characters

  1. Thanks for all of the helpful info, Kathleen. Writing in the gun stuff is always a struggle for me since I have very little experience handling them myself, and that was fifteen years ago.

    Just as a side note, I lived in Tucson for 13 years of my life, and my husband and I (and both parents, several aunts…) graduated from U of A. Hope your weather is starting to cool off. =)

    Great idea for a post, Melinda!

  2. Thank you, Melinda and Kathleen for an enlightening interview. If you only knew how much on-line research I needed to do to learn the basic mechanics and structure of a gun, whew. Never seen a gun up close, just on tv and movies.

    My question is, if a law enforcement officer had a second gun at home, what type of gun do you believe it most likely to be?

    I appreciate all the information you’ve shared! I’m favoriting this Blog Post for future reference.

    Thanks again ladies!

    • If you are talking about when the officer is off duty out and about town, usually they don’t carry their duty gun because of the size. They would carry a smaller gun that is easy to conceal. Possibly a Ruger LCP (which is a .380 cal). If you are talking for at home protection they would probably have a revolver, something that is easy for the wife to use to protect herself and the family while the officer is at work. It would also not be uncommon for an officer to have a tactical type of shotgun and rifle available for home use.

  3. Great post. A lot of information for us all.

    I am a terrible shot, but I love trying. I have a hard time controling the recoil, but that’s probably because I use my son’s gun which is too big for me – as you said.

  4. Lots of good information here. I’ve used guns in stories twice and according to your post–I picked right! out of pure luck. I now have this to refer to and it will help very much.

    Thanks for sharing, Kathleen.

  5. Kathleen,

    Really interesting post! I write historical fiction, and while I haven’t yet put a firearm in the hands of a heroine, I am planning on it in my next book. While I’d like to give her a musket (which would be appropriate for her character), I don’t think it’s practical. What do you think about a woman just under average height and size trying to heft a musket? She’s toned, but by no means large and burly. Should I just stick with pistols for her?

    My heroes often pack–actually, often really in their saddle packs, LOL–and I’ve had to consider the un-packing issue you mentioned with a woman’s purse. All this info you’ve given is really helpful, but what especially resonates with me is that when you’re looking into a barrel, it seems huge no matter what size it is.

    Many thanks for your fascinating post!

    • A musket can be very front heavy and would make it very difficult to be accurate for any kind of distance unless she has the muscle or it is braced somehow. I would stick with pistols unless with the musket you are able to brace it.

  6. Hello Kathleen,

    Thank you so much for being here today.

    A device I’ve seen used in TV and some books when a hero/heroine is confronted by an assailant with a weapon is a gun jam. I’m hoping you can tell me what can cause a gun jam and what is the likelihood that a jam will actually occur.

    Thanks so much,


    • There are several reasons why jams occur- if the gun is in poor working order, the ammo is bad, the wrong caliber is used, or the person is not holding the gun secure enough when firing it. If all of these areas are good then you should not have a gun jam on you.

      • That’s really interesting. I can understand why the first three items you listed would cause a gun ti jam, but can you elaborate a bit on how a person’s grip on the gun can cause a jam?

        Thanks so much,


      • As you are firing a gun the slide (part on top of gun) goes back and forth, when the gun is extracting the case of the bullet (pulling the old casing out after the bullet is fired) if you do not have a firm grip then it gets stuck in the ejection port and sticks up usually smoking from firing and this is called “stovepipe”. If you are limp wristing it (not holding it firm) the fired round does not have enough energy to continue pushing the slide back and ejecting the round.

  7. This is a very informative post. It is important to make sure you know how your gun works and be able access it quickly. I like the note that you put in about women putting in their purse. Many people do not even think about having to pull it out on a dime. Great post!

  8. Hi Kathleen,

    Great blog today. Thanks so much for your time. Knowing next to nothing about guns, I have a questions. Why would a person choose a revolver over a semi automatic (or the other way around)?

    • The pros with revolver are there is no safety (except for the news ones that require a tool to make it safe), they rarely jam (almost to the point of being unheard of), easy to load, require much less maintenance/lubrication then a semi, and sometimes referred to as a “no brainer” because there is nothing to them. Put in ammo, pull trigger, bang!

      The cons with a revolver are most carry 6 rounds only. Less common are 5 and 8 rounds.

      The pros with a semi auto are they usually are flatter making it easier to conceal, they can hold a lot more rounds than a revolver (a Glock 9mm usually holds 17 rounds plus 1 in the chamber).

      The cons with a semi auto are most have a manual safety and in a stressful situation most people don’t want to remember to take the safety off. They are more prone to jam then a revolver. Some people with disabilities or who don’t have the hand strength, or the elderly, will choose a revolver over a semi due to having to pull the slide back in order to put a round in the chamber.

      I prefer a semi auto over revolver because I am more familiar with it, first gun I used. But, the most important thing is fit, caliber, and practice. If you can’t make it to a range or other area to shoot, then try dry firing in your home. This is pulling the trigger with the gun empty getting used to the trigger pull on it. Make sure you can pull it. When you are at the store buying it, pull the trigger, hold it out in front of you, keep your arms strong and straight out, hold that gun with two hands, see if it is too heavy, too small, too big, grab that grip like you know what your doing. Tell it who is boss! Try loading it at the store. Sometimes they have dummy ammo they will let you try. If not and you are choosing a semi drop the magazine and put it back in. How does that feel? Can you do it comfortably? You need to be confident and comfortable with your gun. Most indoor gun ranges will allow you to rent guns to shoot on their range so you can get an idea of what is best for you.

  9. Thank you for having me, great comments and questions! I had a great time! Remember practice practice practice, know your gun!

  10. Thanks so much for blogging with us today, Kathleen. I learned so much from your post and answers.

    You’ve inspired me to put handgun lessons on my xmas list!

  11. OMG your site is such a great resource for writing and self-defence. Brilliant!

    I’ve tried many martial arts and excelled in fencing, so I’ve discovered that the best self-defence asset is your state of mind. Thats what all the fighting arts teach.

    I write science-fiction and I really don’t like to make my characters resort to (futuristic) guns, because its a cliche.

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  14. I can understand why some of the answers are the way that they are but some of the answers may be misunderstood by someone that is not versed in handguns.
    Just some helpful suggestions for those that may not be well versed in firearms:
    -Do not assume that just because you own/carry a firearm that the “bad guy” will be scared off because you have to pull the pistol out
    -Do not assume that just because you carry a firearm that you are indestructable.
    Firearm safety is vital and it does not matter how experienced you believe you are, training can help everyone out. If someone were to be shot, there is a better chance that they will immediately fall to the ground, maybe not dead, but down and in very much pain but do not count on that.
    I would definitely suggest knowing how to carry a firearm and in what condition (bullet in the barrel or not yet chambered) prior to actually carrying it because using the “I didnt know” excuse is not a defense.
    Each person has their own preferences and style likes and dislikes, take someone with you when you are looking to purchase a firearm and seek the education to learn about the firearm before investing in one. Then practice, practice, practice and then practice more. Be safe

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