There's something else that came to me recently I think might relevant here. But let me do a bit of background first. Mrs. Rookie hasn't always been a huge fan of me having guns. I'd like to think I'm pretty responsible. The guns are unloaded in a safe and the bullets and shells are in a box in the top shelf of my closet under some very boring looking papers. And they only come out every six months when I clean them (at night one all the kids are in bed asleep). Anyways, lately (I'm guessing due to the fact that where I now live is a house of estrogen) she gave me the go ahead to get a hunting dog. I mentioned a chessie in my dog rescue thread. At some point she saw a YouTube video of a retriever and his owner having the time of their lives duck hunting. And she thought that kinda looks like fun. So she started talking about maybe getting her hunting license and maybe getting her own shotgun. That got me thinking about getting her one.
Ok. Here comes the relevant part. It's a big mistake for a few reasons to buy a gun for someone else. First is the obvious. It might not be exactly legal in your state to buy a gun for someone who isn't you. In Maryland it is anyways. Second, it's been mentioned not all guns are the same. In my example of a shotgun (what I have the most experience with)the differences between guns are huge. Different lengths, gages, weights, actions (pump, semi auto, et. al.), even where the safety is, and whatnot can make for a different comfort level.
For example, I have two shotguns I use for hunting. Both are the same gage (16 for anyone who's curious). Both are made for upland hunting. My Mossberg I use primarily for grouse. The barrel is a good two inches shorter which is good in heavy grouse cover. It's a bolt action, very slow shooting. But the way grouse fly in heavy cover it's rare to get that second shot anyways. It's heavy add hell which I like. Again, heavy cover. I can swing it up and the weight helps not get tangled in branches. And the thumb safety I like. It's more natural for me. My Winchester is my go to duck gun. It's a fast shooting pump action that holds double what the Mossberg does. It's lighter by a good three pounds. And it had an adjustable choke for longer shots. (In Rookie's perfect world the only two acceptable outcomes when you pull the trigger is a clean kill or a clean miss. I'd rather miss ten birds than cripple one. ) Of course the lighter weight means more kick, but I can live with that. The sights are a little different, I don't like them add much add I like the Mossberg's, but duck hunting I have more time to line them up. And because it's not add natural for more, like the safety, it makes me take my time and make each pull off the trigger better because of it.
So looking at these two very similar but very different guns, it makes me think I should no more buy her any gun than u should buy her a pair of shoes without her at least trying them on. This spring (if it ever gets to be spring in the mid Atlantic) we are going to shoot some skeet her and I. That'll give us a starting point in something she may be comfortable for her. Then to a few gun stores where she can hold some and practice swinging them up. She can feel the weight, see whAt her hands can comfortably grip for the trigger, see whAt length is good for her to tuck into get short.
Tl:dr version. A gun that isn't comfortable is dangerous to shoot in any situation, be it hunting or target shooting or self defence.
ETA: Oh yeah. Forgot to say this. Make sure you match your load (bullets) to what you want to kill. I said earlier I hate crippling birds. It's why I don't hunt geese, I don't have a gun big enough to kill then with one shot. It's the sane reason there is buck shot and there is small game shot. Even though my goal is to put meat on the table, I still want to avoid causing more pain than is necessary. For self defense I guess it would be to make sure the SOB is really down and can't cause me any more problems right then and there.