"My wife has never shot a gun in her life. I want to take her to the pistol range. I don't want her to be scared by something powerful, but I don't want her to fire something incredibly weak so as to disillusion her about the capability of firearms. What's a nice middle ground 'first' gun for her to shoot with."
Wow. Talk about a softball question.
So you want to take the Missus shooting with a minimum of fuss and trauma and a maximum of fun and suchlike. Sounds like you either have a .22 pistol, but don't want that to be the only clown at the rodeo. Well, I recommend two things...
Take her to an outdoor shooting range. The great outdoors is prettier, less claustrophobic, and the sound dissipates better. Especially for a first timer. Less boomy-jumpy echos off the walls. Brighter. You can see grass while you shoot. Unless it is gawdawful hot out it's a more pleasant experience all around.
Second, I recommend taking one of 2 types of guns along. This is the same recommendation and practice that a trainer I took classes with does. When he takes a first timer to the range he doesn't bother with a .22. He brings a full size police type service pistol. Something like a Glock 17 (9mm) or one of the other various plastic glock-types, or a regular .38 revolver. A Smith and Wesson model 10 for example. These shoot Goldilocks loads, the 9mm and .38. Not to hard, not too soft. And out of a full size pistol there is enough mass to make the recoil gentler, too. They aren't weak, by any means, and are a serious round, but they aren't a handful to control, either, and well within the comfort zone of anyone that agrees to go to the range in the first place.
If they ARE too much for the n00bie, well, you can fall back on that .22 and they will still have fun and be comfortable.
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