Photograph by Joe Mac Hudspeth, Jr. ·


Girls & Guns

From the Spring 2009 issue


Recreational target shooting is greatly dominated by the male portion of society. This trend has existed since firearms came on the scene. Of course, there are some women who actively participate in hunting and shooting sports but, in my opinion, not enough. I could write all day about my theories as to why this is, but I would rather use this space to try to talk more of you ladies into participating in a rewarding hobby.

There are many reasons to get involved; self defense is the first reason that comes to mind, but it also gives you an excuse to spend time with your spouse or boyfriend (assuming that he is into shooting sports). Not every one is inclined to take up shooting as a serious hobby, but I don’t know of anyone I have ever introduced to shooting sports that did not enjoy it. As with most things, you will never know how much you enjoy it until you try it.

One of the best aspects of shooting sports that most newcomers find surprising is something I like to call “the gun culture”. The gun culture can be described as a tight-knit group of people who share a common interest and who like to share this interest with friends and family. I challenge any one of you to visit a local gun range and not be greeted with friendly conversation.

My father taught me how to shoot at a young age, and being the gun enthusiast that I am, I am always looking for a reason to spend time at the range. One of the things I enjoy most is introducing women to the shooting sports. Most women seem to lack an interest in shooting and probably think the experience would range from somewhere between boring to frightening. When I was assigned this article I asked several ladies if they would accompany me to the gun range to learn how to use a firearm. To attain a better understanding of the topic, I selected women who had never fired a gun and had no interest in shooting.

In the beginning of my informal experiment, I asked a few questions to shed some light on their outlook of shooting. The first question was why had they never tried the shooting sports? By far, the most frequent answer was that they never had an opportunity. Come on shooters, I believe this one is our fault. Have you ever asked a woman to accompany you to the range? You should.

Another answer I got was fear, not necessarily a fear of the weapon but a fear of the unknown; they simply did not know how to use the gun. This is another one that is our fault, no responsible gun owner should neglect to teach anyone, including the women, in his home how to use a firearm.

After my preliminary questioning was over, I uncased a few pistols: a .22 cal Browning buck mark, a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum, a Glock 17 9mm, and a Smith and Wesson model 29 .44 magnum. A quick review of how the guns were similar in their mechanics had the ladies able to operate them all after 15 minutes of demonstration. I began our range session with the .22 and the ladies loved it! After about 20 to 30 rounds they wanted to shoot the “big guns.”

By the end of the range session they were putting more rounds on target than most men I shoot with. I attribute this performance in part to the tendency of women to listen to instructions instead of having the “I already know how to do it” syndrome. They even enjoyed shooting rounds from the massive .44 magnum. After firing was completed, I asked the remainder of my questions and got better answers than I could have imagined. On a fun scale of 1 to 10 they all agreed that shooting handguns was a 10. They also agreed that after a few hours at the range they had the confidence to use all the firearms that they had handled. So, to the ladies out there, find you a guy or a gal who is savvy in the shooting sports and get them to take you out. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised with your experience.

The last question I asked was, do you think you might make shooting a hobby, or consider purchasing a firearm for personal defense. The unqualified answer was yes, but equipment was definitely a concern. To address this concern I thought I would lay out necessities of shooting equipment.

Number one is obviously a gun. The type and caliber are purely a personal choice, but one that can be made with a little research and guidance from a knowledgeable friend. When shopping for a firearm, desired use is the first consideration. If the firearm’s main purpose is going to be target shooting, a .22 pistol is in order. If the firearm’s main purpose is self-defense, a larger caliber should be chosen. However, most people on a limited budget will choose to combine the two. In my opinion, the .38 special is a lady’s best choice for both purposes. The .38 special is also a revolver caliber and in my opinion a revolver is top pick for first time shooters. There are many manufactures that offer a variety of .38 special revolvers so finding one that fits is not a hard task. Another benefit of the .38 special is that ammunition can be found at any sporting goods store for an affordable price.

Number two on the equipment list would be eye and ear protection, these items can be purchased at your local Wal-Mart for less than ten dollars.

The number three requirement is a place to shoot. Most towns have a gun club and membership is usually very affordable; a hundred dollars will buy you a year membership at most ranges. A list of gun clubs and ranges can be found following this article.

The final requirement is an experienced shooter that can take you out and show you the ropes. That, in a nut shell, is all you have to have to make your way into “the gun culture”.

For those of you who would like professional training, the National Rifle Association can take care of you. The NRA offers what they call Instructional Shooting Clinics for women. These classes are hosted by a NRA group called Women on Target. They will teach you how to handle and use firearms safely, how to store and maintain your firearms, and teach you about modern or historic firearms all in the company of other women like yourself.

In conclusion, I would like to say some of my fondest memories as a young lad were family target shooting. These outings always spurred friendly competition and laughter. Although my mom was not a serious shooter, she did enjoy coming out and spending time with the family in an activity everyone could participate in. So, mothers out there, give it a try! The only thing you have to loose is a great experience if you don’t try it.