Thursday, April 1, 2010

Introducing women to shooting …

Over at JayG’s blog I came across this paragraph:

Every time some gun store commando looks past the young 20-something woman to the guy behind her; every time some idiot hands his girlfriend a hot .44 Magnum for her first time shooting; every time some yahoo claims that women are too weak to rack the slide on a 1911... All of these put women off the shooting sports; all should be avoided at all costs.

And it got me to thinking about women and shooting.

This year, up at the gun club, a third of our trainees are women. Some of these have tagged along with male friends but others have either come on their own or with another woman.

I think it is fantastic to see, not only women becoming interested in shooting but having the “balls” to come along to a male dominated arena and take part.

My shooting history, briefly, is that hubby introduced me to shotguns and rifles back pre-1997, however we lost a lot of those guns in the “Post-Port Arthur” buy-back and shooting wasn’t really a part of our lives until 2006.

I was working with a guy who shot practical pistol and after seeing how IPSC shoots are organised and conducted I fell in love with the sport and wanted to be involved. I was the one then who dragged hubby along to another range (due to opening hours and other factors) and we both then became interested in pistol shooting.

This led ultimately to both of us joining our current club.

I have experienced the ‘being ignored in a gun shop’ routine on a few occasions (one memorable instance had me standing at the counter with credit card and firearm licence in hand while everyone in the shop was being served but me), but now the gun shop owners recognise me so it’s not so bad.

Now that I am on the training team at the Club and have been involved in bringing many female ‘newbies’ to the range I thought I would share my approach to introducing a woman to shooting.

Firstly, and most importantly, I want them to feel comfortable, unhurried and pressure-free.

So determining the BEST time for them to come and have a go is critical. You don’t want them to be there when there are heaps of guys and a lot of noise going on. Some times, however, they will turn up then so there’s not much you can do.

Secondly, prior to their visit, I ensure that they have an idea of appropriate clothes. Hot brass is HOT and getting burned on delicate places is NOT FUN! So low cut tops and open shoes are out! If you REALLY want to show of your assets afterwards in the club-house have another shirt to put over and button up on the range! (Of course, ensure that you have appropriate eye and ear protection for them).

Thirdly, I don’t expect them to know anything about the mechanics of firearms. It’s all very well you knowing that a semi-auto pistol will spit the cases out the side after you’ve pulled the trigger, but the majority of women just won’t know that. They may not know how rounds are fed from the magazine or even what a round is. So I ensure that I TALK to them and give them an idea of how the gun works and what is actually happening when you pull the trigger. If there is enough time I will pull a bullet apart and / or a gun and SHOW them. Most women I’ve come across like to understand what exactly is going on.

Fourthly, safety. Now I know this is the MOST IMPORTANT THING but rabbiting on about safety when you’re not even at the range isn’t something I’ve found works. However, when you get to a range I find talking about safety is imperative. You can show them where ‘down-range’ is. You can show them what you mean by keeping the muzzle (don’t forget to explain what you mean by that too) level. You can show them about keeping your finger off the trigger. Remember too – like everything - people will do what you do. Follow the safety rules yourself on the range and the newbie will most likely do so too (except finger off trigger – that one you’ll need to watch carefully).

Fifthly, gun choice. Start a newbie, especially a women, off with a gun that they can hold and that isn’t going to frighten them. A .22 is perfect for this.

Sixthly, target choice. Ensure that they have something very easy to hit and that they’re very close to it for the first time out on a range. This will give them confidence. You’re not there to prove how good a shooter you are, you’re there to let them have fun and enjoy what they’re doing. Hitting a target does this.

Seventhly, grip. Making sure that the newbie is holding the gun comfortably and safely is important before any trigger pulling happens. You want them to feel in control and confident about what they have in their hands. Let them hold the gun BEFORE you load it. Give them a chance to get a feel for it. Explain about recoil (if you’re not using a .22).

Once they feel comfortable with holding the gun, load a mag. Depending on how nervous they appear I will put anywhere from 1 to 10 rounds in the mag. (Generally I have a couple of loaded mags ready with different numbers of rounds). Explain what you’re doing when you put the mag in the gun (I find it is often easier for me to put the mag in then to give it to them to do initially anyway) and then explain that the gun will go BANG if they pull the trigger – and keep an eye on the trigger and their finger when they’re reholding the gun.

Let them pull the trigger (be ready to grab the gun if they decide to let go). If necessary, remind them about taking their finger off the trigger. If they hit the target, congratulate them! Ask them how they feel. Ask them if they’ld like to try a few more rounds. I’ve never had anyone say ‘no’ yet!

Once you can see that they’ve got the hang of the .22 and they’re enjoying themselves THEN offer to let them pull the trigger on whatever else you have to hand. Remember however, to let them get the feel of the gun BEFORE you load it. Ensuring that they’re following the four safety rules at all times.

If you give them something that is going to recoil, tell them. Explain how it will feel and what they need to do. While it can be amusing to watch a newbie shoot a gun with lots of recoil it doesn’t encourage them to come back to the range.

Hopefully by the end of the session you’ll have a happy newbie who will be thinking about the next time they can get up the range!


DaddyBear said...

This is outstanding advice. Now that Irish Woman has had basic safety and familiarization training from someone else, I have been tasked to take her out to the range. I will also be training my daughter in the not too distant future. I will definitely be taking your advice. Keep up the outstanding work of bringing new shooters to the hobby!

Laura said...

from one chick shooter to another, amen. :)

The Duck said...

I fully agree with you,women should be given the upmost respect.
Women are my favorite students, because they listen better, and shoot better. Many times seeing the transformation from fear to empowerment is the coolest part of all

Mikee said...

When my mother turned 50, because she was living alone in an isolated rural NC home, my brothers gave her a S&W 38 Special revolver as her birthday gift, and took her shooting enough that she was very familiar with the weapon, could handle it safely, and could shoot it proficiently. It gave her comfort to have it in her pocket many times when strangers came to the door (usually deliverymen). This snubby Smith was the only gun she had ever fired.

When she turned 65 she came out to Texas to visit me, my wife, and her more distant grandkids. I took her shooting. She shot a Ruger Mark II 22LR pistol for the first time in her life and fell in love with it, both for the lack of recoil and the accuracy with which she could shoot, compared to the snubby S&W.

Even gray-haired grandmas can appreciate the utility, accuracy, and ease of use of a 22LR pistol.

Old NFO said...

Outstanding intro Julie! This is what women and kids really need... :-)