We’re all about training and practice at NRA Women, and we are thrilled to see you to hit the range as often as you’re able. You should feel free to visit your local range or gun club by yourself any time it’s open, but if you’re new to hitting the range alone, you might not realize how much your male friend/boyfriend/husband was unintentionally shielding you from all those times you went together. If you go shooting alone, sooner or later you are bound to bump into these three guys.
1. The Guy Who Doesn’t Pay You Any Attention
This guy is there to shoot. He doesn’t care about you; he might not even notice your presence. He’s doing his own thing and he doesn’t wish to be disturbed, but he’s probably a pretty cool guy and will be polite if you speak to him. Great news: This type is maybe 80 percent of the men you’ll run into on the range. You don’t need to do anything to “handle” him because he doesn’t factor into your day at all. But then there are the other types…
2. The Guy Who Thinks Women Who Shoot Are a Novelty
This guy (who might be living in the past a bit) hasn’t seen a lot of women at the range before, and he just thinks it’s so great that you’re here on your own. He might say something like “We need more women like you.” He’s genuinely excited to see you here, and because he can’t contain his sense of how new and fun it is to have a girl on the firing line, he’ll ask you a million questions. What are you shooting? How do you like it? How did you get started shooting? Who taught you? Do you carry concealed?
With a few exceptions, this guy comes in a couple of subtypes:
The Friendly Grandpa: This gentleman is old enough to be your dad or grandpa, and you remind him of his daughter or granddaughter, who he shoots with or wishes he could. He’s friendly and curious and harmless, but if you don’t feel like indulging all of his questions, you’ll have to find a way to politely brush him off. Short, simple answers punctuated by adjusting your ear pro (muffs make a big, obvious statement here) and preparing to shoot might get the point across. If he persists and you can’t shoot because of all his questions, a “Sir, is your ear protection turned on? I’m about to shoot now” can help. If he’s super dense, you might have to bust out something like, “Well, it’s been so nice talking with you, but I’m going to move over a lane so I can really concentrate on my training.”
The Overly Friendly Romantic Interest: This guy can be almost any age, but he doesn’t just think women who shoot are cool—he thinks they’re sexy. A wedding ring deters most of these guys, but not all, and if you’re not wearing a ring, he’s thinking he has a chance to date you. His questions will start out having to do with guns, and he’s probably going to try to impress you with how much he knows, but the questions might soon take a turn into the personal. If you’re into it, cool (wouldn’t that be a great story to tell your kids someday?), but if you’re not and you just want to be left alone, you’ll have to shut this guy down pretty quickly. The same tactics you used on the Friendly Grandpa will work on most of these guys, but if he’s still coming on strong to the point that you’re getting uncomfortable, it might be time to head to a different room, range or section of the club if available. I’ve shot at some rustic, isolated public ranges on wildlife management areas, and in a situation like that, where there’s no getting away from someone who’s making you uncomfortable and you’re basically alone with him in the middle of nowhere, you’re probably better off just packing up and leaving. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.
3. The Guy Who Thinks Women Shooting Need Help
This guy means well, and he genuinely thinks he’s being helpful—but in his mind, you can’t possibly know what you’re doing, and his advice is just the thing you need to make your day better. Older men are particularly prone to this, especially at clubs that have a hang-out atmosphere where the old guys sit around drinking coffee and watching everyone.
This happened to me on a skeet field years ago. I was there with a group of women for a class from a world-renowned instructor who had come to town for that purpose. A couple of older men approached us as soon as we set the guns down during a break and started asking questions, Friendly Grandpa-style. The questions quickly turned to advice about how we should stand, what guns we should be shooting (in front of the gun sponsor who had provided all of the firearms for the class, unbeknownst to the men), and all sorts of other tips we hadn’t asked for and didn’t want. It was a classic they-have-no-idea-who-they’re-talking-to situation, and our instructor just smiled and nodded along, then gave us the “They’re wrong about almost everything” speech after the gentlemen left.
That’s probably the best way to handle this type of guy—listen to his spiel and then go back to your shooting. You can take his advice if you have reason to believe he knows what he’s talking about, but use good judgement and in general, beware unsolicited advice.
You might also encounter the guy who thinks you need help handling the firearm and offers to help you load mags, wants to tell you you’re running the slide wrong, or otherwise interferes. I once had a hunting guide stand beside me during a clay flurry, while clay targets were flying fast and furious. It was a ton of fun, but apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough for him, because he grabbed some shells and reached over and started sliding them into my shotgun while I was about to load it myself. Are you serious? A simple “Don’t touch my gun, man,” shut that down without drama and we went on with the flurry.
It goes without saying that it’s wildly inappropriate and dangerous to touch someone else’s firearm without their permission, especially while they’re using it. If The Guy Who Thinks You Need Help dares to go this far, you must shut him down immediately if the range officer doesn’t do so first. But in general, most of these guys genuinely want to help you. Demonstrating that you know what you’re doing and can safely handle the gun will usually satisfy this type, and he’ll probably leave you alone after he sees you shoot.