Whether you’re joining a new gun club as a beginning shooter or an experienced gunsel, making first contact with the people who’ve been part of that club for years can be intimidating—especially for women. Although female gun ownership has been on the rise for many years, the percentage of women who join gun clubs and shoot regularly at them is far smaller, and that means you may be one of only a few women in that club. Thing is, although each club has its own unique personality, all gun clubs contain the following four guys … and they’re all trying to welcome you (in their own way). Here’s how to handle them.
1. The Alpha Dog
Whether the Alpha Dog’s position was secured officially or unofficially, he’s the one whose opinion matters most at the gun club, and that’s why you’re likely to meet him first. He’s there to welcome you, but also to size you up. Oh, yes, he’s quite interested in your marksmanship skills, but his main concern is to ensure that you’re going to behave in a manner that won’t cause problems for the club. (It’s also possible that he is low-key checking out your left hand for a wedding band.)
How to Handle The Alpha Dog: This initial contact may feel a little bit adversarial, because the Alpha Dog is far more used to running his evaluation on men than he is on women, but rest assured that it isn’t. The truth is that the Alpha Dog (and everyone else on that range) doesn’t care if you’re any good as a shooter. He wants to be sure you’re going to handle your firearms safely. If you can slip a reference to any basic gun-safety classes you’ve already taken into this conversation, you’ll actually be able to see him relax.
2. The MacGyver
MacGyvers come in all shapes and sizes, but you will know the MacGyver by the size of his range bag and the grime under his fingernails. The MacGyver is most likely to be over 40, usually with military experience, which allows him to do two things: One, he is able to identify a shooter whose sights need to be adjusted by using some weird gunnie sonar; and two, to perform field-fixes on the fly that would make the “real” MacGyver cry. The MacGyver wants nothing more on the planet than for you to please let him clear that jam for you. (It’s also possible that he is low-key interested in helping you do some home repairs too, hint hint.)
How to Handle The MacGyver: This all depends on whether you want MacGyver’s help or not. MacGyver knows a lot about guns—but he doesn’t necessarily know your gun. If you don’t want his help, generally all you need to say is “Oh, I know, but I enjoy the challenge.” If you do want his help, all you need to do is stand back and watch the magic happen as he hand-tunes your carry gun into something that would have cost $400 more if you had bought it with those features installed—using a discarded IKEA hex key and four lengths of dental floss.
3. The Recruiter
When you first meet The Recruiter, you might think you’re dealing with the Alpha Dog, because he’s got all kinds of questions about your skill level and what kinds of shooting you’ve done before. But the Recruiter has his own motivations, and those motivations are spotting talent and routing that talent into a shooting team or Second Amendment activism. This may also feel a little adversarial—again, because The Recruiter is used to dealing with men—but it isn’t. The salient fact about The Recruiter is that he doesn’t need any convincing that women shoot just as well (if not better than) men; he already knows that very well. He’s just interested in finding out if you have that potential. (He also may be low-key hoping to “recruit” you for a coffee date.)
How to Handle The Recruiter: Again, this all depends on whether you are interested in getting more involved with your new gun club’s activities. If you’re sure that you are not, then a simple “Oh, I have so many other things I need to work on before I can even start thinking about that,” followed up with a “Is there a sign-up sheet somewhere in case I change my mind?” will usually do the trick.
If you are interested, well, The Recruiter will be more than happy to tell you the next steps.
4. The Suitor
The Suitor saw your luminous, entrancing eyes through the lovely frame of your eye protection and was smitten. The Suitor is not low-key checking your hand for wedding rings; the Suitor is high-key interested in dating you. If you weren’t aware of this, you’ll discover it: Eligible bachelors just love NRA Women (because they have good taste, obviously).
How to Handle The Suitor: Well, if you’re interested in getting to know The Suitor better, just say “yes.” If not? Here’s where things are going to get a little surprising for you in a very good way. Although “gun club guys” are just people, and people are more or less the same everywhere, there’s one key difference: Gun club guys don’t get rude when you turn them down. At all. That Robert Heinlein quote about how an armed society is a polite society has never been more effectively proven as fact than when an NRA Woman says, “I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend,” and the guy who just asked her out says, “Oh, okay, well have a nice day then,” instead of…well, I don’t have to tell you what we sometimes get instead.
The best news about the four guys you’ll meet at the gun club is that, to a man, they all want to meet more women at the gun club. Next time, bring a friend too!