While I was writing an earlier piece about NSSF’s National Shooting Sports Month, I started thinking about the most common places I see women using firearms. And ladies, I realized we are doing this wrong! And we are also doing this right. Let me explain, and share a little of what is right before our eyes that maybe will help us as an industry and sport, and understand how to get more women truly engaged in firearms related activities.
Always on Duty
Mothers are “always on duty,” and won’t ever stop worrying about their children and families. This has its pros and cons. Some mothers immerse themselves so fully in their children to the point they have entire bookshelves dedicated to their care. And it's this tendency to take care of others also seems to be driving where and what women do with firearms.
In terms of how women relate to shooting, shooting sports and firearms in general, it appears as if there’s more personal responsibility involved. While men tend to engage in the sport more often for enjoyment, women, especially as they get older, do so in order for reasons of personal security or to prepare their families for the same. There are numerous examples of how and why women shoot that support this notion.
These days, women can obtain training through a variety of organizations such as A Girl and A Gun, The Well-Armed Woman, Shoot Like a Girl, which focus on firearms safety and personal protection. They’re organized on a national level, often with local chapters, and they strive to help more women become competent, safe and knowledgeable about firearms and in their skills with them. These are all applause-worthy goals.
NRA programs for women, USCCA, US Law Shield ... you name it, there is a woman’s event/page/branch, and they generally focus on empowering more women to take charge of their safety and that of their families. We need all these groups and more, especially with all of the millions of new firearm owners in the United States as of this year.
Many women are exposed to firearms through hunting. I love hunting, and it’s been part of my childhood and my children’s childhood, but to be honest, there are aspects of hunting that hold different meaning for me: processing deer, finding the knives and tools to do that, shopping trips for freezer paper and sausage or jerky-making supplies ... again, more responsibility. While it is truly rewarding to harvest meat from the field, you have to be committed. You have to want to hunt, but also to use the bounty of your harvest. For many women, there is a work side to hunting too. It’s not “just for fun,” it’s about survival and providing for our families … back to that responsibility stuff.
There are a few places women can engage with firearms in a different way: competition-based organizations, like Babes with Bullets, and events aimed at getting new ladies to compete. But for the most part, women in shooting revolves around protection and using firearms as tools for safety and providing food. It’s not about fun for many of them. And that is what I think is missing.
FUN is the missing link?
This missing piece for many women hit me while listening to a couple of guys talk at a shooting match this summer. They were discussing how they go to a match to have a guy’s weekend. They get away from the stress of being a provider and family leader ... or dad, grandpa or boyfriend. They just want to chill, relax and unwind. Some men take their minds off their daily worries by engaging in hobbies—like shooting. If a spouse or partner isn't on board with the hobby as much as he is, it can cause some consternation. They’re in trouble because ... they’re having fun? The distinction is between how men view shooting sports and how women view shooting sports. Women seem to be concerned about the idea of taking care of their families, whereas men want to “... see what we can make this gun do!”
Just For Fun
Most women with families, jobs—adult-sized responsibilities—tend to be focused. Society puts pressure on women not to be “self-absorbed” or “neglect” their families by doing things “just for fun.” And if women do want to do something fun, sadly, many women don’t think firearms fit that role, likely because so many women’s access points to firearms and the skills associated with their use are surrounded by safety and serious things, like self-defense. If the only time I ever use a gun I am thinking about how scary this is because I don't do this often ... or that guns and self-defense make me think about having to protect myself from potentially dying or being raped or hurt. If those are the only times I use and think about guns, I’m not going to associate guns and shooting with “good times.” It’s easy to see why some women don’t ever consider shooting guns something to do “just for fun!”
It’s OK to have fun! It’s OK to plan a girl’s hunt and go to the woods for squirrel, deer, ducks ... and maybe stop for coffee on the way home.
Just Let Go!
Because women in general are smaller and physically less strong than men … we do have to consider the truth that guns are tools that can provide equality and help us to protect ourselves and our loved ones. That’s the reason they exist—to keep us safe and to procure food.
But maybe that’s what National Shooting Sports Month can teach us: It’s OK to have fun! It’s OK to plan a girl’s hunt and go to the woods for squirrel, deer, ducks ... and maybe stop for coffee on the way home. It’s OK to have a girls night out shopping for hunting gear! It’s OK to go shoot a match with your girlfriends and take a gal pal to the range and stop for a drink on the way home.
It’s not selfish to enjoy something! Some women like refinishing furniture, others like gardening. It’s OK to like shooting! Nobody ever declares grandpa selfish if he goes duck hunting or spends the evening shooting 5-stand with his friends.
Similarly, women shouldn’t feel any pressure to let the guys have all the fun. The variety of options in the shooting sports leaves something for everyone. From simple activities, like plinking in your backyard, to joining a local league for pistol shooting, to shooting sports related to accuracy, like benchrest shooting, there is something for everyone. There are so many shooting sports, you might not be able to experience them all. But it doesn’t mean you can’t find one or two and dive in.
If you partake in a shooting discipline, you will become more skilled, less stressed, and learn to handle your firearms with much more confidence. Just the time on the range with others will reinforce the safety principles and practices that will turn shooting from something you might have only done with your husband or dad because they want you to know how to defend yourself, to something that you can go enjoy. That you end up also knowing it could keep you safe or put food on the table someday in the future is a bonus.
So get out there and find a place to shoot! Grab your mom, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, relative—just go shoot!
Where to Partake in Shooting Sports Events:
- Practiscore.com: from USPSA, Steel Challenge, and almost any sport, you can find matches and events listed here! Even bow-shooting has a place through Practiscore.
- Find NRA Women on Target, training courses, and online training on the NRA website.
- Find a place to shoot through the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s website.
- Find events through A Girl and A Gun.
- Find a chapter of The Well-Armed Woman.
- Steel Challenge You need a pistol or rimfire rifle, and a few mags. No holster required.
- USPSA Strict safety standards, pistol holster and mag-holders, as well as a competition style belt are the basic gear needed.
- IDPA Mostly same as USPSA; often need a concealment garment to wear over your gun. Great discipline for people who carry concealed.
- Scholastic Action Shooting and Clay Target shooting for youth and everything from .22s to shotguns
- 3 Gun: rifle, pistol, shotgun. Gear varies depending on your match and division, but local events are a great place to start. Check Practiscore.com for events.
- PRS or Long range rifle—shooting a center-fire rifle out to and past 1,000 yards. Precision Rifle Series, National Rifle League are two organizations to check out.