As a woman who lived through the times when women were not even allowed to go in some gun clubs, I preach the importance of women helping other women learn about shooting and self-defense. Let’s face it, women are still a minority group in the shooting world and could benefit from some empowerment. Learning to shoot improves self-esteem and self-efficacy, which then helps women to speak up, assert themselves, and achieve. Achievement usually leads to happiness. If you’re ready for the next level of achievement, try empowering other women with self-defense know-how as an instructor.
Sure, anyone can take a friend to the range and help them learn how to shoot. However, most folks do not have a working knowledge on all the subjects about and around gun ownership, defense and concealed carry. Even if they do know, they probably don’t have the materials ready to share with others or a group of others unless they are an instructor. I have been an NRA Basic Pistol instructor for several years now, but the pandemic left me unable to use that talent as often, and I have become a little rusty. I decided to dust off my skills and expand my knowledge by taking an instructor development class at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. If you’re not familiar with Gunsite Academy, just envision a theme park for gun skills. There are multiple ranges spanning over 32,000 acres that are equipped with moving targets, steel targets and other surprises. There are shoothouses and outdoor simulators that are more exciting than rollercoasters.I have been to Gunsite in the past, but always as a student. This time, I joined other instructors in becoming student and instructor. The class was appropriate for seasoned instructors as well as new ones, with plenty of opportunity to practice instruction on classmates. All, of course, under the guiding hand of a senior and most knowledgeable instructor, Jerry McCown.
Rangemaster McCown and instructor Jay Tuttle, were patient and attentive instructors—I could not imagine instructors who were more prepared. It was one of the few times in my life that I didn’t dread being evaluated on my performance. Each time I led the students in drills, I received incredibly constructive criticism that made me want to continue being evaluated. I plan to use their example in instructing not only in pistol classes I teach, but in my psychology work as well.
Gunsite Rangemaster and Instructor Jerry McCown, left, and Gunsite Instructor Jay Tuttle, right.
One key element of success is removing the fear of failure from student/instructors. McCown did this by accepting responsibility for failure on day one. Sure, he had plenty of tasks for us to complete, including a final exam. But he knew that his success depended on us as much as our success depended on him. Presenting drills in front of others who are knowledgeable about the subject already would spark anxiety. However, by accepting responsibility in advance for any failures, he let us off the hook so we were able to focus on the subject. I have not experienced a class where I felt such freedom to learn.
The class was very practical and hands-on. It included not only the basic knowledge needed to instruct, but suggestions on materials, examples of slide show presentations, guidance on how to develop tests and suggestions on which first-aid materials may be helpful. Many training drills were considered, demonstrated, and critiqued with suggestions on how to improve.
One of my classmates was Jan Ennenga, who is in leadership with The Well Armed Women Shooting Chapters. The TWAW SC mission is as follows: “To enable women to be their own self-protectors, creating freedom, peace of mind and confidence in themselves.” Jan was a great classmate, and we paired up a few times as instructor-student for practice in being both. It was fun to watch me and Jan transform into more confident instructors as the class progressed. Our classmates were also very helpful and we all took turns being the instructor or the student.
Jan’s take on the class? “Gentle correction, positive reinforcement, rigorous enforcement of safety protocols and a bit of humor every now and then ensured an environment conducive to learning.” There was only one thing I would like changed about the experience: Jan and I were the only women in the class.
The Well Armed Women Shooting Chapters are signing up for instructor development classes at Gunsite in the spring. I have been working with TWAW SC to see how taking classes may affect self-esteem and self-efficacy, and therefore happiness. Instructing others is a way to continue this journey. TWAW SC are training a workforce of instructors to conduct training throughout the nation. While this sounds like a lot, it is not enough to address the quickly growing numbers of women gun owners. More instructors are needed.
If you have benefitted from learning the shooting sports and have considered sharing that with others, Gunsite Academy would be a great place to start. It is, by far, the most thorough and hands-on training I have ever had in instructing. If you thought learning to shoot was a boost, just wait till you experience the feeling of instructing and helping others achieve the same!
Don’t worry, just instruct and be happy.
About the Author: Samantha Mann, MA, is a WV Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselor WV, Nationally Certified Counselor, and NRA Instructor. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia. She is the youngest of six grandchildren (and the only female) who were raised to love the outdoors and hunting. Mann started shooting when she was big enough to hold a Winchester Model 6, 22 pump-action. She has hunted from Texas to Africa. She believes that while Superman gets his power from the sun, her power comes from the outdoors. She lives in Southern West Virginia with her understanding and supportive husband who doesn’t mind showing off her trophies to his buddies. Samantha decided to pursue her love of psychology and counseling at age 12 (following in her father’s footsteps) and has never looked back. She strives to balance her time in the office helping others with time in the outdoors, and focuses much of her career on helping children and adults who have been abused, neglected, and mistreated. Her biggest rewards come from helping others liberate themselves from their fears and pain to become healthy and happy.