Women & Shooting, Part 1: Getting to the Range

C’mon in. Range staff want to help - Female Firearms Training

C’mon in. Range staff want to help.

Hi. My name is Julie, and I’m a shooter. (“Hi, Julie.”) I’m being a little dramatic to make a point here, but sometimes to the non-shooter trying to learn more about the shooting world, it can seem like an elite club. And this club comes with its own language, attire, accessories and attitude. Now don’t stop reading because you’re already a shooter and might have your feelings hurt by that statement. It’s not intended to offend anyone. Its intention is to validate the feelings of so many women (and perhaps men) who would like to begin shooting but feel a certain “barrier” into the shooting world. And the information in this series of articles could very well help you bring more people into the shooting industry if you understand what the perception for some is.

There Is No Elite Club!

I’m writing these articles with females in mind, but I’m sure men and women alike have encountered this sense of a wall between “us and them,” even when the current non-shooter wanted to become more associated with what the shooting world has to offer. And I’m sure that some have walked away because of certain “feedback” they’ve received in their initial approach.

Retail items geared toward women are popping up at almost every shooting range - Female Firearms Training

Retail items geared toward women are popping up at almost every shooting range.

(“But you did it, Julie.”) Sure. But I’m not your typical female. I’m outgoing, in control and borderline flippant at times. I also rarely care what people think of me or my actions. I’m not saying these are the attitudes of shooters in general. As a matter of fact, the shooting community is just like any other group of people who enjoy a similar interest. There are all types of personalities and demeanor’s, attitudes and IQs. I’m simply saying it was probably easier for me to walk through the range doors because of my disposition. Even so, I was surprised how unsure and awkward I felt about taking my firearm, which was wrapped in a towel stuffed inside a shoe box, into a shooting range (alone) for my first private instruction. And if that’s how I felt, I can only imagine how you feel thinking about heading into the range for the first time.

For the record, there is no club. Sometimes the stress and pressure we put on a situation comes mostly from our own fears and anxieties. Granted, some shooting ranges and retail stores are more welcoming than others, but there’s no secret handshake or password to enter into the world of shooting. Think of yourself as being in control. They aim to please (no pun intended!).

FAQs

Let’s start to demystify the shooting industry. Here are a few comments and questions I’ve heard from women over the years.

Do shooters have over-sized egos?

Not any more than any other people. Just because a person has a firearm that they shoot periodically doesn’t make them an egomaniac. Having self-absorbed tendencies makes one an egomaniac. Are there people who become overly excited talking about firearms? Sure. But the same could be said for anyone passionate about their hobby or career. Just don’t confuse the two.

Some ranges have male and female employees to assist you with questions or purchases - Female Firearms Training

Some ranges have male and female employees to assist you with questions or purchases.

Do shooting ranges cater only to men?

Hardly. I’m a fairly new shooter (2002), and even I’ve noticed a change in demeanor toward the female demographic in the shooting world. This isn’t from a scientific study, but my observation has been that there are more females working within the industry, which has led to a more female-friendly approach at ranges and retail outlets. Women are also becoming more confident in choosing their own firearm, rather than having their male counterpart choose one for them, so retailers are providing more female-friendly environments with better choices than ever for firearms and accessories.

Are classes geared only to men?

Not at all. As a matter of fact, the information is pertinent to both genders. There are studies proving that women learn better in an all-female class, and there are also studies proving an integrated approach is more conducive to learning. Depending on the woman, I believe both are correct. If you need to start in a women-only class in order to be more comfortable, do it. But don’t discount a co-ed class. I actually prefer a co-ed class because it pushes me; challenges me. During the drills, it adds a level of adrenaline that would be present in a real-life scenario.

Will I be ignored when I go to the range?

If there’s a shooting range out there today that ignores a female when they are milling around the retail counter or looking at the holster wall, and you happen to walk into it, walk out the door and find another shooting range/retail store. I’ll say it again – there are more ranges and retailers that “get it” today than not when it comes to marketing to women. So if you feel the slightest bit uneasy about your experience, don’t hesitate to find another place to spend your dollars. That’s not to say you’re not going to feel unsure or hesitant shopping around, so don’t confuse the two. But you should be greeted promptly by friendly staff and asked if they can help you with whatever you need.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything at the range. Staff love to share their knowledge.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything at the range. Staff love to share their knowledge.

It’s scary going to the range for the first time because I don’t know what to expect.

That’s a whole article on its own, but if you find you are unable to head to the range alone, going with a friend is highly recommended. And if your friend happens to have enough shooting experience that s/he can help you, great! If not, you and your friend can take a class together (built-in shooting buddy!).

I don’t know what gun to choose from the rental counter when I get there.

That’s okay. The people at the gun rental counter will ask you a couple of questions about preferences, have you hold a couple of guns, and maybe send you out on the range with more than one just to try them. It’s really difficult to narrow down what you like until you shoot them. But if the range employee looks at you and hands you a short-barreled revolver … run! You may end up trying that type of handgun, but if that’s the first gun they hand you, then they aren’t thinking of you at all. They’re being asses and clearly aren’t up to date in the industry.

I feel like everyone will be watching me and, if I make a mistake, they’ll laugh at me.

Not a chance. I’d bet there would be more glances from men with a feeling of mutual respect for you coming to the range. They might even be jealous because they can’t get their own wives or girlfriends to come out and shoot. Put your blinders on, ignore the rest, and remember why you’re there: to learn. This feeling will go away with time.

Most ranges, like Black Wing Shooting Center, rent eye and ear protection as well as a variety of guns to try.

Most ranges, like Black Wing Shooting Center, rent eye and ear protection as well as a variety of guns to try.

What if I don’t have any of my own equipment?

Not a problem. I suggest calling the range before you head out just to make sure they have rental “eyes and ears” (eye and ear protection). Most ranges have some for rent as well as some to purchase. You may also want to ask them if they have rental guns. Some do, some don’t. If you are near a range that doesn’t have a rental counter, talk to your friends who shoot to see if you can try out their guns. Most shooters I know are very enthusiastic about helping new shooters.

Do any women work at the shooting range?

That depends on the range. Some ranges have female employees and some don’t. But I wouldn’t judge the men as being unable to help you on your first, second or even all your visits. Contrary to popular belief, the men are very cool with women coming to the range. They should be able to pick up on your uncertainty, and will more than likely give you more attention than they would a regular client to help you feel more comfortable.

Range officers are there for your safety.

Range officers are there for your safety.

What happens if I get on the range and forget what I’m supposed to do?

Don’t worry. There are range officers either in the range with you or observing from outside the range. If you need help, put your firearm down in your lane in the allotted space and find the range officer. If there isn’t one inside the range with you, go out to the counter and ask the people there. Remember, they are there to help you. They don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or be confused. And they want you to have a positive experience.

After understanding the shooting basics, practicing with alternative targets can be a lot of fun.

After understanding the shooting basics, practicing with alternative targets can be a lot of fun.

Is shooting fun, or is it boring drills over and over?

While you’re learning the basics, practicing might seem a little “vanilla.” But it’s that way for a reason: If you’re going to create new habits, you need to do them the right way! Once you’ve got the basics down, there are all kinds of fun ways to practice. Some ranges have bowling pin shoots, spinning targets, and other 3-D targets. I really like some of the playful paper targets. Recently I’ve taken friends to my local range for a couple rounds of nine-hole golf, Battleship, and saloon shooting (all paper targets!). It’s inexpensive, fun, and a great way to practice.

Do I have to get the pink gun?

Uh, no. You can get any color you want, so why stop with pink! There are really cool companies that can “bling” it out with color dips (solids or tye-dyed) or you could even get a little crystal appliqué. Or you can stick with basic black or stainless. The point is, who cares! Do what you want. Your gun, your color.

Hit the Range!

If it makes you feel more comfortable, go with a group of friends and make it an outing. Odds are you won’t be the only one learning something new. An added benefit is that you’ll have a go-to group of ladies to be your range buddies when you’re ready to go again.

And I’ve got a little inside scoop. Shooting range employees and instructors love to see new faces in their facility and will practically fall all over themselves to make sure you are comfortable and cared for. They love to answer your questions and show you the differences between this item and that one. Trust me. My husband, um, I mean the training manager at Black Wing Shooting Center, makes a very conscious effort when training his staff on these matters, and it shows.

Shirts and novelties are usually for sale at most ranges, showing the lighter side of the shooting industry.

Shirts and novelties are usually for sale at most ranges, showing the lighter side of the shooting industry.

Still not convinced? Every market study done within the last five years has shown the female demographic to be the one that is on top when it comes to spending in the household. Our disposable incomes are on the rise, and we are making more financial decisions independent of anyone else. We are also the fastest-growing demographic in terms of taking charge of our own personal defense.

So when they see you walk through that door alone or with a group of ladies, they know you mean business (if they’ve done their homework). They know you have made a conscious decision to invest time, effort and energy to come to their range/store, you are considering taking measures to ensure your personal protection, and you have the financial means to do so. It’s very different than seeing the same group of men walk through the door week after week. Believe me. They take notice.

I hope you now feel a little more comfortable about heading to the shooting range. Have fun, be safe, and get shooting!

See also: Women & Shooting, Part 2: First Range Experience

Discussion
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10 Responses to “Women & Shooting, Part 1: Getting to the Range”
  1. m henry

    i recommend you review Defensive Revolver Fundamentals and Gun Digest of the Revolver by Grant Cunningham before declaring someone an “ass” and “clearly not up to date” on firearm seleciton if they should posit a lowly revolver as a possible firearm

    BTW, your boss (Rob Pincus) wrote the forward to DRF…i wonder what he has to say about your derisive comments?

    Reply
    • Jeff Morse

      It was not the “lowly revolver,” as you put it, that she was commenting about. It was the “short-barreled revolver” in the hands of a new shooter that prompted the “ass” comment. A small high power gun with very little mass will have significant recoil, which is likely not the best choice for a new shooter. She did indicate that “You may end up trying that type…” but not for someones first shots. Her comment was not desisive.

      Reply
    • Grant Cunningham

      M. Henry –

      Thank you for the kind words and for buying my books. I do appreciate it!

      Unfortunately, it appears you didn’t actually read them. If you’ll grab your copy of Book Of The Revolver, and turn to the last page of Chapter 2 under the heading “To the Ladies in the Audience:” , you’ll note that I said the following:

      “Here’s a litmus test: if you walk into a gun store and ask to see a gun for personal protection, and the first thing the guy does is put a lightweight snubnose revolver in front of you, just leave. Find a store that respects their customers.”

      I meant every word, and Julie and I are therefore on the same page. The gunstore clerk who hands a woman a short-barreled revolver, particularly one of the lightweight versions, simply because she’s a woman is in fact ignorant. A snubnose revolver, as I’ve said many times in print and broadcast, is an expert’s gun and shouldn’t be handed to someone new (and perhaps a little apprehensive) to the shooting world.

      Thanks again, and I hope a re-read of my books will provide you with a renewed sense of appreciation of the revolver and its role in self defense!

      -=[ Grant ]=-

      Reply
  2. Brad

    Good information but a couple problems.
    I have only been shooting for a couple months and only been to one range, and it has no range officers, so never put your blinders on and ignore others.
    The first thing you should do is check your surroundings and watch the other shooters for a little bit and make sure they are being safe and handling their weapons in a proper way. Make sure you don’t have a guy or a group that went drinking before the range rather than after.
    I see marks on the ceiling, walls, and even holes through the table where I have been.
    If something doesn’t look right get out and report it. If it looks ok, Guy’s love talking to strange women and love to talk about there guns if you are a women or a man so if you goof up there will be a person to help and if somebody laughs so freakin what who hasn’t been laughed at. You will get better!

    Reply
  3. Dave

    Excellent article. You are preaching to the right group. Your comments will ruffle the feathers of some macho men but that just makes your point. Let’s empower everyone especially women.

    Reply
  4. Nadine

    I like the article. I used to shoot several times a week, let it go for years. Now ready to go again. This is great renewal for me.

    Reply
  5. Heidi Bergmann-Schoch

    For women interested in shooting, the national organization “The Well Armed Woman” has chapters in 49 states. They offer education in a women friendly environment and the chapters meet monthly. The meetings consist of an educational segment, then range time for those who want to. You don’t have to already have a gun to get involved! Low stress Education. Equipment and Empowerment for gals!

    Reply
  6. Dennis Boehme

    Great article…. I would also suggest the the gals find someone to go with on their first trip to the range. Go with someone who has several different hand guns and different calibers. Davenport Guns in Davenport, Iowa is owned a great gal who is very talented and willing to help anyone. It’s a great place for all shooters. Please don’t just go to the range by yourself for the first time.

    Reply
  7. John

    If women have competent instructors a t first they become accomplished shooters more quickly than we males who have a defective gene(or something) that makes us believe we know better than a fellow male instructor. Trust me I’ve spent a loot of money unlearning something I believed -incorrectly to be true

    Reply