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.
(“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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!