Protip: All of these work for men, too!
I recently wrote a satirical piece about how not to introduce a woman to the shooting sports, but the importance of increasing women’s participation in shooting isn’t a joke. Women make up just over 50 percent of America’s population; if even half of them understand that the Second Amendment enhances their personal safety, 2A activists would never have to worry about a popular vote against the right to self-defense again. What’s more, if your thoughts are already turning to the next generation (and they should be), you’ll have to take into account that about 23 percent of US households are headed by a single mother. If Mom isn’t on board with the right to keep and bear arms, her kids almost certainly won’t be either. So here are three things you can do when introducing a woman to shooting that will keep her coming back to the range.
Hands Off the Merchandise
One of the most important things to realize is that, if a woman with no previous experience with guns has come to you for help learning how to use one, chances are quite good that she has a sad, horrible, traumatic reason for doing so. In other words, it’s very possible that she’s been threatened, physically attacked or had her home invaded. So, to the fullest extent possible, do your best not to touch her or get into her personal space without her permission.
“But Trace,” you may say, “a shooting coach kind of has to get into their student’s space and touch their hands or feet!” And this is true. That’s why it’s going to be important to explain ahead of time the things you might need to do to keep her first time at the range safe and effective. Then, before you touch her, ask. “I need to adjust your grip, is that OK?” (Naturally, safety comes first—if you see that you need to act quickly to prevent a safety violation, that’s going to have to take priority.) Communication is key. And that’s why…
Keep it to a Dull Roar
One thing that often shocks newbies is just how loud the report of a firearm is. Blame the media; on TV, gunfire is generally depicted as about twice as loud as a conversation. So the fact that most guns bigger than a .22 produce a report that’s enough to vibrate one’s viscera can come as a shock. Do what you can to reduce the noise—in part to cut down on the fear factor, and in part to make it easier for you to communicate. Can you take her to an outdoor range? Or go during a time when it’s not busy? If not, at least start with the smaller calibers until she’s had a chance to get used to the sound…and double up on the hearing protection.
Yes, it’s true that there is such a thing as a “natural born shooter,” and it’s entirely possible that your protégée might turn out to be one of them. But even if she is, you won’t be doing her a disservice to start small. What do I mean by “small”? Well, a small caliber, to be sure—.22 or .17 HMR—will allow you to work on the basics of gun safety and the fundamentals of shooting without having to contend with harsh recoil and loud reports. But I also mean that you should make it as easy as possible in other ways, too:
- Set the targets up no further than 7 yards—that’s where the majority of self-defense scenarios play out, anyway.
- Use something like a plain paper plate as a target—any hit on the plate is a win.
- If possible, have her start with a gun with a long sight radius. It makes acquiring a proper sight picture much easier for a newb.
As for how to handle it when she turns out to be a better shooter than her teacher? Well, that’s another column entirely…
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