So, simultaneously, the best and worst things about being a female shooter are the low expectations everyone has of you.
It’s nice not to feel pressured to perform like an action hero, right out of the gate. The first couple of times I went to the range, I wasn’t even really concerned with hitting the bullseye. I was totally preoccupied with the novelty of shooting a gun and just trying to make sure my shots weren’t going into the ceiling. People were generally encouraging and enthusiastic about me learning how to shoot. Then, the advice started. Some of it was extremely helpful. Since my husband is the one who taught me how to shoot, we occasionally catch each other’s bad habits. It’s refreshing to get outside perspectives. Sometimes, it’s as simple as someone reminding me to lean forward. At first, it’s natural to try and put as much distance between your face and the gun as possible. Leaning into the stance, though, like you’re going to start running, really helps manage the recoil. Also, keeping your arms straight and strong gives you more control and doesn’t allow the gun to reciprocate as much when you shoot. If people notice these things and give me tips to improve, I really appreciate it.
However, if your advice is, “Don’t put your finger over the barrel of the gun when you’re shooting,” I begin to think you fancy me an idiot. This is untrue. I ask a lot of questions because I am interested, not because I am slow. I am also consistently surprised when people address questions or comments about me to my husband, i.e., “You should really get her shooting more often” or “Have you thought of getting her a more compact gun?” as though I am a pet or a child. In fact, women and children are often treated as relative equals in the gun world, despite the overwhelming proof that women shoot just as well, if not better than men.
I have noticed that the type of person who gives me the first kind of advice is likely to be someone who is a shooting enthusiast, probably younger and usually wanting to open up a dialogue and have positive interaction. The second type of advice is usually from someone who is older, crankier and totally confused about why I am at the range and not out shopping or doing other, more womanly type things. This antiquated mindset can be extremely frustrating.
Also, people often attribute all of my success at the range to my husband, who is an NRA certified instructor (and TOTALLY AWESOME, to boot). While he did teach me a lot of the techniques I use, we also learned a lot of it together, and I think he would agree, that I’ve taught him a few things too. We have been having a really excellant adventure for the past year as we’ve gotten into guns together and our preferences and knowledge have expanded. Part of what makes the whole thing fun is that it’s a team building exercise for us. We go shooting together to have a good time, but also to reinforce our mindset of being team-mates first and foremost. On our team, while each of us has our own individual strengths, we are equals. We encourage each other. I don’t rag on him for being a meathead and he doesn’t patronize me for being a girl.
I will readily admit that there are some things that are hard for a lot of women, in terms of manipulating and shooting guns. I couldn’t rack a slide for about a month. A lot of guns have grips and controls that are too big and too hard to actuate for my hands. But, you know what? Guns are like shoes. They aren’t all comfortable for everyone, and they come in a lot of different sizes and shapes. You have to try them and find out which one you like. There’s no shame in not wanting to carry a Desert Eagle around in your purse. On the flip side, that doesn’t mean you have to get one of those (really obnoxious and entirely offensive) pink plastic guns. In case you don’t know, I’m talking about this. In all seriousness, if you really like that thing, and that’s the caliber and model of gun that fits your needs best, get it. But don’t just get the pink gun cause you’re a girl and some dude is trying to sell it to you. There are some really amazing, beautiful guns in the world that will meet your requirements without looking like they belong in your kid’s toy chest or your make-up drawer. And they can be fun to shoot, easy to carry and good to look at. Plus, you get the added bonus of knowing that you picked out what you wanted based on your own criteria, instead of just deferring to The Girl Gun.
To me, shooting is about deciding what I am interested in, what I want to get out of it and then pursuing those things. The idea that women aren’t strong enough, physically or emotionally to handle guns is detrimental only if we believe it. There is plenty of evidence that you can go as far as you want in the world of firearms or your life in general, if you don’t let other people set expectations for you.