It was a scene you might encounter anywhere in rural America: A group of friends had gathered in some fallow acreage one of them owned for a day of plinking. The ground was festooned with impromptu targets: tin cans, pumpkins too old or ugly for sale, potatoes sprouting more eyes than a horde of spiders. It was eight good ol’ boys…and us.
My female friend and I had been invited to the monthly gathering for the first time. I’d gone over the basic rules of gun safety with her before we got there, but she was otherwise almost completely inexperienced with firearms. So when one of The Boys handed her a lightweight, short-barreled revolver chambered in .357, I raced to her side, cased .22 in hand, hoping to intervene.
I needn’t have bothered; she snickered in between shots as she made her chosen targets, tin cans, dance back and forth across a tree stump a good 20 yards away. “Watch,” she grinned, “I’m gonna make this one fly left.” After reloading and emptying the cylinder two or three times, she paused, noticing for the first time that all of the other shooting had stopped. Standing behind her was a silent, wide-eyed semicircle of men, jaws hanging slack.
“You’re, like…a goddess,” one of them said solemnly. “You’re the Queen of Lead.”
Being a female shooter rocks. Here are four reasons why:
1. Cultural Expectations Work in Our Favor
For good or for ill, our gender carries with it a set of cultural expectations. When it comes to guns, there is very little idea that a woman “should” know much of anything as far as how guns operate, or have any particular innate ability to shoot. (Contrast this to the male experience: Although shooting is a skill that anyone can learn, many men feel embarrassed if they’re not instant, instinctive sharpshooters.) This lack of expectations means that we feel no reluctance to seek expert instruction or to reach out for assistance if we’re unsure of something.
It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. The best way to learn a new skill is to find someone who knows what they’re doing, and listen to their coaching. When your ego isn’t bound up in anything other than being safe and having fun, it’s easier to enjoy yourself and you learn more effectively.
And if you happen to turn out to be a “natural,” as my friend did, the awed reaction is that much more flattering.
2. We Have Awesome Role Models
Whatever your interest in the shooting sports, you’ll find a woman shooter to inspire you. Do you like the idea of taking targets so far away you can’t see them with the naked eye? The story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko will kindle your interest. Does your patriotism begin at home? You’ll love the histories of Nancy Morgan Hart, the “War Woman,” and of Deborah Sampson. Do you dream of Olympic glory? Team USA clays shooter Kim Rhode recently took home her sixth consecutive Olympic medal. Want to get into hunting? Check out Tiffany Lakosky on Outdoor Channel’s “The Crush.”
3. You Can Forget About Being Judged
Ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I’d love to join a gym, but I’m too out of shape to go?” It’s sort of a joke, but the fear of being judged can be very limiting, especially for women. The great news is that there’s nothing akin to that when it comes to the shooting sports. Not only is your level of physical fitness almost completely immaterial, the only thing anybody at the range cares about is whether or not you are following the rules of gun safety. That’s it. Nobody is looking at your sneakers and judging you for wearing the wrong brand; nobody cares if you’re wearing makeup or not; nobody thinks you should just go home if you can’t empty your whole magazine into the bullseye.
In fact, you’re much more likely to find more support than you would ever have dreamed. The shooting community is remarkably friendly and reassuring. Total strangers will loan you their guns and gear so you can see if you like it, help you when you ask, commiserate when you’re being challenged, and cheer you on when you’re doing well.
4. Your Confidence Will Go Through the Roof
There’s nothing in the world quite like putting a little lead downrange to center you. The act of shooting is largely about focusing your entire attention on your sight picture, your breath and your trigger squeeze. It drives out other distractions, and gives you a chance to ground yourself. There’s something about harnessing all of the power of powder and steel and turning it into measured holes on paper to help you realize that you can succeed when you put your mind to it. It’s a tremendous confidence booster, one that will last for long after you’ve cased up your gun and gone home.