In this multiple part series, I will share with you some of my favorite tips and tricks for making your range experience enjoyable and safe. Over the next several weeks, I will share with you a different tip in each post. Your range is your place to practice your craft and hone your skills. While no ranges are exactly the same, there are some general rules and best practices that will keep you out of trouble and help you get the most value and enjoyment out of your time there. So you’ve got your lipstick on, guns packed, and are off to the range….now what? This week, in my final installment, I thought I would (mostly) shut up and let some other women share. Here’s some advice for women from women.
I decided to ask some women who shoot for some tidbits of hard earned wisdom. Here is some advice for women who shoot – from other women who shoot.
Some Overall Observations on Women Who Shoot
I asked on an open forum for some tips and advice for women who shoot and I got some interesting tidbits.
Greg said “I’m not a women, but you don’t have to be to see how lopsided the shooting world is. I love to see women at the range because I know they are passionate about being there.” (Erin note: me too!)
Has Shooting Become an Unpopular Hobby to Enjoy?
Della, who is NOT American (which I note because I think we should remember people all over the world shoot), notes her father taught her to shoot and she loves it. She also notes “sadly, its not classified as ladylike [sic] sport anymore.”
When I asked her why she thinks that is, she noted “I personally don’t say that but the masses do. I’ve noticed even now living in the countryside of England it’s still classed as a man’s thing. Like “oh the boys and I went shooting for [a] stag do” rather than women doing it, which is a shame because it’s awesome. But shooting in 2017 can be such a touchy subject people would rather miss it, then give it a try.”
Lisa makes the VERY valid point she learned to shoot when her husband got a gun. They decided if he did, they should both be trained.
On a lighter note, Susan says she realized she was a good shot as a kid when she was able to shoot a BB Gun. Now she says “I swear, there is nothing more empowering than knowing how to properly handle a firearm and make a target your bitch.”
For the questions below, all of the women quoted here are shooters in one way or another. A few of them compete and ALL of them have logged hours upon hours of range time and know what they like and don’t. They each bring a unique perspective to the discussion. What works for me is not what works for everyone.
Question One: What is Your Favorite Thing to Wear to the Range?
Heather recommends jeans and steel toed boots. “I got tired of people stepping on my feet in the close quarters of the range.” She also recommends a long sleeved t-shirt. Regarding head cover, she notes “I’m not a big fan of hats because when I get set for rifle practice, it tends to hit the scope.”
Jessica notes she usually just wears her gym clothes as she likes to be comfortable.
According to Nell her favorite thing to wear is one of the hats she has “blinged.” (Erin’s note: We aren’t sure that’s a word but I can attest the hats are awesome).
Angela wears shorts or jeans, closed toed shoes, and a sturdy belt. She makes sure her shirt and/or jacket give her a full range of mobility. She also makes sure to avoid low cut and collared shirts for the reasons we mention in this post. Hot brass down your shirt tests not only your tolerance for pain but also your skill and control. She notes when there is hot brass in your bra “muzzle control and finger disciple come into play.”
Angela also notes when she is doing long hours at the range with a belt containing loaded mags and her firearm she also wears suspenders. “They are not stylish at all,” she says, “but the weight from all the gear begins to wear on my hips after a few hours.”
Question 2: What Advice Do You Have For Women Who Want to Learn To Shoot?
Jessica advises “Definitely learn the basics of gun safety and a healthy respect for guns but also don’t be too afraid! It can be intimidating at first! Just like with anything, it gets easier the more you practice!”
Nell suggests “leave your significant other at home seek out an instructor, preferably a women! Start with a 22 and work up to larger calibers. And practice practice practice. Join a women’s shooting group like A Girl and A Gun or The Well Armed Women to name just two. And have FUN!”
All of those women quoted recommend seeking out knowledge! Practice makes perfect!
Angela says “there are many women shooting chapters and range programs starting all over the [United States]. Ranges have identified the need to have women specific programs and are meeting that demand. Go to the range, find the lady with the 1911, and ask her where she learned to shoot. Or, attend a shooting match and ask the ladies there who they recommend as a mentor. Most of the people attending a competition are there as a sport and for the love of the game, not a status symbol or ego boost (too expensive), and they are militant on safety.
Something the best instructors will acknowledge is, women and men shoot and learn to shoot differently and they must teach differently.”
There are resources in many places, you just have to know where to find them!
For women who want to learn, Heather advises “go to a range where there is a professional who offers lessons. I was unbelievably fortunate to have my father start teaching me to shoot at a young age, so by high school I was proficient. But when I got married, [some of my new family members] started trying to “correct” behaviors they saw as incorrect. It started some arguments because I knew what worked for me and wasn’t going to change. What it boils down to is that if you are learning as an adult, having family members and friends teach you is not typically the best option (unless they are both trained shooters and good teachers).”
[Erin note: sometimes they are. In my case, I married a man who is both a good shot and a good instructor – Your Mileage May Vary and it is OK if the person closest to you is not the best person to teach you the basics.]
“Professionals understand that each individual shoots differently and that one form is not perfect for all shooters (kind of like a batting stance in base/softball). [Your] friends and family members may believe that their way is the only way. It’s extremely important that you develop a form that works for you, even if it may not appear “correct” to other shooters – a professional will be able to guide you and help you develop a proper form that is functional.”
Question 3: What Is One Thing (Other Than A Gun) You Cannot Do Without For A Day of Shooting>
Nell says “a great shooting bag.”
Angela mentions eye and ear protection and provides some good advice on what to choose. “Ballistic glasses are best, but even regular glasses will protect your eyes from debris. Ear protection can come in many forms, such as cheap earplugs or earmuffs with a 25-31 decibel level of hearing protection. My favorite and definitely most expensive option are the electronic earmuffs, which have a microphone that shuts off when a noise exceeds a certain decibel rating. Voices and range commands are easily heard at normal speaking levels, and the muffs shut down for each gunshot. They are extremely handy for new shooters who require coaching.”
[Erin note: these are really great]
Heather also put eye and hearing protection at the top of her list. She notes this should be a given, though, and her very prudent second choice is water. “Not only can you drink it and soak a neck wrap in it to keep cool. You can use it to get the powder off your hands if you are at a range that doesn’t have a place to wash your hands.” She rightly notes a place to wash your hands can be rare at a range.
Jessica is a 3rd vote for good ears, noting “good ear protection is worth every penny.”
Question 4: What Is The Toughest Thing You Face At The Range And How Do You Overcome It?
Angela observes something I too have noticed. “Personally, the toughest thing I see at the range is watching a man with a very timid woman, and he hands her his snub nose .357 to shoot for the first time. She fires it once, and then does not want to shoot again. Now, he’s mad, she’s scared, and the stereotype repeats itself.”
Women Don’t Always Learn The Same Way Men Do and That’s Ok!
To assist, Angela notes “this is when I usually step in to have her shoot my Sig Mosquito in .22LR and then my STI Trojan 1911 in 9mm. She will usually be shooting tighter groups than him by the end of the range time. This is the same type of guy that I (at 5’4” and 120lbs) get a sick enjoyment in challenging them to rack a Magnum Research Desert Eagle to slide lock, and also to lower the slide on a brand new Kimber 1911 in .45acp with the magazine in.”
She further notes, “Not necessarily at the range, but shooting and learning to shoot in general. Women think that men are born with an innate ability to handle firearms. [In reality], the men may have just seen a few John Wayne movies. This in no way means the man is handling the firearm correctly, and the woman should not be intimidated because of his assumed knowledge. I have learned to assume his knowledge is wrong until proven otherwise. On that same note, women are MUCH easier to teach how to safely handle and shoot firearms because she is starting from scratch. No ego, no bad or downright dangerous habits, and slightly timid is so much easier to teach than Mr. Urban Rambo.”
We all face challenges, it is how we overcome them that matters!
Jessica gives some extremely practical advice on something that is hard for many people (women and men alike). “It’s always been tough for me to not anticipate the trigger pull. I just remind myself to take a deep breath and squeeze as I exhale.”
Nell has some words of wisdom the author needs to keep in mind. “It depends what type of shooting I’m doing. But I think the toughest thing is “to get out of my head”! I start worrying about other people watching or what kind of score I’m going to have! Times when I can overcome it I stop, take a nice deep breath smile to myself and say what the hell, shoot and have fun!”
Not Only Can You BE a Good Shooter, You Can Look Good and Feel Comfortable Too!
Heather brings up a point I have heard mentioned by many. When and where you practice is important and we all have opinions. Attitude is also critical, even when the circumstances aren’t what we wish they were. “I HATE indoor ranges. [I] do not like the percussion of so many shooters in such an enclosed space. I don’t like the cave-like atmosphere – it makes me almost claustrophobic, which is impressive since I have just about zero problem with [other] enclosed spaces.”
There are other things, but you get the idea. I’m not sure how I overcome it, or if I really do. I just suck it up and go to an indoor range when I have no other choice. I make sure I know what I want to accomplish while I’m there and am clear on what my range mates want to accomplish as well. This allows me to estimate how much time it will take so I can mentally prepare myself to put on a happy face for the amount of time I will, in reality, be miserable. I may despise indoor ranges, but I certainly don’t want to bring down the mood of the group.”
Advice for Women From Women
Sometimes it helps me to see what other women are saying. The bottom line is we are all here to support each other. If you are thinking of learning to shoot, I hope you can see there are many resources available and women willing to help you.
And invest in good hearing protection!
What is your advice for other women who shoot? What is the best you’ve been given? And thanks for following along with my Lipsticking At The Range Series! If you missed any, click in for Part One, Part Two, Or Part Three!