The increasing number of women taking up shooting for self-defense and recreational purposes is shifting the demographics of the shooting sports community in huge and very positive ways. Shooting was never purely a man’s pursuit, but social mores prevalent in my generation made women on the range a rarity. Back in the Reagan era, if you saw a female on the range, she was almost certainly there with her boyfriend or husband, “trying it out.” If memory serves, this frequently took the form of the gentleman providing ego-enhancing instruction in the manly art of shooting to the fairer sex neophytes. Around that time I taught my mother, sister and at least one girlfriend how to safely handle firearms for their protection. I remember their looks of mild anxiety during their first shots but they all quickly gained proficiency and confidence and even started to enjoy it…and then never shot again. Their abandonment of shooting wasn’t because it wasn’t fun; it was because they felt out of place and uncomfortable in what they saw as a “boy’s club” hobby. Somehow, thank goodness, this has finally changed. One of the agents of that change is Lauren Young and if you don’t already know who she is, you will.
Lauren is a bona fide defender of the U.S. Constitution, a devoted advocate of physical fitness, a lover of the outdoors, a serious shooting hobbyist, a patriot, a U.S. Army veteran, a college graduate with a dual B.A. in Pre-Law and Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno, with an unquenchable thirst for learning, and an Instagram sensation. To her credit, she made herself all of these things with the exception of the last one, and that is extremely important to understanding who she is NOT. Though she is strikingly beautiful, she is no narcissist and certainly no phony “gun bunny” like you sometimes see at shooting sports show venues.
Significantly, Instagram thrust fame on Lauren unexpectedly after she did a fun video game fantasy cos-play photo shoot as a bad-ass, gun-wielding, dirty, bloody bandaged, post-apocalyptic woman warrior and the photographer tagged her in the photos he posted on his Instagram account. At that time, her Instagram account was private, visible only to family and close friends. Then it was deluged with thousands of “follower” requests almost overnight and she found herself at one of those crossroads life occasionally lays before us. She had no desire for fame, in fact had never even considered the possibility of it, and she was pretty busy. She was completing her last enlistment in the Army and the college campus was replacing Uncle Sam as the focus of her life. Eventually, she recognized that her newly acquired Instagram popularity had the potential to empower her to promote the things she believed in and possibly help her make a living post-Army. She decided to put herself up to public scrutiny in the digital world to see what would happen. People clearly liked what they saw because she garnered over 183,000 followers without even trying. She posts maybe every other day. About half her photos include firearms, far outstripping in numbers everything else (gym workouts, outdoor activities, patriotic/military themes and a very small smattering of obligatory selfies).
There are lots of pretty women on Instagram, but good looks are clearly not the source of her popularity. Unlike many female Instagram stars whose photos often border on soft porn, Lauren is modest in the way any father would hope his daughter would be. She has an obvious vanity about showing off her abs, a weakness she admits but endearingly qualifies with, “I’ve worked so hard to get that flat tummy.” She’s justifiably proud of her toned physique. Her weekly workout regimen is as much about the benefit it brings her mind as her body. She does this for herself, not for the approval of others.
She became an Instagram sensation by being in the right place at the right time and just being herself. Lauren’s looks got her noticed, but the fact is that the Second Amendment community wants and needs more genuine female advocates and her passion for shooting sports, along with her core values of love of country, the military, and reverence for the Constitution, made her a natural representative. She is what the social media world calls an “influencer.” If Instagram followers equated to votes, she is building the kind of numbers that could sway an election.
In person, I’ll tell you Lauren is gregarious, articulate, obviously educated, confident and so lithe you have to wonder if she has the upper body strength to shoot a rifle offhand. She does because she works her guns with weight training at the gym. On the range she is no wallflower. She likes to shoot the Barrett .338 Lapua and the Magnum Research .50 Action Express Desert Eagle. After eight years in the Army as an MP, including a tour in Afghanistan, she’s not in the least bit intimidated at being the only female there. Shooting is among her favorite hobbies and she’s devoted the time to study the aspects that intrigue her and develop her skills. She is the exact female equivalent of a “gun guy.” Lauren is representative of a growing demographic of “gun girls.” She agreed to share her experiences so we can see what the shooting world looks like through the eyes of women shooters.
American Shooting Journal: Who are your Instagram followers?
Lauren Young: My Instagram followers are about 80 percent male, between 25 and 44, from all over the country. Of course I’m appreciative of my male followers but I would love to attract more women to my page.
ASJ: What does social media fame feel like?
LY: I didn’t feel anything about it at first. But as it started to grow, people wanted to know about me, my history, who I was and what I’d done. I began to enjoy that aspect. It is kind of flattering when you think about it. Praise is nice. Praise about things that are important to me is even nicer. I felt like I’d become an ambassador for the 2A community, and I had a responsibility to represent my people, and myself, for who we are. You know, I frequently get messages suggesting I show more skin. A bikini definitely adds to your fame and notoriety, and once or twice a few years ago I posted a photo of myself at the lake in suitable, two piece, swimming attire, but now I think twice before I post that stuff. If I am known, I want to be known for who I am and what I represent, not how I look holding a gun, or holding a gun in my underwear. I’m happy with my body; I don’t feel the need to show it off to get followers and I certainly don’t need outside validation at this point in my life. In a sense, I am now a product, or more accurately, an intellectual property or brand, and posing in lingerie would water down and distract from my brand’s character. My brand is not about T&A. It’s about the message.
ASJ: What does the Lauren Young brand represent exactly?
LY: First off, I didn’t invent it. I learned it. It is based in love of country, and respect for the Constitutional protections that made our Republic the most open, productive and free society on Earth. I swore an oath to protect the United States and our Constitution when I was in uniform. I take that just as seriously today as I did when I enlisted. Sadly too many people are almost completely ignorant of the body of law that establishes our freedoms. I may be sounding a little like a lawyer now, but this is my thing. If you take the time to read the Constitution, you see how it is like an iron bridge supporting freedom above an abyss of tyranny. You can’t just start pulling away beams from that bridge and expect freedom to endure. Attacking any Constitutional right attacks them all, which seems lost on certain people. It begs a question regarding the basic intelligence of some of them and the real agenda of the smartest among them.
You could say the other part of my brand is my role as the new “gun girl.” I define that as a serious woman shooting hobbyist. I don’t want to be perceived as the shooting community’s “it” girl. I really love the shooting sports and I enjoy them to the fullest extent I can. Part of the fun is the interaction with other gun people. Shooting is not a guy sport anymore. It’s actually anyone-who-can-hold-a-gun’s sport. No woman should feel out of place on the range or a gun shop anymore. We are holding ourselves back more than anything else. The range is just waiting for us to put on our ear and eye protection and take our place on the line.
ASJ: It seems young women hunters of late have been the targets of vicious trolling online. Death threats are common. Your thoughts?
LY: Don’t be bullied. No woman shooter or hunter has to apologize to her XX chromosome sisters for liking guns.
ASJ: I keep hearing about more and more women taking up shooting, but I haven’t seen all that many shooting outside of hunting. Where are all the lady shooters?
LY: Women are used as a tool to drive interest, and profit, in the shooting sports world but they aren’t being fully engaged by the community at the grassroots level. They are often made to feel inferior in several ways and this is both insulting and annoying. I’ve been spoken down too, patronized, called “sweetheart,” and been the butt of some sexist backhanded jokes from guys I could outshoot hungover and left-handed. One gun shop employee was showing me a pistol once, and when he mentioned the trigger he pointed to it and said, “The trigger is this thing right here.” I got the feeling he used that joke a lot with female customers. Why on Earth would a gun guy want to insult an intelligent woman? All that will do is turn her off to shooting. Piss off an intelligent woman and you make a powerful enemy. She’ll tell every other woman she knows. The 2A community needs as many allies as we can get. Guys would be well advised to treat the women that come in the gun store, or the ones you meet on the range, in the same friendly and respectful manner they would interact with a male shooter. If you don’t you are cheating them out of the camaraderie that makes hobbies so much more fun and that’s mean. You’re also cheating the 2A community out of an ally and that’s stupid.
ASJ: You didn’t grow up shooting. Was it the Army that got you interested in firearms and shooting sports?
LY: You would think so, but that’s not the case. The military has a way of making stuff that should be fun the exact opposite of fun with all the rules and schedules that put you on the range in the rain and mud, burning heat and dust, or butt freezing cold and snow. They spoiled shooting for me and made it a chore. I didn’t try shooting recreationally until I’d already been in the Army maybe four years. Some friends invited me out to the desert and we had a blast long-range target shooting and picking off those pesky coyotes. It opened up a whole new world for me.
ASJ: What are your observations on the M9 pistol and M4 carbine as a rather small-statured person? I see your hands are pretty small.
LY: I’ve learned with the right platform it can become a part of you, regardless of size. In the Army when you don’t have a choice in the matter it can make things difficult, but you manage.
ASJ: Why did you join the Army?
LY: I got excellent grades in high school but college wasn’t an option for me because the money just wasn’t there for it. My mom was working her butt off to support me and my older brother and sister and we were still barely above the poverty line. This is going to sound cheesy, but when I was a 17-year-old senior I saw an Army recruiting commercial on TV and wondered how I didn’t think of it before because I love my country. In my young mind it became the only option. There was a recruiting station virtually across the street from my school. I signed up on my 18th birthday. We had no military tradition in our family and they didn’t know what to think. I actually wanted to be a fireman, but that was an Air Force MOS and I wasn’t going to join that because I didn’t want people to make fun of me for picking a cushy service. I wanted to show I was up for the challenge of the Army. They had Military Police. I had a few relatives who were cops and I liked the idea of serving the service and doing route security in the HMMWV with the machine gun on top when I got deployed. I was trained to be route security but ended up with the tedious job of prison guard for terrorist dirtbags when I got to Afghanistan.
ASJ: Were you ever under fire?
LY: Just harassing mortar fire, but that became so commonplace after awhile we got tired of running to our bunker and some of us would just pretend we didn’t hear the alarm and stay right where we were. The Taliban mortar men they had on us were lousy shots. We couldn’t figure why they would shoot at a prison full of their own guys, and then it dawned on us they just can’t hit what they aim at except by accident.
ASJ: Why did you leave the Army after eight years?
LY: I was actually planning to go to law school on the Army dime and be a JAG officer and then I realized that meant another eight years of having my life guided by people who might be a lot less smart than me just because they outranked me. I was proud of my service, but it was time for me to make my own path.
ASJ: Where has that path taken you?
LY: Well, I finished college with a 3.6 GPA but I can’t say that I think being an attorney is going to give me the fulfillment I want. At least not at this time. I’ve done a lot of modeling work, which is funny to me. In high school I was awkward and skinny and I really thought I needed to get a personality and be interesting because if I had to rely on my looks I was really going to be screwed. The collective 2A community has embraced me and I find myself doing more and more work both to protect our rights and support the industry as a spokesperson, writer and video producer. I’ve been doing a weekly video for Tactical Life Magazine online (tactical-life.com) for a few months now called Free Gun Friday. I will only work with manufacturers I believe in and I’m especially interested in helping veteran-owned businesses. I help them with affiliate marketing, but not on my Instagram site. I don’t want to piss off my followers
I also do social media consulting to help businesses understand social media and maximize its advertising potential. To maintain relevancy on social media, you need to shift fire as their algorithms change. My work there isn’t limited to the firearms industry. Just about all businesses can benefit from a good social media presence.
ASJ: Any new projects in the works?
LY: Of course, but none that I’m ready to talk about! (laughs)
ASJ: Where are your shooting interests taking you these days?
LY: I like shooting pistol but I prefer the discipline and mechanics of long-range rifle and want to get much better. Maybe someday shoot long-range professionally? Who knows!
ASJ: I know you are an advocate for concealed carry and a disciplined practitioner. What is your preferred pistol?
LY: The Glock 43. It’s a very compact, six-shot, single stack magazine, 9mm that weighs only about 20 ounces loaded and it’s very thin, just a bit over an inch at the thickest point. It’s a good compromise between power, controllability, accuracy and concealability. Most men have an easier time concealing a pistol on their body than the average women. Obviously, a lot of women’s fashion just doesn’t lend itself to holster carry on the waist. A thick holster makes it even harder to conceal. If I have a jacket, sweater or draping shirt to cover it, I prefer appendix carry to anything else for on-the-body concealment. Otherwise, I will have it in my purse with my holster attached to the inside pocket so I can pull it out fast without pulling the holster out too. This way I always know exactly where in my purse the pistol will be. I can deal with rooting around in there for my ponytail scrunchie, but if I need to pull my gun, I need to do it fast. The holster also prevents stuff from getting caught up in the pistol. This is really important for revolvers that have more openings for things to get stuck in. It would be bad to draw your gun and find it gummed up with a melted Jolly Rancher. A delicious candy, but it has no place inside a firearm.
ASJ: The anti-gun lobby has tried to scare the uninformed public away from gun ownership by twisting survey research to “prove” that privately owned guns are more likely to end up being used to harm a family member than to protect. They do it by citing examples of suicides, accidents and the use of guns in domestic disputes, even though the latter is clearly a criminal misuse of a firearm. What do you say to the non-gun-owning woman who is worried about her safety, but misinformed by this propaganda?
LY: The anti-gun groups want to conveniently overlook that most American households have one or more firearms in them and don’t have accidents, or the tragedy of a family member taking their own life, or domestic violence. They also don’t look at the real way firearms, and especially concealed carry firearms, protect us most of the time. Most of the time the weapon is never shot, much less drawn. My experience is that concealed carry is a deterrent to crime.
ASJ: You have a specific example?
LY: Recently I had an encounter that reminded me why I decided to get a license and carry a gun for protection. It happened in the parking lot of the local Goodwill store. I drove by myself and was in the process of dropping off a few armloads of donations when, during my several trips back and forth to my Jeep, I noticed a guy in a car eyeing me, and then in accented and broken English he tried to talk to me. I could understand a few words, “baby” and “gorgeous.” I ignored him because he seemed like a creep and I didn’t want to encourage his unwelcome come on. Making verbal advances to a woman from a car window in a parking lot is not a classy move, even if you can speak the language. After I dropped the last load I began to walk back to my Jeep and I saw him again. He was doing circles in the parking lot! I got into my Jeep immediately and locked the doors and looked around for him. I didn’t see him again so I hoped maybe he got the point. I looked down at my phone for a few seconds to look for a song to play and when I looked up, I saw him in the mirror walking up to my Jeep. I put my hand on my pistol grip put didn’t draw while he came up and began banging aggressively on my window speaking incomprehensibly in bad English. I told him several times to go away but he kept on banging on my window. I thought it was about to break. At that point I held up my pistol by my side so he could see I was armed and screamed “Get back!” and he ran off.
That’s why I carry a pistol. That creep might have given up eventually, or maybe not. I was ready either way. The gun was there if things got bad. The reason they didn’t get bad wasn’t because I had the gun. It was because I kept my situational awareness. I saw that guy for the threat he might be and locked myself in the car. Your awareness is the main line of defense, especially if you are a woman. My CCW license and my pistol are not symbols of paranoia. My CCW license and my pistol represent opportunity to influence the outcome of a bad encounter and having a say in what happens to me. I’m not bloodthirsty. I don’t live in a state of paranoid anticipation to use it. I hope I never have to. I hope nothing happens to me where I am forced to use it… but if I happen to be one of the unlucky ones… if I happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time… I assure you I won’t go silently.
Story by Frank Jardim