Kay Miculek, matriarch of the Miculek shooting family, was born into shooting. One might think that she came into it after marrying champion shooter Jerry Miculek. But she was raised by a dad who was a gunsmith and was himself a nationally ranked Bullseye shooter.
Miculek and her brother were on their high school rifle team. She moved away, but went back home to Louisiana in her 30s. Her brother suggested they shoot the Bianchi Cup, and that’s where she met Jerry.
They began traveling and shooting, having a wonderful time. Then a daughter, Lena, appeared late in life. “I was almost 40,” says Miculek. “So Jerry and I had a decision to make. Quit shooting or take Lena with us.”
It was an easy decision. Miculek homeschooled Lena and she traveled with them her whole childhood. “She was born into it more than I was,” laughs Miculek. She reports that Lena did some shooting, but didn’t take a big interest in it. Then when her parents told her she needed to get a job or go to school, she decided she wanted to do what her parents do. “She took to it well,” smiles Miculek.
MICULEK HAS TRAVELED AND competed for many years now. When asked how aging may affect a shooter, she replies, “Staying in some physical conditioning is important. The most different thing a person is going to run into is their eyesight, especially if you’re shooting iron sights. It’s a constant battle. At some point, there is no fix.”
“It’s not such an issue with a red dot, which is what I have used the most in my wins. But when I go to iron sights, it becomes an issue,” she explains. “I’m actually amazed at how blurry my front sight can be. For 30 years I’ve taught ‘front sight, front sight, front sight.’ I got a prescription where I could see my front sights really clearly, but then I couldn’t see the long targets. I finally had to arrive at a happy medium.
Having a good set of fiber optic sights helps. It’s amazing how accurate you can be with a blurry sight.”
Miculek has some advice for other older women just starting to shoot. “Work on your eyes, your grip, your strength, and your stamina. Even if you work hard to retain it, you’re going to lose some of it.
But shooting is so much about technique. I had a doctor tell me once that the most important 6 inches in shooting is between your ears,” she laughs. “And it’s true, most of it is mental. Yes, upper body strength is an advantage. But years back I watched Valerie Levanza in a steel shooting championship. She’s so small, maybe 100 pounds soaking wet. Jerry and I watched her closely and Jerry was like, ‘My goodness, her arm is like three of my fingers together.’ But it was all about her technique. Technique is more important than brute strength. You can overcome it.”
Miculek reports that she is cross dominant in her eyes, as she says is more common with women. “A lot of times, even if you’re not cross-dominant, I found that taping the non-dominant eye is a help. Again, women are different than men. About 40 percent of women are cross-dominant, only about 20 percent of men. I’ve asked my optometrist so many questions about this, but I can’t find anything related to male-female, but I know it is because I’ve seen it for 30 years.
I also believe there are degrees of dominance. Some have strong dominance and some are more ‘wishy-washy.’ But you can train your dominant eye to be more dominant. Just tape a tiny piece of frosted tape over your shooting glasses on your non-dominant side to block the view when the sights are lined up right. You might have to start off with a bigger piece of tape but by the end, the size of tape could be the size of your thumbnail. This will help train your dominant eye.”
ONE OF MICULEK’S BIG projects is Babes with Bullets (BWB), which holds handgun camps around the country, and a 3 Gun Challenge on her range on her property. It all started in 2004 when she was in Oregon at a USPSA National Match, vying with other women to go to the World Team Shoot the next year. Miculek wanted the group of ladies to get together at her range in Louisiana to practice and critique each other.
“But somehow it got around that I was having a big practice. All of a sudden, we had all these other ladies coming in. We had 24 people sign up,” she laughs. “Basically, it turned into coaching more than practicing.”
Deb Ferns showed up as the most inexperienced shooter. Afterwards she went home to Arizona and continued shooting. Six months later, she asked Miculek about creating a training program to take to others. Now they hold eight to 10 camps around the U.S. Miculek’s advice to women is to be patient. She reports that at the BWB camps they have a lot of women over
40 years old, sometimes into their 60s, that have never shot a gun before in their lives.
Sometimes they have been athletic in other ways, and lived a very athletic life. They can become frustrated because shooting well doesn’t happen immediately for them like other sports may have in the past.
But she starts them out with a .22, a caliber that’s not too large.
“We always start our camps with 100 rounds of .22 ammo so that they can get the technique without having to worry about the recoil. If they develop a flinch from recoil from starting with a higher powered gun, it can be hard to ‘unlearn’ that,” she explains. She says a .22 is easy to use and build technique, trigger control, and sight picture.
Miculek says a person can also simply start out with something like an air soft pistol, anything to get someone very confident before they move on. “And a lot of dry fire,” she says. “A lot of dry fire.” The same advice goes for starting kids in shooting, according to Miculek.
For about 10 years, she and Jerry ran a junior USPSA camp for kids 12 to 18 years old. “Some of the younger kids were already shooting more gun than they could handle, so they had already built in that flinch reaction,” she says.
“Don’t go too big too soon.” Babes with Bullets camps are for every skill level, from beginners to more experienced shooters who are trying to up their game. Participants are divided according to their skill level. “Whether you shoot a lot of matches or never touched a gun, we can help you,” Miculek smiles. The handgun camps are different than most trainings.
They are all female and they are all-inclusive including lodging, which is where a lot of the fun takes place. “We go back to the lodge or house and talk a lot. Women can ask questions, learn about cleaning guns, just talk or ask about anything. We can give them information about contacting a range near where they live.
A lot of these ladies leave with new friends and stay in contact after the camp is over. There’s a sisterhood there and some remain lifelong friends. A lot of ladies find out they’re only an hour away from each other. It’s a three-day experience, everybody should do it at least once.”
Miculek reports that several women have gone to the camps five and six times. “Sometimes they go out, shoot for awhile, and then want to come back to move up to the next level,” she explains.
UNFORTUNATELY, MICULEK HAS AN injury that’s prevented her from shooting a lot lately. But she can still fire a rifle, and a .22 is most comfortable for her. Even with the injury she can still teach, and she has great memories of helping other women get comfortable with a handgun.
The first memory that comes to her mind is a handgun camp in Montana a few years ago. A woman came who was in her late 70s and had never shot before at all. She was there mainly as support for her daughter, and she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to be there or whether she wanted to shoot.
“She struggled and struggled a lot and at one point did fine with the .22.
When we went to a 9mm, she struggled more. She was a little tiny lady, with not a lot of hand strength, and she started flinching really badly. I said, ‘Let’s put you back on a .22 tomorrow.’ The next morning I brought the .22 but she said, ‘You know what? I don’t want to shoot the .22, I want to go back to the 9.’ The next day we had a little mini USPSA match and the moment I remember most is when I ran her through a little stage.
She was slow but basically she got all her hits and went one-for-one on steel.
When she fired that last shot, everybody started hollering and clapping. She turned around and put the gun away, then started crying because she was so excited and didn’t think she could do it. I threw my arms around her and told her, ‘You are a winner no matter what.’
She really impressed me. That was a really good moment that sticks in my mind because she was one of the older ladies. I know how hard it is for me to take up new sport, so for her to come at her age and really stick with it was terrific.
It is harder when you’re older.” When asked what her future plans are, Miculek says that she will be busy this year with a lot of camps, but will also be doing more private lessons at her range on her property. She says she’s usually not very active at her range because she’s often on the road, and she does still want to travel but she will only be competing in five major matches this year.
But no matter what, Miculek will continue shooting and teaching, helping other women become comfortable with firearms – at any age.
Editor’s note: For more on Kay Miculek’s organization, see babeswithbullets.com.
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