[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”5″] W[/su_dropcap]ith the recent jump in concealed-carry permit requests across the country, more women than ever are purchasing guns. A national online retailer, GunHandbags.com, aims to outfit all women who have carry permits with the perfect accessory to make sure their gun is well stored.
Women need a way to safely tote their gun that makes it accessible should the need to use it arrive. GunHandBags.com and its creator recognize that need, delivering handbags that are easy to use and fun to carry.
“Women need to protect themselves, and shouldn’t have to relinquish that need due to a lack of practicality,”
Women have had to rely for years on bulky holsters made for the male figure, and one-size-fits-all handbags for their firearms. GunHandBags.com offers women the chance to find a quality purse for their firearm that matches their needs for shape, size, color, and more – blending style with function. A popular bag on the site is the Smooth Aged Leather Satchel which sells out almost as fast as it comes in. The Concealed Carrie Classic Aged Leather Satchel is priced at under $300 and offers a lot of room with a design different than many handbags.
GunHandbags.com also sells accessories, holsters, gift items and other products for their men’s line, in case anyone needs a special gift for their man.
GunHandBags.com was created after the owner was burglarized in her home. She felt the need to protect herself. Many options on the market didn’t offer the dependability and reliability of a gun tote that she was searching for, thus GunHandBags.com was born.
“Women need to protect themselves, and shouldn’t have to relinquish that need due to a lack of practicality,” GunHandBags.com spokesperson said. “Today’s political climate toward gun ownership and women taking responsibility for their self-defense has resulted in a record number of women purchasing guns. We wanted to offer handbag lines that recognized their need and exceeded their expectations,” she continued.
For more information on all the choices and options, you can visit them at GunHandBags.com.
There are thousands of security contractors operating in high-threat environments and within that group there are a handful of women. They sport the same body armor and equipment, have to uphold the same physical requirements and are expected, by their male peers, to do the exact same work – protect people from danger, up to and including losing their own life.
On the subject of whether women should be in elite military forces, the jury is still out; however females in high-level close protection who cover a range of clients from foreign dignitaries and ambassadors to government and corporate employees and their international guests are holding their own. They are widely accepted within the elite cadre of close-protection specialists and have a significant role to play. The average current ratio is one woman to one hundred men, but it is growing.
In high-threat protection, the primary role is to avoid conflict. This requires a thinking approach. Forethought, flexibility, contingency planning and the ability to seamlessly make changes on the move are paramount. One cannot passively wait for an event to occur and then try to come up with a solution – not well, anyway. This proactive form of protection is all in the training and preparation. Male or female, everyone must be on constant alert and in top physical condition.
“That’s not a girl, that’s Dani, she doesn’t count.”
While there aren’t many women in these roles, they are around and they are awesome in their own right. You’ll find an array of backgrounds as equally diverse as with the men. What sets these women apart is obvious: they stand out in the crowd amongst their peers; they don’t blindly follow expectations; and have taken their own paths. This alone says a great deal for the personality, composure and perseverance of the ladies in these roles.
OTHER SECURITY ROLES WOMEN CAN PLAY
While high-threat protection is its own category of security, and is often titled as such based on the austere locations and level of threat in an area, there are many other possibilities where women can and do excel in protective security roles. Positions such as executive and family protection are at the top of the list, especially for clients looking for a low-profile signature. Most executives and dignitaries comport themselves in a low-key, quiet manner and prefer to remain under the radar. In contrast, these people differ from, say, music celebrities, whose requirement is to be seen and recognized, as well as protected. The protection professional in this case is up front, easily identifiable, often physically large and may even wear a shirt that says security.
Protection is not only about physical protection, but also about avoiding unpleasant issues or any number of troubling matters one can encounter throughout the day. Women can offer not only a security element, but the appearance of an assistant or administrator who can blend easily into the background, allowing for an excellent vantage point to watch over the client. Oftentimes, women readily offer the ability to deftly mitigate a negative situation simply via, potentially, a naturally disarming presence.
High-income families commonly need a discrete signature. A large male bodybuilder-type following a woman and her children around may not be desirable. In this instance it would be much easier for a woman the blend in.
POSSIBILITIES FOR WOMEN IN PROTECTIVE SECURITY
Often when considering protective personnel, the preference is that the candidate comes from either a law-enforcement or military background; however that isn’t always necessary. There are quite a few reputable companies, like Gavin de Becker or government agencies such as the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security that train and hire their own candidates. This is not a comprehensive list and research on your own will open up all sorts of possibilities.
Major corporations, the entertainment industry, government subcontractors and the United Nations usually require previous and extensive background in protective services, which can be obtained by some of the examples above, but there are schools specifically designed to certify people for personal protection. The level of threat will dictate the requirement.
I have been in protective security and dispatched to numerous locations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and South America over the last 14 years. My initial background was founded in law enforcement where I was on a SWAT team. In each location I worked with all facets of former military personnel to include Special Forces, Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, Marine Recon and others. Once integrated into a team, I found that teamates, after their initial discomfort, accept me as one of their own. I have always taken this as the ultimate compliment. I also made a point to never complain, make sure I was squared away and helped anyone I could.
A teammate once told me a story of his wife’s jealous reaction when she saw a photo of his team in Baghdad. She noticed and was upset that there was a female amongst the men. My colleague, immediately confused, asked “Where?” When his wife pointed at my image, he laughed and said, “That’s not a girl, that’s Dani, she doesn’t count.” I saw this comment as his acceptance of me in the team. I have always been proud of working with these men and have remained bonded buddies with almost all of them over the years.
complete honesty, I tend to judge females coming into these roles possibly more harshly than men do. The last thing I want is the wrong type of woman stepping into these roles with their high mental and physical requirements. A female, or anyone for that matter, who cannot handle critical-thinking situations, is a whiner, cannot tough it out and make the mission work by putting aside their needs for the benefit of the team does not deserve to be there, in my opinion. Women are expected to be a burden to these teams, therefore, it is imperative that they aren’t. I am proud to say that I was the first female qualified as a tactical commander on a world-renowned high-threat contract and followed it up by becoming the first female shift leader to lead a team of men on a high-threat contract. I have no tolerance for someone who plays in a role they are not qualified to handle. That may sound harsh, but I feel that any woman who works in these positions needs to be a role model to their team and future women.
I hold on strongly to my femininity, take great pleasure in being a proper girl and have the bows and dresses to prove it – my husband approves – however, working in austere and dangerous locations requires constant focus and clear thinking. Not only are the lives of our clients in our hands, but also those of our teammates. All the women I have had the honor to work with are a different breed. We take our roles seriously and often work harder than our male peers just to be accepted, yet we still manage to remain feminine – and bake a mean batch of cookies.♠
[su_dropcap style=”light”]A[/su_dropcap] mariner sailing in uncharted waters runs the risk of hitting a reef, running aground, or becoming lost and suffering an immense hardship. The mariner takes these risks because the reward of discovery and achievement far surpass the hardship required to be the trailblazer. Being a trailblazer and navigating uncharted waters is what officer Nisha Henderson lives for. Henderson is the very first female member of the Utah County, Utah, Metro SWAT Team and is blazing a trail not only for herself, but for other female officers.
Reared in the shadow of the Beehive State’s Wasatch Mountains, Henderson grew up shooting, hunting and spending time in the outdoors with her parents and siblings. Henderson loved girlie things, but always had an affinity for guns and shooting. She was given her first gun, a Browning .243 bolt-action rifle, by her father when she was just 10 years old. From that day forward Henderson has loved shooting, hunting, hiking, camping and fishing in the canyons of Provo, Utah.
In the 1980s, Provo experienced devastating floods. These disastrous times had a lasting impact on Henderson, who as a young girl saw the police in action helping citizens deal with the overflowing banks of the Provo River. These acts of service inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement. After high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree of science in sociology from the University of Utah, and upon graduation, worked with juvenile offenders before moving to Killeen, Texas, with her-then husband, a soldier in the US Army. While in Texas, Henderson met a recruiting sergeant from the Killeen PD at a career fair who strongly encouraged Henderson to apply and test for a patrol position. She did and was hired.
Working her patrol beat provided experiences that would drastically alter the way Henderson saw the world. She was assigned one of the more dangerous beats in the city and learned firsthand what drugs, alcohol and bad choices can do to people’s lives. She spent much of her time dealing with prostitutes, drug dealers, drug users and the homeless. This required her to be a quick study when it came to enforcing the law.
Her time in Killeen allowed her to meet people who needed her help. She told me of an old couple who would go for a walk in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing she said would keep them from this tradition, so she made sure they would inform her if their schedule ever changed. While patrolling, she always made sure to check on them.
Her patrol time was not without sad moments. Henderson was dispatched to an address where she recognized the complainant as the girlfriend of one of her fellow officers. The woman was too distraught to speak; she simply pointed at the garage. Inside, Henderson found the body of a coworker who had committed suicide days earlier. Scenes like these leave an indelible memory.
Not all her experiences were so personally traumatic. She told me about an active-duty soldier who picked up a prostitute right in front of Henderson. She performed a traffic stop and informed the soldier that the female prostitute was really a male prostitute, and that it was best if the soldier never came back.
After going through a divorce, Henderson was looking for a way to return to Utah with her growing boys. With nothing in Killeen holding her back she began searching for a job in Utah County. An opening with the Provo PD provided her with the perfect opportunity. She worked her final shift in Killeen on a Thursday and reported for duty in Provo the following Monday.
The Provo PD has proven to be a great fit for Henderson, and she is excelling as a senior patrol officer, but when she started, she was only the third female officer in a department of 107.
I spent a Friday night riding with Henderson and she is not like any other police officer I have ever met. When she exited her patrol car to greet me, I was struck by her presence. Henderson exuded confidence, but not cockiness. I immediately felt at ease with her and never thought that she was pretending to be someone that she wasn’t.
Once in Provo, Henderson set her sights on becoming a member of their SWAT team which is comprised of officers from Provo PD, Orem PD, Brigham Young University PD and Utah Valley University PD. The two universities have a combined enrollment of close to 80,000 students. Wanting to be a member of the team and actually becoming one are two very different things, especially since the team had never had a female before. In order for this to happen Henderson would have to be as good as the male officers, and maybe even a little bit better. “I began preparing for the team as soon as I was hired on. I intended to try out in the spring of 2013, but was injured in January of that year, so I couldn’t do it,” she said. “My recovery took five months, but as soon as my doctor gave me the OK, I began training rigorously. Ten months before tryouts, I started exercising at least twice a day and sometimes three. I would run in the morning, do Crossfit in the afternoon and would dedicate three days a week to weight training,” she continued. “I spent many hours not only on the range, but also working on speed reloading and dry firing at home during pizza and movie nights with
If you don’t know what Crossfit is, I can only explain it as some medieval form of torture that has been resurrected and used to get people into extremely good physical condition. I can also tell you that Henderson, who stands an athletic 6 feet tall, is in as good if not better shape than officers 10 years her junior. She runs a 9:08-minute mile and a half, can do 50 push-ups in a minute, deadlift 295 pounds and bench press her bodyweight. No, I didn’t ask her how much that was; I didn’t want to get my butt kicked. How many 12-year-old boys can tell their friends that their mom practices speed reloads and dry fires her Glock while watching movies? I’m sorry, but that is just straight-up cool and bad to the bone.
When it came time for SWAT tryouts, Henderson was prepared. She had prepared physically and attended SWAT monthly training sessions to get familiar with what she would be doing. More importantly, she prepared mentally. While the training is physically demanding, the majority of candidates wash out because they aren’t mentally tough enough to endure the physical pain, criticism and sleep deprivation. Mental toughness is taking that next step when your body says, “I can’t do it.”
SWAT training was brutal. On the second day the team was performing spider-man drops. This consists of a team member on top of a shipping container and another below to help the team member coming down. The member on top lays flat and then hangs off of the box with one leg dangling and the other still on top. When the member is ready, he or she swings the last leg off and drops. The team member below is supposed to catch the other officer. The teammate on the ground got blood in his eye as Henderson dropped. She fell to the ground, landing on her M4, and suffered multiple micro fractures to her right arm. The doctor told her that her training and tryout was over. She said no and made him print up a waiver. She finished the course shooting left-handed, her weak hand – and made the team.
Henderson is the first person to tell you that her team rallied around her; otherwise, she would not have made it. They had to help draw her handgun and reholster it, but in the real world this is exactly what would happen if a team member was injured during an operation. You do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.
Henderson made it and is now assigned to the entry team. As part of her kit she uses a Glock 17 Gen 4 as her sidearm and an M4 with a 10-inch barrel as her primary weapon.
It would appear that all of Henderson’s time is taken up between SWAT and being a patrol officer, but she has found time to become certified as an instructor in a women’s self-defense program called Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) that helps empower women to fight against would-be attackers as well. She is also a mother of twin sons, whom she helps with their newfound love of the Boy Scouts. The night that I rode along with her, our shift ended at 7 a.m., the same time that a “merit badge pow wow” started for her sons. She left the station, changed out her uniform, and spent the day teaching the law merit badge course.
Provo PD’s new chief, John King, told me, “In addition to being a member of our SWAT team, Officer Henderson has distinguished herself by her work as a patrol officer. She takes pride in knowing the people on her beat and treats everyone with respect. She has solved several cases because of her ability to appeal to either the suspect or victim on a personal level. She is obviously one of the most physically fit individuals on the department and makes excellent use of combining her physical strengthen, her femininity and her professional skills to proudly represent our department. As she advances in her career, she’ll undoubtedly set more firsts for women here, and those selections will be based on the merits of her work.”
Henderson is a trailblazer, and not just because she is a female, although that is part of it. She represents what we want all of our police officers to be. She is concerned about the people who she refers to as “her” citizens. She is able to be sympathetic without being emotional, empathetic while remaining professional and human while still enforcing the law and making unpopular decisions when required. ASJ
Women are not a minority in America, gentlemen. There are some 6 million more of them than us – perhaps even a few more since 2010’s census, where that stat comes from. Many female shooters are interested in the shooting sports as well as personal defense. If you are in a gun-related sales field, you would do well to treat them well. If you are a professional trainer, you must be alert to the nuances and differences of the female thought process. To ignore this significant portion of the shooting fraternity/sorority is a disservice to all concerned.
I am going to gloss over the psychological differences between men and women, as they are vast and touched on elsewhere this issue. What I will focus on are a few things I have found interesting during my 20-plus years in law enforcement and instructing people from all walks of life. Women make interesting choices. They are often very independent, don’t have ego problems and progress very quickly.
I do not live and breathe gunpowder smoke, but it is certainly something I love. When the opportunity comes to indoctrinate a young shooter in the proper use of a firearm, I am always ready, and a large number of these shooters are females. In the basic NRA Course, most of these students are interested in obtaining a concealed-carry permit, while others simply want to learn how to use a firearm safely; few are interested in filling a gun safe. When it comes to firearm instruction, I highly suggest turning them over to a qualified trainer. A father or spouse interested in a female’s shooting progress often diminishes the value of the instruction. I sent my own daughter to driving school, money well spent, in my opinion.
I have been to gun shops where even I have been offended and I can only imagine a female traveling to one of these alone; it can be a disastrous encounter. The good-old boys could sometimes use a Dale Carnegie course. As an example, one of my daughters, who is a very capable shooter, an NRA-certified firearms instructor, and purposely drives a truck because she had been told all her life what type of cars women should drive, went into a gun store and was automatically presented a pink-handled woman’s gun by a gun-store clerk who was very condescending. Now, putting aside the fact that she actually likes pink guns (my other daughter doesn’t care and the clerk couldn’t have known that), these are exactly the problems women are facing.
Men and women alike make the same mistakes. When many purchase their first gun they find out later that it’s too big to carry concealed. Others might purchase one that is too small for personal defense, and still others might choose a low-quality option. Only with good education and a bit of study behind them will they be able to make a choice that is beneficial.
As an NRA instructor I teach the basic handgun course. Often I find that females in my class have no one in their family who is a “gun person.” It’s all new to them, and perhaps that is for the best because they are starting out with a clean slate. Oftentimes, a well-meaning person has taught the shooter bad habits, and those are very difficult to shake. The ladies I have seen – from fledging attorneys all the way to 17-year Army reservists – have impressed me at every turn. One thing I have noticed is women do not care to maintain their firearms as diligently as men. Men are more likely to tinker with what isn’t broken.
It also seems that the most motivated shooters are those who have been a victim of an assault. Confidence in the handgun and a concealed-carry permit, as well as a good working understanding of the handgun, go a long way toward aiding these women to defend themselves, if need be. If you are the right kind of trainer, you should never let the female student’s ability to pay decide if you take them on as a student. Many of these good girls are financially distressed for a number of reasons. When I was in law enforcement, I saw a number of young girls and elderly women who were robbed, beaten and assaulted in my city. I wish they had been better able to defend themselves. Sometimes, though, you hear about the occasional assailant who made a poor decision when choosing their victims. The results are gratifying to right-minded people.
The choice in handguns for females comes up a lot, and often the choice is made before the owner takes a class, which is a shame. The .38-caliber snub-nose revolver remains an excellent all-around choice for most female shooters, but perhaps the worst performance I have seen from them is when they are armed with some type of .40-caliber subcompact purchased by a well-meaning parent or spouse. These guns are just too much; the same goes for the snub-nose .357 Magnum. Even tough men have problems with these handguns. In my opinion, a shooter’s first handgun should be a good quality .22 caliber. The Ruger Standard Model is close to perfect, but even the aforementioned .38 is difficult to argue against for many reasons. A smaller caliber, such as the .380 ACP, has merit when used as a nasal inhaler for the bad guy, but is lacking the requisite balance of penetration and expansion. If you cannot control a 9mm automatic or a snub-nose .38, I would skip the rest and go straight to the .22 Magnum. A revolver may create a bulge on a woman’s hip like a boa that has swallowed a possum, but the nice thing about it is you can place it against an attacker’s chest and pull the trigger repeatably. It will not jam in the worst-case scenario. Think hard about the choices.
There are commercials that depict criminals breaking into homes, and when the alarms sounds, the criminal runs away. This may be true of the intruder who is only motivated by profit or startled by the sound, but a criminal who is abusive or violent will not be deterred by an alarm. Even in the best situation, police response is about 5 minutes, and a lot of damage can occur in that time.
When many of us began shooting, we were hopeless. But if the student has the will to learn, male or female, they will. ASJ
All right, it may be true confession time, but for quite a while the whole concept of the female hunter may have been a little lost on me. Outdoor TV, the source of much good and much bad, is to blame. Something about young women who look like models shooting whitetail bucks in a class that the average hunter will never see – much less get the chance to hunt – is somehow perplexing to me. Now, before you get out the tar and feathers, just remember that maybe I come from a time when this was not the norm.
“I am a serious hunter and all I’ve ever wanted was a gun truly made for me.
Try not to be too hard on an old ex-game warden shotgunner who might not be used to this. Hope springs eternal, however, and recently I came upon a bright spot in this journey. I met Haley Heath in the Weatherby booth at the NRA convention in Nashville this year. Heath has been a veteran of the outdoor and shooting industry for many years, and through her I saw things in a new light. Heath is the real deal: a hunter and a shooter. She was kind enough to talk to me for a bit and tell me her story.
“Since I was a little girl, sharing the outdoors with more females and children has been my mission. As a wife and mother of two, I have loved working in an industry that not only supports and encourages families in the outdoors, but now more than ever supports me as a woman,” she said.
Heath told me that when she started in the outdoor industry, over nine years ago, she owned two restaurants and worked a full time job at Bass Pro Shops. The problem was that she still had a desire for a career that provided more time doing what she loved, as well as time to be with her children. After almost a decade of doing just that, she is very proud to pass on her passion to her 10-year-old son Gunner, and daughter Dakota, who is 8. She was quick to say that she had the support of her husband Kemp, who also works with Weatherby.
“The girls found our fort, guys…
“At the beginning of my outdoor career there were a few female hunters and shooters, but the numbers have skyrocketed over the past few years. Trade shows rarely had well-known female hunters and shooters signing autographs at their booths like we have today. Instead, the only women you’d see were paid models to help attract visitors to company booths.”
Heath noted that as the number of females getting into hunting and shooting started to grow, companies thought shrinking their products and coloring it pink was the way to go, or simply trying to place a youth firearm in our hands. Fast forward to the present and she thinks women can feel confident and comfortable being a hunter or shooter, thanks to the support of companies like Weatherby and programs like The Women Of Weatherby.
The Women of Weatherby is a platform where novice to expert female hunters and shooters can seek and share information, tips and product recommendations. Weatherby is also seeking input to design a rifle made for women, by women.
“Being part of the Women Of Weatherby is what I have spent my whole career trying to achieve for women like myself,” Heath said. “I am a serious hunter and all I’ve ever wanted was a gun truly made for me. I don’t want a pink gun or a youth model. I am a woman and I am a hunter!”
As I said, a rifle made for women by women. The women of Weatherby are: Rachel Ahtila, a Canadian hunting guide; Karissa Pfantz, a college student and outdoorswoman who is new to the outdoor industry; Jessie Duff, who is a world champion shooter on Team Weatherby; and Heath, wife, mother, huntress and TV host. All of these ladies will be doing weekly blogs and responding to women’s questions, thoughts and opinions.
The girls found our fort, guys, we may as well get used to it. Heath and The Women of Weatherby are one of the groups that will blaze the trail for all women in shooting. ASJ
Shotguns come in a variety of types – single shot, pump action, autoloading, side by side and over and under. There is a diehard group of shotgun shooters and collectors who consider a side by side the only style truly worth their time, and nowhere in the United States can you find more of these male and female side-by-side aficionados in one place than the Spring Southern Side by Side Championship and Exhibition, held each year at the Deep River Sporting Clays and Shooting School outside the central North Carolina town of Sanford.
The shooting rules are casual, with the only stipulation being that all guns shot on the sporting-clays course must have horizontally aligned barrels. This is more of an exhibition, so although some shooters take their shooting very seriously, posting a good score is secondary for many, with camaraderie and a chance to rub elbows with fellow side-by-side enthusiasts being the true main attraction. It’s called a championship, but that’s just for bragging rights – there’s no purse, there’s no betting, and there are so many trophy categories that it’s almost like a kid’s soccer club.
One of the more notable changes at the Spring Southern over recent years has been the influx of lady shooters. They’re not just attendees either, but actual competitors. Groups such as Girls Really Into Shooting have led the way for more women to get involved.
Bill Kempffer, owner of the Deep River shooting school, says he’s seen a steady uptick in the number of women shooters over the years. Kempffer serves on the National Shooting Sports Foundation Board of Governors and has been in the shooting sports business since the 1950s – certainly long enough to notice any trends in the industry. “I’ve seen big changes – particularly in the last 20 years, and Deep River has been around for 27 years,” he says. “In the beginning you’d occasionally have a wife or a daughter come out to shoot, but around 15 years ago we had an increase in single mothers who would bring their sons to the range to be around men and learn masculine things, because that’s what their fathers and brothers did. In the last five to 10 years more women have stepped out and started doing it themselves.”
Elizabeth Lanier didn’t shoot much as a child growing up in Texas, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she handles her shotgun on the clays course. On her call of “pull,” two orange targets are launched and instantly turned to dust by her 12-gauge side by side. Liz’s childhood experience with guns was limited to 4th of July celebrations when the men in her family would set up a few soda bottles for the youngsters to shoot with .22 rimfires. Several years back she bought her then-husband a set of five shooting lessons, tagging along with him for the first outing. She discovered she liked shooting so much that she used the remaining four lessons on herself. “I thought it was great therapy; it was something I could go out and do that was just about me, the shotgun and the target. I used to drive my kids up to the five-stand and leave the car running, air conditioning on and a movie playing. They were all in car seats and I’d take an hour lesson, go back to the car and they’d all be sound asleep. It was wonderful fun,” she said.
As things progressed, Lanier figured she needed to learn more so she could help the group become more proficient. She got her National Sporting Clays Association level I certification, and then her level II. The only woman in a class of nine, she was so full of nervous excitement that she literally cried when she was awarded her certification. One thing led to another, and people started coming to her for instruction, but she says money has never been the object – it’s the love of the sport that drives her. Her sights were then squarely set on her level III certification, which she considered the ultimate goal – one that would place her in a select group of women so few you can count them on one hand. Lanier calls the day she obtained her level III certification one of her proudest moments. After weathering her divorce, instructing morphed into a career that not only offsets the cost of her hobbies, but ultimately ended up supporting her and her kids.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, how much money you have, what you do for a living – we’re all together to have fun, to enjoy being outside and shooting,” says Lanier. “People would see us out shooting and think, ‘Oh, my, those ladies are having a good time!’”
With five chapters and two more currently in the works, GRITS is spreading the word that women and shotguns are a good combination You’ll know GRITS girls at clay competitions. They’re the ladies smiling and slapping high-fives while shooting the course. It’s the love of the sport that keeps them and their side-by-side shotguns coming back for more. ASJ
Posted in Shotgun Tagged with: Bugsy Graves, Deep River Sporting Clays, Elizabeth Lanier, Ella Lanier, girls, GRITS, Judy Holiday, Judy Hughes, Marilyn Mcllvain, Mimi Wingfield, Shooting, Shotgun, Side by side, Women and guns
When it comes to who is the better shooter and why, men or women, the iconic Irving Berlin duet from Annie Get Your Gun immediately springs to mind. “Anything you can do I can do better! I can do anything better than you” is sung while Annie Oakley and Frank Butler prepare for the climactic sharpshooting contest in the classic Broadway musical. For an object as functionally gender-neutral as a gun, why is it that each of the sexes assumes they are better adept at mastering it? Any quality instructor will tell you the real weapon is not the gun. The educated mind that controls the gun possesses the real power. Therefore, do men and women learn and process information differently especially with a gun in hand?
“men are quick to act and apply aggression in a dynamic self-defense scenario”
There is still much uncharted territory when it comes to the human mind. The scientific community offers studies of both children and adults that prove more similarities between the sexes than there are differences at the biological level. Painting with a wide brush can lead dangerously down a path that reinforces gender-specific stereotypes and hinders learning down range. That being said, touching on some of the salient points that make men and women unique is worth investigating.
From an instructor’s perspective, new male shooters tend to learn better when introduced to a concept or technique by presenting the mechanics of the skill first and then putting that activity into context. Women tend to learn the same skill best when introduced to the context of when and why that particular skill is important and then taught the mechanics of putting it to use. The result is the same: the student learns both the action and the application, though from opposite perspectives. Both are fully capable of executing the skill set with precise fine and gross motor skills, regardless of gender, and put it to use when and where appropriate in the real world.
Male and female brains have a number of well-documented structural differences that illustrate how men and women process information. One major difference is in the grey and white matter of the brain and how the sexes use it all to process information. The female brain utilizes more white matter (the connective network that links the information and action processing centers of the brain) by a multiple of 10, and that may be why women are considered better at making social connections, observational connections and are better at multi-tasking than men. By contrast, men utilize seven times more gray matter (the information and action centers that are localized in different regions of the brain), which is largely why men are attributed with being good at task-focused activities, having tunnel vision or a “one-track mind.”
“Women often need to be taught how to tap into that aggressive and competitive part of themselves”
New firearm students offer the best opportunity to see these differences in action, especially in a high-stress environment like their first force-on-force class. Students often break down into two categories that display these brain behaviors without prejudice. Women can be observed as seeing and processing a wide range of critical information, yet they often hesitate to take specific action, while in a first-time force-on-force scenario men can be observed to identify one specific problem and focus intently on it missing other threats entirely. This isn’t to say that both aren’t guilty of making the same beginner mistakes, nor does it mean that these mistakes can’t be corrected with proper instruction.
The male and female brain differ at a chemical level as well. Women produce more oxitocin and seratonin than men. These two chemicals are associated with an ability to be calmer and have more relationship and bonding behaviors. Men, on the other hand, produce more testosterone that is associated with varied levels of aggression and impulsiveness. Both men and women produce these neurochemicals, but to varying levels. The very nature of self- and home defense require a realistic preparation for an uncomfortable level of violence. Women are the largest growing demographic in the firearms community largely because of an interest in being able to protect themselves and the ones they love. The fact that they are taking ownership and personal responsibility for their safety rather than deferring to their male counterparts for protection proves that they are capable of flipping the chemical switch to face violence head on. Not only are women making the retail investment of the gun and the gear, but they’re also investing in their continued education on how to use them in context with their lives.
“Mankind has proven time and again that such defining traits are not exclusive to either sex”
Joining a firing line with a dozen bearded, molle-covered, tactical hipsters is out of the question for most women new to shooting. Women generally prefer to begin their journey into the world of firearms by training with other women. This birds-of-a-feather model is successful in part because it appeals to a woman’s inclination towards social interaction and community.
Men represent the predominant student population of run-and-gun, tactical-ninja, and gun-camp courses. These courses are generally physically intense, mentally taxing, and speak directly to understanding violence and how to counter it in kind. This isn’t to say that women don’t also enjoy the athleticism and aggressive nature of shoot house, force-on-force or vehicle close-quarter battle training, but it is typically not their initial launching point for learning. While men are quick to act and apply aggression in a dynamic self-defense scenario, they often need to be taught how to slow down and take in the details so they can take appropriate action. Women, by contrast, often need to be taught how to tap into that aggressive and competitive part of themselves to apply that same action.
Mankind has proven time and again that such defining traits are not exclusive to either sex. We didn’t attain apex-predator status without a brain that made us adaptable problem-solvers. For all of the differences that have been observed between the male and female brain there is no evidence that one is more optimized for firearms use than the other. Having an understanding of these types of gender-specific tendencies helps instructors build curriculums and better communicate with students. A desire to learn and a commitment to personal development down range is the only differentiating factor between the Annie Oakleys, Frank Butlers and everyone else in the shooting world. The gun allows us a unique opportunity to meet at the firing line, cast off societal stereotypes and engage in friendly competition to prove just how alike we really are. ASJ