Kirsten Joy Weiss is having ‘a great time’ sharing her performance shooting with the firearms community and helping assuage anti-gunners’ fears.
About four years ago, one of my editors sent me a link to a YouTube video where a beautiful, ponytailed young woman
named Kirsten Joy Weiss shot balloons on the roadside with a .22 rifle while speeding past on the back of a motorcycle. “Wow,” I thought, “where did that girl learn to shoot?!?”
I later learned that her air and smallbore rifle competitive shooting had earned her plenty of medals and brought her to world championships and the brink of the Olympics.
Since that first video, and scores more exciting content that
followed on YouTube, Weiss has made a reputation for herself as a performance shooter, compelling advocate of shooting sports, and articulate spokeswoman for the Second Amendment by sharing “the fun, challenge and joy of shooting” with her audience. Her videos are still on YouTube (youtube.com/KirstenJoyWeiss or Google “the Joy of Shooting”), but due to anti-gun censorship on that platform, she now saves most in-depth content and interactions with her online community for her own website, KirstenJoyWeiss.com.
Hers is among the web’s most popular shooting channels and also the largest female gun channel in the world. Watching her videos and reading her blogs reveals the source of her popularity. Her shooting is both amazing and fun to watch.
Her talent is unmarred by arrogance and she humbly shares her misses along with her hits. She comes across as genuine, rather than a character, and that is the wellspring of her appeal.
She is not a self-important and self-proclaimed celebrity using the internet to show off.
With Weiss, it’s not “Look what I can do!” Rather, it’s “Look what you can do and how much fun we can have!” She’s a shooting buddy who’s a lot better than you but never rubs it in when you miss, willingly shares her knowledge to help you improve, knows the pros and cons of that new gun you were thinking about buying, and her enthusiasm for fun shooting makes her a pleasure to be with at the range.
You want to try to shoot eggs at 300 yards offhand? She’s in.
Want to see how many marshmallow Peeps it takes to stop a .22 bullet?
She’s got them in her shooting bag. Want to shoot colored exploding targets? She knows a recipe you can make in the kitchen. Always wanted to test out a cool World War II Australian Owen submachinegun?
She brought two with her, and the Gunny too! You want a range
nickname you can be proud of? She’s got one for you, Sharp Shot.
American Shooting Journal How do you feel about being called a modern Annie Oakley?
Kirsten Joy Weiss She’s a pretty sacred American icon. We have similarities, for certain. And I love that people call me that. It’s an honor! But she certainly had her unique things and
I certainly have mine. I don’t seek to copy her, or anyone. One thing most trick shots have in common is they hate the term “trick shot.”
But it’s got great SEO (search engine optimization) [laughs], and the mainstream public understands what it means. So I put a bit of my ego aside – bit the bullet, so to speak – in order to reach them. Outreach is my whole point. I have coined the term “performance shooting” for what I do.
ASJ Why did you become a performance shooter on the internet?
KJW I wanted to reach people with more than just words. There’s a lot of negative energy around guns these days, and it wasn’t always like this. I grew up with guns being a fun and useful thing. Long story short, when I returned from abroad, I saw this negative fear battle going on.
Will the criminal get a gun? Will I have a gun if the criminal comes? Anti-gun and pro-gun often pivot on this fear point, yet it’s not what the majority of people who are gun owners truly experience at the range. So, I knew I needed to show that positive emotion. At the time, I couldn’t find one piece of truly positive content to share online – even jokes were caustic – so I created my own content.
Being on camera was not my first choice. You can see I’m still getting used to it [laughs]. But I realized it was the best way to show people; to engage them on the emotional level to share the truth of our experience. It was the best way to both encourage our community and reach out to people on the fence. This was a lot harder of a path for me, but good in the long run. Now after so many years of sharing this positive aspect of shooting, I see a better shift in our culture than before. But positivity and encouragement is still desperately needed.
Basically, I started with trick shots for two reasons. First, I wanted to have fun with what I’m doing while still pushing myself and challenging myself. Even in my Olympic-style
rifle competition days I chose to compete against myself. It’s a healthier mentality with no limits.
Second, but really most importantly, trick shooting shows the
positive reality of shooting in action.
It reaches a broader, mainstream audience and that is a very big part of why I do it. I want to strengthen, maybe even inspire, our community and also to reach people outside our community who are on the fence about guns and the Second Amendment.
And it absolutely works. I’ve even changed the minds of many complete anti-gunners over the years.
Basically, it comes down to this: Most people who identify as anti-gun are stirred emotionally, not logically.
It’s more phobic than intellectual. People are more ignorant than informed. I’m here to change that.
I get messages frequently letting me know how my channel, work
and attitude has influenced people for the better. And that’s extremely rewarding. But bottom line, my whole mission is to share the positive reality of shooting and the freedom it protects, and inspire others to do the same.
ASJ What’s the big obstacle to winning over the non-shooter, or worse, the anti-gunner?
KJW I think it’s fear. Psychologists say that fear is often a motivation not to do something, but it rarely
motivates people to do something.
It’s an inaction emotion. How do we get new people to try shooting in greater masses? Or if they do, how do we keep them going? I see a lot of people, especially women, getting
involved in self-defense shooting.
This is great and I don’t discourage it one bit! However, it’s that fear motivation again. Women will often pick up a gun for conceal carry but never truly train with it. And can you blame them?
If they constantly envision that target they’re training on is a potential rapist … that’s not something you want to truly dwell on every Saturday night.
ASJ It does sound pretty grim when you put it like that.
KJW My sensei in Japan would tease me because he and I were the only ones usually smiling during training.
In fact, they called him the smiling sensei. One day he told me that the most powerful way of learning is to have fun with something.
Studies also say having fun with something ingrains it into the brain in a deeper sense. Fear does not do this in the same way. Plus, if you enjoy something, you also want to do it much more often, and no one can deny the benefit of quality training.
Shooting is an art, a martial art too. I enjoy the process and the deeper aspects of shooting.
There’s always something to learn and always a way to challenge yourself, no matter what level you’re at in your journey. It’s also a sport where your best opponent is truly yourself.
Competing with others only limits you. Because I enjoy it, I push my limits naturally. There doesn’t even have to be anyone around to see. I
can have fun surrounded by people, or just on my own in the desert with nothing but prairie dogs and tumbleweed to witness the shots.
The art of shooting is intrinsically rewarding. Do I have skills that could be extremely useful in dangerous or threatening scenarios? Absolutely, but that’s not what I’m thinking
about when I’m plinking an egg offhand at 300 yards. I’m having,
simply, a great time.
ASJ Why do you think you have been successful with your particular personable style of outreach to nonshooters
KJW I’m about positive action, sharing with others in fun, showing them guns are not scary but just tools
– tools that can be used for good. I’m breaking stereotypes by being open to people’s understandable fears and gently showing them another picture, a true picture. That is all crucial.
I am a very logical person. However, I also know that logic
falls flat against the wall of emotion, especially in the aftermath of a horrible act of violence like what happened in Parkland, Florida (in February).
We are dealing with a massive wall of emotion here. We need to meet emotional, scared people with kindness, good examples, generous sharing, and hopefully even their own first-hand
experience. I’ve yet to have even one anti-gunner who tried shooting with me not like it.
I hear similar stories from my fans. We’re feeding a positive movement and community. We’re strengthening our community, so we can have actual change in our society, not just bully people into winning arguments.
I’ve been able to reach the mainstream with the positive reality of shooting, which in turn helps them open up to the idea of protecting our human rights and freedoms.
ASJ You were on NBC’s Today Show in a segment about “The New Face of Gun Ownership in America” but you turned down an opportunity for massive national exposure on the
syndicated television show America’s Got Talent. What the heck?
KJW Well, on The Today Show I got to be who I am, the PR person for guns and freedom [laughs]. On America’s
Got Talent, they wanted me but not the scary guns, so that was the end of that.
Sure, they had about 16 million plus people who watched every
episode at the time, but I’m not going to sell out my principles. Character, not fame or money, is what makes a
person worthwhile. ASJ What are your observations on the rising trend of gun ownership among women?
KJW This is more a pet peeve, but people throw this word “empowerment” around with women all the time and often around guns. I loathe the word. It’s overused and empty, and implies a person is some weak thing and an object empowers
them. No. Women and people in general already have the ability
to try things, go after things and learn things.
An object cannot give you power. It’s your attitude, your
tenacity, your efforts, your spirit. Having a gun never made anyone stronger or more capable. Taking the time to know how to use the gun you have, and having the attitude and strength to know that a gun is just a tool in your hands and you are what
needs to be trained, is true power.
ASJ You seem to have a sincere rapport with your fans, whom you affectionately call “Sharp Shots” in your videos and on your blog.
KJW My community is unusually inclusive and positive for the internet. People comment on how it doesn’t even feel like the internet when they visit me online because the comments and people are so kind and hopeful.
Sure, you get trolls and negative people – it’s the internet. But truly, it’s amazing. My community and people – calling
them fans seems too shallow – are right alongside me. Actually, they’re more important than me because I’m just one person. Maybe I’m a little Energizer battery in the whole system.
But without the people following what I do, being inspired,
sharing with others, this wouldn’t even be a quarter as powerful.
And I have plans to energize them even more in the future as we continue to grow. Big things are coming.
ASJ My kids wanted to see your many and varied marshmallow Peep experiments, but when I went to YouTube they were gone.
What gives? Do you secretly hate kids?
KJW No, no, just Peeps candy [laughs]. My content is family friendly by design and it’s great when kids and their parents watch the videos together. It’s really special to me. Those videos disappeared because I, and other pro-freedom
creators, are dealing with various censorship issues across platforms.
In fact, fairly recently, YouTube verified and publicly apologized for an “overzealous” mass effort from some of their fresh hires who unfairly marked videos, like my positive gun content, that otherwise fully complied with the platform’s
Why did they attack pro-gun content? Simply because they disagreed with it. These censorship efforts can demonetize videos, limit the videos’ audience, block videos, and outright delete entire channels. The funny thing is, YouTube is the least
censorship-happy platform out of all of the major networks. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are fast becoming echo chambers for anti-freedom thought.
The times we live in are actually really interesting, and it’s important to be aware of how our access to information is being
manipulated. I swim in these stormy waters by choice because that is the best way to reach people who otherwise will never hear the true message.
If you allow the erosion of the First Amendment, it’s a heck of
a lot harder to defend the rest of the Constitution. My work isn’t easy, but I’m proud to step up and do it.
To get back to the missing Peeps videos, I deliberately put a majority of my videos on private to at least curtail the efforts of those anti-gun/anti-freedom online censors while we figure out what their next move is. I couldn’t bring myself to make the
entire channel private.
Other creators have. I feel it may be safer now, so I will make the Peep videos public, for your kiddos.
ASJ With YouTube blocking and demonetizing your videos, how do you pay the bills?
KJW Well, my parents raised me to be frugal and tenacious, which is good because it’s a complicated dance to keep the machine fueled.
All the major social media platforms either attack gun-related content or permit it to be unfairly attacked.
There are too many ways they censor to list here. Some more covert, like something called “shadow banning.”
Others more overt, like alert messages blocking a post. I’ve often seen a kind, insult-free comment explaining about human rights hit with a big warning sign telling us the platform (Instagram especially) “restricts certain comments for the
protection of the community.”
It’s a constant fight to try to undo their damage. I’ve always had to work triple-time to fuel this. Any income sources I gain, like YouTube revenue, consulting jobs, or sponsors like
Grunt Style, goes right back into the mission.
The key is to decentralize their power over us and give that
power to the people. That’s what America was founded on after all, right? “We the People!” This is why I started patreon.com/KirstenJoyWeiss to share my channel’s message
without puppet strings of Google or Facebook, etc. As the name implies, the site allows patrons to offer their direct financial support.
But it’s better than that. It is a community gathering together for greater communication and power. E pluribus unum in action.
It’s incredibly exciting. Plus, if my patreon site ever goes down the rabbit hole, I can still contact my patrons/members and we will simply create another way around this gosh awful
Tenacity is in my nature.
ASJ I have one more question for you. Since we couldn’t watch the Peep videos, my kids and I watched the one where you shoot the mini watermelon with a P38 pistol from
a one-legged yoga pose. As soon as you brought out the melon, my
four-year-old daughter said, “I love watermelons!” She was perplexed when you blew it apart. She turned to me and asked, “Why does the pretty lady hate watermelons?”
KJW I love watermelons too.
ASJ You have a funny way of showing it.
Editor’s note: You can visit with Kirsten Joy Weiss at her social media sites youtube.com/KirstenJoyWeiss
When you like her posts and subscribe to her page, you are
helping her spread the message of “the fun, challenge and joy of shooting” to the masses. For more direct shooter-toshooter
interaction and sophisticated shooting content, visit her webpages at KirstenJoyWeiss.com and patreon.com/KirstenJoyWeiss.
Story by Frank Jardim