The Gauntlet for Girls
Story and photographs by Robert Campbell
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.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
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. AmSJ