Females and Firearms

The author believes a proper shooting outfit increases confidence.

Some tips for foraying into the shooting sports

by Teresa Mull

The first time, several years ago, I went to my local sportsmen’s club to check out the Tuesday night trap league, I was nervous. I figured it would be almost entirely men with sophisticated shotguns who took the sport very seriously. So, to alleviate some of my anxiety over masculine saturation, I asked my dad to tag along. Having him there gave me a lot of comfort, but didn’t do much to bolster my sense of being a strong, independent female making great strides for my sex in the shooting sports.

I grew up around guns and feel confident in the firearms realm, yet even for me, the gun world can be intimidating. Sure enough, my trap league consisted of about 60 men and just three women—including me. As I’ve written before, everyone was warm and welcoming and excited to have a newcomer learn the joys of trap shooting. (And for the record, though there were plenty of guys with sophisticated shotguns who took the sport very seriously, there were also novices with cheap guns, and every other type of shooter in between.) Still, it was the other lady shooters who made me feel most at ease.

Deirdre Lang is an expert at making apprehensive female shooters feel at ease; as one of the masterminds behind Caesar Guerini’s Syren line of shotguns, designed exclusively for women, she spends months out of the year traveling to shows and events doing just that. And, as we prepare for another season of shooting, here are some tips for getting women, or getting yourself as a woman, into guns—ideas I gleaned from the gracious Deirdre:

Find a gun that fits

“A lot of it is fear,” Deirdre says, though she estimates 80 percent of the women she encounters at shooting events in which Syren takes part are “open to it.” The hangup is often based on a woman’s experience shooting with dad or a significant other and using a gun designed for a man that kicks a lot and/or doesn’t fit her properly.

Which is where Syren comes in: “If the gun fits you well, it’s not going to hurt you,” Deirdre explained.

Syren’s mission is “to provide the equipment and knowledge that make the experience [of participating in shooting, hunting, and the great outdoors] more enjoyable and less stressful.” Producing guns designed specifically for the female form is the first step.

Shoot first, targets later

To overcome the fear of pain from a recoil-heavy gun, Deirdre recommends having a new shooter begin by simply holding and mounting the gun before introducing any type of target (she also recommends starting with a semi-auto).

“I usually just have the person pull the trigger to see how it feels,” she says. “It’s really exciting when they say, ‘Hey, that didn’t hurt me!’”

Once a lady is assured her gun is a useful friend and not a fiend wont to pack a wallop, she can transition to targets. Hitting a target, of course, is “empowering,” says Deirdre. “It gives you a real sense of ‘I can do it!’”

Find a tribe, make it fun

Hitting a target is also addictive, and fortunately for females “tired of shooting with their husbands and his friends,” as Deirdre puts it, there are a growing number of women-only shooting organizations and events sprouting up across the country. (Several women, by the way, have joined my Tuesday night league since I did all those years ago.)

In Florida, for instance, there are the Honeybelles, who look so fun and sweet, I’m half-tempted to trade my Appalachian autumns for sweltering Floridian summers (don’t worry, men, if you want to shoot with them you can, but you’ll be referred to as a “Honeydew”).

Similarly, the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club each year invites “all ladies with interests in shotguns, clay shooting, upland hunting, cooking, shopping, and connecting with other like-minded women” to the “Feathers & Tweed” event.

This is Miss Mull’s shooting friend, Felicity.

There are likewise lots of lodges and resorts that offer girls’ getaways and a more glamorous approach to the sporting lifestyle, which can be a nice change of pace. Plus, I believe dressing the part puts me in a more “shooty” state of mind and improves my aim. Either that or I just like any excuse to invest in cute clothes and accessories, which also now abound for the fashionable female shooter.

Deirdre finds walking in the woods with some some dogs and some shotguns to be cathartic and a wonderful way to build confidence in the shooting sports as well as camaraderie with female friends. (Also, a glass of wine at the end of it all doesn’t hurt.) Deirdre has also witnessed women starting their own girls’ groups and organizing their own outings that further build their bonds and shooting skills—two invaluable elements of life.

Teresa Mull finds that pink or red nail polish on her trigger finger drastically improves her shot, and possibly daunts the male competition.