Women earning more leadership positions in shooting sports

Publisher/Editor, Barbara Baird, over at Women’s Outdoor News, has a good post today about leading ladies in the shooting industry.  She notes that in the shooting sports, women have been allowed to compete on a level playing field with men, and have risen to leadership positions in the industry, overall.

As Barbara said, “. . . are we seeing a paradigm here? Women tried to play football and no one attended the games. Women’s sports, even at collegiate levels, do not command the gate revenue that men’s sports do. But, in the shooting sports, where women shoot during the same tournament or match, yet compete against other women (and themselves, really), are we seeing the rise of women in leadership levels because they are allowed to compete alongside the men, and compete in other areas then, as well?”

Check out her story here:  “Ladies, first, in the gun industry?

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A Girl, A Glock, and the NRA Pistol Quals – Part 2

Well, it didn’t take nearly as long to complete the handgun qualifications through Expert as it did to write about them, so here is the second part of my NRA pistol qualification quest.

In my last post about the quals I was mid-way through the Marksman 1st Class level, which I completed.  Marksman 1st Class requires two-hand shooting, both strong side and weak side.  This means that you hold the gun with both hands in a normal grip for the strong side shooting, then switch your grip so that the weak hand pulls the trigger during the next set.  It takes a minute to figure out this grip using your weak hand, sort of like trying to cross your arms in the opposite direction than you are used to.

I was shooting at an AP-1 target, so had to shoot from 30 feet, and as with all the prior levels, it required ten qualifying targets.  There are two stages to M1stC:  The first stage being five shots in three minutes, strong side; and the second stage being five shots in three minutes, weak side, for a total of ten shots per target.

This is the first level of the qualification that requires a minimum score.  To pass this level you must acquire five targets with a score of 46 or better and five targets with a score of 56 or better.  The targets do not have to be shot in the same session.

The next level is Sharpshooter, which is the same stance and grip as M1stC, but with a faster time limit and higher minimum score.  For this level the shooter must fire five shots in 20 seconds with the strong-hand grip and five shots in 20 seconds with the weak-hand – still a two-hand grip, ten shots per target.

Scoring for Sharpshooter is, again, ten targets total, five with a score of 60 or better and five with a score of 65 or better.  Both stages for a target must be shot in the same session, but the ten targets do not have to be completed on the same day.

Now we get to the Expert level, which is shot one-handed, both strong-side and weak-side.  Once again at 30 feet for the AP-1 target and 15 feet for the AP-2 target, the shooter must fire five shots in three minutes and five shots in ten seconds with the strong hand; and then fire five shots in three minutes and five shots in ten seconds with the weak hand – for a total of 20 shots per target.

The complete Expert course (20 rounds) must be fired twice with a score of 130 or better and three times with a score of 150 or better.

Now we get to the highest prize, the Distinquished Expert level, which will encompass everything we have done in all previous levels, and which must be witnessed by a current NRA member, instructor, or coach, and for which paperwork must be submitted to the NRA in order to receive acknowledgement in the NRA magazine.

This level should be completed by hanging three targets at eye level, about an inch apart, and they are shot from the same distances as the previous levels.  There are four stages to this level and each of the four stages must be shot during the same session, but the qualifying targets need not be shot on the same day.

In Stage 1, the shooter will fire five rounds, strong side, with two hands in ten seconds.  Stage 2 is the same, except that the rounds are fired with one hand only, the strong hand.  Stage 3 requires five rounds fired with two hands, weak side, in 10 seconds.  For Stage 4, the shooter must place five rounds in the targets in 10 seconds, with the weak hand only.

Scoring for this level requires the shooter to acquire three targets with a minimum score of 145 or better, and three targets with a score of 170 or better.

So, all that to say that I have one more level to complete, Distinguished Expert; and it’s a level I hope to master within the next month.

Wish me luck ~ and happy shooting!

I’ve Got A Thing For The Ping!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that [ping]…”

Oh, I got the ping, and now I’ve got a thing for Steel Challenge shooting!  Coming in at #1 among only two women who used a centerfire pistol with iron sights (9mm, no scope), I might not have swept the field with my shooting prowess, but I definitely had fun and found out I really like shooting this event.

I set out recently on a quest to try all of the different styles of handgun sports, and am now placing Steel Challenge at the top, probably because, unlike Bullseye shooting, I can score relatively well with an off-the-shelf gun and no modifications.  Of course, trigger modifications may come into play as I progress with my Steel Challenge skills, but you can shoot well and enjoy the sport with a standard, factory firearm.

My firearm of choice for this match was a Glock 34, which my awesome husband bought specifically for me to use at these events.  It has a long barrel, which makes for less kick and more accuracy, and the trigger can be easily modified to get those rounds off much faster.  Right now, I’m focused more on accuracy, so I’m not worried about speed as much; but then, without the speed, you won’t do well in the rankings, so the two go hand in hand.

Steel Challenge is an event where the shooter stands in one place, in a square drawn on the ground, in fact, and shoots at targets set up at various distances.  The targets are generally ten-inch steel plates (although some plates are even larger).  When said steel plates are struck by the beautiful brass of a bullet, they make a lovely “ping,” sounding a bit like wind chimes, and letting you know you hit your mark.

At first glance, the course looks really easy, since the target stands are set at pretty reasonable distances, some even only a few yards away.  “Oh, that’s going to be easy,” I thought.  And while it’s not hard, there are several factors that come into play to make this sport, as its name implies, a challenge.

Anyone with test anxiety may have a difficult time with Steel Challenge just in the fact that everyone else is watching you shoot.  Unlike a shooting event where everyone is shooting at the same time, in Steel Challenge, only one shooter is shooting each stage, so all the other shooters in that squad are waiting patiently for their turn to shoot – and are watching everything you do.  That can be a bit un-nerving for those of us who are new and maybe a bit self-conscious.  And I was nervous.  I didn’t properly seat my magazine twice and it fell out on the ground, which has never happened to me before; but I gathered myself together and pressed on, trying to put all of those observers out of my mind.

Another challenge for me was that since I was using a 9mm, I had to draw from a holster, which I wasn’t used to at that time.  Only centerfire guns are drawn from a holster; rimfire shooters start from the ready position and do not use one.  Most of my shooting time has been straight target shooting, where my gun can be laid on the table in front of me when it is not in use.  And even at the Bullseye Match, the guns are laid on the table, so drawing and shooting from a holster – heck, even wearing one – was new to me.  I felt like I was at the OK Corral, my hand hovering in mid-air near my holster, twitching, waiting for the buzzer to allow me to try to find the gun and draw it quickly and smoothly – which sometimes actually happened :0)

Also, it’s not the distance of the targets that makes it difficult to shoot the stages, it’s more the transitioning between them – trying to hit every target as quickly as possible, moving on to the next target, and remembering to shoot the stop plate last.  Each stage has one target that is the “stop plate,” which must be hit only at the end.  If it is hit before any of the others, there is a three-second penalty added to every unhit target – and seconds really matter in this game; in fact, tenths and even hundredths of seconds matter.  Most stages can be shot in three seconds, or less, by those more experienced.  Others of us, though, only dream about those times.

The Steel Challenge course I participated in consisted of five stages, each with four or five targets set up in various configurations and at various distances.  Each shooter enters the shooting area (think batter’s box) and when the buzzer goes off, shoots through the course as quickly and accurately as possible.  Then they show clear and/or reholster their gun.  The same shooter shoots each course five times in a row, the highest score is thrown out, and the remaining scores are totaled.  Lowest score wins.

Steel Challenge has many categories for shooters, which makes it easy to find your niche.  The first division is Rimfire: any pistol firing .22 Long Rifle ammo, with either iron sights or optics.  The next division is Centerfire:  any pistol firing 9mm/.38 special ammo, or larger.  Under the Centerfire division are several different categories, such as:  Open (all legal firearms are allowed, scope or iron sights); Iron Sight (any pistol without optics); Production (any double action or safe action pistol on the USPSA Production gun list); Optic Revolver, Iron Sight Revolver; Cowboy Single Action; Steel Master (competitors with the lowest score in a combination of three categories); and Long Guns.

And while all shooters compete for overall placement in a match, according to the Steel Challenge Shooting Association website, participants may also choose to compete for category-specific awards.  Those categories are:  Lady, Law Enforcement, Military, Pre-Teen (under 13), Junior (13-17), Senior (55-64), and Super Senior (65 and older).  Basically, if you can’t find your niche in Steel Challenge shooting, you’re just not looking hard enough.

So now I’m searching the websites and calendars for my next opportunity to shoot this fun sport.  Next time, I will not allow myself to become as flustered with the audience and the time factor, will slow it down just a notch, improve my accuracy, enter both the Iron Sight and the Lady categories, and listen for that lovely ping when my brass finds its mark.  Come join me!

The Bullseye Outside My Comfort Zone

This weekend I entered a bullseye pistol match, completely unaware of what I was getting myself into, but willing to try anything at least once.  I intended to just watch the match, but when we got to the range I decided maybe I would try it – and soon wondered what medication I must have been on to even think I could do it.

A bullseye match is shot at 50 and 25 yards…not feet, yards…okay, that’s 150 and 75 feet.  Let me try again…picture looking at the end zone of a football field from the 50 yard line.  Have I given you some idea of how far away the target seems at those distances?  I hope so, because although the targets are large, they look really small and far away when you are standing on the line.

Not only are the targets much further than I had shot before, the course of fire is timed. And just to make it more difficult, you have to shoot the complete course one-handed.  Now fortunately, for those who shoot bullseye on a regular basis, this shooting sport does allow modifications to the guns and gear – and bullseye shooters use many.  They use red dot scopes, specially made grips, weights to prevent muzzle flip, nets to catch the brass, blinders, special glasses with a flap to cover one eye without having to squint, and more.

What did I have in this competition?  Just my off-the-shelf Glock 19 and Beretta .22, my sunglasses, my ear protection, and…yeah, that’s about it.  And if you include the fact that I was the only woman in the match, that I had no clue how the course of fire was to be shot, and that I started off shooting my neighbor’s target instead of my own (don’t judge; the targets are close together and I was nervous), you will have some idea of just how intimidating this event was for me.

BUT I did it, and that’s the point.  I was nervous, under-equipped, and under-educated, but I got out there and did it – and I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself.  In fact, my neighbor that was supposed to be scoring my targets (you score for your neighbor) actually quit scoring for me when I made a 64 out of 100 in one round and he made a score in the 70’s.  Of course, I was thrilled to get over 50% considering my handicaps, and I knew that based on his other scores, this one was unusually low for him, but he seemed to take it personally and gave me a little snub during the remainder of the shoot.  That’s okay, though.  I wasn’t there to try to win or to act like I knew what I was doing; I was there to get my feet wet, find out what these bullseye matches were all about, and get some experience.  At that, I was successful.

There were about 10 or 12 shooters in this match, all men, and some of them were extremely helpful – even letting me know that I could slow down on the first string, since I had 10 minutes to shoot 10 rounds.  That was not easy, though, because I couldn’t hold my gun up too long without beginning to wobble, and if you are not aiming, what is the point of waiting?   Later strings, however, were shot at the timed fire and rapid fire rate, so those were much faster – oh, and the targets turn when the time is up, so you either get all your rounds off in the appointed time, or you’re just out of luck.

Overall, I was pleased with the match and my performance, in that, as I stated earlier, this was more of a fact-finding mission than anything else, and I felt quite courageous for even having tried it.  There were several reasons, though, that I could have used as excuses not to even enter this event and give it a try.  As I said, I did not have the correct guns; I certainly did not have a scope; I had never previously observed a match and didn’t know the course of fire; I had never shot at those distances, especially one-handed; and I was the only newbie on the line.  I also had some physical reasons that I might have used to keep me in the observation chairs, rather than standing on the line; so the primary point I want to make is to just get out there and try.  You really do not know what you can do if you don’t try.  I didn’t worry about what the men would think of me, and I didn’t let the other deficiencies stop me either.  I tried something new in the shooting world, I didn’t suck too badly at it (considering), and I had fun.  How can you go wrong with that?

Sometimes I think women let obstacles to the various shooting sports become overwhelming and keep them from trying new things.  Don’t do that!  Come on ladies, put your big-girl panties on, get out there, ask for help, and try it!  You never know, your new favorite sport might be only 50 yards away!

Bullseye shooters on the line

Me and my gear 😦

A Girl, a Glock, and the NRA Pistol Quals – Part 1

NRA Women's Pistol Patch

After months of shooting at random targets, I decided to try to become certified in something – not certifiable, mind you, but certified.  My search for a way to begin climbing the ladder of credibility led me to the NRA Pistol Qualifications, which I figured was a good place to start.

The first two levels in the qualifications only require that you shoot at a nine-inch paper plate, or nine-inch target, but I went ahead and purchased the NRA AP-1 targets, because I would need them for future levels.  The AP-1 is a fairly large target, so if you use it, as opposed to the AP-2, which is smaller, you move out to 30 feet after the first two levels.  The end result is the same, but I chose to go with the AP-1 so that I could say I shot the targets at 30 feet – it just sounds more impressive :0)

So on a very hot and steamy day, just before the sun began to set, I packed up my Glock and my gear and headed to the range.  Fortunately, my son, Dylan, came along to be my ammo boy.  He kept my magazines loaded so I could get as far as possible before losing too much daylight.

The first level that must be mastered on this journey is Pro-Marksman, where you are required to shoot five rounds at a paper plate (or a target nine inches in diameter) while sitting with arms braced, and get all of the shots within one-half inch of the outside rim – and then do that ten times.  The distance for this step is 15 feet, and if using a nine-inch target, is pretty easy to master.  Shots are made two-handed, with the “strong hand,” or dominant hand, pulling the trigger.

It can be a bit frustrating to shoot ten targets in a row and only put five shots on each target. Normally, I would shoot until I shot the center out and then cover it with a sticker target and shoot some more – I mean, why waste a perfectly good target, right?

So the next level is Marksman. This step requires ten shots in each paper plate (or nine-inch target), all of which must be within one-and-a-half inches of the outside rim.  This time, the shooter is standing, using two hands, strong-side.  This is, again, not too difficult if you have been target shooting for a while, as it is still shot at 15 feet.  You also need a qualifying ten targets to pass this level.

I conquered that level and was ready to move on, but was beginning to lose daylight, was extremely hot and sweaty, my glasses were fogging up, and I was running out of ammo.  Ugh!  I pressed onward to Marksman First Class, though, and was able to complete three qualifying targets before having to leave.  At least I knew I could do it, and that I would be able to complete that level the next time I was at the range.

Marksman First Class is the first time that AP-1 users must move back to 30 feet.  It also gets more difficult in that the shooter must shoot two-handed, but fire five shots with the strong hand and five shots with the weak hand.  Now, this was more difficult for me than it probably should have been.  I had actually been practicing one-handed shooting in anticipation of these quals, but I had not realized that you do not shoot one-handed, but rather with two hands, strong side, then weak side.  It is very different holding the gun with both hands, but having them overlap in a reverse grip, and then transitioning back and forth between targets.

I learned the hard way that I should spend more time making sure my grip was correct before firing.  I didn’t realize that my strong-side thumb was not tucked carefully away and the slide drew blood on the first shot.  I learned you must always be mindful of where your digits are, because losing that thumb would make shooting all the more difficult.  So I got my little thumb tucked safely out of slide range and completed my three M1stC targets for the day.

I have to say that moving through the first few levels was a definite confidence builder, and I can now order my patch, certificates, and rockers (patches that go under the pistol patch that show the highest level one has achieved) for those levels.  After completing Marksman First Class (seven more targets to go), I will move on to Sharpshooter, Expert, and Distinguished Expert, which I really believe I can accomplish with enough time and ammo – time and ammo being the keys :0)  I’ll keep you updated on the journey!

For more information on the NRA Pistol Qualifications, click here.

And if you have completed any or all of the levels, let us know how you did and what you thought about it.