I love to clean…my gun!

Ladies, do you clean your gun(s)?  No, I don’t mean, does your husband, son, boyfriend…clean them for you.  If you shoot, and you should, then you need to learn to clean the firearms.

“If ya shoot ’em, ya gotta clean ’em,” is one of my mottos – trust me, I have many :0)

And do we even need to discuss the fact that something that contains gunpowder and lead, and that EXPLODES in the barrel, even needs to be cleaned?? (big eye roll)

I know, I know, one more thing to scrub, right?  But cleaning your gun is much different than cleaning your toilet.  There is no better way to become truly comfortable with every aspect of your firearm, to know it literally inside and out, than to break it down and clean it.  (Nobody needs to get to know a toilet :/)

So here are the reasons, in a nutshell, that I think it’s important:

1.  You become very adept at field strip and reassembly of the gun, which could be very important should you ever have a problem during use and have to strip it, fix it, and reassemble it in short order.

2.  You know without a doubt that the firearm is clean and in working order.

3.  It helps you take ownership of the gun.  Some women shoot guns belonging to others, which is fine, but then they walk away and forget about it until they shoot again.  Even if it isn’t your gun, take ownership and responsibility of it.

4.  For the new gun owner/user, the firearm will be much less intimidating if you see it in pieces on your kitchen table.  I’ve seen ladies who were really afraid of “weapons” completely change their mind after holding just the little round barrel in their hands.  Things are not as frightening when you know them inside and out.

One of the best ways to learn to clean your gun is from someone else who knows and who will take the time to show you, step by step.  Many ranges are now hosting gun-cleaning clinics, some especially for women like the ones I hold, and that can be a fun, social time, as well.  When I’m in a room full of women cleaning their guns and talking, laughing, and having a great time, I usually say the gun-cleaning circles of today have replaced the quilting groups of old :0)

But if you don’t have someone to show you, or a clinic to attend, just go online to Youtube, search for “field strip” or “take down,” “break down” of whatever gun you have, and I can assure you someone has a video on it.  That’s how I learned to break down one of my new handguns.

So don’t stress over it, get with some other girls and make it fun, leave a window open so you don’t all get high on the solvent :0) but remember, “A clean gun is a happy gun” (another one of my mottos).

** CAUTION:  NEVER, EVER, EVER EVEN ATTEMPT TO CLEAN A FIREARM IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING, DON’T HAVE SOMEONE WITH YOU THAT DOES, AND UNTIL YOU HAVE, PERSONALLY, CLEARED THE GUN AND MADE SURE IT IS UNLOADED.  ABOVE ALL, STAY SAFE!

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Men, Please Don’t Do This!

So I had to experience one of my pet peeves this weekend at the range – men making women shoot a gun that’s too much for them.  It was a dad this time, with his teenage daughter and son.  I don’t think dad had any ill intent, but that’s the way it was turning out for poor darling daughter.  I didn’t initially see the gun dad was shooting, but he and son shot first and it was a powerful bang, then they tried to get the daughter to shoot.  Of course, this tiny little teenage girl didn’t want to shoot that big gun, especially since this was obviously the first time she had ever shot a gun; much less the fact that they were shooting at 25 yards, so she couldn’t even see if she hit the target or not.

After much prodding and cajoling by dad and brother, little missy actually gave it a try and promptly put the gun down, backed out of the stall, and announced that she wasn’t going to do it again.  Dad and son guffawed over it, and tried to get her to go again, but daughter insisted it was not for her.  Ugh!  I hate it when that happens.

I had had enough by this time, so I walked over with my little .22 revolver that we shoot just for fun, and asked daughter if she would like to try mine.  She immediately said no, but I convinced her to walk downrange with me – where she could actually see the target – and give it a try.  At first, I think she felt like I was patronizing her and trying to get her to shoot a kid gun; and unfortunately, she had been so traumatized by her first experience that even the ease of shooting a .22 at close range didn’t change her mind.  She hit the target a few times and was surprised at the lack of kick, but wasn’t interested in more.

Dad said he had been trying to get her to WANT to shoot with them.  I bit my tongue and just told her how much I love shooting and that it really is fun when you use the right gun for you, and when you start at a closer range so that you can get some success before moving back.

They were already packed up and in the car when dad came back over to me and sincerely thanked me for helping his daughter and taking time with her.

Again, I really don’t think he meant to turn her off from shooting, and that cannon might have been all he had for her to shoot with; but I think the outing was counterproductive.  It’s not the case with every female, but when you have a woman that is resistant to shooting to begin with, it would be worth the time and effort to find a lower caliber gun for her to try as a first experience.

I don’t know if darling daughter will shoot again or not.  I heard her say that she will just stick to her horses.  Hopefully, one day she will try it again – but this time with something that won’t knock her on her rear when she shoots.

To Pink Or Not To Pink…

So here’s the question:  “Women wearing pink camo:  What are you trying to blend into?”

And of course that question could be asked of anyone wearing any color of camo in any setting outside the typical hunt setting, i.e., the woods.

But as the debate continues on whether pink camo, hunting gear, fishing gear, and pink guns themselves are actually enticing to women, more pink gear is being made and displayed in stores every day.

Only about 15-16% of women, “survey said,” prefer the color pink for their hunting and fishing gear, although no one is sure of the percentage of women that actually purchase those items.  Obviously, pink gear is being sold or savvy manufacturers would not be making it, but are the women who actually shoot and fish primarily the ones purchasing the gear?

About half the women surveyed in recent studies said they felt pink outdoor gear to be insulting, and most women in the survey said they prefer traditional camo colors or black for their gear, although many probably don’t care one way or the other.

Initially, I was put off by the pink camo due to the fact that I’ve never been a pink girl and I felt that the manufacturers were just assuming that most women likepink – because we’re girls.  In fact, I’ve never seen pink gear out at the range where I shoot, and most of the women I know who hunt and fish are not into the girly-girl look – at least not at the range or in the hunting blind.  I also felt that if companies wanted to appeal more to women, and thought the color of the gear was the way to go about it, they would offer a wider range of colors and not focus so much on just one.

Another reason is that I think we’ve been inundated with pink everything lately, ad nauseam.  I have no qualms about the breast cancer pink campaign, but when it is showing up on everything from toilet paper to professional football players, I can’t help but feel like it’s gone too far.

And maybe it’s just the shade of the pinkness that bothers me.  I do have a couple of caps I wear to the range that have traditional camo along with a very light pink logo, or some other small, light pinkness to it – but the bright, hot pink that’s going around is just too much for this strawberry-redhead to handle.  And pink guns?  I still can’t get used to that.  Yes, I think some of the guns look cute, but is that really what you want to pull from your holster – a “cute” gun?  I mean, we’re not playing games here.  This is not Barbie’s Day at the Gun Range or Barbie Defends Herself Against the Rapist day, or even Barbie Takes Down a Big Buck day – you get the idea.

So do I mind that there are more options for women in hunting and fishing gear?  Absolutely not.  Do I know of anywomen who have purchased these items?  No.  Would I like a wider range of color options?  Yes.  Would I actually purchase them?  H’m, probably not.

And therein may lie the problem.  I think there are a lot of women who think some of the pink gear is adorable – in the stores, but when it comes down to actually buying guns and accessories that they will use out in the field or carry on their person, it’s probably rare that the pink stuff makes it past the front door – except as a gift from the guy who is trying to get his princess to go hunting with him :0)  I guess we’ll just see how the market unfolds over time.

So what do you think?  Pink or no pink?  That is the question.

Ladies, You Are In Good Company!

Everybody is talking about the huge influx of women to the shooting arena these days, to the tune of between 15 and 20 MILLION female gun owners in the U.S. – and that’s not counting the number of women who shoot, but do not have a gun registered in their name.  Maybe they shoot a gun purchased by their husband, or they shoot someone else’s rifle when they hunt, but regardless, that’s a lot of women; so I decided to try to get a better picture of just how many that is.

You can’t begin to come close the number of women gun owners in the U.S. until you add together the numbers of active military personnel in the following countries:  United States, India, Syria, Thailand, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Russia, Myanmar, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan, Israel, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Cambodia.  Active military personnel from those countries COMBINED are approximately 15,095,300, which means the number of female gun owners is greater than the military force of 30 countries.

And compared with national population numbers, female gun owners would equal the number of citizens in either the Netherlands, Chili, or Romania – or more than the populations of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and Ireland COMBINED (15,548,522).  Feeling empowered yet?

How about more than twice the number of motorcycles in the US (7,752,926), more than all the redheads in Scotland and Ireland combined (10,700,000), or about 15-20 times the number of lawyers in America?

The bottom line is that 15 to 20 million of anything is a lot, and for that many women to actually purchase a firearm, there must be a good reason – many good reasons, to be exact.

Of course, many of the active military personnel in the world today are women who own firearms; and if you add the number of female law enforcement officers, you have a large number of women who are armed to protect and defend.  Many other women who own guns are prompted to do so by a desire to defend themselves and others on a personal and individual basis, and with the current numbers of violent crimes committed against women on an annual basis, that’s probably a good idea.

Hunting for food or sport is another reason many women own and use guns.  The number of new female hunters is now outpacing the number of new male hunters, according to the NRA; and according to the National Sporting Goods Association, there were 163,000 new female hunters in 2009.

But women across the nation are also finding out there are shooting sports that have nothing to do with hunting or self-defense.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation tells us that more than 19 million Americans participate in target shooting each year, many of whom are women.  But standing on the line and shooting at a stationary target is not enough for some women; these ladies want a little action in their shooting, hence the rise in attendance at practical shooting events throughout the U.S.

“Imagine combining the athleticism of competitive sports with the choreography of modern dance, then toss in the adrenaline rush of skiing down a double black diamond sky slope,” is how the USPSA Ladies’ Zone website describes the sport of practical shooting.  The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) sponsor many events across the nation where women, and men, navigate various “stages” while shooting at stationary and moving targets.  These events are becoming extremely popular with women, many of whom attend camps such as those sponsored by Babes With Bullets in an effort to master this exciting sport.

If you add the fun of cowboy (cowgirl) shooting (who could resist dressing up in vintage clothing and participating in a shootout at the OK corral?), you have even more opportunities for female handgun shooters to have fun and compete alongside the men – check out SASS for more info.  But cowboy shooters do not only use handguns, and there are just as many women picking up rifles and shotguns these days, as pistols and revolvers.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is one group encouraging women to improve their rifle skills through Project Appleseed (Ladyseed) events.  The Appleseed program teaches three-position rifle shooting:  standing, sitting, and prone, as well as how to transition between positions, and throws in the history of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War just for fun.  Participants learn how important the rifleman was to the freedoms we now enjoy in our country, and with events just for women – click here – at only $10/weekend, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of these opportunities.   You might even earn your Rifleman’s patch in the process!

If rifles and handguns are not your cup of tea, how about shotgun shooting?  You don’t have to hunt birds to enjoy shooting a shotgun at your local skeet and trap range.  In fact, skeet shooting was named by a woman, Gertrude Hurlbutt, who suggested the Scandinavian word for “shooting” to replace the term of “clock shooting” in 1926.   And if Kim Rhode could compete against adults and win her first world title with a shotgun at the age of 13, going on to earn an Olympic gold medal at the age of 17, it might be something you could try, as well.  Now only in her early 30’s, Kim continues to compete (she will be a member of Team USA at the London Games), as well as encourage women and young people across the nation to become more involved in the shotgun sports.

So you can see that any woman who has a desire to shoot, also has many avenues and opportunities to do so, and with all of the many female shooting blogs (see Blog Roll to the right for just a few), Facebook pages, and support sites available today, I think we will continue to see women filling the lines at many more events in the future.

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.

Coming soon….

A Girl, a Glock, and the NRA Pistol Qualifications

On working my way through the pistol quals, step by step – and how long it will take me to reach the top, Distinquished Expert.  Part 1 should be posted within a couple of days (I’ve made it to Marksman 1st Class), then Part II, well, who knows :0)  Stay tuned!

On becoming passionate about pistols through a circuitous route

Why, oh, why did it take so long for me to discover the absolute joys of shooting?  I mean, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and participate in many sports and hobbies throughout my many years on this planet, but none have held the fun and passion for me as shooting.  Truth be told, though, I had almost zero exposure to shooting until this point in my life, so the opportunity never really presented itself until I began to look for someone to teach my youngest son to shoot.

I never had a desire for my older children to be exposed to, or use guns, but by the time my youngest son was around the age of ten, I decided shooting might be a valuable skill to have for many reasons.  I didn’t grow up seeing my dad shoot guns, and my husband didn’t shoot at that time – even though he had gone on many pheasant hunts with his dad when he was younger and now shoots various firearms  – so we were just not able to pass those skills along to our children.

After we moved to the country a few years ago, I began to search for organizations that might teach my son to responsibly use a firearm and I came upon the county 4-H clubs.  The 4-H organization has a club or project for every kind of skill kids might want to learn, including some that specialize in the shooting disciplines – pistol, rifle, shotgun, and archery, so we signed up and began attending practice.

As I watched my son learn to use those firearms – and even got to shoot a few myself – I saw how much fun he was having and realized it was something I wanted to learn, as well.  For one thing, I felt as though it would be a bit embarrassing for my husband and me to hide behind a ten year old as he defended our home from possible invaders.  Way to go, mom and dad!  And I also realized if we were going to have guns in our home, I wanted to be comfortable enough to use them and not be frightened by them.

It was still several years, though, before my husband and I even considered buying a gun for our personal use, and get the training we needed to actually use it.   In fact, we went about the whole process completely backward – we went out and bought a handgun that we really had no idea how to use – and then sought out the training classes after the fact.  Bad idea.  For one thing, we didn’t even know if the gun we bought was one we would like to shoot, nor if it was a quality gun, or even what ammo to use in it.  Crazy!

What we should have done is what I, and others, recommend to shooting novices today – DON’T go out and buy a gun until you have tried several and know what you are getting.  Many men who shoot will buy their wives a handgun in the hope that their sweetie will shoot with them – and sometimes when the women try those guns, they absolutely hate them and never go back to the range.  And for some reason, many men buy their female companions a revolver, which is a great firearm for an experienced shooter to carry, but one of the worst for a woman to learn on, in my opinion.  Great intentions, but stop doing that, men :0)

I guess it’s pretty obvious that men and women are different in many ways, and learning to use and owning a handgun are definitely some of those ways.  For many women who have never used one, shooting a gun is a scary and intimidating thing to do.  Not only do the guns kick, they also are heavy and their power is really frightening to some women.  I have found women become much more comfortable with shooting by, number one, having other women teach them (it’s less intimidating); number two, starting with a less powerful gun; and number three, finding a gun that fits their hands and their needs.

For these reasons, a women’s basic handgun class is a great entry point for a woman interested in shooting, and a .22 pistol is a great beginning tool – even if only for a few rounds until they lose the initial uneasiness.  Once they realize the guns can actually be fun to shoot, and that they can shoot well with them, it is an easy transition to move on to higher caliber pistols, rifles, or even shotguns.

So we now own several firearms in various calibers, and not only are we all pretty proficient with them, we enjoy going to the range as a family and spending the day shooting holes in paper targets.  And a major benefit is that I now know that my baby is not the only one that could defend us from the bad guys – although he could if he had to – and I am much more comfortable having guns in my home, which was the initial impetus for moving me toward the range to begin with.