If you have read this blog in the past, please head over to my newest blog by clicking on High Caliber Cate. I am going to put the Heritage Family blog on hold for now. High Caliber Cate will cover a lot of the same topics as HF, but will focus on women and juniors, as well. It will also be tied in with my Rowdy Girls facebook page, which is a group of women whose focus is firearms, self-defense, preparedness, and basically just changing the world for the better. You can find Rowdy Girls here: https://www.facebook.com/RowdyGirlsGroup. Come join us!
So I was in the gun store last night, buying a loaner for my ladies steel challenge club, and as I approached the counter, the guy behind it looked at the quarter hanging from a chain around my neck and said, “Somebody shoot your quarter?”
I was a little taken aback, but said, “Yeah, I did.” He snickered and said, “You did?” I was a bit more irritated now and said, “Yes, I shot it. That’s why I’m wearing it.” He didn’t say anything, so I added, “…one-handed, at 20 feet.”
His eyes got big and he just looked at me a minute, I guess trying to see if I was kidding or not, but then he grumbled, “Good shot,” and went off to help someone else.
I was offended at first, because I know if my husband had walked in with a quarter on a necklace, the question would have been, “What did you shoot that with?” But I had to realize that at least I had opened the guy’s eyes, both literally and figuratively, to the fact that yes, women can shoot, too. Guess that makes it a good day for everyone.
I wrote the following on a facebook page today: “I was talking to a woman recently about firearms training, when she said, “Oh, I’m afraid of guns.” Now, I’ve had women tell me that before, and I haven’t said what I would like to, but this time I said, “You know, I’m more afraid of a bad guy than I am of a gun that is in my control.”
I was hoping she would realize that the only reason to carry a firearm is because there are bad guys out there, that might be planning to harm us. I have zero control over what someone is out there plotting to do, and when the opportunity might arise for him to do it to me, but I do have control over the level of my preparedness to handle that threat in the best possible manner. We (women) need to stop seeing the tool as the threat, and realize that learning to use the tool properly will enable us to defend ourselves better against the true threat – the bad guy.”
It does seem that many women fear the tool, rather than understanding that the tool is what you use against the actual threat, but a firearm should not be the only tool in the toolbox. If we believe that using a firearm is the option of last resort when faced with a threat, then we need to also learn other skills that we might employ first, such as situational awareness, self-defense, even knife fighting skills, all of which might prevent us from having to employ the firearm tool.
I would love for some of the women I come across to stop thinking they will never be in a life or death situation and to plan for the day that they might. If we are trained and prepared, but are never placed in that situation, that’s awesome; however, if we are untrained and unprepared, but our life is threatened at some point, then we are basically helpless. I’d much rather prepare for the worst but hope for the best.
We had an awesome day with 19 young ladies and their families this weekend for our National Take Your Daughter To The Range Day. The girls were able to try their hand at pistol shooting, rifle shooting, and archery, and even got a hands-on lesson in wildlife identification from a representative of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
They enjoyed gun-shaped cookies with pink camo icing from Qtzie Cupcakes, won some cool door prizes, and most importantly, learned the basics of safe gun handling.
Volunteers braved the blazing heat – and being in southeast Texas, it was HOT – but they said it was worth it to see all the smiles on the girls’ faces when they made a good shot. And let me tell you, these girls were good shots! It was amazing to see some of them blow the center out of their targets, and was really encouraging when they started off far from center, but walked it in until they were inside the bullseye – that’s when we knew they had it.
Many thanks to those who helped put on the event, and to Houston-Tactical for sponsoring it, and Lynne of Female and Armed for coming up with the idea and supporting all of us. Next year will be even bigger and better! For more information on NTYDTTRD, CLICK HERE, and see below for pictures.
I watched a video today that was shared on the GunDivas blog site, and I wanted to pass it on to you for a couple of reasons. The video was made by PatriotNurse, who has many more great videos that you can find on YouTube, but this one was called Firearms Training and Women.
In the video, PatriotNurse makes the point that women have a natural instinct to protect their young – the Mama Bear response that we’re all familiar with – but that young mothers are rarely taught how to defend their own lives, much less the lives of their children, when they begin to have young people whose lives depend on them.
In our American society, we are still very patriarchal, which is not a problem as long as the patriarch realizes that the primary care-giver in our society is still, the majority of the time, the mother. In that environment, the father is spending the majority of his day at work; and the mother is spending the majority of her day with the young children.
Even if the mother works outside the home, she is still – typically – the one that drops the children off at daycare or school and picks them up. She also tends to have the children with her more often at the grocery store on the weekends, and while running other errands or shuttling the children back and forth to extracurricular activities.
And of course, this does not apply to every family, but there are still many more families in America that it does apply to.
That being the case, would it not be beneficial for the father to make sure that the mother could protect herself and their children if dad is not around and something goes wrong? Granted, mom could take the responsibility of acquiring that training herself, but many men already have those skills, they just don’t always pass them on to their wives and daughters – and admittedly, some wives are not even interested in firearms training.
In the typical nuclear, patriarchal family, everyone tends to depend on the dad’s wisdom and strength to take care of a problem when it occurs. But what if dad is not there? What if mom and the kids are at the grocery store when it is robbed – and dad is miles away?
Just because one partner in a team is prepared, it does not make the team safe, unless that partner is covering the others 24/7/365, which is simply not possible. I like PatriotNurse’s concept that the protection of the family should be a team effort. Just as in many other areas of raising a family, one person should not shoulder the entire burden of any one area of responsibility.
Women are natural defenders of all they hold dear, and those bear claws will come out when lives are threatened – especially the lives of their children. I say it’s time we help train and equip them for that purpose.
(And, yes, I know I’ve made some blanket, and even stereotypical statements in this post, but I am often out during the day and I do see many more women with young children than I see men with children. And that doesn’t even include the huge numbers of single moms, who don’t even have the dad to defend them.)
The Women’s Outdoor Media Association, WOMA, has a great post today by Julianna Crowder on “How To Get Women Into The Gun Concept.” Julianna makes many valid points in her post, but one part that I really like is where she says, “It is very important for women to have positive female role models in the firearms industry. I strongly encourage you when seeking out a firearms training course, that you look for one that has a female role model on staff rather than an overall male environment. Especially if you are new and feeling timid. Knowing that there is someone like you teaching from a similar perspective will ease the experience.”
Advising women to seek other female instructors is not anti-men, by any means; it is just an acknowledgement that many women will not go to a male instructor, especially one that teaches skills that may bring up many emotional issues from the woman’s past.
A lot of women are drawn to firearms and self-defense through painful circumstances in their past, and many times, those circumstances involved being victimized by a man. Those ladies are not going to feel comfortable putting themselves under the instruction of a man during a time when learning how to defend themselves brings up memories of a time when they could not do so.
Also, many women have been made to feel inferior, inadequate, dumb, clumsy, awkward, weak, etc., by men in their lives, either knowingly or unknowingly, so those women are more comfortable admitting their weaknesses to a female instructor, and asking some of the questions that they might initially be embarrassed they don’t know.
There are many reasons why women seek out other women as role models and instructors, and that’s perfectly fine. I instruct women in the use of firearms and am fortunate enough to have some extremely supportive men surrounding me and encouraging me. My husband is never intimidated by my ability to teach – and is even proud to tell others on those occasions that I might shoot better than him.
I also have men in the company that I teach for, who are so far above my skill and experience level that it’s crazy – I mean, these men have military experience and have attending so much training that it would take me years to reach that level, if I ever did; BUT they acknowledge that there are many women out there today that need what I have to offer – some skill, some training, some experience, but primarily just the fact that I can relate to them on a much different level than my male counterparts.
The men that I work with are happy to promote what I do, and they are proud of the fact that I, and the other female instructors I work with, are able to help women that the men may never be allowed to.
So while there are not nearly as many female firearms and self-defense instructors as male at this time, I would dare say that if you keep looking and ask around, you will likely find one in your general area. And after you get the training you need and become more proficient with your skills, consider paying it forward and becoming an instructor. We need more women out there leading the way, so come join us! The rewards are incredible as you help other women become more empowered and more confident in their lives.
If you are a woman and you love shooting and the outdoors, you have to head over to the WON, Women’s Outdoor News site, and check out all the great articles and reviews they have for you there. And don’t forget to enter the contest for an awesome Bang Bang Boutique range bag by CLICKING HERE. Just comment on the post and tell them what you keep in your range bag – or what you would like to keep in it – that most other ladies would not. It’s a great chance to win a great gift.
Head over to The Well-Armed Woman for a great post on the issues female gun owners face. You can find the story, “The Problem With Women,” by clicking on the title.
And check back here in the next day or so for another High Caliber Generation interview – or better yet, subscribe as an email follower and get the notification. This Gen HC interview is with our first male junior shooter, Jacob Hetherington. Jacob is an awesome shooter and I know you will enjoy getting to know him better.
In the meantime, live life outdoors this weekend!
With another season of Top Shot under our (ammo) belts, it’s clear that this was one exciting season – although Top Shot never disappoints. And I think the message is clear from the past two seasons that self-taught civilians really do have a chance at winning it all – so congratulations to IT professional, Chris Cheng, History’s Top Shot for Season 4.
But there was one contestant this year who shot her way to stardom and established many firsts for the show: first female contestant to make it to the individual portion of the show – meaning the first woman to wear a green shirt; the first Hispanic competitor; the first competitor to have two (or more) nicknames – “The Latin Assassin Queen” (thanks to Tim Trefren) and “The Latin Ice Queen” (thanks to pretty much everyone, according to Gabby); and the first woman to get benched for being considered too great a threat to the opposing team in a challenge.
I’m speaking, of course, of Gabriela “Gabby” Franco, one of the longest-lasting female competitors in any Top Shot season thus far. And it’s one thing for friends, family, and fans to sing the praises of someone they know and love, but when someone’s competitors do the same, you know you have a quality individual at the core of it all.
Gabby Franco is obviously such a person, based on the opinions of her fellow competitors, which you will read below; and she represented herself, and all female shooters, this season with skill and grace.
Her entry into the shooting world began a bit more humbly, though, and she credits her family with guiding and nurturing her along the way.
“I started shooting at the age of 11, when my father took me to the range (he was getting his [concealed weapons permit]),” Gabby explained. “He realized that there was a Junior shooting team. My two sisters and I became the shooting team of my State (Lara) in Venezuela. My dad is a hunter and loved shooting, as well as my brother. My mother, due to her back problems, was never into firearms; however, she has been an incredible support to all of us. She doesn’t shoot, but she was always involved in our shooting activities.”
Those activities earned Gabby a spot on the Venezuelan Olympic shooting team, as well as in many other competitions, prior to her decision to make the USA her home.
“I came to the USA [in] 2002, after knowing I could get my Permanent Resident card due to my extensive curriculum,” Gabby explained. “My whole family is in Venezuela and they visit me at least once a year. Unfortunately, there are a lot of restrictions in Venezuela regarding firearms. Laws pretty much prohibit you from owning one, and sometimes it is very difficult to get the permit to own it.”
Having the freedom to practice her hobby and profession as she chooses is one thing Gabby enjoys about living in the United States. She explained the difficulties fellow shooters face in Venezuela today by saying, “[The] government has controlled the firearm industry in a way that [has made it] almost impossible to get them. They say that is the best way to control crime; however, violent crime rates (with firearms) have increased tremendously. Citizens cannot protect themselves.
My fellow friend shooters suffer to find supplies like ammunition, which is very expensive, around $50 a box of 50 rounds. They also have a lot of issues finding supplies to reload their ammo for the competition, as well as spare parts for their firearms.”
Gabby said now that she knows what it is like to have the freedom to bear arms, she wants to do her best to protect those rights and will be voting for the first time in this year’s election.
Of her recent experiences as one of only two women in the Top Shot house, initially; and later the only one, Gabby said, “I am used to being around men, and they respect me a lot and that makes things much easier. Remember, the respect comes first from the woman, and that is what I did. I had so much fun with them. I learned a lot from them and really enjoyed my time in the house.”
Her skills and abilities quickly earned her the aforementioned tongue-in-cheek nicknames among the men, however, who came to admire and respect her during the filming of the show.
“While we were at the house, we’d often call her the ‘Ice Queen’ for her amazing focus,” said fellow Top Shot competitor and close friend, Chee Kwan,” and then we later referred to her as ‘La Reina Latina Assassina,’ or the ‘Latin Assassin Queen.’ I don’t think she liked the latter of the two nicknames because she didn’t like to compare herself or her abilities to that of an assassin. Her last name is ‘Franco’ [though] and when you add the Spanish word for shooter, it becomes ‘Franco Tiradora’ meaning female sniper.”
Competitor, Dylan Fletcher, added yet another nickname by saying, “Oh, you mean the Terminator?” when asked for his comments about Gabby.
“If I were to pick one person from season four of Top Shot to win the whole thing, Gabby would have been my number one pick,” Dylan explained. “When you get to know Gabby outside the competition, she’s this incredibly sweet, kind, thoughtful person. Something about her just makes you smile when she’s around. She just has this personality that makes you think, ‘this sweet little girl couldn’t hurt a fly. She’s just too nice.’ Then, stick a gun, ANY gun, in her hands. She turns to the targets. Her face goes completely cold. It’s like looking at a Terminator standing there. You can almost see the code running over her eyes in red letters saying, ‘Annihilate Everything.’
She aims as though her goal is actually to split the middle of the most center atom of the bullseye. Her trigger pull is crisp and steady. POW! target down. POW! POW! POW! over and over again. Nothing is safe. ”
Chee agreed that Gabby’s ability to quickly adapt to any firearm placed in her hands made her a fierce competitor to her male counterparts, but that everyone came to love her for her gracious personality, not just for her weaponry skills.
“Gab is an incredibly talented shooter with an amazing ability to quickly adapt and overcome. Her basic fundamentals with a pistol and rifle easily outclass that of many of the competitors who are on this current season of Top Shot,” Chee said. “In addition to being a great shooter, Gab is also a wonderful person. She is genuinely kind and showed great concern for every competitor in the house. When not on the firing line, Gab was often the life of the house. She would tell stories of her time in the Olympics or display her incredible Merengue or Flamenco dance steps.”
Gabby acknowledged that the episode where she “fired her last shot” and her friend, Chee, was the one whose score sealed her fate was heartbreaking.
“It was not easy, but I didn’t expect anything less from him, and I was just happy that I was not wrong about that. Chee and I continue to be great friends, as well as all of the other competitors in Top Shot. We are good friends.”
Chee remembered the friendship fondly, as well, and said, “As a friend, Gab was incredibly patient and understanding. What I remember most about my time with Gab was the countless hours we’d spend watching the stars and competing to see who would find the most shooting stars and satellites.”
Chris Cheng, who we now know as the winner of this year’s Top Shot, echoed Chee’s accolades of Gabby by saying, “When we had our first elimination challenge with the M14 at 200 yards, I had no idea who Gabby was until Colby announced she was an Olympic shooter. It was right there and then that I knew Gabby was a professional who meant business, and I expected her to excel in the competition. Gabby carries herself very well, is very confident in her shooting abilities, and has the heart of a champion. ”
Fellow female competitor, Michelle Viscusi, said she has remained friends with Gabby since they have both left the show. “I do talk to Gabby quite a bit,” she said. “I miss her the most! She’s such a genuine person and an AMAZING shooter. If you ever get the chance, take her class and go learn with her. She’s great, along with everyone else!”
In fact, everyone who graciously shared their opinion about Gabby had pretty much the same impression of her – fierce, determined, skilled competitor; but a kind, genuine, and caring young woman.
“I honestly, truly believe that out of all of us, she was by far (and I mean miles ahead) the best shooter,” Dylan Fletcher said. “Her fundamentals are perfect, her experience hardened, and her adaptability incredible. Outside the competition, in the short time I had, locked in that house with Gabby, I discovered a person I knew I would care about and want to be friends with.
To see that combination of personality, determination, and just everything in one person… it’s hard not to love them. She’s a miraculous contradiction of sweet, kind, loving personality, and fierce, cold, calculated determination. You would never imagine that one person could possess and balance those opposite attributes to the extreme that they exist in Gabby. It’s seriously amazing. I’ll consider her a sister for the rest of my life. I just hope I never piss her off.”
When asked what she would tell new shooters, Gabby, who has a firearms instruction business in the Miami, Florida area, said, “SAFETY, LEARN, LISTEN, PRACTICE. There is not good shooting without safety. Learn as much as you can and never stop learning. This is a sport that you get better with time. Listen to instructors. Take [what] helps you and discard the rest, but never underestimate someone’s knowledge. Do PERFECT PRACTICE. Make sure that what you repeat is right and so you don’t create bad habits.”
Gabby said that, post Top Shot, she is continuing to focus on her business as an instructor and her career as a professional shooter. “I am trying to develop a way to use the exposure I have received with TOP SHOT to keep encouraging women to shoot and keep the sport and our second amendment alive,” she said.
Chris Cheng summed up the contestants’ feelings of Gabby when he said, “She was such a pleasure to be around, and was a great source of strength not only for our team, but for the entire house of competitors. We are all very proud of Gabby’s accomplishments, and I know she will continue to do great things in her life. She has inspired thousands of women and fans to have fun shooting, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Gabby Franco!”
Note: Greg Littlejohn, who was one of the final two contestants on Top Shot this season, was on vacation when I asked him to comment on Gabby; but has just sent the following thoughts about her: “Gabby is an incredible person. She’s got a kind heart and a heart of a warrior all wrapped up in one tiny bundle. She’s great at life in general, but with a gun in her hand she’s one of the best. She never has a bad thing to say, just words of encouragement, even for her competitors. I will never forget Gabby, so tiny, so caring, and soooooooo good.”
Thanks, everyone, for making this a great season, and for taking the time to contribute to Gabby’s story.