I am an Army veteran with two deployments to Iraq (92A supply specialist and a 32B military police). I got out of the military as an E5 and in 2011 I joined the Department of Homeland Security, first as a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer and now as a CIS (Citizenship and Immigrations Services) officer. Although my past seem as though I should be an experienced shooter, sadly in the military and as a federal officer we only shot and qualified quarterly at most. Throughout my career I have noticed numerous women who love to shoot, who are awesome at shooting, often better and easier to train than most men, but do not know how to enter the world of shooting.
I started shooting competitively about a year ago, and if you’re a woman who wants to get into shooting but are intimidated or nervous about being judged or looked at like an outsider, i’m writing this to tell you not to worry! You honestly have nothing to worry about, i know from experience. The men and women you will meet on the range are the coolest, nicest and funniest group of people you will ever meet and who will be more than willing to GLADLY help you or show you the beginning steps. If they’re watching you it’s only because they care and want you to get better, they’re seeing where and how they can help you improve.
If you’re currently asking how and where you begin, look no further than your computer or mobile device. Unless you already have a friend or a significant other who is already into the sport, I understand that it is intimidating to go into this alone. With that in mind, this is how i broke into the shooting world from ground zero:
1. Social media (Facebook): I simply searched for “gun club” in my local area and joined their group.
2. Once I was accepted into the group, I made a public post to introduce myself: “Hi my name is ____ and I want to start competitive shooting, when is your next match? I would love to show up and observe!”. You will likely get quick responses and questions from directors and other members to see your level of experience and interest, so just be honest. (When I first started I didn’t have a gun, I just showed up empty handed with no idea where to begin, it’s like being lost in Home Depot – yikes!)
3. Next step is to buy a gun. I had the hardest time choosing, so before I made an investment I borrowed other people’s guns- just ask, don’t be shy. Most of the competitors and shooters you will meet have guns just laying around collecting dust, especially their first competition gun they bought and have since upgraded. They love bringing their toys out to play, they love to show them off as a mom would with their first born, it’s pretty funny. Everyone has a favorite, but their favorite may not work for you depending on your hand size and the length of your fingers. It’s like buying a pair of shoes-you have your favorite brand that you like for your feet, but which may not work for others, so be careful not to jump at the first recommendation without doing your own research and evaluation. Keep an open mind of course, but try to test out different guns. For instance, I dislike the ergonomics of Glock pistols for my hands. They are great, reliable guns, however due to the bulkiness of the gun it feels uncomfortable for me. I ultimately chose to shoot the Smith and Wesson M&P platform of pistols, and i chose the 5” M&P Pro. Glocks are bulky and feel like a brick in my hands. My palms and fingers are all short and stubby and I am unable to get a tight grip around the Glock frame. The M&P pro has a longer barrel but a slimmer grip, so there is no gap between my hands when I am gripping the gun, making it easier to control the recoil.
4. Once you purchased your gun, you still need gear- all the accessories that go along with it. Ahh so much money! Again you can lean on your social media shooting community for quick answers, but you should still do your own recon of other peoples gear at the range to see what seems to be working well (and what doesn’t). All you need to do is ask your new friends in the gun groups you just joined: “Hi i just purchased xxx gun does anyone have used spare belt holster magazine pouches you would like to sell/borrow Or know of anyone who may want to sell?” This is an expensive sport, so when you’re starting out its smart to manage your money and save for ammo and training whenever possible. Many shooters have tons of extra gear they don’t use anymore just laying around, so don’t be afraid to ask.
5. HAVE FUN is the last step. The word “competitive” definitely sounds intimidating, but it’s all about having fun and being safe, and at this point you’re only competing against yourself. Every time you get out to match should be a learning experience, and you can always build on your performances and improve on the next go around. Don’t try to compare yourself to the regulars right off the bat, and they won’t judge you for being new to the sport. Many of them have been shooting for years or decades, and they will be glad to see new shooters getting introduced to the sport. Enjoy meeting good people, smile, laugh and have fun!! You will only regret you didn’t start sooner.
For me the bottom line is that you are responsible for your own well being and safety. Your husband or boyfriend can’t be there for you 24/7 to protect you and your children, you have to be just as strong mentally to protect yourself and your family when the man of the house isn’t there. Or if he’s injured what are you gonna do? Call ghost busters? Scream? Cry? No you pick up the gun and protect what you love.
Competitive shooting is just a game but it still teaches you the basic fundamentals in safely and effectively manipulating and employing the gun under moderate levels of stress (timers and people watching you). Learn to handle a weapon under some stress, know how to clear the weapon when it malfunctions etc. Join the sport, not only will you have fun and meet awesome people but you will also gain incredible confidence to handle a weapon effectively if needed.
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