I enjoy teaching folks how to shoot, but in my experience, women make the best students. Besides being a welcome change from the grumpy old men I normally encounter at the range, women approach firearms differently than men. Even though a guy may have no hands-on firearms experience, he’s probably seen action movies or gangster TV shows, and has incorrect ideas about weapons safety and handling. A lot of guys are out to show how cool they are at the range. Conversely, women don’t have anything to prove. They know their limitations – that is, women are likely seek out advice and instruction without being told or asked to do so. They are excellent listeners. If I do my part and start them off with weapons that don’t have a massive amount of recoil, they respond very well to basic instruction and are often shooting very accurate groups within an hour of first picking up a firearm.
If you’re a woman and you want to learn how to shoot, there are several ways to do it. One way is to find a local firing range that rents handguns. Almost all such ranges offer instruction, or, at the very least, a safety briefing – and many offer reduced range fees for women. But take a look at the employees first – if you’re not comfortable with them, or the weapons they recommend for a first time shooter include the word “Magnum”, find another shop. If you are uncomfortable when you are being instructed or when you’re shooting, you’ll probably walk away from the store and never want to fire a gun again.
There are several women-oriented training courses available, such as the excellent Babes with Bullets. However, their courses are often booked for a year in advance. Don’t get discouraged. Once you’ve had that initial safety training, check online for courses offered by shooting schools or traveling instructors. Do some research and see what others, especially women, have said about the course. Although such courses are often populated by military and law enforcement personnel, most instructors I have dealt with welcome women in their classes, because as I said before, women pay attention to important things like safety rules. Be sure to look for courses that offer loaner firearms.
As for handgun choices, that’s another topic entirely, and one that I could go on forever about – so I’ll try to keep it brief. Some women gravitate towards smaller guns, believing that they will kick less. This may not be true. A comparably larger weapon of the same caliber may be easier to hold and, due to increased weight, have less perceived recoil. I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of the 9mm round, and most 9mm semi auto pistols are relatively easy to shoot. A lot of folks recommend revolvers, and I think they have their merits. However, a small, lightweight revolver in 357 Magnum is a handful for the beefiest of men to control, and I seriously doubt that the majority of first-time shooters – male and female – would want fire more than one round from such a weapon. If you think a revolver is best for your needs, get one in .38 Special.
Shooting can be a fun and safe sport, and the confidence you gain from being proficient with a weapon that could be useful for self defense is invaluable. Whatever else you might have going on in your life, there’s only one thing holding you back, and that’s you. If you’ve thought about learning how to safely use a firearm, don’t put it off any longer.