You love to shoot. You love her. But, she doesn’t love shooting. How can you change that?
If you’re like me, you want to share your enthusiasm for the shooting sports with those closest to you. However, there is still a general trend of more male than female firearms enthusiasts. As a woman shooter, I’m often asked by guys, “How do I convince my girlfriend/wife/sister/etc. to go shooting with me?” Here are a few “do’s and don’ts” that might help encourage the women in your life to hit the range (these do’s and don’ts are introduced in the video embedded above).
1. Don’t start with too large a caliber too quickly.
Guy finally convinces his girl to hit the range with him. He brings a few of his favorite and, to him, most impressive, firearms. She tries to smile supportively, but she clearly feels out of her element. Boyfriend grabs his treasured Desert Eagle and loads up a mag with a few rounds of .50 AE, and puts it into her hands. He says, “Don’t worry babe. Just point it at the target, and pull the trigger.” She laughs nervously and puts her arms in front of her, leaning her face as far back from the beastly pistol as possible, and fires. The heavy recoil pushes the gun upward and back toward her, threatening to loose itself from her grip. She narrowly misses smacking herself in the face, and she immediately asks for boyfriend to take it back. She’s startled, embarrassed, and intimidated. Boyfriend grabs the gun from her outstretched hands, laughing. “Aw, that surprised you, didn’t it?” She tries to laugh it off with him, but she’s already decided that she’ll opt out of range dates from now on.
A quick YouTube search will bring you numerous examples of this type of story playing itself out often. Now, I’m not saying that women can’t handle larger caliber firearms (they absolutely can); however, starting off any new shooter on a gun with a fierce kick is a recipe for a negative (and dangerous) experience. And, sometimes all it takes is one bad range trip to sour a potential shooter’s outlook on firearms forever. Starting with lower recoiling firearm (whether you start with .22 LR, .380 ACP, 9mm, or some other option is up to your discretion, but .22LR is one of the most common “first shooting” rounds).
2. Don’t start cold.
Walking on to the firing lanes should not be your new shooter’s first exposure to the firearm(s) you’re planning to shoot. For those who are already intimidated by firearms, learning their operation and getting the opportunity to handle guns before introducing live fire dispels some of the fear and allows a new shooter to become more confident in what they’re about to undertake. Not to mention, between gun shots and ear pro it’s just plain hard to hear each other. That’s a problem when you need to teach her safety, how the firearm operates, grip, stance, sight picture, etc. Also, between adjusting to the new sights, sounds, and smells, heading to the range for the first time is exciting, and a little bit stressful, which makes it a less successful setting to introduce someone to important new information. So, introducing guns, firearm safety, and shooting basics is best started before heading off to shoot.
3. Don’t make it a competition.
Your lady’s first encounter with firearms can be stressful, especially if they are apprehensive about guns. Showing her how well you shoot and how much better you are then her can take the fun out of learning something new. If she’s not having a good time, she’s definitely going to be less motivated to go again.
Now that we’ve covered some of the things “not to do,” let’s talk about a few things you can do to help encourage the women in your life to hit the range with you.
1. Do practice safety.
This is the most important part about introducing any new shooter to firearms. Before you start shooting, teach your new shooter the rules for safe firearms handling, and about range etiquette. This will ensure that, once you head out to shoot, everyone will have a safe experience, and she’ll feel more confident about how to handle the gun(s) she’s about to fire.
2. Do practice technique.
Learning how to hold the gun, how to align sight picture, and how to stand while shooting will help in her confidence, but it will also make handling a live firearm more familiar, and more fun. If she’s not so stressed out about having to absorb a lot of information with a hot gun in her hands, she can focus more on how enjoyable the shooting sports can be. Starting off with some snap cap (or other dry fire) practice is a great way to do this.
3. Do compromise.
Chances are, if the lady you’d like to take with you to the range isn’t already excited about learning to shoot, it’s because she’s not really interested. If she’s grudgingly agreeing to step outside of her comfort zone to make you happy, she’ll appreciate you making a gesture in kind. So, take her shopping before shooting, or out to dinner after the range, for example. Making a commitment to compromise is a good way to encourage a reluctant gal to hit the range.
This list of “do’s and don’ts” isn’t necessarily a complete list of everything to consider when introducing someone new to the shooting sports. But, it should serve as a good place to start. Do’s and don’ts aside, overall, being supportive, patient, and encouraging is a great way to get your ladies out to the range with you. Odds are, once you get her shooting, she’ll discover for herself how much fun it is — then she may be the one dragging you out to the range.