Gun Training For Women

Building skills and confidence
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Self-defense handgun training at one of the indoor simulators at Gunsite Academy. Photo: Mia Anstine

Training for personal defense incidents is a priority now more than ever. Attacks on private citizens have increased. There are ongoing attempts to abolish police departments in many areas. There is a need for means to defend our own lives.

Coming Home

The headlights of Jessica’s vehicle shine on her hound dogs baying in their kennels, as she slowly drives up her gravel driveway. She’s nervous as her husband Mike is being held overnight at the hospital for observation after being attacked by an illegal immigrant. She stops the vehicle and is hesitant about going inside to the “safety” of her home.

Finally, Jessica races up the steps to her house, unlocks the door, turns and slams it behind her. Her heart races as snapshots of what lead up to her husband’s attack play through her mind. Alone in her home, Jessica longs to have a gun for self-defense right now and vows to learn how to shoot once her husband comes home.



The night before, the hounds’ bays were more than typical howling at a passing critter. The couple went to the front door. Mike peered out, shining a spotlight past their vehicles, down the drive toward the kennel — nothing.

A rattling sound came from the back door, making them jump. They turned to look down the hall and spotted a man’s face peering through the window. “Who would come up a dark driveway with so many dogs,” Jessica asked. Mike, always a good Samaritan, ignored her comment and moved to the door. The stranger spoke in broken English, saying he had car trouble.
Mike decided to help the man and Jessica watched as her husband’s car headed out of the driveway.

“Why had she let her husband leave with the strange man? What should they have done?” A lightning burst of electricity shot from her heart to her arms when Jessica realized there could’ve been two men and one could’ve stayed behind.

Mike drove up to a broken down vehicle, shining the headlights toward it — he lifted the hood to peer into the engine compartment — a blow hit the back of his head. Jessica sees the image of a large knife as it pierces her husband’s throat. 

Gasping for air, Jessica squeezes her eyes closed, holding back the tears. She thinks, “I wish he’d taken his gun.” She then remembers the noise on the front steps and seeing her husband lying in a pool of blood.

The strange man had left Mike for dead, stolen his vehicle, and somehow the Good Samaritan found the strength to crawl home. He now lies in a hospital bed — he’ll recover but with lessons from the encounter with an illegal immigrant, not even the hounds are comforting. Jessica feels a need for a gun.

Back in college, Jessica had attempted to shoot a boyfriend’s handgun. He laughed as the Colt .45 lurched in her hand. She trembled as she couldn’t get it out of her hands quick enough. The improper experience had been the extent of her firearm training; she needed more.


Women support women and provide confidence at the gun range.
Photo: ARMED and Feminine

Gun Training for Women

Firearms instructor Shirley Watral wrote the book Heels to Holsters: One Woman’s Story of Surviving an Abusive Relationship and Discovering her Inner Warrior to inspire women. Watral says, “Women sometimes tremble at the firing line and need to be taught differently than men. One thing that’s important to me is that I watch for when they’ve had enough. I can tell when women get mentally exhausted, and that’s when I end the class. I create a positive experience, and they leave feeling empowered but wanting to learn more.”


Creating a positive experience leaves women feeling empowered but
wanting to learn more. Photo: ARMED and Feminine

Finding A Class

When looking for a women’s class, ask your local gun dealer for suggestions. For nationwide organizations, look to A Girl and A Gun (AGAG), the Well-Armed Woman, DIVA Women Outdoors Worldwide (DIVA-WOW) or look to your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Some DNR organizations present women’s events where they provide the opportunity to shoot handguns, rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders and bows. While this type of class isn’t a replacement for defense classes, it’s a way to learn to shoot an assortment of firearms alongside women of various experience levels.

Jennifer Christman of Bear It All Arms Training insists, “Women need to take a class from a professional, and preferably a woman; Not because men don’t know what they’re talking about or because of intimidation, but rather because women understand the physical differences that need to be addressed when purchasing, manipulating, and firing a firearm.”


Comp-Tac drop-offset holster works around the curve of a women’s hips. Photo: Mia Anstine.

Learn The Basics

Firearms instructor Connie Brooks of AGAG says, “It’s important to get the basics right. Bad habits are hard to undo.” It’s essential to learn and practice all of these in the classroom before you have live rounds in your gun.

Women need to practice loading and firing live rounds at the range but not in the intimidating manner Jessica experienced. Kelly Ann Pidgeon, owner of ARMED and Feminine shooting school, shares, “We always start with ‘Pew,’ then move up to ‘Pow,’ then to ‘Bang,’ then to ‘Boom’ — .22 to .380 to 9mm to .45. It builds confidence to master the fundamentals of grip, stance, sight picture and trigger press using lower calibers, and then move up.”


Kelly Ann Pidgeon (below) empowers a disabled woman as she teaches
how to shoot a handgun. Photo: ARMED and Feminine

Practice Drawing the Gun

I asked Pidgeon about her favorite concealed carry holster and she told me about the Shirudo holster, a collaborative design effort between Shibumi Tactical and ARMED and Feminine. “For my build, I was never satisfied with anything on the market, so I collaborated with Shibumi Tactical to design my own.” The holster is a Kydex inside-the-waistband (IWB) design with a low profile, durable and has great retention capabilities.

As an instructor myself, I use and practice with my UnderTech Undercover tank and shorts, always remembering to work on the muscle-memory while not muzzle-sweeping myself.


Intense scenario shooting drills at Gunsite Academy. Photo: Mia Anstine

Increase the Intensity

Olympian, competitive shooter, and firearms instructor Gabriella Franco reminds women of the importance of increased intensity while they’sre training and recommends the Caldwell Target Turner. “It helps with reaction time and speed shooting,” Franco notes.

While training at Gunsite Academy, my daughter practiced drawing and shooting at quick-turn targets, then progressed to house-clearing and hostage scenarios. She used a Comp-Tac drop-offset holster that accommodates the curve of a woman’s hips. The holster allows the shooter to acquire a proper grip, creating a faster presentation on the target.

Once you’re confident drawing and shooting a handgun, add dummy rounds to the magazine to practice clearing malfunctions so it becomes second nature during intense situations, like those during the Gunsite Academy training.


Train at Home

There are times when we cannot get to the range or may not want to burn through pricey ammunition. “Include dry-fire sessions into a daily routine, especially if going to the range is not an option,” says Franco. She and DIVA-WOW founder Judy Rhodes suggest buying an air-gun or Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger (SIRT) Training Pistol. Find a model the same as or closely matching your gun.

Real-life scenarios aren’t going to be as scripted as some classes. Franco emphasizes, “Ongoing good training is the greatest shooting tool I can suggest for women.”

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