Last summer, the oil company my husband works for asked if I would host a shotgun clinic for new shooters at the annual family picnic. A number of people made the decision to learn how to shoot clays and fired a shotgun for the first time. I stayed for as long as there was someone who wanted to learn which ended up being hours! The ages ranged from children that came to learn with their parents to people on the verge of retirement. There was one young boy that kept getting back in line to shoot over and over. To my surprise, many of the new shooters were young girls. What I also didn’t expect was how well the younger kids did and that they were striking the clays on their first shots. At the end of the clinic everyone was hitting clays. One of the spectators watching the clinic commented that she didn’t expect the younger girls to be able to hit the clays as shooting isn’t something she’d expect a girl to be able to do. Her comments made me think about stereotypes of female shooters, but more specifically, younger girls who are learning shoot.
During the mid-19th century, one female shooter stood above the rest. Annie Oakley’s shooting skills were often underestimated by her male counterparts. She is an American icon known for her impressive shooting abilities as a sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Fast forward to the 21st century, Kim Rhode is a triple Olympic Champion and in 2012 she tied the world record for hitting 99 out of 100 clays in the international skeet event at the London Olympics. She is a daughter, wife, mother and shooter. Oakley and Rhode both excel at the shooting sports. These two women are separated by over a hundred years and are connected not solely by their gender, but their accomplishments as shooters. Annie Oakley was recorded hunting at age 9 and sold her game to local hotels and markets to earn money to support her family. Kim Rhode began competing in skeet at age 10, participated in her first African safari hunt at age 12 and won her first gold medal at age 17. At that time, she became the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting. As you just read and hopefully realized, both Oakley and Rhode started at a young age.
The next generation of female shooters is interested in a wide range of hobbies, excel at a variety of skills, seek many different educational goals, and come from different political persuasions. For example, Katelyn Francis is a 16 year old competitive shooter for STI Firearms. Her mother noted in regards to an award Katelyn received on November 11, 2014, “A lot of people comment on Katie's page about how she should be just a normal teenage girl. Well, she is a normal, polite teenage girl. When her dad started to teach her about guns and shooting, I was not on board but he promised me that shooting and the gun community would teach her responsibility and manners.”
Shyanne Roberts, a 10 year old competitive shooter and second amendment advocate, includes in her interests, aside from shooting, hanging out with friends, music, and soccer. In early 2014, Shyanne testified at a New Jersey legislative committee regarding gun control. Only 9 years old at the time, she reminded politicians that the proposed magazine ban would punish her and other athletes instead of the criminals the politicians claimed they were targeting.
Learning how to shoot teaches you the same life lessons as any sport: you must train and practice to increase your skills. Shooting sports build character and teach you responsibility, sportsmanship, dedication, and perseverance. These attributes help young minds develop discipline which in turn prepares them to face the hurdles of life. Shooting has been passed down from father to daughter, mother to son and many other family combinations when you throw grandparents and uncles in the mix. It gives children a reason to be outdoors, appreciate nature and develop valuable life skills. Additionally, learning more about firearms provides the opportunity to discover American history, the Bill of Rights and how firearms have changed the course of human history.
In 2011, Lindsay McCrum released a pictorial attempt to describe the modern female shooter in the book “Chicks with Guns”. The National Shooting Sports Foundation described it like this, “They reside in all regions of the country, come from all levels of society, and participate seriously in diverse shooting activities. From policewomen to hunters, ranchers to competition shooters, the collection of portraits in ‘Chicks with Guns’ defies stereotypes often associated with aspects of the popular culture of both guns and women.”
As a shooting instructor, the women I have taught include mothers, nurses, college students, and athletes. In fact, I am often surprised at the variety of backgrounds that they bring with them. These women also have one common concern, teaching their children about shooting and firearm safety. Luckily, there are many programs that teach firearm safety to children as early as eight years old and some, like the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program, teach safety to children as young as four years old. Moms are especially eager to teach their daughters about safety, but there is more to this hobby than simply safety. What I realized last summer, introducing the next generation of shooters to one of several shooting sports was more than just sharing safety and respect for firearms. We are sharing our love of an American tradition.The Shooting