The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Training Women Shooters

Story by Mike Pannone and Mia Wood
Photos by Larry Atil

Training and Bringing Women into the Shooting Community

Our culture has often perpetuated the idea that women are physically weak and unaggressive, suggesting that a woman couldn’t fight and certainly couldn’t kill, if necessary. My question to the women who read this article is simple: Can you shoot an attacker, knowing that it might end their life? The answer should overwhelmingly be, “yes.”

The truth is that women can kill just like men. I’ve seen it during war, and the world has certainly witnessed the Kurdish female fighters who led very traditional lives in cultural attire just a few years ago. Now, they’re locking horns with ISIS to protect their homes and families — there’s simply not enough men left to do the job, but the job still must be done. The emotional component of killing is no different by gender — only the societal conditioning differs.

Historically, women have protected homesteads when men left for work or war in every society — wives and daughters of samurai and Vikings, and, in this country, wives and daughters of soldiers and ranchers. They’ve all stepped in to protect the ranch or homestead from both beasts and bandits. It wasn’t called feminism, and they weren’t being empowered. They were simply taking care of business.

Today, the need to protect themselves, the home, and loved ones hasn’t changed. It’s wired in their DNA. Thus, the first line of defense for them should be under their direct control — and that’s a firearm and the skills needed to use it.

mia-wood mike-pannone

Training Women
So how the heck does a former Recon Marine/S.F. guy/SFOD-D assaulter get into training women? Last February, I was teaching an advanced pistol class at Burro Canyon, when I looked up-range and saw two women standing by my truck. I put the class on break and went to investigate. That meeting triggered a new endeavor for me that’s been extremely rewarding. I met Mia Wood, the founder of Gunterest, that afternoon. At that time, she was a shooter with only a few months behind a gun, but in talking to her I recognized her deep desire to bring quality firearms training to your everyday woman. I began teaching classes for her within the month, and we’re now teaching together a year later. It’s a dynamic that women find comfortable and familiar.

Women aren’t the same as men. I didn’t learn about the unique requirements for teaching women from books about shooting or firearms training. With some formal study, I learned that women process information in a different manner neurologically while learning the same tasks as men. Different and multiple hemispheres are accessed for the same learning. Armed with that knowledge and Mia as my interpreter, I refined my presentation of material specifically for women. I don’t change the content, only the structure. As a result, women who have never touched a gun before are able to consistently hit B/C-Zone steel at 40 yards after one day of training.

Lessons for the Lesson Plan
I’ve learned a number of things teaching women’s classes. Check the machismo at the door: First and foremost, women really aren’t interested in the commando-till Valhalla-machismo shtick; they just want to learn and have fun in the process. Which is good, because I’m not into that either. I learned from them that the male-dominated industry has conditioned them to believe guns perhaps weren’t made for them. And most women wouldn’t willingly walk into a class of male strangers to learn and make mistakes. Yet, why shouldn’t women have access to the same level of training that men have had for years?

Don’t patronize them: Women shooters aren’t little girls. “Pink it and shrink it” is a no-go! Every woman I’ve talked to has said that they find the desire within the industry to make dainty brightly colored guns insulting. One woman said, “What? Am I 12 years old? Oh, I guess that gun my local cop carries is just way too much for little ol’ me.” It infantilizes and demeans them — and they resent it. I’ve noticed marketing strategies toward women seem to be designed by men … and so have they. And no, revolvers are not the only guns women should be shooting.

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