Women come to shooting for a variety of reasons, but many come out of fear. They may have had a threat, or be fearful because of the bad things happening around them. The future of their shooting is in the hands of the instructor. A caring, positive experience can help build confidence and trust.Many women are less likely to ask questions in a class than their male classmates. You need to watch them and anticipate their questions, make them feel that it is ok to ask. Be careful with jargon or technical terminology unless you take the time to explain it. They might not ask, but you will lose them.
Women are less tolerant of macho, alpha male style behavior and profanity. Frankly, it can be a turn off, and once we turn off, your job as an instructor isn’t getting done. So, dial back a little. You can be professional without being intimidating, aggressive or profane. Women, especially one who is there because she has been assaulted or threatened, may be more sensitive to being touched. Ask first, unless it is a safety issue, minimize touching and ask. You can get a sense of your student and know if it is ok.Women often come into a class with fewer bad habits or preconceived ideas. But, also with less experience. Take the time to explain and demonstrate, build the foundation. Many women are less confident and a little scared so they need to understand before they do. Demos help, clear explanations are essential to build the fundamentals. Generally, women retain instruction better when they understand the “why”. Why do I do it this way instead of another way that may feel more comfortable? Take the time to explain the concept, the method, steps and why. This can be done with patience or even a little humor. I take good natured teasing because I’m fanatical about cleaning my carry gun. When people ask me often they should clean their gun, I tell them if depends on a variety of factors, but that while I might let some of my guns go without cleaning for a couple sessions, my carry gun gets cleaned every time it is shot. I tell them “I’ve never heard of anyone having a malfunction because their gun was too clean”.
There are things that women need to know but a new shooter, especially one who plans to carry, may not realize she needs to know. First, purse carry. There is carrying in a purse and a carry purse. Carrying in a purse is a bad idea. Ask women how long it takes to find their keys? Ok, that makes an image. Now, point out that the gun is the heaviest thing in the purse. Where will it be? On the bottom. Oriented how…who knows? You reach in a pull it out and, gee, there is that pen you were looking for, sticking out of the barrel. A carry purse has a dedicated compartment and holster for the gun, and NOTHING else goes in there. This is “off-body” carry and still not ideal. If your purse gets snatched, your gun is gone. You can’t put it down, hang it off the back of a chair…it needs to be in your control at all times. You need to be able to articulate this without being sarcastic, it may take practice to be able to talk about women’s accessories but this is important information.
Holsters…It is possible to carry on body and not advertise. You also don’t have to carry a derringer, which I like to compare to trying to shoot a baby carrot, to conceal effectively. For women, clothing makes a huge difference. Prints hide better than solid colors. Ruching, which is stretchy gathers, also works wonders to conceal a gun. She can maintain a slim silhouette by wearing lose over snug to hide the gun. Jeans can be a problem if they fit snugly, men’s jeans can fit the hips and leave a little extra room in the waist for the gun.
Men and women alike need to find what fits them, what is comfortable and fits their lifestyle. There are as many options as there are guns. Some are better for men and some are better for women, and specifics will be explored at a later time. It is important to remind a student that she, or he, needs to pick a primary carry method. The last thing anyone wants is to do the body pat in an emergency. Body pat referring to reaching for your gun only to realize it is someplace else and you start patting yourself trying to find your gun. That said, there are times, especially for women, when your primary carry method isn’t practical due to attire. She needs to know it is important to practice with whatever method(s) she chooses. Also, suggest getting comfortable wearing her gun around the house for a couple days before carrying in public. Once you can walk around the house without fidgeting and adjusting, you can go in public and most people will never know.
Range bags are another topic that women often have questions about. Not all of us want to advertise that we are shooters. It helps to know you can use almost anything as a range bag, from a back pack to a beach tote, and not advertise to your neighbors you are going to the range. Sometimes a little discretion goes a long way.
It is important to have options and be able to demonstrate them. Understand the lifestyle, a mom with kids needs to know how she can carry safely when her children are with her. Discuss cover and concealment, as well as family practice drills for their safety. Be prepared to discuss safe practices in parking lots, how to protect herself and her kids. Generally, women don’t like to go there, playing the kids card, but it does get their attention.
Women are less likely to spend money on advanced training than men. You need to emphasize the importance of practice and training, not just because it is fun but because these are skills that deteriorate if they are not used.
Women and men do learn and respond differently. The differences blur with experience, but when you are working with a new shooter, it is important to recognize that there are differences in motivation, needs, and learning styles. Make her feel accepted and comfortable, and you will have a student for a long time. One last thought, and this comes from my experience. When you tell a student to perform a task and they look at you for clarification, repeating the same instruction in a louder voice is very much like the American who travels overseas and speaks English louder, hoping to make themselves understood by a non-English speaker. You need to have more than one way to explain something. There is your first choice, but if she doesn’t understand, repeating the same words just frustrates your student and you.
More women are learning to shoot, for a variety of reasons, including curiosity, encouragement or pressure from their significant other, or yes, fear. You can set the tone and help them to make a positive and safe entry into this world of shooting.