GUNS OPEN DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY
A SHOOTING COMPETITION IN RUSSIA EMPHASIZES THE IMPORTANCE OF FREETHINKING AND HOW IT OPENS THE DOOR FOR WOMEN SHOOTERS.
Women the world over face many of the same challenges and want the same things: to be respected and to live free and safe.
Living free often means thinking free, and for women, that’s not always easy. I think Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy summed it up well with these words:
“Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking … ” I just spent a couple weeks seeing the results of freethinking as I traveled to Russia to compete in the first-ever IPSC Rifle World Shoot. Some of the stories from women I met on this trip resonate with me because of the similarities to stories I see from women the world over. These are women who think freely and ignore what is commonly accepted and participate in a sport that is uncommon as a whole—but even more so for females.
These are women who are involved in a sport that is historically considered a man’s sport: shooting guns. But these women embody qualities that, above all else, make them strong. They use tools that are generally not considered “feminine” but have turned them into tools to open doors for themselves. Some of those doors are bigger than others; some are more important than others. But the overarching theme is that women who compete with firearms tend to embody qualities that we would like any adult to have, but especially women; qualities such as self-sufficiency, strength, tenacity and responsibility.
TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS WELL
Just as with any tool, learning to use a gun is important. And who our teachers are impacts the way we use that tool. If we paint a picture but are only taught to paint with three colors, our
picture is limited. If we have a palette with more options, we can paint something richer and deeper.
This is where family comes into play. Arming our children (no pun intended), especially our daughters, with skills and knowledge that are broad and deep gives them tools to live a better life. Teaching them that girls don’t all wear pink ballerina outfits is important. Some girls shoot AKs. Learning the balance of a well-built rifle is just as significant as learning the balance required of a ballerina.
When we give a girl tools, whether it’s soccer cleats or a rifle, how we teach them to use those tools, as well as our attitude about them using that tool, shape them into the women they will be. In fact, not only do these shape them and the women they will become, they also shape the future generation they, themselves, will raise. This is why understanding how our own attitudes toward women using guns is important—not just by what we say and do about it, but how we treat them when they do it.
I chatted with Maria Shvartz from Russia, who told me how she got into guns and eventually started to compete. Her story was similar to the story that many women tell: After a change in her life, she was looking for something to help her feel more safe and secure. It’s only logical that guns fit the bill—helping someone generally considered the “weaker” sex find some equality.
The end of a relationship, moving to a big city or changing jobs—all of these are reasons women can feel vulnerable. However, competing with firearms gives you a platform to build self-sufficiency. If you have a malfunction with a gun while shooting, nobody can fix it for you; it’s on you. If you have to make a shot when it counts, someone else isn’t holding the gun up; you are.
While participating in shooting competitions teaches you mental toughness and independence, it also teaches you teamwork: To achieve your goals, you need to reach out to the people around you, whether by actively asking for help or by observing what others do. You build your skill by becoming part of a community of very capable individuals, both men and women.
AN EMPOWERING ENDEAVOR
Arming women with the knowledge that they can be capable and accomplished is an empowering principle that will impact not just the women themselves, but those around them.
While Maria said she has support from her brother, with whom she shoots when she can, she said shooting is still not considered a “mainstream” sport in Russia.
Another shooter, Finland’s Saara Nyman, had a different story, but one that also reflects a common theme. Saara began shooting with her boyfriend, who builds custom rifles. She has only been competing for two years but travels regularly to Estonia for IPSC pistol matches and was part of the Finnish national team for Rifle World Shoot. When her mom found out she was competing in shooting matches, she was happy. Her happiness stemmed from how safe shooting is compared to Saara’s prior sport (racing 600cc and 1,000cc motorcycles against both men and women).
Saara’s change from motorcycles to guns even involved her job. She switched from working for a company that sold gears
and motorcycle parts to working in a gun shop. This highlights another way firearms empower women: giving them jobs.
Women such as Saara who hold down jobs in the firearms industry are the faces behind a counter or on the other end of a phone. Valuing their contribution to small businesses that make up a share of the firearms industry is important. Without small businesses and the people running them, the niche markets of many items competitive shooters find useful would not exist. Freethinking to create products and share them with the world is also something in which women play a role.
So, when we encourage women and girls to shoot, we encourage growth of more than just their skills with firearms; we encourage them to grow their scope of job opportunities and think outside the box of what people delineate as “normal” (or acceptable) jobs for a female.
OPENING DOORS WITH GUNS
Even if the females in your life are not gun lovers, take them to the range. If you’re a female who competes, invite your girl friends to come along. Sharing just how skilled women can be with firearms is one way we can bring more women into the sport, as well as into hunting and firearms ownership.
Removing any ideas that guns and shooting are “guy things” starts with us and our own perceptions and habits. If your habit has been to leave your wife or daughter at home at a match, change it up and take her along to watch. Maybe she just takes photos; maybe she just learns about safe firearms handling; maybe she loves it and can’t wait to try. In any case, you have opened a door for her, and allowing her to step through it can only happen if you’re willing to let her open it. GW
ARMING OUR CHILDREN … ESPECIALLY OUR DAUGHTERS,
WITH SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE THAT ARE BROAD AND DEEP GIVES THEM TOOLS TO LIVE A BETTER LIFE.
GUN WORLD (ISSN 0017-5641) is published monthly in January, February, March,
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Russian junior shooter
Victorya Valutsa makes ready for a head-to-head shoot-off
against her fellow Russian, Anastasiya Zharkovskaya, at the first IPSC Rifle World Shoot
Russia’s Maria Shvartz prepares for a shoot-off round at the IPSC Rifle World Shoot.
Teaching women and girls firearms skills—in
other words, how to use tools—opens doors for them, both from the skills learned and the
relationships built. Russian team member Natalia Rumyantseva shoots her rifle head to head against other women in the shoot-off during the IPSC Rifle World Shoot.
A precision rifle equates to a fine leather purse: If you’re going to invest, buy the best. An AK 47 shot by Anastasiya Zharkovskaya in the first IPSC Rifle World Shoot. Her fingernails were painted to match. But while this rifle had a lot of “pink girl power” in the paint, Anastasiya was still fierce and determined in her shooting!
Women from all over the world and all walks of life came together to share a love of firearms at the IPSC Rifle World Shoot (left to right: author Becky Yackley, Ashley Rheuark, Saara Nyman, Lena Miculek and Marika Koskinen).
The youngest supporter of Team USA at the Rifle World Shoot was the daughter of Iron Sights shooter Kuan Watson. Little Olivia took photos and videos and cheered the shooters on with an unflagging smile!