Gun World - - Con­tents -

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.


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.


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.


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



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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

in Rus­sia.

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!

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