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For the Ladies – Getting Started with Firearms (Part 1)

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Today I'm featuring a guest post mostly for the ladies, but I suspect some gentlemen may find this useful as well. To those who have considered getting a gun for self-defense, this is for you.


Why should I learn how to shoot? I've never been a victim. I've never been robbed.

The best way to survive a criminal attack is to have a safety strategy BEFORE you need it, not after. That is why I strongly support the Second Amendment and the right for law abiding citizens to own guns for sport and self defense.

Man, his other traits notwithstanding, biologically considered, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species.

A thug or a professional criminal has disassociated himself from humanity and views us simply as a hawk views a sparrow. Face it ladies, we are prey.

My late Mom and I both went into Law Enforcement, I have her badge in a desk drawer next to mine, even if I'm a scientist by trade.

It's hard work, it's meaningful work, (though if we dressed like they do on TV no one would take us seriously).

But that is not why we both learned to shoot.  It's about being a victim, something both Mom and I have seen.

It's about not living in fear on the street or in my own home alone. A woman, with her smaller size and perceived timidity, is considered easy prey.

Birds can see from the side to help protect themselves, women can not. There must be a way to level the playing field and for me that is concealed carry.

The hawk does not know I have a 38 special in my holster, but he does sense the confidence in my stride, the firmness of my hand. I do not walk timidly, I walk with strength, even if it is of the hollowpoint variety.

I know women who say “I've had a self defense course (non weapon)” or “I know karate“.

I've had training in both and I can tell you, that in a case of I'm smart enough to know that in case of extreme danger against a person with their own weapon, that is  involving a person with a weapon, that is no guarantee I can protect myself.

The young woman who was kidnapped from a Eastern National Park a few years back by a kindly looking older fellow and later found murdered in the woods? Black Belt.

Look, even with my training, most guys could mop the floor with me simply due to the disparity in size and upper body strength. Even size and strength may not help you if you are up against someone armed with a knife.

But though women are often targets, they are not the only ones. Predators, when wounded, stoned or hungry will try and take anything. In numbers, or singularly, using whatever advantage they have, be it blindsiding or extreme aggression.

Ladies, operating a gun doesn’t require upper body strength or special fighting agility, and you can learn to safely use one in a relatively short period of time.

I recommend getting an instructor if you are brand new to shooting Many ranges have certified instructors available at a very reasonable cost, for one on one or group lessons and that might be more comfortable for you than having a family member or spouse teach you.

Though a couple of very competent shooters I know had their husbands teach them and it was what worked best for them both. Your choice here again. Training is key though, and not just learning how to shoot.


Getting the right introduction to shooting ensures a safe and quality first-time experience and the start to a lifetime of enjoyment of shooting sports or simply the appreciation of self defense.

Too many woman have been put off to it by a guy that takes them to a range, hands them something that's got a lot of kick  and watches the woman get totally turned off to shooting simply for the sake of his ego (and it's not always size – some small guns will bite your hand and my big Sig is a total pussycat).

If that's the way someone introduces you to a firearm,  find yourself someone else to shoot with.

Begin with the Basics

The National Rifle Association (NRA) provides  a number firearm training courses , both with individual and group instruction that will help you develop the knowledge, skills and attitude to pursue your interest while honing in the safety principles that you will carry with you the rest of your life.

The NRA provides an online state-by-state locator to help you find a local firearm safety course.

A professional shooting facility is another resource for you to contact about introductory courses and quality instruction. will help you find a range near you or simply look in the yellow pages. When I first decided I wanted to learn to shoot pistols, I simply contacted a local indoor range, and arranged for a time to visit. Let them know you are a newcomer, trust me, they will welcome your presence and your business.

When I arrived, I was probably the only lady in there but I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome. I got a tour, and the phone number of two of the instructors.

Make contact and arrange a time to visit. Try and visit during the week or in the early morning when it's less likely to be busy and you'll feel less like that “fish out of water”.

If you can't find a range, locate a shooting sports retailer near you. Gander Mountain, Bass Pro, etc. Ask for the firearms department and tell them what you are looking for. They will help get you pointed in the right direction to find firearm safety courses and shooting instruction. Many of the stores sponsor concealed carry courses and gun safety courses for beginners.

Set up a session with a certified firearms instructor.We fight with our minds first, and you need to be proficient on not just how to fight, but when. When you look for a trainer, find out as much as you can about where he/she got their training and if their area of expertise is compatible with what you want to learn. There are a number of courses and avenues for getting basic firearm safety, the principals of which I can't stress enough.

What do I wear? – Dress the part the first time you go. I'm not talking about some Rambette outfit of cammo or khaki and knife strapped to your thigh like Lara Croft. Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in, that are easily washed. Avoid anything low cut or open toed shoes. Brass is HOT, and one down the front of your shirt is going to get your attention, but the sort that will be that embarrassing story your grand kids will tell about you some day.

3801 Smaller

Don't Forget Protection:  I'm talking eyes and ears. Before you make that first visit to the gun range, pick up some protection shooting glasses (about $20 and up). I'd recommend them even if you wear glasses as they offer more protection to the eye than most smaller fashion frames and most will fit OVER your regular glasses. Get some ear muffs (if they are furry you are in the wrong department at the sporting goods store). The plastic ear muffs run about $30 and up. Look for a Noise Reduction Rating (NR Rating on the label) of around 30 (you'll see some as low as 22, adequate but you can do better).

Walk in with your head up knowing you don't know a darn thing about the mechanics of the firearm.  You didn't crawl into your parents car and drive 70 mph down the freeway the first time did you? Everyone is new at one point. As long as you repeat the mantra “never point the muzzle at anything you don't wish to destroy“, “treat every gun as if it is loaded” and “keep your finger away from the trigger until your target is identified and you are ready to fire”you will NEVER look stupid. The only dumb people at a range that do are those that don't follow those rules

You may not know number of rounds or even what a round is. You may not know how to load or insert a magazine. A good instructor will  show you all of this before you ever pull the trigger. A professional instructor will show you how the guns works and explains exactly what is happening when you pull the trigger. They will demonstrate everything you should be doing, before you even do it. Typically women learn best when the fundamentals of shooting are broken down  into small segments and there is time to master each part before new material is presented.

Part 2 of this post continues tomorrow with information on selecting the right firearm.

Brigid writes at Home on the Range –
Her bio reads, “Swept wing cowgirl for Uncle Sam meets doctorate in forensic geekery. I like solving puzzles. Life is an adventure that usually involves a sidearm and a trusty black lab.”

I admire her wit and humor, and her fine selection of bacon recipes. She writes posts that will tug at your heart strings, make you laugh and make your tummy rumble. Take time to stop by for a visit, you'll be glad you did.

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  1. This article saddens me. It is very derogatory towards women and supports firearms. I first saw it on facebook and was offended by the person who published it because I felt ‘tricked’ in to reading it. Looking at your blog, I love so much of the info you offer here. Why THIS?! I know it’s your private blog, but I want to say that it’s misleading to offer a blog on natural homesteading and then publish this. This is offensive and VERY OPINIONATED.

    1. Celeste -I thought the title “Getting Started with Firearms” was a strong indication that the piece supports firearms, and apologize if you felt “misled” into reading the piece. You’ll note in the blog description that it states “seeking greater self-reliance”. For many people, this includes exercising our Second Amendment rights. This is a topic I have personally wanted to know more about, so I turned to a strong, very capable woman to share her experience. As a crime scene investigator, Brigid has seen “the worst of the worst”. I don’t want any of my readers to be the next victim. Life is complicated.

      The Weekly Weeder will be back on Wednesday, along with other more standard fare for the rest of the week.

      1. I wasn’t misled by your title, I was misled by the person who published it on Facebook, sorry for that confusion. The title is very clear, and I totally appreciate gathering info and protecting yourself. I think where I find it a little shocking is looking at pictures of jarred honey, natural health, and Buddhist quotes, followed by an article about firearms. It’s always been my very deep gut instinct that guns are dangerous, but I realize that too, is an opinion. I wish the author of this article would have left out the part about women not needing upper body strength or agility. Women are strong and agile. I also appreciate you posting my comment because most people would have thrown it out. If guns were outlawed, or didn’t exist (I know, pipe dream) none of us would feel the need to protect ourselves AGAINST them, WITH them. That’s a backwards thought in my opinion.

        1. This response is very late in coming, judging by the original post date, but, better late than never. My apologies for necro-posting. The last point you made about guns being outlawed or not existing is extremely flawed, as is protecting oneself “against them, with them.” By employing a firearm, one does not protect oneself from guns alone; guns are only one choice that a criminal has to use against a victim. Violence with hands, edged weapons, and impact weapons existed for centuries before guns existed, and remain means to commit homicide, or other crimes against persons, so consider the gun a tool in the tool box for self defense against those who would do you harm. If guns did not exist, rapists, robbers, pederasts, thieves, et al, would still exist. Mankind has always found means to do harm to brothers and sisters, no matter the weapon; it is part of what and who we are. No judgement, just reality.

    2. I don’t know if I would call this “offensive and VERY OPINIONATED.” The fact that a reader is offended doesn’t mean an article is, in and of itself, offensive. It usually just means you have a difference of opinion. And if a writer cannot post what she wants to her own personal blog, why bother blogging at all? It’s fine if you don’t like the idea of women with guns, or guns themselves, or even if you think that the author’s view of women as the weaker sex is sexist. The fact remains, women are often victims and being skilled with and carrying a firearm is one way to stay safe. Just because you disagree doesn’t mean the author’s view is offensive. And it frankly saddens me a little when readers attack bloggers. You’re not being forced to read or tricked into reading it–what a cop-out. If you don’t agree and can’t handle discussing a subject without accusing the other party of being offensive and too opinionated, why not just move on and only read things that support your own pre-established views?

  2. THANK YOU! Several years ago, my husband and I decided to get our concealed carry permits. Problem was, I’d never even held a gun, much less shot one. Decided to take a NRA handgun course. Instructor is ex-cop, loaned me some guns. While shooting at his outdoor range on a snowy Jan. day with temps in the teens, the semi-automatic kept jamming. And the revolver had a recoil that nearly hurt. Couldn’t hit where I aimed to save my life. I learned alot, but it wasn’t much fun. Recently, a petite gun-toting mama of 4 little girls took me to the indoor range and let me shoot her Sig Sauer. Sweet little gun. No recoil to speak of. Hit the target from the first shot. Don’t know yet if I want a concealed carry permit or just to have one at home for protection. But I REALLY appreciate the information! Thanks again.

    1. Kathleen – glad that you found the article useful. Tomorrow we’ll have more info on specific guns, and the Sig Sauer is one of Brigid’s favorites. Like any tool, the type of tool you choose and how you are taught to use it makes a big difference.

  3. I appreciate this article. I have been a victim of violence in my life and even now at my desk, sit within an arms reach of three different firearms. It’s just the way it is.

  4. I just wanted to say thank you for this blog post! I’ll be taking an instructional course soon. My husband does have a concealed handgun license and we feel much, much safer when we are out at about and even at home!

  5. Great article! I just started shooting in the last few years and have my concealed carry permit now. More women need to be aware that they don’t have to be a victim! For the woman that said the article was derogatory, I couldn’t disagree any more. It’s a fact of life that most women don’t have the same body strength as men. That is why carrying a gun is a great equalizer for both genders, since not all men have incredible strength! I applaud you for putting this out there!

  6. Glad you posted this today. My husband carries almost all the time and I’m all signed up for my own CPL class this coming Saturday. I’m planning a hiking trip with my sister this summer and my husband didn’t feel comfortable with us out there alone unarmed, so looks like I’ll have to fine a comfortable was to carry along with my pack! Looking forward to more of this, especially selecting a firearm. I don’t want something as big as my husband’s Glock, so I’m thinking a snub-nosed revolver that takes rounds big enough to have stopping power. Again, thanks for posting!!

  7. I wrote this for Common Sense Homesteading at their request, as many women who are self sufficient that we both know have expressed interest in learning to shoot.

    Carrying is a personal choice. If you do not wish to. DO NOT. But if you DO wish to, or simply wish to learn more if there is a firearm owner in your household, there is not much information out there for women. I had a number of women ask me about it after one of the ladies in my former tiny, quiet town was beaten to death with a claw hammer.

    I will clear something up for our reader Celeste. I respect your different opinion. We all have differences in how we live and think. . But I’m an LEO and telling women, that in most cases, being unarmed, up against a man who is bigger in size and upper body strength, puts you at a physical disadvantage, that is not derogatory, that is physiology. No where in there did I ever say women shouldn’t develop their upper body strength, or agility, Just that it ALONE is not enough, especially if up against someone on drugs. I’m 5 foot 8, strong as I can be (I can bench press my weight) and I have martial arts and fighting with flat edged weapons experience. But unarmed, against someone on PCP or with homicidal rage, with 60 pounds on me, I’d be in deep trouble, even with my training and size.

    That doesn’t make me ANY less of a warrior. That’s reality and has nothing to do with the incredible drive, strength and mindset women have.

    To those of you offering encouragement and the willingness to listen to a opinion different from yours without prejudging intent, thank you.

  8. I know of too many women that have been seriously assaulted by attackers. It would be nice if outlawing tools such as guns and knives prevented this. If you believe that this works, then you must also think that prior to the invention of the knife that women were safe and never raped. I’m pretty sure cave men assaulted women as they pleased.

  9. I as an Instructor for new shooters and Concealed Carry Handgun permits in my state have heard many stories of violence against women. They are in my classes. It rips my heart out to hear these stories after the fact. I applaud these brave souls that take this step and vocalize why they are in my class. Many had restraining orders against the perpetrator of violence against them. That piece of paper did not stop a student of mine being beaten all day at his leisure.

    As far as the physical disparity Celeste notes I can say that I am a 5′ 11″ male with the same disadvantages noted above if I am confronted with a determined attacker.

    Firearms in and of themselves are no more dangerous than the automobile. They are both tools. Either can be used to get home safely or mow down people on the sidewalk. Much like a claw hammer.


  10. Great article! It gives those of us interested in learning about firearms some great information. !!Just a side note to those so passionately against guns. My children’s step-brother was killed from one blow to the head from a fist. There was no weapon other than a fist. There was also no fight. The guy was trying to start a fight, but my children’s step-brother ignored the guy. They guy swung anyway. There was still no fight because my children’s step-brother fell to the ground, unconscious, never to wake up again.!! Violence is not caused by guns!

  11. I would like to say that I am a homeschooling mother of 6. We live in a rural area where wild animals are more of a problem than strangers. I have a CCW and carry to protect my children and myself. When I am in town, I find myself much more aware and confident while I am carrying. Hiking in the woods, I think it is good common sense to be armed. As a suggestion for other ladies, I love and recommend my “Lady Smith” Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver. It is small and not too heavy for everyday carry, and I can target practice with .38 Special. For concealed carry, it is loaded with .357 Mags. The smaller grip fits my hand perfectly. I find target practice a very rewarding pastime.

    Keeping a concealed weapon with children in the home is not for everyone. This is a decision each individual must make, considering their diligence and responsibility to keep a curious child from discovering their firearm. I feel that if a person is nervous about firearms, It would be more dangerous for them to have one than not.

    1. Ma – well said. Nearly every story you hear of children getting hurt with firearms involves them “playing” with the gun. My boys have been taught from an early age that guns are tools that need to be treated with respect – just like knives and power tools.

  12. I am a liberal. I am a woman. I have been a shooter for nearly my whole life. My dad had me target shooting with a rifle when I was 8 or 9. When I was 19, I was assaulted & nearly died. I took the handgun safety course the day before my 20th birthday, and applied for my permit the day after my 21st. I have carried pretty much daily ever since. I have been taking my daughter to the range since she was 11. I started taking my stepdaughter when she was 12.

    Violence is a terrible part of human nature and society. I wish it never existed. But for me, guns are not about violence – I was strangled, so my assailant’s deadly weapon was his hands. For me, guns are fun family competitions at the range, and hunting with my husband (what really draws us together is scouting for hunting, hours of quality time every weekend). And yes, guns are also about self-defense – against violence which I do not initiate.

    I just wanted to share another perspective, and say you can’t always make assumptions about “gun-toting” whatever-you-want-to-call-us.

  13. This is a really interesting article to read from an Australian point of view. Our gun laws here are very different. I only know one person who owns a firearm, and he lives in country Victoria and uses it for hunting (and when it’s not in use it must, by law, be kept in a gun safe, unloaded and with the ammo in a separate locked safe). In general in Australia gun use is centred around hunting or sport, not self defence. I’ve just had a look at state legislation for Victoria and in a “populous place” such as a town or city, the only firearms that may be carried are longarms, unless of course you are a police officer/member of the military/private security officer. So I wouldn’t be able to carry a concealed handgun (legally, at least, and the penalty for illegally concealing a firearm is some years in jail here).

    I think that my main concern for people carrying firearms for personal protection would be their attacker getting hold of the firearm and using it against them. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear many Australian ladies say that the thought of “carrying” freaks them out, probably because we have such a different culture with regards to firearms here.

  14. If everyone had guns, we’d all be safe? I cannot even begin to tell you how strongly I feel about the second amendment. Suffice it to say that I consider it one of the most ridiculous concepts I’ve ever heard of! While it may have been historically applicable, it has no place whatsoever in the modern world. How many senseless massacres will it take until America wakes up and realises that civilians are safer with no guns than with everyone owning and, in a large number of cases, being legally allowed to conceal and carry one or more? Sure, the perpetrators of these massacres are usually quite mentally unstable, but this doesn’t seem to prevent them gaining access to high powered firearms. I live in a country where no one, apart from the police, is allowed to publicly carry a weapon and where ownership is limited to bolt-action rifles and single or double barreled shotguns. Do we still have shootings? You bet we do. The difference lies in the number/%, as the USA has a much higher population it’s more accurate to compare % rather than actual numbers, and the reaction of the general populace and government. Back in 1995 some nut went on a rampage and massacred a lot of people, the response of the government was to ban all but the above mentioned firearms and greatly restrict and regulate access to these weapons, a move that was greatly applauded by the general populace. I guess my point is that it isn’t not having a gun that makes you vulnerable, it’s not having a gun when you can be fairly sure that a large number of people are carrying one. So, is it better to get a gun too, or if no one had any at all?

    1. Yeah, gun bans are working out really well for Chicago:

      Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, leading city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.

      And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.

      I prefer the Swiss model:

      According to the UN International Study on Firearm Regulation, in 1994 the homicide rate in England (including Wales) was 1.4 (9% involving firearms), and the robbery rate 116, per 100,000 population. In the United States, the homicide rate was almost 9.0 (70% involving firearms), and the robbery rate 234, per 100,000. England has strict gun control laws, ergo, the argument goes, the homicide rate is far lower than in the United States. However, such comparisons can be dangerous: in 1900, when England had no gun controls, the homicide rate was only 1.0 per 100,000.

      Moreover, using data through 1996, the U.S. Department of Justice study Crime and Justice concluded that in England the robbery rate was 1.4 times higher, the assault rate was 2.3 higher, and the burglary rate was 1.7 times higher than in the United States. Only the murder and rape rates in the United States were higher than in England.

      The UN Study omits Switzerland from its comparative analysis. The Swiss example contradicts the Study’s hypothesis that a high incidence of firearm ownership correlates with high violent crime.

      The Swiss Federal Police Office reports that, in 1997, there were 87 intentional homicides and 102 attempted homicides in the entire country. Some 91 of these 189 murders and attempts involved firearms (the statistics do not distinguish firearm use in consummated murders from attempts). With its population of seven million (which includes 1.2 million foreigners), Switzerland had a homicide rate of 1.2 per 100,000. There were 2,498 robberies (and attempted robberies), of which 546 involved firearms, giving a robbery rate of 36 per 100,000. Almost half of these criminal acts were committed by non-resident foreigners, which is why one hears reference in casual talk to “criminal tourists.”

      Sometimes, the data sounds too good to be true. In 1993, not a single armed robbery was reported in Geneva.

      In a word, Switzerland, which is awash in guns, has substantially lower murder and robbery rates than England, where most guns are banned.

  15. For the commenter at the beginning who was “offended”……..guns have existed for hundreds of years for survival…….not only defense but for food! If you were forced to live off the land or simply chose to, hunting for protein/meat is essential – but then I’m sure she’s offended by that too.

    1. There are still people out there who think everyone should by meat from the grocery store where no animals are injured, too. It’s possible the two may be connected.

      1. The irony being how much more pain, suffering and miscare can be involved with the grocer provided meats as opposed to people providing their own meats.

        1. Which reminds me of those quotes from people saying everyone should get their meat from the grocery store where no animals are harmed. Yikes. Everyone I know who hunts and who raises their own food appreciates it fully because they know exactly how much time and effort went into it.

  16. Living in the UK, where guns are banned (except for a few exceptions, for which the laws are very strict, I was shocked to see this post. I have never come across an article before that advocates the use of guns, and it makes me feel sad that people feel so scared of violence that they feel the need to own one. I know things are different in the US, but i just can’t see how yet more people owning guns helps anything. Yes, in the UK we may be burgled or robbed on the street by people with knives or illegal guns. I would still rather not be responsible for killing anyone, not to mention the possibility of accidentally shooting others.

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