Training is, obviously, a good thing. And for several reasons. More competent and safer end users are out there; that is the biggest. Training also increases the number of favorable and knowledgeable individuals in the general jury pool. Whether those who are trained do or do not make it into a jury panel, their knowledge and experience can percolate out to others. That dissemination of information can erase some of the misconceptions that exist in the community at large.
Numerous women-centric shooting organizations exist at the local, state, and national levels. I have heard of Shoot Like a Girl, A Girl & A Gun, Women on Target, and the recently re-named Armed Women of America (formerly The Well-Armed Women). My apologies to everyone involved in any of the groups I missed.
Through my work at Gunsite, I am most aware of the Armed Women of America. The school has sponsored a chapter for several years now. It supports the chapter’s monthly shoots by allowing them to use the ranges and simulators, while instructors donate one Saturday morning a month to teach. In addition to the monthly events, the school has hosted Arizona state-wide events for AWA.
Gunsite and AWA have combined to develop and offer an instructor development program for women in the organization. In addition to AWA membership, it requires completing Gunsite’s #250 Defensive Pistol class.
When my teaching schedule intersects with the dates for AWA shoots at Gunsite, I have been able to help with those events. Both on the square range and working with the ladies in the shoot houses – as I did this last weekend.
To get a better feel for AWA, the group’s benefits, and those who like it, I talked with two members I know.
Lindy comes from a solid 2 Am background. Her mom was involved in one chapter; she joined what is now AWA when Gunsite started a chapter.
Some positives she sees include monthly shoots, meetings to hone their skills, developing instructors, and cultivating friendships and interactions with those with similar interests. Chapters do things differently; her mom’s chapter has hosted Stop the Bleed courses as an example.
During our discussion, she told me she sees a benefit to women who aren’t comfortable being around men in training – for whatever reason. She also likes the emphasis on training more women to teach in AWA programs if they are capable and have teaching skills.
She sees a tremendous value in belonging to Gunsite’s chapter, primarily because of the school’s instructor staff. She did not know about that similarity elsewhere, in other chapters.
Jan is involved with AWA in multiple ways. She leads a local chapter in central Arizona and the state-wide group. Additionally, she is on the national board as the secretary. That equals a lot of work.
Jan said she is willing to volunteer and enjoys it because of a belief in the benefits the organization brings in terms of empowering members and starting them on the path to self-protection and the skills that go with it.
She sees and accepts the challenges that go with the work. She described three areas. First, balancing experiences for the participants – how do you train newcomers will not burning out long time participants by repeating entry-level skills over. Second, members bring diverse skill sets from various areas and her work to see they are shared. Finally, ensuring the physical safety of all involved in the program.
She described the satisfaction of watching women who had been terrified of guns, intimidated in their personal lives, and had a victim mindset. And then, over time, watching them come out of that shell. Seeing them willing to learn, becoming comfortable around firearms, and working towards competency. She said it was even better to see them grasp a reliant Mindset.
Her description of the organization was that it was women helping women. Even so, it was not anti-male. She is very positive about the presence of male instructors who are kind and gentle. Their presence, in her mind, can help change the viewpoint of those victimized women.
When I asked Jan if she would encourage another range or school to sponsor a chapter, she answered, “Absolutely, yes. Bringing women into the range adds a new dimension, another demographic. One that has not always been reached. Sponsoring an AWA chapter helps reach out to the community and other groups as well.”
Another Gunsite instructor was listening to our discussion and told me what he had heard from a woman who runs the chapter he works with:
“I need to find girls and women who are like I used to be and bring them into these sessions.”
AWA and others bring women into the shooting community while increasing the number of knowledgeable people in our communities.