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shooting gal

I’m often asked why I focus on “women and guns” rather than “people with guns.” It isn’t because I’m a feminist, as some suggest or that I’m not interested in “men’s things.” I’m neither a feminist nor a misandrist. I’m a realist. The biological reality: women are different than men. Our bodies are different, and not just in the obvious ways. Because of our hormonal system, we often have different emotional reactions to the exact same stimuli . . .

In the face of extreme danger, many women feel scared and want to flee. Many men tend to want to buck-up and fight. Again, this isn’t an “every woman and every man” deal. An attacker laboring under the impression that Momma Bear will turn tail and run may face a rude surprise. And there’s nothing “unmanly” about fleeing from avoidable danger. But these “stereotypes” are there for a reason.

Setting aside the debate over nurture vs. nature, the bio-chemical differences between men and women lead them to mentally process stimuli in different ways. When I was pregnant, the diaper commercial where the baby reached for her mom made me sob. My husband, not so much. He likes violent movies, the more gore the better. Me, not so much.

When it comes to guns, men and women have different concealed carry needs. If nothing else they have differently shaped bodies and dress codes, requiring various types of holsters and guns. It is also true that women tend to be more recoil averse than men, and don’t care as much about what their friends think about their gun.

Women want to know what products work for them: holsters, clothing and more. Pink guns? Chi-chi range bags? Those too. There’s a legitimate economical need for all of these products, or manufacturers wouldn’t be making them. I review them because women want them. Besides, y’all don’t want to see RF in Girls With Guns yoga pants, now do you?

When it comes to guns, sometimes women just want to hear what another woman has to say. Much like men will often like the hear what another man’s suggestion will be, rather than their female significant other’s opinion (e.g., that gun looks ridiculous!)

I want women to be active in their own self defense, to overcome any cultural indoctrination  that predisposed them towards relying entirely on others — male or female — for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

I respect both genders equally. I understand that both are different and in the best ways.  That’s how it is meant to be. As a woman, I may be able to help other wives and mothers be better armed self-defenders in a way a man cannot. We are different, but equal. Arming more women will ensure that it stays that way.

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  1. Way too much truth and common sense presented here. Prepare for an argument since a lot of people don’t like those things.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Looks like the stock should be extended to help with posture and sight alignment.

    • For some, or at least one I talked to about this, being well endowed in the chest area she was used to leaning back when carrying things, as it allowed her arms to more comfortably position around her breasts, and it naturally carried over to holding a firearm.

      • That was my thinking, too. A rifle and full magazine can weigh about 6.5 pounds, more with accessories. I figure that’s about how much a baby weighs.

        Well, today’s average is closer to 7.5 pounds, with a normal range of maybe 5.5 to 10. If we’re talking about a natural instinct to lean back while carrying things, so as to center the weight over one’s frame, then that’s a millennia long phenomenon. It’s impact would linger from a time long before proper nutrition, maternity leave, and modern prenatal care; a time when babies could well weigh much less than they do today.

        It’s just an idea. Even if true, it might not hold for all women shooters.

      • I dunno. Of the women I’ve taken shooting, that’s a pretty typical stance in the A, B, and sometimes small C range.

        When you get into large C, or D, they tend to lean into it more. I had a SO for a few years that looked exactly like you see on the mudflaps – 110 soaking wet with a pair of (store bought ‘natch) D’s. She leaned into everything from pistol to rifle in a wide variety of calibers.

        Just my experience, YMMV.

    • That’s a target stance, not a tactical stance. The idea is to lock up “bone on bone” for a stable platform. Different positions for a different purpose.

      Personally, my bones have way too much padding to make it effective….

      • Yeah I have seen target shooters lean back like that because they take one shot and recover before the next so recoil management isn’t an issue. But that is with very long and very heavy guns. The point is to get the center of gravity over your mid point. It takes a lot of weight off the support hand. I guess most girls feel the weight out front and naturally get into this position. That’s fine for target shooting, but not the way you want to fight.

        • I wonder if some shooters might not be subconsciously attempting to distance themselves from the recoil, report and muzzle flash. The rifle’s length doesn’t change based on one’s stance, of course, but the mind is an interesting thing when it comes to perception. It copes in odd ways sometimes.

      • If she was target shooting you’d think she’d have something approaching a cheek weld instead of the obvious cheek hover being displayed.

        • An AR is not great for cheek welds. It can be done and there accessories that help, or you can get the bottom edge of the butt up on the top of your shoulder. I competed with an M1 Garand in the Navy. Now there’s a gun where you need a cheek weld. I shot expert with the M16 also, but I didn’t even try to shoot it like an M1. I agree, though, her body position is all wonky in the picture.

    • It is not just women. Most (if not all) new shooters I have worked with lean back and I suspect it is to bring the weight of the long gun closer to their body. It takes a lot of repetition and correction to break what seems to be a natural habit for most people. I usually make new shooters I am teaching stand relaxed with their feet a little wider set than normal and weight a hair forward. Then, I place the gun in the right position and let them move a few body parts as possible the minimum distance possible to hold the gun on target. With this method, you end up with more of a Brian Enos stance than a Chris Costa stance, but I think this is best for most new shooters. If you want to argue merits of different stances, then you know enough to choose for yourself.

      • I tried that for a while, but found it was interfering with the rest of the lessons… so I now work on the fundamentals and encourage students to find a position that feels good to them. Then they shoot some… and what happens at the target tells me a lot. If they are comfortable, and on target, I’m not going to mess with tiny details. If they are not getting on target, we talk about it some more and the student is urged to try different positions – and different guns. We almost always arrive at a good combination.

        The thing about the woman’s breast impacting the stance is right on. I have lost more than 70 pounds in the last year, and it has changed my own comfort stance, mostly with the rifles and shotguns. My balance point and muscle mass changed, so it seems obvious that other things would change as well.

        The idea that there is only “one right way” to do anything is the enemy of teaching people to shoot well. I’m so glad to see “people of the gun” being more and more open to differences, and experimenting to find what works for them, even if everyone else hates it. 🙂

        As for target shooting vs. tactical shooting, for pity sake don’t push people too far or too fast. Let them get the basic things solidly first, and then if they wish to go on to more complex practice, they’ll have a good platform. I’ve seen a good number of people, women especially, completely turned off to shooting because they were pushed into things for which they were not ready.

        • Agree with what you are saying. I don’t work on stance at first unless they specifically ask or it is an impediment to their shooting. Once working on it, most people seem most comfortable with what I described above and it may not be the best stance for a given application but it is good all around base to work from. However, I would not let them move to something with heavier recoil with out stance work.

      • The first principle in shooting offhand that I was taught was “Bring the rifle to you. Don’t bend to meet the rifle”. Weight distribution and stance were in keeping with absorbing the recoil of the M-1.
        When I fired competitively, I fired both M-16 and M-14. I found that sloppy position, such as that illustrated, was no problem with the M-16. But those bad habits would not be tolerated shooting the M-14.

    • It’s simply the most instinctive way to achieve balance while holding a heavy object in front of you. You can’t learn forward without falling over, unless you spread your feet out.

      That’s why having a good instructor is important. Proper stance, then posture, make shooting more comfortable, more enjoyable, more fun, and more accurate.

    • The women I’ve taught were able to get the appropriate posture when I asked them to lean in at the waist, roll their shoulders forward, and seat the butt of the gun in the natural pocket beside their collarbone. YMMV.

      • Press the rifle forward, and go. Leaning back with a 16″ AR15 is anticipating recoil, not a target stance. Or poor “training”. You decide….

      • I dunno, like all things in life, if it works, then please, do it.

        My bud’s 12 year old daughter grabs a Mosin like a pro, and no flinching depressing the bang switch. She does very well at beer cans at 100M. Open sights….

        That said, even a plastic poodle-popper is beyond some folks’ comfort level, or, believe it or not, that stance may work for her. She’s firing, her gun, let her figure out if it works for her. And if it does, so be it.

        • And how exactly are we to tell if that unorthodox stance works for her based on a still photograph? Whats wrong with some constructive critisism? You can take advice or not, but suggesting ideas not be shared would have kept us in the dark ages.

        • Michael, I have no idea based on a still. I would expect that she knows one way or another, that she has friends who shoot, and have people give her pointers.

          I’ve seen all sortsa weirdness in 40 years of shooting, and some of it worked really well. For that person.

          • Okay. It just seems like some people are saying “leave her alone”. All I want to do is spread the knowledge and try to learn more about guns myself. If I post my picture on here and I am using some jacked up technique, for example, my three point sling is mounted backwards, (true story) why should I get butthurt when people correct me? Why would I get defensive saying “I can shoot sub 1/2” MOA with that rig so who cares?

        • Michael, I am a ‘she can defend herself’ kinda guy. Chivalry is fine in limited amounts, but I don’t do the “delicate flower” stuff.

          I’m only offering that maybe a more conventional stance would improve her accuracy, or maybe she’s comfy that way, and she can still hit beer cans at 100M with open sights. I’ve seen otherwise good shooters demoralized over bullshit about how best to hold your pistol “and if you’re not doing *that*, you suck”. I remember we experimented with “thumbs forward” back in the ’80s, guess it has garnered a bigger cult this time around.

          I’m just saying to entertain the possibility that it works for her. Because I have seen it work for others. (I’ve also seen it fail, so I’m not taking that away from you…)

          • You don’t understand. I don’t care how Sara shoots. My concern is with the casual visitor to this site that may be in pursuit of free yet excellent advice on fundamentals of shooting, male or female.
            No instructor would set someone up like that on that weapon.

      • Simple isn’t it?
        I get tired of the arguments that certain people can’t do things eg: Lefties can’t shoot right handed guns. You can’t shoot a handgun well if you are cross eye dominant. Etc.
        The human is the most advanced species on Earth. Saying that correcting posture may hurt accuracy is only a copout for people who are stubborn. Accuracy is only having sights lined up on target when the bullet leaves the barrel. That’s it. Good stance helps with recoil therefore follow-up shots and movement in a fighting situation. There is no reason anybody can’t stabilize an AR using a weight forward stance.

    • Why do women tend to lean back?
      I have zero scientific data to prove this but after helping teach 5-6 women to shoot and thinking about it from a psychological and physiological standpoint I have a few thoughts as to why so many women put their hips forward of their shoulders when shooting.

      First, that is how they walk. Men walk, and move, shoulders first, it is due to the fact our chests and arms are usually larger than our hips. Women walk hips first. They lead with the hips, (much to the appreciation of every hetero male). It is why men swagger and women sway. This is also incidentally why I think women are good at Judo and also why I suspect (although I am not sure at all, and do not actually want to punch a woman) women would be difficult/different to Box because they would not lead with the shoulder as much.

      So this in mind, the second fact (Ms. Tipton pointed it out); many many women are quite recoil sensitive. SO if you lead with your hips and you are anticipating\avoiding recoil you lean back, or rather, you push your hips forward. Incidentally I think the problem with recoil, goes back to my first point, they have small shoulders that are not densely muscled as a rule, there is less frame and less padding and less mass there to absorb recoil.

      Even though logically this is not the correct thing to do bio-mechanically and needs to be trained out…it is what many women default to.

  2. An extremely well thought-out and well written article.It is so easy for us to overlook some of these things, as men. I learned a few things from reading the article as well as the responses.

    One question I have not found answers to is women’s stance on the “black rifle”. So many news reporters seem so scared of these, as if they have superhuman powers and always view them as full auto. Many that are not “people of the gun” have so little knowledge and are quick to blame the gun instead of the criminal. Is this concept more prevalent in women than men, in your honest opinion? We need to win over more women on gun control issues so any help is appreciated, much as this article does.

    Thanks again for expressing your thoughts so well, and now I will spend the rest of my day scrubbing my brain of any thoughts of RF in yoga pants, good time to clean a few guns too.

    • FWIW my daughter has no qualms about a shotgun, will shoot a handgun if the recoil is not too great (she is small with small hands) but is terrified of the black rifle. Both her boyfriend and I have told her they have far less recoil than either the shotgun or the handgun but it must have to do with the “evil” appearance. She told me that in her mind it “had” to have a lot of recoil. I suggested she rent a piston-driven AR and she would find that it had literally no recoil at all.

    • Don’t know, but if the “black rifle” isn’t .308, the women/girls I know don’t want to bother shooting it – unless it’s got a giggle switch. Even then, they get bored after a few mags.

  3. “Besides, y’all don’t want to see RF in Girls With Guns yoga pants, now do you?”

    I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there.

    Nice article. It’s good to see common sense isn’t as endangered as it seems at times.

  4. I dont know if Sara monitors the comments but I’m just curious. Every time my friends wife fires his .40 she crys. We ask her why and she just says its so powerful it ‘overwhelms’ her. He bought her a .357 revolver and she fires 38 (not +p) out of this, and she’s fine.

    Is this in any way normal for women. I admit my wife fires a .357 as well and she doesn’t get ‘overwhelmed’, though she prefers .38’s as well cause full power .357 make her hand hurt.

    But the crying thing has both me and my friend at a lose. You said their are ‘hormonal differences’

    Is this a normal reaction in some people?

  5. Could the article have come with a less cringe-worthy photo, at least? I know there’s women out there who know the right way to shoot a rifle.

  6. “I want women to be active in their own self defense, to overcome any cultural indoctrination that predisposed them towards relying entirely on others — male or female — for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

    I respect both genders equally. I understand that both are different and in the best ways. That’s how it is meant to be. As a woman, I may be able to help other wives and mothers be better armed self-defenders in a way a man cannot. We are different, but equal. Arming more women will ensure that it stays that way.”

    What you said. There is absolutely no “one size fits all” when it comes to firearms and self-defense. Excellent essay.

  7. +1 women are different. Physically, emotionally and they process information differently as well. A couple of years back my wife wanted to start taking boxing classes after seeing how much I enjoyed them and meeting a few of the ladies at the gym. I’m very much an out-boxer because I really don’t like getting hit. Would have thought my wife would be the same. NOPE. Ends up she is a swarmer who doesn’t mind getting hit on the way in.

    Firearm wise she needs a red dot and can’t line up iron sights for anything.

    For me, I don’t care for red dot and like iron sights… You never know.

  8. “When I was pregnant, the diaper commercial where the baby reached for her mom made me sob.”

    It ought to enrage you that they are doing that just to get that reaction from you…

  9. I enjoy your writing Sara and I always forward your posts to my wife, who, shockingly likes to get things from a woman’s perspective.

  10. I read all of your posts and always learn something and am just thrilled that TTAG has you as a writer. Your perspective is important to guys as well as women.

  11. +1 excellent article Sara. I very much appreciate that you write for women. Keep up the good work.

  12. My fiancée needs a gun belt that will support her Glock 42 in a slide holster but it also needs to be somewhat feminine and stylish. She doesn’t want to carry off body and laughed at the idea of a belly band or corset. She wants her gun on her hip.

    I can’t find a single product out there that fits this description and it appear to me this is a niche in the market that is almost completely unfilled.

  13. Now this is a PERSON that I would vote for President. …Wait…She has not so Common sense so she probably would not want the job.

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