Among the gray, green, blue and tan shapes shuffling on the combat range at the Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC) on a dreary Saturday morning is a shock of bright pink. At first I think it might be Emily, a young competitor I met at last month’s International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) match, but it’s not. I introduce myself as a writer, explain my interest in talking with a young woman I had never met. She introduces herself as Allison. Allison accepts my offer of a handshake and grips it ladylike, grasping my fingers and giving them a squeeze. “People call me Ali” she informed me . . .
Ali is in her early twenties and hails from Paducah, Kentucky, a fact made manifest by her lilting drawl. Long blonde hair and a pink hoodie are partially obscured by her overjacket. For the moment, it has stopped drizzling, and we are all hoping for a dry match.
“You drove all the way here to go shooting?”
Ali nodded, “My daddy and I drove up from Paducah, we are staying with Uncle Steve.” It turns out that Emily and Allison are cousins. Uncle Steve is, in fact, Emily’s dad.
“How long have you been shooting?”
Ali, who has a pleasant countenance, smiled just a little with the side of her mouth as she said, “I’ve been shooting with my dad since I was seven, I suppose.”
By now her dad has heard me talking with her. “Ali does it all – here, check out these photos.” Her dad, Dave, shows me his iPhone with Ali standing in the same pink hoodie next to a target that bears two .50 caliber holes within an inch of each other. She is pointing to it with the muzzle of a massive revolver. Dave quickly manipulates the smartphone and finds a video of her shooting the enormous firearm. She leans into the gun and pulls the trigger. Ali is not tiny, but she’s not what you’d call a strapping lass either. Her body absorbs the recoil. Without taking her eyes off the target, she leans further into it and fires again.
Ali seems used to her proud father sharing photos of her shooting. “Here she is with a Barrett .50 cal.” he says, flipping to the video.
“Don’t show that one!” she protests.
In her signature pink hoodie, Ali is on a bench with a Barrett. She sends a massive BMG bullet downrange, and steps away from the rifle, smiling, but seeming to be shocked as well.
“I’m in pre-vet school right now.” she says after I ask if she is in college.
“What do your schoolmates think about your hobby? The other ladies you know?”
Ali shrugged “They are scared of guns, they do not like them.”
“Does your hobby put you at odds with your girlfriends?”
Ali thought for a moment “No, not really – everyone in Paducah knows I shoot” she replied.
Ali works at a local sporting goods store. “They realized that I know a lot about guns, so they put me back selling them.”
“Do ladies find it easier to talk to you about firearms?”
Ali nodded, “I think they do. They are usually shopping for a long gun for their husband or boyfriend.”
“How about self defense questions, does that ever come up?”
“Yeah, it does. They ask about that, though we do not sell handguns where I work.” she responds.
As Ali prepares for the first stage of the match, she pulls out a bright pink pair of earmuffs. I notice some writing on it. “What’s this on your hearing protection, Ali?”
She smiles and rotates them so I can see. “My boyfriend wrote me a little good luck note. He told me not to look before I got here.” Part of the note has rubbed off, but it’s simply an encouragement for her to do well in the match. She smiled. It’s clear she finds the love note charming. Somewhere along the line I see a photo of her boyfriend, a sturdy young man. He is of course pictured shooting.
Her weapon of choice is a Glock 34, chambered for 9mm. Her piece is nestled in a molded polymer holster. Ali starts her first stage at the combat range, a wide zone where targets are spaced deep and far apart. Shooters must begin sitting on a park bench with their feet propped up on a 5 gallon bucket. Ali nods that she’s ready, and leaps up at the sound of the beep signalling the start of the stage. She hustles to the first position, draws and opens fire. She moves to the next position, and then finishes the stage at the final firing position. She changes magazines smoothly.
Later, when the scores come out, Ali shoots a little over 400 with a Glock, whereas cousin Emily shot a smidgen over 230 with a six-shot revolver. I ask if there is any rivalry between her and her younger cousin.
“No, not at all. I actually really respect Emily being so young and so good with a gun. I’m going to work to be at her skill level.” Inspiration, not jealousy.
As she reloads and tidies up for the next stage, I ask “Do you and your dad reload your ammo?”
“Daddy does, but I’m still learning how.”
Later, Ali reflects on shooting sports. She gave up time with her boyfriend and the weather was dreadful. “Passion is what you do when it’s convenient, commitment is what you do when it is inconvenient.” Ali smiles and heads off to the next stage, her dad close behind. A road trip, time with family, and a fun, if dreary day shooting. Not a bad way to spend the weekend.
I shoot with my three too. Daughter number two loves shooting my Glock 19 and doing 3 gun competition. Great daddy daughter bonding time.
Very lucky father and who ever happens to be her future husband (or wife thats her decision not mine)! I wish a smart forward thinking gal like that the best of wishes! She is taking control of her destiny!
I love taking my family shooting, fun stuff. Just beware some of the dumbasses on the range. Good family.
Heartwarming; wish I’d gotten MY girls shooting earlier.
I like it when we get stories like this. Its a good change of pace from the news stories that get my blood boiling and making me want to pull my hair out.
Thats how we will win the gun war outreach.
Great story. It makes me long for the day when I can take my 6 month old baby girl shooting.
Hmmm… mayhap a 0.07 caliber rifle with an 8″ barrel…
I need to show my wife the one of her shooting the Smith 500. “See, if she can do it you can handle a little .22”. My wife is scared to death of guns and hates that I’ve started buying them.
I want her to start shooting. I’m waffling on getting my CHL but I’d sign her up in a heartbeat if she’d go for it.
On a side note and more relevant to the story, I love taking my older son shooting. Shooting is a good skill for everyone to learn if they can. I hate how guns are demonized in our culture. Knowing the ins and outs of a firearm used to be part of growing up.
I like these family interest type stories – really cool that her father got her into IDPA and that she’s also a part of the community.
While it’s unrealistic to believe we can convince EVERYONE that guns aren’t objects of pure demonic evil, I do believe every single person has within their circle of influence at least one person open to trying new things – a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker. Those are the people we need to bring into the gun community rather than talking trash about their other beliefs whether they be about abortion, gay rights, religion, etc.
Husband haha 🙂
Good Job Ali!
I like writing stories like this – after a while I get tired of carping on politics. Ali was delightful. There was another lady at the match that I wanted to interview, but that had to wait until another time.
I think we need to show our non-shooting friends that not every gunner is an OFWG with a beard, a gut and a snarl.
Hey! Watch it! I don’t have a beard!
And I don’t have a gut. Well, not much of one. Well… Aw, Hell.
Geez Ali. Never talk to reporters. You’ve got your own government drone now.
Haha oh my
Warms my heart to read stories like this. I have two daughters, 8 & 10, that I started off on the bb gun in the back yard last summer. This year I plan on getting the older one out shooting the .22. I hope to make some good life long memories like Ali and her dad obviously have.
In order to do this, you must have a great respect for guns, the handling of guns and ammunition, as well as the respect and heart for yourself, and it is apparent that you have both! I wish you the best of luck in every competition, as well as the practice that it requires to do this, not only physically, but mentally as well. You have got a head on your shoulders that is built for competition and it shows through. Do well, succeed well and be all that you can be! Good luck!
I really appreciate it! I practice everyday. If I don’t shoot I work on handling, time, mag changes, and solutions to malfunctions! Hopefully I will place well in state. My Instagram has all the info if you want to follow!
Do you have any more videos to post on Youtube? I think its cool to see the action from a match!
Not yet! Ill post some practices soon and match videos when I shoot state championship ok?
When are you going to post more videos?!!
Soon! What do you want to see? I’m running short on ideas