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“God made man,” the saying goes. “Samuel Colt made them equal.” But did he? Generally speaking, are female and male shooters equivalent? (Which would make you wonder why competitions are separated by gender.) Or are there differences (e.g., a willingness to accept instruction) that separate the fairer sex from the XY chromosome set when it comes to sending lead downrange safely, efficiently and accurately? If so, who’s better? Drilling down (so to speak), who’s the better shot in YOUR household?

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  1. My wife will out-shoot me on the trap range almost every time. I’m typically better at USPSA/3-gunning. Static rifle contests between us usually come down to who had what for breakfast.

  2. In my own experience, women who commit to guns are at least as good as the men and in some cases better. They seem to pick up the required safety and handling skills without all the macho bravado that guys get caught up in.

    It seems like a lot of women have better hand eye coordination than men and their fine motor skills appear better in a lot of cases. Does this translate into more accurate shooting? It can if the woman gets serious about practice and training.

    And as we’ve seen in some of the DGU’s shown on this site, women certainly have the heart and will to win in a deadly encounter.

    • To JWM’s point, my experience has been that the percentage of people who freeze vs. fight in a crisis is the same for both genders.

      Once someone is on the ‘fight’ decision-path, untrained people seem to suck at stress-fire and make questionable decisions undifferentiated by gender. That I can say for sure, having seen how people react in stressful real-world situations and training exercises. I find it continually interesting how insanely hard it is to predict who’s going to do well, who’s going to be marginally effective, and who’s going to fall apart like wet toilet paper.

      The only gender-based differences I’ve observed come from the tactical circumstances for gun use, where women seem to have a higher incidence of CQB gunfire while under assault by a male, while men’s DGU incidents don’t seem happen at CQB distances quite so often.

      My observations come from reading a gazillion news stories and recalling findings I’ve seen in randomly selected studies of gun violence over the last 20 years. I’m sure there are more scientifically valid ways to establish this.

  3. What do the competition results say? Are there any handicap or normalization factors applied to one gender but not the other?

    Seems like it’d be pretty easy to settle this on a league-by-league basis if there are enough competitors of each gender to reach statistically valid conclusions.

  4. I believe that shooting is one of the few sports that women can go head to head with men and win. I find women to be more patient and that helps make them excellent shooters.

  5. Women are more likely to come into shooting sports with an open mind to training tips. Men are not. Grandpappy’s rifle technique is ALWAYS the best.

    • My parent who’s a career LEO encouraged me, once I grasped the safety rules, to get training from folks outside the family. In retrospect that was actually a great call, both for preventing “that’s how authority figure X in my family taught me” situations, as well as getting diversity of opinion on technique and approaches to training.

      At the time it was just my (teenager) opinion that this parent was being an ass and didn’t want me to show them up by being better than them. Heh.

  6. Adding to the proper responses above, I’d say in the beginning stages women are better shots.

    Once you learn the fundamentals well shooting becomes much easier for both sexes. Women differ by not throwing self imposed obstacles in their way like misplaced brand loyalty, macho BS, and “caliber fundamentalism ” in the respect of choosing guns based on hype versus what delivers good shooting on the firing line.

    Based on my observations at the nearest indoor range, I’d say a lot of men need to trade in their Glocks and Kimbers for .22 pistols and some instruction from the hot girl in the far lane.

  7. Of course women are better shooters! Please understand my wife is looking over my shoulder at the time of this writing. lol
    In all fairness, I guess if we look at various competitions, and scores, who is better. This of course is assuming that the range distances, times etc are all equal.
    I think women could become better shooters. They are generally better at listening, uhm you know to instructions and stuff….
    Well before this article causes me to be sleeping on the couch, I figure both can be equal with practice. Shooting isn’t all about brawn, and at a competitive level I would think we would see accuracy and times almost equal in many ways.

  8. Of the students I have taught, the women are better. Mostly because they take instruction without prior bias. Most of the men I teach have bad shooting (and safety) habits that they need to break first.

    • JJ, I have taught over thousands of students, and you make a valid point: Women do take instruction without already established bad habits. In addition, they don’t come to the table with an ego or hurt feelings when you correct them.

  9. In my experience of instruction, females are better students. I can go through a course of instruction and the women will listen to the list of items I call out as being important for success – and they’ll do them.

    Males, on the other hand, tend to have a spread of instructional uptake. At one end, you’ll have the guys who get it right the first time, every time. They absorb instruction like a sponge takes up water. Then there are the guys who are too smart to listen (ie, they’ve shot a gun and think they know how to shoot), or the guys who just tune out in the classroom.

    The initial success in shooting requires listening to some classroom instruction.

    Some of the worst shooters are the guys who think they know how to shoot. In many cases, I’d rather teach people who were gun virgins than deal with un-learning a large amount of nonsense.

  10. Not only am I topshot in my household but I am the topshot in my whole family. The Marine Corps trained me extremely well. I don’t think that women shooters are any better or worse than men shooters although Annie Oakley was certainly topshot in her day. If I remember my history correctly Annie could out shoot her husband Frank Butler who was himself a competition shooter.

    • +1

      There are some old movies of Annie performing some trick shots, and they’re amazing. The most amazing thing is that she was so good, she seemed almost bored whiole shooting thrown dimes out of the air with her rifle.

      • I’m not saying Annie did it because I flat don’t know. But a common trick amongst the exhibition shooters of that time was to have ordinary looking rifles and revolvers that were actually smoothbores and loaded with light shot cartridges, mostly in .44 caliber.

        It’s my understanding that these “trick” cartridges were what eventually were developed into the .410 gauge shotgun. More than once I’ve been told the .410 isn’t actually a gauge, but a caliber instead.

  11. Who is the best shot in my house? I am, of course. The “of course” isn’t just macho crap; I’ve had practice from Boy Scouts on up, and my wife hasn’t much at all, so that’s where the difference lies. It probably doesn’t help either her or my kids that they’re learning from me…I may have had plenty of practice, but I’m no expert.

    With more practice and good technique, there’s no reason why my wife and kids shouldn’t be able to outshoot me. In any sport that requires muscle power, men have a natural advantage — but in shooting, the only thing that keeps women from routinely kicking men’s butts is that (compared to men, at least) there aren’t very many women doing it at a really serious level…yet.

  12. In my 15 years of law enforcement and military experience. I have never seen a good female shooter. Never. Go ahead and flame me, but just my experience. Your results may vary.

    • I’ve seen two. I’ve seen maybe two dozen truly good male shooters outside of instructors… which percentage wise actually gives the females the advantage.

    • In six years in the Army reserve, I never saw a good female shooter either. But- at UAF, (local college) female shooters regularly win national competitons.
      I think, and this is only a personal opinion, that in institutions like the Army, women are not trained or given the opportunity to become great shooters. I know when my reserve unit went to go for annual weapon qual- I was told by several that the marksmanship class I gave was the first they had recieved. And all I went over was the basics of shooting positions, breath control, trigger squeeze, and sight picture.

      Personally, in my life now, I know several female shooters that are either better or just as good of shots as I am- and I’m ok/good at most things. I also know a few female shooters who are just starting, who might be laughed at in some circles- which is why they continue to shoot with instruction, and practice good habits.

      • I would say that in 10 years in the Army I’ve never seen a good shooter who was a pogue. They don’t receive the same amount of time with a weapon as combat arms Soldiers do, and therefore never get good. Since there are no females in combat arms, I haven’t seen a good female shooter in the Army.

      • “in institutions like the Army, women are not trained or given the opportunity to become great shooters.”

        Huh. In the Marines, women are trained and given every opportunity to be great shooters. The fact that most of them are mediocre shots is due to the fact that most people in general are mediocre shots. Whether they delude themselves into thinking they can shoot well, I dunno, but men do this all the time.

  13. Quite a lot of the gender difference in sports or other competitions which do not require a great deal of physical exertion is dedication. This is not to say that women are incapable of excellence, or of dedicating themselves to its pursuit in any form…

    But my experience is that women are far more likely to take a balanced view of life rather that precludes burying themselves in a lab, or office, or at the range for sixty/seventy/eighty hours a week. They aren’t so caught up with the burning desire to prove themselves better than anyone, or better than anyone said they could be, to desert friends, family, pets, etc.

    Consider that chess, a form of competition which is hardly physical at all, still has men’s and women’s divisions. And that the women are regarded as not yet able to compete with men at the same level according to chess playing friends of mine, but are steadily closing the gap.

    I’m also the best shot in my family, but that’s because before having a family, I didn’t have a balanced view of life and spent all my time at the range.

    • One of the special-ed teachers in my family recently made the observation that, as a group, men start off several notches further down the autism spectrum than women. 🙂

  14. Mrs Fyrewerx is a better shot than I am, but then, she’s the one with the Glock 19, while all I have is a lousy Taurus PT709 Slim.

  15. My wife is a nigh-professional photographer. Steady breathing, perfect target acquisition, and, most importantly, steady hands, shooting a 92FS. I’m a gamer with quick reflexes and shaky hands, shooting an M&P 9. Pinpoint accuracy, she kicks my ass every time.

  16. I have taught a bunch of people to shoot over the years, taking them out for their first time every firing a gun. In my experience, women are always better shots initially than men, because you don’t have to un-teach all the hollywood crap that guys watch. Women are generally more careful and ready to listen to the training before shooting, while guys just want to run up and grab the biggest gun they see and start blasting. After a time, it evens out, but initially, it seems to me women do better.

  17. I think men and boys’ biggest (initial) weakness is cultural attitude. Guns are an American guy thing at least more so historically. They are tools we are supposed to know how to use intuitively much like our um physical manhood. It makes sense to me that women will often be better shots early on. A woman’s ego is not so involved and she is more seeing a defense gun as an equalizer in this case and giving her the power to excel. However, once a man commits himself to a challenge, humbles his ego placing it below his desire for results then I think the tables can turn. The reason males are the great inventors, engineers, scientific achievers, founders of industries and great companies, discovers, etc is the willingness of men to commit to such a dream and make sacrifices. Women generally lack the long-term quality to find of interest and value the things men do. Women are good shots and have achieved greatness in shooting sports. Yet, men tend to be less tolerant of their failures when their identity is on the line. Men re-group and after their bravado pales and they feel humiliated for being second-rate men can become first-rate. If a man finds value in achieving top shooting skills and is so determined then he will do it.

  18. Shooting is the gender neutral sport. Being stronger or taller or able to jump real high means nothing. So, neither gender has an operating advantage, which brings it down to training. When the average Joe shoots more than the average Jane and takes more lessons, Joe should be better, and vice versa.

    And then there are the freaks of both genders who pick up a gun for the first time on Monday and don’t miss a shot until Sunday. Damn, I hate them.

  19. The type of handgun and caliber might also have some bearing on this matter. I’m going to assume (hate assuming) that many men, perhaps especially new male shooters, buy a gun that is not right for them yet it is something they think a real man shoots. I can imagine that men, more so than women, buy .40, .45, .357, .44, etc. rather than 9mm and .38sp. A police officer friend talked me into the .40 full-size Glock as my first handgun even when it never felt good in my hands. Truth is, most men gun owners are not Inspector Harry Callahan, Jason Bourne, or the John Wayne the Duke even though we often want to be them.

  20. My wife and I took the required firearms course for our MA FID cards. When we finished the shooting instruction, our instructor turned to me and said, “You’re a good shot. But she’s better.”

    • The MA FID is for long guns, and no live fire is required. Likewise, the MA LTC (License To Carry) is for handguns, and the course doesn’t require live fire. The permits require a 4 hour safety class.

      • I stand corrected…it was for our Class A LTC…the FID and hunting license was a different class. The live fire for the former wasn’t required, but our instructor felt that we would benefit from the experience.

  21. Just like mechanical engineers, the good ones are male. They have the aptitude. Can women learn shooting, sure, and they can learn enginering. But on average, it’s the man with the interest aptitude, and attitude to excell at mechanical tasks.

    Anyone is entitled to their opinion, but not some BS justification of PC nonsense.

    • Being a retired engineer, I mostly agree with this. There were great engineering students who were female… but come time to go out into industry, very few of them actually went into engineering. Many of the female, book-smart engineering graduates went into customer/field service, sales engineering, etc. Design and implementation, not so much.

      On the whole, if I have a room of 40 people, 20 of each sex, I think my experience tells me that I can get more of the 20 females to start putting rounds into the black consistently than the males. After the males sort themselves out, there will likely be about 25% who drop out, and the rest will become better. Of that 75% left, about 25% of the original 20 (ie, 5 males) will, once they get settled down, become really, really good shots, surpassing most all the females. But you’ll have to wait for those 5 guys to settle down and start delivering results.

  22. Seeing as my wife is an NRA, SC CWP and Appleseed instructor she has me beat. I’d say out of all our friends who have no formal training like military or LEO she kicks everyone’s butt.

  23. To be honest women do usually have more open minds and can learn easily. Now the problem is that around my house I can’t get a single women or a girl to shoot so I honestly can’t say who is the best. I’m one of those people who thinks that practice makes perfect and gender doesn’t make a difference. Everyone is created equally and I stand by that.

  24. Well, in USPSA, at least, the competitions aren’t sorted by gender. I mean, there is “lady” as a “special category” but everyone is listed in the final results together. I do find that women generally are more willing to accept instruction, but beyond that, I find the shooting sports to be pretty gender neutral. The only handicap is that so few women are even interested in competitive shooting….

  25. Women are as capable as men of having the mental capability, dedication to training, and physical coordination required to do well in any shooting sport. What everyone that’s commented so far totally missed is something fundamental that’s recognized in virtually every sport of any kind: there are basic physical differences between the genders, particularly in upper body strength, that make it very difficult for women to perform certain tasks at the same level as men. If you look at the finish positions of the top women shooters in USPSA, IPSC, IDPA and Steel Challenge, you’ll find that games where speed plays a role, the women shooter’s scores are closer to the men’s in divisions and events where lighter recoiling guns are used (Steel Challenge) and lower for those where heavier and harder recoiling pistols are used (USPSA Limited, for example). Women shooters didn’t really start doing well at Camp Perry high power rifle matches until they started using the .223 AR-15 instead of the heavier .30 caliber rifles.

    As evidenced by the comments in this thread, very few shooters seem to understand that those physical differences exist, even though the NCAA and PGA and many other sporting organizations outside the shooting community recognize them. That ignorance often manifests itself in male shooters equipping new female shooters with gear that works well for men, but works poorly for women: holsters designed by men for men, guns with large grips in heavy calibers, and shotguns with large stocks and full power 12 ga loads. The continuing failure of a large segment of the shooting community to understand the importance of gender differences and their impact on gear selection, particularly for new shooters, is a huge impediment to expansion of women enjoying shooting enough to take it up as a hobby or progress to competition.

  26. That chick is HOT and can be better than me in anything she wants…except shooting guns.

    I’ve always heard that women are better shots and I don’t doub that there are some solid shots amongst the fairer sex. But I haven’t seen not met any personally, so until then…..

  27. My wife’s a better shot than I am now. She has better eyes and steadier hands. I didn’t try to teach her for the get go. Had a professional do it so I didn’t do it wrong. It had been to long (55 years) since I had any training.

    I can still do better shooting something at 50 or 100 yards with a pistol because she hasn’t tried it enough to understand hold over, lead and wind drift.

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