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On this cold February morning, I’m walking around the “pits” – three sided enclosures created by giant concrete blocks. These are shooting bays at the Arnold Rifle and Pistol Club south of St. Louis. I have spent the last hour or so developing numb fingers in pursuit of setting up six “stages” for an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) match. Most of us are some form of old fat white guy, so when the slender figure wearing a black, white and red letter jacket rolled up towing a red collapsible cart, I knew it was either a young woman, or a very slight man. It was, in fact, high school senior Emily, here to compete with the boys . . .

The letter Emily earned for her jacket was for chorus, and when she’s not tooling up to punch holes in targets, she’s singing in school. She’s currently in the cast of Anything Goes and has performed the lead in Annie Get your Gun. I didn’t think to ask which was her favorite.

Miss Emily isn’t shy, but she is quiet. She gives thoughtful answers to questions. “What attracted you to this sport?”

“I like being in control of so much power” she responded.

“You enjoy mastering something that is dangerous?” I replied, paraphrasing her thought. She nodded “Yes.”

“Do you play any other sports?” I asked.

“Yeah, I used to play soccer” she said. She told me that injuries kept her off the field.

“How does this compare to playing soccer?”

She thought for a moment, pausing in her pre-match preparations. “Well, doing well on a stage is like making a great pass or scoring a goal.”

Emily is known as a shooter at her school, Triad High. As with any other sport, she’ll occasionally duck out early to attend a match with the blessing of the school.

Her father, Steve, is clearly proud of his daughter. He’s getting ready for his own match, too. Steve’s wearing what looks like a team shirt, the gun culture equivalent of a bowling shirt. “She is a great shooter” he states plainly. “She can shoot among the best here.”

I note that Emily is sporting a wheelgun. “Yeah” says Dad. “She said she was not being as accurate as she wanted, so she wanted to switch to a revolver. She asked me if we could get her a revolver. I went down to the gun safe and pulled out that Smith and Wesson 586 .357. It hadn’t been used since the 1980s!”


At my request, Emily pushes her jacket aside to display her shooting rig. The big Smith rests snugly in a form-fitting Kydex holster. Emily then provisions a speedloader with ammo, dropping a cartridge in each of its six slots. She then places it on her gunbelt, the extended handle protruding up for fast access.

Emily and her dad reload their own ammo. “We will set up and reload ammo and use it here on the range. I enjoy it” she says.

Later, after I shoot my own stage, I get a chance to watch Emily in action.

“Shooter ready?” shouts the safety officer who holds the electronic timer high so its beep can be heard through her ear protection.

Emily nods. The timer beeps and she begins. Before her are three targets that must be shot in “tactical sequence” meaning that each of the three equal threats must be shot once, then shot again. There is a penalty if you don’t follow that order.


She hustles from the first firing position to the next. She finds her spot, reloads and engages more targets. In the end, she puts up a score of 51.48 seconds, somewhat below average for the day.

Safety is paramount with IDPA and Steve’s a certified safety officer. Certification requires coursework and tests. Steve is part of the cadre that makes sure the four rules are observed at all times. Safety officers (SOs) watch shooters carefully, looking for errors that could lead to unsafe conditions such as failing to keep the muzzle of a pistol pointed downrange. As a father, I imagine Steve’s extra watchful given his daughter is out there.

“Part of any sport with a bunch of guys is ‘ball-busting’” I say, and suddenly feel sheepish for using that term with Emily. She takes it in stride as I continue. “Do you get more, less or about an equal share?”

“I get the same” she said, smiling just a bit.

Her father Steve interjects, “She dishes it out and she can take it, too. When someone gives her a rough time, we just point to the scores.”

“Do you feel respected out here, shooting with all these old fat white guys?” I ask.

Emily nods with a small grin, “I do.”

Later, I join a group of nearly 30 at a local barbeque place, Main Street BBQ in Pevely MO. Emily and her dad sit next to each other and enjoy a meal with their friends. The conversations vary widely, though there’s a lot of gun talk and the aforementioned ball-busting over how well one performed or how epicly they failed. I admitted to running out of ammo (for some reason I thought 70 rounds would be enough). My excuse: .40 caliber range rounds were scarce in the gun shops I frequent.

Emily mostly listens quietly, enjoying her lunch. She doesn’t speak much, but not out of shyness or discomfort. She’s taking it in, probably learning, picking up tips for her next competition. For about an hour she and her dad bask in the warm camaraderie, welcomed and well-regarded. It would be hard to find a more fulfilling way for a father and daughter to spend a day together.

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    • Miss Emily is a respectable young woman. It was a challenge to write the story while avoiding any double-entendres or phrases that could be mischaracterized. I had to re-write the part about her showing off her gunbelt about ten times.

      Our society’s penchant toward objectification has made it difficult to speak and write clearly with color while remaining respectful.

      • UW-Madison was liberal as he’ll. Still is. It didn’t take.

        Seeing your first tax withdrawl from a paycheck tends to remove quite a bit of those liberal tendencies.

    • As long as you’re her father, and you love her, you’ll have many chances. College isn’t the end, though I’d be carefully inspecting any gentlemen “friends” she brings back home to meet the family, ha!

  1. As a fellow Missourian and Ozarker I thought it was a great read, and definitely a nice respite from all the gloom and doom of late. You go girl!


  2. Awesome! I got my youngest son hooked at 17, I couldnt go to a range or a match without him. We both made B in Single Stack before he left for college. Hopefully I can make A before he gets back this summer. Competing with your child is not only great fun, but provides some tremendous bonding time.

  3. My grandkids are still a little young, but I look forward to them hitting 15/16 years of age. No idea how young you can be and shoot. I imagine it depends on the kid.

    • All dependent on maturity of the individual child of course, but here are the guidelines I use:

      6-7 Red Ryder style BB guns, carefully supervised at with shooting rest to support rifle (bench, folding chair with shooting sticks, etc.)
      8-9 Carbine-length break-barrel air rifles, wrist-rocket slingshots
      10-11 22LR rifle (bench)
      12+ 22LR revolver, 20ga shotgun w/2.75in shells, low-recoil centerfire rifle such as 5.56 or .243 (any shooting position)
      14+ 22LR semi-auto (Mark II), 20ga shotgun w/3in full power shells

    • Tim, why not the Ruger Rimfire Challenge, although I think I read they changed the name recently.

      I want to get into IDPA but just can’t pull the trigger yet (and yes the pun was intended). Went last year to Benchrest to watch the matches there, and they were the nicest group, even invited me to try it out, chickened out. But someday soon!

      Great story, as usual!

        • Tim, from what I’ve seen, the NSSF took over the Ruger Rimfire Challenge, which has been around for a couple of years. Haven’t seen any matches in the STL area though, maybe someday. And no, you don’t have to have a Ruger to compete, any 22 rimfire is fine!

      • I don’t know what the Ruger Rimfire Challenge is, but a range near me does a match called “Rimfire Mania” once a month. Really newbie and kid friendly. Maybe there’s something like this in your area:

        Edit to add: Heh, and by “near” I mean an hour away. I picked the worst place in Orlando to live, apparently, as my closest outdoor range is 40 minutes from home, and the other 5-6 are all right at an hour in various directions.

  4. I’ve taught sons and daughters to shoot. Not at a competitive level like Emily but they can safely handle their guns and enjoy range trips. i look forward to teaching the grandkids to shoot also.

    Sammy, i had a daughter that didn’t get into guns until her first child was born and she encountered a stalker. Having armed Dad at beck and call changed her outlook and now she and her hubby have a shotgun and revolver. Sometimes a dose of real world will undo all that indoctrination taught in schools now.

  5. Another 10 years and my daughter will be shooting at matches too. Nice story, makes a guy think good thoughts about our sport even in this climate.

  6. I have 2 daughters that love to shoot. When we go to the range, I always leave with blisters on my thumbs. I can’t load ’em fast enough.

  7. Seems like a really smart, sweet kid. Good on her. I’ve recently gotten my girlfriend’s son into guns and shooting, and he absolutely loves it. Beyond the act of shooting, he has a genuine interest in the safe use of and respect for firearms. Certainly not your typical Southern California kid, I’m glad to say. By the way, his mother is also a strong proponent of the 2nd amendment now too!

  8. Thanks for the story, Tim. Emily and other women like her prove that this sport isn’t just for OFWGs.

    And as a 19-year old young man, I can say she’s pretty cute too!

  9. When I was a teenager I had knee injuries that kept me from playing many physical sports, so instead I decided to join my high school’s rifle team. Some of my best memories of high school come from time spent on that team. I won a few trophys and would even compete side by side with my coach in some matches (I even beat him a few times!). It truly saddens me that many kids today don’t have that same oppertunity. Not only did I learn to shoot proficiently and safely, but I also learned concentration and patience. Two skills that I utilize everyday as an adult.

  10. Someday I hope to teach my little girl how to shoot. Right now she’s still working on grasping a rattle. We’ll get there eventually.

  11. Awesome.
    Maybe my nephew & great-niece can hook up with Emily and her dad & learn a couple of things….

  12. She really is amazing and thank you for sharing her story with us.
    I hope she serves as an inspiration to other women, both young and old, to generate greater interest in guns for sport, hunting and self-defense.

  13. I really enjoyed reading this story. Great picture, too — her personality really shines through in both the story and the photo.

    I can tell I’m going to have a similar situation on my hands with my middle child. Last night, all on his own, he proposed that I leave work early this Wednesday (his early dismissal day) and pick him up, then he’d do his homework in the car on the way to the FFL so we could start the CA jail term for the new stuff waiting there. I would not be at all surprised if he wanted to start doing competitive events in a few years.

  14. The part that surprised me was that her school knows of her being involved in the shooting sports and even supports her efforts by allowing her to leave early for matches. She must attend a private school.

    Good for Emily and her father that they have this sport to bond over together.

  15. I taught my 4 Girls and two boy’s to shoot at age 7 they are grown now with children of their own. I taught my youngest daughter to shoot at age 6 she is 10 now and quite a decent shot. I wish I could show you what she did yesterday with a .22 Rifle. 2inch orange bullseye dead center in the little black diamond. She is pretty good with an AR-15 but prefers the .22 pistol for a longer shooting session. My wallet thanks her. I am a Range safety officer at Honey Isle, LA.

  16. If ammo were available at all, I’d love to get started in IDPA. It looks like loads of fun. It’s great to see the next generation picking up the mantle.

  17. Introducing our children to the sport and encouraging them is the absolute best thing we can do to ensure the future of the 2nd amendment. Both my kids are pro gun and good shooters, and I encourage them to hang out with their friends that are too. Build the pro gun culture of the future! Good article

  18. This was a great story. Thanks for sharing. I remember buying my boy his first gun – when he was 3 months old. My wife was so understanding.

  19. Great story!

    It’s a good idea to train your kids in firearms regardless of whether or not they “want” to shoot. At some point in their lives they will come across a gun, and they need to know how to handle it and how to clear it.

    I started taking my kids shooting when they were 5 and 7. We set some cans at 20 feet and they practiced firing .22 LR from a bench with my grandfather’s single shot Remington 510X. The 7 year old could hit, but the adult size 510X was too heavy for the 5 year old. So I got ’em a (kid size) CZ 452 Scout, and after that it was dead cans all over! Later on I picked up a 10 round mag to replace the 452’s single shot adapter and transitioned them to bolt repeater, and then semi (10/22), centerfire semi (M1 carbine), revolver (S&W M66), pistol (various 9mm) and pump shotgun (Rem 870 and a clay thrower). Today they are 18 and 20, and both are avid shooters. They can handle, load, fire, clear, field strip and clean anything from a Colt Vest Pocket .25 to an AR-10.

    You don’t wait for your kids to ask, you tell ’em. “Guess what we’re going to do today!”


  20. Great story. The picture of her holster has me intrigued. Anybody know where I can find a kydex holster maker who does revolver work? I need three holsters for limited production S&W revolvers. Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.

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