What is SAW? Thoughts on all female training

When I first started shooting about five years ago, I rarely encountered women at the range shooting alone.  I encountered women with a boyfriend, or husband, but rarely if ever did I see a woman by herself.  How that has changed in the last five years!  As I became more involved in shooting sports and began taking tactical and instructor classes, the ratio of men to women in those classes still seemed to be however many men had registered … and then one woman … me.  I went on to take classes in various other self-defense disciplines and I encountered perhaps a few more female participants, but women were always in the minority.

Was it sometimes uncomfortable to be the only female in a class of ten, fifteen even 50 men?  You bet it was.  (I took this Simunition teaser class as the lone female with 50 men at Gun For Hire.) But that wasn’t going to stop me, and in fact I firmly believe, it actually helped me. Part of taking an advanced class, one where you have to react and interact with those around you, is predicated on bringing the student out of her comfort zone.  The circumstances that will surround an individual having to draw her gun and perhaps use it, will undoubtedly take place under stress.  I had a jump start on feeling that way as I was already out of my comfort zone the minute I walked into the range with twelve men as my fellow students.

But as much as I enjoyed having the ladies room to myself during the class breaks, there were those times that I hoped I would walk in and there may be one other female there.  And there were moments like the time when the instructor told us to fill our pockets with thirty rounds of loose ammo, and my pockets were, well, too small.  Women’s fashion does not usually include large or multiple pockets (and just try to find a pair of tactical pants in a size 0).  It was awkward moments like that one, where it would have been nice to have someone who could understand.

When I took the low light pistol class, I was already used to being the only female in the class, already past the discomfort, already feeling like “one of the guys” but when I walked into the range this time Sandy was in the class too.  As we holstered up, and started to chat it turned out Sandy had just had a baby.  It was nice to be able to talk to someone else about tactical gear and how it fits on a woman’s body!

Although it didn’t happen right away, that was the beginning of the Second Amendment Women Shooting Club.  The idea that a woman can have other women to go to for an introduction to shooting, to find more advanced training, to be able to talk to about all topics firearms such as shooting, how to find gear that fits a female body and finding the time to shoot when you are already an active and involved mother and wife and so on – that was the basis for founding Second Amendment Women Shooting Club.  As well as the need to create a strong female presence in the shooting community, to show that there are many women and mothers out there, who are not asking for more gun control, but are advocating for the right to continue to protect their children and families.

One of the things Sandy and I both feel strongly about, is that while it is fantastic to have a group of women to socialize and train with, it is not a good idea to ONLY train with other women.  Whatever self-defense discipline you are training with – pistol, pepper spray, krav maga etc a woman is many times more likely to encounter a male attacker than a female one. If you have only trained with other women, you don’t know how it feels to be approached by a larger, male aggressor, to be intimidated by him, and then to injure him or knock him down and create an opportunity to escape, using what you have learned in the classes you have taken.

In the words of a popular quote used by shooting instructors, in a moment of crisis, you will not rise to the occasion, but merely default to your level of training. If your training does not include practice with the type of aggressor you will likely encounter, then your training has not served you in the best capacity. If a class full of other women with a female instructor allows a woman to show up for the first time, learn to shoot, be comfortable asking questions then Second Amendment Women Shooting Club is doing its job by organizing those classes and making those opportunities available.  But if we don’t go on from there and invite men to train with us and share their knowledge and experience, then Sandy and I have left our members at a disadvantage.

This is the reason the SAW club will have events that include men, like our gun cleaning and holster shows.  We will have all female events like the upcoming Introduction to IDPA (June 1) that allows a class full of women to get comfortable using a holster.  And we will continue to plan monthly social open shoots both for women only and for men/women.  Hope to see you all there!