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Women Are Filling Handgun Classes

Surveys Show Personal Protection A Big Motivator

By: National Shooting Sports Foundation

NEWTOWN, Conn. - The old adage, "God made men; Sam Colt made them equal," applies to women, too.

Women across the country are packing classes where they learn about all aspects of handgun ownership. One of the main reasons for attending these classes, they say, is to learn more about how to take charge of their own safety.

Carol, a thirty-something mother from Connecticut, explained her participation in a class: "My husband convinced me that it would be to my benefit to learn how to use a handgun. The experience actually opened up a whole new world for me. I'm really enjoying shooting and learning about different calibers and actions - not to mention getting to spend more time with my husband."

In the classes, women also learn about safe handling and storage of firearms, state and local permitting processes, how to purchase a handgun, what model and caliber is right for them, how to determine proper fit, holsters, apparel and that some handguns even come in colors designed to be more appealing to women.

For several years now, manufacturers have recognized the growing interest in firearm ownership among women and, consequently, have been designing firearms and accessories that offer more appeal and a better fit for women: for example, a grip for a smaller hand and lighter handguns.

The steady rise in handgun sales over the last few years, as well as the introduction of even more models by more companies designed specifically for women, as seen at this year's industry trade show, the SHOT Show, are additional indicators of this trend.

Enrollment in self-protection handgun classes is at an all-time high, especially among women, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which two years ago launched First Shots, a program that provides an introduction to handgun shooting in cooperation with shooting ranges across the country.

Seminars involving classroom and live-fire instruction are held at local gun clubs, usually for a nominal fee. The classes serve the range by introducing it to a new potential customer and serve the interested novices by dispelling the fear and apprehension that women (and men) sometimes have over firing a handgun and keeping it safely in the house. The classes are open to women and men.

Shooting range operators, too, have noted the surge in interest related to handgun ownership. John Monson, of Bill's Gun Shop and Range in Minnesota, had this to say: "To date, we have held four First Shots programs in three months. We've had great response from the classes and have added over 100 new customers to our base."

A survey of women from the classes indicates that 73 percent enrolled because learning about self-protection was a prime concern for them. And over 95 percent of those women indicated that they were "likely to continue to participate in handgun shooting."

"The key to making these events appealing to women is to conduct them is a relaxed, supportive environment," commented Cyndi Dalena, manager of the First Shots program nationally.

Supervised by certified firearms instructors, most First Shots events are filled to capacity. Jeff Pedro, owner of an Ohio shooting facility, recognized the potential of the program early on, and now conducts about a dozen events a year. "A large percentage of our participants are women. Most of them sign up at the urging of a husband or male friend who wants them to experience not only the fun of shooting, but also to dispel any negative preconceptions about, or fears of, handguns," he explained. "And what's especially gratifying is that just about all of them come back for more."

To locate a First Shots program in your area, visit www.firstshots.org/seminars.html.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation encourages anyone interested in learning about the proper use of handguns, whether for target shooting, competition or personal protection, to be sure to get proper training in handling and safety procedures from a certified instructor.

Learn more on this topic and view a Flash slideshow at www.nssf.org/media.

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