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Gaining a Piece of Mind

With instruction readily available, more women get a grip on guns

The Babes with Bullets ‘team The Babes with Bullets ‘team' since 2004 includes (from left) Deb Ferns, Lisa Munson and Kay Miculek. (Courtesy Babes with Bullets)

By: Lee Allen,

Girls With Guns, Females With Firearms, Babes with Bullets, or whatever alliterative form you prefer -- bottom line, the gentler gender has developed a relationship with packing hardware.

“I love guns -- never met one I didn’t like. I’ve shot ‘um all and love ‘em all,” says Sandy Froman, a Tucson attorney and former two-time president of the National Rifle Association who carries a gun whenever legally allowed.

Not bad for a woman who waited to pull the trigger on her first firearm until she was in her early 30s. Even that decision was prompted by necessity when someone tried to break into her home.

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Instructor Annette Aysen, the ‘First Lady of Revolver Shooting,’ and a 25-year veteran of competitive shooting, shows her stance. (Courtesy Babes with Bullets)

“Guns were never a part of my life up to that point,” she says. “My father didn’t hunt or target shoot. We didn’t own any firearms, and nobody I knew owned guns either. It wasn’t that I disliked guns, they just weren’t on my radar screen.”

Until the night that would-be intruder tried to pry the lock off her front door, scaring her silly in the process.

“That was a moment of truth for me. Realizing just how alone and vulnerable I was, how I wouldn’t have been able to protect myself,” she said. “The very next morning I went and bought a weapon. I discovered in my gun safety class that I could put all the holes in one target circle and from then on, felt much better about my ability to ensure my own safety.”

Having any kind of involvement with firearms is an individual decision, she says, quickly adding, “I think all women ought to own a gun -- or at least know how to shoot one.”

That’s where shooting camp director Deb Ferns of Outdoor Channel’s “Babes with Bullets” comes in. Another late-in-life shooter, Ferns didn’t pick up a pistol until age 45. Now you can’t get the weapon out of her hand -- unless it’s to replace it with one of a different caliber.

Feminine to the core, Ferns hands out pink business cards and shoots with pink-gripped pistols and long guns. Married with two grown daughters who both shoot, Ferns’ passion to educate women about firearms helped launch handgun camps across the country. She and her crew have introduced thousands of women to shooting sports.

“It’s women teaching women,” says Ferns, herself a certified tactical 3-gun instructor who feels shooting sports enhance a woman’s ability for self-protection as well as improving self-esteem. “I can’t tell you how many times women all over the country have told me that they’ve heard things that go bump in the night and had no one else in the house to protect them.

“When you have a gun and learn how to use it, you own a greater sense of self-confidence. If I had a dollar for every time a camp graduate expressed a newfound feeling of empowerment, I’d be a wealthy woman.”

A class in Huntsville, Ala., is locked and loaded. (Courtesy Babes with Bullets
A class in Huntsville, Ala., is locked and loaded. (Courtesy Babes with Bullets)

Janice Talaroc, in her website, writes: “A woman’s self-defense ability is sometimes limited by her size and strength (but) a keen situational awareness, partnered with a reliable handgun in the hands of a trained woman, is a great equalizer.”

Babes with Bullets has trained more than 3,500 females in firearms proficiency since opening its doors in 2004 – 70 percent citing self-defense as a reason for enrolling. The growing number of girls with guns is a national trend.

“The NRA says the number of women who have some connection with a gun (purchased, inherited, or gifted) is now about 20 million, and with women representing more than half the country’s population, those numbers should continue to rise,” Ferns said. “From my viewpoint over the past 10 years, it’s like watching a snowball roll downhill as part of an avalanche.”

And it isn’t just one gun and done.

“No woman I know who starts out with one gun doesn’t add more. They buy one, then they have two, then they get into rifles and shotguns,” Ferns said. “So while the National Shooting Sports Foundation says the percentage of women in the firearms population has increased from 4 to 11 percent in the last decade, I think within the next five years that figure will jump to 19-20 percent because there’s still an unfilled void in the marketplace.”

Since its inception at the Louisiana home range of champion shooter and head instructor Kay Miculek, BWB trainers have crisscrossed the country with their Practical Handgun 101 course, instilling novice shooters with a comfort zone. Few females have more familiarity with firearms than Miculek, a 14-time U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Women’s Multi-Gun Champion and 3-time IPSC World Champion.

A table full of pistols are loaded for range action at one of the Babes With Bullets camps. (Courtesy Babes with Bullets)

A table full of pistols are loaded for range action at one of the Babes With Bullets camps.
(Courtesy Babes with Bullets)

“Our three-day ‘immersion’ camps are part gun education, part pajama party, and total enjoyment as we all (25-30 students per class) crank off a thousand rounds getting comfortable handling pistols,” Ferns said. “We assemble, disassemble, field strip and clean our weapons, load our own magazines, pick up all brass and clean the whole range before we leave.”

Attendees come from all walks of life and for a variety of reasons. The youngest neophyte shooter was 18 and came to camp with her mother. The most mature student was a 78-year-old artist with great hand-eye coordination.

“She wasn’t fast, but boy, was she accurate,” Ferns said.

Smith & Wesson is a long-time sponsor of Babes with Bullets, providing M&P 9mm pistols and rifles for range use. In smart marketing, S&W, the first manufacturer of women’s handguns, now offers five models of Lady Smith small frame revolvers.

Although the snub-nose revolver works well as an instructional tool, Ferns carries an S&W Shield as a matter of personal preference.

“It’s the pick of the litter for a carry gun and I compete with a semi-automatic, so I’m comfortable with one,” she said. “Besides, given the choice of five shots or 12 -- more is better.”

Ferns calls the women’s action shooting camps her way of paying-it-forward.

“I help women understand that they don’t have to go through life always thinking someone else has to take care of them,” she said. “I own a gun because, not only do I have a right to do so, I know in my bones that I can’t count on anyone else to always be on hand to take care of me … and that’s why we teach women to take care of themselves.”

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