This feature appears in the December ‘16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
Work day—Check. Grocery Store—Check. Babysitter—Check. Ammo—Check.
After a short drive from home, I adjust my lip gloss in the parking lot of Liberty Firearms Institute in Johnstown, Colo. I fight the wind and hustle past the signs out front stating all firearms must be unloaded and cased if not lawfully carried concealed.
Liberty just opened the doors to the 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building in May of this year, and I can still faintly smell the fresh paint, though it is quickly overtaken by intoxicating aromas from the coffee shop located just inside the contemporary entryway. A check-in desk, a view of the 12,000-square-foot retail space and hallway of classrooms, an executive lounge and a gun safe locker room beckon all who walk through the doors. I find my friends in front of the large fireplace, and greet them with my typical sense of excitement and anticipation.When we hear the colloquial phrase “girls’ night out,” it’s unlikely that women heading to the range together is the first thing many think of, but that is the reality in growing numbers around the country.
When we hear the colloquial phrase “girls’ night out,” it’s unlikely that women heading to the range together is the first thing many think of, but that is the reality in growing numbers around the country. The spike in gun sales over the past decade can be at least partly attributed to a rapid growth in female firearm ownership.
Nearly any woman will tell you that when she was introduced to shooting, she didn’t just walk into a range solo one day and start asking questions. Socially bonded by nature, we love to relate to others in all that we do. Self-defense and training are no exceptions.
It typically takes a family member, significant other or friend to introduce women to shooting, or at least go with us to learn at the same time. This is not to say we aren’t completely capable of figuring this out on our own, but that experiences are best when shared with others. Women from all walks of life are immersing themselves in the world of shooting in ways uniquely their own, and in the process making friends they might not have otherwise known.
The percussions rock your chest and the wind from the sheer force propelling the bullets is enough to make anyone squeal with excitement—which we definitely do. This obviously calls for immediate sharing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. We aren’t sorry.Organizations like The Well Armed Woman maintain local chapters across the nation. Females of all ages and backgrounds are offered a welcoming structure in which they can meet regularly to train, hear informational speakers and participate in events tailored to the uniqueness of the group. “The chapter program, as Ilearn and hear each and every day, provides a very meaningful and deep sisterhood,” said Carrie Lightfoot, head of The Well Armed Woman. “It’s pretty remarkable.”
That sisterhood can be the foundation upon which women feel confident enough to buck stereotypes and proudly tout themselves as educated gun owners who are more than happy to teach the open-minded more about how and why they should do the same. Lucky for me, Liberty Firearms Institute is only 15 minutes from home and provides the ideal space for this to happen.
The institute’s ambition to be the epicenter for patrons to “Shoot, Shop and Learn” is right on target (yes, I prefer my puns intended). Heather Rubel, Liberty’s store manager, tells me the ownership team’s vision has always been to include women and families.
“From the design of this facility to our women’s-only class offerings, we’ve continuously had families and females as the focal point of our community vision,” Rubel said. “They are the future of the firearm industry.”
Amid tonight’s immediate conversations about our kids, work and relationships, my girlfriends and I gather our gear and head downstairs to Liberty’s simulation room—a three-lane range that features a self-healing screen allowing for live fire from your own gun in shoot/don’t shoot situations, timed competitions and concealed-carry scenarios. From there, we move to one of the 25-yard ranges to train with our concealed firearms. I mix in the sti 2011 9 mm with laser sight that I immediately fall in love with. Seriously, shut up and take my money.… that is the joy in being part of the firearm community: It does not define who we are or where we’ve come from, but it surely unites us in a way that transcends gender, race or stereotypes.
When we finally wind up on the 50-yard range, it’s for a special treat sure to make our social media followers green with envy. With our iPhones at the ready, I crank through 40 rounds of .45-70 Gov’t. on the five-barrel Civil War-era Gatling Gun—in less than six seconds (see the video here)! The percussions rock your chest and the wind from the sheer force propelling the bullets is enough to make anyone squeal with excitement—which we definitely do. This obviously calls for immediate sharing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. We aren’t sorry.
Once back upstairs, it would be tough to give me any lip about retail therapy being something only for women. The ability to outfit an entire ar-15 from start to finish, complete with an on-site gunsmith, beckons all consumers regardless of gender. There’s also a full selection of archery gear, which can be used on Liberty’s 8-lane, 45-yard indoor archery range, which includes 3-d targets and a tree stand. But ultimately it’s the tactical clothing, bags and optics, and especially the expansive wall of firearms, that have us pining as we mentally balance our budgets. Though we may comment on “pretty” guns, it’s the firearms that feel the best in our hands and provide quality and accuracy that actually dominate our purchases.
At the end of our time at the range, we decide to wind down with a quick drink just across the street. In this public restaurant, you’d never guess we were a group of ladies who had just finished honing our tactical self-defense skills. But that is the joy in being part of the firearm community: It does not define who we are or where we’ve come from, but it surely unites us in a way that transcends gender, race or stereotypes.
Now excuse us while we take some pictures. Ladies, say “selfie-defense”!