Carry Life doesn’t have many friends we count as dear as Cris Bonser, and not just because she’s a smart, classy lady, and splendid companion for a range day. She strikingly refutes the boorish stereotypes the anti-gunners maintain of anyone who enjoys shooting and always manages to tell us something we didn’t know. This Mother’s Day week, she gave us a little of her valuable time, so read on…
Carry Life:As a mom, hunter, competitor and NRA instructor (SECB Firearms Training), you seemed to us an absolutely natural choice to lend some women-specific insights to a “Mother’s Day” Carry Life; thanks for joining us. A little background, if you could? Did you grow up shooting, or come to it by another road?
Cris Bonser: I did not grow up shooting, but did get the opportunity to shoot as part of a criminal justice degree program. I became much more involved and interested in it after meeting my husband. I guess you could say his affinity became mine.
CL: Was there something particular that got you interested in the defensive/protective aspects of firearms ownership? I took it upon myself to ensure I had all the tools necessary to return home to my family.
CB: At some point, you could say I woke up: At a buck fifteen [lbs.], but saddled with an insatiable love for all things sparkly, I realized that trouble could appear in a hurry, and even toning down my tastes and appearance would only help so much. I took it upon myself to ensure I had all the tools necessary to return home to my family. After taking an open-hand combat class with a Marine instructor whose neck was as big as my waist and discovering that there was no way of getting him into an effective choke hold—or any other kind of hold—I realized there were genuine limits to those skills, no matter how much I trained. I could not allow a threat to get within bad breath distance. I embraced the color codes of awareness and took to improving and practicing my concealed-carry skills.
CL: Was there a—pardon the pun—“trigger event” that got you from practitioner to instructor?
CB: Not really; it was more evolutionary. But it doesn’t take long to recognize that there are lots of differences in how ladies handle and carry firearms. Hand-strength differences are a good example. They mean that lots of things that work for men work poorly, or not at all, for women. At the best, they result in unsure, even dangerous handling, and at the worst, actually create malfunctions. Another important but underaddressed factor is the construction of women’s clothing. A man’s jeans/belt can support a 1911-class pistol if they must, but this is absurd for most women’s clothes—even jeans. They can be taught to handle the pistol just fine (even in .45), but actually totin’ it discretely is another matter. <<Laughing>> Hand-strength differences are a good example. They mean that lots of things that work for men work poorly, or not at all, for women.
My husband and I focus our training to include these unavoidable differences. For instance, our curriculum specifically demonstrates how women of smaller stature can overcome many handling issues by weeding out fine motor stuff. The physically smaller you are, the more important it becomes to substitute gross motor skills that get bigger muscle groups into a lady’s habits. Our experience is pretty uniform: When you show women the correct way to handle a firearm, they do just fine, even with surprisingly large and/or powerful handguns. You may want a modified approach to train women, but the skills themselves aren’t different between the genders. It’s absurd to assert otherwise—good handling is good handling.
We do diverge pretty sharply when it comes to still wanting to be a fashionista. Ladies don’t have to frump up to carry safely and discreetly; we spend more time here than you might think. There’s nothing wrong with a female still wanting to feel like a woman, and fashion doesn’t always have to take a backseat. Truth—sure it's easier to conceal under a bulky sweater, but just not as cute. Feedback tells us this is a favorite component of our training with female students. We use our imaginations and have some fun.
CL: While the media generally reports the same rare incidents over and over and over again to create the impression that “‘it’ happens all the time,” do you have particular suggestions for moms about how to be safe with firearms around young children, but without sacrificing their ability to defend themselves and loved ones?
CB: It may be easiest to start with an example—purse carry. I almost never do it; it's a layer of distraction, another element I need to keep in focus. I not only have to keep others out of my purse, but if I need to access my firearm, it's more cumbersome than when the firearm is on my person. There are only two places to keep a loaded firearm (yes, I do believe it needs to be loaded): on me, or in a rapid-access gun safe where everyone with access knows to expect a loaded pistol, period. Sure there are other rational choices, but in the end there is no buck-passing either: It is that person’s responsibility to train and be ready, but also to adopt a method that prevents unintended or unauthorized access. This is tough with purse carry—abandonment and access are real worries. I’m not saying, “Don’t carry in your purse!” I am saying, “Be aware of all the issues.”
As a mother and grandmother, I am obligated to stop a threat and protect innocents, and especially loved ones, but this doesn’t trump the need to keep my firearm from unauthorized or unsafe users. There’s nothing wrong with a female still wanting to feel like a woman, and fashion doesn’t always have to take a backseat.
So you probably can’t expect to pick a single method at the outset and stick with it. I certainly had to try multiple modes until I winnowed the variations down to two that work for the vast majority of my wardrobe and activities. I practice and stick with these, and neither forces me to abandon my firearm.
CL: Any comments about the media’s continuing, “Women aren’t really joining the ranks of shooters” meme? It seems to us absurd, as we’ve seen a tremendous surge in the last five to eight years in terms of women seeking instruction. What has your experience been?
CB: <<Chuckling>> I think the media would like to believe that, but we train 80 percent more ladies than men. In part, women want the confidence to handle a firearm correctly if the need arises, but I also think they’re discovering it is fun and challenging. Especially with proper training, neither use depends on great physical strength: That’s a myth I’m particularly glad to help dispel.
I also like to remind people of a truth of concealed carry that particularly benefits women: As our skill and numbers grow, it becomes increasingly risky for the predators in our society to press their physical advantages to abuse or victimize, and they know it. Whether you choose to arm yourself and train or not, we’re all safer out there when bad guys see risk as a two-way street.
CL: Thanks so much, Cris. Always a pleasure to talk with you, and Happy Mother’s Day!