Skip to comments.Girls with guns
Posted on 09/19/2006 6:31:50 AM PDT by neverdem
ASHBURNHAM -- Esther Erickson pressed her face against the stock of her shotgun, and put her finger on the trigger.
"Pull!" she yelled.
An orange clay target soared over the field in front of her.
Erickson fired, as her target hovered for an instant.
She hit it with apparent ease and it exploded into tiny fluorescent pieces, almost like a miniature fireworks display.
The booming noise of her shot reverberated as she rested her 12-gauge shotgun on the ground and waited for others to take their turns.
"This really is just for fun," she said later as she took a break from shooting.
The Ashburnham woman is one of a growing number of women learning how to shoot.
She and others attribute the trend to a number of factors, including the desire to learn how to protect themselves, the chance to spend more time with their husbands and boyfriends and less social resistance to women learning how to shoot.
Erickson doesn't pay much attention to being a woman in what is stereotypically a man's sport, she said.
She said she likes the challenge of hitting the moving target.
"It's almost like competing against myself," she said.
Erickson began shooting trap last year, and now she's hooked.
She had shot guns before, but never so frequently.
"I knew Esther was addicted when she showed me her new gun," said Erickson's sister, Annie Durkan, of Ashburnham.
Erickson wore jeans and a blue and green paisley shirt during her visit to Swallow Hill, the 900-acre grounds owned by the Fitchburg Sportsmen's Club.
She stood out among the men beside her with her small frame and feathered dark blond hair.
That night she was one of three women shooting trap.
That night she also baked sugar cookies for the group, though she laughed and said she doesn't usually bring food.
Erickson, 37, is the first woman on the club's board of directors. Like other women, she sort of fell into shooting.
Patricia Natoli, of Maynard, has been shooting for more than 20 years.
Women on the range
She began shooting because her husband was a police officer.
"When I started shooting ... you didn't see women, like housewives, on the range," she said in a phone interview. "Now, you see a lot. The last three years, I've noticed a big change."
Part of the appeal is social, said Natoli, who now competes in single-action shooting, in which shooters dress up like cowboys and shoot with old-fashioned guns in play-acting scenarios.
"It's something I can do with my husband," she said.
Natoli, 51, works as a police dispatcher, and said she feels comfortable shooting around men.
Some women are nervous at first, but they loosen up quickly.
"There is no sexism on the range," she said.
Men will often help women and juniors learn to shoot.
"Sometimes the guys forget that you're a woman, and they make you work as hard as they do," she said.
Nell Vaughn, 50, of Royalston, said she surprised herself when she took up shooting.
She originally wanted to take archery, but no adult classes were available, so she enrolled in a pistol-shooting class.
Plus she figured that shooting was a good skill to have.
"I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to make a gun safe," she said in a phone interview.
And unexpectedly, she enjoyed the course for more than just its worst-case-scenario application.
"Bullseye is a very quiet, slow thing, it was much like meditation," she said. "You really become aware of how much your mind and body interact."
Vaughn said she enjoyed the required discipline and hand-eye coordination, which mirrored the skills she had honed playing Irish flute and violin.
Her first gun
That was six years ago and it changed her views on guns.
"Much to my surprise, I bought my first gun," she said.
"I was one of those mothers who told her kids that handguns are not good for anything but killing people, which was total ignorance," she said.
She's since taken more classes, and has also competed in bullseye shooting and taught pistol-safety courses.
Her house is surrounded by woods, and she feels more secure knowing she can use a gun.
"It's real dark up here, and it's very isolated," she said. "When I'm alone, I carry for defensive purposes."
She's never had to defend herself, but feels good knowing that she could.
"As women, we are more vulnerable," she said.
Vaughn said people are often shocked when she tells them she can shoot.
"I think it's easier to be a gay coming out of a closet than to be a shooter, especially a woman shooter," she said.
Her company instituted a no-gun policy and she approached her boss to tell him she actually thought having all employees unarmed made the workplace more dangerous.
He was incredulous, she said.
"It was clear that I was saying something to him that he'd never thought about, just as I never had," she said.
Bridget Belliveau, 20, of Fitchburg, said she hasn't encountered much opposition to her shooting hobby, even from her fellow students at Tufts University.
She even organizes a shooting trip each spring for members of the Tufts mountain club.
"Most of the people seem to think it's pretty cool, which is funny, since Tufts is pretty liberal," she said during a telephone interview.
She said she's liberal too, but that shooting is recreation for her.
Specifically, she said, she likes "the satisfaction of having that orange disk blow up."
Belliveau started shooting with her uncle, Jim Belliveau, treasurer of the Fitchburg Sportsmen's Club.
She later attended conservation camp and became an instructor there.
Belliveau said the men on the range help her learn.
"They seem to love the idea of this little girl picking up a shotgun and shooting very well," she said.
Her uncle was more than happy to praise his niece's shooting prowess.
"When I started, she was crushing me," Belliveau said of his first foray into trap shooting.
A recurring theme in conversations was that women may, in fact, have better aim than men.
"A lot of the women are better shots," said David Peabody, recording secretary of the Central Massachusetts Friends of the National Rifle Association.
"You give a woman a challenge that they want to attain, and most women will attain it flat. Guys tend to get distracted."
Tom Lynch, who owns the Blue Northern Trading Company, in Ayer, said that women comprise about 40 percent of students in his handgun training course.
He's even taught two nuns, he said.
Women are buying more guns recently, he said.
Many of these women shooters grew up in hunting households, said Jon Green, the director of education and training for the Gun Owners Action League, of Southboro.
"But they were never invited to go. So we have the curiosity aspect," Green said.
The demand for women's shooting programs has "just exploded" in recent years, he added.
The Fitchburg Sportsmen's Club welcomes this, say its male officers.
"Women have been turned off by guns, mainly because of some of the good old boy antics of men, who tried to make it an exclusive-type thing," said George LeBlanc, secretary of the club. "We don't see it that way."
He said the club has seen a recent influx of membership from women and families, which he hopes will continue.
"It's a good trend to see," he said.
Gotta remember the rules.
There. That's better.
"She hit it with apparent ease and it exploded into tiny fluorescent pieces, almost like a miniature fireworks display."
It's one of Life's most beautiful moments...and they're too few and far between for me, LOL! Trap shoot at our farm early October after the soybeans are harvested. 500 acres to safely blast away on. Pidgeons will be provided; bring your own ammo. Y'all come! ;)
Great story but geez, don't they teach paragraphs in journalism school any more?
I suppose someone could post those pics of those lady Israeli soldiers...
(Biting the palm of my hand in anticipation.....)
I was in Israel back in the late '70's....something about a sexy woman in uniform with an uzi equipped with a 50 round clip walking down the street.................aaahhhhhhh
One of those women has a SAW I think.
#1 is modeling the Dillon Aero Gatling Gun. Vaquero, where did you find that poster?
Thought about you......
I googled up 'dillon precision poster' then clicked image.
I go to competitions, but they are for self defense, not trap shooting. We simulate things like carjackings, restaraunt robberies, etc...
Some of the scenarios are really horrific!