Being a female shooter can be tough. Being a female shooter who works in the firearms industry is even tougher. Every day I read about people who shoot better than I do. All day I’m surrounded by guys who know more than me. And it gets discouraging.
Last time I went to the range, I returned with two targets of which I was quite proud. I had been shooting two completely unfamiliar rifles. For the limited distance I had, the amount of time allowed and my inexperience with both rifles, I was satisfied with my performance. However, when I shared my targets with co-workers, I got a chuckle. One of my editors told me, “Don’t show the world those targets. They will bludgeon you.” My initial reaction was hurt. I had just been called a lousy shot. After taking time to reflect, I reminded myself this comment came from a man who has dedicated his whole life to the shooting sports. In fact, I’m pretty sure he worked his trigger finger in the womb. Comparing myself to him was completely unrealistic of me.
Comparing ourselves to others comes naturally. In psychology, they call it social comparison theory. In short, social comparison theory is an unconscious way we stack our opinions and abilities against others. These evaluations help us define ourselves and check to see if we measure up. Sometimes these comparisons can make us feel better. While other times, these comparisons make us feel discouraged, depressed and can lead to poor performance.
Nothing is more discouraging than a bad day at the range. But a bad day compared to what? Compared to my editor’s last time at the range? Last time he went, he was bench shooting for precision, while I was shooting indoors to test out some ammo.
When I feel like throwing in the towel, I remind myself why I shoot. I shoot because I enjoy it. I shoot because it is fun. I shoot because it feels good. Above all, I shoot because I want to be able to protect myself should I have to.
I don’t aim to be a competitive shooter. I can’t sit still for long enough to be a precision shooter. When I go to the range, I go to have a good time. Most importantly, I go to stay proficient with my personal guns. When I review my targets, I have to ask, “would that have stopped a threat?” “Did I have a good time?” If the answer is “yes” to either question, then by all means—that was a successful range trip! Could I be better at shooting? Of course I could. We all could. So I practice as much as I can. I take classes, clinics and private lessons. Will I beat myself up because I don’t qualify as “marksman?” No. I won’t.
We all shoot for different reasons. Find your reason and train accordingly. The range officer’s reason, your husband’s reason, nor is your boss’s reason all the same, so it is pointless to compare.
For the average woman shooter, whatever level of success you think you can achieve is good enough. Don’t be discouraged because you had a bad day at the range. Make a vow to yourself to do better next time. Only better than your last time—not your husband’s, your brother’s and certainly not Kay Miculek’s last time.
One thing that has helped me is making social connections through women’s only shooting clinics. In these clinics, we focus on helping, encouraging and supporting one another.
Another thing that helps me is taking ol’ faithful to the range every time I go shooting—ol’ faithful is my S&W M&P 15-22. That rifle I know I shoot well. Finish your range time out strong by popping off a few rounds with a gun you know and trust. One way to fight discouragement is by immediately doing something you know you do well. So what if you didn’t hit bullseye with the GLOCK 22 you rented? You’ll be knockin’ em’ dead with your carry gun, right? World Champion shooter, Julie Golob in her book Shoot writes, “Having a realistic understanding of your ability combined with a positive, optimistic attitude will help you take pride in your personal accomplishments on the range.” Shoot to the best of your abilities, not someone elses. Challenge yourself to be the best YOU, you can be. If they still laugh at you, laugh right back and say, “I’m no Lena Miculek, but neither are you!” A gentle reminder that a 17-year-old girl could school them should shut them up.
For more articles that might help, read the following blogs: It’s Okay to be Nervous Don’t Worry. You Don’t Have to be a Gun Nut to Shoot Guns. Managing Recoil with the Correct Stance
Ladies, guys, we know this scenario goes both ways. How do you fight discouragement? Share it in the comment section.