Safety and Training

Discouraged? Stop Comparing Yourself!

Glow Shot Reactive Target with bullet holes

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.

Picture shoes a girl holding a shooting target.
Shoot to the best of your abilities. Challenge yourself to be the best YOU, you can be.

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.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. Suzanne, I totally respect you and women like you. My wife has always been scared of guns until here recently. I have told her that my youngest two daughters are pretty good shots. (my oldest has never shot a gun) They are in there twenties now and they came home a year ago for a visit and wanted to go to the range. My stepson is the youngest by only six months. He plays a mean video game but can not hit a barn with a sawed off shotgun. I think everyone should take some pride in being able to defend their selves.

  2. Suzanne, you get those thoughts out of your head! You are certainly qualified to be where you are, in my opinion. Your posts usually brighten my day. You attack the subject with every bit of proffesionalism expected by any writer, man or woman. You probably have helped instill courage in many women, just to pick up a gun and try it. Hell, maybe some male readers as well. If it makes you happy, that should be what matters. Be proud of yourself. What do those holes in that target mean? Nothing to us, we weren’t there, sharing the experience with you. We don’t know the distance, style of shooting, or the wind. All I can tell is that you’re holding a snapshot of your experience, and that hopefully you enjoyed it.
    Not every burly man has made a perfect shot on game either. Keep doin’ your thing Dear, and keep the posts coming. I for one enjoy them, and who knows how many women you’ve influenced to take up the sport. I’ve read some of your bio, and it sounds as if you had a charmed childhood, growing up in the Ozarks.
    Don’t change a thing, girl.

  3. You will have good days as well as bad days – don’t let it get you down, Remember that, in general, women have SUPERIOR hand – eye coordination over men. That means POTENTIALLY they can be better shots, if they are willing to work for it. If you want it, then go for it!



  5. I’m embarrassed to say that my wife is a much better shot than I am all the way up and including her 1911. I think she’s often too hard on herself and when she turns in a less than stellar performance at the range I simply hold up her targets at my chest and it’s obvious that each round would have hit a vital organ. That seems to take away the tension.

    Unless you’re in open competition you’re only competing against yourself, your personal best, and we all have down days where we couldn’t hit the inside of a barn, standing inside, with the doors closed. The important thing is did you have fun?

    After spending the last thirty-nine years in the classroom teaching a variety of risk activities I can pretty much assure you that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing there’s very little probability that you’ll continue with it. Aside from self defense, if you don’t get a reasonable amount of satisfaction from what you’re doing maybe what ever shooting sport you’re presently involved in just isn’t for you. Try another aspect of it or maybe something altogether different.

    My wife is Annie Oakley with pistols but couldn’t hit a clay bird with her new 20 gauge shot gun if her life depended on it. As a result, she’s reluctant to go to the Trap Range and practice. I’ve made arrangements for her to shoot under the supervision of an NRA certified instructor we’re both comfortable with and we’ll see how that turns out. Hank

  6. I enjoy CTD Suzanne’s articles. I also am very glad that more women are shooting and writing about it. Shooting is fun and fundamental to defense of ourselves and our freedom.

    I think Suzanne gives good advice for all shooters, male and female. And the more people that find shooting a gratifying, growing process means more will be able to protect themselves, if necessary, and the larger the number of people in our ranks who will defend our right to bear arms.

    So I think Suzanne set a healthy, creative mental framework for all shooters. I know I’ve needed this thought process. Thanks for spelling it out so clearly, Suzanne.

  7. My wife has joined the ranks of shooters just in the past couple of years. She can hold “her own” with over 80% of the male shooters that we encounter at our local range. She is better than I am when it comes too shooting a pistol, I know a lot of women that are great shooters. For anyone to talk crap about another shooter is just a sign of that individuals insecurities. There will always be “that 10%” of people, that have too be better than those around them.
    I have a nervous disorder that creates a tremor in my hands, it upsets me when I try to shoot around others as it increases the more I focus on it. I’ve had people make comments regarding my shakes, I have learned to “tune them out”, if I don’t it just makes my shooting worse.
    Anyone that spends any time at the range is going to learn new things, whether it be better shot placement or how to deal with a stressful situation while shooting.
    I say shoot to have fun, all the rest is just dealing with real life and the fact that there will always be someone better at something than you are. Keep shooting and learning, you will know in your heart tha t you can hold your own when the time comes.

  8. While I am not a female i am a male SHOOTER . I for one am HAPPY to see a woman shooting , no I do not butt in with advice , unless ask . I do not give “tips” , unless ask . I don’t even try to make conversation other than saying hello . In other words I am there to work on a part of my shooting or just to relax and enjoy the sport I love . If someone needs my help I will be there but I WILL NOT PUSH IT ON SOMEONE . The only thing I think about when i see a woman shooting is “GOD I WISH MY WIFE WOULD JOIN ME SHOOTING” she is , believe it or not a “anti-gunner”……….. But life goes on.

  9. “A gentle reminder that a 17-year-old girl could school them should shut them up.”

    Any female or male who makes it a pissing contest in my book is an immediate idiot. If you are long time friends who want to challenge each other because you both have a bond (le, military, etc) or you just want to make them pay for your drinks, that’s totally understandable. Once you start getting this rah rah rah, I’m better than you because, it makes you look like an ignorant jackass. The last article about women afield which had to do with ear pro really didn’t have anything to do with women at all, but hey I’m just callin it like I see it.

    its the reason why the Marines and army is as stupid as they are, bickering over retarded crap when they both fly the same flag. I’m speaking from experience here, but honestly, I don’t care to have pride over practicality because its that type of crap that will get you killed.

    the psychology bit was interesting, but I will say that the female vs male, he said she said needs to stop. Whether you realize it or not, you do perpetuate it by bringing it online, even if it is in small doses

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