I’ve been through a lot of firearms training classes, and some of them haven’t been the most comfortable (physically or emotionally) for me as a woman. While men and women can most certainly practice and perfect the same firearms tactics and techniques, I think it’s important to acknowledge that males and females are built differently. We often learn differently too. If students and instructors alike realized this, I think classes might be more effective (and more pleasant) overall.

Unfortunately, there are some not-so-great experiences out there in which instructors have demanded something a certain way, without taking into consideration that not every body works the same way. In fact, I recently heard a very interesting firearms training story from a woman’s perspective, and I thought it deserved to be shared. Thankfully, Claudia agreed. Here’s what she experienced — and what she did — that had both sides learning some important lessons!

The Firearms Training ‘Problem’

“My husband thought it was good idea [for me] to have a handgun to protect myself, but I really didn’t have a clue what I was I doing — other than my husband taking me to a field and saying: ‘You put these in this, that in there, and point that way and pull the trigger.’

“So, what did I do next? I took a CCW class so I could carry concealed to protect myself. Makes sense, right? Well, long story short: After taking [the class] and getting my permit, I was hooked! I wanted to shoot and I wanted to be accurate and skilled. So I went back to the CCW instructor and said I wanted to learn more and be able to protect myself. He said, ‘Let’s do this!’ and he became my instructor.

“We have had some wonderful times on the range … and some not-so-wonderful times. One session, in particular, was a disaster, with me leaving the range in tears and contemplating if I really had what it takes to shoot a handgun ‘correctly.’

“My instructor wanted me to take a certain stance with my arms and hands in a certain position. I kept trying and I just could not do what he asked. [This caused] frustration with one [an]other and [ended with me] leaving the range, not speaking.”

The Realization

“Once I got over my pity party, I got angry. [I thought] ‘How dare he tell me I wasn’t trying … and that I just needed to practice my grip and stance at home! Like I wasn’t already!’

“Then I calmed down and thought about it. Why couldn’t I do it? Was I being a baby or being difficult? Was I being a diva and just didn’t want to be uncomfortable? I tried the way he wanted my grip to be and the stance he wanted while looking in the mirror. I soon realized that I physically could not accomplish what he was asking. Why? Because my chest was in the way!

“He as a man could not experience what I was [going through]. He couldn’t understand that I could not put my arms in the position he wanted because I had ‘things’ that prevented me from doing it. I thought, ‘There is no way I can verbalize this to him,’ so I took one of my husband’s tank tops and sewed two bean bags (ones with the small synthetic beads) into it.”

The Training Solution

“The next training day, I took [the shirt] with me, and before we ever stepped on [the] line, I asked him if he was willing to do an experiment with me. He was a little skeptical but agreed, especially after I said I would shut up and do as he wanted if wearing the special shirt did not affect his grip and stance.

“With my special shirt on, he stepped on [the] line, took his stance and drew from his holster. His first shot was — let’s just say — ‘not in the center of the target.’ The look on his face was priceless! He tried adjusting his stance. He pushed his new chest with the inside of his right arm and then with the other. He leaned over a little more, he straightened up, he adjusted his feet, he moved his hands on the gun. He took a couple more shots, but neither were where his groups usually are.

“[Finally] he holstered his gun and looked at me with his hands on his hips and shook his head. (I was crying because I was laughing so hard at the sight that was in front of me and what I had just witnessed!) He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I am so sorry. I really don’t know how you shoot as well as you do, especially since you try to use the information [that] I have been forcing on you. We need to work this out so you have a grip that works for you with the obstacles you have to work around.’

“Now the tears were really flowing down my cheeks, not from the laughter but because he got it! And because he wasn’t dismissing [the challenges I faced] as me just being a silly woman!

“I still train with [this instructor to this day], and I now instruct beside him when he has women in his class.”

The Moral?

I’m so grateful for Claudia’s story and for the important lessons learned — on both sides! I believe students should always try to perform the way they are instructed. There is definitely a reason for firearms instructors teaching techniques in a certain way. But instructors should always try to remember that whether it’s height, weight, age, limitations or otherwise, every BODY is different. And we might need to adjust a few things here and there to make things work effectively, consistently and proficiently for us.

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