Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

How A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League Changed My Life

As I was running down the hill trying to keep from falling while holding my rifle in its sling to keep it from swinging too much, my thoughts flit around – how the heck did I get here?!

When I was nine years old, I got Rheumatic Fever. I was scrawny, sickly, and pale. I spent 4th grade in bed. By 5th grade I could go back to school, but I had to rest a lot. At recess, at lunch, after school. By 6th grade things were getting more back to normal but I still had to be careful. I wasn’t supposed to get too excited, let my heart race, let the adrenalin flow. I worked a lot at staying calm, I could even slow my heart rate by thinking about it. So I also avoided things that made me nervous or scared.

After I went into 7th grade when I was 12, suddenly my knees, thumbs, and elbows became painfully swollen and red. Now I had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. That was the end of any kind of running or jumping for the next six years. It basically became a habit, trying not to hurt and trying to stay calm. A habit that carried on long into my adulthood.

Fear took over a lot of my life. I flew on an airplane a couple of times but would dread it for weeks ahead of time, getting cold sweats (all I could think about was just dropping from the sky. Silly, I know, but that didn’t make it any less of a real threat to me.) I passed up some fun times because I let that fear take over and just didn’t want to experience it.

Fast forward several years, the JRA went away, my heart seemed to be just fine. But I still had the old habits. Then I married my husband in 2005. He kept telling me, “You need to get a gun.” “Why?” I asked. “So I can throw it at someone because I don’t know how to use it and I’m scared of them?”

He slowly worked on me, introducing me to a bolt action 22, then a youth shotgun. I finally decided to take a basic pistol class. This was fun! So I decided to try Bullseye League. I wasn’t good, but I enjoyed it. You just stand there and shoot, I can do that. I knew I never wanted to move as I shot.

After a couple of seasons of that, I learned we had a local A Girl & A Gun club in Onalaska, Washington, ran by facilitator Jennie Van Tuyl. So I joined it. Imagine my shock when Jennie started pushing me! I had to move a little, walk forward, walk backward. I was terrified! But I did it. But that’s all I wanted to do. I had no desire to compete while moving. I was bad enough at competing while standing still with Bullseye.

Then on my third or 4th club clinic, we had to practice shooting in the dark with a flashlight. As I was holding my gun with one hand, and the flashlight in the other, I thought, “I am SO far out of my comfort zone. SO FAR OUT!” Then suddenly it hit me – If I can do THIS even though I’m terrified, then I can get on a stupid plane.

A few months later my husband and I flew to Hawaii to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

I decided to start competing in IDPA and 3Gun. I shook so badly every time I shot because I was so nervous. But my heart didn’t explode. And yep, I still sucked as badly as I did with Bullseye, but again – I was doing it. And I loved it.

The next spring, April 2016, I got on a plane to go to the AG & AG Conference in Texas. Flying and checking in bags and guns all made me just a little nervous, but we simply followed the rules and it went off without a hitch.

Then the opportunity came up to attend Brownells Multigun Fall Festival. I jumped on it.

Over the summer, another opportunity came up – a chance to attend a conference for work in St. Louis, something I would have simply avoided before. But I confidently made the airline reservations and two weeks before the Multigun Fall Fest I made that trip. It really stretched my nerves though as we were delayed on the tarmac by lightning and took off flying through a lot of turbulence for about ½ hour. But again – I did it.

Then came Fall Fest this past weekend. I was a little shocked. What? We’re doing hard, long stages? We’re actually competing against some of the top women shooters in the nation? What was I thinking?!

As I said, I’m not very good. I’m not strong, I’m not athletic, I have poor eyesight, poor depth perception. I’m now 57 years old. I totally expected to end up finishing last, so anything above that would be a bonus.

I attended Kelley Moore’s presentation on the messages we tell ourselves. I decided I would focus on what I did right during the competition instead of beating myself up for what I did wrong. So I looked for those things all along the way.

1. I was able to hit a few steel plates. Not many, but I hadn’t been able to hit them before because I seem to let them get in my head.

2. I hit a pop-up target for the first time. Previously I didn’t seem to be able to see quickly or respond quickly.

3. At the conference in April, I couldn’t do some things where I had to squat down. I had a problem with my hip, but worked on it for months. During Fall Fest I was able to squat every time I needed to!

4. I actually hit the bonus long distance shot!

5. I finished the match. I didn’t get disqualified or quit because it was too scary or too hard or too competitive.

6. I ran. Well…what amounts to running for me. Remember, I basically quit running when I was nine years old.

7. And finally – I didn’t finish last. While it really wouldn’t have been a big deal because I’m pretty used to it, it tells me that I CAN learn, I CAN improve, even at my age and with my physical abilities.

Joining A Girl & A Gun has seriously changed my life; that is no exaggeration. I’m much more confident and much less fearful. I step up to challenges I would have avoided at all costs before. I went from being afraid of guns, to enjoying them, to moving while shooting, to competing – all things I never thought I would do! I no longer tell myself “never” about anything.

I even have two more flights scheduled over the next year. Make that three – I plan to go back to Fall Fest next year and do even better!

3 Responses

  1. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your experience! You have overcome many obstacles in your life. Your attitude towards competition is an inspiration to us all. Sometimes, winning is all we think about. You have reminded
    us, that enjoying the shoot and growing in your abilities is what is most important! Good-Luck and most of all… have FUN!

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