Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Range-Safe Fashion

For many women, the shooting range is a unique blend of femininity, utility, and personal identity. It’s where she can assert control over her body, master a powerful tool, and discover her inner strength.  However, for some women, the range can also reveal where personal expression and firearm safety collide. Fashion and firearms can coexist if some ground rules, prioritizing safety, are followed.  

A woman shouldn’t have to dramatically change her fashion sense or buy a new wardrobe just to take up shooting. Closed-toe shoes, higher collard or neckline tops, and ballcaps are easy-to-understand apparel recommendations for the range. No one enjoys the sizzle of hot brass trapped in their bra or settled on their toes while simultaneously handling a loaded firearm. These suggestions do not require an investment into head-to-toe multicam or ninja black cargo pants and combat boots, though if that’s already your style, rock on. These suggestions are to prevent personal injury and the propensity for muzzle and trigger finger violations common with brass burns. 

While range-appropriate clothing is necessary, it’s also essential to consider the safety risks associated with certain accessories. For example, rings can cause discomfort and grip issues after a few shots. Rings with prong settings can snag on concealment garments, leading to lost gemstones and compromised draw speed. Similar issues can arise with charm bracelets, long pendant necklaces, and scarves. Just like in a machine shop, it’s important to take apparel and accessories seriously to avoid potential hazards. 

Nail art is the range’s least talked about but potentially most dangerous fashion issue. Nail art in women’s fashion dates back to 5,000 B.C. and is a powerful form of self-expression today. For many women, well-groomed nails mean more than just pretty colors; they represent who they are. Others feel having their nails done is a form of self-care and an investment in themselves. What is range time if not self-care and an investment in self? 

Nail length becomes problematic when it interferes with basic safety rules. Trigger finger discipline largely determines if nail length is range-appropriate. Nails that are too long prevent the shooter from naturally gaining access to the trigger. They also cause problems removing the trigger finger from the trigger guard easily and rapidly. Nails that inhibit the ability to index the trigger finger straight along the frame are no longer range-safe. 

Be it a handgun, shotgun, or rifle, basic handling skills, and firearm manipulations are challenges for shooters with nails that are too long. Loading magazines requires care and technique, and while it’s not a safety issue, the extra time it takes to prepare magazines can be frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. Long nails can make reaching and operating the mag release, slide lever, mechanical safety, or decocker difficult, causing shooting performance to suffer. When a shooter has to make extra effort to work around long nails, it can negatively impact their ability to shoot accurately.

Maintaining a consistent grip is crucial for safety when handling a firearm, and nail length can be a potential hazard. Nails that are too long can interfere with a shooter’s grip, while nails that are just slightly too long can cause discomfort when shooting. When using a handgun, having extended nail length can prevent the support hand from making proper contact with the gun’s grip, causing the shooter to apply pressure on top of their nails, which can be painful and abrasive and even cause breakage. Shooters who experience this issue often have to compromise their grip, leading to poor recoil management and slower shot-to-shot recovery.

Drawing a gun from a holster can be difficult when wearing long nails or extensions. As the nails are longer, the pinky, ring, and middle fingers may have trouble wrapping around the grip without getting caught on parts of the holster, belt, or pants. This can prevent achieving a proper firing grip on the gun. Holsters with thumb or middle finger retention devices can also cause issues for people with long nails. Retrieving magazines from mag pouches can also be challenging, depending on their placement on the body.

There is no specific length of nails considered too long for shooting. However, if the size of the nails makes it difficult for the shooter to load, clear malfunctions, unload, perform basic manipulation tasks, and follow range rules, it should be considered a problem. This problem can be easily solved by making a salon appointment and upgrading to range-safe glam.

Safety and consistency are the units of measure when determining if fashion accessories are too much, too long, or cause predictable issues. Unless the apparel or the bling compromises safety or limits a shooter’s potential, personal style and expression are welcome at the range. Specific shooting events, classes, or ranges may specify apparel requirements in order to participate safely. When in doubt about a fashion item or specific garment, inquire in advance.