Shooting safely: Rod and Gun Club holds women’s firearm program

Sep 12, 2021

ROCHESTER — Women at the Sippican Rod and Gun Club were armed — but safe — at a gun licensing and education program on Sept. 11.

The woman-only program is held annually, and participants leave with the training to apply for either a license to carry or firearms identification card, after lessons in the morning and shooting in the afternoon.

“It’s actually a really great experience for the ladies,” organizer Bill Fredericks said, because participants leave with not only a license that allows them to purchase firearms, but shooting experience as well.

Fredericks has been leading the program since it began seven years ago. Some years, he said the waitlist for the program, which can accommodate about two dozen participants, reaches 40.

“We can run this program three or four times per year and not even come close to meeting demand,” he said. “But it’s so much work that goes into it. I’m exhausted after this.”

Fredericks said women are the fastest growing demographic of shooters, whether they learn for sport or self defense.

“I recognized the need for women,” he said. “Certainly I wanted to take a clause from the environmental movement: ‘Think globally and act locally.’”

Program participants said the day wasn’t just informational, but fun.

“I’ve been meaning to do it for a few years,” Christine Assad said, adding the program “was better than she’d anticipated.”

Some of the program participants, Fredericks said, even come back as instructors in future years. He remembered one year when a daughter and reluctant mother duo came to the program. Fredericks said that once the program was over, the mother stood up to tell everyone how the experience exceeded her expectations. The next year, she was back as an instructor.

“I’d say if I have a proud moment of what we’re doing here, that was it,” Fredericks said.

When the morning safety session was over, the group headed outside to the club’s three ranges. At one range, participants used shotguns to shoot at clay pigeons. Another range was for rifle shooting, and at the third, participants got in close to their cardboard targets with pistols.

“It’s very individualized training,” participant Gayle Lawrence said.

For the Rod and Gun club in a broader sense, President Andrew Daniel said “it’s fantastic.”

“We’ve never had a lady [who] didn’t leave here feeling more confident about firearms,” he said.

Daniel and Fredericks agreed that the program offers participants exposure to guns and gun safety, and introduces them to the sport as well as it’s potential for self defense.

“This is not propaganda,” Fredericks said. “It’s exposure.”

He added that shooting is a sport for everyone, no matter their background.

“Every facet of society is here in the shooting sport,” Fredericks said.”

For people who “are totally anti-gun,” Fredericks said he encourages them to check out the club for themselves.

“People make assumptions … and this is a big eye-opener for them,” he said. “And it’s a positive eye-opener.”