Women learn firearms skills and safety
ROCHESTER — Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Those are the three main rules taught at the sixth annual “NRA Women on Target” at the Sippican Rod and Gun Club on Saturday, Sept. 7.
The program began at 8 a.m. with a classroom session, qualifying a group of 22 women to apply for their License To Carry in Massachusetts, followed by a catered lunch at noon, and an outdoor target practice session from 1 to 5 p.m. using pistols, rifles, and a shotgun trap range.
Program director Bill Fredericks said that the emphasis of the program was on proper firearms safety. “We’re trying to establish safety habits, both in mind and muscle memory,” he said.
Fredericks added that by following proper safety cautions, and by making good habits feel “automatic” by committing them to muscle memory, shooting can be a very safe sport and pastime activity.
Once the importance of safety had been established, women learned to load, unload, and shoot various types of firearms. Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols were used at short distances of about five to ten yards. AR-15s with scopes were used at 100 yards, and rifles with more basic iron sights at 50 yards. 12 and 20 gauge shotguns were used to shoot clay pigeons on the trap range.
Fredericks said that with the added factor of a moving target, the trap range is the most difficult form of shooting in the program, and that for a beginner to hit two or three out of ten shots is an impressive feat.
Women cited different motives for taking the day-long course. Miranda Souza, of New Bedford said that she went shooting once before this summer, and was curious to learn more. She also said that being able to protect herself was a motive for participating. “I think that the way that our society has been turning, it’s important for women to be able to protect themselves,” she said.
“I’d like to learn to hunt,” said Carolyn Villa. She added that she had done target practice a few times before, but was still new to firearms, and said that the course was an exhilarating experience.
Laura Ferreira, of Wareham, said that she had no prior experience with guns, and wanted to educate herself, and may look to own a firearm in the future. She said that while she was anxious at first, she felt safer after taking the classroom safety course, and shooting on the pistol range.
Fredericks said that while shooting sports have traditionally been male dominant, women are the fastest growing demographic today. Instructor Matthew Moniz added that women make good students, and are on average more open minded and coachable than their male counterparts.
Fredericks also said that the Town of Rochester has the highest percentage of residents with a License to Carry in the State of Massachusetts. Rochester Police Sergeant Kevin Flynn served as an instructor for the program and said that about one in five residents in the town have either a License to Carry, or Firearms Identification Card.
The Sippican Rod and Gun Club is located at 215 Dexter Lane in Rochester. For those interested in joining, there is an initial fee of $125, and annual dues of $100.