Guest Blogger: Britt VanDerBill
River Valley Arms & Ammo puts on a training weekend for women at least once per year, and it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I finally took the course this past May, and I’m so glad I did! Here’s a look my experience with Women Only Weekend at RVAA.
My (Non-Existent) Firearms Background
First of all, I have hardly any experience with firearms. I once shot a 50 caliber Desert Eagle handgun, which my then-boyfriend in college owned. My parents owned a 20-gauge shotgun that I fired as a teenager maybe a handful of times, holding it completely wrong (now I know the correct way, thanks to RVAA!). Most recently, I shot a couple of rounds from a friend’s gun to see if it was something I’d like and potentially buy someday. That’s pretty much the extent of it.
Clearly, I don’t mind guns, but I also haven’t been totally comfortable around them because I didn’t know much about safely handling them—other than not pointing the gun at yourself or others, of course. Basically, I knew next to nothing about guns before I signed up for Women Only Weekend.
What Women Only Weekend Was Like
Going in, I was a little nervous about Women Only Weekend. I didn’t want to feel stupid as a 30-something woman who really had no clue how guns work or how to operate them (beyond the obvious).
I’ve known Heather for a while and she’s great, but I still was a little worried about looking stupid in front of others in the class. Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. Our instructors (Heather and Becky) were laid back and assured me multiple times that there were no dumb questions.
The other women in the class varied in their experience levels, with some more familiar with guns and some at about my level. We all even commented at the end of day one that none of us felt judged by anyone in the class. What a relief!
Things I Learned During Women Only Weekend
I signed up for the entire weekend, which includes Firearm Fundamentals, Intro to Personal Defense, and the MN Permit to Carry course.
Handling actual (unloaded, of course) firearms in the RVAA shop at the beginning of the weekend was the perfect way to get more comfortable with long guns. Admittedly, I don’t remember everything about each gun, but at least now I could probably figure out how to safely load, shoot, and unload a rifle or shotgun if I needed to. Heather emphasized safety throughout the course, which put me more at ease. Learning and seeing and handling various firearms gave me a better, broader understanding of how different guns work.
We also got the opportunity to shoot probably a dozen or so handguns during the weekend. Different calibers and gun sizes have a different feel and kick when shooting, so trying out everything from a .22 to a 9mm to a .45 was highly educational in a hands-on way. I was quite surprised to learn how much I loved the .45, and how accurate I was with it. (It’s now on my wish list.)
The personal defense session focused less on guns and more on personal safety while out and about. I picked up a few tips here, like FaceTiming a friend to loudly tell them you’re concerned about a person potentially following you. After all, if they’re not trying to follow you or do you harm, they’ll likely be embarrassed and leave you alone. And if they are up to something creepy? Well, then you’ve potentially just scared them off because now they know another person has their description—and possibly a screen grab from FaceTime of what they look like.
The permit to carry course was (expectedly) dry at times but interesting, if not downright maddening, at other times due to all the legal implications and complications. Carrying a loaded gun is a huge responsibility, and we went over everything from safety to ways to carry to hypothetical legal situations.
The permit to carry test at the range was way easier than I thought—I’d been practicing at home because again, I was worried I’d look stupid and fail the test. It was actually fun, which was totally unexpected and a pleasant surprise. I had no idea I could shoot one-handed until the test, and I got to take my paper target home as a souvenir. (I just might hang it up on my wall, but I haven’t decided where yet.)
Signing Up for Women Only Weekend at RVAA
I enjoy target shooting and am even contemplating trying out a defensive pistol league now that I’ve gone through the Women Only Weekend classes. It definitely helped me be more confident around guns and I feel more comfortable asking questions and trying out different handguns when the opportunity arises.
If you’re like me and don’t have much of a background in firearms, but you’d like to learn more so you can feel more comfortable around guns, I highly recommend signing up for Women Only Weekend. It’s fun, informative, and people are not going to judge you for your inexperience.