ON INSTRUCTING LADIES - American Pistol Shooting (2015)

American Pistol Shooting (2015)

Chapter XVII


TEACHING a woman to shoot a pistol is a great deal like teaching a child to swim. Before either can make progress she must have confidence. The child must he assured that there is nothing dangerous about the water by permitting her to play around in it until she feels at home there. Most women have an inherent dread of firearms and the sight of them will at once arouse nervousness and sometimes bring on hysterics. If pistols are flourished about, pointed promiscuously or otherwise mishandled, it will invariably have the effect of discouraging a woman from having anything to do with them. The obstacle, therefore, that must be overcome by ladies who desire to learn to shoot is the fear of firearms.

The author has taught over three hundred women to shoot, most of them university students, and during the time so engaged learned some things of value to an instructor in this work. During the time these girls’ classes were being conducted, he was also instructing college boys in rifle and pistol marksmanship and discovered that the girls learned more quickly than the boys and up to a certain point in their progress, with the rifle at least, the young women did better work than the young men. The reason for this was that the girls were openminded and intensely interested in learning to shoot. They admitted that they knew nothing about the game when they began and were willing to do, without question, exactly what the instructor told them to do. Most of the boys on the other hand were taking the instruction as part of the required military training of their institution. The big majority of them had done some shooting at an earlier date and felt that they knew how to do it. They invariably showed the lack or absence of proper instruction and had acquired enough bad habits to require a lot of correcting which was difficult with the average college sophomore.

After a few trying experiences with the first classes of young women, in which one had hysterics, another fainted, and a third almost shot an instructor, the necessity for very close supervision, individual coaching, and a carefully thought out plan of instruction, was an absolute necessity if accidents were to be avoided and confidence and enthusiasm developed in the pupils.

The following plan proved to be very successful and no further trouble was experienced after it was put into effect. Each class was assembled in a lecture room and seated about a large table on which an assortment of pistols was placed. After assuring the group that all the weapons were empty and that there were no loaded cartridges in the room, the instructor spoke briefly on the subject of hand guns and the safety precautions necessary to their proper use. The main characteristics of pistols, revolvers and auto-loading pistols or automatics, as they are commonly called, were explained and the operation of each type demonstrated by simulating the loading, unloading, cocking and firing of each. Every pupil was then required to perform the same operations and where no harm was done to the guns by snapping them, this also was permitted and encouraged. The instruction at this point was quite informal and the girls were allowed to move about the table, examine and operate each gun and required to observe the primary precaution of not pointing the pistols at anyone while they were snapping them or simulating loading them. It was not long before every girl knew how to handle the guns in a business-like manner and they took great delight in doing it. When they saw how simple the mechanisms appeared and found out that there was really nothing mysterious or dangerous about their functioning, their fear of them vanished. Nothing further was attempted in the first day’s instruction.

Having overcome their fear of the guns themselves, the next steps were to teach the principles of aiming, holding, squeezing, and calling the shot. This was done in the order given, but each day the pupils were allowed to play with the guns until the time came for them to fire them.

The first shooting was a critical point in the game and great care was taken to prevent dangerous reactions due to high strung nerves. The loading and firing was first demonstrated and then each pupil was coached as she attempted to hit the target. Single shot target pistols were used, supplemented by revolvers in which only one cartridge was placed at a time. All were of small caliber, and were fired against targets with comparatively large bull’s-eyes. The thrills a girl got from seeing her shot in the bull’s-eye were often enough to cause her to turn quickly about with the gun in her hand and acclaim her success to her neighbors on the firing line or in rear of it. This could not be tolerated and it did not take long to show the necessity of keeping the guns always pointed toward the targets and never brought back through the shooting windows of the indoor range.

Toward the end of the course all pupils were required to fire larger caliber pistols and revolvers with the object in mind of training them to fire weapons such as they might use in self-defense. The principles were taught and all target firing was done with small bore target pistols and revolvers. Shooting against time was of course done with multi-loading weapons.

There are many reasons why a woman should know how to shoot and if she is given a good opportunity to learn, she will become an interested pupil provided the instruction is properly conducted. Aside from the prospect of possibly having to use a gun in self-defense or in the protection of her home or children, there are benefits to be derived from the game as a sport or pastime and there is no reason why a lady should not enjoy them. There is also little reason for her not becoming a good shot. She has a more delicate nervous system and will have to develop self control to a higher degree than most women succeed in doing in normal life, but this in itself is of value to her and not hard to do. If the principles and methods as outlined in the preceding chapters are followed and only small bore guns are used for practice until reasonable skill is developed, then there is no reason why she cannot go as far as she likes in the game. There have been some very fine pistol shots among women and if they were given greater encouragement there would be many more. I have seen one lady, the wife of a Chief of Police, stand up with a police team and shoot through the National Match course with a .38 caliber military revolver and make a score that would make many men envious. The pistol and revolver championship of Texas was won by a woman using the .45 Colt automatic pistol a few years ago. The great growth of rifle shooting among high school and college girls since the war, indicates the interest they take in that game and it is only the lack of instructors and facilities for pistol shooting that keep them from taking an equal interest in pistol work. Though it is much more convenient to practice than rifle shooting, the latter game frequently draws young women away from the pistol because it is easier to learn than the hand gun game.

Because they do have, as a general rule, a nervous temperament and less strength than the average man, ladies should use light pistols both in weight and caliber. The easier it is to hold and fire a gun and the lighter the noise and recoil, the better will it be suited to a lady’s use, provided of course it has the necessary qualifications of efficiency, safety and accuracy. This applies particularly to target work and not so much to firing for defensive purposes. For personal protection the twenty-two caliber guns are of much less value than the larger calibers. It is not, however, advisable for a woman to go beyond the .32 caliber weapons if it is necessary for her to carry one for this purpose. Guns larger than this caliber are not nearly as convenient to carry and their increased effectiveness in stopping power is not worth the trouble the larger weapon will give her. After all is said, the fact that she is armed and can demonstrate by her actions that she knows how to handle and fire a pistol efficiently, will be all that is needed in any emergency in which she would ordinarily be involved.

The improved Colt .25 Automatic, Pocket Model Hammerless, with the magazine safety, is the most convenient of any of the pocket guns for a lady to carry. It weighs only thirteen ounces and its small size and compactness is such that it can be easily concealed in a hand bag or purse. Its great disadvantage is its lack of stopping power. Next in point of convenience are the .32 caliber revolvers and automatics and of these the following can be recommended: Colt’s Pocket Model Hammerless automatic in .32 caliber; Smith and Wesson’s Pocket automatic, caliber .32; Colt’s Pocket Positive revolver, caliber .32 with a 2 inch barrel; Smith and Wesson’s .32 caliber “Hand Ejector” revolver and the Smith and Wesson Safety Hammerless revolver in .32 caliber. In choosing between revolvers and automatics the latter will be found to be more compact in size and shape and therefore more convenient to carry but against these advantages the revolver’s strong points of safety and reliability must be considered. When it comes to carrying and using pocket guns, the author always favors the revolvers even though they are not quite so convenient to carry. The S. & W. Safety Hammerless revolver has advantages in shape, contour and safety that the other revolvers do not possess, but the trigger pull is so long and heavy that it takes more strength to fire it than many women can produce, especially should they be weakened by fear or sudden fright. Before deciding on a weapon for personal protection, a lady should have assembled, in a reliable gun shop, all the guns above recommended and then compare them for size, weight, safety devices and facility of loading and firing. By doing this she will be better able to come to a logical decision.

In the search for target guns the field is more limited. If a single shot pistol is desired the Smith and Wesson perfected model with its 10 inch barrel is the best suited for a lady’s use. The manufacture of this gun has been discontinued at present, but if one can be purchased from the stocks on hand in some of the larger sporting goods houses, the money will be well spent. This pistol, while it has always been used as the best target pistol of American manufacture until recently, has had the disadvantage of having a small grip which is too small for the average man’s hand. It is, however, an excellent size and shape for a lady. It is very accurate and its light weight of twenty-four ounces make it easy for a lady to hold and fire. In the target revolvers the S. & W. .22-.32 Heavy Frame with a grip similar to that on the S. & W. pistol is the best .22 target revolver made for a lady’s use. The Colt .22 Police Positive target revolver and the Colt “Woodsman” target automatic guns are also suitable for women. All of these are excellent target guns for general practice.

Pistol shooting is a sport well suited to a lady in many ways. It does not require great muscular development or special physical endurance as do some of the more strenuous sports. It does not demand that one dress especially for it, or bathe and dress after practice to remove the effects of the exercise it gives, as one has to do after tennis or golf. Hundreds of acres of park or country-side are not needed to furnish facilities for practice. The shooting equipment required for practice or competition can be carried very conveniently in a small leather case without exciting comment or attracting attention to the shooter.

Accessible places to shoot a pistol can usually be found without difficulty, unless one lives in the larger cities and then it takes more time to reach them unless there are ranges within the city itself. Persons living in the country, at the sea-shore, in the mountains, and in that part of our country known as the “land of magnificent distances” will find no difficulty in establishing a fifty yard range that is perfectly safe to use and convenient to reach. With interest in police practice increasing, there are many attractive ranges being installed in city parks or other public municipal grounds for the use of police officers, and there is little doubt that these will be opened to local clubs if the demand for their use is great enough. Many pistol enthusiasts have in recent years included indoor ranges in the plans of their new homes in order that their families may all enjoy the game.

To many young ladies there is a feeling of satisfaction in being able to excell in a sport that is out of the ordinary pursuits of women and especially is this true if it is one in which her brothers or father participate. Pistol shooting does carry with it a certain distinction, for among many its proper performance is considered extremely difficult. Let a lady establish a reputation as an enthusiastic pistol shot and the chances are it will cling to her wherever she goes. Her person, property and home will thereby receive valuable insurance against molestation that it would otherwise be without.