A Girl and a Gun club empowers female gun ownersDec 22, 2021 04:14PM ● By Terri Benson
Born and raised in Wyoming, Kathleen Wilkinson, 67, was familiar with weapons but had never done any shooting. That all changed when her husband, a Top Gun pilot, passed away in 2020.
Having moved to Grand Junction in 1978, the newly-widowed Wilkinson decided to visit her sister in Oklahoma at a ranch she managed. While there, Wilkinson decided to try shooting for the first time at the ranch’s shooting range. She was able to borrow a rifle, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, and a .22-caliber revolver. Like a Rambo Goldilocks, the rifle kicked too hard, the 9mm was hard to manage and very loud, but the .22 was just right. With it, she hit the target nearly every time, and that got her hooked.
As soon as she returned home, Wilkinson purchased a .22 revolver. While waiting for the background check, she followed the store employee’s suggestion to visit the Rocky Mountain Gun Club (RMGC). Wilkinson discovered the club rented guns and had a Ladies Day open to nonmembers, and immediately made plans to attend.
On her way out, she saw a flyer for A Girl and A Gun Shooting League’s local chapter. It only took Wilkinson one day to decide she wanted to join.
A Girl and A Gun’s (AG/AG) mission is to encourage women of all demographics to be educated about firearm usage and safety and to promote shooting and competitive shooting sports. Events are designed for all levels of experience, from novice to recreational to competitive.
Wilkinson also joined the National AG/AG Organization, which hosts events all over the country, including the National Conference held at nearby Cameo Shooting Range and Education Complex (the 2022 Conference is scheduled for April 28-May 1).
At the 2021 conference, Wilkinson found workshops as well as optional shooting on both inside and outside ranges. Over 400 women attended last year, which included 100+ workshops.
Wilkinson has taken Cameo’s “Introduction to Competition Shooting” and “How to Get Your Hits.” In these classes, she learned she was holding her gun wrong and didn’t use a firm enough grip.
“Making those changes really increased my accuracy, and I found out I’m a pretty darn good shot. My speed on firing still needs some work, though,” Wilkinson said.
She’s anxious to participate in the “Steel Challenge” where she’ll shoot at metal targets. She loves to hear the “ping” when the bullet hits.
Other local AG/AG non-shooting workshops have included: types and uses of shooting gear, range commands, self-defense, body mechanics, first aid, controlled breathing, proper use of pepper spray, guest speakers and more. Wilkinson’s favorite events are live fire gun range shoots with instructors who work with her on stance and safety. Since joining, she’s shot every week either on the live range or on a simulator.
Women supporting women
What Wilkinson enjoys most about the gun club meetings is the camaraderie and support of other women.
“There’s a completely different language used between women about guns and shooting than between men, or men and women. The best part about having women instructors is that they don’t talk down to you,” she said.
The group has helped her build her confidence, without any sense of competition between them. Now, if Wilkinson were home alone and something happened, she feels she could take care of herself.
Wilkinson has a concealed carry permit, but hasn’t decided if she wants to carry a firearm or not. She’s had both positive and negative reactions when people find out she owns guns and likes shooting them. She’s even careful about where she wears her A Girl and A Gun t-shirt.
“There have been times when people wouldn’t look me in the eye after seeing what it said, so if I’m not sure how people will react, I don’t wear it or talk about guns. It’s important to know your audience. I went to a family reunion in July and all the Wyoming ranchers in attendance thought it was pretty cool,” Wilkinson said with a grin.
A recent survey by The Well Armed Woman found 33 percent of women gun owners were in the 56-65 age range and estimates there are 20 million female gun owners in the U.S. The Grand Junction AG/AG chapter boasts members in their 20s to nearly 70, most in the 55-70 range.
“I think my mid-life crisis is wanting to get into competitive shooting, and this group is a doorway to that,” said AG/AG club member Laura, 61.
Many of the Grand Junction members are passionate about shooting, believing this kind of training is necessary for any woman.
“All the women are here for the same purpose and the group is very positive and supportive. Women need to know how to take care of themselves, even if they have a husband. It’s a great confidence builder,” said Sandi, 56.
Local AG/AG events cost $5 per meeting. Visit AGAG Grand Junction’s Facebook page or go to www.agirlandagun.org to learn more about upcoming meetings and events.