LADIES IN SHOOTING
By Ron Mosier
The Alliance Voice
For several months now, Bill Bridgewater has been asking me to write about the All Ladies Charity Classic Sporting Clays Championship in Houston, Texas.
In order to discuss the subject of women in shooting, I must digress back some years and tell you of my feelings on this subject. For quite a number of years now I have felt that ladies not only hold the purse strings of American but that they also hold the future of shooting in their hands. I do not see this as a negative unless we as an industry fail to recognize the importance of bringing more ladies into what has for far too long been a men-only sport. To the contrary, more ladies in shooting can and will mean more men in shooting. This may sound chauvinistic, but men just like to be around ladies and thus more ladies in shooting means more men. Just for a minute, think of the millions of ladies in the USA who are the heads of household who are raising many millions of children who we as an industry will never get a chance to introduce to the fun and sport of shooting unless that head of the household learns the fun and relaxation of shooting.
A little over a year ago at a rather large sporting clays shoot, I was expounding on my theory about more ladies in shooting and why men shooters come into the sport and then leave for good when their wives or girlfriends get tired of sitting around a nice or not so nice gun club with nothing to do. Fortunately, this conversation was overheard by several lady shooters who were determined to find out just how determined I was to get more ladies into the shooting sports.
These ladies very politely asked if I (actually Browning) would sponsor an All Ladies Sporting Clays Championship later on in the year. I said I would and that was that, or so I thought. No more than a month later these said ladies called me on the phone and wanted to know if I was still willing to put my money where my mouth was. I again said yes and they told me they figured they might be able to get 50 shooters to show up. I felt that would be an extremely large number of women to show up for any shoot anywhere, much less Houston, Texas in 1988 where the economy was about as healthy as a person given two weeks to live, but away went the most determined group of ladies yet assembled anywhere.
Shoot time came in July and unfortunately, I was out of the country and missed what turned out to be the shooting occasion of 1988. I still believed that 50 women shooters in one shoot at one time was almost impossible, but I hadn’t reckoned with the ingenuity and determination of the female. Our little group of female buzz saws tied up with the Houston Area Women’s Shelter and prior to the shoot got more publicity from television, newspapers and radio than the last three Grand American Trap Shoots and all of the previous World Skeet Shoots combined.
As it turned out, 118 women paid to enter and 96 shot the complete event. Was it successful? You bet it was! About three weeks after the shoot was over a party was held in Houston to honor the hard work done by the ladies committee. During the party, said hard-working ladies cornered me and said, “What about sponsoring the 1989 Second Annual Ladies Charity Classic Championship? Prior to saying yes, I was given more demographics about more subjects and enlightened more about the traffic flows in and out of Houston than one would need to know if he or she were going to headquarter a new billion-dollar corporation in the area.
These ladies were better prepared for a shoot that wouldn’t take place for another 9 months than most shooting promoters or gun club managers are the day before a major registered shoot.
About thirty or forty-five days later, the ladies told me they were going to plan for a shoot that would draw 150 shooters for the 1989 Classic. My immediate thought was, how can you get 50 more shooters than the previous record to turn out when you can’t afford to promote nationally or even regionally? The only real publicity available for this shoot is local, and that comes from the affiliation with the Houston Area Women’s Shelter. Based on past performance and a growing respect for the sheer determination and hard work I had seen over the last year and a half on the part of the Houston lady promoters, I went along with other supporters and made plans for a record shoot of 150 shooters.
The day before the 1989 shoot arrived, which was designated a practice day, I arrived at the gun club and was told that there were approximately 150 shooters already pre-registered. The shooting club was decorated unlike any gun club I had ever seen before. A big red and white circus tent was set up adjacent to the parking lot which on shoot day would be the focal point for lunch, awards ceremonies and general shoot talk. The inside of the club house was spic and span, and each of the shooting stations was decorated with colorful balloons. The only flaw, which was the day before the shoot occurred and could only happen in Texas, was when six long horn steers who live at the shooting range decided to clear the tables and chairs from under the circus tent and make themselves at home. Luckily, they didn’t show up for shoot day!
On the day of the shoot another 42 ladies signed up for the event and a total of 176 shot the full event. I am not certain at this time, but the 176 shooters may have been a record number of shooters at a sporting clays event in Texas.
Again, success beyond anyone’s expectations, and close to half of the entrants had never shot before. I don’t remember talking to any one of the shooters who didn’t say ‘I’ll be back,’ and that’s what counts. This year unlike 1988 when most came from the Houston area, there were shooters from all over Texas and a few from surrounding states. I would expect that in about three years this ladies’ event could become national.
So what does all of this mean to all of us in this staid and ever so slow to change industry? First, it shows that the 52% females that make up our population can become interested in guns and shooting when properly introduced and given the opportunity to learn from women who are experts in shooting. (I think that a lot of the success in getting new ladies to come out and shoot can be attributed to the fact that these new shooters knew that they would be given personal instruction on practice days prior to the shoot by lady instructors.)
Secondly, to me and I hope to you, it says that next time George comes in to buy a gun that he may actually have his better half’s permission (he won’t have to hide his purchase in the dog kennel for the next month) and just maybe you might sell him a matched set. Why shouldn’t shooting become something life golf where the whole family can have a good time, where it can almost become a social occasion?
We badly need the support of the 52% of our population that may or may not be sitting on the fence with respect to gun control. We must get the support of our wives and girlfriends so that they will encourage their men to continue to stay in the shooting sports and not drag them away to other recreational activities. We must stop the turnover rate of men leaving our sport. How many men do you know who have quit our sport? Why do you think they quit? I think we all know the answer to that question.
Vice President, Sales
Browning Arms Company