I’m not a superstar. But by golly — if any woman new to the gun world has looked online for information about women’s concealed carry, she has almost certainly seen my website. The old school gun culture doesn’t know who I am, but women new to shooting do know me.
I’m not flashy, but I am competent. I talk only about stuff I directly know or have completely researched. If I haven’t researched it, I won’t write about it.
My website features my own original writing, not thinly-disguised reworked material stolen from others and rebranded as my own. If you see writing elsewhere online that looks like mine, it probably *is* mine — or at least it was mine, before the thieves sanded off the serial numbers and called it theirs.
I’m not a childless person pushing my overnight expertise about kids and guns out to the world just because that’s what the market wants right now. I’m a mom, and my husband and I raised five sons in a house with firearms in it. Issues surrounding children and firearms are dear to my heart and it makes me crazy when a non-parent pretends to any level of parental expertise. It’s every bit as offensive as when a non-gun owner pretends to having expertise about owning firearms or storing them at home.
I have carried almost every day of my life for more than 15 years and have a deep suspicion of “defensive shooting instructors” who don’t even carry a gun on a daily basis. If you can’t figure out how to discreetly carry a gun for yourself, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother — well, what *else* are you telling your students to do, that you’re not willing to do yourself?
I refuse to do “reviews” that are little more than product endorsements or fangirl squees. I write reviews only of products I’ve actually used, and used hard enough to have found the potential failure points. In the case of holsters, I write only about ones I’ve worn daily for an extended period of time. I don’t understand the popularity of YouTube “gun reviews” that consist of little more than opening the box and describing its contents to the camera.
I’m not another chirpy young thing pretending to expertise I don’t have, while wearing exhibitionist clothing that would shame my mother. I’m a serious professional instructor who has worked at my craft for more than a dozen years and learned a few things along the way. Sexy I am not.
It makes me crazy when some upstart brands herself as an instructor while she’s still scary-new to shooting, when she doesn’t yet know what she’s talking about or even understand just how much she doesn’t yet know. Truth, here: the less people actually know about a given subject, the less they think there *is* to know about that subject. If you think the defensive handgun world isn’t a big field with lots of things in it that you still need to learn, that’s a huge red flag that you’re actually still just an untaught child pretending to know stuff you don’t yet know.
It makes my heart hurt when a half-taught ‘instructor’ gets a ton of attention and glory from people who don’t know what competence looks like, but who do know what sexy looks like. I don’t resent that theoretical upstart’s youth or her use of sexual energy to sell her brand … but I deeply, deeply resent that, with no malice whatsoever in her heart, a charismatic but badly trained ‘instructor’ can cheerfully lead people to their deaths simply because she’s sexy, untrained, unskilled, incompetent, and unaware of her own incompetence.
If any of that sounds cranky, I regret the emotional impact and wish it were otherwise. There’s no road map for a lot of this stuff.
You want to be an instructor? You recognize yourself in any of the above? Again, I regret the emotional impact. Now: Pay your dues, do your homework, learn and grow. Those of us who’ve been in the field awhile are desperate for more colleagues that we can respect.
Not going to walk back even one word of that, because I meant every single word of it. I did think, briefly, about not posting it at all because of the potential of being misunderstood. I was afraid that people would hear me saying something I don’t believe, something like “don’t trust anyone else,” when that’s a very far cry from what I do believe and wanted to convey.
But I posted it anyway, because it needed to be said.
A little bit to my surprise, the overall reaction to my rant was very, very positive. Most people seemed to understand what I was saying, and why. They understood that the rantish parts of that post were not aimed at any one person or school. A few of them may have even recognized my ongoing theme about the Parade of the Dancing Bears, and most definitely understood that I wasn’t telling people to sit down and shut up: I was telling them to keep going, work hard, learn their material, and take their ethical responsibilities toward their students very seriously indeed.
Sadly, I did receive some push back behind the scenes. Not a lot, but some. So I’m going to add a few things here that I believe also need to be said.
We need more instructors.
Some people apparently suspected that I was trying to keep new instructors out of this field. That’s nonsense. I’m a big fan of new trainers and a big part of what I do is help new instructors get the tools they need to do their jobs well.
There are approximately 11.1 million people with concealed carry permits in the United States, of which approximately 1.7 million are women. If every single permit holder wanted to take just one class from existing firearms trainers, some of them would still be in line for their class 450 years from now. Think about that for a long moment.
This means that whenever I see low-level instructors squabbling with each other over what they perceive as a limited pool of students, it just makes me kind of sad and weary. The truth is, we in the defensive handgun training community have not even begun to touch the pool of potential students who so desperately need the skills and mindsets we have to offer. Once we do begin to change that part of our culture, we will have nowhere near enough qualified trainers to meet the crushing need.
We need more instructors.
We need more women instructors.
At least one person suspected that I was trying to keep other women out of the training community. Again, no.
As I’ve written many times before, there’s a strong need for many more women-specific firearms training classes taught by competent and qualified instructors.
We do need more women in this field… lots of them. The industry has suffered, and suffered badly, from the lack of female participation in years past. That lack has too often shortchanged female students, and, in the past, it scared away or crushed the excitement out of a certain number of women who should have become today’s leaders but who went off and did other things instead. To avoid repeating the firearms training industry’s past mistakes, we need more women in this field.
A big part of what I do is help other women get the skills and training they need to turn around and help others. It’s the part of my job I’m most proud of and excited about. That’s because
… more than that, we need more competent people in this field. People who are willing to take themselves and their training seriously. People who feel the full weight of an instructor’s responsibility to her students, and who willingly shoulder that burden because it needs to be borne. Honest people who never pretend to be more than they are or to know more than they do. People who will do the hard work that it takes to get where they want to go. People who will not cheat new shooters who happen to be female, by being too afraid of their wimpy female nature to teach them what they need to know. People who take the job, and their students, seriously.
We need more competent women teaching firearms classes.
That was the accusation: that I was shaming other women for their body types. Again, not my thing even though on the reread, I can understand how — in this American culture where every female body type gets equally shamed by different groups — even the mere mention of different body shapes might lead someone to believe that I’d intended an insult on that score.
Let me be very, very clear here: I’m a big fan of beauty in all its forms. As I’ve said before,
Would the world be as beautiful, if it weren’t so varied?
And wouldn’t it be awful if every beautiful place you’d ever loved, actually hated its looks and wished to look like some other place?
What does all this have to do with self defense? I’ll tell you: a big part of my job involves watching body language while people learn to shoot. I watch body language to help people stay safe, so I can anticipate what they’re going to do next, so I can figure out what questions they might be about to ask, or whether part of my message to them didn’t make it through.
You can’t make a study of body language without becoming aware of bodies. How many different shapes and sizes and colors they come in. And how utterly beautiful most people are, when they let themselves relax and just be.
Because I try to be a good teacher, I’m usually watching what people say with their bodies when I tell them that they are worth it. That their lives are beautiful, valuable, worth defending. And it breaks my heart, every time, when I see a beautiful woman who wishes she had another woman’s type of beauty, or who thinks herself ugly because she doesn’t meet someone else’s standard for what pretty “should” look like. It breaks my heart when I see someone shake her head in denial (“Not me!”) when I tell the class that every one of them deserves to live, deserves to stay safe, deserves to go home to the people who love her.
But it’s still true.
You are beautiful, just the way you are.
Your life is worth defending.
No, really: Skinny shamer!
You want to know what I really think about thin, cute, young women getting involved in this industry and becoming prominent in it? Let me tell you about three specific friends of mine. There are many (many!) more women out there who fit this general mold, including several that I’m quite close to, but here are three that came immediately to mind as I thought about people I respect in this community.
Annette Evans blogs at Beauty Behind the Blast, where she sometimes talks about the hard work she has done and is doing as a competition shooter who’s also interested in self defense. Annette competes as a member of Team SIG SAUER, along with having landed sponsorships from several other companies. She brings hard work and fierce determination to the table, and helps her sponsors succeed in their goals too.
She’s also little and cute and physically attractive, and I’m sure there are those who think she’s gotten her sponsorship slots for those features rather than for her shooting. But this woman has hand callouses and sometimes blisters from her dry fire routine, for crying out loud. Every day, Annette Does. The. Work. of being a serious competitive shooter.
Shelley Giddings is another woman I respect deeply for her work ethic and commitment to excellence in the things she does. She’s a tiny, vivacious redhead who looks like a high school cheerleader. She’s also a determinedly competent person and an excellent editor for the gun magazines she’s headed up. Every day she works in the firearms industry, she has to prove her competence over and over again, just because she’s unbelievably cute in a button-nosed, all-American kind of way. She might be able to get put on a pedestal for her looks, but she Does. The. Work. anyway, every single day. More power to her for it.
Then there’s Melody Lauer. Known online as Limatunes, she’s happily married and the mom to three little ones. She’s also well on her way to being a well-grounded, well-rounded firearms trainer — someone to watch in the next few years for her practical style, down to earth approach, and determination to really test everything she teaches before she teaches it. She’s invested a lot in her training and her skills, and that shows.
As for her physical size and attractiveness? Let’s just say that Melody literally weighs half of what I weighed a few years ago, and comes in about three inches shorter than my own shorter-than-average height. Good things come in small packages. Again, she Does. The. Work.
One of the reasons I deeply respect all three of these women is because all of them have the genetics and lifestyles and ages that would let them coast by without doing the work, if that’s what they wanted to do. But they’re doing the work anyway. They’re shooting and writing and editing and teaching, every day — and every single day, each of them strives to learn more and do better. That’s impressive.
It takes a lot of good character to do, when people are willing to put you on a pedestal just for being.
For those who want to teach and are excited about showing others the path to defensive handgun use, there are many ways to become a competent and skilled instructor. You can find the one I recommend right here, in an article I wrote some time ago.
No matter where we are on that path — at the beginning or further along the trail — what I wrote then still applies today. And here’s the bottom line:
If you want to teach others how to protect themselves, take your own training seriously and never skimp on it.
When you become a defensive firearms instructor, you’re literally asking students to bet their lives on the quality of your material and on your ability to help them learn that material. You owe it to them to learn as much as you reasonably can, and to keep learning to be sure your knowledge is always up to date.
For defensive firearms trainers, human lives are on the line every time we teach a class. People expect us to have the skills to keep them safe as they learn. They expect us to clearly explain what we know. They expect us to have the knowledge to teach relevant material and the wisdom to avoid wasting their time or bogging them down with irrelevant nonsense. And they expect us to teach them how to stay safe some dark night when the skills we give them will literally stand between them and their worst nightmare.
If that weight of responsiblity doesn’t scare us down to our toenails every time we step up to teach, we’re in the wrong business.
Do. The. Work.