This Saturday was a very special day for a select few people in the UK. June 11th 2016 was National Ladies Shooting Day, and I celebrated this by heading to a gun club for my first ever experience of shooting. I was lucky enough to find out about the event, which saw over 1000 ladies shooting at various gun clubs around the country today, through my aunt, who had been shooting on a few occasions before.
She paid for the tickets, I provided the transport (and probably the entertainment!) and we were off. The event started just after 10am when we were introduced to our coaches. I was (obviously) in the beginners’ group, along with five other ladies. Of the five, I think I was the only real beginner – but more about that later.
We headed off to the first ‘stand’ and were given a quick safety talk by Ron, our awesome coach. He was such a pro and really good at building my confidence. I was that kid at school who got banned from javelin because I ACCIDENTALLY threw it backwards ONE TIME. Just once. So you can imagine my apprehension at holding a weapon that could actually kill someone rather than just stab them a bit.
We did seven stands with 4/5 shots per stand. Each one was slightly different and brought its own challenges! My favourite was the ‘running rabbit’ – where the target was fired and rolled across the ground at a crazy speed rather than being fired into the air.
Overall I was massively impressed with the whole event. I have to admit to feeling rather out of place at points – some of the people there obviously came regularly, knew one another and were dressed amazingly well. I’d definitely go shooting again but I think I’d need a wardrobe update to keep up with some of them!
The coaches were so friendly. The lady who was in charge was great and really tried hard to make everyone feel welcome, and the club was so lovely! Who would have thought that you could go shooting in such a nice space with so many trees, fields, a lake and best of all, wildlife. Obviously as a vegetarian, I have some issues with shooting – namely what most people see as the purpose of learning to shoot – but there were signs up saying to refrain from shooting if an animal is around, and to check the areas for wildlife before shooting. We saw pheasants, geese, guinea fowl, swans, and even a hare, having just as lovely a morning as us.
There were a few downsides to the event (surprisingly enough not the weather, which held out beautifully despite the terrible forecast!). I felt quite disappointed that I was pretty much the only real beginner. There were prizes for the highest amount of hits in each group, and when we met our groups and two of the six in the ‘beginners’ group owned their own shotguns, it was pretty clear that I was not going to be winning anything. To be fair, I think this may have been due to the small amount of beginners and the need to keep friends who had come together in the same group, but it was still disheartening.
I definitely don’t think they catered well enough for the amount of ladies who were there – we had some delicious cakes afterwards but there wasn’t nearly enough to go around. Even simple things, like making sure that there was enough tea and coffee for all the participants, and that it had been organised before we arrived, would have been appreciated!
But the most surprising thing for me was how few ladies shoot. The organiser mentioned that this was the largest amount of ladies that had ever shot at this particular club, and that surprised me. I suppose that even now it’s seen as a ‘man’s sport,’ which is disappointing in this day and age!
But I am confident that this event will open up shooting for more and more women, and that can only be a good thing. There isn’t a feeling quite like when you feel the gun hit you in the shoulder and see the little target explode into pieces, and know that you did that! Your aim, your timing and your strength.
I would love to go every weekend, but I think I’d need to take out a second mortgage, which is the final down side to the day. To shoot like we did today costs £35 per person. If you join the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club, you get a discount, but membership costs £9 per month on top of your gun club fees.
I would also need to wear a lot more padding, judging by the bruises which are already developing nicely on my shoulder… but I will wear those with honour as a souvenir of a fantastic day!