Before you hang me by my toes…

I’m not saying all women shoot slow, But I am curious after looking at the results from the Polite Society Match at Rangemaster’s Tactical Conference last weekend, why there weren’t more women in the top 20 shooters.

A little background, the Polite Society Match was pretty simple and straight forward, nothing complicated or gamey. You had to shoot from concealment, the most rounds fired was 3 on one target followed by 3 on a second. At one point you had to do an emergency reload. The furthest distance was 10 yds, which you had to shoot from behind cover on a knee.

I myself have been struggling to speed up. I was pretty slow, placing #117 out of 158 shooters – but I still made the top 10 women shooters!!  What’s that about? Why are we so slow?

In the past year I’ve come to comprehend something that while most men will shrug their shoulders and nod, they don’t really understand

Women aren’t as strong as men.

Last year in an instructor development class ten experienced instructors tried an experiment. Holding an empty revolver (with a moderate trigger weight) in a shooting stance on a 3×5 card, we pulled the trigger as many times as possible in 30 seconds.

The men were able to pull the trigger 90-120 times. The women were only able to do so between 13 – 32 times.

This is significant when you start talking about techniques for controlling your gun.

All of the techniques I’ve been taught come from strong men. Thumbs up, thumbs forward, thumbs down. All of the guys using these different grips are able to shoot well and fast. Many of them competed in the match referenced above.

It makes me wonder?

Why aren’t the women they are teaching shooting as fast and as accurately as their male students? 

On the way to the conference I read an article by Melody Lauer about grip. I was particularly interested in what Annette Evans had to say given that she is a small woman who shoots for Team SIG SAUER.

Evans explains that her grip and process for managing recoil relies on far more muscle activation than just her hands.

“I start my grip up in my shoulders now and in my core,” she explains. “I’m trying to make the back tips of my shoulder blades touch each other so I’m really bringing my shoulders back and I’m squeezing my armpits together. If you do that and stick your hands in front of you you can see how the bottoms of your hands start touching and it becomes a vice. That’s where a lot of my grip strength comes from right now.”

The first class I took at the tactical conference was from Paul Sharp, called Recoil Mitigation. When he first started talking about how to hold and manage the gun I have to admit I almost checked out. He’s a big strong guy and at first blush, what he was describing sounded like he was muscling the gun. But I asked for personalized help and was excited to have him show me how to use my tendons and whole body to lock down control of my gun.

For the first time ever, I was able to shoot quickly and see my sights settle down right where they were when I fired the first shot. Previous to this experience I had begun to wonder if what people described should be happening vs. what I was experiencing where I had to hunt for my sights was an urban legend. No matter how hard I gripped my gun and did what I was told to do, my sights did not settle down in front of me… until now!

I’m not going to lie, the next day I had sore muscles in places I didn’t know I had muscles, but, I feel like I finally have a technique that will help me to manage recoil and fire faster, that is not completely dependent on sheer strength.

This technique seemed similar to the way Annette had described activating her muscles through her shoulders to achieve a grip that allows her to achieve a high level of success in the competition world.

In a subsequent conversation with Melody Lauer discussing this question, she wondered if women aren’t slower simply because we don’t push ourselves like the men do. I might buy that, especially if you also add in the context that we also don’t push ourselves to discover why we aren’t getting the results the boys are; to ask the hard questions and keep asking until we get an answer.

In general, women aren’t as competitive as men and when you realize that there were 200 attendees at the conference this year, 40 of which were women, but only 22 women shot the match… ? Well maybe there is truth to that statement. Maybe we aren’t as comfortable pushing ourselves and competing in situations where we’re likely to show our weaknesses.  I raise my hand on that one – I HATE looking like I don’t know what I’m doing, or screwing up publicly. I’m the queen of the adrenaline dump messing me up when it comes time to perform in front of peers.

I think we’re also more likely to get dismissed by an instructor in a class if the technique isn’t working for us but no one else is having a problem.  And as women, we’re less likely to want to slow down the class by asking for repeated help.

On Sunday I spent three hours on the range with Spencer Keepers learning about AIWB techniques. He maintains that he can draw faster from this position – and given that he and John Johnson placed 2nd & 3rd in the match using this position, I’d say that his claim holds water. At the end of class we had a quick draw contest with the class. I generally loath these kind of things. I knew I couldn’t out draw and shoot John and Spencer, but there was no graceful way out so I played along. I held my own against several other students before being eliminated and I have to admit that it was a fun drill. It pushed me in a way nothing else I do on a regular basis does.

So maybe it’s true? As a group, we as women don’t try as hard as the boys do?

What do you think? Honestly, I don’t have the answer… I don’t think there is a simple one size cures all solution. But I do think it’s important to ask the question and keep looking for answers.

As Tom Given’s says, “There’s never enough time in a gun fight.” And since women are more likely to be targeted than men in violent crime, I think it’s a shame that we aren’t seeing more women push themselves and their peers to get faster. So whether we need better techniques or more practice, let’s do it!