One of the most common phrases I hear from women who are picking up a firearm for the first time, or discussing their first gun purchase is, "I'm scared."
The power, the noise, and the finality of a firearm can be intimidating your first time at the range, and that's perfectly normal. When I was first learning how to drive, my dad told me it was better to be a little afraid than a little cocky. Having a healthy fear for a thing tends to make you use it cautiously, where being a bit overconfident can lead to carelessness (and the range is a place where carelessness is never welcome!)
Confidence comes with practice; and overcoming your fear of learning to use a firearm usually requires three things:
A trusted educator
Not everyone knows someone who is willing or able to share their knowledge and experience of firearms with a beginner. If you have access to a firearm, and know someone who you can trust to show you the ropes, you're already one step ahead! Sit down and discuss firearm handling and basic gun safety. Starting with a gun that you know is unloaded in an environment where you know you won't have to fire it before ever stepping into a range takes off a load of pressure. Most beginners feel that they need to know everything on range day, and feel ashamed to ask questions. If the person you've entrusted with your education is impatient with you, or treats you badly for not knowing as much as they do, it's time to find a new instructor!
It also never hurts to try and educate yourself. The internet is a treasure trove of information, and while not every firearm functions the same, you can still develop a basic understanding through internet resources. Showing up on range day already knowing where the mag release is, how to rack a slide, and where to position your thumbs? How awesome are you?!
Your first time at the range, I always recommend starting off on the small end of the caliber scale. A 22lr in a large frame firearm makes for a pleasant start. The recoil is mild, allowing you to focus on things like firearm handling and accuracy. Don't let anyone tell you that a 22lr isn't a good place to start because it isn't a "Good self defense round."
We aren't trying to take down a moose. We're just putting some holes in paper, and the 22lr is still plenty lethal.
A new trend that is popping up all over the US is female-friendly range groups. According to the NSSF's yearly study on woman and firearms, almost 50% of the women polled don't feel welcome at male-oriented shooting ranges. As an answer to this, a good deal of ranges are offering ladies-only classes. You can learn to use a firearm surrounded by women just like you, often times being taught by a woman who understands your fears and concerns. There are even groups by experience level- which means you won't be the only one with questions, and your instructor will be more than happy to guide you from step 1. If you decide to join a range group, do your research. Find a group that promises to support its members. You deserve to be with people who want to take this journey with you- who want to see you succeed. Find a range that suits your needs and go for it!
All of these things are useless, however, without your own determination. YOU have to decide that you're worth your own protection. You can't do this because your husband, your dad, or your brother wants you to. You have to do this for you.
So get out there. Learn how to defend yourself, and find your inner warrior. You're worth it, girl.