Recent statistics show that women are the fastest growing segment of the firearm industry. While this is an amazing, empowering and wonderful statistic, not everyone seems to be clear on its meaning. Especially some men!
Don’t get me wrong—there are a lot of great guys in the shooting sports who understand that women are just as involved and just as competent with a firearm as they are. This isn’t about them. This—to be blunt—is about the idiots that you will run into, and how to deal with them.
I’ve picked the five most egregious offenders that I’ve personally run across. I’ll explain their behavior and give you tips on dealing with them when you too cross their path.
1. The Ogler
You know the type…he’s the guy who just has to get right up behind you and show you the “proper grip.” No. Just no. Luckily, I’m at the age where nobody is going to confuse me for a gun bunny—the women you see in the ads who, while they are beautiful, clearly have never held a pistol before and have no idea what they’re doing. Not only is their grip awful, they’re not exactly properly dressed for range time. The Oglers love these ladies. They also love to believe women are helpless and “need” their manly guidance. They’ll assume you know nothing—that you’re a damsel in distress waiting for them to ride in and save you. You could be the most experienced female firearms instructor in the world, and he’ll still need to “show you” how to do it.
How to Handle Him:
My best advice in dealing with an ogler is to just stop them short. A quick “I’m good, thank you” and brushing him off will often let him know that his presence isn’t necessary.
2. The Ignorer
More times than I care to remember, I’ve been ignored in the gun store. You walk in and stand at the counter and get completely ignored. Making matters worse, a man who walks up to the counter after you will get immediate attention from The Ignorer. I don’t believe that all Ignorers are malicious; most really don’t think they’re going to sell you anything. They likely think you’re awaiting the arrival of your husband/boyfriend/significant other at the counter.
How to Handle Him:
Saying “Excuse me” will generally cause The Ignorer to reply with “Oh, did you need something?” Avoiding a snarky reply at this point will not only help your cause, it will avoid the unpleasant defensive stance he will instinctively take. Once he understands you came in with a purpose, he’ll realize that he almost missed out on a sale. I find that nine times out of ten, The Ignorer is generally well meaning, if not a little clueless. The more we can help re-educate him the better it is for all women shooters in the future.
3. The Clueless Salesman
Sometimes The Ignorer evolves into The Clueless Salesman, who still doesn’t get it. More than I care to remember, I’ve been asked if I need help picking out something for my husband. The first time it happened, I laughed. The second time it hit me…the salesman truly didn’t think I was there on my own behalf. I’m ashamed to say that the second time it happened, I had a snarky reply for him. Was it the best way to handle him? Probably not. (Did it make me feel better? Absolutely!) By the third time though, my reply was almost a pre-written speech. Fact is, I had gone over it in my head so many times after the first two experiences that I had it ready.
Unlike The Ignorer, The Clueless Salesman may think he knows what a woman should be shooting. Once you do get his attention, he may attempt to sell you a revolver, even if you are shopping for a semi-automatic. In the minds of some of these types, a revolver is better for a woman because it has “less working parts.” That’s an actual quote (not to mention bad grammar)! And he’ll probably tell you that you won’t be able to rack the slide on a semi-automatic.
How to Handle Him:
The Clueless Salesmen is not necessarily a bad guy; it just never dawned on him that a woman might be in the firearms or hunting section to select something for her. A polite “Thank you, but I know what I came in for, and it’s not a revolver” may get you a disapproving look, but he will start to listen when he realizes you really do know why you’re there.
I guarantee he will also make you rack the slide. This is your opportunity to shine, and let me tell you, when you rack it like a pro, he will be impressed—not because you did anything magical, but because he just assumed that your girly hands couldn’t handle a slide. And he will also remember you the next time you’re in the shop!
4. The Arrogant Expert
I’ll never forget the time I was planning to review a gun, and the website wanted me to make arrangements with a Federal Firearms License holder so I could get the gun shipped to me. I ran the idea past the FFL holder that my shooting club used—after all, he was a member, and someone who had known me for a few years. His reply: “What makes your opinion worth anything?”
Honestly, I wanted to cry. How could he? Sure he was an experienced firearm instructor, and much older than me, but I knew in my heart he’d said that because he knew he wouldn’t value my opinion on a review…because I was a woman. Since it was very early in my gun-writing career, I told the website that I couldn’t work with them and I basically gave up. I know better now that I should have just found a different FFL…but I’ve learned a lot from that crushing feeling and it’s helped me grow.
Years later I took my NRA Pistol Instructor certification class with the same gentleman. During the class, he called a few people up to the front of the class and threw training scenarios at them to see how they’d handle it. The guys he called up were all very experienced by careers in law enforcement or military. Not shockingly, he also called me—The only woman in the class of about 50 men—to the front. I knew he wanted me to fail, and despite my fear of public speaking, I rocked that training scenario. Inside I wanted to throw up, but I’d be damned if I’d let him mentally beat me down again. I wanted to prove that I was just as competent as the three instructor candidates that he had called upon before me. From that point on, he treated me with respect.
How to Handle Him:
There are many Arrogant Experts involved in the shooting world. Be yourself and be confident. Once they realize that you know what you’re doing, they’ll get over themselves.
5. The Assumer
This is the guy who assumes you don’t have a clue. About a year ago, my daughter was headed to a lecture hall in college. She had just gotten out of a riding lesson, so she threw on a baseball cap to cover her helmet-hair. It happened to be one of my gun hats. A guy sitting next to her in class looked at her, looked at the hat, and said “Springfield? Do you even know what that is?”
I’ll never forget the anger in her voice when she phoned me to tell me what happened. She’d heard many of my stories about ignorant men but never completely understood them, until that day. Let’s just say the guy was (probably less than gently) re-educated about what she knew and what he didn’t know she knew. I guarantee he will never make that mistake again. But as I told my daughter, if he knew what Springfield was, she should get his number, because it’s always good to know who is “on the team,” especially far away from home and on a college campus. Today, the two are quite close and shoot together whenever time permits.
How to Handle Him:
It’s so easy to become defensive and snarky when being talked down to by an Assumer. However, I’ve learned the best way to handle these situations is to gently and professionally re-educate the gentleman in question. Sure, you could get angry and go off on a rant, but the truth is, it doesn’t help our cause. Although dealing with an Assumer is infuriating, it’s so much better to explain that we are the fastest growing segment of the firearm industry, and that just like men, we are empowered to protect our families and ourselves. Once you start to speak his language during his re-education, he’ll realize that you are not a gun bunny just wearing a hat that you picked up somewhere. It’s not his fault he made that assumption, he just hasn’t been exposed to enough women in the field that are as into guns as he is.
Sure, there’s always that one, old cranky guy who expects his wife to have dinner on the table when he walks in, and then give him a foot rub. We won’t convert him; he’s too far gone. But any other guy who learns from his mistake—even if it’s just to think before he speaks next time—is a win for us all. Lots of great guys who do get it are out there; you won’t notice them because they’re always in your corner. When you run into “that guy” at the range or the gun store, take a pause to formulate your response. Go forth and re-educate. We’ll get there…one guy at a time!