The author’s daughter Kristen shoots a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm.

As parents, we do our best to shield and protect our children when they’re young. But as they get older and become more independent, we have to let them take the reins on their own lives.

As a firearms instructor, and the mother of two beautiful daughters, I thought it was important to teach my two daughters to shoot.

Both of my daughters were in their early teens when my husband and I got into the shooting sports—old enough to make their own decision about whether or not they wanted to learn to shoot. Luckily, they both did. They’ve been shooting for several years now, and have become proficient with pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Since they’re both in college now, we have to squeeze range time in on school breaks when they’re home, even if it’s in the middle of winter. They take firearm training seriously and know that you should practice year-round to keep your skills sharp, regardless of what Mother Nature throws at you. Some of our best range days have been in the rain and snow.

Teaching my daughters to become competent and proficient with firearms taught me something as well: shooting isn’t just about the gun. Some excellent life lessons go along with shooting, especially if you’re a woman. Here are seven reasons I taught my daughters to shoot:

1. Empowerment

Did handing guns to my daughters automatically give them power? No. Training and education did. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about protecting yourself, the more empowered you become. I stress situational awareness to my daughters, especially now that they’re away at college and living on campus. It’s important, whether you’re carrying a firearm or not, to be aware of your surroundings. And empowerment leads to confidence. Confident people are not soft targets. Someone looking to do harm to another individual will avoid those who project power and confidence.

The author looks on as her daughter Beth fires a Springfield XD 9 at an outdoor range.

2. Self Defense

Once empowered, my daughters needed the tools to be able to shoot proficiently and safely in the event the day should come where they needed to defend themselves. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not raising a couple of vigilantes. Part of teaching and training my daughters is helping them develop the mindset to know when and if you should draw your weapon. It’s one thing to be in your home and have the door kicked in; it’s completely something else to be in convenience store that is being robbed. I’m helping my daughters develop the thought process to know when their life is in danger, and when to draw their weapon to defend themselves. That will allow my daughters to be independent.

3. Skills and Coordination

Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination gets a great workout when you’re on the range. Whether my daughters were raising a rifle or a pistol, the act of sighting a target and firing helped their fine motor skills develop. Add some motion to that target after they get accustomed to shooting, and you have a great training exercise that improves hand-eye coordination as well. The fact that it’s an awful lot of fun to shoot a moving target just makes shooting all the more awesome!

4. Self-Responsibility

A lot of what it takes to carry a firearm isn’t really about the firearm itself; it’s about making sound decisions and being responsible for your actions. It’s one thing to know how to shoot; it’s another to have the confidence and education to know when and if you should draw your weapon should a situation escalate to the point where you may need to defend yourself or your home. Shooting a firearm carries with it a lot of responsibility; there is no undo button once the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun. The person shooting needs to take it seriously and follow the safety rules to ensure a fun, safe day at the range. My girls also know that if you’re the one shooting the gun, then it’s your responsibility to clean it afterward. They’re both very proficient at field-stripping my pistols and cleaning them after we return from the range.

5. Stress Relief

An hour or so at the range can change a bad day into a good one. Maybe it’s focusing on your breathing, maybe it’s just getting away from the stress of the day and totally focusing on acquiring the target through your sights that can be emotionally cathartic. Academic and social stress, whether it’s in high school or college, can take a toll on a young person’s well being. I find getting my girls out to the range can really get them more relaxed and focused. Everyone feels better after sending a couple of hundred rounds downrange. We don’t call it “group” therapy for nothing!

6. Men’s Perception

I’m hoping that any current and/or future suitors have seen the pictures that my daughters have put on their social media pages of them at the range. At the very least, this will let them know that my girls have a different mindset than some of the other girls they may have met. If it scares them off, so be it. If they want to go shooting with my daughter, great! I do hope that, when the time comes, they pick men who shoot—not because they’ll need men to defend them; they can do that themselves—but because it’s a reflection of self-responsibility.

I recently took my youngest daughter’s boyfriend of two-plus years to the range. He had shot rifles and shotguns before, but had never fired a pistol. We had a great day at the range, and I understand that he will be applying for his pistol permit once he’s back home from college.


7. Family Time

Whether you go to the pistol range or make a day out of busting some clays, shooting is a great way to spend family time together. And if your kids are young, you can have just as much fun with a firearm that is age-appropriate and easy to shoot with little recoil, such as a BB gun, an air rifle, or a .22 rifle.

Teaching my daughters to shoot has given them confidence, a means to defend themselves and a mindset to try to avoid situations that could turn dangerous. They’ve already learned life lessons that will empower and enable them for the rest of their lives.