Women see recreational side of gun use

'Women on Target' program offers chance for sharpshooters to hit household items as targets

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— For many of the first-timers at the National Rifle Association's "Women on Target" program, firing a loaded gun at stationary targets was a harrowing experience. Soon, however, they were lining up targets and squeezing triggers with a confident ease, moving from station to station to test their marksmanship.

"It's a chance for anybody who hasn't shot before to come in and feel comfortable firing a gun," said Sharon Rogan, who had fired a pistol maybe four times ever in her entire life.

"She shoots better than I do," said her husband, John Rogan.

"I think it was beginner's luck or something," she replied.

On Sunday, the last of the two-day event, more than 20 couples showed up for a couples fun shoot. Some 31 women were present for Saturday's shooting event; many had already gone to the instructional sessions on Friday.

The women also were given plenty of instruction and orientation the day of the events. Instructors demonstrated what to and what not to do when dealing with a firearm: a proper two-handed grip, with well-placed thumbs and the trigger finger; lining up the gun sights and aiming it at the midsection of the intended target; and other safety tips such as wearing glasses, ear protection and better awareness.

Shooters handled everything from a smaller .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol to a powerful 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. The .22-caliber was easier to handle, particularly for smaller targets such as filled seltzer cans placed atop several poles, and helped with accuracy practice. The 9 mm fired a powerful blast and required participants to be able to handle a stronger recoil.

"I enjoyed the safety and I enjoyed that I was getting a lot of instruction where they made sure I wasn't going to do anything unsafe," Rogan said.

The event also helped to clear misconceptions about gun use, said Peggy Silver, regional coordinator for the Women on Target program. Many people were introduced to the recreational side of gun use, with a strong emphasis on gun safety.

One station had an interesting twist. Instead of seltzer cans or small disks, participants fired away at large metal targets shaped like household objects: a butcher's knife, an alarm clock, an iron and even a vacuum cleaner.

"The object is to get women to learn the safety and fun of using firearms in a noncompetitive event," said Lorna Farrow, chairman of the Colorado Women's Charity Shoot. "It's a lifetime sport. It's safe, it's challenging, and they can do it as well as the men."

Last year's event raised $900; nationwide, the program's 14 shoots raise a cumulative $400,000, Farrow said.

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