Steamboat Springs Lorna Farrow has a thing for guns. She also happens to have a thing for purple.
So, for Valentine's Day, husband Gary secretly had her AR-15 .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle painted purple and covered with flower-like shapes that change color in the light.
"It was the best $600 I ever spent," he said.
Maybe this is what happens when the world of women and firearms collide guns end up being girly which is precisely what Farrow wants.
That is why she and several male members of the Routt County Rifle Club sponsor a women's instructional shoot on the first and third Thursday of every month. She believes one night of shooting can start erasing whatever negative stigma women have toward guns.
"I want women to come out to discover how much fun it is," Farrow said. "Until they lose that intimidation factor, they aren't comfortable shooting guns."
Apprehension around firearms arises from various places. Occasionally a husband or boyfriend urges his wife or girlfriend to shoot his gun, which only ends up hurting the woman because she is unprepared for the heavy recoil.
Sometimes, a woman gets turned off to a gun early because she hates the noise. Many hate their potential danger.
Farrow doesn't deny that guns, just like knives and cars, can be dangerous when handled by uneducated, irresponsible people.
"Guns don't kill people. They are a mechanical piece of iron," Farrow said. "If handled correctly, guns aren't dangerous."
Firearm safety is a top priority at the rifle club. All first-time shooters are required to watch a video made by the National Rifle Association and sit through a demonstration that covers everything from proper gun handling to rifle club-mandatory ear care. Second-time shooters get 30 minutes of safety instructions to refresh their memory. There are no exceptions, and Farrow, as indoor range manager, keeps a list to be sure no one slips by.
"Gun safety isn't inherent knowledge," she said. "You have to learn it."
Additional safety measures are provided to the women in the form of volunteer coaches, many of whom are men. They answer any questions the women may have regarding ammunition loading, gun handling and firing technique.
"I took up hunting two years ago," Deb Schaffer said. "I intend to have a gun for protection, so I want to learn gun safety and shoot a variety to see what I like."
While two nights a month have been set-aside for women, they are encouraged to shoot whenever the range is open. It has been Farrow's understanding that some women feel more comfortable and confident when shooting in a same-sex crowd, particularly beginners.
"All my friends have guns so I thought I should know how to shoot," said first-timer Crissy Lawton, 18. "I think it's something I would definitely do again and would feel comfortable shooting with guys."
Schaffer and Lawton represent two different levels of shooters that have come to the rifle club range.
Jo Semotan, 63, has been shooting since she was 10 when a family friend taught her to shoot a pistol.
"It was something ranch girls learned to do," she said.
Semotan owns four guns and is aware of the negative press surrounding them, particularly from groups that disapprove of hunting. She sees shooting as a sport. The only time she uses a gun on an animal is when it's needed to protect her horses.
One indisputable good cause the rifle club participates in is the Women's Charity Shoot. Entering its third year, the proceeds from the June 22 shoot will benefit Life, the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project.
The preregistration deadline is May 31 and the entry fee is $65, which covers the loaner firearms, ammunition, catered lunch, trophies, prize drawing and a Women On Target goodie bag.
Women will need to go through an instructional shoot to participate. In addition to the ones offered bimonthly, there is a free instruction day June 21 at 2 and 4 p.m. at the range.
While this is strictly a women's-only event, the Farrows view shooting as a sport for man or woman, young or old. Gary Farrow thinks it's "cool" that more women are taking part.
Is his wife better than he is?
"She would say that," he laughed.
With a purple rifle in hand, Lorna Farrow certainly edges her husband in style.