The Rise of Women in Firearms

Firearms are fascinating on many levels. One of them is that they are the great equalizer. You can take someone who is physically smaller objectively and put them up against someone who is larger, and if the smaller of the two also has a firearm, the equation changes quickly. People worldwide see a firearm and will naturally shift their behavior depending on circumstances. With this in mind, the rich history of women in the firearms world is both deep and prevalent today, as it has been for centuries. Here, we’ll discuss a bit of the history of women around firearms and where the future is set to go.

The real renaissance of women in the firearms world began with Westward expansion in America. Far from being the United States yet, America was a growing nation burgeoned with a vast landscape and unlimited possibilities for those daring enough to chase them. This meant tackling vast mountain ranges, harsh weather conditions, and often other people with ill intent in their hearts. Whether it was for bringing down game for a meal, fending off raiders, or providing security, firearms were a constant for settlers and a way of life. These circumstances also meant that anyone in the wagon train could be called upon to defend what was precious to them at a moment’s notice. This crucial moment in history is where the introduction of firearms to women truly began. As Westward expansion continued, some women demonstrated a consistent proficiency that rivaled many of their male counterparts. While the name Annie Oakley often comes to mind, there were other skilled female shooters on both sides of the law as well. Calamity Jane, as she was known, her birth name being Martha Jane Canary, was a prime example of a lawful gunfighter. She was a scout for the US Army on the frontier. She was credited with several feats, including riding headlong into a band of Native Americans on the verge of killing a wounded Army captain, saving his life. She also had a humanitarian heart and cared for many who fell ill during a smallpox outbreak as a common resident of Deadwood. Belle Starr, born Myra Maybelle Shirley, was on the opposite side of that coin. She was famous as an outlaw and part of the Jesse James gang, which was responsible for a string of bank robberies across the West. She was often seen in a black velvet dress sporting six shooters on each hip, adding to her mystique. She lived to the ripe old age for the time of forty-one but died when she was gunned down by an unknown killer behind a general store in California. 

As the world and country changed, so did the landscape of women in firearms. Fast forward to the modern day, and you see a wide range of female shooters across the disciplines. Here are a few examples of respected female shooters and their truly exceptional accomplishments in the modern day.

Regina Milkovich has taken the Precision Rifle Series matches by storm for years and is a respected competitor in the space. Precision rifle matches mean taking a large caliber bolt action rifle to far distances in various weather and field conditions on a timer.  Regina’s skills have seen her win dozens of competitions worldwide, and she is a regular competitor in Arizona, working with law enforcement as her day job. As a woman, she represents one of the best precision shooters in the world.

Hailing from a rich history of mounted horseback shooting, Kenda Lenseigne is a multi-time world champion. In an incredibly challenging form of competition, Kenda manages to handle her steed along with delivering accurate fire on a tight course similar to barrel racing. This type of shooting is wholly unique across the sport, and she is a dominant champion, with few who can match her skill or consistency. 

Next, we have a highly regarded multi-gun shooter in the 3-Gun world, Candice Horner. Candice has been surrounded by shooting for years as a USMC veteran and is now a highly regarded shooter with pistol, rifle, and shotgun as part of the 3-Gun competition style. She is also a registered nurse and regular contributor to multiple firearms publications.  She now runs a successful long-range precision rifle school whose target audience is women.

Lastly, we have an up-and-coming pair, the Williams sisters. Justine and Jalise began shooting at ages 3 and 4 and are now successful professional competitors with Team Colt. At only 13, Justine became the youngest to attain the coveted title of Grand Master in Production pistol. Only two years later, she did the same in the Pistol Caliber Carbine division. Jalise became the youngest single-stack Lady National Champion at age 15, and in 2019 alone won national titles in 5 separate divisions. They’ve both begun their journey in the highly competitive multi-gun world and are already showing success. These two sisters represent the future of female competition shooting and show no signs of slowing down.

The United States has a rich firearms history and culture, none of which is looking to go away in the near future. The more we celebrate female shooters, the more we can grow the sport and profession. Women have handled firearms with tremendous effect for decades, and today is no exception. Based on data from Statista, in 2022, 21% of women own firearms, which reflects the 77% spike in female ownership of firearms from 2005 to 2020, according to the NRA. Like the Williams sisters, providing proper and safe education to girls and women of all appropriate ages ensures a safe and bright future for us all. It’s essential to recognize that education is truly the future, like what Stock and Barrel provides. Make sure to take a look at their upcoming classes, such as the Women’s Silver course for yourself or the women in your life.



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