Why women should be part of your firearms instructor cadre

In a profession heavily dominated by men, female firearms instructors fill an important niche and are not being utilized to their fullest potential

As an industry, we are beginning to gain a better understanding of the difference between the male and female brain when it comes to absorbing, processing, and retaining information. We are adjusting our teaching techniques accordingly. What I have not heard a lot of discussion about is the value and efficacy of the female firearms instructor. In a profession heavily dominated by men, female firearms instructors fill an important niche and are not being used to their fullest potential.

As a firearms instructor, I have had the honor of being invited to present classes to students from all over the country. I have instructed classes in the Northeastern, Northwestern, and Southern parts of the United States. I can tell you there are some fairly drastic cultural differences when it comes to the way female instructors are received. 

In some instances, this has caused a rocky start. But, in the end, I am certain having the female perspective presented enhanced the class and left both the male and female students with a better understanding of the material we were there to present.

Recognize and acknowledge the strengths that come with the gender differences.
Recognize and acknowledge the strengths that come with the gender differences. (Photo/Arizona Department of Corrections)

Overcoming obstacles
It is common for men to enter a situation and take it head on, with a certain amount of bravado. Unfortunately, this is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome with instruction alone. It must be overcome from within the individual. In some cases a male instructor can be viewed as competition rather than an ally from whom to learn a new skill. In such cases the student will fail to improve. 

He may only be concerned with showing off the skills in which he is already proficient instead of trying to improve his skills by entering situations in which he may struggle and/or fail. This may be a situation where a female instructor will have more success.

Men with a hearty ego may not feel the need to “one up” a female instructor like they might another man. Instead, the obstacle the female instructor may face with such a student is lack of respect. This can easily be overcome once the instructor shows she is confident and competent. It may sound like a grade school playground, but guys don’t like to get beat by a girl. Every time I have encountered such a student, once I show that I have the skill set they are looking to emulate, I immediately have their attention and willingness to accept my instruction.

Conversely, most women enter a situation with caution and reason. Briefly put, women tend to overthink things. This may be our greatest obstacle. Again, this is a male-dominated profession and activity where some women do not feel comfortable. Even the most seasoned female law enforcement officer who is confident and competent on the street may feel ill at ease on the range. 

The presence of a female firearms instructor may help make these students feel more comfortable just being on the range. It can also make them more receptive to instruction. It gives them the opportunity to say, "If she can do it, then I can too."

In addition, a female instructor will have greater insight into some of the gender-specific obstacles that female shooters encounter. Agencies and manufactures alike are beginning to recognize and address the fact all officers are not built the same. More firearms choices are out there than ever before, yet some female officers are still required to carry a weapon that is too large for their hands and use equipment that was designed for a man. 

Unique perspectives
If this is a factor that cannot be changed, a female instructor will have greater insight into the problem and be able to offer workable solutions by manipulating the grip or adjusting the draw stroke. Some women may not have the hand size and strength to manipulate the weapon the way it is most commonly taught. 

Slighter females will find the handgun gets really heavy over an extended period of time. This will affect not only performance, but their willingness and enthusiasm for training. These are issues that a female firearms instructor has found ways to overcome in order to be proficient in her craft, and she will be in the best position to share that wisdom. There is an assortment of equipment on the market and those of us who have been shooting for a while have tried our share. Some of it is better suited for women, and who would know better than a woman what to recommend?

Now that you understand the importance of having female instructors on your firearms training team, it is even more important that you understand how to use them effectively. Don’t just treat them as “one of the boys.” While many of us are comfortable charging head on into the boys club, some women are not and should be treated with the respect and courtesy their position deserves. Do not ostracize and exclude them either. If they are accepted onto your firearms team, then they have shown the interest and ability to be there. 

Recognize and acknowledge the strengths that come with the gender differences. Remember, it is not about your abilities as shooters, it is about your abilities as instructors. 

I am fortunate enough to have developed a great teaching partnership with my husband. He has been creative in developing a teaching structure that complements our respective strengths while using teaching techniques that directly build on and use adult learning processes. We believe our students benefit most from a “hear-see-do” approach to learning a new skill. He verbally describes the skills while I demonstrate the skills we are teaching. 

This gives our students a detailed description and a visual demonstration of the technique allowing them to model the behavior we want them to perform. Having me do the demonstrations, not only shows them exactly what we wish them to emulate, but it allows the students to see that we possess the skills we are asking of them. This accomplishes two things. It puts our female students at ease and gets the attention and respect of our male students. We have found this to be an extremely effective teaching technique that may be of use to other coed firearms training teams.

As a female firearms instructor, I am able to get away with addressing subjects and saying things in a more direct and effective manner that are less acceptable for my male counterparts in our current social environment. Right or wrong, we are living in a “political-correctness-run-amuck” society where some people are just looking for an excuse to be offended. Use that gender bias to your advantage. 

A female shooter may be more inclined to accept advice on some of the female specific shooting problems from a female instructor because she herself has had to address those problems. In addition, a female instructor may be able to engage in physical contact without causing social awkwardness or distress. 

When addressing male shooters and student instructors, the female instructor will have some shooting solutions that a male instructor may not have considered. I recommend trying to recruit some women to join your firearms training team. You will find your training program enriched with a new diversity of approach. It is just one more way to better serve your students and ensure their success.

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