MARIETTA - An upcoming ladies only shooting program hosted by the Fort Harmar Rifle Club aims to boost women's confidence and skill in handling firearms.
While the number of women who own and use firearms has been steadily on the rise in recent years, many women are still intimidated by guns-something that Reno resident Sharon Lankford hopes to change.
"It's important that women who have guns and ammo in the house, know how to use them, know which ammo goes with what gun," said Lankford, an instructor at the FHRC and one of the organizers of the upcoming Women on Target program, sponsored by the Friends of the National Rifle Association.
Marietta resident Melissa Saltzwedel practices target shooting Thursday at the Fort Harmar Rifle Club’s indoor range. An upcoming Women on Target event, sponsored by the Friends of the National Rifle Association, is just one of many women only events hosted by the club to promote understanding and confidence among female gun users. (Photo by Jasmine Rogers)
On Sept. 28, approximately 80 women will gather at the club's outdoor gun range in Whipple for a day of safety classes and firearm instruction.
It will be the club's seventh year hosting a Women on Target event, and as in the past, many of this year's attendees will have likely never handled a gun before, said Lankford.
That was the case for Reno resident Fran Toller, 73, who attended last year's Women on Target program with her sister, Julia White, 72, of Whipple.
"It was my first time holding a gun," said Toller.
Toller and White hold about the event through word of mouth and decided they would give it a try.
"I like to do different things. And I thought it might be helpful for self defense around the home," said Toller.
Though still no sharp shooter, Toller learned a lot at the event.
Attendees are given the opportunity to rotate through at least six different stations and shoot several different types of guns, including shotguns, pistols, rifles, and semi-automatic firearms.
Toller even found a gun she would be comfortable owning at last year's event.
"I bought a gun. I have not shot it yet. I'm going to get another lesson on just the one I bought first," said Toller.
This year, Toller plans on again attending with her sister and her daughter-in-law.
"I'm sure I'll learn something new again," she said.
The event is not only for novices. Some women have long enjoyed shooting as a sport, but do not get a chance to practice as much as they would like.
Marietta resident Ann Kerenyi and her husband have a family membership at the Fort Harmar Rifle range, and Ann shot competitively for a time.
But for the past ten years, occasions where she has picked up a firearm and practiced have been few and far between, she said.
"Ever since I had kids, I haven't had time to go out and shoot as much," said Ann.
This will be Kerenyi's first year attending the event and she has high expectations.
"I like the idea of setting aside time to do this and the camaraderie you'll get with the other women shooters. I'm sure a lot are like me where they do not get to do this all the time," she said.
Of the 700 members at the FHFC, approximately 250 of those are women, said FHRC Executive Director Russ Tuten.
"One of the fastest growing member areas is the ladies. I've even seen a growing number of family applications where the women is the primary applicant and the husband is listed second," said Tuten.
Women are becoming more and more likely to seek out instruction, said Women on Target organizer Melissa Saltzwedel, 37, of Marietta.
"Every year we grow. When we held the first event six years ago, we had around 20 women," said Saltzwedel.
Now that number has swelled to 80 and the event organizers are hoping that through the continued support of the Friends of the NRA, they will be able to offer two sections next year.
While the upcoming event is currently at capacity, the FHRC offers several other events and lessons catered toward women.
The club offers a women only concealed carry instruction class. If there is enough interest they will bring back a women's conceal carry group to learn to shoot while moving.
The club also sponsors different International Defense Pistol Association events throughout the year, with one event being geared solely toward women.
During the events, the outdoor range is set up with different possible real life scenarios, explained Lankford.
"We have one where a women walks into a grocery store with a baby in the cart and she would have to put the baby in a safe place before taking out targets," explained Lankford.
Women interested in learning more about the FHRC, firearm education, or shooting instruction can contact Tuten at 984-2842 or Lankford at 373-4574.