Thinking of taking up shooting? Claire Zambuni offers some useful advice.
Shooting is becoming more popular with women every year. The most recent Home Office figures in 2019 showed an increase on the previous year of more than 1000 female shotgun certificate holders.
So if you’re interested in joining the growing number of females going out into the field, how should you get started? Here are my tips for women shooters. (Read our suggestions for tweed shooting jackets for ladies.)
1. Join a club
The shooting community is welcoming and friendly and there are clubs all over the country for ladies. The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club was founded by Victoria Knowles-Lacks and prides itself on being inclusive and hospitable. Victoria explains: “By joining a club there’s a real sense of community and a ready-made support network of friendly and welcoming women in place. It’s not unusual to feel slightly apprehensive about starting shooting, but knowing there are other ladies in the same situation is such a good feeling, leaving you to get on and have fun and enjoy all of the excitement that the sport brings. Ladies’ shooting clubs are there to welcome you and support you in getting into shooting – plus there’s always lots of friendly chat and plenty of good times.”
2. Investigate different types of guns
People will have all sorts of opinions about the gun you should use. Take some expert advice. I learned the hard way by injuring myself using a heavy 12-bore that had not been correctly fitted to me. I now shoot with a Beretta 686 over-under, and have a 20-bore Spanish side-by-side with an engraving of Lola, my late and beloved working cocker spaniel. For a lady, a 20-bore is generally easier to handle and better in terms of weight and recoil. A good cartridge helps too and there are excellent low-recoil shells on the market, which are perfect for a 20-bore.
3. Get your gun fitted to you properly
Having a gun correctly fitted to you will transform your shooting. Top instructor Adam Calvert has a wealth of experience of fitting guns for female shooters and he says: “For women, the most important thing is that they need a higher comb height because of their higher cheekbones. It is particularly important when you achieve the higher comb height that the gun is not too high in the shoulder pocket. This is why you often see ladies with a Monte Carlo stock, which features an elevated comb to lift the cheek higher while keeping the heel of the stock low.
“Almost all the mass market guns are produced for Mr. Average and ladies do not fall into this category as they have smaller hands, higher cheekbones and breasts. These guns can be made to fit, but you need to use someone who knows what they are doing.”
Shooting has becoming increasingly popular – and accessible – in the last 20 years and the number of female shooters…
4. Start with lessons
A respected shooting instructor once said: “Women tend to listen more and don’t think they are good at the beginning, which gives them an immediate advantage. It is more common for a woman to be right-hand, left-eye dominant, so many should shoot from the left shoulder from the start.”
A course of six lessons taken over six to eight weeks will cover all the shooting basics. Search out a shooting instructor who treats you like a client who wants to learn to shoot well, and not as a girl who wants to have a few shots.
5. Practise your gun mount
This is of the key tips for women shooters. Once you have a gun that fits then become confident with it. Spend time learning how to mount consistently. Remember that good muscle memory needs 2,000-3,000 repetitions. Find a club where you can take your gun and practise on your own. Although daunting at first, it will instil confidence. Even if you are planning to mainly shoot game, shooting clay disciplines will improve your accuracy.
6. Shooting safety is key
A safe shot will always be respected and welcome on a game day. It’s more important to show you know how to be a safe shot than a hot shot. If you have had the right instruction from the outset, then safety should be second nature. Always be muzzle aware. Take time at the beginning of the drive to acknowledge your neighbouring guns so they know you are aware of where they are and always be attentive to the position of the beaters.
7. Choose clothes for comfort not style
When you are shooting in the field you need clothes that work. If it’s a bigger day you will need a good pad to protect your shoulder and a waterproof jacket. That sounds obvious, but many jackets are only showerproof. By all means dress to impress when you arrive and come back for lunch in more fitted styles, but make sure you have the full range of movement when out with the gun.
8. Eat what you shoot
9. Know your shooting etiquette
Shooting may have a slightly stuffy image to some but shooting etiquette is basically good manners with tradition thrown in. When shooting live quarry, a huge amount of work goes into making the day go smoothly and etiquette such as dress, tipping the keeper, arriving on time and sending a thank-you card are all important elements to the day. You’ll know you have it right when you are invited back.
This is my last of these tips for women shooters but still an important one. The key to a great shoot day is to ignore what all the other Guns are doing. Do not give a jot about what they might be thinking about your hit rate and concentrate on shooting your own birds. Being self-conscious in the field is a pointless exercise. Be confident. It’s still a relatively new phenomenon to have so many ladies in the field and sometimes it’s easy to worry about not letting the side down, but forget what everyone is doing and get into the zone. Keep going and stay focused, as if you are on a good shoot there will always be plenty more birds to come
This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.