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Female Guns out in the field and on the clay ground

As National Ladies Shooting Day is taking a back seat this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, we asked some shooting instructors and keen Shots for their advice and tips

female Guns

Just over 35,000 women in England and Wales hold a shotgun/firearms certificate and official figures show that these numbers are growing annually.

This year women are having to forego the get-togethers of National Ladies Shooting Day although many clay grounds have of course recently reopened for business. So as long as you follow government guidelines you’ll be able to go out in the company of other female Guns.

We asked a shooting instructor, a former England female shooter and some keen Shots some questions. Here’s what they said.

Former England shooter Dianne Wade of West London Shooting School

Former England shooter Dianne Wade of West London Shooting School

How can women start shooting?

Tony Bracci, Bisley deputy shooting manager and Sporting Gun contributor: “Ladies’ days are good for an introduction to clay shooting. Having a friend who shoots can be a help and a hindrance. It’s good that you can have someone you know to go shooting with and talk to, but a lot get intimidated as a novice to go shooting with a seasoned Shot. You need to manage your expectations and make sure you enjoy it. Friends of similar experience sharing a coaching session can be very productive.”

Lady Melissa Percy

Lady Melissa Percy

Lady Melissa Percy, founder of Mistamina: “Just start! I was lucky that my parents taught us from an early age and always made it a fun activity and not a chore. However, I know some people worry that starting to shoot can be daunting, especially as a woman, as you can feel outnumbered. I’ve always found the shooting community to be very open and welcoming  with so many interesting people to meet.”

Former England shooter Dianne Wade of West London Shooting School: “Booking in a lesson will start you in the right direction. It’s nice practising with your husband /partner, but sometimes they may not be the best instructor!”

Lady Gun

Georgie Fenn

Georgie Fenn Schöffel Country: “Like any sport, you’ve just got to throw yourself into it with all the enthusiasm you have and see what happens. For gameshooting, it’s always best to join somewhere local to begin with and go beating.  Ladies have been shooting for many years now and you should never feel intimidated whether you’re out on clays or shooting game. The shooting community is very welcoming and made up of people from all walks of life. The whole sort of elitism that shooting is synonymous with is a thing of the past, I can’t stress enough how friendly the shooting community truly is.”

female clayshooter

Lucy Brice

Lucy Brice of Le Chameau: “I started shooting when I was about 16, going out shooting rabbits at dusk in a battered Land Rover with my brother and his friends. I was fortunate that my father had an old 20-bore which I shot with, and he taught me how to stand correctly and about safety and cleaning the gun. He had the stock altered so it was a lady’s fit, and I love it, it fits me perfectly now. I always go to my local clay ground before the start of the season, and I often have a lesson to get my eye in. I find after several months off, I always need some help remembering what to do, and there is an excellent female teacher who offers some fantastic advice and fills me with confidence before my first day.”

20-bore or 12-bore?

Tony Bracci: “Ladies, like men, should shoot with a gun that is a suitable size and weight. This does not have to be a 20-bore. If happy with the weight of a 12-bore then that’s fine. Some may find a 28-bore easy to use, but most commonly a 20-bore is a good starting point.”
Lady Melissa Percy:  “It’s a completely personal preference. I would recommend trying different shotguns to see which you feel most comfortable shooting with.”
Dianne Wade: “Women can shoot with either, 12 or 20. I’ve shot a 12-bore ever since I started shooting, but now a little older, I have gone to a 20-bore. You still feel the same recoil but it’s a lighter gun.”
Georgie Fenn: “My Dad once told me I couldn’t shoot a barn door with a 20-bore, which I thought was a little harsh, but it is very much down to personal preference. What gun someone shoots with comes down to size and strength not sex. It’s false to say that a 20-bore is a lady’s gun. Women, if they are happy and strong enough, can easily shoot with a 12-bore. Just like a man may prefer shooting a lighter 20-bore because a 12 is too heavy. In fact, the lighter the gun, the heavier the recoil, these things always offset against each other. It’s more important to consider the overall balance and the load you are using.”
Lucy Brice: “I have always shot with a 20-bore, as that is what I was given to learn on. I have shot with a 12-bore once, and it does feel like a bigger, more masculine gun. A 20-bore could potentially be seen as a slightly more ladylike gun, but it really is personal preference.”
Female Gun with shotgun

Recoil comes from the cartridge not the gun

How can women deal with recoil if they find it a bother?

Tony Bracci: “Remember that the recoil comes from the cartridge you are using not the gun. The heavier the gun, the more it will help soak up the recoil. Using light loaded cartridges will lessen the recoil. There are a lot of things to help with recoil, pads on the gun, recoil dampener built in to the gun and clothes with built-in pads. This is all for felt recoil in the shoulder. If you are suffering with felt recoil in the cheek, then you should be looking at the comb height on the stock. As a high proportion of ladies have higher cheek bones than the average man, the comb height should be higher to compensate for this. The cheek should be down on the stock, with a clear view along the rib.”
Dianne Wade:  “Most importantly, I’d suggest getting your gun fitted. I cannot express the importance of a good gun-fit. The correct relationship between eye and muzzle, consideration of eyesight and build and correct and consistent gun mounting – all these mean that the gun will work for you and not against you. At West London Shooting School, we boast the largest collection of try guns in the world which allows us to fit shotguns to rifles. Once correctly fitted, a gun will last for years. I’d also suggest making sure you don’t use a cartridge load which is too heavy!”
shooting jumper

Mistamina Hector jumper

Lady Melissa Percy: “Good layering can help to protect your shoulder, though it’s important not to have too much bulk as this can restrict movement. My Mistamina jumper with a shoulder patch provides good support. You can also use a recoil pad if needed too. The best thing to do is have your gun fitted to you, this will help see a reduction in recoil as it is properly fitted to your body. It’s good to get a lot of practice in too – if your stance is correct and you’re mounting the gun properly, this will help.”
Lucy Brice: “Recoil can be a pain, and on a busy driven day it is important to always wear the correct clothing as your shoulder will get sore and your barrels hot! I would recommend wearing a gilet, such as a Schoffel Oakham or Lyndon or something padded and quilted which helps. You don’t want anything too thick though that will get in the way of you mounting the gun. You can also wear a recoil pad, which attaches over the shoulder and can be worn under your clothes, so is reasonably discreet.”


Are there any shooting skills women have that men don’t?

Tony Bracci: “The main difference with ladies – in a lesson they usually listen and act on coaching given, rather than men who can take some persuading!”

Dianne Wade: “No different skills, but our instructors always tend to prefer to teach ladies as they say they listen! I think this is because we’re conscious of hurting ourselves.”