A paper target hangs 21 feet in the distance as Michelle Carpenter grips her handgun, takes aim and shoots. This is only her second visit to the shooting range, and she hits the bull’s-eye. The bang is deafening, and the shells come flying out, but she has ear protection to shield her ears from the noise and shooting glasses to protect her eyes.
Carpenter is a member of the Well Armed Woman, a national group that teaches women proper shooting technique, gun safety and home defense. Its members are as diverse as the guns they choose to shoot at Take Aim Gun Range, the host range for the Sarasota chapter.
Mothers, grandmothers, students, beginners and experienced shooters meet to learn a new topic each month. The local chapter started in June and already has 20 members.
NRA-certified instructor Michael Magowan leads women through an hour-long meeting during which they ask questions and learn about the topic of the month. In August, Magowan, who also started Veritas Training Academy, a shooting class for women, discussed how to protect homes from intruders. Afterward, the women shot targets on the range for about one-and-a-half hours to gain better shooting accuracy.
“I am here to train women to defeat evil, should they try to do bad things to them. That’s it,” Magowan says.
The Well Armed Woman is about empowering women through gun safety and education. Co-leader of the Sarasota chapter, Heather Bucarion, says that women feel more comfortable training with other women. She says it also helps to have another woman’s input on holsters and handgun preference because women are built differently than men.
“It’s camaraderie,” she says. “You are not intimidated by another man. Even though one of the instructors is a man, he actually prefers to train women because they listen more and they have a better reaction time. And, it’s just a lot of fun. You feel more relaxed.”
The local chapter of The Well Armed Woman meets the first Saturday of every month at Take Aim Gun Range. Handguns are available for rent, and shooters can purchase ammunition at the range. Membership is $12 for the year and $15 per lane rental. For information, visit The Well Armed Woman Sarasota, Florida Shooting Chapter’s Facebook page or email TWAWSarasota@gmail.com.
“It’s not just about defending themselves physically, but it is also a good mindset that they are strong enough to defend themselves and their families,” Bucarion says.