by Linda Gilbertson
I’ve received a number of emails from women, thanking me for being a firearms instructor. Not because there aren’t any firearms instructors in the area, but because I’m a female who instructs in firearms. These women may have experienced occasions when learning about firearms from their husbands, significant others or other males in general, was not a pleasant experience. I can certainly understand and identify with that feeling. I was taught by men and it was not a pleasant experience for me.
I entered a police academy in 1977. I was one of two females with twenty-two males in the class. Women were stepping into professions previously only held by men. You couldn’t get any more testosterone-laden than in Law Enforcement. There was no easy treatment of females, and we did not ask for any. We were up to the test. We excelled at everything thrown our way however, we lacked a lot of the basic knowledge in the area of firearms. Little did we know that our growing up with Chatty Cathy, Barbie and Susie Homemaker Baker Oven did not adequately prepare us with the firearms knowledge we needed.
Knowing which end of the firearm the bullet exited or that the little curved piece was called the trigger, was not the problem. Knowing the history, mathematics, economics, chemistry and physics of this inanimate object was the problem. In speaking for myself, because of this lack of knowledge, I was not the best of shots and I was arresting drunks, making traffic stops, responding to disturbances, and working graveyard shift s all without a partner, and many times the only Law Enforcement Officer on the road in the entire county. Even when I entered Federal Law Enforcement and attended two more academies with more firearms training, the basics were never addressed. It was assumed that gals knew marksmanship skills such as sight alignment, breath control, hold control, trigger control and follow-through. It was also assumed that we understood the chemistry of ammunition and the physics of motion, called recoil. Nothing was ever said about Mental Conditioning and how your mind and body need to work together to survive. Perhaps in the 1970s and 80’s this topic didn’t even figure into the scheme of things.
I finally figured out why I was having such difficulty. I realized that as a female, I was socialized in a different direction which denied me the basics necessary to develop the skills needed to compete in the shooting arena. It was believed that I would enter a traditional profession which wouldn’t even place me near a firearm. When researching how males are socialized as young boys, I found that as soon as they are able to walk, they are educated by Daisy Red Ryder BB Guns, Marlin Rifle, Colt and Smith & Wesson Pistols and Mossberg Shotguns. By their early teens boys with rare exception, are hunting and talking the gun talk. In ten years they perfect the basic knowledge which I lacked when I entered the Police Academy. I’m sure the male firearm instructors at the various academies had no idea of this problem, or perhaps they did and didn’t care. It was a difficult time during the 70’s for women in non-traditional professions. I realized that to catch up in knowledge and therefore competence was easy enough to teach, but perhaps it was time or patience prohibitive on the part of the agency I worked for. Whatever the reason, I realized that I needed to teach myself and other women to put them on equal footing as men. I became an instructor for that purpose.
I instruct women only classes. I specialize in taking a beginner or novice with little or no firearms exposure and watching that light bulb light-up when the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Women learn through several methods combining lecture, tactile (hands-on) and visual. I take the ten years of firearms education that boys receive, and I compress it into an eight hour class, utilizing these methods.
Women are socialized to be educators and supporters. We have a patience necessary to nurture someone through a new experience, particularly a difficult experience that goes against our nature. I know some male instructors wouldn’t understand a woman’s fear of guns. I know they wouldn’t understanding what is going on psychologically, with a woman who is shaking and crying while holding a pistol in her hand. And ladies, what male instructor will be able to answer the question from a well-endowed woman, “Should I shoot over my breasts or under my breast?” I can guarantee you that the male instructor’s face will be beet red.
When I spent a time as a Defense Investigator, I learned what victimization can do to a woman. I understand the women’s fear and am able to talk them through it, sometimes having to hold them in my arms while they pull the trigger. Afterwards these students leave totally different women. Before the class they were frightened and anxious. Afterwards they leave confident, competent and empowered. One gal actually told me that she felt liberated. That is powerful.
Now, just because this is a ladies only class does not mean that I’m soft with them. They are responsible for fulfilling the same requirements as the men in meeting the needs of the course. In fact, my course includes an in-depth analysis of Mental Conditioning through study of the Color Code of Awareness, Principles of Self-Defense, Handling of Fear and Surviving the After
math, not found in most classes. I also insist on discussing the law using the Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide by Alan Korwin. The ladies learn to shoot, how to think and how to respond to the appropriate threat. All accomplished without anxiety and fear.
Why a female instructor? I’ll let a few of my students tell you why.
“I am excited that a woman is teaching the course. It is a little less intimidating.”
“I prefer to take a class from a woman. I feel intimidated by the men in there (Gun Store). I’m sure they are nice but I feel stressed just thinking about it.”
“I needed a wom
an’s perspective and patience to help my shooting.”
“I want to thank you for the course we (three) took. You don’t know how reassuring it was to hear that we
were doing it right. We may not have been doing it their (husbands) way but then we aren’t built like the guys. My husband does not understand why my attitude changed from not sure what I was doing to knowing perfectly well what I was doing. I like the change and he isn’t sure.”
Thank you so much. Have been looking for this kind of gender specific course for a long time.”
“The ladies only course made me feel very comfortable & confident with myself and my weapon.”
“This course was empowering and freed me from 30 years of fear as a victim of my perpetrator as well as myself for allowing fear to control my life. I also liked the husband/ wife teaching team aspect because both were very knowledgeable, had past experience with firearms, professionally and appeared to truly enjoy helping me learn in a safe, friendly environment with ample encouragement.”
“It was a woman, not a man training women.”
Linda is a former law enforcement officer with several agencies. She can be heard with her husband Seth Nadel on “the gun locker with Seth and Linda”, weekly on kvslradio.Com . Check out ladiesdayllc.Com  for information on Linda and her women-only pistol and rifle classes Linda M. Gilbertson LADIES DAY LLC Visit www.ladiesdayllc.com or call 928-521-4821.