A Girl & A Gun Conference 2015

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Nearly 300 women descended on Marble Falls, Texas by trains, planes and automobiles, for the 3rd Annual National Firearm Training Conference put on by A Girl and A Gun. Julianna Crowder, founder of A Girl and A Gun Club (AGAG) hired a crew of professional firearm and motivational instructors of many disciplines. AGAG has affiliated chapters of its all-women training around the country.

The 2015 National Conference seminars and lodging were held at The Retreat at Balcones Springs and the shooting events were at the Copper Head Creek Shooting Club in Marble Falls, Texas. For three days students could chose as many classes as they could fit in. From basic handgun, rifles, shotgun and archery to competition, simulation training and motivational seminars, there was plenty of variety for everyone. There were even some extras such as low light and night vision shoots, range and product demo day and the icing on the cake of a helicopter shoot.

The participant’s skill levels ranged from never having held a gun before to experienced competitors and instructors. Women with physical disabilities attended to get the best training they could to learn what they can do with the abilities they do have. Most were new to any of it. An amazing staff pulled this weekend off. In only its third year, the variety of instructors and their disciplines made this Conference an event to remember and to return to.

There were about 25 instructors and over 45 classes represented for the weekend. Although most were pistol related, they still covered a large variety of topics such as foundations, positional shooting, malfunction drills, advanced tactical training, shooting and moving, and more. Basic and advanced versions of archery, shotgun and rifles were popular along with competition drills for various sports. There were motivational seminars, defensive movement taping and close combat tactics. Students could come in learning basic firearm skills and leave having run through a 3-Gun Nation course of fire. There truly was something for everyone. I was honored to meet the other remarkable instructors from all over the country that were here under one roof. All of the instructors and classes are worthy of write-ups. I am highlighting a few from various disciplines offered.

Handguns/Self-Defense

Kathy Jackson – I can guarantee if you are a woman introduced to handguns you have heard of Kathy Jackson’s company The Cornered Cat. She has been teaching introduction to handguns and self-defense to women for many years out of The Firearms Academy of Seattle. She is the author of The Cornered Cat: A Woman’s Guide to Conceal Carry. She covers topics ranging from basic firearm safety to legal issues surrounding self-defense to raising children around guns to the moral implications of deadly force and much, much more.

For the conference, Kathy offered several classes. “Foundations” reviewed safe gun handling and accuracy. “The Overcoming Physical Limitations” course taught techniques to enhance personal defense strategies. This was an emotional class for women that came in thinking they could never overcome their limitations but Kathy was able to help each one. “Downed Defender” taught shooting from compromised positions as if you had been grabbed or knocked to the ground by an attacker. She ended with a much-needed class about “Purse Carry.” Many women do it and many of them have never had proper training with it.

Tatiana Whitlock – Tatiana’s lifelong interest in martial arts led her to firearms as another means of self-defense for herself and her family. She brought “Real World Meets Range” to students. This covered the realities of using firearms in your personal environment for defense and understanding the seriousness of your surroundings. The realization that if you had to shoot someone in your home and the wall behind the target or attacker is to the children’s bedroom triggered emotional buttons on several students. Tatiana forces one to think about these dirty details many don’t want to even mention.

Branden Grimes and Mike Pendley of Hex Tactical served several classes from Foundations, single hand manipulations to extreme Malfunction drills. B.J. Norris, Gabby Franco, Brian Quick, Dorcia Meador, Jennie VanTuyl, Karl Rehn and Penny Riggs covered foundations, adaptive sight alignments, weapon stoppages, precision pistol and ambidextrous shooting.

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Rifles

J.J. Schroeder – Product Coordinator at Brownells, Inc., J.J. is a specialist in the AR-15 platform and the swath of accessories that go with it. He taught two great classes about building your own AR and then taking the final product out to the range and testing it. This is not a course you would see very often and especially at a women’s event. Even if a student does not remember every step to building a rifle they are able to undo the mystery of the parts and workings of a gun. For quite a while I knew how to pull the trigger really well but the mechanics and care for guns was a mystery until I was forced to clean, unassemble and reassemble a gun.

Anette Wachter – Yes this is me. I had the pleasure of teaching a long range rifle course that introduced my favorite sport of Precision Rifle. I have found most people learn to shoot pistols first and the rifle is this intimidating object that can shoot out to hundreds of yards. That concept does not seem feasible to many. I learned to shoot rifles first. It is second nature to me and personally I feel it easier to learn and shoot than handguns. I was determined to break that fear to my students and especially to lure even one woman to this awesome sport. I was given my own long range to teach on and I had the help of Chris Palmer, Founder of Atlanta 3-Gun, to coach. My goal was to get every student to hit each piece of steel from 100 yards out to 600 yards. Most had never shot anything out past 100 and I wanted them all to feel the rush of hearing the ping of their bullets off of steel plates. The ping of the steel and the words “Impact!” from the spotter were priceless.

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Shooting Competitions

Several national- and world-ranked competitors covered aspects of a variety of shooting sports. From IDPA to 3-Gun the students could get their feet wet in this world. 3-Gunners Becky Yackley, Janna Reeves, and Chris Palmer, and IDPA shooter Jennie VanTuyl showed off their skills of competition rifle, shotgun, USPSA, and IDPA. Students learned strategies to get through stages of a match. Chris Palmer of Atlanta 3Gun set up an actual 3Gun Nation course of fire giving tips for efficiency in speed and accuracy. There were even more detailed classes on how to speed load shotguns for competitions by Mark Passamaneck and others.

Shotgun/Archery

Deb McKown – Editor of Shotgun Life and a certified NSCA and NRA shotgun instructor, Deb gives tips for bird hunting and sporting in the magazine and “Shotgun Life Women” email blast every week. The courses she offered at the conference were Trap and Skeet addressing safety, etiquette and fundamentals. Students with all skill levels had a supportive environment to improving their game celebrating their individual styles. I was surprised there was only one instructor in this discipline as it is a popular and ever growing sport.

Sharon Cundiff – Sharon brings her many talents as a National Bow Hunter Education Foundation instructor and Texas Parks and Wildlife Hunter Ed Instructor to the table. She has her own mobile archery instruction business that serves parks and recreation departments. Sharon provided all of the equipment to introduce the very zen sport of archery. The students gained knowledge of many types of bows and supporting equipment as well as the many types of shooting available in archery. I really wanted to take this course as well as I have never shot bow.

Confidence Training/Ammunition/ Simulations/RockTape

Kelley Moore – A very energetic, U.S. Marine Corp veteran, Kelley Moore allowed us to “See Our Possibilities.” She has been endorsed by one of the creators of Chicken Soup for the Soul. As a performance and courage coach she worked with students to recognize inherent potential and see their unique possibilities in and out of the shooting world. You could never miss Kelley’s bright light around the resort and range. Having her around was truly inspiring.

Coni Brooks & Ty Herring – Both employees at Barnes Bullets, Coni and Ty taught an introduction to ammunition and loading. I remember starting out in the firearm world with no clue about the types of ammunition available and what fed in to what gun. There was education on cartridge meanings, how to choose the right self-defense ammunition as well as the right hunting ammo for rifle and handgun. But they also focused on loading your own ammunition which is a priceless set of skills to have. I have yet to see anyone offer such classes at local ranges let alone for women. This class was a real success.

Simulation classes were very popular this year. Instructors B.J. Norris, Gracie Gibbs, and Austin Davis taught classroom simulation training as virtual tactical movements, laser shot defensive scenarios and reality-based and multiple target scenarios. Each provided some very cool products such as Simunitions Simulator, Laser Shot and the PSAT-LE judgement trainer. Austin Davis brought an unusual characteristic to his training, humor. He is a professional stand-up comedian and brings humor to serious subjects such as tactical training.

As you have read, the variety of courses and instructor talents ran the gamut at the AGAG Conference. Several national and international television crews showed up to witness this awesome event. I believe this event was life changing for many women and hope they all inspire at least one new person to attend in the years to come.

By Annette Wachter. Originally published in the June 2015 issue of GunUp the Magazine.