A League of Their Own: A Girl & A Gun Raises Industry Standards

A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League is once again at the forefront of higher standards for instructors within the firearms industry.

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BURNET, TX – Spring is a busy time of year for the firearms community, and this year has been busier than ever. One highlight of my spring is always the A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League National Conference. I’m so fortunate that it’s basically offered in my backyard, in Burnet, TX, at Reveille Peak Ranch. The city of Burnet and the surrounding communities are gracious and welcoming hosts, and Reveille Peak is a top-notch facility that, like conference itself, improves year over year.

The AG&AG organization is relatively young, and this was only the 6th annual national conference. It was held April 19-22, with three additional training days before the conference for leadership. What was particularly impressive this year is how the event’s organizers, Julianna Crowder and Robyn Sandoval, have learned from each preceding year and applied those lessons to make this one of the preeminent training opportunities in the nation. This year, 350 members, 50 facilitators, and an all-star cast of top-tier instructors converged on Burnet County for three days of serious and dedicated classes. Topics included beginner to advanced levels on pistol, rifle and shotgun platforms, as well as survival skills and mindset classes crafted to get women thinking about their own safety and independence on many levels. The instructor cadre included:

Leadership Development

Conference began three days early for facilitators and A-Team (chapter members who help with events and are NRA Range Safety Officers). Leadership training is usually always free or extremely low-cost thanks to a bevvy of national sponsors, and ammo is provided, as well. This structure makes it possible for nearly half of the country’s facilitators to make the trip to Texas and stay for a whopping 7 full days of training and growing. This year, Tatiana Whitlock came aboard as AG&AG’s National Director of Training, putting together a structured and purpose-driven leadership development program meant to raise the bar for the instructors who lead AG&AG chapters.

Raising Industry Standards

A Girl and A Gun leadership and facilitators have never been satisfied with the ubiquitous lack of standards within the firearms industry. While facilitators have always been required to complete NRA Basic Pistol Instructor training, we also know that that is the most basic of the basic training, and it’s only a first step in becoming truly competent in our shooting and instruction skills. That fact was ingrained in all of us from the beginning. Kathy Jackson (The Cornered Cat) established a foundation for leadership training within the organization. What has changed under Whitlock’s leadership is that now, A Girl and A Gun is rolling out branded training modules and requiring instructors (facilitators) who teach those modules to train, test, and document proficiency via objective standards that are recognized throughout the industry.

There’s that phrase again: objective standards. It’s a bellwether phrase for the future of the gun industry, and AG&AG is leading the charge.

A Look Ahead

A Girl and A Gun has only been around for 7 years, but in that short time, the organization has managed to stay ahead of industry trends and advances by about 2 years. When the firearms instructor community was still caught up in chest-thumping and “tactical” skills debates, AG&AG facilitator/instructors were developing their emergency medical toolkits and began keeping IFAKs (Individual First Aid Kits) and trauma kits on their person or at the firing line. Last year, every chapter facilitator was given a free trauma kit that included a tourniquet, chest seal, combat gauze and a pressure bandage. This year, every woman who attended leadership development completed Stop the Bleed training by Dark Angel Medical.

A Girl & A Gun is, without a doubt, among the safest and most prepared training organizations within the private-sector firearms community. The industry is sitting up and taking notice, and I can only imagine that raising the standards for A Girl & A Gun will trickle down to the larger firearms training community. Look for that sea change in about two years.

Interested in learning more about A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League? Join the Temple Chapter for our First Tuesday Girls’ Night Out at Temple Gun Club, follow our Google Calendar or join our Facebook Group to keep up with events and news. All skill levels are welcome.

Rangemaster Instructor Certification at KR Training, April 27-29

LINCOLN, TX – Following up on a whirlwind 7 days of training at the A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League National Conference, I spent April 27-29 at KR Training for the 3-Day Rangemaster Instructor Development & Certification Course.

This was an intimidating class for me, but I put it on my 2018 goal list and made it happen, thanks to Karl Rehn of KR Training. In this sold-out class, Tom Givens taught a class of 18 students the finer points of adult learning theory, deadly force law, and how to identify, correct and communicate solutions for shooting skills issues among our students. While most of the material wasn’t new to me, Tom’s expertise and years of experience informed the way he relayed that information and his expectations of us as instructors. In addition, he emphasized the importance of qualification tests to verify that learning has occurred in a firearms class. After three days, 15 of us successfully earned Rangemaster Instructor Certification, based on objective qualification courses of fire and a comprehensive written exam.

This class was a light-bulb moment for me as an instructor. Course curriculum development usually starts out like any other goal-oriented project planning timeline:

  1. Identify a stated goal or learning objective
  2. Work backwards from that to identify the layers of skill needed to achieve that goal
  3. Develop a plan for teaching those skills in a way that works for most adult learners

Moving forward, I’ll first identify the qualification or test that I’ll employ to verify that the course objective has been met, and then begin building curriculum to meet it. In effect, I’ll be teaching to the test. But, it will be a test that lends itself to the development of skills applicable in the context of real-world defensive scenarios that are most probable given the current body of statistical information.

In other words, I’ll be training my students for real life. Sounds familiar.

This course was a pivot point for me as a self-defense industry professional. My firearms focus has always been self-defense, and I’ve been blessed with level-headed mentors (Kathy Jackson, The Cornered Cat, and Karl Rehn of KR Training) who’ve taught me that people need practical training that applies to their everyday lives and the protection of the same. For my students, what will change is that I’m going to make sure they’ve internalized the lessons and met the goals we’ve set together. For my own instruction, I’m going to seek out classes that require that same verification. I owe my students and myself the opportunity to demonstrate either mastery of a skill or the need for remediation. Without putting skills to the test, how can we be sure that learning has occurred?

Our lives are worth protecting, and our skills give us the means to do it effectively, without endangering anyone else in the process. That’s our minimum standard as gun owners, because as Kathy Jackson likes to say, “A gun is not a rabbit’s foot that keeps the bad guys away.” Indeed. It’s a tool. It’s our JOB to make sure we have the mindset, training and skills necessary to use that tool safely under extreme stress. Let’s get to training.