The history of shooting—not just in the U.S. but worldwide—has been one of male domination. Shooting matches were rooted in hunting, military and law enforcement bases. It was not until the 20th century that women regularly entered military combat as opposed to military support functions, and it wasn’t until the latter half of the century that female law enforcement officers nationwide traded the skirts of the “police matron” for the uniform pants of police patrol officers.
Is it any wonder that female shooters felt a little behind the curve on this whole pistol match thing? Lisa Marie Judy in Reevesville, South Carolina, saw that this was the case. As a gun enthusiast and firearms instructor, she got tired of hearing from armed female citizens and officers alike that competitive shooting was “a man’s game,” and decided to do something about it.
Lisa Marie reached out to the GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and convinced them that it was time to try a match for women only. GSSF agreed to the “pilot project,” reminding Lisa Marie that for it to be approved again, her match would need to garner 100 entries.
Despite relatively short notice and little publicity, she gathered 105 participants.
History Is Made
I’ve been to my share of GLOCK matches over the last decade and a half, and I haven’t yet seen anywhere near as many female shooters as I saw in Reevesville. Mrs. Judy had proven her point: Many women are more comfortable shooting with and against other women than they are shooting with and against men. A lot of that is perception rather than reality, but since the 1990s it’s been an unfortunate catchphrase in America that “the perception is the reality.”
A very significant percentage of the shooters were first-time GSSF competitors, and many of them told Lisa Marie that the “all-girl” format was the reason they had come. Suspicions confirmed: Mrs. Judy’s idea had obviously tapped into a new source of GSSF competitors.
A huge percentage of the contestants were law enforcement officers. Kitty, a competitor at the match posted online, “I think the entire county sheriff’s department was there—the women’s side anyway. Lisa Marie’s husband is a deputy and probably had something to do with that. There were other LE and military in addition.” One sheriff’s department paid GSSF memberships and match fees for every one of its female deputies who chose to attend.
One of the female officers at the match told me, “It’s way more fun shooting against other women than against men. There seems to be more camaraderie to it…more fun!”
Kitty also remarked that she was “not certain what the ratio of women to men is in all shooting sports. In my local IDPA match there are two of us out of 30 or 40. About three out of 30 to 40 in Steel. I’m the only gal in about 12 to 15 shooting Bullseye. Even the Armed Forces boast better numbers with at least 1 in 8 being female.”
At the “GLOCK Girl Gala” in Reevesville, the official name of the event, slightly more than a fourth of the shooters were law enforcement personnel. The female officers I spoke with felt particularly relaxed and comfortable shooting in an all-women’s event.
This was particularly true of one woman present, who is accustomed to shooting against men and once won a GSSF match against all comers—including all the men. Gail Pepin, the current Florida/Georgia Regional Women’s Champion in IDPA shooting, said, “I’m used to shooting with men. It doesn’t bother me. But I talked to a lot of women at Reevesville who said they came there because it was a woman-only event. I also saw a huge number of junior females who gave me the impression that they were more comfortable shooting an all-girl tournament. I think it was a very nice place for a woman to shoot her first match, because it was kinder, gentler, and more nurturing…a very good way for a woman to break into the shooting sports.”
Running the Match
Because GSSF had taken a chance on something new, it wound up being held at a small gun club in Reevesville. There weren’t as many experienced GSSF Range Officers as will be found at the usual venues. The range was also limited to one bay each for “GLOCK the Plates,” “GLOCK M,” and “Five to GLOCK.” Because there was a high percentage of first-time competitors, there was a higher number of questions to range officers per stage from new shooters and, in a match where one measurement of winning is how fast the shooting takes place, the new shooters took longer to finish each course of fire. As a result, it took a bit longer to run each shooter than is the case in the average GSSF match, where there are many experienced shooters racing against the clock to win, thereby completing the stages of fire more quickly.
On the first day, the schedule got backed up a bit. GSSF had sent two of its top people to supervise the match—Cindy Noyes, in charge of registration and the recording side of things, and Scotty Banks, who was in charge of the actual shooting. Both of them applied hard-earned expertise born of experience, and soon, things were back on schedule.
The All-Women Difference
Having competed in many GSSF matches (and never, thank God, having had to run one), I noticed that the overall tenor of the all-women’s match differed from the usual co-ed events.
In the typical match where the participants are mostly male (and where many arrive together in small groups), you’ll occasionally hear shooters “talk smack” to one another. “Jeez, dude, you’re supposed to hit the plate, not the rail,” etc.
It was exactly the opposite at the GLOCK Girl Gala. Even competitors who didn’t know each other were supportive of one another. Most women helped with comments such as; “Slow down, take your time. One shot, one plate.” Firearms instructors who have worked with all-male, all-female and co-ed classes have seen the same thing. Women tend to be more supportive of one another than men, even when they’re competing against each other.
It might be good if that attitude caught on more in other venues of the shooting sports.
There were men at the GLOCK Girl Gala. They just weren’t shooting. There were husbands and fathers, grand-dads and boyfriends. They helped to fill magazines. They served as cheerleaders. The majority of range officers were guys.
At one point, a petite redhead snapped her fingers, extended the palm of her non-GLOCK-holding hand and said sharply, “Ammo Guy! Magazine!” An obedient male assistant placed a GLOCK 17 magazine with 10 rounds into her waiting palm. The lady in question slapped the fresh magazine into her G17 and proceeded to shoot six plates with as many shots.
No one present, least of all the Ammo Guy, was offended. Everyone seemed to be a part of the mutually supportive atmosphere.
This writer saw shooters as young as age 12, and shooters in what one balladeer called “the time of silver hair.” With male-oriented matches, one sees older guys who are mentors, but one also sees those who “can’t be bothered with the kids.” At the all-women’s GLOCK match, one couldn’t help but notice that the more experienced women were going out of their way to mentor the younger girls who’d had the guts to come into the field in open competition.
And the Winners Are…
Wei Young won Civilian Amateur, High Subcompact, and was overall Matchmeister. Belinda Robinson captured High Guardian honors (police and other public safety personnel). Kitty Nicolai won Competition class, and Cynthia Bishop captured the Major Sub/Heavy Metal category that required large-caliber GLOCKs. Lisa Judy won Master Stock and the Unlimited division. Gail Pepin won High Senior, and Emily Robinson won High Junior.
It had been stated that if there were 100 entries for this test drive of the all-women’s GSSF format, it would be done again. That requirement was exceeded. Thanks to Lisa Marie Judy and the team that worked with her, a brilliant concept was carried to fruition. The GLOCK Girls Gala was an unarguable success, and hopefully we’ll see more such GSSF matches. Congratulations to all who made it happen! Keep an eye out for more all-women’s matches at the GSSF website, gssfonline.com.