Irwin Sportsmen's Association in Irwin, PA teaches a women's pistol course twice a month from April through August.

A new women’s pistol class at the Irwin Sportsmen’s Association in Irwin, PA teaches students the basics of firearm safety and self-defense.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the class — held every second and fourth Tuesday of the month from April through August at a cost of $5 per session — essentially breaks the NRA’s eight-hour Basic Pistol course into smaller lessons.

The class begins with an overview of the basic parts of a pistol. Participants learn how to safely pick up and handle a gun, as well as range commands. They are then taught about how to carry a concealed weapon, in addition to various tactics for personal and home defense. After each session, ladies are invited to practice at the range with their own guns, or with guns provided by Irwin Sportsmen’s Association.

“I didn’t shoot at all before, and I was afraid of guns,” said student Donna Ceol, of Claridge, Westmoreland County. “Now I can shoot pretty much anything.”

As the Post-Gazette reports, women are the fastest-growing segment of the hunting and shooting communities, according to a 2012 study by Southwick Associates. A recent Gallup Crime poll showed that 13 percent of all women in the United States personally owned a gun in 2005. The number increased to 23 percent in 2011, which translates to between 15 and 20 million women.

Instructor John Reed said classes such as the one at Irwin Sportsmen’s Association are vital if one wants to develop their firearm safety and self-defense skills.

“Having a gunfight in your house is the last thing you want. Having a gunfight anywhere is the last thing you want,” Reed said. “But if there’s a threat, we want you to have the ability and the skills and the focus to stop the threat.”

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