After 20 years, the Women On Target shoot is still a blast
Suzi Rouse could count on one hand the number of women who were members of the Oklahoma City Gun Club when she approached its board 21 years ago about holding a women's-only shooting event.
Rouse wanted to introduce more women to the shooting sports and increase the number of female members in the club.
"The board said, 'Honey, you will be lucky if you get 10 women,'" Rouse said. "So, I didn't have a whole lot of hope, quite frankly. The first year we got 57, and after that it just snowballed."
Today, the Women On Target clinic at the OKC Gun Club is believed to be the largest instructional firearms shoot for women in the country.
Normally, more than 400 women participate each year, but only about half that number will be accepted for the 21st annual event due to COVID-19, Rouse said. Deadline to apply for this year's Sept. 12 shoot is July 31.
The annual shooting clinic began as a way to introduce women of all ages to the shooting sports in a fun, relaxed setting. Participants rotate through four different stations and each person gets individual instruction on a variety of pistols, shotguns and rifles.
Volunteers from the OKC Gun Club and local law enforcement agencies serve as instructors. Gun safety is top priority and participants do not handle any firearm until they understand basic safety and handling.
Rouse became chair of the first women's shooting division at the OKC Gun Club in 1999. She became the club's first female president in 2008 and still serves in that role today, the longest tenure of any president.
She started the women's shoot in 1999 with a grant from the National Rifle Association, and the organization still sponsors it today. Women from across the country have participated in the OKC Gun Club event.
"I have had them come in from Florida, Colorado, Washington state, which has been pretty amazing," Rouse said. "Usually they are friends of somebody (in Oklahoma City), and they say, 'There is just not anything like this where we are.'"
Most of the women who participate in the daylong event for the first time do so because they want to learn to use a gun for self-defense, Rouse said.
"Certainly, we encourage them getting additional training," Rouse said. "There is not certification or anything like that. It's just an introduction into firearms. They get to shoot so many different kinds, it gives them an idea of what they might want to get into later on."
Female gun ownership and participation in the shooting sports is on the rise in the United States. According to statistics from the NRA, around 23% of women in the United States now own guns, when just 13% did in 2005. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has documented a 77% rise in female gun ownership since 2005.
Rouse said participants in the Women's Fun Shoot often show up apprehensive. By the end the day, however, they usually leave feeling empowered, she said.
"It's a big thing for them," she said. "Many of them take great pride in their accomplishment of getting through the day."
While self-defense is the primary motivation for most of the participants, many women discover they enjoy shooting guns for recreation, Rouse said.
Today, the OKC Gun Club has about 200 female members, Rouse said. At least half of them were first introduced to guns and shooting at the clinic, she said.
To get a registration form for this year's shoot, go to okcgunclub.org and click on the link for the event.
Shooting matches return to OKC Gun Club but with COVID-19 safety protocols
The Oklahoma City Gun Club, located north of Arcadia, has 20 divisions in the shooting sports and hosts many state, regional, national and even world competitions, as in the case of the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association World Championships later this month.
A national high school rifle championship also is scheduled this month at the OKC Gun Club.
The club stayed open for members after the COVID-19 outbreak in March, but dozens of shooting contests were canceled or postponed. The largest cowboy action shoot, Land Run, was postponed from April until October.
Shooting competitions resumed in June but under COVID-19 restrictions, Rouse said. Social distancing and wearing face masks are strongly encouraged, she said. Hand sanitizers are available at the gun ranges, she said.
"For the most part, everybody has been really, really good about it," Rouse said. "We haven't had any issues that we are aware of."