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Firearms

Ugh. I don't like guns!

You are not alone.

Don't let that keep you from learning something about them, however.

Where can I get training?

There are several different kinds of firearms training. There is basic safety and marksmanship training that everyone who has a gun needs, and there is more specialized defensive firearms training that is specifically for those who have guns for self-protection (as opposed to hunting, or sports).

For basic safety and marksmanship, you can usually find good training quite locally. Regardless of what you might think of the NRA, they have created excellent introductory courses. You don't have to join the NRA to take these courses. Two courses that are quite good in theory are Home Firearm Safety, and Basic Pistol. Whether the courses are actually good in practice depends on who teaches them. You can ask the NRA for a list of certified instructors in your area, and try to pick out a woman if that would make you more comfortable, or you can go to a couple of local gun shops and ask what instructors they recommend, or you can call local firearms stores and gun clubs to ask whether they offer instruction.

For defensive firearms training, it is wise to be very, very selective. There are a number of excellent, private gun schools around the country. Several of these that AWARE is acquainted with are (alphabetically): Defense Training International in Laport, CO, Firearms Academy of Seattle in Onalaska, WA, Gunsite Training Center in Paulden,AZ, InSights Training Center in Bellevue, WA, and Thunder Ranch in Lakeview, OR. Others are also very good. Additionally, there is a list of gun schools that appears from time to time on the Internet. Please note that AWARE makes no claims about any of these places, and cannot recommend specific schools.

AWARE offers a number of firearms courses, including Basic Pistol, Responsible Use of Lethal Force, Self Protection with Handguns, and others in private lessons.

How should I decide what kind of gun to get?

If you are thinking of getting a gun, get training first. If that isn't possible, get training a soon as you get your gun. Owning a gun without getting the right kind of training is like owning a bathing suit without knowing how to swim -- you may look good, but you won't be able to save your own life in an emergency.

The very best way to figure out what kind of gun is right for you is to go to a club or a course where you have the opportunity to shoot several different types and sizes of guns, so that you can learn about their differences, what they feel like to shoot, how easily you are able to handle them, and how accurate you are with them. Pinpoint accuracy isn't necessary for self-defense, but the better you can shoot in class the more confidence you will have in your ability to shoot under stress.

Most gun magazines run frequent articles on the selection of a self-defense gun and also reviews of individual firearms. Note that not all articles may be completely objective, so get advice from several sources.

Where can I learn more about firearms?

There are several excellent books that tell you a lot about what you need to know if you have a gun. See the AWARE resource list on this web site for recommendations.

There is an excellent magazine called Women&Guns that has many articles about all aspects of firearms and many reviews of particular guns and other equipment. AWARE board members, one of them a lawyer, write some of these articles. Check out the magazine, including some material from back issues, at the Women&Guns website.