Recently, a friend and I visited a local firing range and had to wait behind a fairly large gathering of crewmen, emphasis men, to get onto the range. I was pleased to see that they were uniformed and boldly advertising their luxury yacht, intentionally or unintentionally. My friend and I could not help but notice the absence of women.
When I asked if these shooters were deckhands, engineers or stews I received a look that made me think the guy I addressed did not speak English. When I asked, “Where are the gals?” he said, “Oh, this is for guys only.”
I was taken aback and thought of the comedy movie, “White Men Can’t Jump.” (A comedy where a former basketball player hustles people who assume he can’t play because he is white.)
As a firearms instructor, it is fairly common knowledge, given men and women of equal novice experience, that the women will outshoot the men almost every time.
I know a husband and wife that are both nautical captains with military experience. They attended a nautical-based tactical firearms course together. When it came to the shotgun phase of the class, the wife, all of 5-foot-2 outgunned the entire class and gained the nickname “Buckshot.” This was on an 80-foot vessel in a rolling sea while aiming at targets that were afloat.
Prior to that day, her husband referred to her as “The Mouse.” Her nickname is a bit more respectful now.
Their class included two fellows that I would have lost bets on: a U.S. Navy senior master chief petty officer with 30 years of service and a retired Boston police officer.
So why would a yacht not include women in firearms training? I know of one luxury yacht chief stew who is terrified of guns. I suspect it is her lack of experience rather than a bad experience. (She was uncomfortable enough about the subject and was mildly traumatized over a friend having been submitted to an emergency room due to a mugging that I did not press it.)
Are female crew prohibited from taking up arms? I don’t think so. In April, the National Sporting Goods Association reported that firearm sales among women are up 47 percent from 10 years ago. Go figure.
A double-blind psychological experiment years ago indicated that people willing and able to defend themselves develop a certain aura of confidence that even hardened criminals can identify. It is sort of an unspoken don’t-mess-with-me attitude that can deflect some trouble.
I have had many yacht crews boldly say there are firearms aboard. I have had some, with body language that could not hide a pair of deuces in a poker game, tell me, “There are, well, err, ah, no guns aboard.” Uh, huh.
What is there to lose by training every crew member aboard in the basics of firearm use? Or if nothing else, in how to safely load and unload?
There was a fatal shooting accident in a church, of all places, in St. Petersburg, Fla., in February that could have been prevented by applying the three cardinal rules of gun safety. The shooter removed the magazine from the weapon, leaving a round in the chamber. The gun went off, firing a bullet that killed a young woman.
It may sound trite for me to say, “Don’t let it happen to you.” Please, don’t let it happen to anyone you know, either.
Gals, please challenge some guys or other friends and get out to a shooting range. If the guys won’t respond, then think about this quote from Susan B. Anthony: “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
In all you do, be safe.
Capt. Tom Thomas runs M/Y 007 and Steve Stimpson is managing member of Sagittarius Marksmanship Services in Ft. Lauderdale, which hosts female-friendly training group. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.