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Monday, August 20, 2012


It was a long day of travel - I kept wondering why did Thunder Ranch have to be so far away in the mountains? Once I arrived I quickly understood. The property was breathtaking. The facilities even more impressive. This was way more than a shooting range, this was a serious training facility - surrounded by God’s amazing majesty. I hand’t met Clint or Heidi previously - our entire relationship had been a “digital one”. Facebook, email and a couple of phone calls. I knew they were special people as it was easy to tell even via email, however, I was a little nervous. They had contributed so much to The Well Armed Woman with their positive support and the incredibly generous donation of the Ultimate Giveaway Training Class and they are legends. I wondered what they were expecting in me? We’re they expecting a highly seasoned gun gal? One who already knew all they were about to cover in the class? 

Of course all that worrying for nothing. I was greeted by two warm and gracious faces and big hugs.  Instantly I was comfortable and felt like I had known them for many years. 

Trainings start early at the Ranch - there is so much to do and much ground to cover.   First we met the women from all over the country taking the class. An impressive group of women representing every demographic and every level of experience. Some with none, some with much and everything in-between. I was thrilled to get to meet some of TWAW Facebook fans that were there. We spent the first morning in the classroom where Clint reviewed facility and safety information, what we would be covering and the basics of learning to “fight”. We all were riveted! Not only by what we were being told - but with Clint and his totally captivating “Clint Self”. I don’t think any of us have ever met anyone like Clint Smith. Here are few words to attempt to describe the indescribable! Bold, candid, straight shooting, blunt, raw, serious, funny with a dash of shy. Two of the young moms in the group shared with me on the last day that at home, because they have young children, they work so hard to keep their language and that of others “appropriate”. They said at first they were shocked at Clint’s candor, but by the end, they laughed and said they had started to sound like him. 

We started on the range after lunch with the in-depth safety reminders and rules. (which is how we started each and every session) Some basic shooting first - just to get the jitters out and to get comfortable on the range. We quickly progressed to multiple shot drills from about 15 yards. We incorporated verbal commands - very loud ones I must say, and practiced working alongside a partner, providing cover for reloads and malfunctions. Heidi, Clint and their staff followed each of us closely, working individually with each, guiding and instructing us on what we each needed to correct. We shot all afternoon, hundreds of rounds!  I think we all were in firearm heaven even with the blisters that began to show. Arms were tired, hands were tired - but eyes and smiles were wide. 

I was pooped.. My arms and hands hurt but I couldn’t wait for day two. I slept like a baby. We were on the range by 7am. I arrived with blisters bandaged and all 7 magazines fully loaded. Day two had movement drills, leaning, flash light training, clearing malfunctions and shooting steel plates (way harder than it looks!) and the  TERMINATOR 3 in store for the afternoon. At one time, Heidi had us all stand at the other end of the range with our backs to her and she and her staff created malfunctions in each of our firearms. We had to run, find our firearm, attempt to shoot, discover the malfunction and clear it and shoot the target (attacker) 3 times in each zone. Talk about stressful! It actually was probably quite comical if you were to watch a video of it. Thankfully, none exists. I hope!!! 

Terminator 3 is a two story structure where we would begin to learn to scan and maneuver inside a building after a threat in multiple light levels. There was quite a bit of apprehension in anticipation for this. Moving ourselves and our skills from the stagnant shooting range at home into a life like scenario of our homes proved to be emotionally challenging for some. I think the reality of what we were really here for began to sink in.

We donned our body armor and  were taught, one by one how to maximize the distance as we cleared each room, clearing doorways and walls. It was awesome to bring all of the skills we had learned into a scenario and put them all together to protect ourselves, our families, our home and yes to victoriously get the bad guy. We each had the opportunity to work the Terminator 3 three times individually with clint, working various layouts and multiple light levels over the last 2 days. 
Day two ended in victory and bodies ready for bed. Funny, I don’t really remember much about the evenings. I know I ate and I know I slept! 

Day three was for me, my favorite - we moved and shot from every conceivable position. We ran forwards, backwards, sideways,  we kneeled, we sat, we laid. We fired massive amounts of ammunition (with pretty impressive precision I must say) into every zone from every distance. When it was time for the final drill of the course, I was at the back of the range waiting to be the last one through Terminator 3. As I watched I saw a totally different group of ladies on that line. They were confident, competent, strong and powerful. I don’t know how many rounds Heidi instructed them to fire - but it was a lot! It was like the 4th of July fireworks. I just smiled at the sight and sound of these incredible Well Armed Women, truly ready to fight for their lives.. 

On the long drive and flight home I reviewed all that I had learned. Here are a few of the key lessons and impressions. 

Clint and Heidi are two amazing people. Passionate and gifted teachers committed to helping people train to their greatest potential. I am blessed to have these two new friends.

The threats we arm ourselves for are very real and very ugly. We must face that and train to fight for our lives. 

Training is perishable - we can’t train and then never practice to keep it “fresh”. With training comes a commitment to keep our skills honed. 

Carrying a firearm is a lifestyle change. If we make the choice - we accept the “inconveniences” and the responsibilities that come with it. As Clint said, “Carrying a firearm isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it is supposed to be comforting.”

Nothing can replace live training. Do all you can do to get trained. Save coffee money, don't buy as many pairs of shoes, sacrifice where you can to get the training you need to save your life. 

Training to fight and why we train refreshed my memory of Ruth. Many of you have met Ruth as I have shared her story here on my blog. It is why we train and why the work of The Well Armed Woman is so incredibly important. In her memory - we train so there is never another story like Ruth’s.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Whatever men can do...

Written by Mary McDonald.. Guest Contributor

Whatever men can do. . .
This past weekend, my neighbors were having a little family barbeque and invited my son and I over.  Kind of a welcome back home for a woman that was working out of town for a couple of months.  Also, a welcome to the neighborhood for Ann, who is the new girlfriend of 70 year old Tom, who's lived next door for the past four years.  Little four foot nine inch Ann was opening a jar of pickles, finding it a bit difficult until she started banging on the lid to loosen the seal.  I told her she should have gotten Tom to open it while he was there.  She looked up at me and said, "Whatever a man can do, a woman can do, and usually do it a whole lot better."

Which is true.  Personally, with carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis in my hands, I don't mind asking my son (with much larger hands) to open a jar for me.  But I also have jar openers and will usually do that myself.  I also know there are far too many times when I do what other single moms do -- forget waiting on someone else, I'll just do it myself.  But I was raised by a mom who taught four kids, two boys and two girls, how to cook, sew, and do laundry.  And my dad insisted we all had to know how to change the oil and the air filter on our vehicles.  He taught us enough about engines that we can usually diagnose what's happening, or at least what system is affected, before it goes into the shop.  My brothers usually do most of the work themselves.  My sister and I usually have guys look at us strange when we explain what's happening, until they realize we actually know what we're talking about.

My dad also taught us how to shoot a single shot .22 rifle, took my brothers hunting, and would have taken my sister or I if we had pushed to go with him.  But picking up a big shotgun and bruising my shoulder, like my sister did, wasn't my idea of fun.  He taught us all to respect a firearm, something he taught my son as well.  Oddly enough, it's my 27 year old son who's taught me more about firearms than my dad.  And although my dad's been gone now for six years, I know that I wouldn't have discussed handguns or carrying a concealed weapon with him.  It was not something he felt was necessary, but it's something I feel is important in my everyday life.

I equate my knowledge of guns and gun handling to cars.  I know how they work, how to fill them with oil, gas, and air.  How to change the air filter, change a tire, replace windshield wipers. I like trucks over cars, couldn't really identify different models or some of the extras on cars, could care less about the flash and power. I just want something reliable, comfortable and economical that has the power I need when I'm ready to haul something or pick something up.  I could change the oil if absolutely necessary but would prefer to let my son do it -- he's a new mechanic, almost finished with his associates degree in automotive technology.  I know how brakes work, he knows the proper terminology, all the parts, and how each works.  He doesn't mind getting greasy, I can't wait to wash my hands.  I know bookkeeping and taxes, he could figure it out if necessary but would prefer to get someone else to do it for him.

The same principle applies when it comes to handguns -- he taught me how they work, how to take apart and clean my handgun, how to secure it, how to shoot it.  I load my magazines, load my handgun, clear any jams, then take it apart and clean it after target practice.  I know my gun well, but I don't know the intricacies of revolvers or how to identify half the brands on the market.  As a fiction writer, ideas come to me that lead me in directions I never expected.  So a new story about concealed carry had me a bit nervous, knowing the story I needed to tell but not having the knowledge to properly explain the situations involving guns.  Talking to others on forums or social networking sites, I sometimes feel like I'm totally clueless.  And some guys have a habit of making others, especially women, feel inadequate, stupid, or off base.  Which is precisely the message I try to offset in my stories.

As women, we shouldn't feel slighted because we either don't understand a subject or don't have as much knowledge on a subject as another person.  We all have our talents, and we need to be confident in our strengths while learning to offset our weaknesses.  If it means partnering with others, then find a good partner or good group.  But when it comes to a handgun, be confident in your own weapon, in how to handle and clean it.  Don't allow others to make you feel inadequate because you don't have an extensive knowledge of other firearms.  Your handgun is your partner.  You choose it based on your experience and comfort level, and not based on the recommendations or insistence of another.

I may not have an extensive knowledge of handguns and gun instruction, but I do know how to weave a good story that involves women.  And sometimes about concealed carry.  Which means, I need beta readers to read  through those sections and explain how to describe something better or correct my verbage, all without getting offended with the correction.  Something Carrie has graciously agreed to do for me.  I suggest other women do the same -- find others who can help them learn in a constructive, reinforcing environment while sharing their own talents, their own strengths.

And I have to agree with Ann -- anything a man can do, women can usually do better.  Something I am finding more and more with sites like The Well Armed Woman.

Mary "Dynk" McDonald