South Africa

Women learn to handle firearms

By knowing where you are and what’s going on around you is a good way to not make yourself an easy target for criminals.

This emerged at Gun Owners South Africa’s Girls on Fire’s fourth annual range day and the second at Wattlespring Sports Club in Bapsfontein, Johannesburg.

It’s a day for women from all walks of life – from the very young to the not so young varying from having never handled a firearm to experts – run by women.

Many participants started the day nervous, and by the end of the day were noticeably more confident handling the a wide variety of firearms at the different ranges with coaching from the all-women range officers.

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From clay pigeon shooting with shotguns to .22 rifles ranging in calibres up to a .50 calibre sniper rifle, including various pistols, novices went from nervous to fist pumping at the end of exercises. Adding an extra layer of pressure, each event was scored according to time and accuracy.

For range officer Shirley van Rensburg, watching novices grow in confidence was one of the highlights of the day.

“It’s beautiful watching them grow,” she said with a wide smile.

Owning a firearm wasn’t enough, one also had to be trained in its use. Situational awareness was key, and once people were aware of what was happening around them, said Van Rensburg, it was unlikely they would walk into a probably bad situation.

Organiser and founder of Girls on Fire, Lynette Oxley, said the idea behind the event was that women didn’t have to be a victim.

“It’s for women to feel they can actually do things and don’t need to stand in the shadow of anyone. It is really empowering to see how some of the women have grown, even from really sad situations, to becoming range officers.”

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Oxley said situational awareness was very important and was a large part of her introduction to the firearms course.

“We always say to people, avoid, avoid, avoid. The absolute last thing you do is draw your firearm,” she said.

“I’ve carried a firearm since 2003. I’ve never had to draw it. Be aware of what’s going around you. You don’t want to use your firearm. Do not walk into dangerous situations if you can avoid it.”

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