Our class gathered around
Vicki Farnam of DTI for Women,
no doubt soaking in some
great words of wisdom
from our experienced instructor
I was recently invited to attend a class that was designed just for ladies. When I say I was invited, I mean my friend Caryl posted it enough times that it hit my newsfeed at least once a day until I finally relented and read the invitation.
It was to be hosted by Olde English Outfitters, an long-standing family owned business in our area with a reputation for outfitting the whole family – women included. The instructor is someone I’ve had on my “train with her” bucket list for a while – Vicki Farnam of DTI for Women. She has 30+ years of experience training civilians, law enforcement, and military members, but her focus has been on the differences between men and women. It’s widely accepted that men and women learn differently and may need the information presented in varied formats accordingly. What’s not quite so clear is what about the brain creates those differences and what physiological differences may keep that same material from working for both, even when presented as needed!
So when I (finally) read the invitation I was psyched. The class was being held on a weekend that I actually had OPEN! The cost was a terrific discount from the usual cost of a Farnam/DTI class, and the class size was limited to 20 people each day. Terrific!
Then I read the details. The Saturday class was designed to help women who just got their CCW decide how best to carry their gun in a way that makes them comfortable with the concept. Well, ok, I don’t have to do both days… I’ll see what’s on Sunday.
Sunday – learning how and when to use your firearm in a defensive scenario. Ok, a little more advanced. I can surely learn something from that. But there’s a discount if I take both classes (women are suckers for discounts… men are too, they just won’t admit it). I wanted to get the discount, I wanted as much time to soak up Vicki’s knowledge as I could get, and I didn’t have anything else scheduled for Saturday – so I signed up for a beginner’s gun class.
When I finally decided to sign up it was just 2 weeks before the class. I was a little concerned there wouldn’t be any slots left. It’s a limited seat class and it’s VICKI FARNAM! I reached out to Caryl who was helping coordinate the class. She said even that late in the game, I was only the second person to sign up. I was shocked and a little saddened by the lack of interest. After all… this was Vicki Farnam!
Of course, I got online and talked my friend Angela into joining me. She’s not a beginner either so predictably she balked… but I’m pretty convincing (I also know how to plan a good guilt trip – completely unrelated topic). I told her we could both be beginners for a change, it might be fun. And… it’s Vicki Farnam!
Saturday morning rolled around, a bright, sunny, gorgeous day - just kidding… it’s November in Ohio. I dressed in layers for an invigorating outdoor shooting experience and headed to the range. There were 7 ladies in the first class, a far cry from the 20 spaces they had opened up, but as we would later discuss there seems to be a general lack of urgency in the training industry this year and people just don’t want to commit to something they don’t see as urgent or a necessity. Seven ladies, as it turns out, was the makings of a great class.
As in most classes, Vicki spent some time that morning talking about herself - her training background, her passion and her plans for the day. She then asked us to tell her something about ourselves. About halfway through the session, following the introductions of a few newer shooters, I gave a brief and slightly watered down introduction of myself. I told her I’d been carrying for a few years and have my gun with me as often as I legally can.
Her only follow up question: “Why are you here??”
Well, it’s a long story involving a discount and a free weekend and… she’s Vicki Farnam!! I expressed my general admiration for her work and my belief that even experienced shooters can garner knowledge from a more experienced shooter when it comes to the fundamentals and foundation of defensive shooting. She agreed, and I began learning.
Throughout the course of the weekend, Vicki did an impressive job of reading her students, assessing our skills and needs, and working with each woman individually to address some bad habits and form new good ones. I started out excited to work with such a legend and ended up disappointed only by the fact that class was over after 2 days. I could spend a year watching her teach, coach, and guide new shooters, taking in her passion and absorbing her techniques, and I would still have more to learn.
Yes, it was a class designed to help beginners. That may have stopped some women I know from signing up for the class because many of them consider themselves too advanced for an intro level class. I don’t share that opinion.
There are a lot of beginners’ classes available in your area, I’m sure. Some are terrific and others will be enlightening to you in other ways. I don’t mean to say you should always stay in the first level classes, I’m simply reminding any shooter that there is always something else to learn. I’ve shot for years, but Vicki changed my stance – the very core of shooting posture – and my shots were more consistent and more comfortable than ever. She explained that men and women are built differently (duh) and while the stance I used (and taught!!!) was suitable for the guys, it simply isn’t ideal for women. I’m living proof – learn different techniques and then do what works for you!
Fellow shooters: Seek out dynamic instructors to train with. Absorb differing viewpoints and adopt the parts that work for you. Don’t ever consider yourself too advanced to take advantage of a good opportunity. You might be surprised what you learn when you don’t think you’re learning.
In addition to correcting my stance Vicki taught me a lot of things she probably didn’t intend to. That’s what happens when I put on my student hat and attend a class and THAT, my friends, is the answer the Vicki’s frank question to me on that Saturday morning – Why are you here?
With every new instructor, I learn how to be a better teacher. Sometimes I learn how to handle tough situations (one lady made a potentially dangerous mistake on the range – Vicki handled it with such calm and grace I don’t think anyone else on the line even noticed something was amiss). In a few classes, I’ve learned what doesn’t work when dealing with students (none of that happened in this particular class). In every class I attend, I glean something important about either myself or my students. That information makes me a better teacher, and if I’m honest I think I would have to admit that is more important to me than being a perfect markswoman.
That’s not to say I’m content with my current ability level. I’ll always be a student as well as my own worst critic. I’ll continue to sign up for classes that are beneath my skill level and probably a few that take me well beyond my comfort zone. I would encourage you, wherever you are in your learning, to do the same as often as possible.
Never stop learning.
Practice what you learn.
And for 2018, mark something off your training bucket list. Need some suggestions? Reach out to me, I’m always happy to share my wish list! Maybe I’ll see you there!!
See you on the range
Original artwork by Vicki F
I shoulda gotten that one
We often get good questions from our students, I thought I would share one that is particularly relevant this time of year. Maybe you've encountered similar reactions from your family members, how have you handled them? What other advice would you offer Linda?
While my husband and I carry our handguns nearly every day in our regular activities, the rest of our extended family isn’t quite as on-board with our way of thinking. They know we have, train with, and carry our guns, and they rarely say anything directly regarding this practice, but we can’t help but catch disapproving looks and comments especially regarding carrying around our kids.
This holiday season, we’ll be on the road travelling to family gatherings at the homes of some of these relatives. I don’t want us to be vulnerable on the road, but I also know they won’t approve of us having guns in their homes. What’s the best way to handle this without an argument??
Aren’t the holidays the best?? The food, the sights, the smells, the memories, the… family… ?!?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise to hear you aren’t the only ones facing opposing views from the in-laws when it comes to the issue of defensive firearms. In fact, guns and politics are sure fire (pun happily intended) go-to topics if you want to heat things up on a chilly Christmas Eve!
As is always the case, you have a few options. If your family is only dropping hints about their dislike for firearms, it’s possible you can carry your guns the way you always do in their presence and they will never be the wiser. Discretion is best – there is no need to start an argument for the sake of stirring the pot!
If your family is adamant about not having guns in their home and have singled you out as a potential source of such consternation, you’ll obviously want to avoid hard feelings and furthering their negative view of what should be a benign topic. Again, you have a couple of options. You can always politely decline the invitation to their home. If you take this route, be honest about your decision. Rather than telling them Timmy has the flu (never use your kids in a lie, they will find a way to sink you every time), explain that you are respecting their wishes by not attending the family event where something you believe to be a fundamental way of life is considered taboo.
Not comfortable with that conversation? You always have the option of leaving your guns at home or in your vehicle (safely and securely locked away, of course!). If this is the route you choose, I would recommend you still take along any of the many less than lethal defensive tools I know you also carry daily. Again, there is no need to make those tools an issue any more than you would prominently display your carry gun.
Whatever you decide, make sure you and your husband are on the same page. It’s bad enough feeling vilified by others who don’t understand your lifestyle. It’s even worse if you let it come between you and the ones you love the most. Talk the issue through without emotional attachment to any particular outcome and I’m confident you’ll find a compromise that gives you physical security without causing irreparable damage to important relationships.
We often tell new concealed carriers, “When you stop acting like you have a gun, people will stop noticing you have a gun”. I would say the same is true for avoiding an argument with dissenting viewpoints. “If you act like carrying defensive tools is not a big deal, people will stop making it a big deal”. It’s a way of life, and like any other nonconformist viewpoint the more people are around you and realize it’s not really a thing, the less of a thing it will really be!
Thanks for reaching out, best of luck, and enjoy the holidays!!