Shotgunning’s Women’s Movement

The increasing number of women shooters has encouraged more firearms manufacturers to begin making ladies’ guns.
The increasing number of women shooters has encouraged more firearms manufacturers to begin making ladies’ guns. Photograph by Lee Thomas Kjos/
By Chris Batha

The steady increase in female participation in the shotgun sports—both clay shooting and hunting—is having an impact on gun companies. Many have stepped up to supply a new range of shotguns, clothing and equipment designed specifically for lady shooters.

During the past 15 years total participation in shotgun sports has increased 38.9 percent, with the number of male shooters up 33.3 percent in 2017 compared to 2003 and the number of female participants up 61.1 percent!

Ladies shooting groups have sprung up around the country. For example, GRITS—Girls Really Into Shooting —has an ever-growing membership. GRITS was established in 2005 by Elizabeth Lanier-Fennell, a Level III NSCA shooting instructor and avid wingshooter. Lanier-Fennell is a tireless and enthusiastic promoter of women in shooting sports.

Lady Clay Shooters, Inc.  was established in Houston in the late 1980s, and founding members included Sue King, Vicki Ash, Sandy Brister and Sandi Nail—all of whom have been breaking clays and raising funds for various charities for 30 years.

Atlanta is home to the Annie Oakley Shooters —a group of energetic ladies, some of whom were introduced to clay shooting in 1999 at the Atlanta Charity Clays and then started their own Annie Oakley Tournament in May 2004.

There now is a chapter of the Annie Oakley Shooters called the Lowcountry Annie Oakleys that shoots at the Forest City Gun Club, in Savannah, Georgia, and continues the tradition of raising funds for charities through shooting tournaments.

Mass production is the manufacture of large quantities of standardized products, and shotguns are no different. Most shotguns are made to fit “Joe Average”: 5' 10" tall and 165 pounds. These guns just do not work for the average lady. Gunstocks built to fit men require significant alterations to make them comfortable enough for ladies to shoot accurately and consistently.

Recognizing the growing wave of lady shooters, companies have begun building shotguns with weights and dimensions designed for women. I would caution that, again, “one size does not fit all” and alterations may be required to fine-tune fit for the individual.

Stock fit for ladies is not a matter of simply shortening the stock, as there are other obvious differences in body shape between the sexes. These differences impact a woman’s choice of gun, fit and gun-mounting action. Compared to men, most women have high cheekbones and long necks, which require a gun to have a higher comb in order to achieve the proper alignment of the eye and rib and to avoid the need for lowering or rolling the head to align the gun. The Monte Carlo, or trap stock, configuration is ideal for the majority of ladies. Its higher comb facilitates a comfortable and correct gun mount and head position.

The shape and soft tissue of a woman’s chest require careful adjustment of the stock’s pitch (the angle of the rear portion of the butt that contacts the shoulder). If there is too much pitch, all of the recoil forces are concentrated through the toe (bottom of the butt). Not only is this painful, but it also can result in twisting or canting the gun or, worse, placing the butt of the stock out onto the bicep.

For the average lady shooter, 6° to 8° of pitch, or “toe out,” is recommended, as is a sports bra with no strap adjustments and a recoil pad to further displace recoil.

Dimensions that will fit most lady shooters are: length of pull, 12¾" to 14½"; drop at comb, 13⁄8"; drop at face, 15⁄8"; drop at heel, 1¾"; drop at Monte Carlo, 23⁄8"; cast, ¼" at heel, 3⁄8" at toe. (Note: The thick grips and forward trigger placements of some guns are not suitable for ladies’ smaller hands.)

Some of the ladies’ guns that have resulted from manufacturers’ recognition of shotgunning’s women’s movement are the entire Syren USA line, Franchi Affinity Catalyst and Instinct Catalyst, Rizzini Vertex 3, Fausti Aphrodite, Blaser F16 Intuition, Perazzi High Tech Elle, Berretta 691 Sporting Vittoria, CZ SCTP Sterling and Krieghoff K-20 Victoria.

These guns represent a big step in the right direction for lady shooters. Any of these shotguns still may need to be altered slightly; however, doing so will be a simpler and easier task than trying to alter a shotgun made for a man.

Vive la différence!

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