By John Goodspeed August 13, 2015
A boyfriend gave Michele Crippen a snub-nosed revolver because he thought she should have a firearm.
But he wasn’t much of a teacher, and she didn’t become much of a shooter.
“My friend had to use deadly force,” Crippen said. “She had the right frame of mind and knew how to use a handgun. That .38 revolver truly did save her life.”
Crippen decided she needed to become better acquainted with her firearm.
The single mother started going to a gun range by herself and looking on the Internet for concealed-carry classes before discovering The Well Armed Woman, a national organization that helps women learn about firearms and how to use them.
Two years ago, Crippen answered a Facebook post seeking women to start local chapters.
“I said, sure — I’d be happy to help, implying I was interested in more of an administrative type of role,” she said with a chuckle. “I ended up becoming the leader of the San Antonio chapter.”
It is one of more than 220 chapters in 49 states — including seven in Texas — with thousands of members.
“It’s very important for women to know how to use a firearm, that we have good training and good practice,” Crippen said. “I think to just have the firearm and not know how to use it or be comfortable with it can be dangerous.”
She recalled an incident a couple of months ago when a man came to a gun range with two young women and failed to show how to properly hold a semiautomatic handgun. When one fired it, the slide cut the tops of her thumbs.
“It was more of a scratch, but she bled,” Crippen said. “It’s possible that she thought, ‘That hurts. I’m not going to do that again.’ I don’t want anyone to have that experience.”
The San Antonio chapter aims to educate women on firearm safety, gun care and handling; develop gun handing and skills; and build confidence.
With about a dozen members, it meets from 6-8 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at the Nardis Gun Club, which features an indoor range.
Before heading to the range in the next room, Crippen begins each meeting with a discussion of topics such as situational awareness; pros and cons of the open-carry law going into effect on Jan. 1; the types of firearms, calibers and ammunition; and safe storage when children are in the home.
Sometimes the women bring in a variety of holsters so they can try them out or guest speakers to show how to disassemble firearms and clean them.
They also try each other’s guns at the range to see which one feels most comfortable. Nardis also rents handguns.
“For the most part, the ladies in my chapter are interested in self-defense,” Crippen said. “But once we start, it’s a lot of fun, too. I love it. I call it my group therapy. If I’m having a bad day, it sometimes really helps to shoot targets. It can be a great stress reliever.”
Members run the gamut from beginners to crack shooters.
“It’s easier being with other women,” Crippen said. “With us, there are no stupid questions. We are very open and welcoming so all questions can be asked and answered to really help educate women.”
After Vicki Gonzalez’s home was burglarized, her friend, firearm enthusiast Chris Gonzales, said she needed a gun to protect herself and took her to a range.
“It was the first time I shot a gun,” Gonzalez said. “Now I own 12.”
She joined the San Antonio chapter and sometimes brings Gonzales, who talks about such topics as firearm care.
Checking out the club with the possibility of joining, El Paso native Emily Gonzales, 21, attended a recent meeting with her father, Frank Gonzales, a former police officer.
A senior at UTSA majoring in chemistry, she also is interested in self-defense.
“Hopefully, I’ll never have to use a gun for that, but at least I’ll know how,” Emily Gonzales said. “At the same time, you can have fun with it as a sport.”
That is the attitude Crippen encourages.
If a woman is considering buying a firearm, she recommends attending a meeting, learning about safety, handling a variety of guns to see how they feel in the hand and shooting with the club.
“We’re very willing to help each other,” Crippen said. “It’s all about educating, equipping and empowering women.”
Besides, scoring a bull’s-eye can be a blast.
Who: San Antonio Chapter of The Well Armed Woman
What: A women-only group for education on firearms, safety, skills and confidence
When: Monthly meeting 6-8 p.m. on second Tuesday of every month
Where: Nardis Gun Club, 4818 Interstate 10 East
John Goodspeed is a freelance outdoors writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.