Marybeth Crawford is an NRA certified instructor in multiple disciplines and a chief range safety officer. She also leads the local chapter of the Well Armed Woman – a national organization with over 200 chapters throughout the United States.
While the group places an emphasis on firearm safety, the ability to open up and discuss firearms in a comfortable setting is what makes this group a little different than most.
“The purpose of the group is to educate, equip and empower women owners,” Crawford said. “We cater to the new shooter – maybe someone who has never owned a firearm before or is curious about learning more.”
Since taking over leadership of the group last August, Crawford has seen a great deal of comfort at the range with members in the group handling firearms. The group meets on the second Tuesday each month at Atlanta Range and Ordnance. The first hour of the meeting is a hands-on, casual but direct conversation about a variety of gun-related topics.
“With a group that is exclusively women, they feel more at ease and not being judged,” Crawford said. “When they go shooting with husbands or brothers, they kind of stand back and are shy. When they can interact with other women, they can start sharing experiences and knowledge.”
Owning a firearm isn’t a prerequisite for joining the group. Crawford stresses that education needs to come before ownership.
“You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing how to drive,” she said. “The same can be said for a firearm. Our purpose is to help women make an educated decision about what is the right kind of firearm for them.”
During the meeting, a variety of guns are on display for members to examine and discuss. Crawford tends to bring smaller caliber guns so the women can get a feel for it without being intimidated.
“Someone brought their husband’s gun and it was all wrong for her,” Crawford said. “It was too big. Once they feel comfortable with handling and shooting the gun, they tend to loosen up and try new things.”
However, one of the biggest challenges that Crawford has faced is getting the word out about the group.
“Women shooters – it’s kind of a niche market, so it’s relatively hard to get our information out to the general public,” Crawford said. “Putting up a flyer at a McDonald’s just isn’t going to work.”
It’s a membership driven organization. The first meeting is always free to check out and then it’s a 50 dollar annual membership. The range also provides ladies night fees at half price. Every month, the only cost is range fees plus ammunition.
“Our range is so awesome and offers so many safety classes as well,” Crawford said. “A lot of our ladies take one-on-one classes there as well. They all want to get better.”