By Bob Johnson
on September 06, 2013 at 7:15 AM, updated September 06, 2013 at 7:30 AM
THOMAS TOWNSHIP, MI — As her interest in shooting as a sport grew, Joey Lee found it hard to find other women in the area with the same hobby.
So she started an all-women gun club.
The Well Armed Woman-Saginaw Valley Chapter includes about 60 gun-toting women from throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region, said Lee, chapter leader.
A 60-year-old retiree, she said she has been shooting guns since she was a kid.
“I got into handguns about 12 years ago,” she said. “But I grew up shooting rifles and shotguns at summer camp. I taught both of my daughters to shoot in their late teens and early 20s, and they thought I lost my mind when I took up shooting.”
Lee said when she first took an interest in handguns, it was hard to find other women who shared her hobby.
“There are a lot of women who have an interest but do not know how to get started,” Lee said. “When I first started, it was hard to find women and even harder to find a group.”
Lee said she own six or seven guns. Nearly half of them have sentimental value.
“My most favorite is my Kimber Custom Target II, 1911 style .45 caliber,” She said. “It’s a big gun. It’s just a perfect gun. It’s powerful, accurate and well made. It was one of the first guns I bought, and it will always be my favorite.
Lee also has two Smith & Wesson revolvers that belonged to her parents.
“Those will always be special to me,” she said, noting that her dad has died.
After becoming a National Rifle Association shooting instructor, Lee began to teach women how to shoot.
“When I came to start teaching them, most learned to defend themselves, but once they learned more about shooting, they discover that it is quite fun as a sport,” she said.
“It becomes like yoga in a way. It’s a stress reliever, it’s fun and they have a fun time doing it. The women have agreed that it is kind of like (shopping for) shoes and handbags.”
The club, which is a part of the larger national organization of The Well Armed Woman, include women who range in age from 21 to 80-plus. They meet every month at Saginaw Field and Stream Club, 1296 N. Gleaner in Thomas Township.
“We meet once per month,” Lee said. “We talk for an hour, we shoot for an hour. We have an instructor. We cover all safety aspects: Michigan gun laws, holsters and shooting techniques for women.”
A chance encounter
The club happened upon its training instructor during an encounter with a sales clerk at the gun counter of Cabela’s in Kochville Township.
Henry Reyna, an officer with the Saginaw Township Police Department with 29 years of law enforcement experience in Saginaw County, met a member of the gun club one day while he was working his part-time job at Cabela’s.
“I work sales at the gun counter,” Reyna said. “I’m passionate about training and pairing people with guns that will fit them.
“One day this lady came in and said she was a member of this new Well Armed Woman group, and I told her I would like to learn more about it. She hooked me up with Joey Lee, and we hit it off.”
Reyna decided to train the women under his security company Secure Solution.
“They love shooting. I love training. I donate my services to them,” Reyna said.
“What I really get out of it is that when I train these women I empower them and give them confidence. Just a few minutes, and I have them up and running and shooting with incredible accuracy and confidence.”
A mission to empower more
This year, Lee said, Michigan chapters are organizing the first Well Armed Woman Conference and Expo at the Michigan State University Demmer Center.
Lee said any woman 21 and older is welcome to attend the expo, which runs Sept. 21-22. To register, visit www.demmercenter.msu.edu/events.
“It’s a conference to others across the state,” Lee said. “There will be workshops and classes on Michigan gun laws, pistol and rifle shooting on the range, levels of awareness and self-defense. Our mission is to educate, equip and empower women in the world of firearms.”
Anyone looking for information about the Saginaw Valley Chapter should contact Lee by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are looking for women that want to learn more about firearms,” Lee said. “For those who are more experienced, it is a chance to network with other like-minded women who share an interest in firearms.”