LEANDER - Whether it's for home protection, to better understand the art of the sport, to make new friends, or simply to feel empowered, women are increasingly trading in their favorite cocktail for a pistol at girl's night out.
Established earlier this year by Julianna Crowder of Leander and Renee Blaine of Austin to offer local women a support system for recreational and competitive shooting, A Girl and A Gun Women's Shooting League boasts nearly 300 supporters on Facebook and league chapters continue sprouting throughout Texas.
Girl's Night Out is held the second and fourth Monday of the month with a special practice session for women looking to participate in shooting competitions and gun matches. The league meets regularly all the way through winter nights and offers instruction and practice with pistols for newbies and rifles and shotguns for more advanced shooters.
"We wanted some type of women's shooting clubs. Now the league has multiple chapters - it was an evolution," explained Crowder. "Actively, there is a rotation of 10 to 15 ladies - 10 returning members and five to 10 new ladies that may come back [that show up to a given Girl's Night Out]. We have members as far as Elgin and we have additional chapters in Fort Hood and Del Rio."
More often than not, women don't have the confidence to walk into a gun store, let alone a gun range to shoot and practice, Crowder said, so the league aims to break those barriers of fear by educating, encouraging and empowering women.
"We want women to learn to shoot a gun and feel better and more confident. A lot of fear comes from not knowing what's right or what's wrong [when shooting a gun]. Here, they will learn to shoot and to be safe while meeting other women that like some of the same things."
Crowder said the friendships that blossom at Girl's Night Out are a "byproduct" of being active on the league.
Melanie Ann Watson has made some good friends whom she hangs out with outside of Girl's Night Out. "It's the camaraderie of going out to dinner and getting to know each other," Watson shared. "These ladies are so fabulous, so empowering and very positive."
Susan Cepeda of Leander went to her first Girls' Night Out last week at Eagle Peak Shooting Range in Leander and said she heard about the league from her husband.
"My husband shoots for sport and I got my first gun last year and I want to learn more," Cepeda said.
Nicole B. of Round Rock, another newbie last week, hit a bull's eye after one-on-one instruction from Renee Blaine who co-owns Austin Hot Shots, a shooting school, with her husband. Nicole said she was surprised to have done so well the first time and said she could not have done it without Blaine's help.
Blaine was using shotguns by the age of 12 and after being in the "high stress business world" she decided to devote herself full-time to her true passion of shooting and sharing it with as many people as she can.
Crowder, also known as the "Glock Girl," runs Women's Central Academy of Central Texas where she has taught hundreds of women self-defense. It was through her safety courses, that friends Linda Atkin of Pflugerville and Linda Stone of Austin, heard about A Girl and A Gun and came out to their first Girl's Night Out last week. They said they are sure they will be back for a second round and hope to master gun shooting for self and home protection.
The find out when the next Girl's Night Out near you is scheduled or to find out more about the league, like it on Facebook or visit www.meetup.com/A-Girl-and-A-Gun/.