Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in .380

By M. Ashley Evans

Many Gun Options

When it comes to concealed-carry gun choices, every gun owner has his own opinion – and usually an enthusiastic one at that.

When I began researching for my concealed-carry gun, the lack of reviews by women was frustrating. I wanted to know what it was like to shoot these guns with a smaller hand and body frame than the male reviewers had.

Having smaller hands does not negate the larger guns – I’ve shot a .50cal Desert Eagle while having a fractured wrist without any problems – simple physics demonstrates that it does make a difference in the felt recoil. It all boils down to the direction of energy through the body. This article explains a little about that: (Here)

Remember, training is vital. Your body stance and grip all come into play with how well you shoot and how the gun feels to shoot. We will go over all of that in a future article.

Most .380 guns are considered pocket pistols – small framed guns that are very easily concealable. Frankly, being a woman makes conceal carrying a lot harder – our clothing typically is cut to a more snug fit and the material is often thinner than is marketed for men. So it’s important to make wise clothing choices when concealed-carrying.

These are not guns that I would recommend for a woman who has never shot a gun before, or who is uncomfortable with the idea of concealed-carrying. I would recommend that woman get a revolver and training. The reason is, these pistols are all semi-automatic. The slide has to be pulled to chamber a round and to clear a jam. That takes a considerable amount of practice for it to be second nature while your adrenaline is skyrocketing – and when a threat is coming after you or your family, you have to be able to clear the jam in time. But with a revolver – you point and shoot. If that round doesn’t work, you pull the trigger again to cycle to the next round. It isn’t as much to think about, which is what makes it ideal for someone who is new to shooting.

Gun Choices

1. Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard with Crimson Trace Laser

smith and wesson bodyguard

The Bodyguard is a very common handgun choice for concealed carry. I owned a second generation for quite a while, and I plan to buy one again eventually. The Bodyguard is lightweight, at barely over 12 oz, which makes it very easy to carry. It’s smooth and rounded – very snag free.

It will hold 6+1 in the chamber. The overall length is 5.3″ – it fits into my back jeans pocket without any trouble and wasn’t too heavy for a jacket pocket. It has a steel slide and a polymer frame – which is what makes it so lightweight.

Shooting the Bodyguard is one of the reasons why I liked it so much. The felt recoil is much more manageable than other guns of the same size, for example, the Ruger LCP which is extremely front-end snappy. The Bodyguard has a little snap to it, but mostly the felt recoil is straight back into the center of the hand.

The slide is very easy to pull back, a common struggle for women shooters. The sights are not great – but a built-in laser is a nice tool for low light situations. The Bodyguard has a 6+1 capacity and is double action only. The DAO trigger pull is a little long, which can be comforting knowing that it is very unlikely that it will be pulled by mistake. Like most .380’s this gun requires a bit of break-in time at the range to polish it up.

2. Sig P238 – Alloy Stainless Elite

Sig p238 This beautiful 1911 style .380 features an alloy stainless frame. The weight is 15.2 oz unloaded, which is a little heavier than the previous gun discussed. This tiny bit of weight makes a big difference in the amount of felt recoil. I love the sturdy feeling the steel frame gives.

Even with my smaller hands, I don’t have any trouble with maintaining a good grip. The slide isn’t difficult to pull back and the magazine spring isn’t so tight that I have to use a reloading tool.

Its a clone of the Colt Mustang – which we will be discussing below. My favorite aspect is that it is virtually a 1911 sized down. Its missing a few parts the true 1911’s have, like the grip safety, so there is some debate as to whether or not it can be truly classified as a genuine 1911. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on – there is no denying the ease of shooting any gun that has that 1911 shaped frame.

The sights on it are definitely better than most pocket pistols – but you’re not going to be relying on them for protecting yourself against a close proximity threat anyways.

Early in manufacturing, there was some failure to feed issues – but don’t worry, these have been resolved! This gun is extremely smooth to shoot. I have read some reviews about it being finicky about ammo, but I have not had that experience. The trigger pull is 7.5-8.5 lbs. The Sig P238 has a height of 3.9″ and a total length of 5.5″. The P238 has a 6+1 capacity.

3. Micro Desert Eagle

micro desert eagle At 14 oz unloaded, this tiny pocket pistol feels extremely sturdy. And when I say tiny, it really is. 3.72″ tall and 4.5″ long. This is a gun that I deeply regret selling – and am itching to find another! It fits into both my back jean pocket as well as the front. The edges have all been nicely rounded. There was not any problem concealed carrying this gun!

It’s basically an American-produced copy of the Czech ZVI Kevin. This is an extremely unique gun. It has a delayed blowback system that utilizes two tiny ports. It does not have a single recoil spring surrounded by the barrel. The barrel isn’t attached to the frame, and the frame rail holds the recoil spring and two guide rods. The guide rods reciprocate with the slide during recoil – all of this makes for a great little gun that is extremely smooth to shoot. It is still a bit more felt recoil than the 1911 style guns mentioned in this article – but it is straight back into the hand so that it isn’t painful or snappy.

Magnum Research doesn’t produce the Micro Desert Eagle anymore, so you’ll have to search the used gun shops for this gem.  This gun is such an ideal women’s carry gun that I could not leave it off the list. My hands are small even for a woman’s, and I had no trouble at all pulling back the slide or maintaining proper grip technique. My husband has large hands for a man, and he really had a lot of trouble properly holding this gun – and keeping the slide from eating some meat off of his hand.

It feeds extremely well and was not finicky with cheap ammo. There are several reviews I read before purchasing the MDE of people TRYING to make this gun malfunction – and not succeeding. If you remove the magazine, it will still shoot the round in the chamber. The MDE has a 6+1 capacity. The trigger pull is smooth as butter – with a slightly noticeable stack just at the end.

4. Colt Mustang / Pony

colt pony

My favorite .380 for conceal carry has to be the Colt Pony 90 series. It also is a 1911 style frame. It like the Sig does not have a grip safety, and the trigger revolves around a pin instead of being pulled straight back – so it isn’t exactly like a 1911 mechanically.

The Colt Pony is no longer in production, but you can still find them used pretty easily. Colt still makes a Mustang – which is almost identical. The solid stainless ones are a little harder to come by – but the Mustang Pocketlight is in most gun stores that I frequent.

The Pocketlight has a steel slide and an alloy frame and only weighs 12 ounces. The length is 5.5″, so very easy to conceal carry and it has a 6 + 1 capacity.  Colt Mustang also for a while made an XSP version, made with black polymer, which is an ounce lighter than the Pocketlight. The XSP also has a small accessory rail right under the barrel and upgraded dovetail sights. But, personally, I’m not a huge fan of polymer guns. Maybe it is just aesthetics.

When I was researching for my ideal carry gun I knew that I preferred a 1911 style frame, double action, and a solid steel frame – and the Colt Pony fit all of my requirements.  Colt Mustang is very similar to the Pony, but there are differences. The Mustang has a rondell-hammer and is single action only.

Both boast a trigger pull of a little over 5 lbs with a very clean break. The magazine fits flush, overall the Pony and Mustang are very smooth and rounded which makes them comfortable to carry.

The Pony weighs about an ounce more than the Mustang, which boasts a solid 18 ounces unloaded. That plus the 1911 style frame means felt recoil is extremely minimal. I have yet to find a .380 with less felt recoil! The Colt Pony / Mustang is truly a joy to shoot on the range.

Can Can Holster Review

As a female, conceal carry can be rather difficult. Women’s clothing fits differently than men’s clothing. It’s generally much more fitted and has thinner material. Dresses and the lack of pockets just add more levels of difficulty. Finding the right holster makes it a lot easier. I have several holsters that I use. I prefer a Kydex IWB for days that I am wearing jeans. And I have a Marilyn Bra Holster for when I wear sundresses.

While it is true that it is important to “dress to carry” sometimes that means getting a bit creative with layers and sizes. Many women resort to only ever carrying in their purse. This is handy, it is not recommended. If an attacker comes up to you and takes your purse – he then will have your weapon. Also, carrying in your purse is most often not as fast to draw from.

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Two holsters that I use frequently are by Can Can Concealment (https://www.cancanconcealment.com/) In this article I’ll be giving my personal review on the Garter and the Hip Hugger holsters.

Can Can Hip Hugger Holster

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The Can Can Hip Hugger was one of my first holsters. I wanted a holster that could be multi-functional. It can be worn with skirts, shorts, jeans, or even tunic tops with leggings. There are three sizes to choose from: micro, classic, or big she-bang. The width size you choose is based on the size of your conceal carry weapon. I initially made the mistake of buying the big she-bang, because I thought that a wider band would be more comfortable. But I noticed that my firearm would slip down too low in it to where it wasn’t a fast draw.

While holsters don’t have to be pretty to function – it is nice having a pretty holster. I went with the red details. They have several colors to choose from. You can choose tan or black for the base and details can be red, hot pink, black, or blue.

One feature that caused me to go with Can Can over some of the competition was the hook and eye closures. I abhor velcro. It is thick, loud, and I can never get it perfectly lined up; so it ends up scratching me or pulling at my clothing. The hook and eye closures, though it takes a couple of more seconds to attach, is a HUGE draw for me.

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There are little soft little tabs on the edges of the pockets. These are to pull the pocket out so you can holster your weapon. That way you are not fumbling for the edge. I like that the edge of the pocket does not line up with the top of the band.

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Wearing the Hip Hugger Holster is very comfortable. I have not had any issues with it riding up from my hip to my waist.  I do have to adjust it slightly when sitting in my car for an extended amount of time – but the same can be said for wearing a cardigan in the car, you don’t want it pulling from sitting on it. It doesn’t add a lot of extra bulges either, which is nice.

When I measured to purchase my Hip Hugger Holster, I measured around my natural waist and then purchased an extender if I wanted to wear it lower on my hips. This way I can wear it high one day and low the next – whichever is most convenient to draw based on the type of clothing I am wearing. A few years ago, Can Can was offering an extender that was also a pouch for your cell phone, I purchased one and LOVE it. I really hope they bring it back (hint-hint Can Can Concealment!)

Can Can Garter Holster

Sometimes, a waistband holster isn’t an option. I like to wear swing dresses – and while a waistband holster MAY work, it isn’t as fast of a draw as I would like. This is where the Garter Holster is an excellent option. I have worn it with and without leggings under it.

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Like the Hip Hugger Holster, the Garter Holster comes in several width sizes based upon the size firearm you will be concealing. The Micro is for pistols under 4.5″ long, the Classic is for firearms that are  4.5-6.5″ long, and the Big She-bang is for pistols over 6.5″ long.

For my Garter Holster, I went with the hot pink (because the red happened to be sold out that day and I needed it for a trip so I couldn’t wait an extra week.)  Garter Holsters also come in the black and blue detailing or with a tan background.

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I highly recommend going ahead and purchasing the Garter Belt. It comes in a pretty lace pattern, either black or tan. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, I like knowing for certain that it won’t be slipping down too far. The only time I had a little bit of slipping is when I was wearing pantyhose. Since then, I have learned to adjust the hook and eye closures depending not upon only how it feels but also if I am wearing anything under it or not.  The Garter Belt stays securely attached to the Garter Holster with hooks.

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Wearing the Garter Holster isn’t quite as comfortable as the Waist Band Holster, and a bit more cumbersome to put on. Especially when rotating it to get it in just the right place for the garter belt to be worn. But once it is on – its great! I have talked to other women who wear it and they don’t find it cumbersome to put on at all, it may just be me. (I have a lot of nerve damage on the leg I prefer to wear it on because I was attacked by a leopard years ago, so I am sure that is clouding my judgment.)

About Can Can Concealment

Can Can Holsters uses compression holsters. The material is thick enough to prevent printing, and still very breathable. The back of the holsters has built-in silicone grips to prevent slipping. They also have their very own (patent pending) reholstering grip tabs with Neodymium rare earth magnets to help with firearm retention.

I really love getting to tell others about this fantastic company. Not only are their products of phenomenal quality, AND made in the USA, but their customer service is top notch. I have had to call them a few times with questions about sizing, and to send back the wrong size that I ordered. Their customer service is so personable and they really go out of their way to help you find just the right holster for your body shape – even if it means doing a custom order. You can tell they truly believe in their product!

I would love to review their Corset Holster but have not purchased one yet.

If you have any suggestions for any holsters that you would like for me to review – send me a message!

Women in Taxidermy – Part Three

As first published here

Amy CarterAMY CARTER OF AMY’S ANIMAL ART TAXIDERMY

Taxidermy has interested Amy since she was 13. “Now, I had never been a girly-girl, and had always had unique interests and hobbies as a kid growing up, so picking up taxidermy as hobby came as no great shock to my family. It all started one day while out on the family farm, I came across a dead King-snake. I thought the pattern of the hide was so interesting I wanted to turn it into a belt.”

Amy was home-schooled, which equipped her to be great at learning whatever she sets her mind to. She went straight inside and researched how to tan a snake hide.

“While I was researching, I came across taxidermy websites and instantly realized that taxidermy was something that I wanted to try. Early on, I practiced on whatever I could get my hands on, particularly road kills, and rat that I raised for my pet snake’s food. As I became more involved, I made friends with other taxidermists who began to donate better specimens for me to practice on.”

Taxidermy was just the right fit for her as a kid to get started in. The price for a license varies from state to state – and where Amy lives it was only $15.

“As a kid starting out, I had very little funds and was able to use as many common household supplies for my taxidermy, as well as making my own bodies for small animals out of things such as newspaper and tape. While these days I don’t advocate doing it the archaic way that I started out, it was fun and making my own body forms from scratch forced me to learn a lot about animal anatomy.”

“Many taxidermists are open to taking on apprentices, and that can be a great way to learn. The optimum way would be to take a taxidermy course with a qualified teacher, which can range anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks long depending on which course you choose.”

Amy Carter - Alaskan Wolverine

Amy’s Alaskan Wolverine

Amy has come a long way from using newspaper and duct tape – now she is dedicated to educating others. “I recently began teaching my own taxidermy classes, and they have been very popular, especially among women who may feel safer or more relaxed learning from another woman. I would also suggest joining your state taxidermy association and attending their annual convention. There you can meet other taxidermist, attend seminars on a wide variety of topics, and view some beautiful examples of taxidermy.”

More and more women are showing interest in this art form. When Amy first got started there were just a few women taxidermist in the field. “In my experience, I received nothing but kindness from male taxidermists I met. They saw me as a bit of a novelty, yes, but were eager to help me learn more and I owe them for where I am today. I also get a great amount of respect from my customers, many who come out of state to bring me their trophy. I attribute this to the quality of work that I do, not just because I am female. Several customers have mentioned their trust ‘of a woman’s touch’.”

“People do tend to see a female taxidermist as a curiosity and I believe this helps me in a very positive way… I have a large following on social media, more so than many of my male counterparts. I’ve sensed a bit of jealousy in this area, from other taxidermists – even though I want to be known for my talents and not my gender… but if it helps promote my business, I won’t complain.”

Amy Carter - BobcatTongueOut

Amy’s Bobcat Taxidermy

Amy is indeed talented. Her bobcat head mount with his tongue sticking out is absolutely remarkable. Most tongues that I have seen in taxidermy are so fake looking they are laughable, but this looks very much alive.

Amy used to do pet taxidermy. She has chosen to no longer accept any, due to the close connection people have with their pets, and the sensitive emotions surrounding their death. “I had one fellow call me one night and tell me that he was brining his dog to me. As I went to hang up the phone, he said ‘I’ll be there just as soon as I can dig him up’. Sure enough, the dog had been buried for a day before they decided that they just couldn’t let go!”

She had a lot of really funny stories. “I had a lady who wanted her cat turned into a rug, and the remains shipped back to her, all the way to Hawaii. From what I heard, there was a lavish ceremony with music and rose petals, and they tied rocks to the carcass and threw it into the sea…. And there’s always the occasional call for someone asking if I’ll stuff their Grandmaw.”

Amy Carter - Bobcat

Amy’s Perching Bobcat Taxidermy

Her art goes beyond traditional taxidermy. She makes fur pillows; upholstered stools; antler carvings; jewelry made from bone, teeth, and claws. “I support any form of taxidermy – after all, it is preserving an animal that would otherwise just have rotted. There’s something really cool about that!” Her style tends to be mainly traditional, but a lot of her woodwork and habitat bases lean towards the modern trend of less-is-more. “I like to showcase the animal and not necessarily clutter the scene with too much grass or other material.”

Amy has had her share of trouble from animal rights activists, who seem to love to give her bad ratings on Facebook anonymously. She responds to them kindly, by asking logical questions but never gets a response. “There will always be those that don’t agree with hunting, and the taxidermy that comes from it. To me, I see it as a beautiful way to use EVERY part of the animal. Ethical hunters respect and use as much of their game as they are able to.”

And it definitely takes someone who respects wildlife so much to be able to stuff them in such detail that they seem full of vibrant life. And the bobcat standing perched on a log – it looks like it has just paused a moment to watch its prey. It’s hard not to hesitate a moment, almost half expecting it to complete its step.

“I’d say the hardest part of taxidermy is properly preparing the hide. Most people think that laying the hide over the body from and sewing it up would be the most difficult – but that just isn’t true. That tends to be the easiest part for me. Many more hours go into skinning, fleshing, thinning, and otherwise preparing the hide to go on the form. Each new piece presents a new challenge for me, which is part of the fun. I try something new every time. For my first mountain lion, I carved the foam from scratch using a large block of foam. It was the largest form I had ever made by hand and it was a pretty big challenge.”

Several of her pieces have award ribbons hanging from them; testimony to just how great of an artist she is. “I go to a lot of taxidermy competitions. In fact, I’ve been competing since I was 15 years old. I’ve been to most of the state shows in the southeast, as well as nationals and world competitions over the years. My top awards have been National Champion (NTA 2003), North American Champion (Big Rock Taxidermy Competition 2015) and a second place ribbon at the World Championships (2015)”

Amy’s art is just incredible. She really is one of the very best in this field. “I encourage women to explore their interests, and not be intimidated to jump in and get their hands dirty in a male-dominated field! You just might find that women have that extra special touch.”

CONCLUSION

It has been a remarkable week getting to learn about these amazing women. They are wonderful artists to look up to, not only because of their talent – but their character, dedication to their business, and drive to educate others. They each have noted that being female isn’t a hindrance, but can offer a unique perspective in this field, and that the Woman’s Touch is a beautiful complementary addition to the world of taxidermy. After hearing about their journeys, I can’t wait to practice on a critter myself.

Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in 9mm

By: M. Ashley Evans

First published here

Gun Choices: Caliber Differences

Two of the most common calibers of ammunition for concealed carry guns are 9mm and .380. Side by side, they look a lot alike. They both are the same diameter but 9mm is just a little longer.  But which one is better? That is up to debate, and there are a few other factors to consider.

The .380 ACP is also known as a 9mm Browning. It was first introduced by Colt in 1908 as a self-defense round  – hence ACP for Automatic Colt Pistol. Its also called 9mmX17, 9mm Short, etc.  It is rimless, straight walled, and designed to have less felt recoil. The .380 can hold a maximum of 5.3 grains (that’s grains of water, which is a more accurate measurement than solid grains).  Its velocity is 1050 FPS and a penetration depth of about 9 inches.

In contrast, the 9mm is known as 9mmX19 Parrabellum. It was introduced in 1902 by DWM, a German weapons manufacturer. It was designed for their Luger pistol for the military. The most popular weight is 124 grains, but there are several weight variations available. It can hold a maximum of 10 grains of water. It is rimless and tapered. The 9mm has a velocity of 950-1400 FPS and a penetration of around 13 inches.

The 9mm doesn’t penetrate a lot more than the .380, because the extra energy causes it to expand a bit more – which slows it down considerably. That expansion causes a lot of tissue damage, and that helps to stop the attacker. This isn’t to say that the .380 isn’t a qualified candidate – the differences between the .380 and the 9 are extremely small compared to the differences between a .380 and a .32.

Here is an excerpt from a great article found here

“(About the .380) A typical load carries roughly 3 grains of powder that propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm… A typical 9mm Luger load contains about 6 grains of powder used to propel a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 feet per second (fps) out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. energy while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a pistol weighing 1 pound….

“While 255 ft.-lbs. of bullet energy from the muzzle of a 9mm Luger is not a lot in the firearm world—consider that an average .30-06 deer rifle produces around 2,500 ft.-lbs. energy—a 9mm’s energy is far greater than a .22 LR’s piddly 105 ft.-lbs. and many other smaller calibers. It has about 68 percent more energy than the .380 Auto.”

So while the 9mm does have a lot more power, the .380 has 94% less felt recoil when fired from a gun of equal weight. That makes it a lot easier to accurately shoot multiple rounds. But 9mm guns are typically a little larger and heavier than .380 guns, and the extra weight helps to reduce the felt recoil. So when choosing a concealed carry gun there are a few steps to consider:

  1. Make sure it fits in your hand well
  2. Be sure you will be able to conceal it properly
  3. If it comes in multiple calibers, choose the largest one that you can rapidly fire with accuracy.

 

Gun Choices

1. Kimber Micro

kimber micro 9

This is one of my favorite carry guns. Its overall length is only 6.1″ and it has a height of 4.01″. So while it doesn’t fit into my jeans pocket, it is extremely easy to conceal in a holster. It is definitely one of the easiest 9mm to conceal in my opinion.

The Kimber Micro 9 comes in several variations. I like the stainless one. It has a weight of about 15.6 ounces unloaded. The 1911 style frame and the heft of this pistol are definitely something required – a +P round of 9mm can have a pretty steep felt recoil. But it was absolutely manageable with this gun. It isn’t my first go-to for a fun time on the range, but I can put a lot of rounds through it without any trouble.

The Kimber Micro 9’s dovetailed, dotted sights are fantastic. Its single action trigger is crisp and clean and will break between 5-6 lbs.  To safely clear a malfunction, you can still engage the safety and then pull the slide back. It can hold 6+1 and there is an optional magazine extension available.  While Kimber can be a little finicky about ammo, I have not noticed any problems with this one.

 

2. Sig P938

sig p938

This Sig and the Kimber Micro 9 are often considered the best of the mini-1911’s. The 938 looks just like a slightly larger 238.

The night sights are very nice – but there is not as much light on either side of the front sight as I prefer, but that may be because I have short arms. This too holds 6+1 unless you buy the extended magazine plate. The trigger reset is much better than many other 9mm’s and is about 7.5 lbs.

The Sig P938 weighs 16 oz unloaded. It is 5.9″ long and 3.9″ tall. It is almost identical to the Kimber Micro 9, just a TINY bit shorter. Sig uses a Nitron coating which helps to prevent the moisture from your skin from rusting it. All in all, it is a beautiful little gun that would make an excellent carry weapon.

 

3. Springfield EMP

springfield emp

This is probably one of the most enjoyable guns I have ever shot. The frame is a forged aluminum alloy and the slide is forged stainless. It is heavier than the other 9mm’s mentioned so far – weighing in at 27 oz. The EMP 9 is 6.6″ long and 5″ tall. The 3 dot Tritium sights as standard make for very easy target sighting.

The EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) is the smallest TRUE 1911 created so far. From barrel bushings to the trigger traveling straight back and even the back strap safety – its a 1911 through and through. Everything has just been scaled down to fit the 9mm. It is a beautiful gun – the Cocobolo grips, satin finish steel slide. The trigger is very clean and only about 3.5 lbs. This gun is a bit pricier than the other two options.

The earlier models (until 2009) were prone to failure to feed problems, but all of this has been resolved. I have read a lot of reviews from people who were not very happy with it – and each review is by a man who said that the gun felt a little small. It all goes back to how the gun fits in your hand. The EMP is my first go to for a fun day at the range and definitely what I reach for when competing.

 

4. Dan Wesson Valkyrie

dan wesson 9mm

This is a gun that I can’t wait to get ahold of but have done a lot of research on. It is absolutely on my must-have list. Its price is a little more than the Springfield EMP, but everyone who has shot one that I’ve talked to says that it is worth every penny.

The Valkyrie is top quality and every part is tight fitting, which makes for some very accurate shooting. A lot of people are crazy about the finish – but the Duty Finish actually something that I’m not extremely crazy about the looks of. However, I do love the concept for a conceal carry weapon. Moisture will rust a gun extremely quickly – so a ceramic coating that will do a great job in protecting the gun from the moisture and salt in your skin is the way to go.

The Valkyrie is 8 inches long and 5 inches tall. It weighs 28 ounces unloaded. It is a little longer than the EMP, so as a short woman I would probably open carry or use a Can Can holster around my waist as opposed to an IWB holster. The trigger is shorter than a  lot of other guns of this size – which is why my small hands fit around it so well. The trigger is light, at about 4 lbs. The Tritium night sights are a little different than what is on the other guns listed. These are a stacked two dot system – you line up the dots to form a figure 8. If you’ve never shot a gun with those type of sights, takes a little getting used to, but it is really great for low light situations.

 

Women in Taxidermy – Part 2

First Published here

WOMEN IN TAXIDERMY

There have been a great many studies on the differences between the male and female brain. In general, women are much more meticulous, creative, and detail oriented. Which, when coupled with artistic talent and a love for nature it is a wonderful recipe for creating award-winning Taxidermy!

BECKY MARTINMAAS – OWNER OF MEAN WOMAN TAXIDERMY

Becky - working

Becky is in Orient South Dakota. She is a fierce competitive shooter who is equally fierce about her loyalty to family. Mrs. Martinmaas is astounding when it comes to the art of Taxidermy.

She very well may be one of the most determined women you will ever meet, “I got interested in taxidermy because of the wait times we were experiencing with the taxidermists we had been using. Often it was years before we would get our trophies back. My husband and I love to hunt and it was so frustrating to have to wait so long – sometimes we even forgot what we were waiting for!”

Becky was great at explaining how to get involved “it can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. You can be full service or specialize in one category. There is even a lot of good information you can get with self-help courses and videos, but I would highly recommend going to school or working with an experienced taxidermist. Oh, there are so many little tricks and fine points that you just can’t learn without actually seeing it done. I went to school and took all the available courses: game heads, mammals, birds, fish, and habitat. It doesn’t have to be very expensive – you can start small and work your way up.”

She, like all outdoor sportsmen, are extremely responsible and encourage that same respect for the laws and authority of your state, “I carry a state license issued by our Game and Fish Department, it must be renewed every year. I also carry a federal license issued by the US Fish and Wildlife that is required for waterfowl, etc.”

“Really, it is not surprising that Taxidermy is a predominantly male dominated field. After all, is extremely physically demanding.” Becky explained with an air of understanding. The big game carcasses are extremely heavy and many women are unable to lift that much, of literally, dead weight. “It is messy, smelly, and at times things come into your shop that is already in decomposition. It is not pretty sometimes,” Becky explained.

“It is much easier to do a good mount if you know the animals in their natural habitat, so being a hunter is a big advantage. Well, it was not hard for me to break into the boys club as I already had the reputation of being an avid hunter and shooter. I hunt and do a little range shooting also.” A little? I think she was just being modest.

Becky as talented of a marksman as she is a taxidermy artist. Her bear looks like it is about to lumber off.

becky-bear

“After being taken seriously as a hunter, being female in taxidermy was an advantage. Women tend to be more artistic and quite a bit fussier about details… Also, most men have to get permission from their wives to display their mount at home, I am a big help there by making them a work of art, not just a dead animal.”

Becky’s art is fantastic. Her crouching coyote really looks as if it is about to pounce on its prey. The male pheasants she preserved engaged in a sparring competition are just breathtaking!

“Yes, there are a lot of different styles to taxidermy. I call myself a Working-Man’s Taxidermist. That means I try to stay affordable and I keep my turnaround time as short as possible. So, I do a lot of game heads, birds, and mammals. I love doing small scenes to show off the animal in its natural state. What I love most about my business at this point is how much people trust my judgment and let me run with a project knowing that it will be something to be proud of.”

Becky - Coyote

She seems like a woman who doesn’t put up with a lot of bull surrounding wildlife management, “All I can say about those that have negative things to say about hunting and taxidermy is that they are very uninformed.” Very true Becky! There is a lot of false propaganda out there, and we have a duty to educate others about the outdoors.

“We farm for deer and pheasants because we want a healthy population. Those naysayers have never seen a pack of coyotes steal a baby calf from its mother or seen an animal starving due to overpopulation.” Yet even with such a heated topic, Becky was trying to be polite, “but everyone has their opinions and they are entitled to them.”

Becky used to enter taxidermy competitions at state conventions. “But a competition piece takes a lot of time away from my customers, and they are my main concern. People know my work and I don’t need ribbons on my wall. I am glad that there are those that do it as I have learned a lot from studying other people’s work and methods. You know, the most difficult thing in my business is getting people to come and pick up their mount in a timely fashion!”

Becky - Moose

My favorite thing she said was “I would highly encourage other women to get into taxidermy as it is a great stay at home business. You can be as big or as small as you want. You can set your own hours and goals.” What a great way for a woman to who wants to help her family financially, raise children, maintain her passion for hunting and have a creative outlet. It really sounds like a fantastic option.

“I love looking at a finished product and knowing that I made that animal come back to life and that I saved someone’s hunting memories forever.”

CHERI GUINN

OF CHERI’S TAXIDERMY

Cheri Guinn

Cheri is the daughter of her local Duck Club’s President, so she grew up hunting duck each weekend during season and even pheasant hunting too. She remembers as a teenager carefully studying one of her father’s mounts and wondering just how the taxidermist preserved it.

So, being the determined self-starter that she is, Cheri went straight to the library and got a book on taxidermy. She got started in her parents basement, and eventually her dad set up an extra garage he had for me by putting in a sink and supplying me with all my tools. Cheri hasn’t looked back these last 37 years in the business.

She didn’t have these great videos and classes then. Her excitement was tangible “Give it a try and if you are interested take a class and learn all the tips and tricks! If I were to do it all over again I would first watch videos and read magazine articles on how to mount a bird!”

Cheri explained that even after you do all that – it takes a considerable amount of practice. “If you’re lucky enough to find a taxidermist that needs help and has a lot of patience, then an apprenticeship could be an option.”

A lot of taxidermist in her area didn’t like mounting birds, so she was welcomed within this particular niche. “I like making the bird look ALIVE again! Action poses are my favorite and minimal habitat. I wasn’t trained in doing water scenes or habitat so I am limited in what I can do. Habitat is an extra cost, and most of my customers don’t like the extra expense that goes with it.”

Cheri Guinn - Wood Duck Preening

You don’t have to learn how to mount every type of animal to be successful in this field. You just have to have a passion for your art! “What I like most about my art is seeing what other taxidermist come up with – it inspires me! The best part of my work is seeing the customers’ faces when they come and pick up their bird”

Cheri is an enthusiastic supporter of Ducks Unlimited. She believes that we all have the right to hunt and it is through conservation that we are able to manage wildlife and to help keep the ecosystem in balance. “And if there wasn’t hunting, I would be out of a job!”

Cheri Guinn - Mallard Ducklings

Her Barred Owl is one of my favorites – posed as if it is swooping down to catch some prey. She also has preserved some specimens I have never seen mounted before – a flamingo and mallard ducklings. Each one looking like it is about to fly away at any moment.

Cheri Guinn - Barred Owl

“My most favorite bird I ever did was a Flamingo who was owned by a man who sold exotics. The bird was the matriarch of the flock and died when she was 42. All the scales on her legs fell off when I was wiring the legs and a lot of feathers fell out when I washed her. She ended up turning out great and I brought her along to an outdoor show I was in and boy she was a hit! The owner actually has it in his will that when he dies I get to inherit her!”

Cheri Guinn - Flamingo

 

Cheri is in this business because she loves the art, “I would encourage women to do what they are interested in and don’t listen to people that say you can’t. Nowadays you can practically learn anything online. Be patient with yourself, remember your life will constantly change, so just go with it and enjoy it!

Coming up next is Part 3!

 

Women in Taxidery part 1

Women in Taxidermy

by M. Ashley Evans

First published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/women-in-taxidermy-part-1/

This past week I have had the privilege of interviewing several amazing women who have beaten the odds to become some of the few female taxidermists in the country. Taxidermy is almost exclusively an art that men gravitate to – but these women have proved that their creativity and unique perspective sets them apart.

History of Women in Taxidermy

The art of preserving animal specimens has been around since animals were embalmed in Ancient Egypt. Even in the Middle Ages very crude methods of taxidermy was used in creating displays for apothecaries and astrologers. In the mid-1700’s birds were being preserved for the study of natural history.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that hunters began hiring upholsterers to sew up animal skins stuffed with cotton and occasionally rags. This is where the label “stuffed” originates. In the Victorian era, artists would sculpt clay, plaster and wire cages as the frames for the animal skins. Taxidermy mounts became a popular item for home decorating. Even Queen Victoria was an avid collector of taxidermy birds from all over the world. During the late 19th Century, artists would sculpt animals into anthropomorphic displays. Both the natural display, often called Classical Taxidermy, and the more whimsical displays, or Rogue Taxidermy, continue today.

Martha Maxwell

Pioneer in Taxidermy

 Martha Maxwell - this photo also from national cowboy musuem

Martha Maxwell was born in 1831. Obviously, I wasn’t able to interview her, but she is certainly worth talking about. Martha was the first female naturalist to obtain and taxidermy her own specimens. She built elaborate displays that greatly influenced some of the major figures in taxidermy, such as William Temple Hornady (hunter, zoologist, conservationist, and taxidermist – famously known as the man who saved the American Bison from extinction due to his taxidermy displays) and Carl Akeley (known as the Father of Modern Taxidermy).

Her displays set the precedent for the future of taxidermy – by arranging the mounts in lifelike poses and displayed on items from their natural environment. Martha was the first to find and identify the Colorado Screech Owl – and it was named in her honor, Scops asio maxwellae. This was the first time a woman had a subspecies named after her.

Martha attributes her love for nature to her Grandmother. They loved going on long walks with grandmother through the woods where they would identify the wildlife they encountered. Martha’s father passed away in the 1830’s and her mother remarried right away. The new family left Pennsylvania for Oregon as Christian Missionaries to the Native Americans. Much to Martha’s sadness, her grandmother did not survive the arduous journey.

The trip proved to be much more difficult, so for the sake of their health the family settled in Wisconsin. Martha was unable to finish her schooling due to finances, so in exchange for board and tuition, she agreed to be hired by a widower to chaperone his two children at a local college. Less than a year later, and despite the widower having 6 years and being 20 years her senior, Martha married James Maxwell. James soon learned that Martha was a very determined woman and a go-getter if there ever was one. Less than two months after her marriage, she was arrested for her involvement in the raid of a tavern in support of the Temperance Movement.

The Maxwell’s had a baby the year that the fell into financial ruin, so they traveled west, prompted by the Gold Rush. Young Mabel stayed behind with Martha’s mother so she could attend school. Martha was determined that she would prove to be an asset to the team – she cooked for all six and even took her turn driving the team of mules. James mined for gold in Pikes Peak and Martha baked pies and mended clothes. She soon sold enough pies that she was able to purchase a boarding house as well as some mining claims and even a one bedroom cabin on the plains outside of Denver.

Martha Maxwell - photo from national cowboy museum

But tragedy struck again in the 1860’s – Martha’s primary method of income, the boarding house burned down and a squatter was trying to lay claim to her cabin. Even after winning the lawsuit, the squatter refused to leave. So Martha watched him and when he left the cabin to run errands she removed the door from the frame so she could enter her home – and what she found was lots of crude taxidermies. She became busy and set everything outside so she could claim her home. She was mesmerized by the preserved birds that she saw – and wrote to her family asking them to send her a book so she could “learn how to preserve birds and other animal curiosities in this country.” Shortly after, while in Wisconsin again for a short stay to take care of her ill mother she found a local taxidermist and was able to learn a little about preserving from him.

Martha Maxwell - photo also from national cowboy musuem

When she returned to Colorado, Martha feverishly got to work in creating elaborate taxidermy displays. By the fall of 1868 she had over 100 mounts – including hummingbirds and eagle chicks. The Colorado Agricultural Society asked her to display her work with them. Everyone was amazed at how lifelike her taxidermy was. She was awarded a diploma for her talents.

In the 1870’s Martha opened the Rocky Mountain Museum in Boulder, Colorado to display her mounts and to educate others. Her museum later was moved to Denver. She expanded her collection to include mammals – including the Black Footed Ferret, a very elusive species that had been recorded by John James Audubon but had never been seen by scientists. Martha became an avid hunter and collected most of her specimens herself. She traveled all across the west to study and to harvest specimens – she braved poor conditions and rough weather and didn’t seem bothered by them. Martha often brought her daughter with her on hunts. By 1869, Martha had over 600 animals in her collection.

Her first step in skinning the carcass was taking very specific measurements of all aspects of the body so she could replicate it exactly. She later hired a blacksmith to craft a thin iron frame, she then would cover it with cloth and then stretch the skins over it. This approach was much more advanced than any of the taxidermy methods used at the time such as filling the skins with clay or plaster. Her collection included a six foot grizzly, a pronghorn antelope, and snakes. Many of her rare items she sent to the Smithsonian for display. Ferdinand V. Hayden of the U.S. Geological Survey said about her museum “it excelled every other in the West” but the museum struggled financially and James was not working.

Her display was featured at the Colorado’s exhibit for Philadelphia’s Centennial International Exposition. Her landscape included mountains, plains, a cave, a stream that fed a lake filled with various creatures. There was puma posed as if to kill a deer, a doe nuzzling her fawn, fox, bear, sheep, buffalo, elk, pronghorn sheep – and a postcard that read “Woman’s Work”. Everyone was amazed that this 4’11” had killed and preserved the animals and created this massive display unlike anything ever seen before.

Martha Maxwell - photo from alchetron

Unfortunately, after the display was taken down improperly in New York mold set in and every item was ruined. There is not a single specimen left from Martha’s elaborate museum. She died in 1881 of ovarian cancer. It wasn’t until after her death that Mabel came to admire and appreciate her mothers work. But now, her methods are the standard practice for taxidermy all over the world.

Kiernan Hull

Owner of Oregon Taxidermy

Kiernana - Impala

She, like Martha, is defiantly a determined lady! Kiernan also owns Phaded Acres Colt Starting and Performance. This former Miss Rodeo is talented in multiple areas! At age 17, just after high school, she and a friend dropped off a buck at a taxidermy shop. By the time she walked out she knew she was going to be a taxidermist. So the very next month Kiernan moved to Montana to begin schooling. “I have never looked back since!” she said.

There are many ways to learn to be a taxidermist – schools, internships, books, dvds, etc. Kiernan recommends working with a few good artists along the way regardless of the educational path you choose. And each state has its own licensing laws and regulations. I was amazed to learn that there was so many tools involved – each with its own special purpose. Kiernan stresses that the most important skill is actually money management –there is quite a bit of overhead with opening a taxidermy shop.

 Kiernan - Turkey

“At first no one took me seriously, especially being 17… I really started gaining respect around 20 or 21 and now I’m at 24 and I no longer deal with people not taking me seriously. Everybody around here knows who I am now and that I am not just here to mess around. Being female did hinder me at first – between that and my age, nothing was going for me. But now, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had come to me just because I am a woman and they know that gives me a natural eye for detail. I have had so many people actually tell me that they will never go to a male taxidermist again. Which is a huge compliment being in such a male-dominated industry!”

Kiernan’s passion for this art is so evident “Being female is an advantage in this industry for sure!”

Kiernan - Bird of Prey - Copy

“In the summer of 2016, I had about 50 hours into my competition piece of a life-size Badger when my candle that was about 10’ away caught the fumes from my foam just right and my table and Badger went up in flames! Poof!! It felt like an eternity – but really it all happened in about 20 seconds. After scrubbing off his black hairs and fluffing him up, my badger went on to win the Highest scoring Open in Oregon and Best of Category.” Her badger looks like it is going to walk away any moment.

kiernan badger

“I defiantly go for the Alive and Peaceful look with mine. I have the utmost respect for animals and I want them to look natural and presentable for everyone. My biggest fear is someone thinking I don’t have respect for our wildlife when it is the complete opposite. We as hunters know it is our duty to help manage wildlife and their habitat so we have them around for future generations to enjoy. Taxidermy is respectful and educational. Hunters are the #1 contributor to wildlife conservation! It is just as simple as that!”

I really enjoyed looking at a picture of an Elk she preserved. The veins and wrinkles on its muzzle were so accurate – it was mesmerizing.

“I’d say the most difficult part of Taxidermy for me is how physically demanding it is. I rarely get to sit behind a desk (thankfully) but that also means I spend most of all day every day physically hands-on with some oftentimes heavy pieces – having to wrestle them around. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a struggle occasionally and that I wasn’t sore. The most challenging piece I have worked on has to be the Kudu. They have so much extra skin and their skin is super thick. The African Kudu is built so differently from our North American deer varieties. I had to do several of them before it became any easier!”

Kiernan - Elk

Kiernan has entered many competitions and has won many awards in Oregon and Idaho. “Competing is one of the best ways to gain knowledge in this art. The judges give feedback and you are surrounded by other passionate artists” Kiernan was an absolute joy to get to know!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

______________

Sources:

https://americacomealive.com/2014/04/05/martha-ann-maxwell-1831-18881-maturalist-taxidermist/

http://www.historynet.com/colorado-huntress-wildlife.htm

https://siarchives.si.edu/history/featured-topics/stories/william-temple-hornady-saving-american-bison

https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/explore/kill-em-all-martha-maxwell-colorado-huntress/

http://www.cogreatwomen.org/project/martha-maxwell

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxidermy

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha/Maxwell

https://alchetron.com/Martha-Maxwell

Leading the Way: Five of the Best Female Hunters

By: M. Ashley Evans

My article was originally published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/leading-the-way-5-of-the-worlds-best-women-hunters/

Historically, hunting was a male-dominated sport. For decades, women hunters were marginalized in the Outdoorsman arena. The number of women hunters is growing rapidly – and is the top trend in hunting sports today. That is in part thanks to some amazing women who have won some of the top awards available in this sport. There are a number of awards that can be given to world-class hunters. The Weatherby Award is the world’s most coveted and prestigious hunting award because it is one of the most difficult to achieve. Not only is the quality of each animal harvested judged, the number and variety of species are considered, the more difficult-to-hunt species are a heavy consideration, and a requirement that game from every continent is included. Conservation is a majorly important factor. Not only has each nominee supported conservation by spending hundreds of thousands in purchasing the licenses/fees/taxes, etc. for each individual hunt – but there have to be large donations to specific conservation programs. These programs are focused on protection and propagation of endangered wildlife. Each nominee has to be highly involved in educating the next generation of hunters through school programs, 4-H, scouts etc.

The Weatherby Award nominees also have to show exemplary character and sportsmanship in the field – a life of integrity, commitment to fair chase, strong ethics, and a solid reputation. Each year only 6 nominees are considered, and the highest point total in all categories is chosen for the recipient of this most elite of hunting awards. The Weatherby Foundation’s newsletter once printed “What’s It Take To Win The Weatherby Award: It is easy, climb a few million feet, walk a few thousand miles, spend years away from home, family, and work, usually in a foreign land. Travel for days on icy, gravel mountain roads in old jeeps or SUV’s full of other people’s cigarette smoke. Endure hundreds of searches in airports, borders and military checkpoints. Get sick or hurt, lose luggage and suffer delays too numerous to mention. Sound like fun? It is. It is a passion and way of life for a few very fortunate people.”

These female pioneers have not only beat tremendous odds in learning and mastering their skills, but they have exhibited such a drive for conservation and for educating others that they without a doubt should be heroes, not just for women, but for everyone who has a passion for hunting.

1) Suzie Brewster

Suzie Brewster photo courtesy of NRA News

Suzie Brewster is a remarkable lady. She did not have the privilege of growing up in a family who hunted – but her husband did. As the years passed and their family grew, the Brewster’s developed Day-After-Christmas Hunting Tradition. Bill and the children hunted and Suzie enjoyed traveling with them. One year, flight schedules were rearranged, the children had to board a different plane home. Tragically, their plane crashed. Suzie realized that for her husband to heal and be able to love his beloved sport again – he would need a hunting companion. So, she jumped in with enthusiasm, determined to be her husband’s very best partner.

Suzie and Bill have traveled the world going on a total of 37 safaris. She has hunted on 6 continents, in 34 countries, and has harvested more than 220 species. She still loves to shoot turkey and quail near their home in Marietta or in the fields of Texas. Suzie became a pro in the field. She has won the Dallas Safari Club Outstanding Hunting Achievement Award – the highest award given by the organization. Suzie has also won the NRA’s Sybil Ludington Freedom Award, which honors achievements in education and promoting Second Amendment Rights at a national level as well as SCI’s Diana Award. Suzie is the only woman to have received all three of these awards. While on safari, Suzie and Bill participate in as many humanitarian activities as they can. While traveling from village to village, they love to bring clothing and toys to children. Educating the next generation of Outdoorsmen has been a primary goal for the couple. Bill served in Congress and on the NRA Board of Directors. Suzie helped found the Washington Women’s Shooting Club and co-chair of the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum since it began over 10 years ago.

2) Barbara Sackman

barbara sackman

Barbara Sackman is another woman of great renown amongst hunters. She has 191 world records in the SCI Record Book. And she won the 2015 Weatherby Hunting and Conservation Award – one of only two women to ever have received it. She has also won the Diana Award, SCI Conservation Award, Magnum Villamanin Award, ORVIS 20 Award, Capra Super 20 Award, etc. Interestingly enough, her husband Alan has also won the coveted Weatherby Award – which marks the first time ever both a husband and wife have won the award.

Barbara and her husband, like many avid hunters, only harvest older specimens of each species – which is great stewardship and helps with conservation. Older males will dominate over the younger ones in their chance to mate. But in order to ensure a healthy new generation, it is wise to use younger, more vital, males with healthier genes. Barbara is passionate about conservation – she was once interviewed and said, that she was “almost embarrassed to say how much (she) paid to harvest that sheep (in Nebraska), but every red cent goes to conservation and the welfare of the sheep herd. That means an awful lot. The hunter is a huge conservationist, more so than anyone else.” Big game hunts, like sheep in Nebraska, can cost well over $100,000, which is a wonderful contribution towards the health of that sheep species. Barbara is a skilled hunter and has harvested Kudu, Roosevelt Elk, Polar Bear, Nile Crocodile, African Lion, and Leopard.

3) Caroline Pruitt

Caroline Pruitt photo courtesy of Outdoorlife

At age 12, she went on an African Safari with her father and shot an Impala – and she was hooked. On that hunt, she was able to harvest 9 animals – most of which was taken with the first shot. Only four years later, Caroline Pruitt won the 2010 Youngest Hunter Award from SCI and Cabellas. Only two teenagers in the world are chosen for this award each year. At age 14, she had 18 entries in the SCI Record Book and had harvested over 50 big game specimens including Leopard, Wildebeest, and American Bison. She hunted the American Bison with a .44 Magnum. Caroline has hunted with various other weapons including a rifle, muzzleloader, crossbow, compound bow, and longbow. She is the only woman recorded to hunt a Gredos Ibex and a Muskox with a Longbow, which has become her hunting weapon of choice since 2011.

Caroline is passionate about hunting – and strives to be a great example to others. She has not let her busy schedule in traveling across five continents neglect her education – she maintained high grades. Caroline has a heart for helping others, whether it is training new hunters at Meadow Ridge Archery and Gun or donating the meat from her hunts locally and abroad. Hunters all over the world watch in eager expectation to see what the years have in store for this prodigy.

4) Renee Snider

Renee Snider photo courtsy of the Conklin Foundation

One of the most accomplished hunters in history – who has received an astounding number of awards, is Renee. In 2006 she was the first female to win the Golden Malik Award for taking “free range and on-foot” all big game species found in the South Pacific. She won the 2012 Diana Award. 2013 was the year that Renee became the first woman to receive the OVIS Award. In 2014, the Weatherby Award had its 57th anniversary. That year Renee Snider became not only the first female recipient of the award – but she had the highest number of big game animals harvested by anyone who had ever won the Weatherby. That same year, she won the Ullman Magnum Award for collecting European big game species and she was the first woman to be inducted into the highly prestigious Mountain Hall of Fame from the Wild Sheep Foundation. In 2015, Renee won the SCI World Conservation and Hunting Award. In 2016, she was the first woman to earn the Pantheon Award from SCI and GSCO. 2017 was the year that she won the International Hunting Award from SCI, Super 40 Capra from GSCO, as well as the Super 39 Ovis from GSCO. That same year, Rene won the Conklin Award from SCI. This award is “for the dedication of pursuing big game in the most rugged terrain under the most difficult and demanding conditions while maintaining the highest standard of ethics, adhering to the rules of fair chase, and showing a true conservation stewardship for the big game animals of the world.”

Renee has raised millions to aid disabled and disadvantaged children. She has been on the board of directors for the Help-A-Child Foundation, River Oak Center for Children, Conklin Foundation and the Weatherby Foundation International. She makes every effort to use each hunt as a venture in not only conservation but in humanitarian efforts. She loves to bring medical supplies and administers first aid – in many villages she has been the only source of medical aid they had ever seen. Renee is an amazing lady who goes above and beyond when it comes to trying to make a difference in the world.

5) Brenda Valentine

Brenda Valentine photo courtesy of Tuskessee Outdoor Expo

Last but certainly not least, is Brenda Valentine, the “First Lady of Hunting.” Brenda is down to earth and passionate about conservation and introducing women and children to the sport. She is from Tennessee, where hunting and being in the woods is a way of life. She is proficient with a large number of firearms and has won dozens of national and regional 1st place awards in archery competitions. She is an award-winning speaker, author, photographer, and TV co-host. It truly seems like there is not anything that Brenda doesn’t excel at. She is the National Spokesperson for the National Wild turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program, the only woman to receive the Knight Rifle Master Hunter Award, a member of Bass Pro Shops’ RedHead Professional Hunting Team, Paris/Henry Co. Sports Hall of Fame, Women in the Outdoors Leadership Award, AMVETS Silver Bayonet Award, etc. In 2012, she was the only woman chosen by the Department of Defense to take part in the Outdoor Legends Tour II. This was a great honor, as it is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation to active troops in southwest Asia and in Afghanistan as well as those military members who were hospitalized in Germany.

Even with all these accomplishments, Brenda remains humble and eager to help others. She hosts hunts for the disabled, supports wounded veteran projects, and loves to teach women and children about hunting and the outdoors. Brenda has designated hundreds of acres of her land to be a part of a Mossy Oak Gamekeeping project. She stays very busy with public speaking and loves to speak on the importance of conservation, land preservation, wildlife management, and patriotism.

Anything Is Possible!

These are remarkable women who have excelled in their art. Not only have they become phenomenal outdoorswomen, proficient in marksmanship, and excellent at tracking and pursuit but they have excelled so far as to win many awards that historically only men have won. Several did so while raising a family and while making a difference in their communities – their success is amazing. These women should be held up as mentors – to show others that anything is possible, even succeeding in the most difficult of terrains and winning the most elite of hunting awards. All while using their talents to focus on the gravely important task of conservation and education.leading-the-way_

Choosing the Firearm that Fits – for Women

When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.

“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand.  Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.  

“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no.  I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.

I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life.  That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family.  During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.

Most avid shooters say  “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent.  This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness.  But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.

This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved.  The physics of gun recoil,  and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating!  All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.

IMG_6192-07-03-18-04-52

When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry.  For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.

Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions.  Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward.  The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction.  Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction.  If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body.  I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.

The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.  A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction.  If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil.  We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.

 

 

In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380.  The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm.  Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand.  So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.

So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm.  This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.

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