A female in the tactical world of men:
A civilian female no less.
So I just spent the last 4 FULL days with Mr. Dynamic Beard himself. Chris Costa of Costa Ludus. I can’t tell you how incredibly nervous I was the evening before taking this course. Yes, I even cried to my husband, the night before, about being good enough to take a Chris Freaking Costa class. I’m still a girl after all. I’ve taken around a dozen tactical courses ranging from a basic Concealed Carry Course to advanced tactical pistol and rifle courses. But the companies that I used were relatively smaller regional folks, not literally WORLD RENOWNED firearms trainers and tacticians.
I mean seriously, this was Chris-Freaking-Costa. The dynamic beard from Magpul! I think I’ve watched all the Magpul videos at least 20 times EACH. Yeah, I’m that person. However, it’s such a wealth of knowledge in those videos and I don’t think that you can every know too much.
In all of my courses, but one, I’ve been the only female. That course was the Basic Concealed Carry Course I took years ago. All the other courses I’ve been the only female. I know I’ve touched on this in my last blog, but I wanted to dive into this a little bit more. I don’t want to word vomit all about my experiences, but I want to let you know that whatever you feel before taking a course is normal. It’s all about what you do with those feelings. You have to channel them into a healthy fear that makes you pay attention more and do better. That healthy fear can lead you to do better in courses and get your shots.
In my shooting career, I’ve had many instructors. I lump them in three different categories. The first two categories are bad, annoying, and really inhibits the student’s ability to learn. They’re also the most common. Most instructors don’t know what to do with a female student.
Three Categories of Instructors:
The first category is the instructors that breath down the back of you. They want to baby you because how can I, a lowly female, know anything about this tool that goes bang?! It’s frustrating because most of us females ARE competent! We just need a little space to process the information the way our female brains know how too! So, the instructors that are like a creepy stalker breathing down your neck, are bad!
The second category is the instructors who pretend you don’t even exist. They don’t know what to do with you so they just ignore you! They don’t know how to interact with you so they don’t! One instructor I had did this to me and it always stuck with me. My Glock 19 didn’t go bang when I pulled the trigger. The slide wasn’t locked to the rear so my brain instantly went to malfunction. The instructor came up behind me and asked: “do you know what’s wrong?”… I said, “I think so?!” and he just turned around and walked away! Um… exqueeze me?! You aren’t going to check to make sure the gun doesn’t explode in my face the next time I fire it?! It was just bad form. He didn’t know what to do with me. Apparently, my long hair and boobs were terrifying.
The third category is where it’s at. This is the category, that I’m proud to say, my husband is in. Costa is also in this category and I’ll tell you what. I learned more from this 4-day carbine course than I have in ALL my previous carbine courses combined. This is the instructor that teaches males and female 99% the same. The last 1% instructors have to teach differently because males and females are NOT the same and there are different considerations that needed to be taken. BUT, for the most part, these teachers teach androgynously. They have to teach as if genders don’t exist; to a point. This is the category that all instructors need to be in.
I don’t want to (maybe I can’t? I’m not sure) divulge too much about this course specifically due to the waiver that I signed. This was, by far, the most advanced course I’ve ever taken. It was long, arduous, and so incredibly insightful. I was able to channel that fear of not being good enough into attention and technique. I am not going to say that I was the best in class, but I certainly was not the worst.
Have you ever had this nauseous pit in the bottom of your stomach when you walk into a new environment? Well, it felt like that pit exploded when I walked into this classroom and realized that not only was I the ONLY civilian, but I was the ONLY FEMALE! My hubby and an Army buddy of his are both obviously Army. Everyone else was law enforcement instructors, SWAT instructors, and from other law enforcement agencies. These are guys who have been in their profession for years! Some of them getting into their professions just a year or two after I was born. These were ninja guys who KNOW THEIR STUFF. Talk about intimidating.
So how do you, as a female in this industry, make your own path. Guys have it easy! Over 80% of the big names in the tactical world are men. I am not counting the competition world because at the end of the day, how quick you can shoot doesn’t really matter, it’s still a sport. It’s a game. It’s a competition, just like America’s Next Top Model or Big Brother or soccer. It’s a game to be won. Not practical skills for saving your life. In light of this, I don’t like to merge or confuse the world of competition and the tactician.
Dave Spaulding, a tactician who has been a firearms instructor for well over 30 years says this:
“The difference between competition and combat is rules… if there are rules, it’s a sport. In a fight, if you are not cheating you are not trying hard enough to win!”
I couldn’t agree more.
Being the only female and the only civilian carries a lot of weight. It carries a lot of pressure to perform. I feel the need to be as good as or better than the guys in my course. I feel the need to know as much as or more than the men. At the same time, you always want to have that mindset of being there to learn. There’s also a weird feel to be attractive, fit, almost sexy all while trying to learn to run a rifle. I keep flipping back and forth between thinking that it’s truly this way in real life, or if this is a figment of my imagination.
Point being, there is pressure in this industry. There are many females who pretend to be in the tactical world that is really just a pretty face. You can find them on Instagram and youtube. They’re beautiful women, by society’s standards, huge boobs, super skinny, super glossy hair, and a high squeaky voice. In all honesty, though they’re bimbo’s that just happen to be holding a firearm. They’re a selling a product. No different than a car salesman. They’re dressed provocatively to get males attention to buy the firearm.
Let me show you a little on how males and females think and process information:
On the first day of our 4-day course, we worked on zeroing our rifles and marksmanship; setting that good foundation. During the first day, I was running my tiffany blue rock river rifle. It’s beautiful, but it’s heavy and the rail system is fat which makes getting a good grip with my left hand very awkward.
My hubby was running a Frankenstein gun that was built by a buddy of his. He was running an M&P, with a pencil weight barrel, a super light troy rail and a teeny optic. The gun was super light and dreamy to shoot, but it was my hubby’s new toy so he was shooting it and intended to shoot it for the whole class.
Well, the first day I was struggling. I was fighting to keep the gun parallel to the floor, I was struggling with the sling. I was just struggling and almost in tears because my rounds on my target weren’t being indicative of my skills. I knew I could shoot better than that. I was embarrassed that I was struggling so hard with this gun.
Well, Costa, being the good instructor that he is, came over to inspect each student target and noticed that my gun was fat and heavy. He was standing to my left and my husband is standing to my right. Costa starts telling Tim that I need this gun, with that barrel, and this optic, with that sling. I’m just standing there thinking, “Hello! I’m RIGHT HERE! TALK TO ME BEARDED MAN!”.
Being the loud person that I can be opening my big mouth and said, “I am planning on getting one similar to Tim’s gun, it’s expensive and this was a prototype of sorts. I have all the parts and pieces picked out though, there just wasn’t time before the class started to get one.”
Costa just says, “Ok cool, it’ll make things a lot easier. I can see that you’re fighting the gun.” Or something to that effect. I may or may not have gotten a little fan girl! IT’S CHRIS FREAKING COSTA!
So here’s how I took that conversation: “I’m going to talk to your husband because you obviously can’t possibly know what you’re talking about with this rifle.”
Here’s how my husband took the conversation: “Dude, what the heck is wrong with you? Why does your wife have the crap gun and you have the awesome light gun? Come on dude. Seriously? Come on.”
See how drastically different those two points are?! It never occurred to me that I might be taking that conversation differently than anyone else. Now, after getting to know the instructor over the course of the week I truly believe that my husband had the right interpretation of that conversation.
I tend to get a little prickly when I feel like my intelligence or skills are being challenged. This is a beautifully annoying example of how females and males interpret things differently. We don’t have to be defensive. We have to take things neutrally and let the instructors decide (by their actions and follow on instruction) how we are to take things.
So I say all that to say this. Don’t be scared. Don’t let fear get in the way of taking courses and getting better. Also, don’t be prickly. Don’t be a b*tch. Just take the instruction, learn from it, and move on to the next course. Put in the time to learn about equipment. Do your own R&D on slings, hand guards, optics, butt stocks, barrels, rail systems etc. Learn your stuff. Keep your head down and fight like your family’s life depends on it. Because it does.
p.s. We ran a small competition in class 3 out of the 4 days. Each day we had to take a one-dollar bill up to our targets and shoot it. The first 2 days it was prone (on your belly) at 50 yards. The first day I was inches too low. I didn’t remember height bore offset; the different in height between the barrel of your gun and the optic that you’re using, whether it be iron sites or a red-dot. This doesn’t even take into account the point of aim-point of impact with zeroing. That’s way too much to dive into with the terminal ballistics of rifles, at this point.
Well, the second day I had some weird malfunction with the gun and didn’t even get a round down range. My magazine was not seating and staying in the gun. I still couldn’t tell you what happened, but I didn’t even compete the second day.
The third day our instructor changed it up. Instead of being prone at 50 yards, we were standing at 25. This is much harder because we are aiming at George Washington’s. The person who shot closest to the nose won everyone’s dollars. All 17 of them. Big money right? Well, guess who beat all the military, law enforcement instructors, and swat dudes… THIS GIRL! Someone could easily say that it was a fluke and I bobbed at the right time and pulled the trigger at a lucky time. I like to think that the knowledge that I learned in that course helped me win the competition. By winning that competition I proved my knowledge and skills to all the other men in the course, instructor included. BUT, more importantly, I proved my skills, my knowledge, and my worth, in this industry, to myself.