SIOUX CITY | On the third Monday evening of every month, a group of women gather at Yards Shooting Range to talk shop and shoot the breeze -- then shoot at targets.
The local chapter of The Well Armed Woman, a national organization with 222 chapters in 48 states, calls the range home, with Tiffani Smith, the range’s manager, as the chapter leader.
The group is designed to educate and promote women’s use and ownership of firearms, while having a little fun, too, according to Smith.
One year old as of October, the local chapter was started by Smith because she heard of similar women’s shooting groups at other ranges.
Yards opened in May 2014 at 1951 Leech Ave. It holds several kinds of pistols, revolvers and rifles for users to rent before heading downstairs to practice in the range -- a tunnel of cement that ends in a small mountain of rubber padding. The range also supplies targets, ear and eye protection and ammo.
“I wanted something here for ladies,” Smith said. “It’s for ladies to talk and shoot together without any judgment.”
Smith said she's always been around firearms, more so since she met her husband, Matthew Smith, 16 years ago. He encouraged her to become a firearm safety instructor.
Many men and women have entered the range with little to no experience with firearms, Smith said.
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That wasn’t the case for Leona Cray, of Dakota City, Nebraska. She has been shooting firearms for years with her husband, Wendell Cray, who used to work at the range.
About two months after getting a permit to conceal carry, Cray joined the group, which helped grow her confidence in carrying a firearm for self-defense, she said.
Being better versed in firearm use helps Cray feel better prepared in the event someone tries to break into her home, she said.
“The group built my confidence and taught me I’m in control of the gun, not the other way around,” Cray said. “Safety and self-defense are pretty important to us. Plus I love shooting at the range with them.”
Currently, the group has five members attending monthly meetings, but non-members drop by from time to time, Smith said. No dues are collected for membership.
Smith said she is trying to boost the club’s ranks, but it’s difficult.
“People have a certain stigma connected to women and firearms,” she said. “Most people view it more as a guy’s sport. Some are surprised when they find out I'm the manager of the range, but everyone is welcome here.”
Last March, Smith organized a day of activities specifically for women and self-defense, scheduling speakers to teach karate and Taser use and providing a firearms training simulator, among other activities. She said she is planning to repeat the event next March.
“It’s our goal to spread awareness on both safety in using firearms and keeping yourself protected,” Smith said.