Hell on Heels: Why Fashion at the Range isn’t Necessarily Wrong

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Shannon McConathy, special to moderngunneronline.com

I must start with an admission: I’ve been the judgmental woman at the range. I’ve been the woman who rolls her eyes because a pair of ladies looks like they’re biding their time before the margarita specials start at the neighboring patio bar. I’ve snubbed pink subcompact pistols because I thought I was tough with my full size Kimber. I felt like a gun range was a place where women should defy stereotypes and shooting in fashionable shoes was bringing all female shooters down. Then, I realized that there is something worse than stereotypes: statistics.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women are almost twice as likely as men to be the victim of aggravated assault. 80% of reported sexual assaults are against women, and a woman is the victim of simple assault about every 90 seconds- eight times more often than men. These are reported crimes. There is no way to measure the number of women who never call law enforcement. The Bureau goes on to explain that these crimes are most often perpetrated by people categorized as “friends or acquaintances”. As women, we are statistically more likely to be targeted by coworkers, dates, classmates, even neighbors, than the shifty looking stranger across the parking lot.

With increasing shouts of, “I will not be a statistic,” women of all races are out-pacing men when it comes to new Concealed Handgun Licenses. They’re packing those pistols into purses, waistbands and specially pocketed undergarments as they head to work or a Saturday night date, and chances are, they are not wearing combat boots.

In one of her many excellent videos, NRA-certified basic pistol instructor and self-defense expert Tatiana Whitlock explains, “It may seem a little strange to go walk onto the range in heels, but you need to know what it’s like to fire a firearm in heels because you’re probably [more likely] to be wearing those walking to your car in the event you are attacked than you are your jogging shoes or range boots. Practice in the attire that’s applicable to your life.”

The reality of this statement and the reasons why it is not only true, but very important, caused a major paradigm shift in my thinking towards other women at the range. Apparently it was not enough to have my younger sister- a much more casual shooter than I- flat-out embarrass me with her grouping and aim out of a baby pink Walther PPK (more than once)! When we are on the range the most important things are proper training and safety. The woman in one lane wearing heels and a skirt is likely doing herself just as much, if not more good than the woman in boots and BDUs.

It is wise and responsible to heed Whitlock’s advice. If your normal range wear is jeans and boots, take into consideration where you carry concealed. From workout to work, all the way to dates and dinner, it is our duty to be comfortable with our handgun in all concealed circumstances, but before you hit the range in your high heels, take a look at these tips for getting the most out of your practice.

  • Keep range rules in mind. Many ranges do not allow holster draws or rapid fire on their public lanes; however, many have private suites where more tactical training is permissible. If your range has a website, these rules are generally posted and easy to find. If you have any questions, it is always best to call ahead. Range officers are usually happy to answer safety questions.
  • Mind the dress code. Rules about dress are put in place for the safety of patrons, and not all ranges have the same ones. It is common for shooters to be required to wear at least short sleeves and closed toed shoes. Like basic range rules, dress codes are typically posted online.
  • Watch your step. Discharged brass is all over the floor of ranges. If you’re wearing heels, it only takes one under your shoe to end in a rolled ankle.
  • Lay off the low cut tops. This is often a rule in the dress code, but even if it is not explicitly stated, I suggest making it a personal one. Bared cleavage begs brass to bounce off the wall and land right down your shirt. The resulting burn is more than unpleasant. If you don’t know from experience, trust me.
  • Mix it up. If you are used to shooting in comfortable clothes and shoes, throwing on a pair of high heels or drawing from a purse could throw a wrench in your regular habits. Don’t commit to a stance or draw until you are comfortable. Heels change your posture and your point of view. You are, after all, taller when you wear them! If something doesn’t work for you, don’t worry about; try something new and find your groove.
  • You don’t have to make a day of it. Throw a pair of heels in your bag. Shoot in your regular clothes; try the heels on for a while, then go back to boots or athletic shoes. Get a few rounds in for posterity’s sake, then make yourself comfortable again.
  • Dry fire at home. Dry firing is a matchless way to gauge your comfort with certain methods, habits and concealments. Consistent practice is key in boosting your confidence, and in a concealed carry scenario could easily be the difference between life and death. Find different aiming points around your living room or bedroom and watch how much more easily you start to find your sight picture over time.
  • Love your curves. I don’t believe in boys’ guns and girls’ guns. Plenty of men shoot .380 and lots of women shoot .45, but when it comes to holsters, pay attention when they claim to be designed for women. We are shaped differently than men and that can make a huge difference when drawing a weapon. On average, we are shorter in the torso, which causes a lot of women to favor a back-hip placement. Then, of course, we have permanent obstacles attached to our chests. Many women’s carry options work around and even with breasts, which can interrupt a clean draw. The curve of women’s hips also poses a challenge when it comes to concealing by causing a pistol to stick out. If your curves are kickin’, consider compression garments that keep pistols at a low profile under clothes, even the most fashionable ones.

As long as shooters are minding the rules put in place for everyone’s safety, non-traditional range wear might actual prove to be a tactical advantage. So, what’s your favorite way to carry, and how do you get the most of your concealment? Let us know in the comments!

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