New group in county helping women to feel more confident behind the trigger of a gun

Under the watchful eye of The Well Armed Woman leader/instructor Alysha Wilson (left), Jo Ann Reed, of Andrews, practices taking aim at a target at the outdoor range at Hillside Shooting Sports, in Roanoke. The club had its first Roanoke chapter meeting on June 15.
Under the watchful eye of The Well Armed Woman leader/instructor Alysha Wilson (left), Jo Ann Reed, of Andrews, practices taking aim at a target at the outdoor range at Hillside Shooting Sports, in Roanoke. The club had its first Roanoke chapter meeting on June 15. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin

Originally published June 22, 2017.

As a nurse, Huntington resident Alysha Wilson found herself working in some very unsavory neighborhoods in Fort Wayne.

Jenny Eversman, a Fort Wayne resident, was fearful for her young family when her husband was away at work.

Both women found a way to deal with their trepidations and now have formed a new club in Huntington County to help other women become confident behind the trigger.

The club, called The Well Armed Woman, has opened a new chapter at Hillside Shooting Sports, in Roanoke, with its first meeting on June 15.

In its five years of existence, the not-for-profit organization has grown to 351 chapters in 49 states and around 10,500 members.

Wilson and Eversman, co-leaders of the Roanoke chapter, welcomed to the inaugural meeting five women who had heard about it from Facebook or fliers.

Both Wilson and Eversman joined The Well Armed Woman in Fort Wayne about two years ago and decided to form a chapter in Huntington County.

“We feel like Huntington County is underserved with women’s groups in general, and certainly with shooting groups for women,” Wilson says. “The goal is to educate, equip and empower women.”

Wilson got into shooting from what she felt was a personal need for self protection.

“I wouldn’t say it was fear, but it was a good idea to protect myself,” she adds. “At the time I was working on the south side of Fort Wayne, and it was a little scary for me. That’s when I started shooting.”

She is proficient with handguns and rifles and is a National Rifle Association-certified instructor for basic handgun. She is also a certified range safety officer.

Eversman also says she got into firearms about 10 years ago out of a personal need due to her husband’s job.

“He was gone a lot at night,” she explains. “I had three small children and I didn’t want somebody to break into the house and me not be equipped to handle it.”

She has had experience with handguns, rifles and shotguns. She often goes shooting with her husband.

Many of the women in attendance at the first TWAW Roanoke meeting had similar stories.

First-time member Jo Ann Reed, of Andrews, said she wanted to join the group, along with her daughter-in-law, to help encourage her to become more comfortable with handling and shooting a gun. Reed herself has been shooting since she was around 10 years old, having first been taught by her father.

“It doesn’t mean I’m a good shot, though,” she jokes. “He taught us respect for guns, just like you’d respect electricity or other things. Otherwise you’re going to get hurt.”

Her daughter-in-law, Amanda Reed, of Warren, has only shot a gun a few times, but is motivated to do more.

“I just got my personal protection permit,” she says. “I have a gun; I just want to learn it better so I can carry it.”

Reed says carrying her pistol will likely help her be less fearful in some of the areas she must travel to in her job.

“I do home health,” she says, “and I don’t know if I’m allowed to carry it or not, but I do go into some sketchy neighborhoods.”

For new member Bonnie Pennock, of Huntington, the reason to join is simple.

“I want to learn how to do things right,” she says.

When new members join the club, they go through an introduction, not just to The Well Armed Woman organization, but also to the basic rules of shooting.

They first receive a tour of the Hillside Shooting Sports facility, then they are checked on their experience, skills and safety with firearms, handguns in particular. Most women already own their own gun; those are inspected as well. After a brief meeting in the classroom, the group heads to the firing range.

“We encourage women to join of all experience levels. You don’t have to be an experienced shooter to come here,” Wilson says.

“You can be a beginner and come and learn just as much,” adds Eversman, “sometimes as much as the experienced people.”

Besides helping members learn confidence in handling a gun and the ability to shoot with some skill, the co-leaders are open to making the direction of the Roanoke club as flexible as it is fun.

With more and more U.S. women obtaining gun permits and purchasing firearms, The Well Armed Woman provides not only shooting skills, but camaraderie among its members.

“I think our biggest goal is to make this chapter what our members want it to be,” Wilson says. “We want to teach them the things that they want to learn relating to guns, but we also want to teach them what they need to know for safety.”

“Start off with the basics, and progress from there,” adds Eversman.
Four instructors, the co-leaders and two male instructors, provided one-on-one education and oversight as the women took aim at paper targets. But Wilson says the instruction is uniquely tailored to the female shooter.

“I feel like there is not enough attention paid to the fact that women are different than men,” Wilson says. “We’re built completely differently; our needs are completely different; and so that’s kind of an overlooked need. With that being said, with the uptick in women being gun owners, we’re getting there.”

Later, as the members become more comfortable and confident in their shooting abilities, Wilson says she plans to introduce some drills to simulate situations the women might find themselves in.

“They are situations where you introduce a little bit of stress to the shooting, whether that be rapid shooting or precision shooting to help them to hone their skills,” she says. “Of course, all under a very controlled environment.”

The Roanoke chapter meets on the third Thursday of the month, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hillside Shooting Sports, 7870 N. Mayne Rd. New members of any proficiency level are welcome to join at any time. There is a cost to join the national organization, with a local range fee charged.

More information about The Well Armed Woman can be found on the organization’s website, www.thewellarmedwoman.com. Locally, those interested in the Roanoke Indiana chapter may call 224-9482, email twawroanoke@gmail.com or visit “The Well Armed Woman-Roanoke, IN” on Facebook.