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Range Attire, the elephant in the room nobody wants to discuss

Let’s face it, in today’s world, if a man makes a suggestion that an outfit might be inappropriate for training, he’s going to undergo a firestorm of criticism followed by being called a misogynist.

We’ve reached a point in society where any perceived criticism automatically makes the observer a pariah, a bigot, and an outcast.  Our ability to look critically at trends and behaviors and sway from emotional responses has decreased.  So, I’m going to go there:

The other day, I had a candid conversation with a male  firearms instructor regarding students who show up inappropriately dressed. His philosophy is that he will never turn a student away, he may suggest they put more clothes on but if they want to deal with the outcome of their attire, that’s on them. I can see his point, as students are dropping a lot of money for these classes, and driving out to facilities to train. As a man, he feels he will be discouraging women if he tells them to dress a certain way, and he doesn’t want to come off as judgmental. Which is completely understandable, it has to be an awkward position to be in when dealing with students of the opposite gender.

Having different opinions isn’t wrong and he and I were able to compare philosophies.

Now, I will readily admit that I am very hard on my students. I expect a lot of them because I believe that being a Firearms instructor places a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Am I training someone who is competent and responsible? How they respond to reading through my packet that I provide to them helps me determine their level of commitment and seriousness towards their training. If a student cannot bother to read through there pre-course instructions, to me it is not a good sign.

When I have a student sign up for a class, I email them a packet that I expect them to read prior to their course date. Within the list of criteria, I explain they must have a hat, long pants, comfortable shoes they can move in (for women, a booted heel is fine because if they wear heels everyday training in them is not a bad idea). I explicitly state that if they wear shorts or shoes that are open toed, I will send them home. On more than one occasion, I have.

To break this down. If you wear a low-cut top or a sports bra on the range, you stand a good chance of having hot brass lodge itself between your skin and the material. Some argue that it’s a woman’s prerogative to dress seductively on the Range and if she wants to deal with brass burns that’s her choice. However, on my range I do not want to deal with negligent discharges, as physiology tends to dictate that when we are in pain, we turn our hands into fists… which means fingers are most likely going to wrap around the trigger.

Why long pants? This one is strictly environmental. II shoot in the desert. Not only is the ground hard, and covered with casings, it’s dusty and dirty. I expect my students to do a lot of moving while they’re training, it’s physically demanding. The last thing I want is a student tripping and falling on sharp material on the ground with exposed skin. Now, to be fair, shorts are pretty standard for shooting in warm climates, it’s not a deal breaker compared to inappropriate tops for me. In the desert, with cactus, various stinging insects, and dust, it can certainly be a hindrance but I understand the need to stay cool.

These are all highly practical reasons why dressing appropriately for shooting is, in my opinion a prudent idea.

I try to practice what I preach. Personally, I typically train in jeans because I wear them all the time, long sleeved athletic shirts that zip up, because the material is breathable and I can zip the top closed into a turtleneck, ensuring that brass does not go down my shirt. I normally wear a heel boot, because with my lofty height of five foot one I tend to wear heels on a daily basis. I feel like it’s a good to train in what you wear everyday.

Another aspect that instructors may want to consider, is that if you are training new students who are female you want it to be a welcoming environment.

Students should not have to worry about their body image while training. Frankly, I don’t want my students thinking about anything except what I’m teaching them and gun safety while they’re training. Our society tends to be more concerned with getting the right selfie than it is about the task at hand. I’ll let students take photos after the class is over. Sometimes I’ll offer to film them so we can slow down what they’re doing and evaluate how to do it better. However, students should not have the expectation that being on the Range is all about getting attention. Being on the range should be about bettering your skill sets, having fun, and learning something.

Signing off until next time,

Jessica Campbell

Guest Writer

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