In baseball, football, basketball, swimming, and most track & field events, males usually out-perform females. That is simply because men, as a group, normally have more physical strength and speed than women.
There is a sport, however, where men have absolutely no advantage over women. Indeed in this sport, still regarded by some as a macho thing, women often beat men. Several variations of this sport have been in the Olympics for more than a hundred years.
This truly gender-neutral sport is marksmanship; shooting a rifle or pistol at some target.
In the 2000 Olympics held in Sydney, Australia, the very first gold medal won by anyone went to Nancy Johnson, an American who grew up in Illinois. Nancy won this medal by out-shooting an international crowd of competitors to win the 10-meter womens air rifle event.
The Olympics still have separate shooting events for men and women, but it is anticipated that this segregation by gender will not continue forever. It ought to end sooner rather than later. Women have proven themselves to be every bit as good as men at the shooting sports when they are given the same equipment, the same training and the same practice time.
What makes a good competitive shooter? A number of factors are needed, including visual concentration, mental discipline, self-control, being systematic and deliberate, and the ability to develop a routine that works over and over and over again.
One only needs to look at the National Rifle and Pistol matches, held each year at Camp Perry, Ohio, to see evidence that women can hold their own against the men at this macho game. The service rifle competition involves shooting bullseye targets at distances of 200, 300 and 600 yards using a service rifle similar to what is issued to our armed forces. Most service rifle competitors shoot an M16 or the AR15 civilian equivalent. This annual event is one time when the best civilian and military shooters, both men and women, shoot side-by-side under the same conditions. In 1999 the NRA national service rifle championship was won by a Marine, SSGT Julia Watson. Yes, a female in our own United States Marine Corps shot better than any other shooter from the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the National Guard, or the other civilians on that day. More recently, the winning team in the 2006 Whistler Boy High Power Rifle competition was a two-person team from Connecticut Julie Coggshall and Amanda Elsenboss. Here again, two teenage gals shot their AR15 rifles at 200, 300, and 600 yards better than any of the 102 other teams against which they were competing. Lots of guys were humbled by the results of the 2006 Whistler Boy match, but few of them were really surprised.
Another event worth noting is the 1000-yard high power rifle match. For the mathematically challenged, that is over ½ mile. The national record for the NRA 1000-yard rifle match using iron sights (without a scope) was set in 1999 by Michelle Gallagher. In 2004 her mother, Nancy Tompkins-Gallagher, shot the same score. How many other sports can you name where a mother and her daughter share the national record in a competition that is open to both genders regardless of age? So, women and girls of all ages, if you want to try your hand at the shooting sports, contact your local gun range or go to www.isra.org. You may discover you have a hidden talent, and you may find out why so many other females have taken up this macho game.
This article was provided by the Illinois State Rifle Association. For more information about the association, call 635-3198 or visit www.isra.org.
From the Dec. 6 – Dec. 12, 2006, issue