Nearly 100 women recently took part in the Girls on Fire top shot event at the Cecil Payne Shooting Range on the West Rand.
The event was organised for women, by women. Of that number, 66% were novices and 34% were sport shooters, said match organiser Lynette Oxley.
“Support each other, ladies. We’re here to have fun and give each other a hand,” she said at the pre-shoot safety briefing.
Sanctioned by Gun Owners SA, women from all walks of life took part in 14 disciplines and codes which covered a wide range of firearms, from hand-held weapons to rifles.
Star of the day was the monster Truvelo Armoury bolt action .50 calibre CMS rifle, almost as tall as some of the participants and which made the most noise per round. At R20 a round, it was probably also the most expensive to shoot, as well.
Tshepi Mmekwa has been involved in shooting since 2013. “Being able to handle a firearm competently is a freeing experience,” she told The Citizen. “I enjoy the sport side of firearms and I think ever since the first shot I took in 2013, it’s been the most liberating moments of my life.”
Mmekwa said her perceptions of firearms had changed since then. “All you hear is that guns kill people and actually, there’s a whole sport behind it. It’s something especially ladies could enjoy much like other people enjoy swimming. Everybody can do this.”
She can barely contain herself when describing her first experience under the guidance from a professional. “It’s been one of those things I have found as my niche. I want everyone, especially women, to come to the range. Get to know about firearms and not just the bad side of what is always reported.”
Oxley said she had started the Girls on Fire campaign in 2015 to coincide with 16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children – November 25 to December 10 – and after an opinion piece came out in the media which claimed only old white men were shooting.
“It’s not just them and I wanted to show firearms are not evil, it’s things all of us can enjoy,” she said, adding that if people wanted to carry a firearm, they had to be proficient in its use, know how to clear stoppages, and be safe at all times.
Bianca Bell, the safety officer at the .50-caliber range, said: “The best thing about the sport is that it is all-inclusive.“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your age group or economic background is, everyone here is here for the fun of the sport.”