Ladies on Target

Features / June 25, 2018

Program familiarizes women with firearms, self-defense

Shooting and gun ownership have long been considered male territory. In reality, women have used firearms for just as long, and over time perceptions have begun to change, as more women realize the advantages of gun ownership and self-defense.

A program offered by Mountain Valley Sportsman’s Association in Hot Springs is specifically designed for women who are curious about using and carrying a firearm but may not know where to start.

Ladies on Target is a beginner’s course that teaches pistol familiarization, safety training, and some defense training. It is held on the first Saturday of every month.

Each Ladies on Target class is three to four hours long and includes an hour of classroom training that covers, among other things, the safety of firearms and ballistics. Then, the class goes outside to the range and each participant shoots at least 30-50 rounds. Instructors are on hand to teach everything from stance and balance, alignment and loading a magazine.

For the $20 class fee, the association provides a firearm and ammunition for each participant to use. Participants may also bring their own gun to practice with, if they wish to do so.

“We teach them the basics. It’s for beginners, people who have never touched a gun, or maybe they have a license but don’t know how to shoot,” said instructor Bart Messina. “It’s good to familiarize the women, and they have a good time with it. If they’re afraid of guns, we’ll teach them that a gun is the same thing as a kitchen utensil. It’s a tool; you use it the right way, it does the right job.”

Messina said the monthly class usually has a “full house.”

MVSA sits on 88 acres of land and is devoted to providing a safe facility for all shooters to enjoy their sport. The area includes two trap and skeet fields, a Cowboy Action Town complete with Western-style buildings, 200-, 300- and 400-yard rifle ranges with a covered shooting area and benches, a 10-station pistol range and a 10-bay action shooting range. The association hosts a variety of events and training classes.

“Periodically we do an actual active training where we set up different scenarios. We may set up an office situation and have bad guys come in, or movie theaters, all sorts of stuff. We have a lot of props,” Messina said.

He said that the association’s Cowboy Town and Cowboy Action Shooting is a popular event that draws a lot of tourists.

According to the MVSA website, Cowboy Action Shooting is a multifaceted shooting sport in which contestants (men, women and juniors) compete with firearms typical of those used in the timing of the Old West: single-action revolvers, pistol caliber lever-action rifles, and old time shotguns. The shooting competition is staged in a unique, characterized, “Old West” style, requiring each participant to adopt a shooting alias and wear the clothing style of the late 19th century.

“It’s an actual cowboy town, with a main strip and it’s got a courthouse, saloon, cemetery and railroad station. It’s got those things set up and they go from one station to the next and shoot,” Messina said. “Everybody that participates has to be dressed in the period. They shoot the period guns and the women can either wear the jeans and shirt or the hoop dresses with the big hats.”

This is held the first Saturday of each month and the match fee is $10.

Email Messina at for further information about Ladies on Target and a map with directions.

Visit for information on other MVSA events.

Lindsey Wells

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June 25, 2018