The Well Armed Woman is a nonprofit organization dedicated to equipping, empowering, and educating women on gun use and ownership. Local women’s advocate and chapter leader Staci Claunch created the Southern Arkansas Chapter of the Well Armed Woman to give the women of Hot Springs and surrounding areas the opportunity to learn how to protect themselves and become comfortable with gun use.
Claunch is a licensed concealed carry instructor. Regular classes with Claunch are $85; female-only classes are normally $100, but she is currently offering them for $85.
Staci Claunch: My husband and I have always liked shooting as a hobby, so we’ve always done that, and we have property so we shoot on our own property. We’re both former military and so it’s just always been something we’ve done. I had gotten my concealed carry license and I wanted to find a group of women that shot regularly, a group of some sort that I could shoot and practice with. So I just started researching and I came across the Well Armed Woman organization. They’re actually in 49 states and there’s over, I want to say, 369 chapters total. So I read a lot about what they stood for and I thought, ‘That’s something I want to do,’ but there wasn’t one in Hot Springs. There was one in Little Rock.
So, I emailed them and told them what I was looking for and they said, ‘Do you want to be a chapter leader? If you do, you can apply and submit why you want to do it,’ so I did and they accepted it and that’s how it got started. I just had to pull everything together and start trying to recruit members.
One of the ladies in my chapter, she and her husband own Mountain Valley Armory right off of Ouachita Avenue, and I buy a lot of stuff from her and we’re just good friends. She’s just real supportive of the chapter. I have my concealed carry instructor’s license as well and so I teach women-only concealed carry classes at Mountain Valley Armory the first Saturday of every month.
SC: The women’s class is really geared around not just concealed carry but also women’s needs, such as what type of holster. Women are shaped differently than men so I really gear that course towards women. It’s more detailed and it’s more of a specialty class of concealed carry. If you want to do the women-only class, I’m actually going to be charging $85 for that, as well. I’m starting a special to draw in more women, and it’s really in-depth, you get the whole nine yards. I really want women to have it. I’m an advocate for women, I want them to carry. The crime rate is getting worse and worse, even in Hot Springs.
SC: It’s mostly handguns, semi automatic or a revolver. We teach the basic fundamentals of the pistol itself and how to use the pistol. It’s part classroom instruction and part live fire instruction where the students actually qualify and practice their long distance shooting and they practice sitting position shooting. That’s the basic pistol — that’s really for people that have never touched a gun.
I do those at my house. We have a huge workshop behind our house that’s two bays and there’s a restroom out there and everything, so we set up the one bay and actually hold classroom instruction where I teach CCW and basic pistol. We have PowerPoint and everything there and then we can just go right outside. We have targets set up where they can do their live fire qualification.
SC: They could possibly see one of our flyers or signs in town, but basically what I tell people is — we just got a new website so you could Google the Well Armed Woman and locate a chapter in your area. But the real way to go about finding a chapter is to go to http://www.twawshootingchapters.org.
Our chapter, we started our chapter in March of 2017 and we have 26 members so far.
SC: We meet every month, the second Saturday of every month, from 10 a.m. to noon.
The first hour we do an hour of instruction in the classroom on various topics. I change the topics every month. Some of the topics we’ve covered, for example, we’ve done situational awareness, we’ve done first aid. The one coming up in December, we’re going to do drawing from concealment, so everyone is bringing their various types of holsters and we’re going to practice drawing and shooting from concealed.
Then we go out and shoot for the second hour. It’s optional; if somebody doesn’t want to shoot, that’s fine, we have people that just come and visit and check it out and see if they want to join or not and that’s perfectly fine.
To join, it’s $50 annually and that goes to the actual organization. I’m strictly volunteer; I don’t get any money for doing this. It’s just something I love, I love helping these women learn more and getting to know them.
SC: I think women are a weaker sex, obviously, than men. I think they’re more targeted as far as attacks and rapes and so forth. I think that they need to be able to protect themselves. I don’t think they need to just rely on a spouse or someone else, and that’s just my personal opinion. I’ve always wanted to be able to take care of myself in case my husband wasn’t around. A lot of these women, their husbands buy their gun for them and then they never touch it. They carry it, but they have no idea how to even use it, so it’s really important, especially if you’re going to carry a firearm that’s loaded, it’s very important for safety reasons to know how that gun operates, especially if you have small children.
I hear so many times from people, especially at my church, that carry but they’re scared to come to the meetings because they don’t want to be embarrassed. They’ve never shot before, or the loud noises scare them, and I just want women to be comfortable, feel comfortable that they can come out and really just sit back and watch and give it a try. You kind of get addicted to it — the more and more I’ve done this, the more I’ve just grown to love it and I really feel more confident now with carrying. I do carry every day and that’s really important, that they carry every day.