Arming yourself for self-defence purposes is the stark reality of life in South Africa. Right across the country, many women now own guns and regularly participate in target shooting at shooting ranges.
Yet, even with more women engaging in shooting sports, that’s not actually why so many are purchasing guns. It’s not for fun. It’s for self-defence. According to research, women are more likely than men to cite protection over recreation as the foremost reason for owning a gun. And for many women, it’s the sole reason.
Say no to fear
Now more than ever, women are buying guns to protect themselves. One such woman is Geraldine Burke. She said, “I work long hours and drive a 200-km round trip to work every day. The route is fraught with hijacking hotspots. Which is why I decided to put a stop to the constant fear while driving.
“Thanks to Geoffrey and Hein’s training and patience during the self-defence training, I’ve learnt all the aspects of the law on gun ownership, handgun maintenance, alertness and preparedness.”
Forty years ago, self- and home-protection typically were relegated to the man in the household, but that’s no longer the case today. Arming yourself has become a priority. Today’s woman is stepping up her role to protect herself and the people around her.
According to Marksman’s Nest chief ranger Geoffrey Coetzee, with a rise in women carrying concealed, it’s important to understand your weapon and feel comfortable with it in your hand. “Therefore, it’s best to take a class or a few courses on gun handling.
“There are classes both for new gun owners and refresher courses for those who haven’t shot in a while. Classes include self-defence, carrying concealed, as well as those specifically for women.
“Our classes encompass everything you need to know about your gun, demystifying firearms for those who’ve never been around guns. We also teach trainees how to take them apart and put them back together, how clean them, how to handle them and of course, how to shoot them.
“As was the case with Geraldine, we also teach trainees about gun safety and the legalities of carrying concealed. And importantly, we have drills to get you used to pulling and drawing your firearm, building your confidence and comfort levels.”
It’s fun too
Geraldine concluded, “The courses are not only extremely informative, but also loads of fun. By learning from the pros, we all learnt to do things the right way, avoiding bad practices.
“Regardless whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, I’ve learnt that practising regularly is key in having the ability to handle my gun effectively and consistently.” Arming yourself has indeed become a must.
“Refusing to be a victim is the sensible choice for all women in South Africa today.” These are the words of self-defence advocate Karen Koen.
“We can’t expect our men to protect themselves and us in a potentially dangerous situation. After a horror crash left my husband man-alone on a deserted road when I was transported to hospital, I decided there and then to take up gun-handling training lessons.”
Karen said choosing Geoffrey Coetzee and his team at Marksman’s Nest for the self-defence gun training was one of the best decisions she’d ever made. “There’s no masquerading here. Just incredibly good training and imparting years of knowledge to trainees. Professionalism is tops and importantly, the environment is 100% safe.
The psychology of self-defence training
Psychology researchers have found that self-defence training can increase confidence in women. It also improves mental health and decreases feelings of vulnerability.
What distinguishes self-defence classes at Marksman’s Nest is the focus on boundary-setting, assertiveness and dealing with everyday situations. It’s not just about the best way to shoot at close range, but also things that happen in everyday life. These range from street harassment to an overly boundary-crossing co-worker.
When refusing to be a victim, it’s also important to have the ability to “own your space.” Many people’s go-to response to harassment is to ignore rather than confront it. Boundary-setting is an important piece of feminine self-defence because it can help women avoid situations in which assault could occur.
“I’ve just grown and grown as a person since starting my training in safe gun handling. This has given me the confidence carry a concealed weapon, knowing that I’ll be able to use it in life-threatening situations,” Karen said.
“Apart from all the basics, such as gun maintenance, handling and anti-hijacking skills, every time I visit the range, I learn something new. So far, I’ve completed my first certification and will be doing all the remaining modules.
“And the most remarkable thing is how Geoffrey ingrains the power of muscle memory in each of us.
“I simply can’t rave enough about these life-altering courses – for women and men alike. Refusing to be a victim has certainly become the mantra for many a trainee.”
Self-defence empowerment was the sole reason Miena Visser embarked on her journey at Marksman’s Nest Firearm Training Range.
As a factory manager, her responsibilities included unlocking the factory at the crack of dawn and often working late. Plus having to deal with disgruntled workers became quite a scary undertaking.
The final straw
Miena’s point-of-no-return actually started in 2007 when there were violent strikes at the factory. A number of workers pelted her with stones and made personal threats. That prompted her to buy a handgun.
“Like countless others, I erroneously thought no training was needed because I passed my competency test. But boy, was I wrong! I never carried the handgun on me and left it locked in the safe until last year.”
The threats continued and she experienced many hostile incidents. That was when she started practice shooting at a Hopefield club. Alas, this proved pointless. “I needed someone to guide, teach and mentor me. During lockdown I found the Marksman’s Nest website and read all the highly informative blog articles. But believe it or not, I was too scared to enter a so-called ‘man’s world’ alone.
The journey starts
When Miena finally decided enough was enough in terms of living in fear, her next stop was the Marksman’s Nest shooting range. “That was the beginning of something wonderful that changed my life,” she explained.
“The joy of self-defence empowerment that the training with Geoffrey Coetzee and his team gave me, is indescribable,” she said. “I will go to war with Geoffrey! All the training is focused on being confident with your firearm, as well as in all compromised situations.
“I’ve learnt how and when to use my handgun, plus how to be alert and aware at all times. Then there are the training modules focusing on handgun maintenance, improving your grip, stance and aim. All taught with great patience.
“I love the range and its people. The members come from all walks of life and we all get along famously. First and foremost, I go to the range as often as possible to practice, learn and bond. In addition, I attend as many close-quarter self-defence events as possible.”
Miena definitely is a committed Marksman’s Nest member. Having completed the Basic Skills Builder, plus Close-Quarter level 1 and level 2, she’s now applied for her Further Competency in rifles and shotgun.
She confirmed that she no longer lived in fear and that going about her business with this newfound confidence was worth more than all the money in the world. “In short, I refuse to be a victim.”
Admirable shooting skills were on display from the nine ladies who converged on Marksman’s Nest during the Women’s Day long weekend for a sleep-over ladies’ shooting event. And superlatives were at the order of the day from each and every attendant.
The two-day event was jam-packed with instructive events: daytime shooting, a night march, night shooting, development exercise and low-light morning shooting. Not to mention the fun events: delicious meals from chief chef Geraldine, campfire stories, loads of laughter and very little sleeping!
Team leader Miena Visser started planning the event in conjunction with chief ranger extraordinaire Geoffrey Coetzee in April. She said, “I’m so proud to have been one of the founding members of this event. Apart from having been an excellent team-building experience, it was highly informative and very focused on self-defence and preparedness. Into the bargain, it was boatloads of fun.
“I look forward to seeing many more platoons in the women’s battalion within the coming months.”
Geraldine Burke enthused, “Learning new skills was quite overwhelming. I never thought I’d be able to shoot with both hands. But with Geoffrey and Hein’s patient instructions, I soon became a pro. And the night march was out of this world!
She especially loved the teamwork and camaraderie during the sleep-over. “With the skills the ladies displayed, it just goes to show: the girls are doing it for themselves in terms of self-defence.”
Weekend fire chief Karen Koen is a newbie in shooting circles. But make no mistake, she now holds her own in terms of self-defence. She had much praise for Geoffrey and Hein. “Their knowledge and instruction methods are phenomenal!
“And I learnt so much from these amazing women who attended the event. Powerful through and through. All of us took the decision to empower ourselves by learning self-defence. This course certainly has taken my confidence to a new level.”
Old-timer (in terms of experience) Jo Poynton commented, “It was a fantastic weekend. I like to empower women the way I’ve been empowered. And my take-out after the weekend was that I managed to fix the grip on my Taurus.”
It’ll be a hard act to surpass this past weekend’s event, but who knows? Watch this space for forthcoming ladies’ events.