Gun course is just for women (Slideshow 3)

Story and Photos by Jason Stuart

Annie grab your gun, because there’s a special night at the rifle range for the ladies to steady their aim, learn the ins and outs of guns and how to properly use one to defend themselves.

It’s “Ladies Night Out” at the Trails End Indoor Range, and the lead is flying fast from the barrels of a group of ladies ranging in age from 76 to 11 as they plink away at targets.

The Ladies Night Out sessions at Trails End have been going on for about four years, according to Karel Huether, who along with Trails End rangemaster Ken Olmstead helped launch the program. 

Huether said the impetus for the ladies-only shooting sessions came about in the wake of the murder of teacher Sherry Arnold in Sidney. In the aftermath of that, she said a lot of local womens’ husbands and boyfriends were coming into Guns N Things — owned by Karel and her husband Ernie — looking to buy a gun for their loved one for protection. The only problem was the men were picking out guns that didn’t necessarily fit the ladies who would have to use them.

“It got started because ladies were in here saying they didn’t know what kind of gun they wanted, and their husbands always wanted to get them a gun that they weren’t sure they were going to like,” Huether said. “Ladies wanted protection and some of their husbands were buying just off-the-wall guns, and I said ‘No, they’ve got to be able to use it.’”

And so Ladies Night Out was born as a way for women who have little to no familiarity with guns to have supervised shooting sessions where they could both learn to handle and shoot a gun and try out a variety of guns and find one that fits well for them before going out and buying one. Olmstead provides a veritable smorgasbord of different handguns for attendees to choose from. Attendees are also welcome to bring their own guns from home to practice with.

Huether stressed the importance of a woman being comfortable with the gun they intend to keep for personal protection, and that they should know exactly what kind of gun is a good fit for them before running out and buying one.

“That’s the main thing, getting used to a gun,” she said.

For the women shooting on Ladies Night Out at the Dec. 13 session, to a person, they said their reason for being there was to learn how to better protect themselves.

Lisa Kjelstrup of United Country Realty said when at work, “we’re just three women in an office,” and she often has to go out to show houses to complete strangers, so she worries about her personal safety at times. She had kept a handgun in her desk at work for years, she said, but didn’t really know how to use it that well, so she decided to do something about it.

“I took the concealed carry class that they offered last month, and being in real estate and especially with the oil probably coming back, it’s just something I wanted to be comfortable with shooting,” Kjelstrup said. “It’s just something that makes me more comfortable.”

Feeling comfortable with her gun and safe is the same reason why 76-year-old Vada Metzenberg comes out to the Ladies Night Out sessions.

“My husband died about 18 months ago, and I just really didn’t feel safe at home,” Metzenberg said.

Metzenberg’s husband was Ernie Metzenberg, who was formerly captain of the Montana Highway Patrol District V. Ernie even taught shooting courses for the MHP, but he never taught Vada.

After Ernie’s death, Vada was left with his old MHP service revolver, given to him when he joined the force back in 1960, but she had no idea how to use the thing.

“I didn’t even know how to unload or load or anything (before starting the shooting sessions),” Metzenberg said. “I don’t want to carry a concealed weapon or anything, but I would like to feel safe in my own home.”

Metzenberg said she feels a lot safer now, and she should. She strictly shoots with Ernie’s service revolver, which she now knows how to wield with deadly accuracy. According to Huether, Olmstead, and everybody else there for the session that night, Metzenberg is the dead-eye of the group, a fact her targets, with their perfectly tight groupings, belied.

Metzenberg beamed at her well-placed shots on the targets afterward, and said her two adult sons, who she described as “gun nuts,” would be pleased.

“They’re pretty proud of this old woman for doing this,” Metzenberg said of her children’s feelings about her taking up shooting. “I have to take these (targets) to Christmas and brag and let my kids see them.”

Ladies Night Out is offered at Trails End Indoor Range over the course of four months, meeting twice a month. The next Ladies Night is Jan. 10, and the second January session is Jan. 24. The sessions begin at 5:30 p.m. and go until 8 p.m.

Cost to attend is $2 per night plus an annual membership to the range, which is a $25 a year fee. Huether noted that teen girls are welcome to participate so long as their parents remain with them throughout the session. Attendees can bring their own gun or use those provided.

For more information contact Huether at Guns N Things at 377-3969 or Olmstead at 989-0102.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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