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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - To many, handling firearms is predominately left in the hands of men. That's changing, though. More and more women are taking steps to protect themselves, starting at the shooting range.
"More and more ladies are coming in," said Last Resort Guns co-owner Andrew Jones. "They see it very much as a, I won't say they're scared, I'd say they are concerned for their safety. They recognize that sometimes they are on their own."
Janet Gray is an NRA instructor at Last Resort. When the range opened a few years back, she brought in the idea of creating drills and classes tailored to women.
"I think shooting is something that is a necessary tool for a woman's self-defense," Gray stressed. "'For me with ladies tactical night, I make sure that everything is as real life as possible. So, I want them to bring the guns they actually shoot, the equipment they actually use, whether it's a holster or a purse, and I try to meet them where they are."
There were also more than 5 million female target shooters in the last two years. That's an 80 percent increase from 2001.
"The more they become familiar, the better well-educated they are and practiced, the more they realize that actually they are no more than the tool," explained Jones.
Ladies tactical nights at Last Resort Guns in Madison are the first Monday of every month. Gray offers drills for fast access, muscle memory and real life scenarios. The purpose is to pack heat with confidence.
"How to just think with a more self-defense mindset, I just want to wake up that in women," she said. "I'm really passionate about teaching women to learn how to take responsibility for their own safety, for their own protection."
Mary Richards attends tactical nights, and has taken a basic pistol safety course. She got her first gun on Valentine's Day.
"I just think it's important that you know how to defend yourself and unfortunately you have to use lethal force to do that," Richards said. "These courses allow you to feel confident enough to be able to do that."
Females and firearms is a trend spreading further than the range. Jones said what's happened over time is more women stop in the store with the concern of wanting a concealed carry permit.
"Ladies with children or families to defend -- they see that as something that they want to do, and they're doing it in a very proactive way," said Jones.
Plus, he said 30 percent of their sales are to women. Small businesses are finding their way into an untapped market.
"That's very much been the trend maybe even over the last two or three years we've seen that increase substantially," he explained, "and they're coming up with different ways that you can actually conceal a handgun in a compartment that's separate from all the other clutter stuff."
Richards said she's also seen a change in manufacturing. More and more gun makers are tailoring guns to fit women's hands, but still have the power to stop threats.
To learn more about Last Resort Guns or ladies' tactical nights, click here.