Shooting champion shares knowledge

Lisa Munson ranks among the best handgun shooters in the country. At a two-day camp held at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club indoor range last weekend, she also showed why she is one of the top handgun instructors in the nation.

Munson, of Marysville, Wash., assisted by Cameon Eisenzimmer of Minot, conducted the women-only event last Saturday and Sunday. Response was excellent, as was the response of the attendees. It was precisely what Eisenzimmer had hoped for.

“There’s been nothing here specifically for ladies,” explained Eisenzimmer. “I was kind of worried about it and didn’t know how it was going to go. It actually sold out in two hours. We had a waiting list. The ladies absolutely loved it.”

Munson is the Senior Instructor of a national women’s shooting program known as “Babes with Bullets.” The 10-year program has been instrumental in introducing women to essential firearms safety and proper shooting techniques.

“Obviously we want to have safe gun handling skills taught here,” said Munson, owner of 12 national shooting titles. “A big one for us is when to have the finger on the trigger and when not to have the finger on the trigger. We do a lot of muscle memory skills. The finger is on the trigger when they are on the target, the finger comes off instantly when the sights come off the target. We emphasize muzzle direction, obviously, and we all go home happy.”

Myriad things go into good handgun shooting, including a knowledge of cartridges and firearms. With that in mind, Munson began the Minot camp with 90 minutes of classroom instruction each day. Participants learned how a cartridge is constructed and how a handgun operates. It made the transition to actual shooting a bit smoother.

“They are a little scared to pick up the gun because they just don’t understand how it works,” explained Munson. “We show them how to be comfortable with the whole operation, how to load and unload a firearm so it’s not this mysterious, explosive device. They know what to expect.”

The camp was limited to 14 shooters each day. Among the day one participants was Missy Whitsett of Velva. She had some previous shooting experience but no formal instruction.

“I’m doing this to gain confidence and learn how to do this for myself,” said Whitsett during a break in live firing. “I’ve shot with my husband and father. I think I’m a better shot than them!”

That was the response Munson and Eisenzimmer wanted to see. One by one you could see the faces of other participants change from serious, even a bit frightened, to relaxation and enjoyment.

“This is just a positive experience,” said Munson. “They are learning a technique, doing well and feeling good about themselves. They come out of this with a smile on their face.”

“They are hitting targets and getting excited,” added Eisenzimmer. “They make little tweaks and actually see the results on the target. They absolutely love it.”

A big part of the camp was that it was “ladies only,” women teaching women. The result was a much more relaxed atmosphere in which to learn handgun skills.

“Gals tend to tense up more where there’s guys around. It’s more like a competition,” explained Eisenzimmer. “Here it’s more like I have to work on safety and fundamentals. How’s my stance? How’s my trigger and my sight picture?”

Participants were quick to learn and were soon shooting very tight groups that would be the envy of others on any shooting line. For Munson, their achievements were very rewarding.

“I just love it. It is such a positive reinforcement for me. I love giving back, to teach new women shooters coming up,” said Munson. “I help them along and save them from trial and error, give them a good foundation to start good habits and hit the ground running. The women learn it’s fun to practice in a sport environment.”

Beginning Babes with Bullets

Babes with Bullets got its start in 2003 and by 2004 was up and running. Munson and other nationally know handgun competitors were in on it from the start. Today Babes with Bullets has grown to become the most respected women’s shooting program in the country.

“The moniker was from the first group of campers,” recalled Munson. “It was really controversial in the beginning, but we’ve proven we are a serious shooting organization. Babes with Bullets is tongue-in-cheek a little bit, but if you have a sense of humor you are OK with it.”

Ladies at the Minot camp did their initial shooting with Smith & Wesson M&P .22s, then applied their newly learned skills to 9 mm M&P’s built on the same frame.

“Smith & Wesson was with us from the very get-go,” said Munson. “They give us all the camp guns we’ve needed and also subsidize in cash. Our price point for national camps is about half of any other camp you’d see anywhere.”

Lisa Munson

It is not surprising that Munson enjoys introducing women to firearms today. Her first date was at a rifle range with a boy who eventually became her husband. From that beginning, there was no way to keep Munson away from the range, even at a time when women were a rarity at shooting ranges.

“The first league I shot in I took second place. Then they started a USPSA club. I was pretty good with a pistol,” laughed Munson. “I’ve been competing for 28 years now and have ultimately earned 12 national titles. I love it to death.

“When I see the new shooter, the little bit of fear and then the exhilaration, I feed off their enthusiasm. It brings me back to when I first started shooting.”

Munson says that during her first few years of competitive shooting the guys showed they didn’t want to get beat by a woman. Now, she says, they tip their hat to her.

“Now they are much more accepting of a woman. Now they are thrilled to have women show up to shoot,” said Munson. “It’s a different era. A totally different environment. The women are learning that shooters are some of the friendliest people they’re going to meet on the face of the planet.”

Munson’s handgun advice and changes

“Sight alignment is critical but that is secondary to trigger control,” remarked Munson when asked what makes for good shooting. “Shooting is really a function of how you work that trigger. You can take a perfectly good sight picture and then destroy it by jerking the trigger and allowing that sight to move.”

Another important component to good shooting, says Munson, is understanding visual planes. Of primary importance is the relationship between the front and rear sights and the distant target.

“It’s a belief system,” said Munson. “You have a rear sight and a front sight. You must have that critical alignment between your sights and a fuzzy target. Most new shooters always assume they should be looking at the target. Don’t get caught looking at that target. Have a good trigger press. Don’t let the front sight move. That’s the biggest thing.”

In the past, female shooters have often used the same handguns as their male counterparts. Quite often they became frustrated because many handguns are simply too large for some women’s hands, making it all but impossible to grip them properly. In response to demand from a growing number of female shooters, manufacturers have made adjustments to their lineup.

“We use the M&P models, which is wonderful because we have interchangeable backstraps and can change the grip size for the women,” said Munson. “We fit the guns to the ladies, actually show them how to fit a gun properly to their hands. We help educate them on what good fit is.”

Due to the positive response, organizers are already considering a second camp for women shooters to be held at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club. The club will release camp dates when final arrangements are completed.