Think of shooting as a male-dominated sport? Think again! Thanks to trailblazing markswomen like Margaret Murdock and Kim Rhode, women are as active—and as impressive—as the guys when it comes to wielding a shotgun. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way.

Women weren’t invited to shoot in the World Shooting Championships until 1958 (the event was first hosted 60 years prior), but it didn’t take long for them to prove that they held as much promise in the discipline as their male counterparts. When the skilled markswoman Margaret Murdock took home a three-position silver victory (while competing against men) at the 1976 Olympics, she inadvertently paved the way for women’s shooting in the future of the Olympic Games.

Six-time Olympic medal winner Kim Rhode also helped blaze a trail for women in the sport—during the 1996 Olympic Games, she became the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting. After women’s skeet and trap shooting were added to the Olympic lineup in 2000, Rhode went on to crush the competition in those arenas in the subsequent games. As of this year, four women—Murdock, Launi Meili, Ruby Fox and Pat (Spurgin) Pitney—have been inducted into the USA Shooting Hall of Fame.

These skilled athletes have helped to drum up a whole lot of interest in female shooting sports, and today there are hundreds of women-only sport shooting events held annually for both youth and adult participants. According to a 2016 study, about 38 percent of student athletes in the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) are female. Here are some of the benefits of this sport that make it so desirable to young women, and their parents, throughout the country.

  • It Helps Her Learn Firearm Skills—Shotgun shooting is a practical shooting discipline that helps kids understand the basics of handling a firearm. If you’re a parent who has trepidations about allowing your daughter to wield a weapon, consider that it’s much safer to have some understanding of firearm skills, and to feel confident and secure when handling them, then to have none in a situation where they’re needed.
  • It Helps Her Build Physical Strength—If you’ve never pulled the trigger of a shotgun, it may surprise you to know that it actually takes some physical strength to do so. As they practice and train for competition, young shooters learn to develop arm strength, core strength, stability and balance. They also hone their hand-eye coordination, which can help them succeed in other sports as well.
  • It Helps Her Build Confidence—Like any team sport, shooting helps girls build confidence by teaching them that they can succeed. One wonderful thing about shooting is that it’s fairly universal and high levels of athleticism, conditioning and strength are not required for beginners. When girls see that they can dominate a sport, even if they don’t consider themselves athletes, a whole new world is opened up for them.  
  • It Helps Her Make Friends and Engage Socially—Like many group activities and sports, shooting requires a strong fusion of self-discipline, independent practice and teamwork. So not only will she experience many inward benefits, she’ll also learn outward ones, such as how to work with others and how to build positive social skills. Of course, any activity that introduces your daughter to friends with similar interests will improve her life and make her more confident as she gets older.
  • It Helps Her Learn to Focus—There is perhaps no sport more reliant on prolonged concentration and mental focus as shooting. In today’s world, where we’re all constantly connected and attached to a screen, it can be really hard to get to your kids to spend time focused on things that benefit them mentally or physically. The challenge of shooting clay targets takes a whole lot of mental stamina and teaches kids the rewarding feeling of dedicated focus.
  • It Helps Her Learn Discipline—Standing still for prolonged periods of time, staying quiet while your teammates shoot, keeping your balance while you aim—all of these things require serious self-discipline. When kids are able to see firsthand the results of their hard work and discipline, they’re much more likely to apply it to other aspects of their life, such as homework and chores. After all, anything you can do to associate hard work with fun and enjoyment will help propel her later in life.
  • It Helps Her with Problem-Solving—Any sport that involves quick thinking can be used as a powerful tool for teaching kids decision-making skills and confidence. When shooting, girls are required to think fast and make a dozen micro-decisions within a split second, helping them exercise their creative thinking skills. Many seasoned shooters say the sport is mostly mental, after all.

Is it Safe?

By and large, sport shooting is considered very safe for participants at any age. According to a study from American Sports Data, Inc., trap and skeet shooting have an injury rate of 0.4 injuries per 100 participants. That’s remarkably low, especially when you compare it to the numbers associated with other sports—the rate being 18.8 for football, 15.9 for ice hockey and 9.3 for soccer. Most of the injuries that occur in shooting sports are strains and muscle tears and are not weapon-related.

How to Get Your Daughter Involved in Shooting

Ready to take your daughter to the range but not sure where to start? The good news is that there are a variety of events, clubs and resources developed just for female shooters (this list is helpful for finding local options) that you can reference when introducing your daughter to the field. But before you go entering her into competitions, make sure she’s interested. Spending a day at the shooting range is a great way to help her test the waters.

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