Personal Protection: It Started as an Ember

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

Beth Alcazar and the GAP drill (USCCA)

Beth Alcazar and the GAP drill (USCCA)

This article was authored by Beth Alcazar and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact

For me, this all started as an ember … just a sincere concern and a simple, cut-and-dry interest to learn more about personal protection and firearms safety. I didn’t want to feel helpless anymore. I didn’t want to be uninformed. I didn’t want to have to depend on someone else to defend myself or my three children.

The Proper and Most Effective Way to Grip a Semi-Auto Handgun [Video]

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Kay Miculek

Kay Miculek

Kay Miculek is the lead instructor at Babes with Bullets and, in this video, she offers a very good and easy-to-understand demonstration on how to grip a semi-automatic handgun

Wayne Ivey, Florida Sheriff, Urges Citizens to Arm Themselves: ‘This Is War’ [Video]

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

Sheriff Wayne Ivey (screen grab)

Sheriff Wayne Ivey (screen grab)

A Florida sheriff is calling on citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights and arm themselves in preparation for a potential attack. Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, who described himself as “one of the most politically incorrect sheriffs in the country,” posted a six-minute video on Facebook last week after a disgruntled ex-employee fatally shot five…

The Basics of Riflescopes and How They Work

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

Scope (NRA Blog)

Scope (NRA Blog)

The following story, by Jason J. Brown, is republished with permission from NRA Blog.

Imagine laying prone on a shooting mat, your favorite rifle parked before you resting on a bipod. You squint downrange across the rolling green landscape, hills and valleys rising and falling gently in a grass sea. In the distance, you spy the faint glint of something catching the sun’s rays, an oddly geometric shape standing out against the lush nature surrounding it.

Training With the ‘GAP’ Method: Beth Alcazar of the USCCA Simplifies Practical Training [Video]

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Beth Alcazar and the GAP drill (USCCA)

Beth Alcazar and the GAP drill (USCCA)

Beth Alcazar is someone who believes that having a firearm for self-defense is a smart thing. She also preaches that training to use it in an emergency is of the utmost importance. That means that, once you take the step of owning a gun, you need to be ready to use it should you need to. That requires practice.

Soft Touch: Why Soft Skills Matter

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Soft Touch, USCCA

Soft Touch, USCCA

This article was authored by Steve Tarani and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact

»IT’S A COMMON PERCEPTION TO THINK, “If I get into a situation, here’s what I would do.” To prepare, we go to a shooting range (schedule permitting) to practice engaging a physical threat with a firearm. We try different holsters, varied carry positions and keep an eye out for good deals on ammo. To most shooters who carry concealed, this is the extent of what it takes to defend against an active threat.

Carrie Lightfoot on Training: There Are Real Differences Between Men and Women

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Concealed Carry Magazine

Concealed Carry Magazine (

This article was authored by Carrie Lightfoot (The Well Armed Woman) and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact

IT’S COMPLICATED. It’s complex. It’s convoluted. Perhaps it’s even potentially treacherous territory. Throughout history, men have risked everything to try to unravel its mysteries. Yet, we are going to try to unravel the beautiful and intricate tapestry that is woman.

We all know that women are different. Yes, there are the obvious physical differences such as the lumps and bumps not found on the male body, weaker upper body strength and wider hips, but there are additional and profound differences that make the task of meeting the needs of women shooters a challenge for the firearms industry. To make it even more complicated, there are many sub-groups of women — each, of course, very different from the others.

It’s complex, I know. But that’s part of the glorious mystery, right? Men have been trying to figure out the female gender since the dawn of time and likely will continue to do so until the end of it. So, how does this apply to guns, gear and firearms training? And what can the industry do to meet the needs of this complex group of gun owners?

To fully address the needs of this multifaceted market group, it will be helpful to look at it like an onion, a piece of cake or maybe even a parfait. Women have layers! (And, yes, Shrek is my favorite movie.)

Women depend on discussion and conversation with others to process new information and to work through learning and decision-making processes. It’s important that we connect new information to a personal — and perhaps even emotional — need. This assists us in fully understanding why something is important and allows us to effectively apply what is learned.


We see this lived out at The Well Armed Woman (TWAW) Shooting Chapter meetings across the country. As women come together to learn and grow as their own self-protectors, they fellowship with one another as they process new self-defense techniques, try new firearms, explore concealed carry holsters and train in new shooting skills. They do so as a community: talking, asking questions and sharing the experience throughout the process. In this environment, this need is met, and I believe it is one of the reasons our TWAW program is so successful.

Women prefer to receive information in a linear, step-by-step format with the purpose clearly defined: a path, if you will, that they can confidently follow toward success. They enjoy “to-do” lists and like to see tasks laid out before them — visually and literally. This is important, as women are often perfectionists. Not only do they want to do things well, they want those things done in a particular way — the right way!

When it comes to training in the use and carrying of a firearm, this is a critical need to meet. Without it, the sense of being overwhelmed, confused and intimidated can hinder her success and even stop her as she crosses the threshold of the range.

For a large majority of women, the journey on the road to self-protection with a gun is one frought with a high level of caution and perhaps fear. It is truly foreign territory to them, so we must work to pave the road with clear and attainable skill steps that they can see, touch and demonstrate as they progress through the learning process. This is serious business to them, as they want to fully grasp and master the skills and equipment necessary for them to safely shoot and carry.

Being such highly intuitive and emotional beings, women can be highly sensitive to criticism and comparison. I believe that women are bombarded by society with messaging from multiple directions: advertising, the entertainment industry and, sadly, even people close to them who tell them what they are supposed to be, supposed to look like and supposed to act like. This constant barrage can inflict a lack of self-confidence.

I know this isn’t true for all women, but I think this assault on confidence is a scourge that binds some of us to an endless internal struggle for self-esteem. We can be tempted to compare ourselves to what and who we see and to be honest, we don’t need any additional critique or comparisons from instructors or marketing campaigns. Likely, we will be turned off and seek positive reinforcement elsewhere. Encouragement, not criticism, is the pathway to empowering women.

Do you see why it is so important for the firearms industry to understand women in order to effectively speak to them and successfully meet their needs? If we genuinely want to provide for and market to women, the industry and shooting community must acknowledge and understand these complexities and strive to meet the needs of this unique group by designing products for them, knowing how to market to them and training them effectively.

Now, I realize this is a tall order, especially for an industry that has primarily been meeting the needs of men since its inception. But it’s a different world now, and some of the traditional methods of reaching this demographic don’t speak effectively to women. Although men are still the larger “target demo” and the industry naturally centers much of its efforts and resources on that market, let’s look at how the industry can best work to reach the millions of “complicated” female gun owners.


Just as no two women are alike, neither are their preferences. There is no “best gun” for a woman, nor is there one concealed carry option that works best for all women. So offer a variety of products, options and colors for women to choose from. Variety offers women the opportunity to evaluate a number of options to find the perfect fit.


Women don’t just read or watch information; they relate to it. So it is important to provide information in an assortment of platforms and approaches. These might include written articles, testimonies, stories, videos, podcasts and discussions. Provide them with information they can relate to that includes real people with real-life experiences and stories.

Women are storytellers. They relate to faces and stories to find ways to understand how something fits into their own individual lives. This kind of connection encourages women to tap into “why I need this” and “why it is important to me.”

»Did You Know?

Women are directly responsible or have significant influence in more than 50 percent of a household’s buying decisions.

I incorporate a variety of mediums on The Well Armed Woman website to be a useful and comprehensive resource for all women shooters exactly for this reason. You will find articles, videos, testimonies, survival stories, a weekly podcast, a women’s gun forum and even gun reviews written by regular, everyday women who share their likes, dislikes and personal experiences with guns. It’s all in the effort to satisfy the hunger for information and resources female shooters need and want.


The ability to adjust and custom-fit products to their unique shapes, lifestyles and needs is important to women. It is extremely important to be able to tweak, tighten, loosen or adjust for the perfect fit. Firearms with multiple backstraps and grip panels that can be interchanged to find the perfect fit are a great example of this. Holsters with ride height and cant adjustments help each woman find what works with her body to effectively carry concealed.


This preference to personalize gear is highly misunderstood in the firearms industry. It isn’t silly, nor does it reflect a casual attitude toward firearms or safety. Style is an important part of a woman’s world. Whether it is her home, her body, her clothing or her office, she wants to make everything around her appealing and uniquely hers.

Keep in mind that for many women, the owning and carrying of a firearm is a foreign experience, and it can be the act of personalization that helps them accept new pieces of equipment into their personal worlds. The use of colored firearms coatings, colored grips or even rhinestone-studded holsters are all examples of ways women personalize their concealed carry guns and gear.


Just the simple act of acknowledging a woman’s uniqueness communicates great respect. Understanding her need for information and her different style of communicating — and then providing the information she needs in a respectful manner — allows her to make her own best decisions.

Women don’t need to be told what to do; they just need to know what they need to know. Communicate respect by offering her the information she needs and then allowing her to make her own decisions.

WOMEN ARE CAPABLE PROTECTORS And lastly, for a woman, the carrying of a firearm to protect herself and her family isn’t about being sexy; it’s about being a capable self-protector. Women need information, training and gear that help them accomplish this, and it must be marketed and delivered as such.


Joining the USCCA will get you a subscription to Concealed Carry Magazine plus access to all of the archives! You will also be protected by The USCCA’s Self Defense Shield.

Click the button below to go to our home page for NRA Women TV, photo and story submissions and more!

Join the NRA Eagle

Training: Protecting Your Head in a Close Quarters Fight [Video]

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Kevin Michalowski: fighting in close quarters (USCCA)

Kevin Michalowski: fighting in close quarters (USCCA)

Some of the best free training you can get comes from the United States Concealed Carry Association. Kevin Michalowski’s “Into the Fray” pieces always have a solid focus and some great advice. This time, it’s protecting your head and neck area in close quarters fighting.

Gun Knowledge: The Difference Between a 9mm and .380 [Video]

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

9mm (left) and .380 cartridges

9mm (left) and .380 cartridges

When you hear about good concealed carry guns for women, you very often hear about 9mm and .380 systems. So, what should you go with? Gun knowledge and round comparison will help.

Ultimately, it’s your choice and either is a reasonable one. Your decision may be based on weapon size. It may be based on stopping power. Let’s look at both and see what the benefits and drawbacks of each might be.

USCCA: The Healing Power of Firearms

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Concealed Carry Magazine

Concealed Carry Magazine

This article was authored by Autumn Parkin and is reprinted courtesy of Concealed Carry Magazine with permission of the United States Concealed Carry Association. All other rights reserved. For more information contact


We all get this question frequently. When I tell people I work in the firearms industry, I’m met with curiosity and rather annoying questions like, “How does a woman get involved in that?”

I’m careful in answering these queries, seeing myself as an ambassador to a culture that is often demonized by our government and our media. But my message is consistent: “There are dangerous, merciless people who might try to rob me of my dignity and my life, and it is up to me to defend myself — not only for myself but for my family as well. I know this firsthand.”

I wasn’t always a “gun nut.” I was born into an ultra-liberal household. I had zero exposure to firearms safety, and I wholeheartedly believed that guns had no place in everyday life. I believed I was immune to violence; after all, I was a good person who wouldn’t harm anyone. I believed that it couldn’t happen to me.

I was wrong.

When I was just 15 years old, I attended a party with some friends. I was naïve and deeply desired to fit in with my peers. After a few drinks, I headed to the bathroom. When I got to the door, I was shoved from behind by a classmate and his friend, and I went headfirst into the bathtub.

They dragged me out by my feet and shoved me into a corner. I begged them to stop and attempted to fight back, but they were so strong. They took turns holding me down and raping me, all the while laughing and giving each other high fives. I did not have the mindset, skills or tools to effectively defend myself. All of my attempts to fight these guys off were futile.

I was devastated. I never told my parents or the authorities. I felt weak and ashamed, but worse, I felt alone, having nowhere to turn for help in processing this event. I struggled through my teen and early adult years significantly because of what transpired at that party.

Six years later, I was hosting my own party for some friends. We were celebrating with expensive champagne, and we sat around the table, laughing and reminiscing. Later, the conversation grew dark in subject, and there was an ominous tone in the room. I remember having a sickening feeling, which I chose to ignore out of politeness.

The next thing I knew, my “friend” stood up and picked up the champagne glass that sat in front of him. Before I could process what was going on, he broke it on the table and shoved the glass stem through my nose while I sat there, stunned.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought to myself.

I was so traumatized by the initial blow, I didn’t see or feel the knife being plunged into my chest. A warm, metallic taste filled my mouth, and I realized I was bleeding and my face had been sliced lip to cheek. Leaning forward in my chair and seeing the blood pour from my face, I remember thinking to myself, “This is how I’m going to die.”

At this point, the others present had restrained my attacker and a call was placed to law enforcement. My attacker was taken into custody, and law enforcement began processing the crime scene. The Crime Scene Investigators were taking pictures of me, even the bottoms of my feet; it felt so surreal.

Emergency services transported me to a local hospital. When I arrived, a nurse said something I will never forget. “Looks like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in here!” she exclaimed. The doctor at the ER took one look at me and turned white. He immediately called for my transfer, then crudely stitched the wound in my chest and sent me to a trauma center 30 minutes away.

There I underwent three surgeries on my left eye, and it took my surgeon many hours to remove the hundreds of glass shards left in my face. It’s a miracle I can still see out of my left eye and still have the ability to smile.

I was traumatized. I felt disfigured and unlovable. I couldn’t be alone, and I couldn’t go out at night. How could I ever feel safe again? The constant anxiety and relentless panic attacks were crippling me.

I met my husband shortly afterward, and I wholly depended on him for my personal protection. When I received my restitution, I asked him to teach me how to shoot. We bought a couple of pistols, and he taught me the fundamentals.

I was so intimidated and insecure, it was three frustrating years before I got the courage to seek professional training. I don’t recommend anyone wait this long. Without professional instruction, there’s the likelihood of picking up bad habits, or “training scars,” which can be difficult to overcome.

When I eventually got my concealed carry permit, I thought I was prepared to defend myself. I was armed now … so how could a bad guy possibly win? I was in for quite the surprise!

I was scrolling through Facebook one night and saw an ad for a Multi-Stage Self-Defense Course at Forward Movement Training Center, a local training facility. I’m so grateful I decided to make attending a priority.

During our scenario-based training, I was put into a home-invasion scenario. When the attacker broke through the door, I attempted to access the firearm, which was staged in one of the rooms. When I couldn’t get to the firearm, I ended up barricading in the closet with no means of defense other than a hanger.

This is the moment when everything changed for me. Yes, I had the permit to carry a firearm for self-defense, but was I actually prepared for a fight for my life? After that scenario, I wasn’t so sure. What would my children do without me? These questions plagued me.

After that experience, I started to take my training very seriously. I took self-defense, defensive pistol, home defense, vehicle defense and executive protection courses, all of which incorporated heavy amounts of force-on-force and scenario-based training. Through these courses, I learned how to effectively use my firearm for self-defense and defense of others. I learned how to use my presence and my voice to deter predators, how to mitigate the effects of adrenaline and how to react quickly and make decisions under stress.

Training was such a healing experience for me. The more I trained, the more confident I became in my ability to respond to a threat. And as my confidence grew, my anxiety subsided.

I still struggled with many issues, though, like how to conceal my handgun. I’m very fashion-forward, so finding ways to carry in styles I actually wanted to wear was a struggle. Most of the resources I found on how to conceal were written by men, and, let’s face it, our bodies are pretty different.

I started researching and seeking out alternatives to the bulky holsters that were keeping me in hoodies. I was delighted to find so many creative women joining the once male-dominated industry with solutions to this problem.

We are seeing mighty groups of women who are demanding acceptance in an industry that can benefit them the most, and the industry is responding.

I joined The Well Armed Woman, a non-profit shooting organization for women, whose mission is to educate, equip and empower women in the safe and effective use of firearms. I became a leader and instructor, and I have the honor and privilege to see so many women grow in skill and in confidence. I have truly been given beauty for ashes.

I don’t share my story because I want to be seen as a victim. Anyone who knows me knows I am anything but! But my story is a cautionary tale; one to validate the importance of preparing for a critical incident. I share my story to encourage women to go boldly and seek training without intimidation. My mission is to empower women with lifesaving knowledge.

Terrible things happen every day, and it’s up to us to be ready. Our lives are worth protecting, and we owe it to our loved ones to invest in our personal defense.


Joining the USCCA will get you a subscription to Concealed Carry Magazine plus access to all of the archives! You will also be protected by The USCCA’s Self Defense Shield.

Click the button below to go to our home page for NRA Women TV, photo and story submissions and more!

Join the NRA Eagle