Annie Oakley: Why women should shoot (1894)

Original publication: New York Sun (New York, NY) Date: June 3, 1894
Categories: 1890s, For women, Newspapers, Notable people, Photos & photography
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Why women should shoot

Annie Oakley gives from reasons and hints for practice

Annie Oakley portrait

Outdoor life with pleasure, health, readiness and precision attend this recreation — The sort of firearms to use.

There are number of reasons, in my opinion, why every lady who has the time, the means, and the opportunity should learn the use of firearms.

Until recent years, woman has been debarred to a great extent from participating in many sports, pastimes, and recreations which in times past were looked upon as fit only for the opposite sex.

Now, however, that her right to enjoy some of these healthy diversions, especially those of an out-of-door nature, are fully recognized, I believe that such diversions should be taken advantage of to the fullest extent.

I do not wish to be understood to mean by this that woman should sacrifice home and family duties merely for outside pleasure, but that, feeling how true it is that health goes a great way toward making home life happy, no opportunity should be lost by my sex of indulging in outdoor sports, pastimes, and recreations, which are at once healthy in their tone and results and womanly in their character.

Under this category the use of firearms must come, for does not this practice, as a rule, bring one out into the open, where not only the fresh air may be breathed, but oftentimes the beauties of nature be also enjoyed.

If only as a means of benefiting the health the use of firearms by woman is, therefore, well worth learning. Then again, shooting is not only a healthy recreation, but a pleasurable one, and one in which both body and mind are brought into activity — the body in wielding or handling the weapon, and the mind in exercising judgment when aiming and firing at an object.

Annie Oakley - 1880sWhen learning the use of firearms, a woman learns at the same time confidence and self-possession, for these qualities, together with good eyesight, nerve, and judgment, are necessary in the handling of a gun or a revolver with anything like precision or accuracy.

And are not these qualities of use also in daily life, and, therefore, all the more worthy of cultivation? Further, every lady who has the chance should learn the use of firearms, so that she may be able to protect herself in times of danger.

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It is a common remark that woman’s only weapon is her tongue, but though this might have been true half a century ago, it is not so true now, for are not many ladies nowadays accomplished shots and fencers, and proficient in exercises, a knowledge of which is likely to prove useful in time of need for self-protection?

Still, the vast majority of my sex are greatly handicapped when danger comes, and, in my opinion, at least one great means whereby she can do something to equalize matters is by learning to handle a gun or revolver — the latter, of course, being the easier to carry, and the more likely to prove useful in the greater number of instances.

And now, having given one or two reasons why a lady should learn the use of firearms, I will proceed to give a few hints as to the best method which, in my opinion, she should pursue in acquiring a knowledge of the same.

There is no royal road to shooting, just as there is no royal road to knowledge.

Some people follow one system and some another, but all have the same object in view — namely, the acquiring of a certain amount of proficiency in handling and using the weapon, be it rifle, revolver, or shotgun.

It is not in the capacity of all to become first-class shots, but by dint of hard work and perseverance, any lady should be able to learn how to use firearms with some degree of skill.

It is best to commence, I should say, by using a light 22-caliber single-shot rifle, unloaded, and practicing by pointing or aiming at a mark with it a few hundred times, care being always taken to keep the muzzle from pointing toward yourself or any one else.

Having learned how to handle the rifle with ease, you should commence to shoot at a good-sized mark, having some friend who is acquainted with the use of firearms always by your side to give proper instructions. It is best to learn in this way, as you can learn much quicker than by yourself, and at the same time you will not fall into many errors which you would be apt otherwise to do.

Extra care is required in handling the revolver, as it is more complicated than the rifle, and, it being short, you are more apt to get the muzzle in a dangerous position. More time will also be necessary in learning how to use it.

The revolver will always be handy, when travelling, to those who care to carry it, as it gives a feeling of security against danger and attack that repays the trouble of taking it about, especially to those journeying alone.

Having become proficient in the use of the rifle and revolver, your next step should be to learn how to handle the shotgun.

For beginners, I would recommend a light 20-bore, say about five pounds, loaded light at first, or until they get familiar with the recoil. Besides, a 20-bore gun will be found large enough for all practical purposes. In fact, some of my best scores in the field and at the trap have been made with a 20-bore.

You should insist on accompanying your father or brother or intimate friends on their shooting excursions, and thus join with them in one of their healthy recreations, for if shooting is a healthy recreation for men why not also for women?

As to how to dress when out on these excursions I cannot very well tell you, except that the dress should vary with the climate and the time of year.

Personally, I have shot and fished in eleven different countries in various parts of the world, and have always made it a rule to dress warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather, being careful to keep my feet dry, and to have a light waterproof cape by me to use in case of rain.

My time is much occupied, or I might enter more fully into the subject, but I think the foregoing will give the reader some idea of the reasons why a lady should learn the use of firearms, and she should set about the acquiring of this knowledge.

– Annie Oakley


Earned it with her rifle

Annie Oakley, the champion woman shot of America, is an example of the thrifty woman.

She owns a $9000 house, which she has bought with money she earned within a few years by her trusty rifle and steady aim.

Although Miss Oakley doesn’t lay any particular stress on this herself, she is one of the most graceful and strong runners among women. It is a perfect picture, and if more women could run like Annie Oakley, there wouldn’t be half so much use for doctors in this world.

– Exchange (via Woodland Daily Democrat  – Woodland, California – August 29, 1894)


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Source publication: New York Sun (New York, NY)

Publication date: June 3, 1894


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