By Erin Horrigan
It’s Sunday afternoon at the range and Kate Pratley is readied with her pistol.
She takes aim, pulls the trigger and hits the bottom of the target.
On either side of her at Mundaring Marksman Range, other women are preparing their guns and putting on ear muffs to begin a day of target practice.
It’s still a male-dominated domain, but target shooting is growing in popularity among WA women.
Ms Pratley, the Mundaring Marksman Association secretary, says the stigma against women shooting has declined significantly since she first picked up a gun in Port Hedland in 2001.
“Women are seeing it as more acceptable. It’s becoming more normal for women to participate in ‘manly’ activities,” Pratley said.
Ms Pratley believes that part of the shift in the shooter demographics comes down to people acknowledging shooting as a legitimate sport rather than seeing the gun as a weapon.
“Like a baseball bat, a gun is sporting equipment,” she said.
“Shooting is a sport where you’re competing against yourself, you’re beating your own score and you see immediate results.”
Courtney Cowling, 24, has been shooting on her farm since she was a teenager and transitioned into shooting for sport because she wanted the mental challenge that target shooting evokes.
“From the women I know, it seems that more women are shooting because girls are growing up now with strong female role models and being ‘tomboyish’ isn’t looked down on anymore,” she says.
“I think characters in pop culture, such as Merida DunBroch from Brave and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games franchise are definitely making boyish activities seem more acceptable to young girls.”
Women were also inspired by Olympian Catherine Skinner, 26, who secured Australia’s gold medal for the Rio 2016 Olympics in trap shooting. Skinner grew up on a farm in NSW and took an interest when her brother was learning to shoot.
What’s it like to fire a gun? Here is a clip of journalism student Erin Horrigan learning to shoot a rifle.