Episode #5 Transcript - Firearms, Mindset, and Pre-event Indicators: Prioritizing Personal Safety with Robyn Sandoval

Doug: Hey guys, glad to be back and excited to introduce you to a guest of ours. Robin Sandoval is the Executive Director of A Girl and A Gun. She is a firearms instructor for multiple disciplines as well as multiple organizations including the NRA, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association, Range Master, and A Girl and A Gun. She is an Arranged Safety Officer and has trained under many notable instructors. She competes in several sports and disciplines and is the Managing Editor for Women and Gun Magazine and a frequent speaker at national conferences as well as podcasts on gun-related issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of The DC Project and meets with members of Congress regularly on firearms-related issues. So, we’re excited to have you here and welcome you to our show. We think you’ll bring a unique perspective to us. So, welcome Robin.

Robyn: Yeah, thanks for having me. I appreciate the invitation.

Doug: So, in that introduction, we all know that our bios are not necessarily who we are, so introduce yourself.

Robyn: Well, I am a mom who wanted to learn how to protect her family. I am a part of a very dynamic and enthusiastic community of women. Last year, we trained almost 40,000 women in how to use their firearm, whether it was a pistol, rifle, or shotgun for self-defense or competition. Many women come to us for defense, but then they find out how much fun we have on the range and it opens a whole world to them that they never knew existed.

Doug: And how long have you been doing this?

Robyn: A Girl and A Gun is 12 years old this year, so quite a while now.

Kelly: That’s awesome. Congratulations.

Doug: Why don’t you walk us through a little bit of the history of A Girl and A Gun, started 12 years ago, and tell us how it’s going.

Robyn: Well, I was strongly anti-gun for most of my life. I was not raised around firearms. Even though I’m a native Texan, it was not part of my family or how I grew up in the city. So it was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that really opened my eyes. I watched a modern American city become debilitated overnight. First responders couldn’t respond or were unable to respond, and many families were left on their own and there was a pivotal moment when I saw a mother at the Superdome. I was watching on the news. I saw this mother hand her small children to strangers who were getting on a bus to Houston, and she said, please take them. I’ll try to find you in a few days. And my heart broke for her. And I turned to my husband and I said, what do I have to do so that’s never me… that no matter what happens, we can stay together as a family. And so I had this brilliant idea to store peanut butter and tuna fish and just be able to hunker down if anything happens in our community. He said, if people are that desperate, someone’s gonna kick in our door for our peanut butter. How are we gonna stop them? After arguing for gun control my entire life, I had no argument. It came down to these three little people that I would do anything to protect, even if it meant learning something that was initially scary.

And so at the same time, there was a friend and colleague, Juliana Crater, who was a firearms instructor here in Austin and she had the idea to get more women to the range. She was trying to get more women off the sidelines. She would go to matches, pistol matches, and she would be the only woman competing. There would be women there with their husbands, but they wouldn’t actually participate. So she thought, how can I make women more confident? How can I make it more fun and engaging? And so she decided to host Girls Night Out at the Range. And so she hosted her first Girls Night Out February 28th, 2011. I heard about her and came to the one in March and I don’t know if I was more scared of shooting the gun or meeting other women or going into a dirty gun range or all of the above. But I went and it really changed my life because not only did I meet other women where I could talk about how do you talk to your kids about this? How do you store them? Why would you want to compete? Why would you want to conceal, carry all of these questions? I was able to talk to other mothers about, and other women in general, but I made a group of friends. I made a whole life that I never expected and it really changed my life.

So, I was kind of at a crossroads in my career and Juliana and I partnered up and over the years, the past decade now we have Girls Night Out at the Range at more than 300 ranges across the country. We train tens of thousands of women every year. And we have a membership base. We have members in all 50 states. And so, I’m just really fortunate to be at the home of this organization.

Doug: Pretty, pretty awesome. And was your… you mentioned you were anti-gun, was your husband anti-gun as well?

Robyn: He was an anti-gun. He would go to the gun range growing up, in Texas. He would go with friends to the range or out to a deer lease. But he knew that I was very passionate about not having them in our home with our children. That was a hard stop for me. And so he was very respectful of that. It was a 10 year conversation, that finally he and I both had our eyes opened and I was open to the idea of.

Kelly: That was actually a question. That is, when we tell the stories, we look back, we say I was anti-gun, and then I became a rights advocate. So are you saying that it was a tenured learning journey or questioning journey of changing your mindset? Because we know mindsets aren’t gonna be changed overnight. Can you go more in-depth than what that looked like?

Robyn: Absolutely. And I always tell people, especially husbands, I’ve kind of become the Dear Abby of the gun world because men will write me all the time and say, my wife is anti-gun. How do I get her to see the light? And I have to say that it’s a journey. You don’t go from anti-gun to carrying hot in the chamber every day overnight. It really is a mindset. It starts with wanting to be your own personal protector, wanting to be your own first responder. And that’s really the question for a lot of women who are anti-gun. I say, okay, well then what are your tools? What is your go-to tool that you’re gonna use in a defensive situation? And some of them keep a baseball bat behind the door. So I say, okay, let’s talk about that. What are the pros and cons? Because if that’s your go-to, I wanna make you the best go-to resource with that. And then eventually I get them to use the gun. But we start with where they are and we talk about the pros and cons of that.

And that’s really it is wanting to have the lethal force capability of lethal force is met upon you. And for many women that might not be themselves, that might be their husband using lethal force. So just having the firearm in the home for someone else to use may be the first step in recognizing I want to have a layer of protection closer than minutes away when 9-1-1 is called. I want it to be more immediate. So that’s the first step is just recognizing that instant need perhaps for a self-defense situation and be protected right away, that seconds count. And then kind of talking about what your options are, what your comfort level is, what tools you want to use, and then finally understanding the laws and the use of force and what you’re legally allowed to use at certain times and places.

And so there’s a whole journey there. It doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s where education and support from another community really helps.

Kelly: Love that. I feel like she was speaking my language. It’s all about starting with where they’re at. I’m married to law enforcement, so it was before I grew up, or before, as I was growing up, my family didn’t have firearms, like my dad didn’t hunt, my brother didn’t hunt. We literally had a 22 rifle from my grandpa and no ammunition in the house. That would’ve been better to use as a bat quite honestly. My mother is a woman who keeps a fire bat, which is for breaking glass in case of fire, next to her as her self-defense weapon. 

I remember doing a video simulation with my husband and it was the role playing trying, for anyone who hasn’t ever done that situation or experienced that. I always say it’s like a shoebox and at the end of the shoebox the entire wall is a screen and you’re standing there in a scenario holding, you know, a firearm that doesn’t actually have any ammunition. It might have little containers of air, CO2 so you do get some kick. But the simulation was, you know, you’re laying in bed, you hear a noise and the spouse in the video gets up out of bed and says, ‘I’m gonna go check on that.’ And then a male suspect comes into the room, his hands are kind of up because you surprised him because you’re there, but he doesn’t have any weapons in his hands. I’m giving verbal commands, like ‘Who are you? Get out of my room.’ All of that and he left. So, my heart’s pounding, I’m going through this adrenaline dump, and I’m like, ‘Well, where’s my protector?’ My protector’s down there. 

The instructor asked me, ‘Well why didn’t you shoot him? Why didn’t you do anything?’ And I said, ‘Well, I didn’t see a weapon.’ They’re like, but your husband was gone, ‘What if he killed your husband?’ I’m like, ‘Well I didn’t hear a shot. And I don’t know if he’s alive or not.’ So, I stood my ground but I didn’t escalate the situation and they were like, ‘Good answer.’ So it was one of those where I realized I have always defaulted to ‘My husband will take care of it; he’s gonna go look and see what the loud noise downstairs was.’ And a lot of times we don’t go past that, we don’t have the conversation of ‘What are you gonna do to take care of?’

Robyn: Yeah, we see that a lot in training and those simulators are really good at getting your adrenaline up and you did really great staying calm. That’s the biggest thing, is to keep your mindset in the game so that you can make those really reasonable decisions because you have to account for all the decisions you make in that moment.

And it feels like that moment goes by so fast, but it really can affect the trajectory of your life and how you’ve handled that situation. So it sounds like you did a really great job. And training in those scenarios really does help you develop those kinds of skills so that you can kind of go to a mental reel of, what are my options?

Kelly: Thank you. It’s interesting because again, without having the experience, you don’t really know how you’re going to react in a situation, and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity, or I seek out opportunities to go practice in an adrenalized state in a scenario that I don’t know what’s gonna happen.

And for those who have maybe never experienced a video simulator, the person in charge doing the training has options and can say, let’s see. You know, so if you know Doug would go into that scenario, Robin would go into the scenario right after me. They could choose, okay, now that that individual is going to be armed, or now that individual is going to lunge towards them so it can change dynamically.

So you don’t know, even if you think you’ve watched somebody else go through the scenario, the trainer can always change.

Robyn: And the technology has changed so much in that regard, too. I remember just a few years ago, if you made a decision and acted on something, say you, engaged with the firearm to the suspect, there would be kind of like a screen refresh where the system would say, okay, she did that. Let’s reboot now, go this way.

And now it’s instantaneous. It is amazing. The technology has come, it feels so real, and like you said, the person operating the system can do anything, like have a dog barking and they have just unlimited options for distractions and, and different scenarios of, of how people respond or what they say. It’s really incredible.

Doug: A couple of times you’ve mentioned the idea or concept of mindset. Right. And I suspect that that’s something you hit on a lot in the training that you do. So can you talk through with us the importance of mindset at various stages of, of an individual’s, kind of exploration of what is the right path for them to pursue on a self-defense perspective?

Right. Because you know that mindset to choose to take responsibility for your self-defense, that mindset on when to choose what tool and that mindset on when to deploy a tool, those sorts of things.

Robyn: Absolutely. Mindset is everything. And that’s something that we work on even in the training scenarios is just getting your mind to that place of being present. And so many times we carry our stressors and our anxieties around with us and that really affects the decisions that we make.

So the first thing is making sure that you have a clear head and you’re able to analyze what the options are. And that doesn’t always mean that you immediately go to the most aggressive option or the option of using a firearm, especially if you’re carrying one. You really need to assess what the best option is.

And that ties into the laws of your state, the laws in the area that you’re in, any ordinances that you need to be aware of, in addition to the mindset of how do you keep yourself and your family and those around you safe. So that’s the biggest part, is making sure that you’re making [00:15:00] reasonable decisions and analyzing the risks and figuring out what are the best options for you in that situation.

Mindset is critical. It’s really the biggest piece of it. The rest of it’s just a tool. It’s just an action. And that physical skill, you can learn that at the range. You can learn that at a Dojo. You can learn those in other places, but the mindset is stuff that you have to work on all the time because that’s stuff you have to read about and study about and really explore questions that you may be scared to approach. For example, what would I do in this situation? How would I act in this situation? And kind of play the what if game all the time so that you can have those decisions made in advance so you don’t waste time. Thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening.” You’ve already kind of helped make those decisions.

So mindset is critical. We talk about it all the time. I think there’s lots of things that we do specifically in a Girl and a Gun to talk about mindset. First of all, the training that we give, but we have a book club. We talk about a lot in different books that we read. So every month we have a book assigned and a lot of times it does address mindset.

But for many women that come to us that might be new to firearms, addressing mindset is really important because they may think, “Oh, I could never use a firearm in that situation. I could never use lethal force on someone else.” And so you really have to explore that a little bit and make those kind of mental, emotional, ethical questions on where how you’re gonna fall on that. And it’s not for everybody, but you can talk about, for example, you’ll ask a woman, “Well, okay, so I hear how you feel, but what if someone was hurting your child?” Most of them would say, “Yeah, not in a heartbeat.” Well, doesn’t your child need you to come home at the end of the day? You know, how would you feel if you weren’t at their graduation and you weren’t at their birthday and you were never around ever again? They want you there. You’re worth protecting. 

So just getting women to understand that they’re worth that decision, that they’re worth that journey and exploration, sometimes that’s a really big hurdle for women to get through, to make them want to be their own first responder, or to make them feel valued and that they’re worth protecting. That’s the first step at all. So after we can kind of talk about, “This is a fight for survival,” then we talk about having that winning mindset of “I have to win the fight.” And again, sometimes if they have children, we can talk about, “What if someone said, ‘In this moment you will never see your little one again?”

It chokes me up to think about it. If someone says that to me, “You will never see them again. You have to fight with everything you’ve got right here in this moment, and you have to win.” So having those kinds of decisions make me want to be the winner. I want to prevail no matter what it takes. 

 So then we can walk back from that to say, “Okay, now I want to learn. I want to learn the how, the why, the where, so that when I’m in that situation, I have all the odds on my side.” So mindset is key.

Doug: How did you go about developing your mindset as you began to tackle it from a personal perspective?

Robyn: I was really fortunate to have [00:16:00] really great instructors right from the beginning. One of my mentors, Kathy Jackson, wrote a book called The Cornered Cat, and it was really pivotal in my development, a budding mentor, coach, and future instructor because she really forced you to ask those hard questions.

If someone takes your child, would you fire at them at the risk of hitting your child? Or would you take the risk of never seeing your child again? What decision would you make? That’s an excruciating decision to make. But it really helps you to explore what your goals are, what your values are, what you’re willing to do, or when you’re going to call for law enforcement or when you’re comfortable waiting. That’s a personal decision for every person, but if you can kind of start that decision on knowing the law and what you’re allowed to do, and then exploring your mindset and what you’re capable of doing, and then the morality of it, what should you do in this situation?

So, there’s always that in our training, we always talk [00:17:00] about what can I do? What must I do? So, sometimes, you can shelter in place, you can hide behind your bed, you can lock the door and wait for law enforcement. But if your child is in the other room, maybe if it’s a personal decision, you must go. You must go out and confront the bad guy. So, all of those kinds of decisions are really part of a journey, and we talk about it pretty much all the time.

Kelly: I have a question because again, from that outside perspective, saying you need to know your self-defense laws of your jurisdiction, of your area because they’re different. You know, everyone has a different law depending on where they live in regards to what they can or how the law is going to view self-defense.

Like, what are the justifications that need to be met in order to be ruled self-defense? Do you have a favorite resource or a place to start? So, I’m [00:18:00] brand new. I’m just starting my journey on wanting to figure out how to protect myself. Maybe I’m a widow, a new widow, maybe I’m a new divorced female who now I have to take on the role of protector whether I really want to or not. But I feel your point, it’s now up to me. I’m mama bear, so I have to figure something out. And this is really overwhelming. Do you have a resource that you typically point people to, to start that journey or start?

Robyn: Well, I’m honored to be that resource for a lot of people who are new into firearms. They come to us looking for that kind of information. And you’re right, there is a situation where you have to know the laws. But beyond that, something may be legal, but it may not be reasonable to a jury of your peers. So knowing those nuances, too, here in Texas, it was legal for this person to use lethal force for the protection of property. But in this particular case, the jury did not feel that he acted reasonably. Someone was trying to steal parts of his vehicle and they didn’t feel that was justified. 

So it’s understanding not only the nuances of the laws, but knowing what a reasonable person is, knowing the whole legal process, knowing the pitfalls that people can fall into and learning from their hard learned experiences. So I’m fortunate to be that resource at A Girl & A Gun for a lot of those, because we bring in a lot of experts. There are really great resources in our industry, like US Law Shield, they have attorneys that do workshops and can provide more information about the local jurisdictions and the laws in certain states. USCCA is another really good resource. They have online training, they have their own Protector Academy that you can log into your own account and watch some videos. There’s also the Citizens Legal Defense Network.

Kelly: And we can, so we do an episode take away or an episode key where we put in all the links that we talked about in the show. So I’ve written down the book by Kathy, The Cornered Cat. You can go to thediamondarrowgroup.com and download the episode key. We’ll make sure that we get all the links that Robin’s talking about in the episode key for you in one nice, neat place.

Doug: Now I’ve got a question. So as our listeners know, part of Kelly’s story is that she had gone through this training event on self-defense and landed at the end of it, the instructor’s saying, but the best thing to do is to never be in a position where you have to use these tools. And that began this journey into situational awareness and how to teach women particularly about situational awareness. 

Situational awareness in the firearms world is absolutely key. That even the example that Kelly used earlier of the simulator where the bad guy had come into the room and she had a shoot, no shoot situation decision and he didn’t have any weapon in his hands like situational awareness to that. 

So can you talk about the role of situational awareness in this world, particularly as you’re bringing new shooters in or people new to the shooting world into building this?

Robyn: Well, the best way to win a gunfight is to not be in a gunfight. So if you can avoid it, that is really the key to winning. At the end of the day, it’s all about going home to our families, so we want to avoid any situation that prevents that, whether it’s the fight for our life in the moment or the legal fight. If we’re in jail, we’re not at home with our family. So the goal is getting home to our family. 

So situational awareness is key because if we can avoid those situations altogether, it’s for the best. We do a lot of training on that. Not only looking around and just getting women to get off their phones when they’re walking around or leave their purse and their shopping cart or all of those things like have yourself to Flint too. Self-defense tools with you on body if possible, all of those kinds of things, but also raising your children to be aware, to look for anomalies, to look for something that doesn’t belong. Usually we’re creatures of habit, so it is varying up your routes home but also recognizing if you go to a place, often you just kind of get a feel for who doesn’t belong there. 

If you’re at your local coffee shop and someone just doesn’t look right, keep an eye on them or just leave, you know, maybe you go through the drive-through or maybe you go to a different one. So having those choices, just to kind of trust your gut, that’s the biggest thing. There’s a book that I really love called When Violence is the Answer. It’s actually probably one of my favorite self-defense books because it talks a lot about the theory of self-protection and the mindset piece of it, but also gives you actionable things to train on and to target and to know what to look for. And people. The hands are the things we always wanna keep our eyes on.

Kelly: And just watching for things that are different. But the biggest key at the end of the day is just trusting your gut and not escalating a situation that doesn’t need to be escalated. It’s about going home at the end of the day. So you’re absolutely right. We talk about situational awareness a lot.

One of my key takeaways from much of the training I’ve done is looking at pre attack indicators. That’s helped me tremendously as a woman. If someone is talking with their hands or if someone is approaching me, just knowing what keys and body language to look for that might be an indicator that something is nefarious as opposed to someone just asking for help or someone just approaching me for whatever reason.

So knowing those kinds of indicators, and nowadays with body cams and surveillance cameras, more than ever, we have a lot of that data to show what pre attack indicators are happening in a lot of situations. And that really gives you peace of mind to just have that extra knowledge of, don’t panic, stay calm.

Here’s what you look for, here’s how you react, here’s how you get out of the situation.

Kelly: Can you give us some of those pre indicator, pre attack indicators, maybe things that you specifically look for or, you know, and I get that it, it all depends on the situation, the relationship the person has with you, a stranger and acquaintance, a friend of a friend, but just some are, what are some things that you are always your go-to indicators that you watch for?

Robyn: I watch for hands and feet. So I want to see what’s in their hands. If their hands are in their pockets, what’s in their hands? If their hands are coming at me, if their hands are looking friendly, if they’re touching themselves a lot, if they are grooming their hair, if they are touching their beard or chin, if they touch their face, that could be a pre attack indicator.

Kelly: Explain why that is? Because I mean, I love that. I totally get it. And it’s one of those things where it’s like, what do you mean? Like, I’m always fidgeting, I’m curling. People say, well, I’m, that’s my stress reliever, which is actually why they’re doing that.

Robyn: It’s soothing them because they know they’re about to do something that you don’t know they’re about to do. So sometimes it could be a soothing response. Sometimes it could be a shielding response, that they’re trying to hide part of their body or their face from you because they’re trying to be sneaky.

So, watching hands is really key. Watching feet too. Are they pointing at you or are they pointing away from you? Where are their hips oriented to where they’re looking, uh, spatial distance. Also, are they making specific requests of you? Or are they just trying to start a conversation? That might be an indicator as well.

Doug: They bladed. Yeah.

Kelly: Yeah.

Robyn: So are they looking around, that kind of stuff. If they’re watching for witnesses or, or law enforcement, that’s a key that maybe something’s fixing to go down.

Having a lot of that training on, to know if someone’s just walking by you, it doesn’t hurt to walk across the street. It doesn’t hurt to take a different elevator. Women often are trying not to be rude, but part of being a protector and a self-advocate is to say, that’s okay. I’m gonna take the next one. Or, oh, I forgot something in my office. I’m gonna run back down the hall, or whatever you feel, if you feel like you need to justify it, but it’s trusting your gut to not get in a scary situation or a situation where you feel like it may be potentially unsafe.

Kelly: Right. I’m feverously taking notes. One thing that when I was doing prep for this episode is, and now I’m starting to wonder if I had read it wrong, but I thought it said somewhere, were you a 22-year veteran of Tulsa law enforcement or did that

Robyn: No, that’s my friend Diana Muller. She’s a professional three gunner. So she’s founded the DC project, but she was in the Tulsa law police department for many years.

Kelly: Okay. Well thanks for that clarification because I’m like, wow, you went from 22-year law enforcement and anti-gun. I’m like, I wanted to hear how that correlated. Makes…

Robyn: No, I just have the good fortune to hang out with really great friends and really awesome, inspirational people. So yeah, she’s one.

Doug: A lot of our viewers or the folks that Kelly trains or spends time with, want to know what’s the tool to have to keep themselves safe. They always want a silver bullet, no pun intended. And, and so, you know, you’re in the firearms world, and we know that you can go in many places down to Walmart and buy a pistol for $400 or local gun shop and buy a pistol.

But it’s way more than that, right? Like in order to take that responsibility. Talk through that a little bit. If you don…

Robyn: A lot of times people reach out to us, especially if there was a natural disaster after hurricanes, my phone rings off the hook because people feel vulnerable. They feel like power’s down, or first responders might not be able to respond, and they start feeling like, I need to get a gun. I need to be protected. 

And the first thing we say is, it’s not a magic talisman, it’s not a shield that’s gonna protect you. You have to know how to use it. As an instructor, there’s nothing that makes me crazier than when someone says, oh, well, I’ll just know in the moment adrenaline will help me through it. It’s not how it works.

You don’t all of a sudden learn to do something really amazing just because of adrenaline. It takes a lot of time. It takes the physical prep of constantly pressing the trigger and working your fundamentals. It takes the mental prep of knowing when, while, when, how, why, all of those things. So, Yeah, it’s not a magic talisman.

The biggest thing is for people to learn. So if you do go and buy a firearm, the first thing you should do is find support for that; for training, to learn how to safely use it, how to safely store it, how to transport it. All of those things that don’t even require touching it. Then let’s start talking about learning the parts of the firearm, how it works, and then going to the range and being able to put some rounds safely down range.

I always recommend doing that under, with the guidance and support of an instructor. And that’s why, there’s a lot of organizations out there that, like Girl and a Gun that do provide training where you can find classes and clinics on how to use your firearm and everything in between.

There’s a lot that comes along with gun ownership in general. We teach tactical medicine, we teach safe storage. We say of course, all of the, the mindset things too, but there’s a whole. Realm. It really opens a door to a world you never knew existed. And so I encourage you to really explore.

Kelly: Is there more to it than just walking in or not? I’m saying I know all jurisdictions are different, all areas according to laws. Can you explain that? Because I think there’s a misnomer out there that it’s easy for a law-abiding citizen to obtain a handgun or rifle. What do you think?

Robyn: Yeah. Every licensed dealer has to make each purchase fill out a 44 73, which is a background check. There’s an NS check through the national database. So a background check for every firearm purchased from a federal firearms license. So if you go to Walmart, it’s not like you can just walk in, throw down some cash and walk out with a firearm.

It is a process everyone has to go through for background checks. It does sound a lot easier than it is and people don’t realize firearms can be expensive, ammunition can be expensive, training can be expensive. It’s something you can budget for. We found when people shoot it often becomes part of the family budget. All these things come with committing to learning, getting good gear, and good training.

Firearms and gun ownership cannot be a right or privilege, it has to be a right for everyone and there’s a way to make it accessible. Walmart can have a $400 pistol, fill out the 44 73, take it home, and come to one of our Girls’ Night Out with it. I will make you the best shooter I can with that little pistol.

Doug: A question I get asked a lot is ‘What’s the right gun to buy for a girlfriend, wife, or woman I know?’ People say ‘Maybe a revolver would be easiest’. I tell them ‘No, stop. That’s not your decision.’ Find a different path.

Robyn: I recommend people start small. A .22LR or a .38 special revolver is good for training and learning how to shoot. It’s low recoil, low muzzle velocity, small, and easy to maneuver. The .22LR is a great transition because it’s like learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission before you move up to an automatic. It’s great for understanding all the basics and continuing shooting for years, as your strength and confidence grow.

Robyn: I always tell men, would you go online and just buy some random shoes, some stilettos and think, “Oh, she’ll love these. She’ll wear them all the time. They’re super comfortable?” No, you’re not going to buy her shoes. You might pay for them, but she needs to try them on. She needs to like them. She needs to make sure they’re comfortable and that she actually wants to have them on. 

If you don’t want to have them on, you’re not going to wear them. In the case of a firearm, if it stays in the safe all the time, it’s not doing you any good – it’s the same analogy. I love that men want to help their wives become gun owners, but really the best thing she can do is to find a place where she can try different firearms. 

Many ranges have rental programs where you can try a firearm, shoot a few rounds through each different one so you can really see how it feels in your hands because everyone’s hands are sized differently. Everyone can reach the controls on different firearms in different ways, as they’re manufactured slightly differently. 

And so, just finding one that she can manage, recoil that she feels comfortable, that she feels like she has a good grip on it, and that her confidence is good with it. And then of course, getting training. I always say, “Don’t buy until you try”. Just like you wouldn’t buy some shoes without trying them on, it’s the same kind of thing. 

So I love well-meaning guys, but a semi-automatic pistol is definitely the way to go. Revolvers are awesome, but usually magazine capacity is an advantage; it’s also faster to load and usually easier to use, and we use them for competition and all kinds of really fun things. 

And, don’t underestimate her potential. A lot of times women think, “I can’t do it because I’m smaller or I’m not as strong”. But most of it is about leveraging technique and not about strength. And so if you have the courage to try, I will make sure that you’re…

Doug: My wife tried probably 20 plus different semi-automatic handguns before deciding what she wanted, liked, and shot best. It definitely was a process and it was helpful and fun for both of us to go through that process at some of the Girl & a Gun events. Would some of the women that attend for the first time have the chance to try other firearms? 

Robyn: Yeah, we call it speed dating. So the guns stay on the bench and everybody gets a magazine and you go from gun to gun to gun, and you can take notes on which ones you liked or which features fit your hand better. If it’s something like a 1911 or something that might be different than something you’ve experienced before, we’ll have subject matter experts there talking to you about that firearm and what makes it unique. There’s a lot of 1911s that are really popular right now. Anyway, you can come out to a speed dating night and try a whole bunch of different guns. But usually most of our Girl & a Gun gatherings everyone shares. If you want to try someone else’s firearm, that’s the benefit of being part of a community like this. Whenever someone gets something, they want to share and everyone wants to see it and try it. That’s been a really great advantage for people to be able to find the perfect gun for them because they can try their friend’s guns.

Kelly: I like that “speed dating” idea. It also made me think of going wine tasting or brewery tours, like a beer flight. But again, I agree. When I started dating my husband, my first holiday gift was a firearm that I had never shot before. He underestimated what I would like. It was a little .22 mosquito and it had zero kick. It was all these things that were so cliche, but at least it started. Now it’s funny because one thing I’ve talked about too is you may start your journey, go to a Girl & a Gun shooting event, find the firearm you like, feel comfortable with it, and then practice and get better. Because your competency is increasing, you may go, “you know what, I kind of like this other gun now or I’m graduating up. Do you see that happening or experience that?” Have any stories that relate to starting here and now graduating?

Robyn: All the time. You don’t know what you don’t know. So when you’re new, the whole experience is awkward. You’re, the gun speaks one language, and it’s loud: it’s a loud explosion. So to have that six or 12, 14 inches from your face is a really surprising situation for a lot of people, it’s new to them.

And a lot of times the loudness is what prevents people from coming out in the first place. And once we put good ear protection on them and double up their earplugs and earmuffs, and then take that sound away, now they’re able to really focus on what they’re doing and recognize it’s just a tool.

And then they find out what they like. And as you shoot more, you become more confident, and start to understand which features you like a little more than others. You learn to maybe field strip and clean your own firearm and have certain functionality or mechanisms that you prefer.

Some people start off wanting mechanical safety and then recognize that it’s maybe a hindrance in their training or competition. So they move to a firearm with an internal safety. It just depends on the features that you like. We see that all the time.

But then also the more you like it, the more you want different firearms for different things. My dad asked me why do you have so many guns? And I said, why do you have so many cars? I have the truck to haul stuff, the sports car to drive, this car to show, and that car to haul them all. It’s the same thing. I have the defense guns, the carry guns, the conceal guns, the competition guns. So you’ll find firearms for different things. There are some that are great across the board, but as you start getting into it and become a serious competitor, defender or everyday carrier, you’ll find different features that really you gravitate toward.

I get to go buy more guns until they start surpassing and being like, well, now we need a holster. And now we need different…

Robyn: Yeah, well actually, you said verbalizing when you’re giving commands to someone that commands presence or, giving out, kind of speaking out loud, that can be very challenging. And I’ve taken numerous classes on it and it’s still a challenge for me to have that [00:39:00] reel be able to come out while I’m thinking of other things at the same time.

So having opportunities to practice having a command presence which means being able to tell someone, commands, get back, also tell other people, get back, looking around who can hurt me, who can help me? Uh, how many… does the bad guy have friends? Lots of bad guys have friends. So it’s analyzing that entire situation and being able to speak what you need in that moment.

And personally, I’ve found as a woman that many times, not just verbalizing but our body language can really affect things. And that goes into situational awareness too. How not to look like a victim, how to stand tall, how to walk with a steady gate, how to just look confident and have that no me persona. But I find, and I’ve really studied it really for the past four years, eye contact is really different for women than it is for men. A lot of times men can give eye contact and it’s at, I see you, I acknowledge you move on. Whereas women, if you give eye contact, it can be engaging. It can be, it, it just has a lot of different meanings.

Robyn: Yes, misinterpreted. So sometimes it can be, “I see you” and sometimes it’s, “I want you to talk to me.” Or sometimes it’s, “I actually insulted you by not talking to you.” I mean, it’s a very tricky thing for women in eye contact and yet you do want to look around. And so, just a little tidbit for the listeners is I found that women should look through someone. Instead of making eye contact and looking back, or making eye contact and looking down, make eye contact and keep moving. So, looking past someone is a much safer way to engage in eye contact where it acknowledges that they see you. I’ve heard other people say, “Don’t make eye contact. Just keep them in your peripheral” and just stay confident.

Giving eye contact is really tricky, I think for women especially to have that “I’m in control here, but I’m not engaging. But I don’t want you to talk to me, but I want you to know I see you.” It’s a really tricky subject and it takes a lot of practice actually because women are just raised to be nice. We’re raised to smile and we have to be very careful because safety has to come.

Kelly: Well, and it, you never know if your messaging is misinterpreted that can go haywire. Um, you talk about looking through someone? One thing that I’ve told people is yes, if you’re not used to looking people in the eye or being direct, that’s really intimidating to do. So I’m like, look at their forehead. Look at the bridge of their nose. Look at their ear. Because that almost has an effect of also looking through them. They can tell you’re not really looking them in the eye, but you’re looking in the general area.

Robyn: Mm-hmm. You see…

Kelly: Yeah.

Doug: And guys have had experience with it being misinterpreted as well. Right. So there are situations where, you know, two, two guys making direct eye contact can immediately escalate a situation call, you know, put people into what we call the monkey dance, right? And it can be viewed as a very threatening sort of thing. So, everybody I think has some limited experience with that. I do think that women on balance though, have far greater challenges on a day-to-day basis with that eye contact being misinterpreted for sure. But that confidence is.

Kelly: Yeah. And I wanna go back to talking about the verbalization and how people always say, “Oh, I would say this or I would do this,” and then the moment comes and everyone “goes” and they can’t think of what they’re to say. Their brain goes to mush or you start repeating the same things. “Get back, away!” 

That’s so important to practice. It seems silly, but I’m like, “Do it when you’re in the car driving.” We talk about singing in the shower when no one can hear us. Okay? Practice verbal commands of boundary enforcement. Hear yourself saying it. You can laugh in that moment, but I’d much rather have you practicing it than be in a moment and get tongue tied.  

Robyn: And I think practicing it too, so that you’re not erratic, that you’re not ugly. Because a lot of times we don’t know what someone wants until we get a little more information from them. So it’s using words that are, “I need you to stay back.” Hey, talk to me from over there. “You’re making me uncomfortable. I need you to stay back.” Most people who are respectful are gonna say, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and back up. So you’ll know right away who you’re dealing with, but you don’t have to scream, “Get the back!” Be crazy. You just have to be able to have the words to use so that you can manage a situation where you’re safe. You also recognize bad guys have friends. You can look around and just keep your head on a swivel so that you’re not part of some kind of scheme because they always have the luxury of knowing what they’re planning, and you don’t find out until the last second. So, the last second. So, um, just being able to manage that situation without being erratic, without drawing unnecessary attention. I mean, attention is good, but you don’t wanna look like the provoker. So it’s knowing how to respond in that situation so that you look like a reasonable person. You, it’s clear who the bad guy is to bystanders, all those kinds of things that you have to think about in the aftermath.

Doug: We rise to the level of our training or our practice, right? We are in that stressful situation. We’re not gonna default to hitting a home run out of the park, you know, if we’ve never practiced doing these things, and that includes verbalization, it includes shooting and everything kind of in between. You have to have practiced it and ideally practiced it over and over and over again, including under stress and other situations like that in order to be able to deploy it effectively when you need it.

Robyn: Yeah, cuz it’s one thing to know it. It’s another thing to be able to do it, especially when you’re doing it under pressure. Like I said, you’re not going to be able to, you know, with a baseball analogy, if you never played baseball, you’re not going to be able to jump into the World Series cuz you have adrenaline.

It just doesn’t happen. You’ve gotta practice that along the way.

Kelly: And I think too, you mentioned, briefly touched on. Okay. What are other people hearing? I’ve heard it in trainings, talked about creating good witnesses, and that’s actually a topic that’s been asked like, Hey, can you talk about that more? What do you mean creating good witnesses? But the words you say, if you’re saying, Hey, I told you to get back, please get back.

You know, no, you’re making me uncomfortable. Other people who are going to hear first, we, a lot of times we say, observe your surroundings. Be aware of your surroundings. We think of sight. That’s just a natural inclination. People think of sight, but a lot of times we hear before we see, so people will hear things and then look around what’s going on, and so later, if they’re recounting to someone else, to maybe, security at the location that you were at or law enforcement, whatever the scenario calls for, they’re gonna say, well, I heard this woman telling someone to get back, and I looked and saw. So also practicing verbalizing, using your voice, being loud. A, Doug talks about the monkey dance with women.

Attacks. They want to catch you off guard. They want to have you. You know, they’re looking for someone who doesn’t look like they’re going to bring attention to the situation, who’s not going to use their voice, who’s not going to fight back. So you learning to use your voice is a good thing and it keeps you breathing.

Because in moments of stress, sometimes we end up holding our breath, which is also not good for adrenalization.

Robyn: Yeah, no, that’s an excellent point. And, it is definitely something you want to use so that you can practice having that reel to go to. That applies in a lot of different situations. So instead of saying drop the gun, say, drop the weapon because you don’t know what might be coming at you. Or just so that you’re not stuttering over words.

There’s lots of different reels that you can go to. Hey, I need you to stand back. Those kinds of things. So just having that go-to real, you’re absolutely right. People are gonna hear it before they see it. And the fact that you talk about breathing, that’s so important.

It’s in moments of stress, sometimes we end up holding our breath, which is also not good for adrenalization.

Robyn: Yeah, no, that’s an excellent point. And it is definitely something you want to use so that you can practice having that reel to go to. That applies in a lot of different situations. So instead of saying drop the gun, say, drop the weapon because you don’t know what might be coming at you. Or just so that you’re not stuttering over words.

There’s lots of different reels that you can go to. Hey, I need you to stand back. Those kinds of things. So just having that go-to real, you’re absolutely right. People are gonna hear it before they see it. And the fact that you talk about breathing, that’s so important.

In moments of stress, sometimes we end up holding our breath, which is also not good for adrenalization.

Doug: I wanna hear…

Kelly: I feel like, did you give away a shooting secret right there? Like, I talked to my targets. I tell them they’re going, they’re going down…

Doug: I want you to get mic’d up the next time, Robin, so that we can hear it at the end. I wanna, I totally wanna hear…

Robyn: Oh no. It would blow my ‘sweet mom’ cover because I don’t say nice things to those targets. All the roses, the roses are always like, wow, we thought you were nice. Like [00:48:00] sweet. Yeah, no, I say a lot of bad words to my targets, but it keeps me breathing the whole…

Doug: Well, I’ve seen that shirt that says ‘I love Jesus but I cuss a little too’.

Kelly: Yes.

Doug: So, do you… I know clearly you spend a lot of time developing your firearm skills, your shooting skills, both as an instructor but also as a shooter yourself. What other types of training do you engage in as well, in order to make yourself a better instructor and better self-defense, better able to be your own first?

Robyn: Well, I’m really fortunate to have amazing friends and so a lot of my friends are subject matter experts in different fields and I’ve been able to take their courses. For example, Chuck Haggard has a really great pepper spray instructor course. Brian and Shelly Hill have the image-based decision drills, which is really fantastic. It’s basically a card system where you draw a card and you have to decide how to respond – is this a gun situation? Is this a tourniquet situation? Is this just words? Is this leave? What do I have to do? And you have literally microseconds to make that decision based on the card that you draw.

And that’s also a really good one to do with kids. They do have a kids version, so you can help your kids learn how to make decisions too. We’re not always with our kids. You know, most of the day they’re at school and they have to make good decisions, to protect themselves too.

Kelly: So, that’s a really good course to take is the image-based decision drills. Of course, jujitsu and learning how to use the open hand is a valuable skill. I have to admit I’m terrible at it, but I have learned some great skills. So if I have to go hands on, I do know some target zones. It won’t be pretty, but I will go home at the end of the day. 

We train a lot of stuff. We offer training through Girl and a Gun on pretty much every topic you can think of. We do ground fighting, knife fighting, knife defense, other kinds of edge weapons and improvised weapons. We talk a lot about what to use when you don’t have anything – like grabbing a fire extinguisher or coffee pot or whatever you have around. And then conversely, what to do in a situation that might require medical skills. There’s a lot of times where people will use medical skills far more often than they’ll ever need their firearm. Hopefully they never have to draw their firearm, but they might need to know how to treat a wound. We do a lot of training in the medical side.

It’s an ever student mindset. When you think you know something, it’s just the Dunning-Kruger effect. You suddenly realize you don’t know anything about it and the whole world is open for you to learn more. And when you think you’ve become proficient at one firearm, move to another one. For example, shooting clays with an over-under shotgun will make me humble. I can run a three-gun stage and then turn around and try to shoot some clays and it’s a whole new ball game.

Kelly: I love that because a lot of women put pressure on themselves. I know I do. We think we have to be good before we start, we have to lose weight before we go to the gym and working out, or we need to clean the house before. But with Girl and a Gun it’s come as you are and we will help you.

Robyn: Yeah, and that’s the fun thing is I get to show women and it’s amazing as their groupings get smaller on their target, their confidence gets larger, and I see this translate into so many areas of their lives that they never expected. They’ve become braver. There was one woman who years ago, came to an event. We were doing a natural terrain shotgun stage out. It was just one stage. We were teaching natural terrain, three guns. She was from Colorado and when she came down, she was going through a divorce. She had very low self-esteem. It was really a very low point in her life.

And she found out through this weekend that we had that she was a naturally good tactical shotgun gunner. And she went home and she was the Girl Scout troop leader for her two girls. And she sent us an email that she took the girls bowling and she said, I have never gotten up in front of everybody because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I was self-conscious. And she’s like, but from this past weekend, I discovered I was a pretty good bowler too. And what really made my heart soar on that was the fact that not only is her life improved and she found courage to live her best life, but now she has all these little girls that are watching her.

And so it’s not just changing her life, it’s really changing a generation. And we see that all the time. If you don’t know tactical shotgun, don’t worry. Just come on try. We’ll teach you. It’s a judgment-free zone. If you don’t know defensive pistol or if you don’t have concealed carry skills, don’t worry. We’ll get you there. Having the willingness to learn is most of it.

Robyn: I want our listeners to know that whether you are male or female, a girl in the gun can be empowering and can really enable you to push yourself to new heights whether that means shooting for competition, collecting firearms or participating in safe firearms related activities. Finding, creating and belonging to a community that supports and encourages you to reach your goals can be an incredible asset to any individual and I wish everyone that listens to this podcast the courage to step outside of his or her comfort zone to try something new.

Kelly: How did you decide to get involved in the firearms industry?

Robyn: So I actually got involved in the firearms industry through competitive shooting. I was shooting defensive pistol matches and I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to become an instructor, and honestly I looked around at all the other instructors, and how can I be different? And A Girl & A Gun was my answer. 

Kelly: What has been the response to your organization?

Robyn: The response has been wonderful. We have over 80 clubs across the country and growing. I’m excited to see women of all ages, all different walks of life, who come out and learn something new. It really helps to empower them and to create even more life-long shooters.

Kelly: Wow, that’s amazing. What is the one thing you want our listeners to know if they are considering jumping into shooting?

Robyn: The one thing would be to try it. Stick with it. Learn it. Trust an instructor to guide you through it. And if that instructor isn’t speaking the language you need to hear, then find another instructor. Don’t give up because firearms are something everyone has the right to, and hopefully it will help you protect yourself and your family and improve your.

Kelly: And where can our listeners find you? What are some of the best ways to find their local A Girl & A Gun club? You said it was in all 50 states, correct?

Robyn: We have members in all 50 states. We have chapters in most of them. So you can find our chapters at agirlandagun.org. There’s a find a chapter tab at the top of the website and you can just find your local instructor, find a Girl & A Gun group near you. Their calendars are on there. Just show up. We’re also on Facebook. We have Facebook groups for different chapters too.

Kelly: Very great. And we will have that website and all that information on the episode page. So anyone listening, you can get that information. Doug, did you have something you wanted to add?

Doug: Well, I want to ask, so we try and leave our listeners also with one daily habit that they can apply here. So do you have a daily habit that you use that you would like to see more people use?

Robyn: Well, I should, the smart thing would be for me to say that I do firearms practice every day because that’s what I preach to my girls. But I think the one daily habit that I do is to look in the mirror and say something positive about myself because I think a lot of women don’t do that. And so that’s my daily habit is to give myself a daily compliment so that I can go out and slay the day and I can live my best life and I can be this light for others so that they know that they can shine.

Doug: Awesome.

Kelly: That’s nice.

Doug: Cool.

Kelly: Our daily habit is gonna be straight from our guest.

Doug: Slay the day.

Kelly: Daily habit: Give yourself a compliment because you’re right. Our internal voices impact a lot of how our day goes. 

Doug: Thank you so much for joining us, and thank you for all that you and a girl and a gun are doing. I think it is serving a really needed focus out there, so we appreciate it.

Robyn: Great.

Kelly: Thank you so much, Robin. Have a great day. Thank you, listeners for joining us and make sure you go and download the episode key with all of the great information. Robin gave us the takeaways. Your daily habit exercise, which again, giving yourself a compliment is something that you should do every single day.

Thanks for joining us. Go to thediamondarrowgroup.com for any further information.

How does Robyn recommend to use improvised weapons when you don’t have a gun in this podcast episode?

Robyn recommends to use improvised weapons such as a fire extinguisher, coffee pot, or other items that may be present when you don’t have a gun. She also stresses the importance of knowing what target zones to hit when using open hand techniques. Additionally, she advocates using improvised medical skills when nee