When Niki Jones moved from New York to Texas less than a decade ago, she had virtually no experience with guns. But, when she opened her own store and began working late nights alone, she felt that she needed a form of protection and got her concealed hand gun license.
“I found myself at the range — had a great time — and then got to a point where I wanted to be challenged. so I looked for a league to join,” Jones said. “I began to get frustrated because there wasn’t one that included women. So I started one with the goal of making it everything I want and the reaction was great.’
In 2010, Jones created Sure Shots, an all-female shooting league and social group.
The league practices out of two different Red’s Indoor Range locations, one in Oak Hill and one in Pflugerville on alternating Wednesdays. Made up of a couple hundred women who refer to themselves as “Sure Shots,” the league was created with the purpose of providing women a social outlet, similar to a book club or a running group, while teaching safe gun practices. Supplementary workshops are offered to members that delve deeper into topics such as gun assembly and local shotgun competitions.
Regardless of age, experience or political views, the league simply caters to those who want to practice their shooting. One of Jones’ favorite aspects of the organization is the Mini Sure Shots league, where daughters of Sure Shots can learn about shooting during special, condensed, kid-friendly workshops. Jones understands that gun use can spark concern but says that most are receptive to a league for children.
“The girls are like sponges: They soak everything up,” Jones said. “It’s great because they have moms that teach them from an early age how to safely use guns so most of them aren’t as afraid of the atmosphere. They’re safe but very interested.”
In an effort to expand her involvement in the community outside of weekly practices, Jones founded Sure Shots Magazine. The publication celebrates accomplished markswomen, features interviews with professionals and editorials on training with firearms.
Nancy Miller, member of Sure Shots for a little over a year, said she had a difficult experience dealing with firearms 10 years ago and used the league as a part of the healing process. During an outing with her husband at a local shooting range, she tried shooting a gun for the first time in years. After picking up and putting down a gun multiple times, she finally shot at the target through her shakes. Not long after that shot, she joined the league.
“It was a personal goal: something I wanted to do for myself,” Miller said. “These girls are the best. We’re kind of a big family.”
Moving to Texas from Louisiana, Lori Benoit had little to no experience with Texas gun culture. Years after the move and three kids later, Benoit started to shoot as a way to redefine herself and create an identity outside of her role as a mother.
“This was one activity that wasn’t centered around the kids, which was liberating,” Benoit said. “It was totally out of my comfort zone, but I think that’s what made it more appealing. It’s weird because it allows me to create a different identity and gives me a skill that can help me defend my family.”
The league, which is free, has more than a hundred members and a group of about 20 who attend Wednesday practices regularly. Tricia Palmer, who grew in up Austin and graduated from UT, was around guns for most of her life, but it wasn’t until Benoit, Palmer’s neighbor, mentioned the league that Palmer started taking shooting seriously. She realized that shooting bridged a new relationship with her husband, who was already an avid shooter.
“I have always been busy and led an active lifestyle, but I didn’t have an activity that my husband and I both took part in, and now we do,” Palmer said. “It gives me a sense of strength and power. Plus, us girls look good doing it.”