WADENA, Minn. -- The idea to get a group of women together to shoot handguns could have been a simple one-hit wonder, but organizer Brittney Ewert doesn’t do anything half-cocked.

That’s why 30-plus women met for the second time in December, at a Wadena shooting range called the Knobhill Sportsman Club, for a gathering dubbed the Pistol Grippin’ Gals.

The idea to shoot handguns came after Ewert went to Bill's Guns in Baxter to shoot with her husband, Abram, and friends. They had such fun, and Ewert found that more time at the range was needed to help people become more comfortable and confident in using a handgun.

Ewert started planning how to bring such an activity to the Wadena area. That brought her to visit with Dave Folkestad at Knobhill. After their conversation, she planned a league for women to shoot any caliber they want one night a month for six months.

Those joining the league just need to become a member of the sportsmans club ($40 for one year membership) and pay $60 for the league. Of that amount, there is a 100% payout to those competing with prizes for the top shooters each time they gather. The top shooter over the six-month period can win a new handgun.

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Through three weeks, a standings sheet on the Knobill Facebook page showed 36 women had posted scores.

Roberta Schultz picks up more .22 shells to load a pistol Thursday, Dec. 17. Proper gun handling and skills are part of the gathering.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Roberta Schultz picks up more .22 shells to load a pistol Thursday, Dec. 17. Proper gun handling and skills are part of the gathering. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

“I just wanted to do something fun, some of the gals are like, ‘this has been a crappy year,’ we just want to get out of the house and do something fun,’” Ewert said.

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Some of the shooters are experienced. Others came having never touched a handgun. In general, there was some discomfort around the pistols.

Brittney’s mom, Roberta Schultz is one of the shooters. She said before the gathering she had never used a handgun but she knew enough about rifles from deer hunting. Trying to hit the circles of a target with a pistol proved to be a considerable challenge for some.

“It’s a little hard not to do it when the daughter and daughter in-law are doing it,” Schultz said.

Somewhat surprisingly, the top shooter in December was someone who had never even shot handguns three weeks before all this started. April Damlo scored 120 out of a possible 150 points. She was as surprised as anybody at her new found skill.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Damlo said.

April Damlo (left) and Molly Costin look to score some targets during a shooting night at the Knobhill Sportsmans Club in Wadena.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
April Damlo (left) and Molly Costin look to score some targets during a shooting night at the Knobhill Sportsmans Club in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Her attendance at the gathering was exactly what Ewert was hoping for. Damlo, who has a full-time job, family to care for and schooling of her own, found an outlet to try something new. She found a new confidence in a skill she never knew she had.

Rebekah Mast was one of the shooters that night, who actually had some background in handguns. She said she carries most of the time and shoots a .22 caliber almost daily. She hopes to see this gathering continue as she saw it as a way to make more friends and develop her skill in shooting. She came away with the second best score of the night.

Ewert is confident all will exit this contest feeling much more at ease with a handgun.

“These women will leave this group with more knowledge, better gun control and confidence! And that is exactly what I was going for,” Ewert said.

The gun group has not only been a blessing to some of the women, it’s brought an additional 32 new members to the Knobhill Sportsman’s Club.

Regular pistol shooter for the last 40 years, Brad Kempe was impressed by the gathering of women. He liked the idea of them not just taking advantage of their right to own or carry a weapon. He felt it was of utmost importance that if anyone had a handgun that they use it and learn to use it with respect and with safety in mind.

He boasted of Knobhill Sportsmans Club’s longstanding record of having zero accidents from gun use.

“I think that’s a major accomplishment,” Kempe said.

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