One a recent Saturday morning, Debra Robinson, 52, of Macomb Township drove two hours to spend the day learning about and practicing shooting guns.
The married mother of two adult children admits that it was a little intimidating to point and shoot a gun at first. "It's a deadly weapon," she says. "I didn't grow up playing with guns. I'm a quilter."
But Robinson wants to learn to shoot -- for personal protection and for fun.
"Our home was burglarized once while we were at work. The kids are grown up and out of the house. So now I have the luxury of time and I want to learn while I can."
Robinson signed up for the six-hour class almost as soon as she saw a newspaper notice about it. It's a good thing she signed up quickly, because the women-only class reached its maximum number of 25 students well before the deadline. There was a waiting list of women from all over, who wanted to learn more about guns.
The popularity of the class comes as no surprise to people working in the business who've seen growing interest in guns among women in recent years. Experts say women are taking more gun classes, buying and packing pistols and larger firearms, and they're having fun with guns at target ranges and gun sporting events.
Several factors are driving women to the gun range, experts say.
"The first and foremost reason is women no longer want to feel vulnerable," Parsons says. "They want to feel responsible for their own personal safety and the safety of their families. Just by their physical size, the perpetrator is going to be bigger and stronger. A firearm is the great equalizer."
Kathy Jackson, author of "The Cornered Cat" (White Feather Press, $20), a gun safety and information book for women, agrees.
"These days no one expects a knight in shining armor to swoop in and protect you. You have to protect yourself,"
"I was very anti-gun until about a year and a half ago," she says, trying out pistols at Target Sports in Royal Oak. "I'd never held one until then. Once I held it, I don't know, there was something about the power of the gun in your hand. And I did pretty well from the very first time. When I hit my first bulls-eye, it was incredible. It made me want to do it all over again. And it's a great stress-reliever." - Amy Denyer-Grey, 40, of LansingSies, the organizer of the gun class in Linwood, is such a believer in the value of women learning to use a gun.
"You might be sitting in a car and you're attacked. You have to go through how to save a loved one or yourself."She carries a concealed weapon every day now. Why?
"For the sense of comfort and being able to care for yourself," she says. "I think it's important that every woman understand guns don't need to be something to be afraid of."