Karin Johnson always longed to create a place for women to connect, interact and grow with each other.
“Who knew that it was going to be the firing range,” she said with a laugh.
Karin is the gun range safety officer, operations manager and wife of Oz Johnson, founder of Desert Hills-based Johnson Group Tactical gun range, which has offered firearms training classes for around five months and also offers courses exclusively for women, called Well Armed Women.
“I really wanted to focus on creating that connection for women within Johnson Group TAC,” she said. “I love that essence when women get together and really support one another.”
Well Armed Women evolved into what it is today around a month after Johnson Group Tactical started its operations.
Oz wanted to offer more tactical training classes in the beginning, but the courses weren’t filling up. However, “all of the beginner classes were filling,” and it was almost 100% women signing up because “they were the ones that really wanted the training.”
Knowing how to use and handle a firearm is a vital skill for women to have under their belt, as women are much more likely to be victimized than their male counterparts, she said.
“We are the only ones that can really protect ourselves,” she said. “The only other option is to wait for help, so I really wanted to empower women.”
Karin started videotaping and photographing the classes, posting them online to the Johnson Group Tactical website as well as its Facebook page, “and I just started labeling them Well Armed Women, because that’s what they were.”
The Well Armed Women courses are focused on education as well as training with safety first. “We never overshadow safety.”
Karin didn’t originally intend on being an instructor for the courses, however, her role started to transform into its range safety officer while keeping her role as its operations manager.
Her husband has a “natural gift of teaching,” but as a woman, “I can really relate to their fears and their insecurities.”
It can be more challenging for women to manipulate weapons, and she said she’s sensitive to that and meets each student where they are.
She always carries her .357 Magnum whenever she goes horseback riding and has previous training experience in escape innovation as well as survival from her time serving in the U.S. Air Force.
Karin wants women to know the gun range provides a safe space where women can be educated, trained and encouraged to handle firearms and defend themselves.
Well Armed Women’s slogan is “Refuse to be a Victim,” and Karin’s instruction helps people who were once afraid to even hold a firearm, walk away from the range feeling comfortable.
She trains girls as young as 14 as well as women in their mid-70s, which she said, is “so refreshing to see.”
Many women tell her they have a gun in their house but wouldn’t know how to use it if they ever needed it, she said.
Karin and her husband realized “we needed to really help women and young girls to feel confident in handling and manipulating their firearms.”
She mentioned an Annie Oakley quote that says, “I would like to see every woman know how to handle firearms as naturally as they know how to handle babies.”
This quote is also posted as a mantra throughout the Well Armed Women website and Facebook page.
In the five months Johnson Group Tactical has been in business, 168 students have come to training courses and approximately two thirds of its students are women, she said.
She emphasized “all of this could never have been created without my husband being the lead instructor.”
Oz “has an incredible depth of knowledge” and uses his experience from his 10 years in the U.S. military and 20 years in law enforcement to instruct his students.
“He has got a very natural gift of teaching, not a lot of people have that” Karin said, who met Oz while serving in the Air Force.
Oz is getting National Rifle Association (NRA) certification for classes so students can get their concealed weapons permit if they wish to do so, she said. These classes will likely be available by the end of April, she said.
Johnson Group Tactical has also recently partnered with the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), an industry leader in firearms education and resources to “tap into that and pass that along to our students.”
She added that the USCCA has a self-defense liability insurance that covers anyone in a self-defense situation, whether it’s a handgun, dog, baseball bat, a fight, “a frying pan, anything that you use in self-defense, this low liability insurance protects you and covers you.”
There are also two new courses on the horizon.
The Dry Fire Training class is a shorter two-hour class, (most classes are three hours) with no ammunition required, as it has become quite expensive and hard to come across, she said.
This course will provide a way for students to take the knowledge and continue practicing at home.
The Defensive Pistol class gives students real-life scenarios and teaches them how to shoot around obstacles and use firearms in these situations.
Students who take this class should already feel comfortable with their guns first before they sign up, as it’s a more intermediate level course.
Johnson Group Tactical has a referral program, which grants people a free membership to its shooters club after they take their first class, and $15 off each time they take another class.
It also offers 15% off to first responders and donates 10% of profits each month to local animal rescues, she said.
Karin said it’s been empowering to see women overcome their fear of handling firearms and wants women to realize that “we’re really here to serve them.”
“It comes from our heart,” she said.
She’s seen women feel incredibly nervous about signing up for classes but reassures each one that “we’re going to meet you at your level where you’re at.”
“If you pick up the gun and put it down and that’s all you do–you’ve accomplished something.” “That’s what I really want more than anything is for women to realize this is truly a safe place for them to really feel comfortable.”
—Staff writer Sarah Donahue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org