For a long time, shooting has been a boy’s club.
Even today, when women are better represented in shooting sports than ever before, shooting is still seen as an overwhelmingly male pursuit.
One of the great things about shooting sports is that physicality doesn’t come into play as much as most other sports.
The playing field between men and women is far more even and allow both to compete against each other in a true test of skill rather than a test of muscle.
There are definitely plenty of examples of badass women shooters, both throughout history and active today, so I’m going to recognize a few of them in honor of Women’s History Month.
Each woman on this list has something beyond her shooting that makes her worth looking up to.
In fact, some of these women are better recognized for their impact on the firearms industry and community than their actual shooting.
So let’s dive in!
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Most people know Annie Oakley was an outstanding markswoman. Fewer are aware, however, of the difficult upbringing that fostered her skills, her impressive business acumen, or her incredible activism.
Annie, born in 1860 in northern Ohio, endured a difficult childhood, defined by poverty and marked with the death of her father in 1866.
She spent two years in near slave conditions, working for an abusive family. And only about four years of education occurred in a financially stable home.
Annie helped support her family by trapping and selling game by the time she was seven and hunting by the time she was eight. But Annie also loved shooting.
She met her future husband, a traveling show marksman named Frank E. Butler, when she bested him in a shooting competition.
Butler became enamored with the 5-foot tall young woman and a year later, they married. One of Annie’s best-known trick shots was shooting a cigarette from her husband’s lips.
In 1885, they joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, where Annie quickly became the show’s star. This allowed her to tour Europe and perform for royalty.
Her success wasn’t just due to her skill as a markswoman, though.
Annie was totally aware that she was a woman in an almost exclusively male field. She cultivated a personal brand (one of the first celebrities to do so) that fit Victorian ideals for women.
Annie always wore skirts, did not allow pictures to be taken of her shooting live animals and adopted a sweet, cheerful, and demure stage persona.
Throughout her career, Annie was an outspoken advocate of equal pay for women, women’s service in U.S. military combat operations, and firearms education for women. She even taught more than 15,000 women to use firearms over the course of her life.
Annie continued both her performance career and her advocacy into her 60s.
After her death, it came to light that she’d spent the entirety of her considerable personal fortune taking care of her family and in support of her charities.
Annie died on November 3, 1926. Her husband of 50 years, Frank Butler died 18 days later.
Annie Oakley took care to never be seen as threatening, even to animals.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, on the other hand, made a career out of being deadly. She was one of the most successful snipers in history and the top female sniper of all time.
Lyudmila was born in 1916 in what is now Ukraine, but was then the Russian Empire.
When she was 14, her family moved to Kiev where Lyudmila joined a paramilitary shooting club, enrolled in civilian sniper classes, and worked at Kiev Arsenal Factory.
At 21, Lyudmila completed a master’s degree in history at Kiev University in 1937. She was in her fourth year of another history degree in June 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
She was among the first group of volunteers recruited, originally offered a nursing position, as recruiters thought that would be a position suiting a woman.
Instead, she requested an infantry assignment and was placed in the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division.
Lyudmila served for two and a half months near Odessa. During that time, she achieved 187 confirmed kills and promoted to senior sergeant.
She also began to earn a reputation…
Nazi soldiers began to fear her, while her fellow Soviet soldiers saw her as a leader and inspiration — despite the general lack of tolerance for women in service.
In October 1941, her unit relocated to Sevastopol. By this time, German soldiers knew her by name. Though they usually referred to her as “that Russian bitch” allies often called her Lady Death.
In Sevastopol, Lyudmila promoted to lieutenant and achieved the rest of her total 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers. (For comparison, Chris Kyle had 160 confirmed kills over 7 years as a sniper.)
Lyudmila became so well known that she was pulled from combat in 1942 and instead sent to tour the U.S., Canada, and England to promote the war effort.
Lyudmila didn’t return to combat after her tour. Instead, she promoted to major and served as a sniper instructor until the war ended.
Now on to a shooter that’s still around.
Kim Rhode is probably the best-known name in shooting right now, even among people who aren’t particularly interested in guns or shooting.
If you don’t remember, though, Kim is a six-time Olympic medal winner. She earned a medal at every Summer Olympics since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
In total, Kim has three golds, two bronze, and one silver.
She is also the first Summer Olympian to have won an individual medal at six consecutive summer games. And she’s the first woman to medal in six consecutive Olympics.
Oh, and did we mention she also was the first Olympic athlete to medal on five different continents?
Kim began shooting early. She started competing in skeet at 10 and by 12 had gone on safari in Africa. At 13, she won her first world championship title in women’s double trap shooting.
She was barely 17 when she earned her first Olympic gold medal.
Her first three medals (two golds and a bronze) were earned for double trap shooting. But she focused on skeet after the double trap was eliminated in the 2008 Olympics.
During the 2012 Olympics, Kim tied the world record in skeet shooting with 99 out of 100 clays. She’d previously set a new world record at the 2007 ISSF World Cup with 98 clays.
In addition to her Olympic medals, Kim has 23 Gold, 10 Silver, and 9 Bronze ISSF World Cup medals.
Julie Golob is yet another incredible competitive shooter.
She started competing at 14 years old and less than three years later, she competed in the U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Championship.
In 1994, the Army Action Shooting Team invited her to the team.
In 1999, she won ladies titles at the USPSA Limited National Championships, USPSA Open National Championships, and the World Speed Shooting Champion — the first woman to win all three in the same year.
For that accomplishment, Julie earned the U.S. Army Female Athlete of the yea. She was the first active shooter to earn the accolade, typically given to Olympic athletes.
Julie continued serving in the U.S. Army as military police until 2002 when she left to become a professional markswoman.
In 2006, Julie won ladies titles at the USPSA Limited-10, Single-Stack, and Production Nationals, becoming the first and only Five Division USPSA Ladies National Champion and the first woman to earn a USPSA Nationals Triple Crown.
In 2011, Julie completed the set by winning the USPSA Ladies Revolver National Title, becoming the first athlete ever to win a national title in all six USPSA divisions that existed at the time.
The USPSA introduced a seventh division in 2016, the Carry Optics Division. That same year, Julie won the Ladies National Title in that division. She then became the first athlete to win national titles in all seven USPSA divisions.
Julie’s love for shooting seems to be only matched by her love for teaching others to shoot.
Among her list of teaching accolades:
- Army Instructor Training School certified shooting instructor
- National Shooting Sports Foundation First Shots shooting instructor
- Ladies action shooting camps and classes trainer
- NSSF Shooting Sports Fantasy camp shooting instructor
- Head trainer for the NRA’s Women’s Love at First Shot program
She even wrote a guide to shooting, SHOOT: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition. Additionally, she’s the official spokesperson for Project Childsafe.
Finally, Julie’s website is a great resource for shooters of all types.
Oh, and if you hunt and haven’t tried any of her #FieldtoFork recipes, you’re living your life wrong.
An outdoorswoman, conservationist, social media influencer, and television personality, Eva Shockey first became an outdoor celebrity on the Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures show.
She co-hosted alongside her father and gained notoriety for her love of hunting.
Eva, like her father, is an avid hunter, and has been a huge voice in encouraging women to get involved in hunting and in supporting ethical hunting practices. That is, hunting only in ways that preserve populations, eating what you kill, and making single shot kills.
She even hunted the moose that fed all the guests at her wedding in 2015.
But in the past several years, Eva’s focus has moved beyond just hunting. She established a personal brand focused on the outdoor lifestyle. This shift led to her earning the title of the Martha Stewart of the Outdoors.
If you check out her website, you can see why.
It’s no wonder that Field & Stream chose her to be the first woman in 30 years and second woman ever to appear on their cover, gracing their May 2014 issue.
Who was the first woman, you ask? Another impressive huntress, Queen Elizabeth II.
Rounding out the list is Carrie Lightfoot, a woman who’s carved out a brand in a different niche of the firearms’ industry.
You may not recognize her name, but if you’ve ever looked for info even slightly related to women and firearms, you’ve almost certainly seen her website, The Well Armed Woman.
In 2012, Carrie was a divorced single mother, who worked in a less than stellar neighborhood for a ministry focused on poverty.
Her youngest child was about to move out, and she found herself being stalked after leaving an abusive relationship.
Like many of us, Carrie turned to firearms as a way to protect herself.
She had a great experience when a couple of friends took her shooting. But she discovered that most gun stuff was written for men and didn’t take women shooters into account. What was written for women at that time felt, at best, condescending.
Carrie is nothing if not tenacious, so she decided that if there wasn’t a complete, respectful resource for women shooters…she’d create one herself. That’s how The Well Armed Woman began.
The story doesn’t end there, though.
Carrie heard from a lot of her readers that while they wanted to go out and train with their firearms (as every gun owner should), a lot of them felt intimidated or condescended to when they actually went to the range.
Ever the problem solver, Carrie started the Armed Women of America in response. This program provided a means for women to meet with and train other women.
It now offers 372 chapters across 49 states, with new chapters added all the time.
The women above forged a way for ladies in the firearms’ industry — whether through gun ownership or competition.
But this list is not all-inclusive, there are tons of other women making waves, so head over to our 6 (More) Badass Ladies article to read up on some more fanatastic ladies!
So who are your favorite women in shooting? Let us know in the comments! Looking for resources on guns for women? Check out our Women’s Guide!