Help Me Fit in at the Gun Range
November 13, 2016 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I am a petite white woman in my forties. How can I pass as a conservative? Hateful people seem to be able to tag me immediately as a leftist, no matter what I'm wearing.

What do conservatives wear that makes other conservatives recognize them? How can I wear my (shoulder-length) hair? What about makeup? Glasses or no glasses? Are there non-verbal signals that conservatives do or don't give?

What are some obvious things I may be doing, wearing or saying that out me as a leftist?
posted by sleepy psychonaut to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (62 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
To fly a bit lower under the radar, you could try a baseball cap that says Smith & Wesson or some such.

To help us answer your question more specifically, maybe find a few photos of people in the same style.
posted by metaseeker at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, I went ahead and googled 'women at the shooting range', which I suggest you don't do, unless you want to see a lot of women in bikinis or thongs shooting guns. The other pics seem to be mostly jeans and t-shirts or a plain blouse or maybe flannel. I'd wear your hair back, get a gun-related t-shirt or a camo shirt, maybe a USA hat if you really want to fit in.

Keep in mind that a lot of men are going to give you shit even if they think you're a die-hard conservative, because that's what insecure men do. The one guy I know who's very conservative and loves guns would absolutely call out a woman at a shooting range whether he thinks she's conservative or not, just because... woman at a gun club.
posted by Huck500 at 2:14 PM on November 13, 2016 [19 favorites]

Out of place accent, like non-Southern in the South? If you want to pass, maybe adopt a Southern accent? (I say this knowing many liberals with southern accents, having grown up in a UU church in Alabama.)

Cross necklace?
posted by supercres at 2:14 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you talk about politics a lot? I don't even mean controversial stuff, but the stuff that all right-thinking people know to be true, like:
  • Of course the US needs to move to a European-style healthcare system immediately
  • Hate crimes should be punished more severely than regular crimes, which are usually just made up by the police anyway
  • The US should switch to the metric system
  • Gas prices are too low
  • Did you see the Daily Show last night?
  • There are too many guns in America
The funny thing about beliefs is that they don't feel like beliefs, they just feel like the way things are. What are some obvious ways that things are that conservatives don't agree with you on? Do you ever bring them into conversation?
posted by Hatashran at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried going to the gun range yet? I'm a walking tell, apparently (I think it's being a late-30s white woman with naturally curly hair, although thats probably a dumb assumption by the rest of the world) and in my limited experience at gun ranges or similar, I've never gotten shit.

Maybe you are not talking literally about a gun range.

Some reference points would be helpful, like how you do wear your hair (dyed/not dyed), what kind of bag you carry, what your footwear is.

I'm assuming that a) your premise is good, and b) you're not, like, wearing a bale sale school bombers t-shirt.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wait, is this actually for fitting in at a gun range? I took that to be metaphorical. If not, could you give more context about situations/locations where you want to pass but aren't currently able to?
posted by supercres at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Please clarify whether you literally mean at a gun range, or whether you're speaking more generally!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:18 PM on November 13, 2016

I am a petite white woman in my forties.

If you're not wearing a wedding ring, you're going to set off alarm bells. Ditto if you don't have children to talk about immediately and early in any conversation.
posted by telegraph at 2:22 PM on November 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think that wearing makeup reads as more conservative (or that a complete lack of makeup in middle and upper middle class women reads as liberal, more accurately).
posted by mercredi at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

I think this is going to be extremely context-specific. I don't think there are general conservative signifiers: I think it varies between different places and social milieus.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:25 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I want both! I really do plan on visiting a gun range soon, but I also want to be able to move freely in conservative spaces. And yes, I know that even using the word "spaces" is a tell.

I have dark-blonde, naturally graying, long, wavy mermaid hair and look like I do a lot of yoga. On the lower end of the normal weight range for my height. I always wear sensible shoes, and usually wear skirts. Small diamond studs in my ears, maybe a pendant, usually not a wedding or engagement ring because I have tactile issues.

I get my brows shaped, but otherwise, the only makeup I wear is a little lipstick and maybe some mascara *unless* I wear winged liner.

Conventiionally "cute" but not a beauty. Shy, gentle demeanor unless I'm talking, in which case I switch to confident and very jovial. Hope that helps!
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 2:27 PM on November 13, 2016

I am having trouble understanding the question, but FWIW I find people at the gun range to be extremely welcoming, especially to folks who may not be stereotypical gun owners, assuming you're there to shoot and not, I don't know, hold a protest outside. I don't think you need to worry about seeming out of place there.
posted by phoenixy at 2:28 PM on November 13, 2016 [23 favorites]

The hair, the lack of makeup (foundation) and the shoes would be my guess.
posted by mercredi at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2016 [27 favorites]

Boot cut jeans with a very small amount of tacky embellishment on the back pockets.

Camo jacket, not like a military jacket but like this over a tight black camisole shirt with a push up bra.

Hair in a mid-high pony, unless you're wearing a hat (also camo, if possible, or camo and baby pink, or branded with bass pro or salt life or browning logo).

Actually if you can find anything with a Browning logo on it, wear that.

Your shoes should have dried mud on them.

NO WINGED EYELINER. If you're wearing eyeliner, it needs to be an anemic full line, the kind that makes your eyes look too small. Think: bad.

Are you tan? Be tanner. It would be better if your hair were straightened.

I grew up in Georgia. Please let me know if you need any other blending tips.
posted by phunniemee at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2016 [32 favorites]

phoenixy, I don't know where you live, but the gun ranges I'm familiar with, there is no "outside." It's all outside. It's just the place where you go and shoot, and the regulars are not generally friendly to people who don't look right or follow their rules. (Note: not talking about safety rules.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My hunch is that it's the hair. If you cut it, dyed/ highlighted it, and blow-dried it, people wouldn't make any assumptions about your politics. But honestly, it sounds kind of awesome, and it sounds like it's part of your style. Would it really be worth it to change it?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

The hair! It's the hair. If you're letting your natural grey show, try wearing it up in a bun. Long loose grey hair is a lefty identifier.
posted by corb at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2016 [57 favorites]

naturally graying, long, wavy mermaid hair

Behavioral cues aside, it's probably your hair. If you want to pass without cutting your hair, you could try straightening it and wearing understated makeup. Maybe dye the hair.

Wear fitted/tailored clothes OR mom-style (jeans, decent shirt tucked in, belt, tennis shoes).

The stereotypes evident above are troubling. "tacky embellishment"? Come on.

Also, maybe pretend to be a quiet extravert, if you think that behavioral cues are a factor.
posted by amtho at 2:50 PM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

You kind of answered your own question. Mermaid hair and you look like you do yoga? There you go. The rest of the stuff doesn't matter, there are plenty of cute petite conservative ladies.

Wear some makeup, dye your grays, stop dressing like a hippie. OR stop giving a fuck and dress how you want. (That's the real answer, IMO)
posted by pintapicasso at 2:53 PM on November 13, 2016 [18 favorites]

A lot of people will already know each other from church and a range of outside social activities. It will no more be possible to "pass" among a close knit shooting community as it would for me to pass as Amish in Lancaster just by growing a beard and wearing a hat.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:54 PM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Oh it's totally the hair and lack of makeup. Also, are your sensible shoes that you wear with your skirts like these? Because those are lefty shoes.
posted by HotToddy at 3:05 PM on November 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

There are many signifiers, but a trifecta of:

* Hunting apparel
* Sports apparel
* Religious apparel/jewelry

Should do it. Buy as much as possible at Wal-Mart.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:08 PM on November 13, 2016

I did a Women in the Outdoors workshop last summer which took place at a gun range and I've gone to our local Rod & Gun club for archery a few times. Women around here are active in rod & gun club stuff but are you talking about an urban gun range? They're different. A lot of this depends on the part of the country you're in but around here (Vermont) I'd suggest

- pulling your hair back in a braid or pony tail
- minimal makeup
- something lower key for earrings
- boot cut jeans or work pants, boots, hoodie over a t-shirt

look like I do a lot of yoga

We have a lot of people who do yoga here and I'm not really sure what that means. Anyone in my neck of the woods is welcome as long as they're chitchatty and know at least some of the same people that they do. Chitchat with people and don't be standoffish and realize you're coming into their place of recreation and try to just be affable.
posted by jessamyn at 3:12 PM on November 13, 2016 [11 favorites]

I decided not to answer this question earlier, but I totally thought it was your demeanor.

You say you present as shy? That along with your hair is the tell.
posted by jbenben at 3:14 PM on November 13, 2016

Gun ranges are really noisy (obviously) and people are wearing ear protection, so there is not really all that much social interaction at them in my experience. As long as you handle your gun safely you are probably going to be left alone. It's not entirely true that everyone at a range is going to be a redneck or conservative or straight. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe you can try another place, if that's possible. Going to the range is also pretty expensive so most people aren't goofing around at them.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:18 PM on November 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Very casual clothes --sneakers, jeans, sweatshirt -- but less-subtle makeup (at least foundation and blush, bonus points for one color of eyeshadow plus mascara). French braid your hair or put it in a ponytail then braid it.
posted by desuetude at 3:28 PM on November 13, 2016

Well, to be honest, I never got flak at the gun range for being a woman. Everyone seemed nice and I made sure not to "front" knowledge that I did not possess. Keep it polite and professional. I dress pretty geeky and wear no make-up and just have a pony tail so I can wear ear protection more easily. The gun range is not the sole province of conservatives. It is a place for people to use weapons safely and responsibly. Fun, do not forget the fun.
posted by jadepearl at 3:37 PM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

Guns are powerful, functional tools, and the clothing relates to that. Guns eject exhaust and hot brass casings. So long shirts, pants, and buttoned up to avoid hot debris. Hiking shoes or boots as the ground tends to be dirt and casings roll everywhere.

A ball cap and sunglasses, hair tied back is functional and appropriate. The range is loud, so ear protection (like bright orange foam ear plugs) is especially in fashion, and good to avoid people talking with you.
posted by nickggully at 3:41 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need to worry about makeup to the gun range, at least. I have never worn makeup to a gun range in my life.
posted by corb at 4:00 PM on November 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think it's the skirts. I've never been to a gun range, but I think it would be a jeans situation. I'm having trouble envisioning a "sensible shoes / skirt" combo that doesn't look like a liberal.
posted by areaperson at 4:11 PM on November 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

I used to be regularly mistaken for a conservative person—even when that was not my intent, which was frustrating. I agree with the above comments that your hair is outing you. (Remember what CSN&Y said about letting your "freak flag fly"?)

In my case, I believe the key false "tells" involved make-up, i.e., I seldom left the house without lipstick or mascara. Also, I wore heels. Relatively "sensible" heels, i.e., absolutely no pointed toes and the heel had to be at least wide enough to cover a quarter, but they were usually a good 3". Finally, I have straight hair that was always colored and had (I've aged out of the "girl" label) stereotypical (white) "girl-next-door" features.

So, when you want to pass, go for "pretty" make-up (no winged eyeliner) and clothes. Get some heels (they truly don't need to be uncomfortable, e.g., I thought nothing of walking 1.5 miles to the train in my shoes). Given that gray is currently trendy, you don't necessarily have to disguise your gray hair, but you might consider adding a rinse or something that says "I'm doing this to enhance my looks". Definitely, get your hair off your shoulders because "everybody" knows that women past a certain age should not have long hair.

*I know this isn't about me, but these things so embarrasses me now that I feel compelled to explain: I developed the make-up when I was a bartender and "pretty" doesn't hurt when it comes to tips. Re heels: I was average height, but slight, and they helped me feel more "substantial" physically than I was and (again) "taller" never hurts.
posted by she's not there at 4:13 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am frequently confused for a conservative although I am not one. Talbots for work, LL Bean for play. When I go to the range, I tend to wear jeans, a wool or cashmere sweater, a puffy vest, a low pony, and a baseball hat.
posted by notjustthefish at 4:21 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

get your hair off your shoulders because "everybody" knows that women past a certain age should not have long hair

Point of clarification: I'm not suggesting that you cut your hair, which sounds beautiful, just pin in up. Perhaps a good old-fashioned french twist—easy to do and with a bit of hairspray, will stay in place all day.
posted by she's not there at 4:33 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

The key to fitting in most anywhere is self confidence. Act like you know what you are doing, and if you don't know, then ask confidently for instruction. I nth protective clothing and, of course, ear protection. If you think you will have to talk to people, it may be worthwhile to invest in electronic earmuffs from the gun store rather than sticking to cheap ear plugs.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:41 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

> naturally graying

Agreed, this is a huge tell. (I am very similar in description to you and I think I get what you mean. While I rarely vote further right than 'Green Party,' I am actually kind of tired of 'Really, you don't buy organic/don't care about GMOs? Huh. Somehow I thought...')

If you really want to go in mufti, Goldwell makes a very good temporary colour mousse -- smells great, washes right out at the end of the day.

Notice that Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Phylis Schafly, Margaret Thatcher, and many other similar dirtballs put a lot of time and effort into their hair. Those are not wash-and-wear styles with natural grey. Somebody mentioned 'bad eyeliner, the kind that actually makes your eyes look smaller' -- qv Carly Fiorina. Canadian Tory Rona Ambrose. Kim Campbell. All with the anaemic black stripe, not doing them many favours. (Belinda Stronach as a Tory; Belinda Stronach as Belinda Stronach...)

Bleach the hell out of your teeth, of course -- it's the patriotic thing to do in the US.

If you aren't up to dying your hair for this, the next best thing, in a dressier space, would be to use a lot of styling products/tools, and shellac it into place and perhaps use a hairband. (I know, I know, Hillary Clinton, but she isn't very lefty and doesn't look lefty either.) But, no ponytails.
posted by kmennie at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yes, dye the greys, also make sure to wear a fairly heavy layer of foundation. Soft, dewy skin (especially with age signifiers showing) are totally signs of the feminazi apocalypse.

Basically make it look like you really care what conservative men think of your appearance.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:10 PM on November 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

I've been to several gun ranges, and despite being an out of touch academic liberal elite, was treated with unfailing politeness and respect. I cannot think of another type of business where the merchants are more willing to talk about their wares and to help you get what you came for.

I am entirely serious: you could walk in wearing a Hillary t-shirt, ask politely for X, and you will get X plus about 8 more options. You are ovrthinking this.
posted by deadweightloss at 5:15 PM on November 13, 2016 [18 favorites]

Go blonde. Light blonde.
posted by Toddles at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hateful people seem to be able to tag me immediately as a leftist.

It's the hateful people that's the real problem here, right? In my experience, they're pretty evenly distributed among all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities, professions, social classes, and political orientations. You can keep reducing tells for one category where you seem to be drawing hate, and you can add false tells for other categories, but that will likely just shift what kinds of ignorant and/or downright hateful things you hear.

In many ways, a good range is a refuge from all of that, because responsible members and guests care first and foremost about safety, and there's not much chit-chat.
What to Wear to a Shooting Range on Girls <3 Guns addresses the safety and practical aspects of how to dress. Go with an instructor the first few times, until you have impeccable safety habits well ingrained. A safety-oriented range (identifying those is worth its own Ask) isn't where you'll encounter hate or crudeness.

Could you describe, perhaps in next week's question, specifics of some situations in which you've typically experienced moving in conservative spaces as painful or difficult or otherwise problematic?
posted by wonton endangerment at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Also straighten your hair and stop wearing sensible shoes.
posted by Toddles at 5:26 PM on November 13, 2016

I'm a liberal woman, born and raised in San Francisco, similar look/vibe as yours, who is currently living in west Alabama. And whaddya know... I just spent 3+ hours at the local shooting range today!

The key is to be VERY, VERY SAFE with your weapons, and to give off a vibe of earnest concentration. You're not there to be cute, or to do yoga, or to talk politics. Leave all that stuff for another day. You're at the range to practice shooting your gun! This takes inner discipline, concentration, and focus. It's sort of like going to the gym. There will be other folks there and you'll see each other and likely make small talk, but everyone has their own routine to focus on and no one should be getting in your business at all. Folks are usually quite friendly at the shooting range, and if your stations are close to each other you can expect to make eye contact, smile, and maybe say a few words. And much like at the gym, macho behavior is dumb and nobody respects it.

As for your appearance, I vote you wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. FWIW I wore plain (!) blue jeans and a semi-fitted v-neck shirt today, flip flops, minimal makeup, and pulled my hair back.

Whatever you do, bring ear protection! I love guns and going to the range, but the constant heart-shaking boom of large-caliber rifles wears me out after a while. It's perfectly normal to be bothered by it or even to hate it. Outdoor/hunting stores sell special earplugs [ example ] that dampen gun noise while still allowing you to hear people talking. I wear those earplugs and then noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones on top, for extra protection.

Please memail me if you have any further questions!
posted by scrubjay at 5:28 PM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

I think this thread is going to extremes. OP basically described what in my super liberal hippie town would still stand out as hippie. You don't need to look super conservative but you described original 60s hippie. This is an extreme look. If you like it, rock it. It makes a very strong statement. You can pass in more places without notice with a mainstream look. You know what standard looks like and you can easily wear it at yoga and the gun range because it makes no statement.
posted by Kalmya at 5:39 PM on November 13, 2016

If you've never used firearms before, take a training course.
If you've never been to a gun range before, try to go along with someone who has been to one.
Fashion and make-up questions are less important than proper safety gear.
posted by ovvl at 6:37 PM on November 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have been the hippie nerd woman at the gun range and had NO problems.

However, I suspect the rest of this applies if you are surrounded by conservatives in other areas.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:53 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My one time at a firing range, my main observation was how overwhelmingly polite everyone was. Safety seemed paramount, and everyone being calm and cheerful seemed to be the social guarantee for that.

But I agree with the others: a woman not wearing makeup (foundation -- to remove the color variations in your face, and bronzer -- to paint them back on, especially) will make you stick out from the mainstream in many settings.
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:04 PM on November 13, 2016

I think dressing as Nancy Grace/Ann Coulter/Sarah Palin might be fun, but also distracting - might feel odd about learning to handle a gun in full-on political drag. You just want to be inconspicuous, right? I agree with:

- Running shoes. White or black, bulky soles, maybe a couple of neon touches, but not the low-heeled, sleek or loud styles you see on actual runners
- Non-skinny jeans (loose in the thigh, straight leg, bootcut)
- A tucked-in t-shirt, with maybe a plain zippered sweatshirt overtop (have seen tops with americana-related symbols, flag + sincere nationalist slogan, etc. I think that might take you too far into costuming and therefore discomfort)
- Hair braided, with baseball cap
- Maybe mascara and lip gloss

(At least that conforms with some people I've met and stereotypes I guess I have.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:46 PM on November 13, 2016

Wow. Just wow. It is abundantly clear that most of the people giving you advice have never stepped foot in a range in their lives.

Unless you wear a shirt that says "Repeal the 2nd Amendment Now!", no one is going to really care how you dress. There is no need to "pass". You are not going undercover and infiltrating the enemy.

People at the range like firearms. If you go the range, that means you like them as well, at least somewhat. So, assuming you conduct everything in a safe and careful manner, everyone is going to be happy.

Now that I think about, looking more "liberal" will probably make people more welcoming, not less. You will give them a chance to show your "side" how great their hobby is.
posted by sideshow at 10:00 PM on November 13, 2016 [17 favorites]

protip: flag pin

i need to 'pass' frequently for professional situations when i just cannot rock the boat.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:22 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not a conservative, but I've spent a lot of time at gun ranges. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone there is a political conservative... the thing they actually have in common, is that they shoot guns.

If you're there to shoot guns, or learn to shoot guns, etc., then it will be fine. You don't have to wear your hair or makeup any certain way.

If you're there to start an argument or something else like that, that isn't shooting guns, then you're in the wrong place.
posted by teatime at 2:06 AM on November 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

In terms of straight advice regarding your question [about fitting in at an actual gun range, Sydney Bristow-style], I would say:

Tuck your hair back into a low bun, find an old-looking navy blue hat with a flag on it or something that says USA. Wear a generic event T shirt (like a country music concert or something) and a polar fleece jacket on top. Get some straight-leg Walmart jeans and grubby running shoes. Put on lipstick and clump your mascara a bit. Wear a flag pin on your jacket. If you had dyed blond curly hair that looked like it had a bunch of product in it, that would be best.

In terms of actual advice:

People at every gun range I've ever been to are extremely welcoming and hearty folk, as long as you don't come in acting like they're all dumb hicks and you're the walking intellectual elite. You're going to see a lot of 2nd amendment bumper stickers. This is not the time to start a debate on gun control or quote Bowling for Columbine stats. Everyone is there because they love their guns. They love people who love guns. Don't be ditzy but be up front about what you know and what you don't know. Listen to their advice.

If you're planning on becoming a repeat shooter at the range, recognize that you are entering an established culture and act accordingly. Don't complain about the staff to others there. Don't expect favors to be done for you because you're new and a woman. Do be friendly without trying to make a full-out conversation happen.

Experience: four years on a rifle team and a whole bunch of time spent at sportsman's clubs and shooting ranges in extremely conservative southwestern PA.
posted by amicamentis at 6:04 AM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't think you need to do counter-signaling, though it might make YOU feel more comfortable.

I've shot all my life. Gun people are, at a basic level, hobbyists who are eager to share their hobby. If you go in there with a Bernie Sanders shirt but ask respectful questions and make it clear you're there to learn and shoot, I'd bet folding money that you'll be treated just fine.

I absolutely admit that, as fit white male, I have a lot of privilege in such situations, but back in 2008 I wore an Obama shirt to a gun shop in Jackson, Mississippi when out running errands with my brother. I got one wry comment, which I parried away with "do you agree with absolutely everything about YOUR candidate?" and that was that.
posted by uberchet at 6:45 AM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

[One deleted. It's perfectly okay to find the question offensive, but this is the part of the site for offering useful advice (even if it's respectfully / helpfully suggesting that assumptions may be flawed) more than scolding the poster. If the premise is strongly disagreeable to you, it's probably better to pass on the question. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 7:14 AM on November 14, 2016

You're going to a gun range, so you're planning on firing a gun, yes? Sign up for a gun safety class that includes range time and go with your instructor. (You should be doing that anyway.) No one will bother you, not that they would anyway.

Dress appropriately: comfortable shoes, hair out of your face and able to accommodate the strap from the ear protection (so no beehives,) long sleeves to protect you from hot shells, and something you won't mind getting dirty. Honestly, most of the makeup and dressing advice is making me think "How do you do, fellow gun shooters?"

I'm not a conservative, but I've spent a lot of time at gun ranges. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone there is a political conservative..

Yeah, and you might also be surprised that there are plenty of mefites who own guns and/or enjoy going to the range, but based on some of the answers here it shouldn't be surprising that they don't advertise it.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:20 AM on November 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

I'm at an archery range every week, and there's a lot of crossover between archery and shooting ranges. I wear... whatever. Probably jeans and a Girl Scouts sweatshirt.

I believe you're overthinking this. I get intimidated walking into the range but it's because I'm a crappy shooter, not because I'm a woman in my 40s -- I'd be equally intimidated walking into, I don't know, a cheesemaking workshop.

I found it useful to sign up for a few private lessons first, so at least I knew the basics and also some of the etiquette.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like I have offended a few people, and I really apologize – not my intention at all. My first experience at a range was very negative, and I assumed that it was normal for people to give me dirty looks and make weird comments.

After reading many of these replies, it's clear I just need to find some place where people aren't jerks.

Thank you so much for your help.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 6:09 PM on November 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think "crunchy conservative" is your best bet. I don't think you're going to be able to pull off the Betty Bowers look, at least not without a ton of work that probably isn't worth it. However, there is a species of conservative woman that actually already dresses a lot like you. Think of the kind of person who homeschools, grows and cans their own veggies, loves the outdoors, maybe owns some goats.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:12 PM on November 14, 2016

"I just need to find some place where people aren't jerks"

ZOMG yes this.

The other problem with gun shops is that they can trend towards the "Comic Book Guy" kind of situation, where there's lots of shitty gatekeeping behavior or whatever. That's true in Houston, I know, but partially in response to the creepy/unwelcoming ones at least a few OTHER places have opened up that are explicitly welcoming to beginners and as a consequence feature a much more diverse crowd and drastically less creepy-gun-shop tropes.

Odds are, such a place exists where you live.
posted by uberchet at 6:07 AM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Depending what state you are in your learning/location you might find a Women in the Outdoors class useful and fun (I did not find that website useful but googling "women in the outdoors" and your state should help). You can learn about gun safety and shooting (and other things) with a group of women who are usually supportive and friendly. It also gives you familiarity with the gun club and a few friendly faces you'll know there.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Did you go to an outdoor or an indoor range? In my experience, I have found outdoor ranges are much nicer and more welcoming.
posted by corb at 7:51 AM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

FWIW, hair up and out of the way under a ball cap; nothing loose that can obstruct your view.

I have made these Beretta shooting glasses my daily sunglasses*, and because I wear them all the time (they cut glare while driving so well! No heavy frame bothering me at the edges of my vision!), I would not feel out of place in them as a guest at the range. But the key for me was to go from "Geez, these are so dorky-looking!" to not thinking twice about putting them on via daily wear. I recommend them to you both as affordable safety gear and as a subtle way to blend in. (Wearing the heck out of them and beating them up a bit before you go to the range is also recommended.)

* I call them "my rose-colored shooting glasses." They've been terrific for outdoor work, too. I swear that I have passed muster in more than one situation where I live because the man I was talking with recognized what they are. YMMV.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2016

Update: I went to the range today. Skirt, Danskos, wavy hair and all. Everyone was super friendly and the guy in the next lane let me try a few of his guns.

It turns out that I really did just need to go to a friendlier range.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 9:44 PM on November 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

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