May 11, 2021

A Gun-fearing Woman Walks into a Gun Range

An afternoon with Like a Lady Firearms Training
By Kathryn Bertodatto | Jan. 30, 2021

Guns scare me. I didn’t grow up around them, my parents don’t hunt, and my father doesn’t have enough enemies to justify keeping them for self-defense. Guns are polarizing — they’ve become a political symbol. Love them, and you’re Right; hate them and you’re Left. Write about them, and you’re an idiot likely to alienate half the population. Hello, my name’s Katy, and I’m a writer so … help me, God.

Alycia Pollotta owns Like a Lady Firearms Training, a Traverse City-based business open to all but aimed at teaching women — gun-fearing and gun-owning — firearms safety, confidence, and skill.

The tagline on her website: “Because we were trained to shoot before we were allowed to vote.” Strong. To the point. I am intrigued. I call up a dear friend who happens to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum from myself. She and I have had discussions about everything from minimum wage to abortion and, guess what — we’re still great friends. That happens when you have mutual respect for each other’s integrity and intelligence.

We’ve never discussed firearms though, and that brings me to the shattering of gun stereotype No. 1: My friend is also nervous about firearms. Color me shocked. I decide to call up Pollotta and go shoot.

The Like a Lady training studio is built on Pollotta’s property. She has a stretch of land where we can safely shoot live rounds, but the weather doesn’t cooperate, and freezing rain is apparently as good for firearms as it for people. For that reason, Pollotta has invested in an indoor “smokeless range” system, and we will make use of that. If you’re thinking an indoor range is like a video game, it’s not. More on that later. The first thing I notice when I walk into the range is the relaxing smell of essential oils in the air. Gun stereotype No. 2, shattered. Seems gun people and places don’t have to smell like Dirty Harry.

Pollotta, who served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a certified National Rifle Association (NRA) and Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners (MCRGO) instructor, provides state-required training courses for concealed pistol license (CPL) applicants and enjoys martial arts — especially Krav Maga, the self-defense and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that blends techniques of aikido, boxing, wrestling, judo, and karate.

She’s also a five-foot-nada lovely little Italian who doesn’t believe you have to cast aside your femininity to function or succeed in a predominately male industry. She tells me she has plans to paint her handgun a pretty teal because it “makes her heart happy.” 

The next thing I notice in the training studio is a whiteboard that states, “If you ALWAYS follow ALL the safety rules, you will NEVER have a firearms accident.” Pollotta, who holds a master's degree in communications from Michigan State University, says she spends a great deal of time teaching her kids that nothing is absolute. Safety is taken extremely seriously here, and despite my nerves, I feel safe in this space.

Pollotta takes time to explain the difference between each firearm and how they work. She explains that you should never allow someone to hand you a loaded gun. She stresses that you should know how a gun works and be able to load it yourself. If you can’t load it, she said, you do not completely understand it and should not be handling it. Pollotta is passionate and charismatic about what she does. She is deliberate and thoughtful about her messaging and teaching methods. Her course is both entertaining and educational.

And then you get to shoot guns.

Because I used to be really good at Duck Hunt (if I walked the plastic rifle all the way up to the TV screen), I thought I was pretty well-versed in virtual shooting. But shooting on Pollotta’s smokeless range, I quickly learned, isn’t like Duck Hunt. Though virtual, the range enables shooters to use actual firearms that are loaded with laser “bullets.” The rounds are not live, so there’s no kick, but the handguns are not light, so everything feels very real.

When I go to fire for the first time, my hands shake. I am calm and keep my face straight, but I cannot control my hands’ physiological reaction to holding a gun.

Pollotta takes time to talk me through my shakiness. I am not scared of the gun; her explanation of the mechanics, the physics, and safety precautions have driven out my fear of the gun itself. My hands are shaking because shooting is foreign, and I’m afraid I won’t hit the target. It’s not the gun; it’s my own debilitating perfectionism. I make a mental note to call a therapist, and then I pull the trigger. And I hit the target. 

The virtual target shows where you hit so you know what adjustments need to be made. Breathe, follow through, learn to shoot with two eyes open so you don’t lose your peripherals, practice. Check your ego at the door, and Pollotta will make you a better shot, regardless of your experience or uneasiness.

In Pollotta’s training studio, guns are not glorified. They are tools of defense that deserve proper training and respect. I walked into Like a Lady Firearm Training with a fear of something that can potentially kill you. I walked out with a healthy respect for firearms and boundless admiration and respect for what Alycia Pollotta is trying to do: empower women through education and instruction.

Interested in Learning More?
Like a Lady Firearms Training is located in Traverse City. While Pollotta’s concealed pistol license classes are open to both men and women, her mission is to afford women who are less experienced or comfortable with firearms (shotgun, pistol, rifle) an opportunity to learn in a stress-free, fun, and encouraging environment. 

She offers small group and customized private classes, youth safety and handgun classes, as well as several special clinics — among them gun cleaning, drawing from a holster, and “Mom and Me Self Defense” (for moms and kids age 5 and up), which teaches situational awareness, stranger danger, and emergency planning strategies while training both in self-defense skills they’ll execute in fabricated scenarios. Many clinics and classes can also be arranged offsite. To see all offerings, visit likealadyfirearmstraining.com.

Not Your Daddy's Gun Club
Pollotta launched the state’s second chapter of the national shooting league “A Girl & A Gun” in Traverse City in 2019. A shooting club established by women shooters, for women shooters, AG & AG events are “social gatherings where you get firearms training and encouragement, ask questions in a safe and non-judgmental environment, improve your marksmanship, and make new friends.” To learn more about the national league, see agirlandagun.org. To inquire about the Traverse City chapter, the 127th in the nation, contact Pollotta via likealadyfirearmstraining.com.

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