Mary Ann Froebe stood feet apart with knees slightly bent and aimed the .22-caliber Ruger semiautomatic.
“You’ve got some adrenaline running through you right now,” said Esther Beris, the coordinator of the northeastern Ohio chapter of A Girl and a Gun Women’s Shooting League. “It’s O.K., just relax.”
Ms. Froebe, 42, a small-business owner who described herself as a “virgin gun shooter,” concentrated and pulled the trigger. “It was awesome,” she said, her face flushed, after emptying the 10-round magazine. “The sense of control, of being in charge of me.”
In the debate over firearms regulations, the voices of gun owners have largely been those of men. But at firing ranges across the country, a growing number of women are learning to use firearms and honing their skills.
Women’s participation in shooting sports has surged over the last decade, increasing by 51.5 percent for target shooting from 2001 to 2011, to just over 5 million women, and by 41.8 percent for hunting, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
Gun sales to women have risen in concert. In a survey last year by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 73 percent of gun dealers said the number of female customers had gone up in 2011, as had a majority of retailers surveyed in the two previous years.