Julianna Crowder’s excitement in the face of her organization’s growing popularity is palpable and contagious. The founder and CEO of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, Crowder hasn’t always been fearless about being a lone female entrepreneur in a man’s world. In fact, it was her husband, John, who pushed her into her first concealed carry permit class in 2006. The feminine Crowder, whose fondness for the color purple is well-known in competitive shooting (her guns are purple and black), said she had earned her “honorary man card” shooting with her husband and his friends on weekends.
“I was the only chick there, and everybody knew me as ‘John’s wife,’” she explained.
Earning a Texas Concealed Handgun License was the start of something that would quickly turn into a life’s work for Crowder. Interested in leaving dance in her past and embarking on a new venture, she and her husband became certified CHL instructors and began teaching their own classes. But, when classes began to fill up and John’s full-time job took him away from the CHL courses, Julianna had to step up and step in front of the class and out of her “support staff” comfort zone. Being thrust into that leadership role helped Julianna to realize that she had already become an expert on gun safety, range safety, and concealed carry laws and techniques, even if she still wanted to improve her own shooting skills.
“I could teach anybody to outshoot me any day of the week,” she laughed, adding that highly technical gun knowledge and champion-shooter status still elude her; but her confidence has grown as she has progressed. “You have to know your strengths, and I’m still improving.”
Where Fear Resides
Crowder admits to being intimidated by the traditional roles that confronted her when first getting involved with International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competitive shooting and as a Texas CHL instructor. But as a trailblazer who has helped carve out a niche for women shooters, she said shooting is much more welcoming to women than it was just a few years ago.
“The male shooter has changed,” she said. “It used to be the husband’s sport, but… more of the younger generation of men are bringing their wives, putting a gun in their hands, and encouraging them to learn how to shoot.”
It’s those women Crowder hopes to encourage with her own story of overcoming self-doubt.
“I have challenged the industry standard that only champion shooters can be instructors,” she said. “I’ve had to learn to trust what I know, lift other women up, and become comfortable with the celebrity set. It’s all about knowing who I am.”
Girls, Get Your Guns
Part of Crowder’s legacy is her fight for respect for women in the shooting sports, which she says is becoming more apparent as more women become gun consumers and manufacturers change their advertising focus away from scantily-clad women and toward discerning consumers. A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League’s National Conference each spring in the Texas Hill Country boasts a “who’s who” of shooting sports sponsors, including Smith & Wesson, Remington, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“We have established equality, but we didn’t ask for handouts,” she said with conviction, adding a hard-fought lesson Crowder has learned well, and wants to share with other women facing doubt. “We don’t want anything handed to us because we’re girls. Besides, when things are free, they have no value.”