Ladies Shotgun Salon

Allow me to tell you about my recent weekend at the Ladies Shotgun Salon by Calibered Events.

I originally attended my first ever Ladies Shotgun Salon LAST summer and had a marvelous time. The event has been going on for about nine years, plus or minus a time out for the virus-which-shall-not-be-named. This year was actually my second time attending.

About the word ”Salon” – No, I did not take my Benelli along to get my hair done. It wasn’t that kind of salon (although there was a hair and nail salon as part of the spa services, but more on that later). In this case the word “salon” comes from the European Aristocratic custom from the 17th and 18th centuries. These salons – gatherings primarily hosted by influential women – were events intended for the exchange of ideas. And so it was that this event was for learning about shotguns and sporting clays and for the fellowship of women friends in the shooting sports – both old friends and new friends.

That’s not to say there were no visits to the nail salon or the spa involved. Part of the package deal was that there were spa credits to be used at the on-site resort spa, which we all took delightful advantage of. But the “salon” in the title is about the learning and fellowship, not technically the mani/pedi.

Thus, I explained my days off to co-workers as a “sporting clays and spa event”. There may or may not have been some eye-rolling, but there were also a few interested questions.

Ann Marie Foster, event founder/coordinator started this event about ten years ago. Minus a year for the C-word, this was the ninth iteration, and second for me. Ann Marie’s careful planning and “mother henning” made it a wonderful experience for everyone.

Last year I took my Benelli 828u 12 gauge along for the festivities. It is my favorite shotty and why wouldn’t I? But this year just for giggles I decided to take my only 20 gauge, which was a pawn shop find from a few years ago. (I’ve had some great pawnshop scores in the shotgun department and even turned one of them into a tactical/home defense gun.)

This 20 gauge is a Mossberg 500 pump youth model. I have a short LOP, but this was a little too short, even for me. A padded butt sleeve fixed that right up. I knew that the pump and somewhat shorter barrel would be a challenge for clays, but I was attending for the fun and fellowship – not the scores – so this is the gun I chose. And honestly with a total round count for the weekend in the neighborhood of 250 shells or more, 20 gauge was going to make my joints happier than 12 ga.

My little 20 gauge waiting in the foreground while fun was being had on deck.

The weekend began with distribution of gift bags and a welcome dinner with cocktails on Thursday evening. It was a great way to get reacquainted with friends from previous years and meet previous attendees who hadn’t made it last year when I was there.  Many hugs were distributed. The venue provided us with a delicious spread including prime rib sliders and crab cakes, which were a great addition to my bourbon cocktail. The venue even provided a shuttle bus back to the hotel so no one had to worry about driving. 

The following morning we met at 8:45 to caravan over to the clays course and begin our first day of shooting. Friday morning was to be 75 rounds of clays, followed by lunch at the course restaurant/grille. Then we carted our full bellies around for another 75 rounds in the afternoon. 

The round count was really a rather loose affair. The coach/trapper who accompanied each squad encouraged multiple reshoots to “try again”, and since the package deal included ammo, well, why not? By the Saturday morning session the coach/trappers were driving us around the various stations for various purposes including – “finding a station to challenge us”, “finding an easy one to restore our confidence”, and even “finding a shady one to cool off”.  The staff were all wonderful, educational, and accommodating. Highland Sporting Clays showed us a fantastic time and I heartily recommend them.

Our group numbered about 16, so we had four squads of four give or take, plus a certified coach/trapper each. Some ladies had their spa appointments and had to leave early, but we kept it flexible and just had fun. My squad chose not to keep score at ALL.  We just wanted to learn and have fun, so that took the pressure off of me and my short little pump gun. I had a blast!

I was pleasantly surprised. I did not shoot as badly as I had feared I might. I busted more clays than expected with the pump, and even hit a true pair or two. By the end of the first morning the pumping was becoming automatic and I didn’t have to think about it anymore. That’s not to say that I was actually “good” or anything. I never practice enough to become “good” at any of the shooting sports. But I was “satisfied”, and that was good enough for me.

One sure takeaway I got from this weekend was that you don’t “need” a fancy, expensive shotgun in order to enjoy sporting clays. If you want to try it out with some supportive friends just do it. Don’t worry about the gun, just shoot what you have. Or even rent one.

Some ladies in the group used loaner Beretta semi-autos from Calibered Events. Some ladies had pricey O/U’s, but not everyone. Another gal had an unrecoverable malfunction and used a loaner from the venue to finish the day. It was quite a mixed bag of guns and I had the only pump gun, let alone the only pawn shop gun LOL.

What goes for the guns also goes for the clothing. Some of the women wore name brand specialized “shooting vests”. But I wore a vest that I sewed myself for IDPA several years ago. The pockets were big enough to hold a box of shells, so that’s what I wore. But no vest at all is required. You can carry your box of shells up to the station if you want to, or even use a fanny pack. A big investment to “look the part” is not necessary. Safety is the only requirement. No matter what anyone was wearing or shooting, it was all great fun and we had beautiful weather besides!

Yours truly with the little pump gun.
Trying “rabbits”. Note the empty shell in the air and the finger indexed along the receiver even while pumping. Some things stay ingrained and automatic.

After the shooting on Saturday morning we had the afternoon to ourselves before the dress-up banquet in the evening. Personally I took a nap. But others went to the pool or had their spa appointments. That’s another nice thing about this group/event – you can do what you want most of the time. Some gals went to the hotel bar/nightclub in the evening or gathered in rooms. Others (like me) needed introvert recharge time and read a book on the quiet room balcony. It was all good.

The Saturday evening banquet was another fun time. Since I only know some of these women from hunting trips, I’m used to seeing them in camo and blaze orange. Dinner was an opportunity to prove that we could all clean-up nicely when we wanted to. With dinner and cash bar there were also prize drawings and lots of laughs. My ticket was pulled and I won a Beretta game bag full of goodies like shooting glasses, a towel, and a hat! It was a fun way to round out a great weekend. 

We can clean-up!

I reserved my personal spa massage time for Sunday morning before departure. I figured that way if I was sore from shooting I could get the kinks worked out before the drive home. It proved to be a good decision. All in all this was a fantastic weekend getaway, one which I hope to repeat on a yearly basis.

The ladies who have attended over the years hail from many different states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, and even Wyoming. I saw some familiar faces, but also had the pleasure of meeting some new ones this year. 

My squad with the Founder.

Ladies Shotgun Salon – the faces may change, but the fun and camaraderie never does.

Dr LateBloomer is a female general pediatrician who bought her first firearm at the age of 46. She now enjoys many different shooting disciplines including self-defense, IDPA, USPSA, Steel/Rimfire Challenge, 3-Gun, Sporting clays, and is getting started in hunting. She is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and works to enlighten her medical colleagues whenever possible.