Female shooter takes on male-dominated sport: Army spouse zeroes in on Tactical Precision competitor
March 5, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga., (March 5, 2014) -- Tactical Precision Rifle competition is a male-dominated sport, but that hasn't stopped Melissa Gilliland.
Gilliland grew up deer-hunting with her father, so she was used to guns but it wasn't until her husband, Master Sgt. Jim Gilliland, took her to her first rifle match in May 2012 that she fell in love with the sport.
"I followed him throughout the day and watched what he did," she said. "He brought me here to the range on Fort Benning ... and he had set up some targets at like 200 yards and I was just plinking them."
That's when she and her husband realized she should get involved in the sport. She completed her first team match with her husband in October 2012. The competition rifle she currently uses is a custom built Ashbury Precision Ordnance 6.5 Creedmoor with a Pinnacle Series barrel, AAC Blackout Brake, Xtreme Titanium action, Huber Concepts single stage trigger, Bushnell Tactical ERS 3.5-21scope with TRMR2 reticle.
"It may be intimidating at first, just because of all of the men out there, but everyone is so nice and they are willing to help you and teach you," she said.
She encourages more women to get involved. In her time competing in the matches, she said there are only a handful of women that compete. Recently, she competed at the Bushnell Brawl in Florida with 129 other competitors. Besides herself, there were only two female competitors - the most she's seen in any precision rifle competition.
"Some women are scared of the recoil ... and it's more of just getting out there and just practicing," she said. "The more you practice with it, the more comfortable you'll get with it."
Take advantage of the services at Fort Benning's Recreational Shooting Complex, she said. If she's not dry fire practicing at home, she's shooting at the range.
During her first match, Gilliland said she was intimidated by how others might perceive her and assume she wasn't any good. But in the end the opposite happened. Men would come up to her saying they wish they could get their wives involved.
Even now, Gilliland still gets "first-stage" jitters, but said it gets easier after the first stage - and it is important to keep practicing, she said.
"When you're hitting that target at 600 or 700 yards - sometimes you'll hear that 'ting' and then (the announcer) yelling 'Impact!' - it's a confidence booster, big time," she said. "It's not so much winning a match, but getting out there and having fun."
There is also another takeaway for women who get involved in the rifle competition, she said.
"I try to encourage women ... because not only is it a fun sport with a rifle - you're also learning to defend yourself," Gilliland said.
Going into her second season, she said she wants to continue to improve.
"I want to keep competing, I want to keep going out there to show women - you can do this," she said.
To find out more about Gilliland, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tacgirlmelissa.