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Letting women know, 'yes they can shoot'

New gun club aims to educate, empower women

STERLING – It’s a club for modern-day Annie Oakleys, and it’s come to the Sauk Valley.

The Well Armed Woman is a national gun club that caters to the growing number of female shooters who are new to the range. Its goal is to educate and empower women when it comes to firearms.

Roxanne Folsom of Rock Falls is one of three leaders of the new Sauk Valley chapter, which meets for 2 hours the third Friday of the month at Sinnissippi Rod and Gun Club.

The first hour is dedicated to educating members on a variety of topics, often chosen by the members. The second hour is dedicated to shooting.

“There are more and more women shooting now,” Folsom said. “A lot of it is for fun. It’s also for defense, and The Well Armed Woman, what I have seen of it, what I have learned of it, it definitely promotes the knowledge, the safety, and lets women know, yes, they can shoot.”

The club aims to teach gun safety, reduce the intimidation factor, and increase a woman’s skill with firearms, based on her individual needs. That means women of any skill level are welcome, including those who have never even handled a gun.

For Piper Grazulis of Sterling, the decision to join was easy. While taking a safety course to familiarize herself with the guns her husband had at home, she learned of The Well Armed Woman chapter and joined as soon as it opened in February.

“I felt more comfortable with a lot of women,” Grazulis said. “Some people are really experienced, and some people are like me, who have only been shooting for a little while.”

She said she recommended it to women for “lots of reasons.”

“It’s a comfortable place, especially if you’re scared, like I was, ... a comfortable place to get to know your way around a firearm in a safe way with knowledgeable people,” she explained. “And it’s fun. You meet new people, some nice people.”

The club’s three leaders – Folsom, Liz Butler of Sterling, and Teresa VanAusdoll of Rock Falls – have been shooting for years. When Butler talked to the other two about opening a chapter in the Sauk Valley area, they both jumped to help.

They’ve seen the club double in size, from seven members when it began to 15 in June.

They’re ready for more.

“If there’s any women out there that want to maybe think about it, just some place for them to go, to be in their own little space, where it doesn’t matter how much knowledge they have about a gun, just to be relaxed and feel safe ... because you never know,” Van­Ausdoll said.

“We don’t claim to know everything. We’re just here to teach them what we can, help them out, show them how to relax, and show them that they can be safe, and have fun.”

About the club

The Sauk Valley chapter of The Well Armed Woman meets from 6 to 8 p.m. the third Friday of the month at the Sinissippi Rod and Gun Club, 23181 Moline Road in Sterling.

Joining is simple. Go to and click on “chapters” to find the Sauk Valley club, then click “join this chapter.” The membership fee is $65 a year. The local chapter offers two meetings free of charge, to give women a taste when they're deciding whether to join.

Go to the website or Facebook for more information on the national club; email or call 815-718-2128 for more information on the local chapter.

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