Recently, I covered the prestigious Bianchi Cup, a 30-year-old action pistol shooting tournament held at Green Valley Rifle and Pistol Club near Columbia, Mo. Later, I was talking to my pal Deb Ferns, of Babes with Bullets™ fame, on the phone. “Molly Smith, that 13-year-old from California’s score was 1300-something. That’s good, right?”
“Good? Good?” sputtered Deb. “Barb, that’s like you or me running the Boston Marathon right now and placing in the top group!” And neither of us is marathon material – more into yoga, weight lifting, power walking, the stuff that traditional, middle-aged moms do.
Molly Smith, the youngest member of Team Smith & Wesson, represents the next generation of strong, capable women in the shooting sports world. Led by current leaders Annette Aysen, Kay Miculek, Lisa Munson, Julie Golob, Randi Rogers, Vera Koo and Jessie Abbate, to name a few – Molly and her generation of shooters can aspire to do great things. Molly already sees the need to bring more of her generation along with her of finding the joy and empowerment of shooting. In fact, she has even started her own blog called The Molly Minute that describes her shooting adventures.
At the Bianchi Cup awards, Molly walked away with at least $5,000 in prizes, for being the most promising new shooter at the match in two divisions – junior and overall!
And no, she does not come from “shooting stock,” except that her father is in law enforcement and her mom is a supportive “range mom.”
Read between the lines with this interview with Good Golly Miss Molly Smith. We’ll be surprised if you don’t smile just a little bit.
G&P: How did you get interested in shooting?
Molly Smith: Most people think that my dad (a police officer) was the one who originally encouraged my participating in shooting, but they’re mistaken. This really “started” when I was an eight-year-old and I lived on a street without any girls or kids my own age! There were lots of teenage boys: my brother’s friends. I always tried to keep up with them … even with air soft guns. It didn’t really work all that well for a little kid like me. (Those plastic pellets hurt!) Three years later, we moved to San Luis Obispo County and my brother started going to the public rifle range. The range officer showed me a .22 rifle and said, “Betcha can’t shoot the center!” He didn’t realize that this little girl in pink stretchy pants had a little experience with aiming. From the first time I shot the rifle, I knew, I loved it!
G&P: How old were you when you started shooting?
Molly Smith: I was 11 when I shot rifles a few times a month, a few months later I shot a revolver in my first IRC match and I was 12 when I shot the Steel Challenge match (rimfire) with a .22 pistol.
G&P: Does your family shoot?
Molly Smith: Nope! My dad is a Lt. with the Sheriffs Department. He doesn’t shoot competitively, while my brother used to shoot archery and air soft guns, and only dabbled in shooting before moving onto different things. My mom would much rather play “range mom” and feed everybody than hold a gun. I don’t mind at all, though – they support me beyond belief and are always there for me!
G&P: What are your goals for shooting?
Molly Smith: To become a great shooter like Jessie, Vera, Annette and Julie! These ladies are incredible shooters and major role models. It is important too that I do my best and have fun! I want to ALWAYS enjoy myself when I shoot, no matter the conditions. During the Bianchi Cup the conditions were harsh and the pressure was on, but these four ladies always had a smile, a hug and words of encouragement for me, the newbie. My goal is definitely to be as encouraging to other women and junior shooters as they are to me.
G&P: How did you meet Annette Aysen, your official mentor and who are your other mentors?
Molly Smith: At my first IRC (International Revolver Championship) two years ago, I stepped into a whole new world. I had been shooting revolver for … oh, maybe three weeks. After being introduced to Annette, shaking her hand, and wishing each other luck, I walked away realizing that there were some real amazing women who shoot. I watched her throughout the day; she was always polite, kind to everyone, and a fantastic shot! (She took High Lady that year.).
The next time I saw her (and now every time I see her) it’s always a celebration! My first IRC, I came in 2nd from last, the last place competitor got something special a “DNF” [did not finish!] by his name. Annette thought it was pretty good that I was so happy that I did not come in last. And of course, Annette is an amazing shooter with a limited revolver (Hmmmmm…guess what I shoot? A limited revolver!). The first time I ever shot a shoot off, I shot against Jerry Miculek, one year ago. Annette was right there behind me, I could hear her calm, voice, that sure calmed me right down!
Annette is a lot like my mom, so I feel especially close to her.
Julie Golob is a role model for all women in this sport. She is always a lady. I like that. She always has a smile and a kind word for and about everyone, I am proud to have her as a mentor. I met Vera Koo about a year ago and she is amazing; I think that she is a hero for all women shooters too. Hard to believe that as beautiful as she is, she’s a grandmother! Twenty-plus years ago, she started shooting. Her children were grown and she decided that she would like to learn how to shoot. Her perseverance in a sport that was, back then, not a typical sport for women, was incredible and she became a champion! She is so loving and always eager to give me motivation and hugs!
And then there is Yamil Sued, he is a mentor in a different sort of way, he is so happy! He is a shooter and his also a photographer! I think, he has more fun than any shooter I have ever met. Well, his enjoyment of the sport, the people and his art makes me happy every time I see him. He teaches me through his actions, his pride in his profession and his ability to bring out the shooting sport in photography is something I look up to. I hope that I will in time be able to pull out the excitement in the sport in my writing as he does in his pictures.
G&P: How often do you train and what do you shoot?
Molly Smith: My training schedule isn’t exactly consistent. I have friends, school, sports, and all that other good stuff. I try and shoot once a week. Before a match, I try to go to the range more. I mainly shoot a 627 Smith & Wesson revolver, and I practice my accuracy as much as I can. There are exercises I do at home called dry firing, which really help with controlling the trigger. At times, I will work on other “challenging” concepts, like moving targets and barricades (Bianchi Cup), but for the most part, when I go to the range, I sit at a table, and try to get those shots in the middle of the target.
When it comes to my stature, the best thing I ever did was to get a small grip (I can’t thank Hogue Grips enough for making me a custom made, tiny-person-friendly grip!) and brace for impact of the recoil! It didn’t take me long to become accustomed to the “mechanics” of being a small shooter.
Being a small shooter actually is a good thing for new shooters to see because sometimes kids and woman come to the range and think that their hands could never hold a gun. They get discouraged but I talk to them and I hold up my hands (about the size of a 3rd grader’s hands) against their hands and show them. They usually feel pretty big after that.
G&P: Why a revolver?
Molly Smith: I love love love love love love revolvers!!!! I love everything from the trigger pull to the weight to the reloads. One of the main reasons is the reloads, for sure! For semi-autos, all you do is press a button, but there’s much more for a revolver. I find that more fun! Even though I’m pretty small, I’m perfectly fine with a revolver. One of the first matches I shot was the IRC (Revolvers only) and I borrowed someone’s revolver. I also won my revolver that year! A very generous woman donated the revolver as a prize for me! Alas, that revolver was a bit too big for me. I had to grow into it. So after months of drinking gallons and gallons of milk, I could finally get my finger to the trigger! After that first pull, I knew I wasn’t going back any time soon. I may shoot other things in the future, but know that I will always come back to my revolver!
People always ask me why I shoot a Limited Revolver. They tell me that I could get a lot faster time with an Open Revolver. For me, it is not about the fast time, it is the about the best time I can get with a difficult gun to shoot. It’s because of the challenge – the difficulty factor, that I love it. The sights are little iron pieces on the top of the barrel. I figure once I “Master” the Limited Revolver I will try something else with optics.
G&P: Why are you a competitive shooter?
Molly Smith: I shoot competitively because … well, it’s more fun! I meet new people, and just seeing all the different personalities make shooting all the more interesting. In competition I find the nicest people! For example, BJ Norris spent a few hours teaching me how to shoot a stage in the Bianchi Cup when he could have been practicing himself! That sort of experience is something that I can only get from competitive shooting. Although the pressure is on, the competitors are always kind. Also with competition I not only get to talk to expert and well-known shooters but people who are eager to get started, and that’s awesome on its own!
G&P: What are your plans for the future?
Molly Smith: Right now, I have such wonderful opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Through shooting, I have met all types of people with all different professions, not just shooters. We all have something in common and that is this sport! I hope that my future in shooting holds many new opportunities to meet people. I know I want to go to college and have given my future a great deal of thought. Something in the shooting industry, a journalist or a reporter would be very interesting. I would love to be able to talk to people and educate them about what they are seeing and feel that my enthusiasm for the sport would reflect the sport well. I think that would be a nice career!
Of course getting better at shooting is in the future too, part of that includes learning all I can about the sport … and taking part in as many aspects of the shooting sport that I can.
Photo by Jason Baird
To follow Molly Smith’s adventures in shooting, please visit her blog.
To follow Barbara Baird please visit her site.