HALLSVILLE — Feet planted, eyes focused and gun ready, first-time competitor Kim Page swiftly pulls a pistol out of her pink holster and shoots at a moving target.
Page is one of the many female competitors at the 35th annual Bianchi Cup, the NRA National Action Pistol Championship that attracts the best pistol shooters from around the world. Coming from countries such as England, Germany, Japan and Australia, competitors take part in four events that combine speed and accuracy shooting.
Although Page is not a very skilled shooter, her main focus is to attract more women to what she referred to as a “man’s sport.”
“There are a lot of women out there that are scared,” Page said. “It’s intimidating to walk into something that’s perceived as a man’s thing. It’s totally misunderstood and to get people past that is hard.”
Page launched a company in 2008 called "Packing in Pink," which provides gun protection, equipment and clothing for women. She sells everything in pink, including competition jerseys, gun holsters, shooting muffs and shooting glasses.
She came to the Bianchi Cup last year as a vendor for "Packing in Pink," but she decided she wanted to compete this year to get the full experience.
“The atmosphere, the people—it’s unlike anything I’ve ever been to,” Page said.
Three other women are on Page’s competition team, and they all wear matching equipment and jerseys from "Packing in Pink."
Michelle Cerino, a first-time pistol shooting competitor and team member, hopes their presence at the Bianchi Cup will inspire other women to join the sport.
“From what I can tell, women in the sport are increasing and people are becoming more excited about it,” Cerino said.
Because all of the "Packing in Pink" teammates shoot at a beginner level, Cerino said the women aren’t concerned with scores.
“For us doing it, just getting out here and trying something like this is fun,” she said. “It’s a way to get out of my comfort zone.”
Dani Bryan, team member and NRA certified self-defense trainer, has been shooting her whole life and wants women to be more comfortable using guns.
“My goal is to make sure that women are confident with guns and that they have the training to be able to defend themselves,” Bryan said.
Bryan trains women in gun safety and defense through her national organization "A Girl and A Gun," which she compared to a sorority.
Bryan said. “It gives everyone a change to get away from life and come have fun while teaching them how to be safe with guns at the same time.”
She hopes women will continue to gain more credibility in the sport through organizations like A Girl and A Gun and Packing in Pink.
Tournament Founder John Bianchi has seen female involvement in the sport grow since he started the cup in 1979.
“It’s come light years into the future,” Bianchi said. “One of the bright spots is the amount of great women competitors of all ages. They provide an added depth to the competition.”