With this first in a series on female gun bloggers, we visit with Gracie McKee, who pens “Packing Pretty” from her home base in Portland, Oregon. ~ Barbara Baird, Women’s Outdoor News
Babbs: I see that you’re a firearms instructor, certified by the NRA? In what disciplines and where do you teach?
Packing Pretty: I primarily teach at Clatskanie Rifle & Pistol Club and am certified in NRA Basic Pistol, NRA Home Firearm Safety, NRA Personal Protection in the Home. This year I will be getting my rifle and shotgun certifications as well. There are a number of non-NRA affiliated classes I also teach, including Intro to Oregon Concealed Carry, Street Carry and Defensive Pistol. With the help of my co-instructor and mentor, Gregg Smith, I have also had the opportunity to write and teach classes that have become quite a success.
I have recently been accepted as an NRA Training Counselor training candidate. I am very excited about this candidacy because this would put me in the unique position to help develop new female NRA instructors as well as help male instructors understand how to get across to women.
Babbs: How did you come to set up this blog and hey, I love the name … what inspired that?
Packing Pretty: What inspired me to start Packing Pretty was my desire to share what I know with other women. When I started getting into shooting and concealed carry, I noticed that although there were a good handful of girls’ gun blogs on the Internet, there weren’t many that got down and dirty discussing the more tactical approach to shooting and personal protection for women. When I became an instructor and started shooting competitively, I decided that it was time to establish my own blog.
The name Packing Pretty came to me as I was getting dressed for a formal event. I put my gun on under my dress, looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I’m packing pretty tonight”. The term “Packing Pretty” became a sort of motto, something I aspire to accomplish every morning when I get up and put on my gun.
Babbs: What gun did you attach to yourself when the light came on about calling your blog Packing Pretty?
Packing Pretty: I was actually putting on my highly customized 4.5 inch Springfield XDm 9mm. What I love about my Pink XDm is that it embodies what Packing Pretty is about. Although it is pink and feminine looking, it is combat grade, and the after-market customizations have given it a real tactical edge.
Babbs: If you don’t mind disclosing this info, do you own a variety of carry guns? What’s your next gun to purchase on your list?
Packing Pretty: I do own a variety of carry guns. I most often carry something from my large collection of Springfield XD/XDms. I am a firm believer that consistency will help keep things simple if ever I have to use my sidearm. There will be plenty of other things I will need to be focusing on instead of whether or not the gun I’m carrying today has a magazine disconnect or a thumb safety.
That being said, I’ve been dying to get my hands on the new Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. The Shield or the XD(s) will probably be my next purchase.
Babbs: When you teach women, sometimes, let’s face it … you’re dealing with a lot of emotions. For good reasons, women might come to your class with baggage. One time I taught a woman to shoot whose only experience with firearms was watching her dad put a gun to her mom’s head. How do you attempt to personalize the experience for your students?
Packing Pretty: As an instructor, I believe it is crucial to know my audience so that I can be sure everybody’s individual needs are met and to avoid any surprises that could disrupt the learning experience for others. I talk to all my students before they attend my classes. I ask questions and make an effort to get to know about their experiences, motivations, and goals regarding firearms. This helps me evaluate whether or not a private class is a better option, or whether I will need to bring in extra instructors to work one on one with the student.
Just last weekend I had a student who had some very personal and private reasons for taking my course. Obviously, the entire class was a very emotional experience for her. In situations like that, I make sure that my instructors and I work with the individual, helping him or her to work through their emotions as the class progresses.
Babbs: What do you do when you want to unwind and you don’t want to shoot?
Packing Pretty: My mind keeps going 100 miles per hour, even when I’m physically relaxed; so I rarely truly “unwind”. The only time I can honestly say that my mind is completely free from stress and other concerns is when I’m zipping through the trails on my quad at 60 mph surrounded by nothing but forest. However, I am blessed enough to have wonderful husband whose very presence is calming and comforting after a long day. I have also found that attending mixed martial arts classes is great for decompressing.
Babbs: How do you counsel women who are on the fence about whether they are ready to carry concealed?
Packing Pretty: It would be wrong for me to try and push a woman in any way into carrying concealed. Whether or not a woman is ready to carry gun and mentally carry the burden of possibly using it is a very private and personal decision. The best I can do is to help her ask herself the tough questions that will aid in her journey to self-discovery on the matter. I also reassure her that if or when she is ready, I’ll be waiting to help her with every aspect of concealed carry – the mental and emotional, as well as the physical.
Babbs: Finally, who else is onboard at Packing Pretty and why? Isn’t there a guy there? Does he “pack pretty” too?
Packing Pretty: Packing Pretty consists primarily of myself. I run the website, create the content, network, promote Packing Pretty, and write much of the training material. However, it would be foolish for me to teach a class without a handful of qualified and trusted instructors to back me up.
In order for any type of training session to really be successful, there must be a good chemistry between the student and the teacher. Everybody learns differently: some students (be they male or female) learn better from male instructors rather than female instructors. For this reason, I have brought three highly knowledgeable and qualified instructors into the group to help out, mostly with the training end of Packing Pretty. The plan is that these men will also be contributing content once in a while on the Packing Pretty website. Packing Pretty has grown into a fairly large blog in the past few months, and many of my followers are male, so it will also be nice to get the chance to display a different perspective to my followers.