February 24th, 2016

NRA Smallbore Championships Go “Gender Neutral”

Small Bore Rifle Championship NRA women category gender neutral

Report based on story by NRABlog.com
Starting this summer, the NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships will no longer feature a separate “High Women” award. From now on, men and women will compete shoulder to shoulder in the same category — every shooter will be scored in a single group regardless of gender. (There will still be age-based categories; also men and women have always been eligible to win match top honors regardless of gender).

The reason for this change is, quite simply, that ladies can shoot as well as men (or better in many cases). Consequently, there is no need for a separate class for women: “There is a high degree of parity between men and women shooters in the smallbore championships,” said H.Q. Moody, national manager of NRA’s Rifle Department. Moody explained: “Women are rightly viewed as equals in today’s America. Shouldn’t our championships reflect that attitude as well? Our smallbore committee has discussed making the championships gender equitable for many years now and finally felt it was the right time to implement the change.”

Men and women will now compete on equal terms at the National Smallbore Championship, competing for the same honors in “gender-neutral” classifications.
Small Bore Rifle Championship NRA women category gender neutral
Photo courtesy Shooting Sports USA.

This change was officially adopted this past January at the NRA Board of Directors winter meetings. It only affects the NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships for now, but a positive reception could see “gender-neutrality” spread to regional matches and below, and maybe even other NRA disciplines.

History of Women’s Classfication in Smallbore Competition
The women’s category was first introduced to the smallbore championships nearly 70 years ago. Back then, military shooters were dominating the field so convincingly that several new categories were created to recognize the accomplishments of civilian shooters. This move saw the creation of not just the Woman category, but also Junior and Senior. The latter two have since expanded even further (e.g. Grand Senior, Intermediate Junior) to accommodate the skill discrepancies within levels and they make perfect sense to have; junior shooters are generally more inexperienced and many seniors are affected by physical limitations.

Small Bore Rifle Championship NRA women category gender neutral

But the same can no longer be said of the women’s category. While military shooters still do very well nowadays, the proliferation of female service members has seen quite a few woman match winners. There are also a number of extraordinary female civilian shooters who finish near the top of each year’s overall standings. For instance, women shooters placed first in each of the two aggregate matches that determined last year’s Conventional 3-Position Champion.