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For More Women, Ladies' Night Out Includes Time At The Shooting Range

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More and more women are buying guns and learning how to use them. In fact, a 2011 Gallup poll found that 43 percent of women say there's a gun in their household, and 23 percent of women say they personally own a gun.

But as CBS 2's Mai Martinez reports, you might be surprised to find out that it's not just for protection.

Dianne McGrath used to spend her free time painting or doing needlework. But now her favorite pastime is shooting — something she thought she'd never do.

In fact, until last year, McGrath had never even touched a gun. It was her husband who encouraged her to learn to shoot for her own protection.

"You know, painting, needlework, guns. I don't see what the problem is. It's a really good progression," she says of her new hobby. "It's just another fun thing to do."

McGrath says she'll always remember the first time she fired a gun.

"It was a .22. I picked it up and I think I shook so bad I think the bullet went anywhere but where it was supposed to go," she says, laughing.

But McGrath got better, and she was hooked. Now she says going to the range is actually more relaxing than needlework.

Firearms instructor and competitive shooter TD Roe says that's not surprising to hear.

"It's something that men have done for years and years, and now women are just coming out and doing it," says Roe, who adds that any woman can learn to shoot.

"We had one lady in a class say 'This was always on my bucket list,' and she was 80 years old," Roe says.

No matter what their age, Roe says many women start with an interest in protecting themselves. But then they're drawn to the sport-side of shooting.

That's what happened to Janelle Pitula, who recently qualified as a marksman.

"I learned how to use it initially for home protection. But the sports of it actually does also teach you how to use it in a defensive manner," she says.

Owners of several gun shops in the Chicago area say they've seen more women buying guns over the past couple of year, and they've noticed women also like the idea of taking classes to learn how to use guns safely.

That growing female interest in guns is not going unnoticed. Gun dealers and manufacturers are cashing in on the new wave of shooting enthusiasts with merchandise marketed directly to women, including pink guns, pink ear muffs and pink gun cases, among other things.

Ladies' Night events at gun ranges are also becoming more common place. Article II in Lombard says theirs are a big hit.

Roe says that may be because more women are realizing they actually have an advantage over male shooters.

"Women actually have a great sense of touch," she says. "If they can learn to strengthen their hands, women are actually better shooters to start than men."

The next "Ladies' Night" at Article II in Lombard is Saturday May 12 from 5pm until 8pm.

If you'd like more information on Ladies' Night event or on gun safety classes, click here.

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