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"Pull!" Clays beware, the ladies are coming

More than six million women are gunning down targets from clays to live game as the sport becomes more popular
Calling the shots: More women take up sports shooting as hobby 04:37

SOUTH CAROLINA -- Numerous studies show that women are taking up guns for a lot of reasons -- many for self-defense. But there's another group who see it more as a sport, CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford reports.

It starts with a simple but decisive command: "pull."

The voices calling the shots, like the shooters, all are women. Just don't mistake their support and encouragement for a lack of competition.

Annette Mueller first picked up a gun at age 55.

"Shooting sports is my passion," Mueller said. "You're outdoors. You blow up clays. Whenever you see a target explode like fireworks, there's nothing better."

On this day, Mueller is shooting with nearly two dozen women, split up in groups of four. On her team: Rebecca Peters, whose family legacy is expert marksmanship. She's a fourth generation competitive shooter.

"You just think really hard about what you're doing, execute," Peters said. "You see results really quickly, I think, which is instantly gratifying and you're taking someone new and they see that. That's when it happens and you get really hooked."

Today's event is organized by the magazine Garden and Gun, now hosting two shooting events a year.

Rebecca Darwin is CEO. She's also a shooter.

"Our readers want more and more and more. And women were clamoring for us to do these kind of events," Darwin said.

In the last decade, the number of women who target shoot has shot up nearly 70 percent (67.4 percent from 2003 to 2012) to more than 6 million. The number of women who hunt has increased 43 percent (43.5 percent from 2003 to 2012) to 3 million.

Jim Arnold has witnessed the growth. He's a shooting coach at Brays Island in South Carolina.

"We're playing golf basically, only with a shotgun," Arnold said.

Everyone at the event agrees the sport can be intimidating, especially for a woman who's never held a gun, much less shot one.

"I've taken them out and they're so afraid to shoot that gun, for fear, and it's just lack of education and understanding," Arnold said. "I've had them literally almost in tears until they shot it. And then they shot it and you can see their face light up."

Of course anything involving guns sparks heated debate. These women argue that education is critical for responsible ownership. They also want to share their positive experience with guns.

Conley Crimmins has been shooting with her mother since she was a little girl.

Both women received guns from their fathers; Conley, several years ago for Christmas.

Conley Crimmins shooting

"I think I started crying. I started crying when I opened it up," Crimmins said. "It was kind of like my dad giving me a permanent present or permanent invitation to come join him hunting. And that has been true since I got that gun."

Conley's mother Boofie wants people to change their views on recreational gun use, or at least widen their scope.

"I would like more of that image [Crimmins and her father] to be what takes the place of the images people have when they think guns," Boofie said. "It's just enjoyable and it might be out of some people's comfort zone but I would just encourage them to try it."

These women see their sport as a great American tradition that they hope their daughters and granddaughters will continue, and others will pick it up as well.

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