SIERRA VISTA — The six women came from all over, most from Cochise County, though one even made the trip from Tucson. They were from different walks of life — a mother and daughter, an avid horse rider, a Congress hopeful among them.

Though all had their own motivations for signing up for the class that would take them out into the desert for several hours on Saturday, there was a commonality between them. They were all women who owned guns and wanted to learn to use them correctly.

Owning a gun is only part of the equation.

When it comes to pulling the trigger in a self-defense situation, actually knowing how to shoot safely and properly is another story.

A newly created group in the area is working to provide a safe space for women of all skill sets to learn, practice and improve their shooting and self-defense skills.

Lipstick & Lead was formed by husband-and-wife team Beau and Bernadette Hefley about six months ago when the pair saw a lack of opportunities for female-centric safety training.

“We looked around and we saw there wasn’t much of a market for women to train,” Beau Hefley said. “In the state of Arizona, there are very few requirements for owning a gun, I believe you can get your CCW (Concealed Carry Weapon) without first putting a gun in someone’s hands, so a person may not have any experience.

“Owning a gun is only part of the equation and if you need to pull it out, you must keep yourself safe and others safe.”

Beau Hefley said he’s always been passionate about guns and has a background in club and private security. He is now an instructor with Raven One-Five, a tactical consulting and training organization in the area which contracts with Lipstick & Lead for training.

Bernadette Hefley said she, too, has a long history with guns.

“I was married to a police officer in California for 20 years and so my kids grew up around them,” she said. “Safety is always on my mind and it’s always been important to me, having my family learn how to be safe around guns.”

When she took a gun class herself she was worried she would be the only woman, and she was right. Bernadette and Beau worked with Raven One-Five owner Jim Martin to come up with a way to make the learning environment better for women.

“It wasn’t the instructors, they were all nice, it was the men in the class checking on me, asking if I was OK,” she said. “I said, ‘Go away, I know what I’m doing,’ and I shot just as well as they did.

“(Jim) said, ‘How can I make the class better?’ and I said, ‘Have a women’s course.’ “

The conversation was the catalyst for Bernadette creating the group. Raven One-Five supports them by providing the instructors for their classes.

The whole idea behind Lipstick & Lead is to get people comfortable with handling their weapons.

The group class on Saturday was their women’s beginner shooting class, which includes safety fundamentals, loading and unloading, and actual range shooting.

Instruction was provided by Beau Hefley and Martin at a private, outdoor range in Whetstone.

The participants represented the diverse range of skill that Lipstick & Lead can train, with some women already comfortable with guns down to a woman who had never shot one before.

Linda Arnold and her husband moved to Arizona a year and a half ago and, though her husband hunts, she had never used a gun before the class.

“I’ve never been into guns, never shot one and now I’m seeing snakes and I basically want something to pack with me while I’m riding,” she said. “I volunteer at a horse rescue and we ride out in the mountains and desert a lot.”

Danielle Paxton already felt comfortable with guns and brought her daughter Christina Hornly for a fun day of shooting practice with new friends.

For Marissa Johnson, it was important to grow comfortable using her gun without her husband being with her. He is in the Army and the couple just moved back to the U.S. after living in Germany for six years.

“He’s really big on getting me to carry, but I’m not comfortable with it yet,” she said. “I figured I better do it in a more comfortable environment where it’s women only, no pressure of my husband who knows everything about guns; sometimes he just takes over for me.”

Congressional District 2 candidate Justine Wadsack even came to the class from Tucson to revisit the basics.

For the class, all the women brought their own guns, though Lipstick & Lead can provide guns for participants to use.

“We try to have enough weapons on hand that are suitable for new shooters,” Beau Hefley said. “We try to avoid Glocks with no external safety because new shooters need extra protection.”

Bernadette said the way instruction is provided in their classes reduces a lot of the intimidation women feel when learning to shoot.

“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and though some are nervous at first ... once they realize this is a very relaxed atmosphere, their nerves calm down,” she said. “Eliminating fear comes through training with a professional.”

The group doesn’t just offer the beginning gun class. They try to have some kind of class each week including women’s pepper spray training, no-light/low-light shooting, pistol training and they provide an awareness training class for free.

Lipstick & Lead strives to keep the pricing affordable on their classes. The beginner class is $50.

“It’s not about money, it’s about awareness and we’re hoping more women do it,” Beau said.

Lipstick & Lead hopes to grow their participant base and do offer private instruction along with the group classes.

For Beau and Bernadette, everything goes back to their mission of empowering the women of Cochise County to protect themselves safely.

“Come to a class and we can alleviate a lot of fears; come see what we can do to familiarize you,” Beau said. “Honestly, people need to understand that no matter how relaxed your gun laws are in the state, you are responsible.

“Have your signed mental contract to be safe with yourself and others and, if you don’t train with us, train with someone; just know how to use your gun and how to be safe.”

Their next class is a Women’s Basic Carbine Class on June 29 and there is another women’s beginner class on July 3.

Lipstick & Lead will offer a free awareness training on July 11 from 6 to 9 p.m.

For more information on Lipstick & Lead, visit www.lipstickandleadaz.com.

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