By Marci Narum
Josette Severson considers herself a ‘girly girl.’ Like many women, she enjoys slipping into high heels and a dress to
look professional. She speaks with a sweet confidence. But fair warning: Severson knows how to handle herself. And her firearms.
“I have felt threatened. A few times when I’ve been running, I have turned around and said, ‘you do NOT want to mess with me.’ My goal is that if I’m ever in a situation I don’t want to my firearm. I am also a third-degree black-belt in traditional Taekwondo and have 20-plus years of training.”
Severson owns Prairie Patriot Firearms Training in Bismarck. She started the business with her husband, Robert three years ago. Both are certified instructors with the National Rifle Association (NRA), trained in basic pistol, range safety, and FIRST-Firearms Instruction Responsibility Safety Training. They host private shooting lessons, and Severson has developed her own training programs, including a Handgun Handling course, and the popular “Try a Gun” course.
“I heard many new shooters say, ‘I wish I understood the difference in “feel” between different calibers.’ That inspired me to create the course. Now many of my students that have taken it are able to decide which firearm they will purchase.”
The course gives you some basics on six different firearmsfive pistols and one revolver—starting with a .22 caliber and working up to a .45 caliber. Students are given the opportunity to try each gun with one bullet, then shoot several more if they choose to.
“When you’re shooting, you’re not only feeling the size of the gun, you feel how your fingers wrap around the handle, the weight of the gun, and the weight of the bullet. A lot of people like the big bullet in a big gun because it doesn’t have the recoil kick back that a smaller-framed gun does.”
You might wonder why a “girly girl” would be so into guns. It all started nine years ago, when Severson worked for the USDA Wildlife Services Division as a budget analyst. Part of her job was purchasing firearms and explosives for the trappers. Each year the field staff is trained and re-certified in the field. During the fall 2007 training, someone encouraged Severson to shoot one of the firearms, so that she could have a better understanding of the product she was purchasing. It was a Ruger Mark II .22 caliber pistol.
“And that kind of started it. That day, I got to shoot my first handgun, first rifle, and first shotgun. And I remember coming home and telling my husband, Rob, ‘I did this today, and the empowerment, the feeling I got, I want to keep learning more!’”
Severson says she started to enjoy shooting with her husband, also a gun enthusiast. Going to the shooting range even became date night. Smiling, she shows me the earrings her husband had made for her—the bullet casings from the first firearm she owned. But Severson says she also found it to be a very male-dominated activity.
“I started to think, there’s got to be a group of women out there who are like-minded, who enjoy shooting. They’ve got to be out there. It can’t be just me. But I couldn’t find anything in the area. That’s when we were introduced to Nic Couture, the owner of the Personal Defense Center. I told him I wanted to start my own firearms training company. He said he heard other ladies wanting to learn from a female instructor.
“From there, Rob and I went home and talked, and Prairie Patriot Firearms Training was born. That was three years ago.”
“A lot of women are saying ‘yes, I want a handgun to protect myself.’ They go home and say, ‘okay now what do I do with this?’ We learn way differently than guys.”
Severson has started the first North Dakota chapter of The Well Armed Woman, with 23 members and growing. Its mission is to educate, equip and empower women for self-defense and to expand the world of firearms to women. The group meets the second Monday of every month at the Personal Defense Center in Bismarck.
“You can check out the first meeting for free. After that it’s $50 for the year. It’s all volunteer-led.
“It truly does warm my heart that I’m able to help another female feel comfortable shooting a gun, to conceal carry, and get them together with other like-minded women.”
To learn more about The Well Armed Woman and courses available at Prairie Patriot Firearms Training:
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