Smoking Gun Range, (formerly the Oasis Gun Club) owned by the Shaw Family in Scenic Arizona, is now open to the public and hosts the WDW. The range also hosts a variety of shooting options for the general public including pistol, skeet and, coming soon, a new archery range. Photo by Teri Nehrenz.

Peggy Pope, Becky Hoff and Lance Barr will gladly teach any woman how to become a “force to be reckoned with” and did so for five Mesquite ladies during a beginners firearms class on Saturday, July 11 at the Smoking Gun Range (Formerly the Oasis Gun Club) which is owned and operated by the Shaw Family.

Barr, the WDWC’s instructor and shooting coach, is the owner of Wild West Firearms and Training and specialized in CCW certifications.  Barr has taught many CCW classes for both men and women in Mesquite over the past several years working with Guns & Guitars.  About a year and a half ago, Barr began working with the Women’s Defensive Weaponry Club when he along with co-owners Pope and Hoff felt there was a real need to help teach gun safety, use and basic self-defense to help protect and empower women in Mesquite.

Pope’s decision to begin the club was based on personal threats she had been receiving and her own fears which sparked the thought that there may be other women who may have a similar or even a different  situation now or in the future and possibly feel the same way, alone, frightened and angry at feeling that way.


Co-founders of the Women’s Defensive Weaponry Club, Peggy Pope and Becky Hoff, are holding a .50 caliber sniper rifle and ammunition, usually used by the military, at Red Rock Defense in St. George, UT. It took both women to hold the weapon. Photo by Teri Nehrenz.

Pope never was helpless; she’s a strong lady and she’s had quite a lot of experience with guns during her marriage to her late husband, who was an avid collector. But even her experience didn’t calm her nerves or give her the confidence she needed to feel secure so she set out to learn and took up shooting and other interests. She got her sister-in-law, Becky Hoff to join her.  The two enjoyed what they learned so much they decided to share the knowledge with fellow women.

Hoff stated that her motive for joining Pope in founding the club reflected her sister-in-law’s thought, “There are women out here in Mesquite who are alone, widows, divorced women, young women starting out on their own for the first time… all vulnerable unless they can defend themselves and to do that they need to know how!”


Becky Hoff shows the women in the beginners firearms class the proper way to handle a weapon. In this picture Hoff is holding a revolver and showing the women the different parts of the weapon and how to safely hold a revolver when not shooting. Photo by Teri Nehrenz.

The two women set out to find members and began their learning process at the Hidden Valley Range in Littlefield, AZ.  Finding members was a difficult process and they soon found out that some of the women who were interested in learning were just too intimidated by shooting around “all those men”.  Hoff said, “The range is great and there are some women who shoot out there of course but it’s predominately men and some women were just uncomfortable shooting for the first time around all those men, most with experience and it’s sometimes confusing getting instruction from so many of them because everybody has their own technique or style…or tips.  Working with Lance to develop these classes gives everybody the same instruction across the board; it’s consistent with all of the safety and range rules and with every other member of the club.  This doesn’t mean that the girls aren’t free to develop their own styles, shooting preferences and comfort levels, not at all. This just gives them all a nice relaxed and consistent beginning with other women which is important to them, especially the ones who’ve never handled a weapon before.”

Pope says the classes are very organized and they take their time to be thorough.  “We always receive high marks and much gratitude on the class,” said Pope. “We go over a lot from handling a pistol, different types of guns, safety with weapons, stance, grip & aiming which is extremely important, different types of caliber, holsters, magazines & gun bags, different types of concealed weapons, pointers & where to stash them on your person, cleaning techniques & solvents/lubricants/tools to use, general firearms safety & range rules, how to load the magazine/revolver, what to do if it malfunctions, NRA insurance on weapons for loss or damage (is free) and there’s another policy for yourself which costs but is well worth it in case you do have to shoot someone, then we personally show you how to use the weapon and practice shoot.”  The lecture on gun safety and gun handling lasts a full hour and a half before the women even step foot on the range and the rules of the range are written in stone with the number one concern always being “safety first”.

Pope and Hoff don’t limit their time to helping empower the women in Mesquite. They recently began teaching basic hand-to-hand defense classes to the residents of one of the Clark County’s battered women shelters and are hoping to get more shelters on board with these classes.

The WDWC is committed to empowering women of all ages who are alone and want to learn to defend themselves with all types of weapons.  Currently they offer instruction on hand-to-hand defense techniques, gun and knife safety and are soon to begin offering archery instruction as well.

WDWC works closely with Guns & Guitars’ owners, Mike and Jan Sullivan, who supply many of the weapons, ammo, additional equipment, holsters, cases and targets for the members of the club so everything you need is available locally. Guns & Guitars has all of the information on all activities the club sponsors and they help spread the word about the club through their own marketing venues.

You can learn more about the WDWC by contacting Peggy Pope or Becky Hoff at (702) 346-6149 or You can also stop by Guns & Guitars for information on the Women’s Defensive Weaponry Club classes and/or Carry Concealed Weapons Classes.