GRITS with Grace

“Focus, movement, faith.” These are the words Elizabeth Lanier whispered in Sophie’s ear just before she called pull and crushed her clay target. Sophie had received a Beretta 28 gauge for her Mother’s Day present this year, and at the age of 72 and began taking shooting lessons with Elizabeth.


I have had the good fortune to learn from, observe, and teach many firearm instructors during the last 27 years of my shooting and teaching career. Rarely have I found an instructor with the ability to inspire the confidence in her students that I have witnessed while observing Elizabeth and talking to her students. I have learned that students do not have faith in themselves unless they first have faith in their instructor.

When coaching, Elizabeth places a great deal of emphasis on the shooter trusting herself so that she can hit her target. Her students recall other favorite phrases by Elizabeth which have helped them succeed at the sport: “Just trust it, and yourself,” “Don’t doubt yourself.” The sense of confidence that she instills is carried from the shooting lesson to other aspects of her students’ lives. Elizabeth feels that learning to believe in oneself is one of the most important lessons she can impart.

Elizabethtold Diane “If you had as much confidence in your shooting as I do, you could break more targets.” After hearing that, Diane realized how much she was doubting herself. With more practice and lessons, her subconscious doubt went away and her shooting has improved.


Diane focusing on the target.


Oriana wrote me that “Elizabeth’s devotion, skill, talent, spirit, energy, and patience opened up a world to me of camaraderie, sport and excitement that inspires me in the world of shotguns as well as other aspects of my life.” Anita reported that Elizabeth instills confidence and the result is a field littered with broken targets and a very happy student.

After being introduced to the shooting sports and hunting through her husband, Elizabeth quickly discovered that she not only wanted to excel with a shotgun, but that it was equally important that she teach. With her guidance, women understand that shooting a shotgun is not just a man’s sport, but an experience that all women can master and enjoy.  In characterizing the difference between a man and a woman’s approach to shooting, Elizabethtold me that “Men are hunters: they like to go out and crush targets and move on; women are gatherers:  they want to understand what they are about to do and after the target breaks, talk about why it broke, relish in the moment (and then maybe give a little hoot!).”

Elizabeth founded the GRITS (Girls Really In To Shooting) to encourage women to come together to support their love of shooting and increase opportunities for learning and camaraderie amongst her students. They shoot on a monthly basis, primarily on Elizabeth’s property west of Richmond, Virginia. They also occasionally travel to other clubs in central Virginia, and plan to expand into the northern Virginia/metropolitan DC area in the spring.


Elizabeth (left) and Mimi.


Through many years of working with students of varying levels of experience, Elizabeth has developed an innate ability to sense what each student needs to hear in order accomplish her goal.

Sandy, who took a lesson so that she could shoot with her son and husband, stated that “Liz quickly and accurately identifies the challenge, puts her expertise into ‘action’ and ultimately the student leaves feeling like she has accomplished something and had a great time doing it. Whether she is shooting or instructing, she never runs out of steam, enthusiasm, or encouragement.”

David Judah, Shooting Club Manager at The Homestead, has witnessed her “uncanny ability to assess problems quickly” and her refusal to give up on a student who is struggling until she has achieved success.

Lindy, who has been shooting shotguns since she was 12 years old, has taken her own 10 year old daughter for lessons with Elizabeth. She had stopped shooting for a while when she had her children, but has found that shooting with the GRITS has reunited her love of shooting, and that even though she has a lot of shooting experience, Elizabeth has made “subtle comments that have gotten [her] back on track.”

Each of the GRITS with whom I have spoken has confirmed that what they like most aboutElizabethand the GRITS is the fun.

Tina stated that “This is an amazing group of women, from all walks of life, who come together for the sheer fun of shooting!”  Brenda feels that the team spirit and encouragement she receives from shooting with the girls has been an enormous influence with my shooting. “It is a special sisterhood of women who are allowed a safe and fun experience with guns.” Susan told me that the women cheer each other on and celebrate their steady progress of their love of shooting. “All the demands of life disappear when I’m shooting!”

Elizabeth’s students all appreciate the passion, energy and joy with which she teaches.  Each of them has a phrase from Elizabeth that has helped them. For Debbie, it is “See it…touch it…and miss in front!” For an instructor, there really is no greater compliment than to know that your students hear your voice and recall your message just at the moment they need it most.

Diane was able to sum up what shooting with the GRITS has meant to her: “Foremost, I have made new friends; some of the nicest, most respectful, smart, honest, and fun people I have ever met. Second, I have a greatly heightened respect for the shooting sports; gun safety and good sportsmanship are the standard. Finally, shooting is a convergence of the best of so many interests: fine woodworking, mechanical engineering, ballistics, dogs, wildlife conservation, travel to shooting destinations, and great discussions about fine food and drink and gardening/farming. What’s there not to like?”

Elizabeth Lanier and the GRITS make a great contribution to the shooting sports, and each woman I met exhibited tenacity, confidence, grit, and grace.

For more information on shooting with the GRITS, please go to Look for a later column on the GRITS dove hunting trip to Argentina this spring, and be prepared to mark your calendar for a national women’s shooting event in Virginia in the spring of 2011.

Heide Kaser has worked for the National Rifle Association since 1999, and is now the Assistant Director of Strategic Giving at the National Rifle Association. She is currently working with national leaders to develop the Women’s Leadership Forum. This group seeks to identify, inform, and involve women in the shooting sports, hunting, and helping to secure the future of the NRA.



Heide became an FBI Special Agent after completing her Masters in Criminal Justice at American University in 1985, and took time off from her career to be a full-time mother before joining the NRA Law Enforcement Activities Division. Heide is an avid USPSA competitor, an NRA certified firearm instructor for pistol, rifle, and shotgun, and is now focusing on shooting clays.


You can reach Heidi at


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