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Jo Ann Hall, .45 champ! Ex-Dallas Cowboys cheerleader takes aim at wide-ranging topics and demonstrates why she is a champion.

Because of all the "guns are bad" nonsense that we hear, I wondered a little about the kind of lady I was about to meet. She was the 1984 International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) United States Women's Pistol Champion. That alone made her extraordinary. It meant that she was capable of handling a very powerful handgun, under some of the most difficult shooting conditions ever devised. In the U.S. championships, she was the only woman to place in the top 100 overall, proving that she could shoot shoulder to shoulder with many of the best pistol shots today. And this from a lady who just a year before was a busy Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. We were curious to know her views on life, liberty and the pursuit of shooting.

My conversation with the tall attractive blonde who had developed a strong relationship with a big Colt began with, "What's a nice girl like you doing with a gun like this?"

JAH: I like the challenge. It's someting a woman isn't supposed to be able to do.

RS: How did you get involved in the tough game of IPSC?

JAH: My husband shoots, and I used to spend a lot of time on the range catching the sun and watching the matches. It looked like fun, so I tried it.

RS: Okay, I can understand your wanting to shoot for fun, but why would you get involved in the very demanding world of high-level competition?

JAH: I'm very competitive by nature. I like to beat people at my game or theirs. This was another sport, another way to extend my skills. When I left the cheerleading squad I had a lot of time and energy. Shooting seemed a natural way to use that.

RS: When you're not shooting, what do you do to entertain yourself?

JAH: I'm a dancer at heart: jazz, tap or ballet. Of course I'm a great football fan, and I like almost anything competitive or outdoors; water or snow skiing, racketball, swimming, horseback riding.

RS: Do you do any other shooting?

JAH: Yes, I like bird hunting with my 20 gauge, and years ago I used to play with a .22 rifle when I visited my grandmother in Alabama.

RS: When you won the championship, what kind of pistol and ammunition did you use?

JAH: It was a Colt .45 converted to a "pin bun" by Jim Clark. I used 200-grain SWC cast bullets and 5.3 grains of Bullseye.

RS: By IPSC rules, that would be a major" power load, equivalent to GI hardball. Even the U.S. military might quit the .45. Don't you think that is too much gun for a lady to handle?

JAH: Hardly. I like the feeling of controlling so powervul that we are supposed to be afraid of it. Women do lack the upper body strength that men have, so we have to use a lot of technique to control the pistol, but many of us have proven that it can be done. Actually, the .45's reputation is a lot worse than its bite.

RS: Then you think other women should try the .45, or even handgun shooting for that matter?

JAH: Yes. It's great fun, and once a woman gets her feet wet, she almost always likes shooting. The hardest thing to overcome is the fear of feeling foolish, of not being able to hit. Once a girl gives it a try and finds out that she can manage a handgun, there is a great feeling of accomplishment.

RS: How should a lady get started?

JAH: She shuld go to the local ranges and watch the matches, and talk to other men or ladies who are shooting. They can offer a lot of help.

RS: In a lot of sports, women are made to feel like intruders in a man's world. Is shooting like that?

JAH: No, actually the reverse is true. I find that men who shoot try to encourage more women to shoot. Men tend to admire a woman who will get out there and not be intimidated.

RS: How do you feel about the other women who shoot? Do you look at them as your compensation?

JAH: Some of them certainly are, but I find myself shooting against the men. It's my nature to try to beat the best. There are a few very dedicated and skilled women, but not enough. I wish more women would take up serious competition.

RS: Why should they bother; what is the incentive for a woman to compete? What is your incentive?

JAH: There are a lot more reasons for a woman to compete now. An official U.S. Women's Gold Team will represent the U.S. in the 1986 World Championships, and the prize money in other matches is growing.

RS: You're saying that there is a lot of new interest in the women's competition, along with an increased level of recognition and pride?

JAH: Yes. My greatest incentive to compete is to be on that ladies' U.S. team--and to win the ladies' world championship, something an American woman hasn't done yet. I hope other woman will take the challenge seriously.

RS: Tell me about 1986 and the defending champion Walli Louw from South Africa. Are you aware of a wager between a Guns and Ammo writer and the Americah HAndgunner editor? Is my money safe?

JAH: I haven't shot against Walli, but I know she is very good. My whole effort is aimed at the 1986 match--I want to win very badly, and that is my edge. I understand you won that way. I guess your bet is at least even.

RS: If we leave out competition, with its direct rewards and glory, what about the other facet of this shooting: the "practical" ability to defend yourself. Is it a benefit?

JAH: Personal defense is not why I got involved, but now I can--and would--defend myself. Because of that, I am a lot less likely to get into trouble and shoot someone.

RS: What do you mean? A girl armed with a .45 is less likely to get into trouble herself, or with someone else? That runs cross-grain to what the anti-gunners and the liberal press tell us.

JAH: There are two answers. First, I am competent with my pistol, and I understand my ability; I have the advantage in a fight. Because of that, I won't shoot at shadows. In fact, I won't shoot at all, unless is absolutely necessary. The other thing is that I am a lot more aware of my surroundings because of my exposure to personal defense and the pistol. Now, even though I am very much equipped to handle trouble, I am a lot less likely to blunder into a situation where I might have to use my pistol.

RS: You're a valuable link between shooting and the accepted sport of football. How can shooting grow and gain acceptance?

JAH: The most important thing is to get people to realize that shooting is a sport. We must convey shooting as an athletic effort, and let people know that our IPSC shooting is fun to watch, that we can appeal to spectators. In shooting, I use the same basics that I use in any other sport: mental concentration and physical trainings. The only difference is that there here we use a pistol instead of a racket.

RS: Are shooters doing their part in that communication?

JAH: Not as well as they could. It seems difficult for shooters to think big. Shooting must take the first step and believe that it can grow. Then everyone must get involved: shootes, the firearms industry and gun magazines must begin to let the "outside" world know that we have. If we can get people to come see what we are doing, they will probably like it. Gaining their understanding is what it will take to let shooting advance.

RS: If shooters have a stereotype, you definitely are not it. What do people think when then they find out that you shoot?

JAH: Reactions are generally positive. If people will take the time to listen and find out what I am doing, they usually have more respect for me because of my skill; and they have more respect for shooting because "the girl next door" actually participates in a sport like shooting. Once they are aware that there is a fun sport like IPSC, which anyone can participate in, they are apt to get involved and begin to approve of shooting in general.

There are those who just don't approve of my shooting. I was mad as hell the other day when I learned that some of my cheerleader friends thought my life had gone wrong because I was involved in shooting. I love football, but their attitude is ignorant. Football is really violent. There are terrible injuries, and even deaths, almost every year on football fields. So far, I don't know of a single gun-related injury during a major (shooting) tournament. I just wish we could get people to be more realistic in their view of shooting--it is a lot safer than football.

RS: In my opinion, you are doing a lot for the shooting sports, and I know that it is quite expensive to compete at the upper levels. How do you afford it? Are you sponsored?

JAH: Actually, I work for a living as an area sales manager for a medical equipment firm. I load my own ammunition on my "lifesaver," a Dillon 1000, and give up almost all of my other recreation to get time to practice.

RS: You mean the ladies' U.S. Champion steals time from her life to train and compete and then has to load her own ammo? Why don't you and a lot of other shooters have sponsors like other athletes?

JAH: I haven't been shooting for very long, so that's probably why no one has sponsored me yet. It is true that a lot of our top shooters pay most of their own bills, but that is changing. Again, it is a matter of communication. Shooting sponsors must be able to see a potential return on their investment. There is a lot more money for Olympic shooting now; the Olympics themselves generate a lot of advertiser response. What we have to do is let the potential sponsors know that we have a spectator sport and that if they invest some money in shooting, there will be a return. With the running, and reactive targets of our sport, it is only a matter of time and it will grow--if we talk to people and manage it right. Even this recognition by Guns & Ammo will tell a lot of people what we are doing. I have it motivates a lot more shooters, especially the ladies. We need all of the help we can get.

RS: If we believed any of the antigun propaganda, we could conclude that we had just interviewed a "nut" with a gun. Instead, we found someone who strongly resembles the "all American girl." Jo Anne pokes a lot of holes in the hot air balloons held by people who would have us think that guns are bad. She is an American who will represent our country, and we are proud of her--not in spite of, but because of the fact that she is a shooter.
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Author:Seyfried, Ross
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Interview
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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