Here at FF HQ, our passion for shooting far outweighs our ability for it (unfortunately!) so whilst for us, winning major titles in the sport is destined to remain a pipe dream, Femme Fatale Hannah Gibson is out there living that dream – and we caught up with the newly crowned British Open Sporting Ladies Champion for a chat before the news has even properly sunk in.

Hannah is only twenty-four years old and yet she has just bagged herself the most coveted ladies shooting title in the UK. The British Open Sporting Championship attracts shooters from all over the UK, the best of the best, all determined to walk away with the top spot on the podium and a massive piece of silverware that’s been doing the rounds for 85 years and is engraved with the names of some major female sporting legends.

Still on cloud nine about her win, Hannah told us “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. The trophy is beautiful. It dates back to 1931 and has the names of some really fantastic lady shooters on it. It’s really humbling that my name will be on there soon as well. I can’t believe it!”.

Well we can believe it! Hannah has long since been an inspiration of ours. She represented Great Britain shooting Olympic Skeet from 2009 to 2011 in the World and European Championships so we knew she’d be one to watch when she made the decision to change from Skeet to English Sporting.

14192190_10153979093178251_4347776007875532378_nHannah with family friend Sir John Blaker and her gorgeous British Open trophy!

Big things are happening for Hannah, but it hasn’t happened overnight. She’s been working towards this since she was a teenager “My dad is a keen clay shot and competed regularly, but I didn’t really pay that much attention to the sport until Charlotte Kerwood won Gold at the Commonwealth Games and I was like ‘Oh it’s not just for men! Can I have ago?!’ So after many months of pestering my Dad, he finally took me up to Northall CPC when I was thirteen”.

It was love at first shot! “The first target I hit I remember getting such a buzz from it, I said to Dad ‘Can I shoot another one?” and the rest, as they say, is history!

 Northall Clay Pigeon Club is where it all started for me. They pretty much adopted me! I had my first win in a Ladies category there one Christmas, there is such a club atmosphere and it was great. Everyone was so pleased for me.  It became like my second home”

The venue is home to another Femme Fatale, Charlotte Kerwood whose shooting has inspired Hannah from a very early age. “Charlotte is like my big sister has always been my role model. She’s the one that inspired me to take up shooting in the first place and has always been there for me. I’m such a sucker when it comes to the Olympics or even anything on the TV where you can see how hard someone has worked for their goals. I get a right bottom lip trembler on, so watching her in the Commonwealth Games was a definitive moment for me.”

11081186_982860478405421_3320149550741784265_nAt the 2015 Femmes Fatales Cup
Laura Appleby, Hannah Gibson, Becky Spicer & Charlotte Kerwood

Aged just sixteen years old when her Shotgun Certificate was granted, Hannah found that her hobby was not common among her peers. “A few people from college thought I was a farmer or a hill billy because I went shooting!” Though times have certainly changed “It’s really funny because quite a few of those people have actually taken up the sport since!”

Eight years ago, when Hannahs competitive shooting journey began, there were few women whose most prized possession was a twelve bore shotgun. However, whilst her shooting skills improved, so too did the statistics relating to females with firearms – according to the British Association of Shooting Conservation statistics that show that there are now 33,000+ shotgun certificates issued to females.

“It’s amazing that so many women are coming into the sport. We all have something in common, my close female friends are all from shooting. Credit to clubs like Femmes Fatales and the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club for doing so much to encourage more women to try it!”

“Obviously I do enjoy shooting with men, I have some amazing male friends in the sport but I have definitely noticed that women don’t show their emotion as much when they shoot – I’ve found that men can sometimes appear very frustrated if they’re not shooting well, whereas girls sort of just shrug it off and move on. There’s nothing you can do about the ones you’ve missed!”

In the two years since Femmes Fatales launched, we’ve had one small-minded chap suggest (whilst sat at a keyboard, hiding behind a computer screen!) that ladies only shooting clubs are sexist and that women wouldn’t be happy if a ‘men only’ shooting club emerged. Hannah laughed at this suggestion “All I can say is that he’s clearly jealous! The ladies clubs are such a friendly environment and a nice, relaxed way to learn to shoot before entering in to the ‘general’ shooting community. Doesn’t he realise that these clubs are bringing more people to the sport? That can only be a good thing!”

Newly crowned British Open Champion Mark Winser is Hannah’s shooting coach. Hannah credits him for his straight-forward teaching methods “For me, Marks methods work. I can actually understood when he’s talking about maintained lead, starting behind the target, and so on. I can listen to what he says, take it on board, and put it in to practice. Before that I genuinely didn’t have a clue!”

Whilst every shooter reading this article would probably single out Mark’s famous win at the Stratstone Ultimate One Challenge as his best, Hannah is in awe of all of his credentials “Marks success on the high tower at Royal Berkshire Shooting School was phenomenal, but if I’m honest I wouldn’t mind winning any one of the titles he has won!”

“The first lesson I had from Mark he asked me what my goals where and I will openly admit I said I don’t want to just be winning ladies I want to be beating men! I stick to that now, seeing the likes of Desirae Edmunds making the Pro Tour final really inspires me to keep going!”

The Pro Tour (the Professional Sporting Clays Association) is a professional league based in America, for the top sporting clays athletes. Hannah would love to be involved “I am absolutely desperate to shoot out in America! I follow the Pro Tour on social media and would love the opportunity to compete out there. It looks amazing! What they are doing for the sport and their shooters is brilliant – I’d love for something similar to be set up in the UK.”

Here in the UK our sport unfortunately does not enjoy the same level of media attention given to other more mainstream sports, and so whilst in the USA competing is the profession of their top shooters – our top shots have their normal jobs/careers during the week, leaving only the weekends to train and compete.

It makes the success of our competitors even more incredible when you think that they have to juggle ‘normal’ life, work, everything else and dedicate what little spare time they have to shooting clays. Hannah is a very busy woman, so we’re in awe of how she finds the time to train hard enough to be a winner.

She works full-time as a training advisor for Plumpton College, working with potential employers to advise them about courses and apprenticeships. She is also one of the organisers of the Bentley Woodfair, so that takes up a lot of her time too – plus there’s the new addition to her family to take care of, Phoebe the Fallow Deer fawn she and her partner Alex rescued!

“Things are very manic at the moment. First thing each morning I have to feed Phoebe, then walk the dogs before going to work. Each evening I come home and sort the dogs out, if I can go to the gym I do, but I also go and help Alex on the shoot as he is a Game Keeper and works all hours God sends! Plus I have recently started up a small Game processing business so I’m usually found plucking partridges!”

14117853_10153939920483251_5573543463083012508_nHannah with Phoebe the rescued Fallow Deer fawn

They say that behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Well Hannah is certainly a great woman, so we wonder who she’s got behind her. Who has her back? “I’m really lucky this year to have had some great backing. I have some incredible support from the guys at Fiocchi, for which I am so grateful. I shoot their FBlack 8.5’s 28gram cartridges for everything. I realise how hard sponsorship is to come by, because there is so much competition these days. I know they, and other manufacturers get asked for sponsorship on a daily basis, so to have them choose to support me makes me feel very proud.”

“I try to earn my sponsorship, not just by winning, but also by generally being an advocate of their products and for the sport in general. I understand how important it is to behave professionally at all times, not just at the shooting range, plus on social media too. I want them to believe that sponsoring me is worthwhile to their business.”

“I am also incredibly grateful to Mark Winser for his support and coaching over the last two years. Plus the team at Northall CPC, where shooting started for me – they have always been so supportive and inspirational. The guys at West Country Guns and Krieghoff have also been very supportive with setting up my gun”.

In addition to the help from within the industry, Hannah recognises that her parents have played a big part in helping her to reach some of her goals. “My parents have helped me out with entry fees, but my biggest supporter for sure has been my Dad. From day one he has always been there to take me to shoots and has really helped me to achieve everything I have done” 

“My Dad and I have only ever had one argument on the range where I was struggling with English skeet after transferring back from Olympic I didn’t know where to hold me gun etc. Dad gave a time out and said you need to sit this one out and watch what I’m doing! He always knows how to help give me confidence and get me on track”.

Hannah competed in the inaugural Femmes Fatales Cup in 2015, finishing in fourth place, just behind her friend Charlotte Kerwood. “I had such a great day, everyone was so friendly, we had so many laughs! It was fantastic to see the likes of Laura Appleby who had recently come into shooting smash those clays up! Royal Berkshire is such a lovely venue and it’s a real treat to shoot there and shoot different targets you wouldn’t usually shoot like the grouse butt”

We’re looking forward to welcoming her back to RBSS next year on 29th April where the Femmes Fatales Cup looks set to be even bigger and better! In the meantime we’ll be keeping a close eye on her progress by following her on social media (You can find her on Twitter @HanLouise23)

We wish Hannah the very best of luck in her future competitions!

QUICK FIRE ROUND: HANNAH GIBSON

MY FIRST GUN: “A 20G Beretta Silver Pigeon that my brother and I saved up for with our Christmas and Birthday money!”

MY CURRENT GUN: “I have a beautiful Krieghoff Parcours”

MY CARTRIDGE OF CHOICE: “I love Fiocchi FBlacks, 28gram 8.5’s – I use them for everything!”

BEST SHOOTING ADVICE: “Better shots recover quicker from their misses than the average shot!” – My Dad

BEST GENERAL ADVICE: “If Plan A doesn’t work there are still 25 letters of the alphabet!” – My Brother

MY MANTRA: “You are stronger than you seem, braver than you believe and smarter than you think” – I have this engraved on a bracelet I always wear”

WHEN I’M NOT SHOOTING “I love catching up with my friends, shopping or going for lunch together.”

IN MY KIT BAG YOU’LL FIND: “Cartridges, Fiocchi hat, hair bands, hair clips, Paw Paw, Robinson’s concentrated squash, my Briley Choke box (not that I EVER change my chokes! My gun still has the original chokes that Haggis from West Country Guns put in for me!) I also have a few random pieces of clothing in there”

MY BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS: I do love a good bacon sandwich, but in the winter porridge is good! When I’m going around a shoot I carry a Grenade protein bar as they’re low in sugar, the white chocolate cookie one is delicious! Plus I always carry Robinsons squash as water is boring sometimes”

MY “PLAN B” SPORT: “If I hadn’t made it as a shooter, I’d be a Badminton champion! I used to play at County level”

PRE-SHOOT RITUAL: “Nah, I just get on with it!”

MY NIGHTMARE PAIR: “Rabbits! However, I have worked those out recently! I had a lesson with Mark and I must have gone through a minimum of 125 shells on this rabbit. How he didn’t lose it with me I do not know! I just had a totally meltdown on them. But after about 6 months I have overcome it, I just have to be confident on them and not think about them so much”

MY DREAM STAND: “Driven targets! (Much to my Game Keeper boyfriend’s dismay! He doesn’t like getting beaten or shown up in the field!) but I really enjoy shooting long crossers and big battues. For me I love a challenge and get such a buzz out of hitting the harder targets even if it’s not a perfect score but I have managed to work it out how to hit it I’m pleased!”

MY ULTIMATE FLUSH TEAM:
The Ringer: Who’ll tackle all of the stratospheric targets? “George Digweed. Obviously!”
The Eye Candy: Who’ll make your team look good? “Tom Hardy. He is pretty scrummy!”
The Boss: Who’ll talk tactics and keep you all in line?
“Rachel Carrie. That lady always has a plan!”
And the loaders? Micky Flanagan and Melissa McCarthy for comedy factor and team morale, plus Sian Bruce and Sally Bond (my Olympic Skeet shooter friends)

13669143_10153878627883251_1208462867397639466_nHannah Gibson, 2016 British Open ESP Ladies Champion
13631541_1053861791362535_4973396943133230409_n