A tour of amazing women past and present for Women’s History Month wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Tatiana Whitlock. In the decade or so that Tatiana has been active in the training world, she’s made a serious impact. She is a prime example of a modern woman living a vibrant and independent life on her own terms.
Tatiana’s upbringing wasn’t centered around firearms. With varied backgrounds from musicians to designers, few family members hunted recreationally. She has stated some of her more cherished memories were duck hunting with her brothers and father. But it wasn’t the forefront or focus of her attention. She wouldn’t rediscover firearms until after the birth of her first child.
As a child, Tatiana was active in martial arts, specifically shaolin kempo, starting at age 10. By the time she graduated high school, she was a black belt. Tatiana attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and continued studying martial arts, this time it was Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts and Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design and spent much of her career in the plastics manufacturing industry.
One night in college while attending a show, a man tried to kidnap Whitlock by trying to force her out a back door and to a waiting vehicle. Thanks to her martial arts training, he was unsuccessful. She credits her successful escape to the training she received and sheer determination to be the victor. The attack breathed new life into her martial arts training and would follow her for the rest of her life.
Rediscovering Shooting Sports
After becoming a mother, Tatiana was encouraged to get out and socialize. Being a new mother, it can be daunting to take that step away and nurture yourself, but that’s what Tatiana did. She attended an NRA Women on Target clinic. “I was surrounded by 25 to 30 women who ranged from experienced shooters to people who were absolutely terriﬁed and trembling,” says Whitlock. “By the end of that day, I was completely hooked. I purchased my ﬁrst ﬁrearm two weeks later.”
She started attending Ladies’ nights at an outdoor range and set off into the world of gun ownership and skills training. On those Ladies’ Nights, the members would gather to shoot and talk until the daylight or ammunition dwindled.
Taking advice from a salesman, Tatiana bought and started using a Beretta Neos .22 pistol. While the Neos 22 is a fine plinking gun, it wasn’t what she ultimately was looking for. Thinking that firearms need to be taught and trained within the environment that they are used in, Tatiana switched to a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm pistol.
Tatiana became an NRA firearms instructor shorter thereafter. “After the first shot, they almost always get an instant smile. [Shooting} gives an element of power you can’t explain to someone until they’ve experienced it for themselves,” said Tatiana of her experiences as an instructor. She realized it was fun and a hobby but wanted to make sure she could use her firearms to protect herself, her family, and her home. That led her down the path to more training.
Her thought process has been one built in the martial arts world—like Krav Maga where training happens in regular street clothes to simulate real situations. In swapping from a .22lr plinker gun to a more functioning M&P 9mm, she was upping her training regime and started attending two- and four-day training courses from local instructors. In one of those four-day courses she attended, she was the only female present.
She stated that those courses were heavy with military doctrine from the 1990s. But it also demonstrated to her that the more you don’t know, the more skills you gain and the knowledge to go along with it. Her love for shooting and training grew after those multiple-day courses.
As her passion for the sport, and training, grew, she took her marital arts approach to real-world training to firearms training and started looking outside of the local scene for more instructors and more in-depth training. Receiving training for real-life environments and decision-making became paramount for Whitlock. This led to Steve “the Yeti” Fisher of Sentinel Concepts among others.
The problem that Whitlock found with some of the trainings, was the approach to the “square-range” mentality. Her drive for training was real-life applications and she wanted a 360-degree emphasis. As a mother of three children with the latest born just recently, she wanted to make sure she could protect her family. This led to training with Pat Rogers, John Chapman, and Doc Spears at EAG Tactical. EAG provides a shoot-house program for close-quarter-battle which teaches students to fight in buildings. The program gave Whitlock a way to take her previous training and put it into something she can use every day.
Not only did it plus up Tatiana’s training, but it was also a catalyst for starting her own target business. While in the shoot-house, she struggled to identify certain targets as threats based on their shape. Some were just boxes behind other objects. Her ID Target System is a 3D, true-to-life torso with a realistic image on it. The additional level of realism pushes training to real-life.
Drawing on her industrial design in the plastics industry, Whitlock was able to pull manufacturing information and apply it to her target systems. The target works with layers. The base layer is just an image of someone holding a weapon, but the patches that can be applied to resurface the impact area can also change the threat levels of the target. With repairing the target, they get to be used over and over in many different configurations.
Shooting and Beyond
Beyond her target company, Whitlock continues to train and instruct with affiliations with NRA, Walther Defense Division, and USCCA as well as an instructor for the Refuse to Be a Victim program. She is the Director of Training at Howell’s Indoor Range and Shooting Academy in Gray, Maine, and the Director of Training for A Girl and A Gun. She is also a featured host & instructor with Trigger Time TV, host of the live radio show and podcast “Responsible Armed Radio,” and is a member of the Maine Hunters TV pro-staff. Whitlock trains men, women, and youth shooters in a myriad of options.
She Ain’t no Gun Bunny
Tatiana Whitlock is a force to be reckoned with in all aspects of life. She sees training, especially for women, as extremely important and urges others to just do it now and not wait. She has stated that “We aren’t the gun bunnies…we’re mothers. We’re business owners. We look like everyone else you see in the grocery store. We’re normal women that are interested in something.” In the end, she’s very proud to be a part of something that is breaking down stereotypes, especially when it comes to women shooters.