ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Ann Ethridge keeps her gun close by, so she spends time practicing her shot. "You know a lot of things have been happening, break-ins, shootings, violence," she said.
In 1997, Ethridge surprised a burglar in her home in Lee County along Highway 195. "I heard them going down the hallway in our extra bathroom, and I just turned around and left."
When her father died in 2009, he left his gun to his daughter, and Ethridge decided it was time to learn to shoot it. Ethridge is one of thousands of women who carry guns, and the number of women packing heat is growing.
"You don't focus on the target, the target should just be a blur in the background," said Lee County Sheriff's Colonel Chris Owens teaches Women's Gun Safety classes.
"Anytime you can get two in the same hole like that, that's a good shot," Owens said.
Nearly 400 women have taken the class since it started in 2009. "We try to get them the latest information that we possible can about firearm safety and the laws that pertain to that."
Belinda Wright is one of his students. "I learned not to be afraid of them and to be comfortable around them. And just by becoming more knowledgeable about firearms, I feel safer about having them in my home and I know how to deal with it if I ever need it."
Now Wright has her concealed carry permit. "We do travel and drive a lot, and you can find yourself where there's no one around and it can be dark and scary if something where to happen to your vehicle."
"Its a fun class but its also a safe class," said Owens. "We like to have fun but when it comes down here to on the pistol range it gets serious and being careful and safe about it."
Backwoods Outdoors Owner Jackie Sizemore says the number of women buying guns has gone up 60 to 70 percent. "Women that hadn't had firearms in the past are starting to get them now. "
The gun industry now caters to females. Sizemore says you see a lot more smaller, concealable handguns, even pink pistols and holsters fitted for women.
Ann Ethridge feels more secure knowing she's had some training. "There's gonna be a time that your broken down on the side of the road, your gonna travel, go to a hotel room, you're alone, so there's always a time you could be threatened."
And she just one of the many "girls with heat."