In a world where men and women look over their shoulders while walking down the sidewalk, and where high school and college students find themselves silently praying that their campus won’t end up on the evening news as the next national tragedy, Mandy Autrey is doing something about it. Combat Focus Instructor, Mandy Autrey, lives to educate and train individuals to take back their lives and dominate their fears. Mandy recently retired from law enforcement after twenty-eight years of service, but you won’t catch her sitting on a beach relaxing. In fact, three years before she retired, Mandy started her own business in Sacramento, CA called GunLady Defensive Firearms Training. Now that she’s “retired”, she can focus on what she’s most passionate about, educating and training individuals in self-defense and firearms training. “I want to give people another option than to become a victim. You have every right in the world to take care of yourself. With the training I offer, firearms are just a part of it. You need to adopt a mindset that goes along with it. I teach my students that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman or child, I provide a safe and comfortable environment in which to learn.”
Mandy’s long list of honorable careers began when she joined the Air Force in 1983. Basic training was where she first learned to fire a gun. Four years later, she followed in her family’s tradition and became a law enforcement agent. She’s worked in numerous prisons throughout California. Mandy spent the last ten years of her career as a Parole Officer in Los Angeles and Stockton, CA. Some of her other responsibilities throughout her career included Baton and Weapons Training, Armory and Weapons Trainer, Hostage Negotiator, Alarm Responses Instructor, Cadet Training Officer, and she wrote instructional plans for new equipment that was used in the agency. “This is a profession I can be proud of. I didn’t think I would go out and save the world, but it was a respectable job. And it still is.”
Mandy first became a firearms instructor in 1993 when she was with law enforcement. ͞It was actually a fluke. I was supposed to teach them about another piece of equipment but I ended up teaching firearms. I discovered my passion for teaching and training people when I saw that spark in their eyes once they started to believe that they could do it. Knowing that it could actually help them because I wasn’t just regurgitating textbook information to them, gave me a deeper sense of purpose as an instructor.͟Mandy’s approach to self-defense and firearms training goes way beyond the basic “how to” and “what if” scenarios. “I provide a service to folks who believe that they can’t do it on their own. Meaning, I provide more than just self-defense instruction as far as handgun and firearms training. I help develop in them the confidence that goes along with it. I provide reassurance that they have the right to protect themselves and give them a solid foundation so that they can grow. Sometimes I give them back a piece of their life from an incident that took place in their past. I give them the power to empower themselves.ರMandy has her Master Degree in Adult Education and a Bachelor Degree in Human Services. However, Mandy has never relented in her own pursuit of learning. She has committed herself to acquiring numerous firearms instructional certifications over the years. Some of her certifications include California Post Firearms, Arrest and Control Proctor Instructor, DOJ Certified Instructor, NRA Firearms and Personal Protection Instructor, Taser Instructor for Civilians, Baton Instructor, Peace Officer Standard Training, Counter-Ambush Certified, and a California CCW Instructor in multiple counties. But one of the certifications that makes Mandy Autrey stand out from her peers is her certification as a Combat Focus Shooting Instructor. There are roughly about seventy-five CFS Instructors in the world. However, only about fifty are active; an estimated four of which are women, including Mandy Autrey. “My favorite thing about being a Combat Focus Instructor, is that I answer the ‘why,’ not just the ‘how.’ I teach them not only the mechanics of the weapon, but how the body reacts and how the mind perceives things. I bring the mind and body together. This isn’t just a shooting program. I help them buy into what they are doing so that it makes more sense. And through rigorous practice, they develop the muscle memory to respond on instinct and do what needs to be done.”
Having spent many years in law enforcement, Mandy offers her students the unique benefit of her experience and insight, which goes far beyond textbooks or manuals. ͞”I don’t just teach people how to shoot a gun, but how to defend their lives. I teach more than just the bio-mechanics and technique of gun handling; I give them that mindset of what they need to do so that they are prepared. I am very passionate about self-defense because of the jobs that I’ve had. I know the mindset of the criminal. I know how they think. They don’t operate the way the rest of us do. I’ve been out there and I understand it. I have always been an active instructor. That means I don’t just teach out of a textbook. I’ve lived it. I do what I teach.͟”
Mandy’s training philosophy isn’t to coddle her students or try to impress them with her skills and knowledge. “I’m very humbled to be called an expert in my field. It’s something I had to get used to. I just want to help people build that step by step foundation and encourage them to not give up.”
Her message to the inexperienced shooters as well as the advanced shooters seeking further self-defense and firearm instruction is the same. “Find a firearms instructor that you make a personal connection with, who you believe and feel has your best interest at heart. You have to interview the instructors. If you don’t get that feeling of connection, move on to the next one. I want people to know that self-defense isn’t just about owning guns or the need for a gun. They don’t need to be afraid of guns. They simply need to have a healthy respect for them. The gun isn’t evil; it’s just a tool, a piece of equipment. I’ll teach them how to use it.”
Five of the most popular classes Mandy teaches are her CCW Course, Combat Focus Shooting, Fundamental Home Defense, Private Handgun Training and 360 Street Sense for Women. She’s also developing a Skill Builder course for advanced shooters which she will soon be adding to her regularly offered classes. When I asked Mandy how she felt now that she’s retired from law enforcement and finally able to invest herself fulltime into her business, GunLady Defensive Firearms Training, her answer said it all, ͞Find what you love and do what you love, and you never really work a day in your life.͟You can check out Mandy’s website for a full listing her certifications and self-defense and firearms training classes at www.gunlady.net.