Javondlynn Dunagan- Owner of JMD Defense and Investigations 

They say that one of the first rules of starting a business is to find a need and fill it. For business owner Javondlynn Dunagan, she didn’t need to look very far.

When the retired US Probation Officer would visit the gun range for her routine skills practice, she noticed something interesting. Despite the growing trends in African- American gun ownership, she found a near total lack of Black women shooters.

Dismayed by the lack of Black female representation at the local gun ranges, the former gun-fearer turned gun aficionado decided to start The Ladies of Steel Gun Club™. However, she also understood the need for proper gun training and education. In March 2017, Dunagan opened JMD Defense & Investigations, LLC- the South side’s only 100% female owned brick and mortar business which offers a holistic approach to personal safety though gun education and women’s self-defense classes. JMD Defense & Investigations, LLC offers small class sizes to allow for a more personalized training experience.

Dunagan, is certified as a Firearms Instructor and Range Safety Officer. She is passionate about handling firearms the right way. We talk to the entrepreneur about how she conquered her fear of guns, what JMD Defense & Investigations, LLC has to offer and a bit of advice for those thinking about gun ownership.

Image Credit: Javondlynn Dunagan

You have a Master’s in Social Work and are a former US Probation Officer. Tell us about what led to the start of your business.

When I was working for the federal probation department, I was scared of firearms. It was an option for us to carry a gun. In the early parts of my career, the Federal offender was different and was not as dangerous.  After marrying a Chicago Police Officer, I grew more comfortable being around guns everyday.  Slowly I was becoming comfortable being around guns all day but was still scared to shoot one. After signing up three times for firearms training with the job, I chickened out every time.  After getting a divorce, I felt uncomfortable without a gun in the house.  When I called the job and said “Ok. I’m ready now”, they did not believe me.  Upon arriving to class, I realized that I was the only one in the class because everyone had already gone through the training. After one on one instruction with an awesome and patient federal firearms instructor, I fell in love with firearms andshooting.

Once I qualified, I joined the rest of the officers for requalification.  While at the range, I began to notice that women responded differently to firearm training than the guys. The men seemed to be competing whereas the women seemed genuinely interested in learning and improving their shooting skills. It was a different kind of camaraderie with the female shooters.  It was competitive for the men, but the ladies were supportive. When I retired, I recommended female only training classes.  However, I am not sure if they followed through with my recommendation.  After retiring, I purchased my own firearm and started going to the range by myself. I never saw Black women at the range by themselves. We travel, go out to eat together, socialize together but were not going to the range to shoot together.  This is how the Ladies of Steel Gun Club™ was birthed.  In the midst of thinking about that, I also realized people also need their concealed carry permit to legally carry a firearm. I noticed that once ladies finished firearm training, there was no beyond piece.  In essence, this is how JMD Defense & Investigations, LLC was started.  My vision for my business was firearm and self defense education. Everything is centered around education. If you want to learn about safety, you can take a self-defense class. If you want to learn about safety and firearms, you can do both or either one.  They all go hand and hand because you’ll choose which one you want to use as a tool if somethinghappens.  Although women are my primary business demographic, men also take our Introduction to Firearms and Concealed Carry classes.  The self defense classes are for women only.

Tell us about the Ladies of Steel Gun Club™. And who is your typical customer?

As we approach our two-year gun club anniversary next month, I can proudly say that we just hit a milestone with 150 ladies who have signed up since our first meeting. Our clients are typically Black women, middle class, middle income. Age average is probably 45. Can I tell you what they do for a living- no? When we have gun club meetings, we don’t talk about our jobs, boyfriends, husbands or kids. We talk about guns and firearm education!  Unless someone brings up their job, I couldn’t tell you.  I believe this is a good thing, because our meetings are focused on the business of learning about guns. We also try to do fun stuff. We went to a gun show. We went to see the movie Proud Mary because I knew it would provide firearm education on several levels.  The movie was instructive regarding leaving children around firearms, irresponsible firearm ownership and the unfortunate reality of how people use firearms to harm or kill people. We also went shooting at an outdoor shooting range, which was a first time experience for the ladies.  We will also be traveling to the United States Concealed Carry Association Expo in Pittsburgh.

Image Credit: Javondlynn Dunagan

This is a very unusual business for a woman to enter, particularly a Black woman. What has been your experience entering a space that’s typically perceived as being reserved for White men?

It’s been interesting. When you go to the range and the guys have never seen you before, they will observe you to see if you can shoot. Once you pass that test, the men will sometimes start asking (questions) “what kind of gun do you have?” not in a patronizing way.  I’ve never experienced racism at the range where I shoot. When I go to the range everyone is focused on guns. We’re not talking politics. The other thing about my firearm business is most people don’t have brick and mortars. There’s no requirement that you teach classes in a classroom setting. I’ve professionalized my business from that standpoint. As a former federal law enforcement officer, we have high standards at the federal level. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I truly believe that my professionalized approach to my business model has given me credibility in a male dominated field. People take me more seriously when I hand them a card and after they visit my website.  Most have already heard about the Ladies of Steel Gun Club™ which helps when we go to the range. The male patrons notice us and observe that we’re dressed appropriately, we know what we’re doing, our instructors areteaching everyone correctly.  All of the above helps to validate my business and allows others to take me more seriously.

Let’s talk about your services.

We have self-defense classes, for Ladies only. We have Intro to Firearms classes for beginners(men and women). The Intro class is ideal for anyone who is new to firearms, scared of firearms or want to have a firearm in their home and just need some training. A lot of the Intro to Firearms class customers go on to join the Gun Club.

We also offer Concealed Carry classes for men and women. I also offer the concealed carry 3-hour renewal courses. We update our students on the concealed carry laws. What sets us apart is that our students have an opportunity to use our laser pistol, which is similar to a real Glock 17 pistol. We simulate the range qualification on Day One of class, which is a key to our success with a 100% pass rate. In fact, in two years, we’ve never had anyone to fail. The minimum score is 21 out of 30 that a student must shoot on the target. Our average score is 29 out of 30.

For our Ladies Only Self Defense class, we have general classes with a mixture of ages.  During the summer, we also offer a self-defense class for college students…..Before She Goes To College which focuses on campus safety and self-defense.  This part of my business was birthed when my daughter was going to college. I could not find a self- defense class for girls on the South side. Unfortunately, I remain the only business offering female only self defense class on the south side, especially targeting college students.

What’s one tip or piece of advice you would give to someone considering gun ownership?

Take a firearm class. Learn the proper way to handle a firearm. Never buy a gun that you haven’t shot first. Try out several guns before you land on the one you want to use.

Any final thoughts?

We’re here to teach our students about responsible firearm ownership and safety overall…If people want to know how to use a firearm, consider taking a class with JMD Defense & Investigations, LLC.

JMD Defense & Investigations is located at 1447 West 103rd St, Chicago, Illinois 60643.  To learn more visit www.jmddefense.com, or the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jmddefense/.

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