Hello friends! Welcome to my series Coffee Date With. Each month I will be interviewing inspiring, badass, and self-reliant women to share their story, to inspire you, and to keep growing this community of women that are kicking ass and taking names. I've got some great women lined up for 2018 and want to bring you along to hang out with us. So in coffee date form, get those cups ready.
Honestly, I don't know what I could say about this awesome babe, Steff. I love this girl and wished we lived in the same area because she is one of the sweetest, nicest, and down to earth badass babes I've ever met. If you don't know who Steff Essene is maybe you know her better from her Insta handle @best_of_ess.
I'm pretty sure we were separated at birth because we basically have all the same interests...travel, style, food, guns, and life philosophies.
I was super excited when I found out that she would be attending the NRA Carry Guard Training but also a little intimidated that I would have to shoot next to her. She's had some awesome training opportunities (you'll learn more about them below) not to mention every time she goes shooting she looks to be having so much fun and looks like the cutest badass. And who would not want to be interested in shooting with her especially when donuts are involved?!
And I'm sorry to all my other Coffee Date With guests but Steff wins the photo. To me, this sums her up perfectly and I wouldn't expect anything less. She is reppin' everything she loves.
So in true Steff form, grab your coffee AND your donut and join me for this Coffee Date with Steff Essene.
SMT: We both are HK girls, but before we jump into that, what was your journey into owning firearms?
Steff: I’m an only child, and my dad always pushed me to make sure I could take care of myself. When I got older and started living by myself, I figured I would keep a gun in the house for protection...you know, just in case. Then one day, I had to actually use my firearm. I had ended a relationship and was trying to get him out of my apartment, when he grabbed me and threw me up against the wall. I kicked him. He threw me down; I reached for my firearm and told him to get out of my apartment. Thank goodness, he left. But I always wondered, “had he not left, would I have been able to protect myself?” It’s not like I went shooting all the time. Thus, started my journey of training.
I started taking some basic pistol courses. This lead to CQB and defensive training, and the rest was history. I initially fell in love with the training, but this passion eventually transfigured into a love for the art of firearms. There’s so much to learn and enjoy about firearms.
SMT: You've had the opportunity to be part of some unique shooting experiences such as Night of the Saint and NRA Carry Guard. What are some takeaways you've learned that you've have been able to apply to your daily life?
Steff: Both in firearms and in my profession, I’ve learned that you should have three main things in order to be prepared. These three things are: correct tools, correct skills, and correct mindset. Most people have one or two of these things, but not all three.
Understand that you can have the coolest gun, but if you lack the proper skills, training, and mindset, this tool is useless. The three go together. You have to nurture all three, when you own a firearm.
SMT: Choosing a firearm is a very individual decision but we've both gravitated towards the Heckler & Koch VP9. What is it about this firearm that you like?
Steff: Well, I’ve always liked German-made things...BMW, Porsche, ADIDAS, sausage…just kidding. To be honest with you, when it came to aesthetically appealing guns, I always had my eye on the Heckler & Koch P30. Then, when HK came out with a striker fired pistol with a much better trigger, I was sold. My style is sleek, good quality, a little pricey with a touch of edginess, the VP9 encompasses that. The gun is sexy, durable, and has a dab of aggressiveness to it.
SMT: You rolled into our first day of NRA Carry Guard training with Colion Noir's Advocate. Not gonna lie, I was a bit jealous as this custom gun is on a VP9 frame and is all tricked out. How do you like it and what feature stands out the most to you.
Steff: When Colion decided to do his version of the VP9, I was ecstatic. When it came out, it was literally how I would want my VP9 customized. I’m a huge fan of clean slide cuts with a fluted barrel peeking through the windows, and he provided that. Personally, I didn’t think I was going to like the stippling, because I like the original VP9 grip, but visually it balances out well with everything on the slide and gives the gun a good grip without tearing up my hands. When I look at the gun, my eyes gravitate towards the trigger. I am a trigger snob, and the upgrade to the Lobos trigger is pretty impressive. Not to mention, the aesthetics of the trigger balances out the sleekness and aggressiveness between the slide and frame. Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed and love the gun. He did a great job.
SMT: Like you, I love to travel all over the world. I always get so jealous when I see that you're off to another destination. What's one of your favorite places you've traveled to?
Steff: I have many favorite places for many reasons, but I have to say that my experience in Tahiti still stands out. I was unplugged from the world on this tiny, little island LITERALLY in the middle of the gigantic ocean (seriously, Google it.). It was my first solo trip, and I went all out. I had an amazing bungalow over the clearest and bluest water, I could see tropical fish and coral at my feet, and the skies were amazing. I even slept outside on my balcony half of the trip just watching the stars shoot across the sky. Not only was the scenery beautiful, the people were GORGEOUS. Think tan French people with light eyes and amazing bodies...with French accents. Whoo!! Also, the rainforests there are beautiful and, as always, the food was incredible. Not only so, I sat on the dock during the new year’s countdown and watched the fireworks go off all along the coastline and up in the mountains. It really was an unforgettable trip.
SMT: One of my bucket list destinations to travel to is the Seychelles. What's yours?
Steff: I have two big bucket list destinations that I still want to go. These are Egypt and Maldives. I want to go to Egypt, because we grew up learning about the kings, queens, and amazing pyramids and monuments; I think it would be awesome to see it all for myself. And thanks to social media, I’ve seen incredible pictures of the shimmering shores in Maldives. I love shiny things and love secluded island beaches, so I figured Maldives is the perfect combination of the two!
SMT: When you're not jet-setting off to a new country, you're exploring different types of food. What's the most unique dining experience or dish you've ever had?
Steff: The most unique dish I’ve had was actually while I was traveling. Whenever I travel to a foreign country, I always try the native food. While in Cusco, Peru, I was told that I should eat the “cuy”, or guinea pig. I think I cried a little when I tried it. I felt so bad eating what many of us had as pets growing up! It even looked like a guinea pig still, and they served it in a hamster wheel! I’m kidding. But on a serious note, I felt so guilty. Haha.
I, also, had the opportunity to try alpaca, while I was there; it tasted gamey but sweet. And again, a cute image of a fluffy alpaca haunted my mind, as I was eating it. It wasn’t really my thing. However, I can now say that I’ve had it! I am down to try ALMOST anything at least once.
SMT: If we were to get coffee in person (or better yet a cocktail), what would you order?
Steff: I love matcha lattes!! But if we are speaking realistically, my go to is an Irish Mule. I love all whiskey, and that hint of lime just gives me life. It really depends on my mood. But if you were to buy me a drink at the bar, stick with a nice bourbon with some muddled berries, and I'll be happy.
SMT: You travel a lot on your own and outside of the US defending yourself with a firearm is not an option. What type of safety measures or defense tools do you bring with you to help keep yourself safe?
Steff: In countries where I can’t carry a gun or knife with me, I carry a Nitecore NTP10 Titanium Pen. It’s strong enough to break through glass, it’s easy to conceal and great for self defense, it’s small and lightweight, and it’s a waterproof pen that even works in space...for those quick business trips to the moon, I assume. Carrying a self defense pen is a great option when a lot of more obvious protection tools aren’t allowed. And, if you know how to use a knife, you know where to aim when using a pen.
SMT: You have a series on your blog, My Carry On, called 'Guns Are Like Relationships'. These stick figure cartoons and metaphors that you create are hilarious and spot on. What prompted you to start creating these?
Steff: I’m glad you like them! :) I firmly believe that everything in life is intertwined. In short, life teaches you about life. When I first started training with firearms, I realized that there were so many things that firearms taught me regarding how I approach life--anticipating the recoil, looking at the target vs. looking at my front sight, etc.
I wanted to send two main messages, when creating this series. The first is that your passions are relatable to everything else in your life; love is love is love is love, whether it is love for a person or for a hobby. The second is that I wanted to show people who didn’t own firearms that a gun is not always a scary, intimidating, and bad thing. Not all gun owners are scary, overly aggressive men, and just because you own a firearm does not make you or the tool inherently bad. I wanted to break a stereotype, and I wanted to make it relatable to those who don’t own firearms. What is more relatable than love and being in a relationship?