The Rise of Womens' Gun Culture
Not that long ago the folks who bought guns as well as the basic functionality of firearms, holsters and assorted gear dictated their design: Black, utilitarian, masculine. Today it's not unusual to see a pink Glock perched on the retail display next to signature black Sigs and Berettas. And as female consumers continue to exert their influence through their pocketbooks, the weapons and accessory industry is responding with products and marketing geared to the fairer sex.
There are many reasons more women are opting for guns including careers in law enforcement, crime rates, confidence garnered by proficiency and protection, and greater recreational and sporting opportunities. No matter how you cock it, girls and guns go together like, well, Smith & Wesson. In fact, this manufacturer has designed a sleeker line of revolvers under the LadySmith™ brand. And if you think the LadySmith line comes with a lace handkerchief, your idea would be shot through with the .357 Magnum® rounds that cycle through its barrel.
Estela Vaden is a competitive shooter and lifetime member of National Sporting Clays Association. The state of her equipment is important and she is used to making adjustments to her Krieghoff 12-gauge shotgun. She explains, “I had the stock made into an adjustable stock so that the wood would be raised to fit my face better, and that really made a difference since women's faces are slimmer than most mens.” She also had the recoil pad rounded on the bottom so it fits the “pocket” better when mounting the shotgun.
The many ribbons and awards gracing Vaden's home bear testament to her shooting skills. She readily admits her penchant for luxury handbags and shoes off-range, but she really wishes sporting apparel companies were a little more fashion forward and not just for vanity's sake.
Vaden laments, “I would love to have a shooting vest company make vests for women that are durable and practical. Browning makes a women's vest, but they look like we should be in the kitchen.” While Vaden is known for making some mean enchiladas, when she's on-range she doesn't want to be distracted by ill-fitting garments. She says shooting bags could also use some updating, but rhetorically wonders, “But, please, why do they have to be pink?”
Good question, which is why I posed it to a few experts including Cliff Arnold, GM of "New Frontier Armory" in Las Vegas. He has seen an increase in women shopping in his store and not necessarily because they're being dragged along by their mate.
New Frontier Armory does have a few items designed for the female market, but the pickings remain rather slim. Arnold tells me he's eager to bring in more gear for women since our physical differences alone change shooting dynamics and it's not for lack of desire on his part, but rather a dearth of retail resources. “I can't keep the Gun Tote'N Mamas [concealable handbags] in stock,” he exasperatedly tells me. “And some [female-oriented] manufacturers simply don't call on us.”
At another armory, about the only “girl” items I see is a lone pink .9mm in the case and a little rack of t-shirts featuring the seductive image of a woman holding a weapon with some sort of tag line. This hardly makes me want to break out my American Express. Meanwhile, the only patrons I see are male and they're clucking like hens about upper receivers and reticles.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade association, conducts an annual marketing survey using the nation's federally licensed firearms retailers and the trend is undeniable. Not only are women visiting retailers more frequently, they're also buying guns in greater numbers and often for the first time. Pink is translating into green, yet the industry still seems a bit clumsy in courting the female firearm enthusiast.
Since I grew up with a WWII and Korean War veteran father, I could cluster center mass before I could even write my name so I probably don't represent the average female shooter. Nevertheless, there are times when I am reminded that this is largely a man's world like during this year's Shot Show. I had been there wandering the show floor for five hours before anyone of the vendors acknowledged me beyond a terse grin.
I stood in great admiration before a wall of multi-colored ACRs when one of the staffers finally leaned in as if it tell me a secret. I was thrilled to have caught his attention and so I shimmied closer to him. I could feel his warm breath and he smelled like peppermint. That's when he whispered to me, “Have you ever held a gun?”
Talk about a buzz kill.
I had half a mind to break down the rifle and thump him with the telescoping ambidextrous stock, but I resisted. Remarks like that are ignorant. Sometimes they're mean-spirited and intended to keep people in their place, but I see them as a reflection of the progress women are making in the world of firearms. Perhaps he, like me, is tired of lame marketing where a gorgeous AR-15 is destroyed by pink paint and Hello Kitty stickers? I wanted to tell him I'm in agreement with him, but the truth is as a female I do have different physical and psychological needs. Understand this and you might find that your company's sales will increase and all without compromising the integrity of your product.
You see, I may be a a girl, but I can assure you that just like the other guy, function will always be first priority, just don't pull those sparkly crystals off my range bag.
PS: I don't use a concealed carry purse, when it comes to concealed carry, nothing beats a comfortable quality IWB holster. Take a look here: Alien Gear IWB holsters
About The Author
Sharon Chayra is an award-winning writer and producer whose work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines, books and TV. She is the founder of ChayraComm, a PR firm serving select clients in the firearms, TacMed, military and non-profit organization sectors. Chayra is well-acquainted with duty given her and her family's distinguished heritage in the military, law enforcement, EMS and fire services.