In recent years there has been a definite increase in the number of women who own guns. In 2005, the number dragged along at 11%, and in 2013 it had jumped to 23%; today those numbers continue to climb. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the number of women spending time at the range has increased by 60% since 2001, and numerous gun store owners say their customer base is beginning to shift from mostly men to either an equal split or more women. In addition, there’s been a 25% increase in how many women hunt since 2006, proving it isn’t only men out there bringing home the venison.
Despite these increases, women make up a tiny slice of the firearms pie. There are approximately 13.7 million hunters in the United States, and of those millions, about 11% are women. So while the numbers are growing, they’re still small, leading those of us in the industry who are women to ask: where are the women?
When it comes to concealed carry, there are a number of reasons it makes logical sense for women to own a gun. There are the obvious reasons such as the simple fact that women have less upper body strength – less overall strength – than men, and a gun is a great equalizer. As the saying goes, “God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal.” Carrying a gun for protection not only gives women the ability to protect themselves but their children – and their husbands, because it isn’t only men who are capable of acting as their family’s protector.
Hunting also involves rational reasons to just do it. Although there’s not much out there more enjoyable than the moment a big buck or an awesome hog strolls into view after hours of waiting or stalking, and we all love a fantastic trophy – as well as a great hunting story – meat is an excellent motivator. Who doesn’t want to keep the freezer packed with fresh meat? Everything from venison to elk to hog to duck is out there, ready for the taking. All you need to supply is the know-how, and the desire to camo up.
A frequent question asked of those of us already deeply involved in the gun and hunting industries is this: don’t you want more women involved? Of course we do, and yet, there’s more to it. On a recent business trip, this topic came up between myself and another industry woman- a woman who could easily be called a powerhouse and have it be an understatement. She’s a military veteran with a degree from a phenomenal school, and she shares my own opinion regarding the need for more women in the industry: sure, it would be great to have more women interested; but no flakes need apply.
It’s an opinion bound to raise a few eyebrows and result in a few hushed whispers demanding respect for the sisterhood regardless of the reality of their intelligence or abilities; something you won’t hear men saying. It’s simple, really: if you’re going to shoot a gun, do it safely. If you’re going to own a gun, get the proper training. Gender has absolutely nothing to do with it. This is about safety, not supporting the sisterhood (or brotherhood, for that matter). Bringing more people into the industry shouldn’t be about sheer numbers; it should be about doing it right. When you’re handling weapons with the ability to kill, doing it right means making sure whoever touches that weapon does so with the proper knowledge.
Training options are available in many forms. After all, many women would rather not learn from their husbands, fathers, or brothers for good reasons, and plenty of women don’t have any family or friends involved in guns or hunting, meaning there’s no one available to teach them in the first place. There’s more to being a good teacher than having the experience or mental know-how; a good firearms instructor is not only safe and knowledgeable but capable of adjusting their instruction according to the needs and learning style of the student. Even if instructors can be located it can be overwhelming choosing one, but there are those in the industry well aware of the frustrations and difficulties women are facing, and they’re acting on that awareness.
Among those stepping up to the plate, working towards bringing women into the industry safely, is the oldest, biggest firearms and ammunition manufacturer in the entire country. Remington, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2016, recently started up a program aimed specifically at not only drawing women into the world of guns but teaching them how to use them. At this year’s NRA meeting they got their foot in the door by setting up a Ladies Zone, complete with photos depicting women and girls shooting and hunting and some fantastic firearms, among other things. As their program expands the company intends to send some of its experienced female reps all around the country, visiting gun stores and opening them to local women for the day. The goal is quite simple: offer instruction and range time with experienced instructors. All Remington wants in return is the interest and participation of women across the United States.
There are also outfitters broadening their hunting horizons to include women more specifically. The Spike Box Ranch in Benjamin, Texas, is working on creating their own women-specific package which would include firearms instruction and range time prior to heading out on an actual hunt. The guides at the Spike Box are friendly, personable, and go the extra mile to ensure hunters bag game, which means a first-time female hunter wouldn’t just get behind a gun, she’d get on game, and all under the tutelage of an experienced guide.
It’s obvious opportunities for women are increasing at a steady pace, so why aren’t even more women taking advantage of them? There are many reasons there are not more women shooting. For instance, some women find the male-dominated industry intimidating, whether they want to admit it or not. Walking into a gun store can be overwhelming; some gun stores are open and friendly to everyone while others either give a cold shoulder to female customers or condescend in blatant ways. Choosing a gun isn’t simple, either, and there’s still a frustrating tendency for gun store employees to point female customers towards revolvers, specifically those chambered in .38 Special, or semi-autos chambered in .380 ACP. While it’s true it’s important to understand and work within a new shooters abilities, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all firearm, and the snappy recoil that accompanies many of the aforementioned pistols doesn’t jive with the image of keeping things simple for newcomers.
The solution is simple: erase gender stereotypes. See a new shooter as just that, a new shooter. When it comes to hunting, do away with pink camo – what are we hunting, flamingos? – and understand that there are women out there just as happy to get their hands and boots dirty as the guys are. Remington and the Spike Box have the right idea: make shooting and hunting welcoming by offering obviously available learning opportunities. Make it fun. Make it an experience they’ll never forget, so they want to come back for more. Make it informational. Above all, make it safe.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been approached by a woman who asks where to go for instruction because she does not know anyone in the industry who can teach her. I’ve also lost track of the bad-experience stories involving women being given the “little lady” treatment at a gun store, being minimized, belittled, and brushed off. From a financial perspective, bringing more women into the industry is an excellent way to increase the bottom line, because new shooters bring with them an injection of fresh money, and lots of it. From the industry perspective, new shooters means, well, more shooters, more people interested in guns, ammo, and gear, more people hanging out at events, sharing information, and generating growth. The bottom line plays the tune of the old “the more the merrier”: the more responsible gun owners, the better. If you’re an individual shooter, take the time to offer instruction or assistance to newcomers, whether male or female. If you own a business, consider branching out to make women feel more welcome, and don’t just say it. Do it.
You never know who the next Annie Oakley will be.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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