The first time I walked on to a shooting range, it was a little scary and intimating. I called the previous week asking about lessons and booked a time. When I showed up, I expected a formal lesson--like you'd have in golf or tennis. Walking into the doublewide trailer, which served as the clubhouse, I checked in. The man behind the counter took my money, tied a builder's apron around my waist, filled it with 20-gauge shotshells, stuffed cotton in my ears, handed me a beat-up old Remington 1100, pointed to a group of old men on the skeet range and said, "just walk out there, they'll show you how to shoot," and I did. That was my introduction to the shooting sports in the late '80s. Thankfully times have changed.
Today, women are a common sight at shooting ranges, gun stores and competition events--and their numbers continue to grow. A report recently released by the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers
(NASGW), using up to 15 years' worth of NASGW survey data, shows women's participation has outpaced male activity in almost every category. Women's involvement in target shooting increased 64.1 percent overall from 2001 to 2015. In the same timeframe, women's participation in handgun shooting surged by 96.3 percent. Rifle target shooting climbed by 58.5 percent--well over the male participation increase of 35.3 percent.
The women's snapshot doesn't stop there. In 2013, Pew Research Center conducted a survey and found there was a substantial gender gap in gun ownership. Men were three times as likely to purchase a gun as women: 37 percent versus 12 percent. Just two years later in 2015, 78 percent of retailers who responded to survey questions said they experienced an upswing in women customers. Additionally, the way women entered the shooting industry saw a change. "Interest in the shooting sports" and a "desire for personal protection" were the most common reasons.
Not Just Pink
When this new consumer base first showed up, the shooting sports industry scrambled to provide products to fill their needs. Manufacturers stepped up and truly wanted to reach the women's market, but some missteps were made. When the ladies/youth shotgun model first debuted, women often thought: "Thanks for letting us know we have the body of a 16-year-old boy." Next came the colored guns. The pinks, purples and light blues. Clothing was another challenge. Whether it was a shooting vest, camouflage gear or hunting attire, women...