If you’ve wandered into the gun store recently, you might have noticed it looks a little different.
Among the rows of black handguns and FDE colored rifles, pinks, purples, and teals peer out from the gun case. Bedazzled ear pro, lacey holsters, and other feminine accessories line the shelves.
While the gun industry often looks to capitalize on new shooters, one demographic in particular is getting a lot of attention — women.
But what shaped this dramatic increase in female gun owners?
Gun Ownership Among Women
According to a Pew Research Center survey, in 2005, women accounted for only 13% of American gun owners.
By 2020, that number almost doubled, with women representing nearly 25% of gun owners in the United States.
Female gun owners are considered the fastest-growing demographic in the gun world.
But female gun ownership looks different than that of men.
Self-defense is the most cited reason for gun ownership for both sexes. However, men typically list recreation, competition, or hunting alongside defense as reasons for purchasing firearms.
On the other hand, self-defense can often be the only reason for gun ownership among women. 27% of female gun owners say they have no further interest in firearms outside of personal protection.
In the U.S., 19.3% of women experience rape while 43.9% face sexual violence other than rape. With more than half of adult women living alone in the U.S., it’s no surprise women stock up on safety tools.
And firearms offer a solution.
“It’s a very helpless feeling knowing you can’t protect yourself or your family,” Terry Marsh told News & Observer after an intruder almost entered her home at 1 a.m. “If I had a gun or a way to protect myself, it would have given me a little bit of power, and I’d have felt secure.”
Marsh later went out and purchased her first handgun.
She’s not alone.
Women’s centric shooting organizations like The Well Armed Woman and A Girl & A Gun aim to encourage new shooters. They offer an alternative to all-male ranges and classes. Ultimately, these organizations emphasize safety thorugh training and education.
A Girl & A Gun boasts over 6,000 members with chapters in almost every state. The group noted a significant increase in interest and participation…especially in 2020.
Pandemic, Protests, and 2020
2020, a year renowned for COVID-19 and heightened social tensions introduced more Americans to guns, gear, and ammo.
The FBI recorded over 39 million background checks for firearms in 2020. Just months into 2021, that number already sits at 12 million.
But in a time where gun sales remained at an all-time high, not all gun purchases were made by men.
In fact, women accounted for 40% of gun purchases in 2020.
Even gun organizations experienced this influx, with A Girl & A Gun’s membership spiking over 150% just by July 2020.
An examination of its new members showed that while most grew up in a home without guns, the fear of civil unrest pushed them to reconsider a gun-free home.
Kathryn, a woman from Texas, was one such gun owner. A trauma surgeon and admittedly anti-gun, she said the pandemic and unrest was a contributing factor in her decision to purchase a firearm for the first time.
“I’m a trauma surgeon and have treated a fair share of gunshot victims in Chicago and Houston. I have been pretty ‘anti-gun’ as a result up until COVID,” she told surveyors with A Girl & A Gun. “At that point, I figured I might as well get comfortable with at least handling firearms in case I had to use one.”
Instructors and educators also faced an influx of new shooters signing up for classes, including the female demographic.
“We are seeing single moms, the elderly, and most surprising is middle age couples that have never seen the need to be armed,” said GW Ayers III, chief operating officer at Rainier Arms Firearms Academy, the training unit of Wichita, Kansas-based Rainier Arms Group.
In 2020, Rainier says enrollment for its CCW courses jumped 50%.
Cherie Hicks, a 58-year-old mother and yoga instructor from California told Pew Pew Tactical that though she is an experienced shooter, she plans on “amping up” her training.
“After the rioting and the looting started, that was it,’’ Hicks explained.
Though COVID-19 vaccinations are rolling out and riots have calmed, gun sales haven’t slowed down — nor does it look like they will.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Mark Oliva said with enhanced gun laws potentially on the horizon, Americans continue to stock up — women included.
“It is clear that firearm sales in March were driven by gun control calls from politicians to ban entire classes of firearms and enact onerous gun laws,” Oliva told CNN Business.
With estimates in the millions, more and more American women are entering the gun community. While some bemoan the use of pinks and purples in gun stores, experts say it’s imperative the industry encourages ladies.
“Women are making a difference in the world of firearms,” Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman, said. “I believe there is no denying that women are here to stay and, therefore, need the industry to continue to understand who they are and what they want.”
And the industry seems to be trying. Every day more accessories aimed at women sprout up in online stores. Even more encouraging, women-owned brands continue to enter the firearms landscape. These niche businesses specialize in firearm-themed gear apparel and accessories for women.
This approach is smart, according to Lightfoot’s data. Her small sampling of 5,000 women revealed ladies poured over $3.5 million into guns in 2019.
“The female market offers enormous potential and dollars to the firearms industry,” Lightfoot said.
The earning potential for gear, guns, and accessories marketed towards women is endless, so long as the industry is willing to provide intelligent, safety-conscious designs.
Armed with cash and willing to invest in their safety, female gun owners represent a fast growing subset of the gun community.
As long as the industry continues to support women through education, training, and gear, there are no indications lady shooters will slow down any time soon.
What are your thoughts on female gun ownership? Share your comments below. And make sure to check PPT every Wednesday for a new women-friendly article. In the meantime, check out our guide on the Best EDC Items for Women or read up on why gun publications should be including women.