Women are now the fastest growing demographic in gun ownership and shooting sports, according to a report by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The report, titled “Women Gun Owners: Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation,” was released in 2014 and provided a variety of statistics from a survey of 1,001 women between the ages of 18 and 65 who personally owned at least one gun for at least three months. It revealed that in 2013 there were 5.4 million female target shooters, a 60 percent increase from the 3.3 million in 2001. 70 percent of firearm retailers reported seeing more women in their stores in 2013 compared to 2012. The trend is expected to continue in the coming years as the firearm industry recognizes women as a quickly growing demographic, and increases its efforts to cater to them.
“It’s an amazing increase for sure. There’s no question that over the last several years more and more women have become interested in acquiring a firearm either for personal defense or for target shooting,” said Mike Bazinet, public affairs director of the NSSF. The reasons, according to Bazinet, are numerous. “Sometimes they buy one for personal defense, find out they really enjoy shooting, and it becomes a social activity,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons for it, most importantly because of the Supreme Court decisions recently which give people the right to keep and bear arms, and people have acted on that right reaffirmed by the court, all the way to the angle of just enjoying the social experience”.
According to infographics provided by the NSSF, of the new target shooters with less than 5 years of experience, 37 percent were female in 2012. That same year, females made up 22 percent of established target shooters with more than five years of experience. In 2013, firearms retailers estimated 20 percent of their shooting and hunting related sales were attributed to women, up from 15 percent in 2010. 73 percent of female gun owners have taken at least one firearms training class, though the survey showed that women primarily rely on friends and family members for instruction.
The most important reasons for owning guns for women gun owners are self- and home-defense, followed by learning how to hunt, and finally, to go shooting with friends and family. For Raeanne Drew, the number one reason to shoot is for self-defense. “I like having something powerful in my hand and knowing how to use it, and knowing that I can protect myself if I have to” Drew said. Her uncle introduced her to shooting as a child and she currently has a Ruger .38-caliber Special revolver. Drew prefers handguns to rifles and shotguns. She is one of the percentages of female gun owners who go target shooting once a month or more, according to the NSSF study.Drew’s friend Virginia Jordan is also involved in target shooting.
Like Drew, at a young age she was introduced to shooting, and recently decided to start practicing again after nearly a decade. “My whole family has guns. As a little girl, we used to go out into the boondocks and practice,” Jordan said. “It helps just to know if I wanted to go get food I could. That’s the whole purpose behind it.” Jordan has a Ruger 10/22 and a shotgun. Amber Sampson, an Army veteran, has been shooting since joining the military 9 years ago.
“My pistol is a .40-caliber Springfield. I have an AK-47 and I just got an AR-15. It’s my first time shooting it,” she said. Sampson purchased a pink furniture kit to replace parts of her AR-15 and make it more personalized. “Shooting on my own time helps from the military side of it. I’d like to get into hunting sometime soon” she said. One of the most significant increases in female shooting was within hunting.
The NSSF reports that 19 percent of hunters in 2013 were women, as opposed to 10 percent in 2001. It was an 85 percent increase from 1.8 million female hunters to 3.3 million. “To women who are reluctant to shoot, I say just get out and try it once. Lots of ranges have days where women can shoot for free, and get to try free rentals. There’s really nothing to lose by trying it,” said Sampson.