Gun Makers Want to Make Womens’ Day

May 19, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Gun manufacturers have always made guns designed for the Harry Callahan’s of the world. Now it’s Kate Moore’s (his partner in The Enforcer, 1976) turn.

For years, female firearms enthusiasts have found that even so-called women’s models have often been too long or heavy for them to be easily used.

Count Clark Miculek, the woman who owns Clark Guns and runs camps teaching women to shoot throughout the country, as among those women who have had reason to complain in the past.

She told The Associated Press, “Any shotgun I get, I have to get cut off. Not a lot of lady models are shorter.”

In response to Ms. Miculek and others, gun manufacturers have developed lighter and shorter shotguns and handguns with improved designs and handgrips. The goal is straightforward. Increase purchases among current female consumers while bringing new ones into the category.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, women comprise 15 percent of the overall shooting sports market. Between the sales of firearms, ammunition and related gear, female consumers are expected to spend $420 million on the category this year. The number of women participating in hunting and target shooting rose 50 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to the group.

Sandy Froman, president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said the reason behind the number of women purchasing firearms goes beyond sporting purposes and target practice. “The women of America are very concerned about safety and security for themselves and their families,” she said. “I think many of us realize ultimately we’re the ones responsible for our own defense.”

Moderator’s Comment: Will more female-friendly models accelerate the growing number of women purchasing firearms?
What will retailers of firearms need to do if they want to leverage manufacturers’ increased focus on the female market?

George Anderson – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Gun Makers Want to Make Womens’ Day"

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Mark Lilien
14 years 9 months ago

Women aren’t the only market for lightweight firearms. Many men would be happy to carry well-made lighter guns. Weight is especially a big issue for the people who have to carry guns in order to make a living. Many cops carry a ton of extra weight stuff (flashlight, summons book, handcuffs, gun, bullets, baton, etc.). Just like the desire for featherweight laptops, there’s a desire for featherweight items of all descriptions. Why limit the marketing to women?

Dennis Serbu
Dennis Serbu
14 years 9 months ago

Gutsy topic, and thank you. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was teaching my wife the fine art of hand gun shooting. Not only did she adapt very well, sometimes she shoots better than me, and I am reasonably accomplished. Women tend to have better fine motor skills which aids in producing a good sight picture. Her single complaint is finding a gun that fits comfortably in her hands.

There is a tremendous opportunity out there for retailers and manufacturers to provide for an increasing demand. Women are discovering that shooting sports are fun, and have a practical purpose in an increasingly dangerous world.

While not everyone will feel comfortable with shooting sports, not everyone is comfortable with golf either. The two have parallels in that a market was developed and a customer was served.

Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned
14 years 9 months ago

David hit the nail on the head with his comment – it’s not so much about delivering the more women-specific designed product (which is a great step!) as it is about how they market. How will gun sellers change their retail stores, their customer service, and their web sites?

It’s similar to the outdoor sporting goods industry – in that guns have been a very male-dominated and male-focused realm for so long, they are going to have to re-think dark, product-cluttered stores and they will have to train their sales staff to allow for a woman’s longer purchasing process. Changes like that will increase gun sales to women.

David Zahn
14 years 9 months ago
My response is PURELY speculative as I am neither a gun owner nor a woman, but my sense is NOT the product itself as much as the “comfort” of the consumer to make the purchase at all is what is holding it back. I imagine that the woman who has made the decision to purchase will find a satisfactory product, or prod the manufacturers to make a “better” product for them – but it will not likely lead to a tremendous boost in sales beyond “replacement” purchases (“no longer do I need to use a “satisfactory” product that is meant for my brother, father, husband, etc. – I have one that is more to my liking.”). I think the bigger opportunity (and harder one exponentially to meet) is to figure out how to “convince” those that are anti-gun or fearful of guns that it is “ok” to make the purchase and to own a gun. Politics aside, only looking at it as a business proposition (and this is rather volatile in certain parts of the… Read more »
Ben Ball
14 years 9 months ago
Like GMROI, I too have a spouse who regularly out shoots me at the range. When I read this thread to her, the first thing she said was “UGH, remember when Smith & Wesson came out with the pink LadySmith version?” Fortunately, S&W has recovered from that and other mistakes of the ’90’s and is back on track, as is it’s LadySmith version (but not in pink). My spouse is also petite and prefers firearms better suited to her frame and build. With the exception of some excellent handgun choices, this usually means making do with a “Youth Model” or customizing. As others point out however, this goes beyond product to making women feel comfortable and welcome in the retail outlet. Many of the firearms manufacturers participate in some great programs aimed at helping women overcome apprehension about firearms in general and to learn safe handling. Many of these programs are sponsored through NSSFA and NRA. What retailers need to do is support these efforts with their own, not the least of which should be… Read more »

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