BY THE NUMB3RS

THE RISE OF WOMEN IN THE GUN IN­DUS­TRY

Gun World - - Artemis Armed -

It didn’t hap­pen overnight. Women have been hunt­ing and shoot­ing along­side men—not for decades, but cen­turies. De­spite that, women didn’t, and don’t, par­tic­i­pate in the shoot­ing sports with any­where near the fre­quency of men.

Those decades-long trends make the changes of the past 16 years even more note­wor­thy. In fact, the last five years, alone, have re­vealed a trend both note­wor­thy and com­mend­able: Women aren’t just shoot­ing more; we’re do­ing it all.

In 1983, a Gen­eral So­cial Study re­ported 6.7 per­cent of Amer­i­can women in­di­cat­ing there was a firearm in their house, com­pared to over 50 per­cent of men say­ing the same. Upon fur­ther study, it be­comes clear those 6.7 per­cent of women said there was a gun in the house, not that they owned it. By 1994, those num­bers edged up to 14.9 per­cent.

Also in 1994, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA) wanted to find out how many of its mem­bers were fe­male. It ac­com­plished this by not­ing mem­bers’ first names—an iffy method, con­sid­er­ing mem­bers often listed only first ini­tials.

The fi­nal re­port showed be­tween 5 per­cent and 16.7 per­cent of NRA mem­bers were women. Granted, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s meth­ods cre­ated a gap in the re­sults, but the num­bers made a point.

With un­der 15 per­cent of women telling GSS there was a gun in their home and scarcely more be­long­ing to the NRA—us­ing the high end of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s es­ti­mates— the in­dus­try at large was ob­vi­ously miss­ing the mark when it came to women. Twenty years ago, the in­dus­try knew it was miss­ing some­thing.

THE SURGE

When it hap­pened, it was thanks to women assert­ing them­selves. It was grad­ual at first but gained mo­men­tum as women not only took a more ac­tive role as gun own­ers but be­gan push­ing for a foothold within the in­dus­try, it­self, in mar­ket­ing, com­pe­ti­tion and, yes, as writ­ers.

Be­tween 2004 and 2014, the Na­tional Sport­ing Goods As­so­ci­a­tion re­ported a 36 per­cent in­crease in fe­male tar­get shoot­ers and a 23 per­cent jump in fe­male hunters. The Gallup Poll re­flected the surge in fe­male shoot­ers, re­port­ing 13 per­cent of women own­ing guns in 2005, with an in­crease to 23 per­cent by 2011. That’s a 77 per­cent in­crease in women gun own­ers in seven short years—an in­crease of roughly 16 mil­lion fe­male gun own­ers. Since 2011, those num­bers have con­tin­ued to ac­cel­er­ate, with to­day’s in­dus­try polls re­port­ing num­bers over 30 per­cent.

Of course, it isn’t just women work­ing to get women in­volved in the shoot­ing sports. Men make up the lion’s share of the firearms in­dus­try; guns have long been con­sid­ered a man’s sport—a men­tal­ity long over­due for de­struc­tion. Two-thirds of NRA mem­bers and a match­ing per­cent­age of gun own­ers are male. Some of those men are work­ing to get women shoot­ing. U.S. Air Force vet­eran Casey Bet­zold is one of them.

Bet­zold owns Snake River Shoot­ing Prod­ucts (SRSP), which pro­duces former Navy SEAL Mar­cus Lut­trell’s Team Never Quit am­mu­ni­tion. Much of the im­pe­tus for sales and mar­ket­ing comes from Bet­zold. He also fun­nels en­ergy into what he sees as an es­sen­tial need for women to make a greater show­ing in ev­ery as­pect of the gun world.

CON­TIN­U­ING TO GROW IN NUM­BERS AND IN­FLU­ENCE

“Women are the fastest-grow­ing de­mo­graphic in the shoot­ing sports in­dus­try,” Bet­zold stated. “We have women on our team, in our net­work and within the Vet­er­ans Fam­ily of Brands (VFOB). We’ve turned to them for feed­back on what is im­por­tant to them in to­day’s field of ‘pink guns’ and gear. The vast ma­jor­ity of women shoot­ers we deal with, from en­try level to pro­fes­sion­als to hunters, have been out­spo­ken: For the most part, they want the same prod­ucts as men. They like camo, tac­ti­cal, hunt­ing and so on, just like any other shooter.”

Bet­zold grows sober think­ing of his wife and daugh­ter and the ev­ery­day threats that woman can face. For­tu­nately, both of them are shoot­ers. “There is no greater equal­izer in a se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion than to be com­pe­tent with a firearm and know how to use it—and when.”

Statis­tics drawn from polls over the past 40 years show there aren’t just a few more women at the range to­day; there are thou­sands. Women make up a size­able por­tion of the shoot­ing sports in­dus­try and will con­tinue to do so in grow­ing num­bers. And yet, it isn’t about gen­der.

Firearms are tools that al­low us to do ev­ery­thing from self­de­fense to hunt­ing to sling­ing lead down range for the plea­sure of an­ni­hi­lat­ing wa­ter­mel­ons. The gen­der be­hind the fin­ger on the trig­ger should be in­con­se­quen­tial. It isn’t, but it should be. We’re not fe­male shoot­ers, we’re shoot­ers; we’re not huntresses, we’re hunters. Whether I’m stalk­ing an elk or dash­ing through the for­est af­ter dogs in pur­suit of a bear, it’s about the hunt. And when I squeeze the trig­ger, it’s about ac­cu­racy.

It’s about guns, plain and sim­ple. The sooner the in­dus­try re­al­izes that, the bet­ter. GW

“The vast ma­jor­ity of women shoot­ers we deal with, from en­try level to pro­fes­sion­als to hunters, have been out­spo­ken: For the most part, they want the same prod­ucts as men. They like camo, tac­ti­cal, hunt­ing and so on, just like any other shooter.”

De­spite all the “pink guns” and gear, the

vast ma­jor­ity of women shoot­ers want the same prod­ucts as men: camo, tac­ti­cal,

hunt­ing and so on.

Women do it all: We can be cap­tain of the cheer team and skilled marks­men. Pic­tured: Grace Ainsworth. There has been a huge in­crease in the num­ber of woman par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­pet­i­tive

shoot­ing.

I

Moth­ers and daugh­ters are hunt­ing to­gether now more than ever, and it’s a trend we’d like to see con­tinue. Pic­tured (left to right): Jes­sica Kal­lam and daugh­ter Han­nah with au­thor Kat Ainsworth and daugh­ter Grace.

For most women who are phys­i­cally smaller than a po­ten­tial male at­tacker, a gun is the

“great equal­izer.”

While some com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pate in the “shrink it and pink it” method of mar­ket­ing to women, oth­ers, such as Kim­ber, have re­sponded to the in­crease in women shoot­ing with sharper guns such as the com­pany’s Amethyst Ul­tra II in .45 ACP. It ap­peals to even the color-averse.

I

It’s not just women get­ting in­volved in the shoot­ing sports; it’s also girls. Giv­ing younger girls the tools to de­fend them­selves and hunt their own food is one of the great­est things any­one can do for their daugh­ter.

Snake River Shoot­ing Prod­ucts founder Casey Bet­zold is one of the men in the gun in­dus­try ac­tively work­ing to in­clude and in­crease the par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in the shoot­ing sports and the in­dus­try, it­self. Pic­tured (left to right): Ax­el­son Tac­ti­cal founder Jeff Ax­el­son, the au­thor, Casey Bet­zold and re­tired Navy SEAL Mar­cus Lut­trell.

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