BY THE NUMB3RS
THE RISE OF WOMEN IN THE GUN INDUSTRY
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.
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
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
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.
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.