Female arms race

In the last seven years gun sales among women have increased 50 percent. What's behind the upswing?

Sarah Goldstein
May 19, 2006 3:44PM (UTC)

BusinessWeek reports that gun makers are increasingly looking to attract women, tweaking products to appeal to a "burgeoning female market," which is estimated to be worth at least $285 million this year alone in firearm sales alone. That doesn't include the various accessories like gloves and hunting clothes. The new female "niche" is so exciting to gun makers that some are now designing "shorter, lighter shotguns, new grips on handguns and flashier designs," all of which, according to BW, attract women buyers. (I'll take the Beretta in pink, please.)

Unfortunately BW offers little analysis as to why greater numbers of women are participating in hunting and target shooting, nor does it go into regional demographics of gun buying. For instance, is this trend mostly in the South and Midwest, where hunting is an established pastime, or are urban women starting to buy guns in greater numbers as well? According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the shooting, hunting and firearms industry, 6.3 million women participate in gun sports, an alarming 50 percent increase from 1999.


Sandy Froman, president of the National Rifle Association, believes that the increase in the female market has to do with the fact that "the women of America are very concerned about safety and security for themselves and their families. I think many of us realize ultimately we're the ones responsible for our own defense." Although crime rates are at their lowest since the 1970s, perhaps because of events like the "war on terror" or Hurricane Katrina, there is a threat, be it real or perceived, that when it comes to safety, you're on your own. Or maybe the shooting gallery is the new yoga. But other than the feminine designs, what other reasons do readers think women are packing heat?

Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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