One of the big discussions at SHOT Show 2015 was the rise of the female firearms market. The number of gun owning women is at a high; one study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports that the number of women in the U.S. who have been target shooting at a firing range has increased 60% between 2001 and 2013. The study also reports that the number of female hunters saw an increase of 85% during the same time period.
So what does this mean for the industry? Women are here, and their buying power is strong. In fact, the NSSF reports that women gun owners spend $870 annually on firearms purchases, and another $405 on firearms accessories. Topping the list? Not what you’d expect: gun cleaning products, targets, ear protection, carrying cases, and eye protection.
Another interesting result of the NSSF’s study is what activities women are participating in. It seems that they enjoy practical pistol, clay target shooting, long-range shooting, and plinking, but are less inclined toward 3-Gun or cowboy action shooting.
For our industry, and at the industry’s largest trade show, this has had a huge impact over the years. We see fewer and fewer booth babes, and more women who are there doing business and truly making a difference. This was reflected in the vendors, events, speakers, and even in booth paraphernalia at the show.
One such event has been running for three years now: the annual Women’s Outdoor and Shooting Industry Dinner. At this dinner, over 200 professional ladies convened at The Public House to network, socialize, and win door prizes. These women included magazine editors, national sales representatives, professional competitors, television personalities, authors, and business owners.
There were also a lot of female competition shooters displayed across posters and billboards on the show room floor. These women were doing more than just showing up in posters though, they were there on the show floor making presentations, talking to media, and answering questions about their sponsor’s products.
Despite the fact that firearm-owning women in generally are not competing in 3-Gun, we are seeing a rise in publicity surrounding the women who are. Thanks to the 2014 of the Ladies 3Gun match, the Sportsman’s Channel has announced a new TV Show, Women’s HotShots. The official announcement was made at SHOT Show and other production companies have expressed interest in creating female-oriented shooting shows. These are steps in a fun direction.
Ladies in the competitive shooting world are seeing an increased presence in the industry. Dianna Liedorff-Muller of Team Benelli recently announced her new position as Team Captain, Devil Dog Arms has created the first all-women shooting team called the Devil Gals, which I am proud to be a part of, and world champion mounted shooter Kenda Lenseigne announced her sponsorship with Uberti Firearms at the show.
We have also seen more junior girls joining the sponsored shooter scene. Examples include Benelli’s Katlyn Francis 10-year-old Shyanne Roberts who made the national news shooting 3-Gun this past year. Berry’s Manufacturing also signed sisters Jalise and Justine Williams as pistol competitors representing their company.
When it came to vendors, we saw companies such as the Flashbang Holsters, Offhand Gear, Beau + Arrow, 2 Vets Arms Co., all pioneered by women looking to make a difference in a male-dominated industry. The number of products catering to women is also on the rise, at the 2015 SHOT Show that was a noticeable increase in the number of holsters and concealed carry purses for women, but we also saw more hunting clothes, more accessories, more varied firearm finishes, and many other signs that the industry is catering to women more and more.
We have also seen an increased presence of ladies’ products in the AR market, partially thanks to manufacturer (and my sponsor) Devil Dog Arms. They partnered with Natalie Foster, who runs Girls Guide to Guns and is working on a new network called Girls Guide to Hunting, to release a line of ARs, that are available in nine custom Duracoat colors and come in both standard and deluxe models. There is also, I’m excited to say, a line of 30calgal rifles available through Devil Dog. They are available in both .223 and .308, are Nib-X coated, with Leupold optics, Dueck Defense off-set sights, a CMC Trigger, and Dual Charging handle and more.
One of the new product lines I was excited about was the line of luxury concealed carry handbags created by Beau + Arrow. Founded by Iris Yen, whose previous experience includes time at luxury fashion houses such as Quicksilver, Roxy, Diane Von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren, and Nicole Miller, their line of concealed carry handbags are produced with only the finest material, and their research was done through industry and holster experts to make sure they were creating a safe, quality product.
When it came to most-talked about new products, OffHand Gear certainly had tongues wagging. While they are also known for computer bags designed for concealed carry, this year they stole the show with handguards cut out in stunning patters such a Fleur De Lis, then Cerakoted with custom colors. These took off so much, in fact, that the company is six to eight weeks backordered on their Frosty Plum Color. Owner Sandi Dee had some marketing genius during SHOT Show and took photos of the handguard as it traveled through Vegas. Sort of like the traveling Gnome. (Steve: These are the photos labeled “HandGuard” of which there are a billion for some reason.)
Editor’s Pick: Beau + Arrow Annie
It takes a lot to get me excited about new products, and I’m not at all an advocate of off-body carry. (You can get away with a lot with a good inside the waistband holster in the appendix position, ladies.) I feel like that will give you an idea of how much I actually loved Beau + Arrow’s Annie.
When I met Iris Yen and her sister and partner-in-crime, Betty, I ended up spending way too much time chatting with them. Iris started the company after she tried to purchase a concealed carry purse for a family member and couldn’t find anything she liked. With her background, she was able to create her own amazing product.
I’m normally a Coach purse girl, which is a stance not everyone who is into luxury handbags will understand, but at least establishes my threshold for these. The Annie is one of the most practical, versatile, and straight-up gorgeous handbags I’ve seen. It has room for a 15-inch laptop and a full-size M&P. It’s large enough to be a weekender bag, and sleek enough to be a day tote. The leather is soft, and there are small accents throughout that really take it from a normal bag to something next-level.
I will probably not buy one to carry my gun in. My daily carry; a Kahr PM9 in an N82 Tactical holster that I should probably talk more about; serves me quite well. However, I am going to buy one because it’s a great handbag and I am a working woman who loves the idea of being able to fit a 15-inch laptop in a luxury bag. So if you are a lady, or you have one in your life, who is considering off-body carry and is interested in looking good doing it (or is just interested in a strong, practical, good-looking bag), I can’t emphasize enough how amazing these Beau + Arrow bags are.
By Annette Wachter. Originally published in the March 2015 issue of GunUp the Magazine.