In the debate over firearms regulations, the voices of gun owners have largely been those of men. But at firing ranges across the country, a growing number of women are learning to use firearms and honing their skills.
Women’s participation in shooting sports has surged over the last decade, increasing by 51.5 percent for target shooting from 2001 to 2011, to just over 5 million women, and by 41.8 percent for hunting, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
Gun sales to women have risen in concert. In a survey last year by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 73 percent of gun dealers said the number of female customers had gone up in 2011, as had a majority of retailers surveyed in the two previous years.
Manufacturers have increasingly geared advertising toward women, marketing special firearms models with smaller frames, custom colors (pink is a favorite), and accessories like the “concealed carry” “salmon kiss” leather handbag offered by Cobra Firearms or the leopard shooting gloves and Bullet Rosette jewelry sold by Sweet Shot (“Look cute while you shoot!” is the company’s motto).
Women’s shooting clubs have also proliferated — not just in small towns like Painesville, but also in Atlanta, Houston, even Manhattan, where a women’s gun club meets regularly at a firing range in Chelsea, a neighborhood better known for art galleries.