Business Blog

Predicting Trends in Womens’ Firearms Purchases




In past blogs, I’ve frequently focused on some head-turning results from a Southwick Associates research on firearms buyers, conducted in partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Most of these studies centered on hunting participation habits and recreational shooting activities.


One of the studies, however, centered solely on first-time buyers of all types of firearms. The segmentation of these individuals has provided even more fascinating insights about what’s on buyers’ minds, and how their purchasing behaviors will impact dealers, distributors and retailers over the next few years.


The take-home message of the study is that buyer anxiety will significantly drive gun sales over the next five years (throughout the Trump Administration). It’s not that gun buyers are anxious about the current administration — actually the exact opposite.


According to the SA report, 22 percent of the U.S. public say they will “very likely” buy a firearm within the next five years, presumably before sales become further restricted.


“Most of the Anxious Buyer segment have grown up always wanting to own a firearm, and their suspicion that they will not be able to fulfill this desire encourages them to buy sooner rather than later,” the report states. “Concerned mainly with owning a firearm for protection, the Anxious Buyer has little interest in hunting and target shooting. Only 1 percent hunt regularly, and 13 percent shoot regularly. Those few who have participated in these activities find that the challenging characteristics of both sports gives them the most satisfaction.”


Let’s key on one notable demographic of this segment: She is a white female, 44 years old, predominantly single (only 43 percent were married). Nearly 60 percent of these women said they fully intended to buy a firearm for personal protection within the next five years.


This group leans hard toward handguns but also views modern sporting rifles as legitimate and actually preferred this type of “long gun” over traditional rifles and shotguns. The marketing opportunity toward these individuals would be toward products, obviously, but also information, services and aftermarket accessories. The Anxious Buyer is among the oldest and least cost-conscious of the various demographic categories studied by Southwick Associates.


What’s even more interesting is this group is just a small sliver of the larger melting pot of women hunters, target shooters and gun owners in America. The number of women hunters in the U.S. is approaching 3.5 million, while the number who actively participate in the shooting sports exceeds 5.5 million, according to the National Rifle Association. This larger group, on average, spends $870 on firearms and $405 on firearm/shooting accessories annually, according to the NRA. A whopping 73 percent have taken at least one firearms training course.


OK, so the SA study shows some promise for the industry’s health over the next half-decade. Now for the larger picture: Gun sales overall have dipped nationally when compared to the months and year leading up to last fall’s election. That’s to be expected, especially considering the fact that a Republican replaced a Democrat.


The 2016 highlights included an incredible 40 percent third-quarter spike by companies such as Smith & Wesson. And in September alone, the FBI processed just shy of 2 million background checks — an 11 percent increase over the same period in 2015. According to Fox Business, the FBI recorded all-time highs in every month last year and eclipsed the 23 million background checks during Obama’s second-to-last year in office.


I bring up these final stats to underscore the tone of how the SA results should be examined by shooting sports insiders: with cautious optimism. True, it might sound odd that we should be upbeat about uneasy consumers. In this case, however, the uneasiness is one that comes with a positive energy by an educated consumer base that is acting off of a life-long desire, not knee-jerk reactions.