Women and Firearms: Perceptions and Assumptions
- January 7, 2016
- By Laura Kippen
In previous blog posts about women’s influence on the firearms industry, I’ve identified details about this fast-growing demographic and their purchasing habits. Now, finally, let’s take a look at women’s perceptions about the guns themselves, as well as assumptions (many of which are incorrect) made by firearms manufacturers and retailers.
The majority of women are smaller and many have less upper body strength than men, potentially making competent handling of large pistols and slide-racking a challenge. But, does this mean that women are only interested and capable of handling tiny guns? Do women only want their guns in an array of candy colors? Many manufacturers and retailers would have you think so but based on the results of this study the answer is unequivocally “No” and “No”!
First let’s understand why women decide it’s time to own a gun. Nearly half of women (48%) indicated the single most important reason for deciding to own a gun was for self or home defense. Another 15% indicated they wanted to learn to hunt, and 10% wanted to go shooting with family and friends.
Women performed a task that yielded the ordered importance of 30 factors as they impact the gun purchase decision. Not surprisingly, the most important factors are:
1. Best for my particular use
2. Fits my hand/body the best
3. High quality
4. Most practical
5. Highest quality
The factors that fell to the very bottom of the list are:
1. Military look and feel
2. Feminine look and feel
3. Cool looking
4. None of my friends have one
5. Cowboy look and feel
6. Feminine color (e.g. pink, purple, turquoise)
7. Feminine decorations (e.g., flowers, leopard spots, zebra stripes)
In short, women are most interested in quality, fit and practicality and much less interested in look and feel.
Women were also shown several statements and asked to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with each. Three-quarters of women (72%) agreed that colors meant to attract women such as pink, purple and turquois make guns look like toys. Over half (58%) indicated they thought these colors were inappropriate for hunting and shooting activities and over half again (55%) indicated they preferred guns that look like they mean business. Only 20% of women agreed that they liked guns in colors and patterns that were designed specifically for them.
If you think about why women decide to purchase a firearm to begin with, very small firearms and those in bright colors may not be ideal. True, very small firearms are designed specifically for concealed carry but they are not particularly easy to control nor are the very accurate. More importantly, they aren’t much fun to shoot. If the firearms industry and retailers are interested in helping women learn how to properly handle guns, shoot with accuracy, and encourage participation in shooting activities, it makes sense to offer a selection of guns that are larger with manageable recoil, are reasonably accurate, and above all, fun to shoot.
What’s more, many women perceive gun colors that deviate from the norm to project the wrong image. The last thing women want is not to be taken seriously because of the size and/or color of their gun. The message here is that most women, even those who are primarily concerned with self and home defense, are not looking for the smallest, pinkest gun in the store. They are looking for a firearm that they can learn to shoot and that can help them feel secure. If women are provided with firearm options that fit properly, it is easier to develop shooting competency, self-confidence and from that, greater enthusiasm for shooting activities.
Make no mistake; there is a market for guns that come in non-traditional colors and patterns, a niche market, but a market nonetheless. And the industry should continue to provide these options for women. However, when a woman walks into a gun store with the intention of purchasing a gun, don’t assume that little pink gun in your case is going to do the trick. Handguns come in all shapes and sizes. It would not be a stretch for retailers to provide a selection of mainstream options that will fulfill the needs of the majority of women. There is a good possibility that if you take the time to fit a woman with the right gun, it can ignite a lifelong passion.