Business Blog

Women and Firearms: Studying Purchasing Behavior


My previous blog post in this series on women’s influence on the firearms industry provided details about this demographic. Now, in this third installment revealing information from the study, Women Gun Owners: Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation, commissioned by the NSSF and released to the membership in January, 2015, I will break down the information on women’s firearms purchasing behavior.


As noted previously, women are the primary drivers of consumer purchasing in the U.S. It is hard to imagine that women’s purchasing prowess would be any less powerful and influential for firearms. So, with good reason, there is considerable interest in women’s purchasing behavior in the category.


Before we discuss what and how much, let’s stop for a moment and think about the initial decision to purchase a firearm. Women who actually purchased a firearm (73%), as opposed to receiving one as a gift or otherwise, were asked how long they thought about purchasing a gun before making their first purchase. As it turns out, the initial purchase of a firearm is not an impulse buy. The majority of women (67%) thought about purchasing a firearm for several months or longer before making their first purchase. Clearly, women don’t take ownership of a firearm lightly, at least initially.


Women also tend to rely heavily on information resources when making a gun purchase decision. The process is heavily influenced by family and friends, manufacturers’ websites and gun shop personnel. Only about a third of women used online resources other than the manufacturers (i.e., online discussion forums, retailers, other). A mere 4% of women indicated they did not use any information resources to make a gun purchase decision.


A little over a third (37%) of women in the study purchased at least one firearm in the past 12 months and spent an average of $870. In that same period, 81% of women spent an average of $405 on firearms related accessories. As one would imagine, the majority of accessory spend was for the basics such as gun cleaning products and kits (57%), targets (44%), ear protection (41%), gun carrying cases (37%), eye protection (29%), extra magazines (25%), and holsters (25%).   


Women were more inclined to purchase firearms in the coming 12 months than accessories. Over half (56%) of women indicated they intended to purchase at least one firearm in the next 12 months. Of these, a third (31%) already had a make and model in mind and another 30% knew the type of gun they wanted to buy but hadn’t settled on a make or model. Only 5% of women indicated they did not have any plans to purchase a firearm in the near or distant future. This suggests that once women have purchased a first firearm, the decision to purchase successive firearms comes easier and more naturally.


The outlook for accessories was not quite as rosy. Overall, women indicated they intended to spend less in every category of accessories, and a quarter of women (24%) indicated they would not purchase any accessories in the coming 12 months. Concealed carry handbags were the only exception, with 10% of women reporting they purchased one or more concealed carry handbags in the past 12 months and 11% of women indicating they intended to purchase one or more in the next 12 months.


Although it can be a long process for women to decide to buy a gun, it appears once the decision has been made and the gun purchased, it becomes easier to make subsequent purchases down the road. Women rely heavily on friends and family and those behind the counter at gun shops for gun purchase information. Women also rely heavily on information gleaned from manufacturers’ websites, however, they are less dependent on other online resources.  This suggests women prefer a more personal and interactive approach to information gathering.


Editor’s Note: Check back here soon for Laura Kippen’s next installment to find out what influences women’s participation in shooting.