A new study indicates hunting is the second most popular activity for women who own guns. The report, titled Women Gun Owners –Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation and commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), indicates the number-one reason females own guns is self or home defense while shooting with friends and family ranks third.

“In the past decade, the number of women owning firearms and participating in target shooting and hunting has soared,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti.
Data released in 2014 from studies conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association showed a 10 percent increase in women who hunt from just four years earlier.
The new NSSF report shows women are also an increasing integral part of the outdoor industry marketplace. More than half of women (55.6 percent) surveyed said they intend to purchase at least one firearm in the next 12 months. Women also spend an average of $870 per year on firearms and an additional $405 on firearms accessories. In 2013, retailers estimated 20 percent of their shooting- and hunting-related sales were attributed to women, marking a five percent increase since 2010.
“The women’s market is a force in our industry, and manufacturers, retailers and shooting ranges are making changes to their products and services to satisfy women’s tastes and needs,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Industry Research and Analysis.
The increasing growth of women gun owners was personalized at the news conference unveiling the report by two successful women who related their stories. One of them was national and world shooting champion Julie Golob who said she used to tell people when she was a little girl that she wanted to grow up to be a professional shooter. Today, she is a national and world shooting champion. She has seen great changes over her lifetime.
“When I go to the range (now) I see a variety of women…and that’s such a great thing,” said Golob. “I’m a product of what we’ve seen in this industry.”
The other storyteller was Lucretia Free, the owner and publisher of American Woman Shooter magazine. She overcame a “distorted view and perception of guns” from her peers to make a 180-degree change in her life.
“I was asked to go to a range a couple of years ago by a dear friend and after some internal debating, I went. And I’m so glad that I did because it changed my life,” said Free. “Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple said, ‘The most common way we give up our power is by thinking we don’t have any.’ Ladies, we have power!”
The NSSF study, conducted in 2014, focused on women ages 18 to 65 who owned at least one firearm. Over a third of women in the study were new gun owners, having purchased their first firearm within the last three years. This group of new gun owners, who are primarily between the ages of 18 and 34, reflects the changing demographics among women choosing to own firearms and the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports.
Among the report’s findings:
  • Nearly all women (95 percent) have tried target shooting, and more than half (58 percent) have hunted.
  • The most commonly owned firearm by women is a semiautomatic pistol, with 56 percent of women reporting they owned at least one. Shotguns ranked second, with 50 percent of women owning at least one.
  • Women say their purchases are mainly influenced by fit, quality and practicality.
  • The majority of women report they are not driven to buy a gun on impulse but rather considered their purchase for months before deciding.
  • More than 42 percent of women have a concealed carry permit for their state of residence.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of women reported having taken at least one training class. (See more details in the “Girl Power” infographic below.)

The report shows women are attracted to shooting activities such as practical pistol, clay target shooting, long-range shooting and plinking; they were not as active, however, in gun collecting or 3-gun and cowboy action shooting.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, female engagement was up 85 percent for hunting to 3.3 million participants between 2001 and 2013, and grew 60 percent to 5.4 million participants for target shooting to 5.4 million during that same period.