Everybody is talking about the huge influx of women to the shooting arena these days, to the tune of between 15 and 20 MILLION female gun owners in the U.S. – and that’s not counting the number of women who shoot, but do not have a gun registered in their name. Maybe they shoot a gun purchased by their husband, or they shoot someone else’s rifle when they hunt, but regardless, that’s a lot of women; so I decided to try to get a better picture of just how many that is.
You can’t begin to come close the number of women gun owners in the U.S. until you add together the numbers of active military personnel in the following countries: United States, India, Syria, Thailand, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Russia, Myanmar, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan, Israel, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Cambodia. Active military personnel from those countries COMBINED are approximately 15,095,300, which means the number of female gun owners is greater than the military force of 30 countries.
And compared with national population numbers, female gun owners would equal the number of citizens in either the Netherlands, Chili, or Romania – or more than the populations of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and Ireland COMBINED (15,548,522). Feeling empowered yet?
How about more than twice the number of motorcycles in the US (7,752,926), more than all the redheads in Scotland and Ireland combined (10,700,000), or about 15-20 times the number of lawyers in America?
The bottom line is that 15 to 20 million of anything is a lot, and for that many women to actually purchase a firearm, there must be a good reason – many good reasons, to be exact.
Of course, many of the active military personnel in the world today are women who own firearms; and if you add the number of female law enforcement officers, you have a large number of women who are armed to protect and defend. Many other women who own guns are prompted to do so by a desire to defend themselves and others on a personal and individual basis, and with the current numbers of violent crimes committed against women on an annual basis, that’s probably a good idea.
Hunting for food or sport is another reason many women own and use guns. The number of new female hunters is now outpacing the number of new male hunters, according to the NRA; and according to the National Sporting Goods Association, there were 163,000 new female hunters in 2009.
But women across the nation are also finding out there are shooting sports that have nothing to do with hunting or self-defense. The National Shooting Sports Foundation tells us that more than 19 million Americans participate in target shooting each year, many of whom are women. But standing on the line and shooting at a stationary target is not enough for some women; these ladies want a little action in their shooting, hence the rise in attendance at practical shooting events throughout the U.S.
“Imagine combining the athleticism of competitive sports with the choreography of modern dance, then toss in the adrenaline rush of skiing down a double black diamond sky slope,” is how the USPSA Ladies’ Zone website describes the sport of practical shooting. The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) sponsor many events across the nation where women, and men, navigate various “stages” while shooting at stationary and moving targets. These events are becoming extremely popular with women, many of whom attend camps such as those sponsored by Babes With Bullets in an effort to master this exciting sport.
If you add the fun of cowboy (cowgirl) shooting (who could resist dressing up in vintage clothing and participating in a shootout at the OK corral?), you have even more opportunities for female handgun shooters to have fun and compete alongside the men – check out SASS for more info. But cowboy shooters do not only use handguns, and there are just as many women picking up rifles and shotguns these days, as pistols and revolvers.
The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is one group encouraging women to improve their rifle skills through Project Appleseed (Ladyseed) events. The Appleseed program teaches three-position rifle shooting: standing, sitting, and prone, as well as how to transition between positions, and throws in the history of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War just for fun. Participants learn how important the rifleman was to the freedoms we now enjoy in our country, and with events just for women – click here – at only $10/weekend, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of these opportunities. You might even earn your Rifleman’s patch in the process!
If rifles and handguns are not your cup of tea, how about shotgun shooting? You don’t have to hunt birds to enjoy shooting a shotgun at your local skeet and trap range. In fact, skeet shooting was named by a woman, Gertrude Hurlbutt, who suggested the Scandinavian word for “shooting” to replace the term of “clock shooting” in 1926. And if Kim Rhode could compete against adults and win her first world title with a shotgun at the age of 13, going on to earn an Olympic gold medal at the age of 17, it might be something you could try, as well. Now only in her early 30’s, Kim continues to compete (she will be a member of Team USA at the London Games), as well as encourage women and young people across the nation to become more involved in the shotgun sports.
So you can see that any woman who has a desire to shoot, also has many avenues and opportunities to do so, and with all of the many female shooting blogs (see Blog Roll to the right for just a few), Facebook pages, and support sites available today, I think we will continue to see women filling the lines at many more events in the future.