When the women began filing into the hospitality suite at the 2016 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) in Las Vegas last Thursday, the topics they discussed—concealed-carry handbags, 3-gun travel cases, comfortable hunting knives, content sharing on Facebook, and dozens of others—maybe weren’t all that notable.
But the event itself certainly was.
That because the 200 women who attended the first-ever Women’s Meet & Mingle at the SHOT Show were participating in an event that not only was the first of its kind, but also represented the new face—and force—in the shooting sports.
It’s well documented that more and more women are buying and using guns. According to a 2013 study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, nearly 75 percent of firearms retailers reported an increase in women customers over the previous year. The same study also found that 5.4 million women participate in target shooting, and 3.3 million hunt.
But what’s not so well broadcast—or even realized—is that more and more women are entering the shooting industry itself. From product line managers and public relations managers to website creators and event hosts, women are increasingly becoming involved in what has historically been a male-dominated business and sport.
That’s why the event, hosted by the Bonnier Corporation (which owns range 365.com), was arranged. And, even though it was open to all women who were attending the show, free of charge, organizers were happily surprised with the response.
“We’re all here to meet women like ourselves, and allow the opportunity for women who are new in the business to meet and learn from women who are established in it,” said Jessica Kallam, the press relations and public affairs manager for Remington, which provided refreshments. “But,” she added, “it’s not all about the business.”
“It’s a great idea!” said Helen Butt of travel-bag maker Camo Esscents, who hosts a ladies-only trapshoot and is looking for new shooters to invite. “We finally get to meet and mingle.”
“There are no big shots here…you’re getting all the little shots,” joked Amanda Suffecool of Eye on the Target Radio out of Akron.
Maybe, but the event had a powerful impact. “Wowsas!” said guest greeter Barbara Baird of Women’s Outdoor News in response to the turnout. “I knew it could be big, because women want an opportunity to meet each other—and give each other opportunities.”
Anne Mauro, head coach of trap and skeet team at the University of Maryland, pointed out the variety of representation. “Women representing all areas of the vast shooting industry filled the room, including 8 members of Team USA,” she said.
It’s yet more proof that women are an increasing–and increasingly important—segment of the gun business.