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Firearms and firearms accessory makers increasingly consider women buyers

The PK380 handgun by Walther Arms Inc. has a single stack, making it smaller, lighter and easier to conceal than other models. It has the kind of characteristics that women buyers seek.

It addition to standard black, the PK380 comes in bright pink and dark purple, colors popular among female buyers.

Cyndi Flannigan, vice president for sales at Walther, picks up the PK380 handgun on display with her right hand and, with two fingers on her left hand, slides it back to demonstrate loading. There is no need to use the palm.

“Women really like the fact that they can run the slide so easy,” Flannigan, a 40-year firearms industry veteran, said at Walther’s booth at the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show being held in Las Vegas.

“I like to use the analogy with shoes with women. You want style, but it if doesn’t fit, you are going to look for another pair of shoes. The same with guns. It’s really important that a woman’s gun fit comfortably.”

Firearms and firearm accessory makers are more and more taking into account the needs and preferences of female buyers when designing products — from grip handle to size and color — to tap one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry.

According to data from the National Sporting Goods Association, women accounted for 19 percent of hunters in 2013, up from 10 percent in 2001. About 3.3 million women hunted in 2013, while 5.4 million practiced target shooting — increases of 85 percent and 60 percent, respectively, according to the association.

Though more women are taking up gun ownership for hunting and sporting purposes, protection continues to be the main driver, women in the industry say.

While walking the convention halls of SHOT, guns with pink coloring can be spotted at various booths, including O.F. Mossberg &Sons Inc. and Boyds Gunstock, which make models with pink colors. Mossberg’s 510 Mini Super Bantam, targeted toward the youth market, comes in pink camouflage and goes by the name ‘Muddy Girl.’

“The firearms industry was very slow in recognizing that the female dollar is just as important, if not more so, and highly profitable,” said Claudia Chisholm, founder of Gun Tote’n Mamas, which produces stylish concealed carry handbags mainly for female gun owners.

She should know. Chisholm, who launched her company in 2009, has sold more than 750,000 bags, which mainly retail in the $90.95 to $240.95 range. Women gun owners are more likely than men to upgrade their accessories, such as holsters, on a regular basis, she said.

While the overwhelming majority of the 65,000 attendees at SHOT are still men, the share of women at the event over the past two decades has increased, say participants.

“When I first came here 20 years ago, it was a boy’s club. There were very few females around and very few women executives,” said Julie Golob, a professional competitive shooter and one of four female brand sponsors for Smith &Wesson, which sells a female handgun line.

And companies at SHOT had little to offer women in terms of firearms or accessories back then. Golob had to piecemeal her first shooting outfits together using her father’s clothing.

“Walking the aisles here, we now see more and more women trainers, women shooters or women who simply want to be more involved with firearms.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which organizes SHOT, has gotten the message. Its full-page ad in the show’s daily paper had 12 photos, nine of which included women. There were more women in those photos than men.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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