Gender stereotyping aside, it has been said that when it comes to making purchases, “men buy; women shop.” A 2007 study cuts to the heart of this premise by characterizing men as more practical about their buying habits, whereas women are typically drawn in by the entire shopping experience.
That study was conducted in what now seems a lifetime ago, as we are now in an era where generalizing about anything is accompanied by the risk of ostracization at best, cancelation at worst. After weighing that risk, it’s probably still safe to surmise that when it comes to women and gun buying, specifically what women are looking for in a firearm, the experience—both the process and the product—indeed matters.
In the days during the pandemic lockdown, the gun-buying experience temporarily changed for everyone. Forget the fact that guns were sold even before dealers had a chance to display them in their glass cases. In fact, forget “selling” altogether. If you wanted to purchase a firearm in the year 2020, you were relegated to buying whatever was available, even if it wasn’t the right gun for your intended purposes. And if you were one of the 8 million first-time gun buyers in 2020, you were unquestionably at the mercy of inventory. Forty percent of those 8 million new gun owners were women, which means some of them may have gone home with guns that were not necessarily ideal for them.
In more normal times, a purchase as serious as a firearm requires numerous considerations and should involve sufficient research, and if possible, test firing the gun. Practically speaking, firing a pistol before buying it is not always possible. Thus a natural tendency is to search the internet for information. Of course, the published gun reviews, many written by firearm experts, are replete with a variety of technical data like firearm specifications, and test and evaluation results. Gun reviews have appeared in magazines and websites for decades, and have been relied upon by millions—mostly men—who are weighing a decision on whether to purchase a particular gun. And although it’s becoming more common for men to check out blogs for every positive or negative comment about a gun, they don’t necessarily seek out those opinions. They want to read about all the bells and whistles. Men love to tell how a watch was built when they are asked what time it is.
While a firearm’s technical data is important information to publish, particularly for those who will rely on the firearm for a specific purpose like competitive shooting or law enforcement, the twist rate of a particular bullet is usually of little interest to new gun owners, at least initially.
What Do Women Really Want?
What do women want to learn when they’re reading a gun review? This again toes the line of generalizing and goes back to the shopping experience preferred by women, but simply put, women respect the opinion of a community of other women gun buyers. While we might eventually want to delve into the technical intricacies of our chosen pistol, mostly we want to know whether we might be able to successfully operate a particular firearm without difficulties in reaching the control mechanisms like trigger, slide release and mag release. We want to know how difficult it is to rack the slide of a particular gun, or how easy is it carry or conceal. What is its price? How heavy is it? How does it fit my hand? And most importantly, how does it feel when I shoot it?
It’s one of the reasons that projects like our “Ladies Pistol Project” and others have been so successful. The survey results are essentially a collection of gun reviews by women about the experience of using that particular pistol. Results are about form and function, the ability to operate that gun, not how fast a bullet will hit its target, whether it comes with a threaded barrel or whether it has an optics-ready version. Again, that information is all interesting and will grow in importance to any gun owner as her interest in shooting grows.
The good news is that, unlike in 2007, there is—to borrow a technical term—“heaps” of information on the web regarding which guns women prefer. One place a woman in the market for a new pistol might can check is the gun-review section on the The Well Armed Woman (TWAW) website, which is host to hundreds of reviews by women who have actually shot and/or purchased numerous models of guns. You can even upload your own review! While you won’t find the aforementioned technical data, you will find yourself immersed in a community of women who are as invested in the experience of buying and shooting a gun as you. These are women from all walks of life and from all over the United States (find a chapter in your area here). They tell you exactly what they liked and didn’t like about a particular gun, which is primarily what we first care about. TWAW also publishes an annual survey on which guns more than 5,000 of its members purchased during a particular year.
Another great community with both online and national chapters is A Girl & A Gun (find your local chapter here), which conducts its own survey on the firearms attendees brought with them to their national conference.
The women who run these groups are among the most committed to ensuring that all women interested in pursuing, developing and furthering their knowledge about firearms stay on track. And while reading about which guns women prefer doesn’t replace the hands-on buying experience, the information provided in them offer an extremely valuable springboard into the world of gun ownership by millions of women each year.