Making Women At Home On The Range


Take a moment and look at the smiling faces
and notice the diversity in age of the women here at Howell’s Indoor Range.
When your range classes can get here, you’ve done it right!

What do women want in their shooting range? What will make them comfortable and return time and again? Let’s evaluate.

First Impressions: The Importance Of A Website

Women like to do research. We want to know what we’re getting into before we even step foot in an unfamiliar facility. This is where a top-notch website is important. A poor one looks unprofessional and makes us wonder about the quality of the training, as well.

The website should also contain as much information as possible. What safety mechanisms are in place? What services are offered? Will there be help for new shooters? Does it appear friendly to new shooters? What training is available for women? 

Answer as many questions as possible online. Sometimes if we can’t find the answers to our questions easily, we’ll keep searching for another site rather than “risk” calling and feeling stupid.

Customer service is vital because when we do call to ask questions or walk into the store, if we’re ignored or spoken to in a brusque manner, we’ll be done with that range, right then and there. And, understand we’ll always look at reviews to see what kind of feedback other women give.

“We have an opportunity as a retail/range staff to make each person feel welcomed, to make each person’s questions feel valid and to be answered in a language they understand.”

Tatiana Whitlock, Director of Training
Howell’s Indoor Range & Gun Shop • Gray, Maine

Teaching Methods Can Make Or Break

Tatiana Whitlock, director of training at Howell’s Indoor Range & Gun Shop in Gray, Maine, tells about their unique situation: The entire training team is all women. 

“We’re one of the few — if not the only — range in the country with an all-female training staff. This wasn’t by design; it’s just how it panned out over time,” she shared.

Interestingly, having an all-female staff has not only brought in more women but also more men. But it’s not the makeup of the staff bringing people in — it’s the style of the training.

Whitlock explained, “The NSSF and all of our industry resources show the fastest-growing demographic [besides women] is an age group of mid-50s to around the late 60s. This group of individuals is not necessarily looking for a ‘tacticool’ type of experience, they’re looking for something where they’re going to feel safe and welcomed and not intimidated.”

It’s the story the Howell’s team hears often, according to Whitlock.

“They’re seeking female instructors and they’re also seeking a more personable or civilian-style experience,” she said. “We’re seeing a real desire from our community for real-life application of skill sets in the unfortunate event they would have to use a firearm to defend their lives, and also for home safety practices.”

Whitlock continued, “Don’t get me wrong; the tactical stuff is so much fun and I love it, but for someone who’s new, this is a slightly intimidating space to walk into. If you’ve never been exposed to it before, you have to have the courage to even set foot in a gun shop as a single individual with no firearms history. 

“We have an opportunity as a retail/range staff to make each person feel welcomed, to make each person’s questions feel valid and to be answered in a language they understand. We don’t have to throw the hard-hitting terms around, we don’t have to go all ‘encyclopedic’ on people or throw gunsmith or armorer’s language at someone. 

“So, they’re walking into a staff who welcomes young families, as well as our older community. Just walking in and feeling accepted; being seen and heard is huge. We also serve a large portion of the LGBTQ+ community because they know they can walk in here and not be treated an ounce differently than anyone else, and their specific needs and questions will be answered and heard.”

In addition, Howell’s website clearly outlines class offerings, showing where to start and each next step, as well as the amenities, prices, fun activities and matches and an emphasis on customer service. It’s an excellent example of an informative and professional website. 

Training “Lady Warriors”

On Guard Defense in Hocking Hills, Ohio, has also noticed the kind of training women are seeking. They created a program just for women called Lady Warrior Weekend (or Lady Warrior Bootcamp for those who can’t attend the whole weekend).

Owner Judi Phelps enthusiastically explained, “The primary focus of the Lady Warrior Weekend is pistol work and gun safety. Many of these women may leave and never get a gun, but the purpose of taking them through all the gun training is to make sure even if they don’t carry a gun they’re clear on safety and how they work.”

In addition to armed training, the class includes unarmed self-defense for places where carry is prohibited.

“We train ladies on how to use their bodies to inflict the most damage they can on their attackers to enable them to escape or to create enough distance in order to employ a more useful weapon,” Phelps shared.

Similar to Whitlock’s observations, Phelps said their non-intimidating training methods create a more welcoming environment.

“One of the things I consistently hear from women on why they seek out women training women is they’re not often treated with the respect and kindness from male instructors, who are often from law enforcement and military backgrounds. They’re used to ‘barking’ and a lot of the women are already intimidated and they don’t need that. The guys tend to speak with this industry nomenclature, and they use acronyms before they even explain to the ladies what they mean.

“So, we’re careful to make sure throughout the whole instruction process all of the ladies are really comfortable with every step. So, it’s fun, it’s fellowship, it’s a really relaxing atmosphere. Do I put pressure on them? Absolutely, but it’s in the right context. Women come from all over the country for this training. There are just not a lot of programs out there like this for women and one of the key differentiators is not only is it for women, but it’s taught by women. We understand the unique challenges associated with being a woman and we can relate to them.”

“It’s fun, it’s fellowship, it’s a really relaxing atmosphere. Do I put pressure on them? Absolutely, but it’s in the right context.”

Judi Phelps, Owner
On Guard Defense • Hocking Hills, Ohio

The Bottom Line

To be clear, this is not in any way to suggest all training staff should be replaced by women; far from it. The point is simply to determine if your customer base is looking for different styles of training and communication than has been offered over the past several years.

All you need to do to make women feel at home on the range is simply provide:

A professional, detailed website for a good first impression.

Clean facilities.

Personable customer service.

Staff able to teach in a non-tactical, non-intimidating manner.

Real-life self-defense training.

Before you know it, you’ll have a customer base of happy women who will return over and over — and will happily refer all their friends to your gun range.

Click To Read More Shooting Industry August 2023 Issue Now!