In Demand

Female firearms instructors, quality products for women in demand more than ever

According to the latest report on concealed carry in the United States from the Crime Prevention Research Center, “In 2022, women made up 29.2% of permit holders in the 15 states that provide data by gender, an increase from the 28.3% last year. Seven states had data from 2012 to 2021/2022, and permit numbers grew 115.4% faster for women than for men.”

As female firearm ownership continues to grow, so does the demand for both female firearms instructors and quality products for women. To better understand exactly how much the landscape has changed over time, we connected with industry veterans Ava Flanell, owner of Elite Firearms & Training and host of the Gun Funny Podcast; Claudia Chisholm, product designer, developer and owner of GTM Originals; and Paige Roux, senior firearms instructor and training coordinator at Shooter’s World and owner of Some Chick Who Shoots.

Then And Now

Despite the fact her parents once owned a gun store, Ava Flanell’s path to working in the shooting industry was a little unconventional. On her website, she admits she once wrote it off as a “male hobby” — a sentiment she still believes holds true.

“I didn’t think much about it at the time, but when my mom became a firearms instructor almost 20 years ago, she really was quite a pioneer,” Flanell said. “When I took my instructor’s test in 2013, I was the only female in my class. I just recently started to participate in shooting events at my local range and continue to be the only female. This is not to say women aren’t getting into the sport or taking up guns for defense or hobby. The number of women who purchased guns in the past few years is huge, but unfortunately, firearms are still very much a male-dominated hobby; we need more women.”

“In my experience, female-taught classes fill up much quicker than those taught by men, especially when it comes to entry-level classes.”

Ava Flannell, Owner
Elite Firearms & Training

Room For Growth

While it’s great to celebrate how far women in the industry have come, Flanell’s remarks underscore the importance of acknowledging how much room remains for growth. 

“I want to go to a shooting sports event and have women outnumber men. I want women to recognize the value they hold in the gun world,” she said. “We have more power to change minds, influence others to get involved and empower others. I’d love to see more women in the industry who value themselves for more than just their looks by recognizing they can be admired for their knowledge, skills and hard work.” 

Claudia Chisholm of GTM Originals would like to see more women involved not just on the range, but in other, often overlooked areas of the shooting industry like manufacturing, marketing, product development and retail. 

“There are so many companies out there that create products for women just to check the box and say they do,” said Chisholm. “While there are more women involved in the process of getting these products to market than before, we’re nowhere near the point of saturation.” 

Chisholm emphasized the importance for brands and retailers, as well as women themselves, to understand and value the power of women as consumers.

“Since GTM Originals began in 2009, this industry has changed immensely, but we still have situations where dealers feel the need to close their doors when sales dip,” she shared. “If they would instead embrace female consumers, many wouldn’t have to.” 

The GTM Originals’ return customer owns an average of five of the company’s bags.

“Women come back,” asserted Chisholm. “Not only that, but women love to be together. We bring friends. We bring family. If you embrace women as a buying demographic, they will always deliver.”

“If you embrace women as a buying demographic, they will always deliver.” Claudia Chisholm, Owner GTM Originals

Claudia Chisholm, Owner
GTM Originals

On The Range

The area within the shooting industry perhaps poised for the most growth is firearms instruction.

“Female instructors are so in demand right now many of us can’t keep up,” remarked Flanell. “Ranges would be crazy not to hire a knowledgeable female instructor — they’re like winning the lottery. Not only do women want to learn from women, but men with little to no experience often feel more comfortable learning from a female as well. In my experience, female-taught classes fill up much quicker than those taught by men, especially when it comes to entry-level classes.”

Paige Roux agrees, but notes it may not be as simple as going out and hiring an already experienced instructor.

“Many ranges don’t have female instructors because there aren’t a lot of us available,” she explained. “There are very few of us who have both the ability and the interest in teaching.” 

Roux’s journey to becoming an instructor started at the age of 4 or 5 when her dad, a former law enforcement officer, purchased Shooter’s World in 2002.

“I basically absorbed information through osmosis I didn’t even know I was learning,” she recalled. “I listened to sales pitches, learned about customer service and gained a greater understanding of our customers.”

Roux started helping teach classes as a range safety officer around the age of 14, but it wasn’t until adulthood she realized her passion for teaching others and began working at the range as an instructor full-time.

“Women are often hesitant because we want to be good at something we do, especially when we’re the minority. We want to be respected,” she said. “Even as someone who grew up in the business, it took me a while to be confident in not only my knowledge of the curriculum but also in my ability to teach it.” 

Roux said many Shooter’s World employees don’t know how to shoot when they start.

“They’re hired based on their customer service skills. Then, we train them to shoot using our curriculum,” she informed. “We’re opening the door and investing in our team members who might not have even known it was an interest of theirs or there was an opportunity to pursue it.”

So, rather than limit your prospects by only searching for already licensed female instructors, or worse, justifying your all-male range staff by saying “there just aren’t any female instructors,” consider how you can help change that from the ground up. 

Click To Read More Shooting Industry March 2023 Issue Now!