Selling Self-Defense Guns To Women In 2020

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No dealer reading this needs me to tell them a sales staff who ignores female customers isn’t going to sell much to that market. Ditto to a salesperson who comes across as condescending. The self-defense products on display at the various trade events earlier this year (pre-pandemic) prove how the robust women’s segment is shaping the marketplace.

Some strategies obviously do work well with that side of your customer base; let’s take a look at a few.

With sales of semi-auto handguns continuing to be the first-choice option for women, make
sure you outfit them with a model that’s easy to rack and manipulate on the range. Getting it
right the first time will save you in the long run and increases the chances of add-on sales.

Make Sure They Can Operate It

How many times have you had a male customer buy a gun for a female in his life, only to bring it back and say, “She can’t work the slide?” Today we have more pistols than ever designed expressly to remedy this scenario.

In just the past few months, we’ve seen Smith & Wesson expand the EZ series, named for that light slide manipulation figure, from the original .380 to full power 9mm as well.

Walther touted an easy-running slide on the CCP (Concealed Carry Pistol) they introduced a few years ago in 9mm; for the 2020 SHOT Show, they were demonstrating a softer kicking .380 variation. Another new-for-SHOT 2020 pistol was the .22 Long Rifle version of Ruger’s LCP II, featuring the trademarked “Lite Rack” slide mechanism that can be retracted with thumb and forefinger. Indeed, Ruger’s LC380 introduced a few years ago really led the market in self-defense semi-autos with easy-to-activate slides.

A single-action, hammer-fired pistol in 9mm or .380 will have a light recoil spring, making slide retraction easier. Show the customer how she can use her non-gun hand to cock the hammer, thus relieving the mainspring pressure holding the hammer down against the slide. Pistols in this category include the little scaled-down Browning 1911-A1 in .380, the popular SIG P238 and Kimber’s Micro .380 line. A Browning .22 LR version makes an excellent “understudy gun” for less expensive training and practice.

In 9mm, choices include Springfield’s excellent EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol), SIG’s 938 and the Kimber Micro 9. All of the pistols mentioned here will also have a short trigger reach amenable to small hands.

In the same vein, with a double-action gun you want to make sure she can pull the trigger. Back when service revolvers were standard in L.E. circles, many female recruits failed the police academy because they couldn’t pass one common entry test where they had to dry-fire a double-action revolver X number of times in 30 seconds.

A few of today’s concealed carry double-action revolvers stand out as having particularly light trigger pulls. One is the Ruger LCR — available in .38 Special, .327 Magnum, .357 Magnum, .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum. Another is the current Colt Cobra series, available in .38 Special and, in the King Cobra variation, .357 Magnum. A third is the Kimber K6 series.

Fit The Gun To The Customer

As a firearms instructor, I’ve lost count of how many female students came in with guns they couldn’t shoot well because they didn’t fit. A key to the proper fit with a handgun is trigger reach. On the pistol or revolver, this is measured from the center of the grip-frame’s backstrap where the web of the hand makes contact, to the center of the face of the trigger. On her hand, it’s measured from the web of the hand at a point in-line with the long bones of the forearm to the pad (think “center of fingerprint”) of the trigger finger. With a double-action handgun or any sidearm with a heavy trigger pull, she’ll have more leverage if she can get the crease of the distal joint of her index finger centered on the trigger.

Bear in mind, most handguns were designed by and for men. Women on average are shorter than men, with proportionally shorter, slimmer fingers. If the average-size male put his hand palm to palm with a petite female, her fingers will be about a full digit shorter than his.

Shrink It & Pink It?

Many gun-savvy women have complained the gun industry’s approach to women has been “shrink it and pink it.” It warrants some discussion.

“Shrink it” often makes sense: Hand fit on handguns, stock fit on long guns. The “pink it” is more debatable. A lot of self-described “shooter chicks” will, when offered a pink pistol, all but snarl back, “The new pink is gun metal black, thank you very much!”

But they don’t speak for all of your female customers. True, a lot of the pink and pretty pistolas are bought by husbands and boyfriends because they think they’ll appeal to the women in their lives.

Yet, you’ve likely had a woman point at a colorful pistol and say “I’d like to see that one, please.” So, it’s a good idea to have a baby blue or a pinkish option on hand to allow for customer taste.

That said, when a lady says, “I’d like to see something in a compact 9mm,” you might not want to automatically reach for a pastel one. She might take it as condescending, to the point where you could kiss the sale goodbye.

Defensive Long-Gun Considerations

A mainstay for home defense, the 12-ga. shotgun has a vicious kick with Magnum shells, brutal recoil with full-power Express loads and even the supposedly “low-recoil” buckshot can have a disconcerting comeback into the shoulder.

It has been my experience after some shooting with each, most men would rather do intensive shooting training with a .223-caliber rifle than with a shotgun … and women, more so.

If your state doesn’t have some draconian law that considers a collapsing stock to be a prohibited “assault weapon feature,” this type of stock will allow the smaller person to properly fit the AR-15-type rifle for maximum comfort, control and speed of fire. With hollowpoint 55-gr. defensive ammunition, the .223 will have no more penetration when fired inside the house than most service pistol cartridges. It will be much easier to shoot accurately at speed, and those 55-gr. JHPs have an excellent history of stopping violent human activity quickly.

The .223 is, however, loud — sometimes flinch-inducing on the range, and sometimes stunning without ear protection in close quarters. This is easily solved by going with a pistol-caliber autoloading carbine. The 9mm in a carbine is practically down to .22 recoil, the sound signature is less than a pistol in the same caliber (let alone a .223 rifle) and practice ammo is relatively cheap today. The 16″ barrel of the carbine accelerates pistol rounds for more impact where it counts.

Don’t Miss Out

Women are a vital and growing part of the defensive firearms market. The better we, as an industry, can introduce them to armed defense, the more lives will be saved. It’s ethical marketing at its best.

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