Store Thrives With 90% Of Women Buying Own Guns


We all want to sell more to women. Here, we’re going to look at a gun shop devoted to this segment of the market — and thriving vibrantly.

So, why open a gun shop and training business focused on women?

“Because women wanted to learn how to shoot guns, but men didn’t know how to teach them,” answered Maria Dockery, owner of Femme Fatale ARMS & Training in Palm Bay, Fla. 

She continued, “My husband, Richard, used to travel for business, and I was home alone in an empty nest in a nice neighborhood, but I noticed an increase in crime. Intruders were breaking in through Florida’s traditional sliding glass doors while people were home. I told him one night I needed a gun and he said to go out and get one. I decided to educate myself and select my own.”

Dockery ran into a conundrum women often encounter in similar searches.

“I ran into a male-dominated industry and was treated in a condescending manner. I wasn’t allowed to ask follow-up questions because they had told me what I wanted and didn’t want to waste any more time on me. They told me I needed a revolver because it was simple — point and shoot. The next store said the Ruger LCP because it was small and light. That’s a man’s pocket gun; you need strength to control it. The final straw came at a big-box store when the clerk kept walking by me to wait on male customers. When I tell that story in a women’s gun class, I get nods of agreement. I still get women coming in to take classes who were standing at a big-box sports shop, and watched as a condescending clerk belittled a female customer. They did a Google search for ladies’ gun stores and, of course, found us.”

Getting Started

Thus the Femme Fatale ARMS & Training was born, now located in Palm Bay, Fla. The shop’s mission statement is to “inspire, educate, empower women to take control of their own safety.” 

In 2019, Shooting Industry ran a short article on Maria’s operation. 

She recalled, “We started out in a flea market for two or three years, always moving to bigger spots and being careful to follow ATF regulations. Early on, we went to a gun show and had to set up a tent outside the building because we were not yet selling guns — just accessories, bra holsters and gun bags. We got the FFL while we were still at Renniger’s, a huge flea market in Melbourne, Fla.”

In their third year, the Dockerys expanded the business to a full-time operation with a brick-and-mortar store. (They continued exhibiting at flea markets on the weekends.)

“Adding a brick-and-mortar store was not easy; several places discriminated and did not want a gun shop in their plaza. We wanted a plaza because ladies don’t go into industrial zones to shop. At one location we interviewed the landlord for an hour, and he finally said he did not want unsavory characters being brought to his property. He then put in a marijuana dispensary.”

After some time, Femme Fatale opened its doors thanks to a firearms-friendly landlord — staying five years in their first location.

“Then, we moved to our current place in Palm Bay with better foot traffic,” Dockery said. “Our customers followed us.”

Business Details

Dockery has taken a multi-faceted approach to promoting her business. Decal advertising and word of mouth have been especially worthwhile.

“I put a wrapper on my truck; it’s bright purple and pink, advertising ‘Firearms Training for  Women … and Men.’ People approach me when I’m pumping gas; they pump up their courage and ask about my classes. I keep brochures in my truck. Word of mouth is right now our biggest form of marketing. People love us and give us great reviews on Google.” 

However, social media has proved to be challenging.

“I struggle with social media,” she admitted. “Just recently, a phantom person took over one of our accounts, hacked in and removed me as administrator on my own Facebook page.”

Femme Fatale’s income stream balance is 60% retail and 40% training. Training is on the rise.

“We have some new classes coming. Richard joined the business in 2020, and it’s when training took off. He’s a researcher. We started with basic safety — the class I work the best and most on. Then we started building more gun handling into our training offerings. Richard took classes from Pat MacNamara, Instructor Zero and others,” she said. “We try to bring in higher-level cognitive involvement and biomechanics of properly handling a firearm. We want to see tactical techniques learned the best way right out of the gate. We’re proud when our graduates are shooting somewhere else and people there ask them, ‘Where did you learn to shoot that well?’”

Today, Femme Fatale offers 15 different classes. Dockery informed they’re working on programs for church security teams.

“The sheriff’s department gives the church an overview of how to put their volunteer security team together, but people are still left with a sense of ‘I need more,’” she explained. “So, we have multiple skill-builder classes. We’re using SIRT pistols now. The church volunteers will be doing force-on-force role play with them, learning to maneuver around bystanders and such. We have two churches lined up for the training at this time.”

The business has trained close to 5,000 students/customers so far. Maria is NRA-certified as an instructor in multiple disciplines. When she got into her first class with a Blackwater alumnus, she received an email from him saying, “You know, this is not introductory, you could get an owie.” She coolly replied she could handle it, and then attended and proved it. She has taken classes from Dave Benton, late of the Benghazi rooftop, as well as classes from John Froscher and Izzy Matos.

Selling To Women

Having established the Femme Fatale team’s credibility, let’s get to the Dockerys’ advice to their fellow firearms retailers on how to sell defensive guns to women. Firearms sales at this shop are about 95% personal defense-oriented as opposed to sporting use. 

Both Maria and Richard told SI that over the past two years women — particularly those new to shooting — have been picking larger handguns.

“The Smith & Wesson Equalizer is a real big hit, but they’re going for GLOCK 45, 17 and 19 and also the IWI Masada and the Walther PDP-F — all in 9mm. For people who don’t have a budget restriction, the Walther is what they usually go for,” she shared. 

The proprietors are happy to note husbands rarely buy guns for their wives; 90% of their sales are women buying their own guns. About 10% of female customers get their gun paid for by husbands, boyfriends or dads. A lone male shopping for a gift gun for a female in his life will be strongly encouraged to bring her in and buy her what she picks out.

“We don’t sell guns for men to give to their wives unless the wife picked it out,” Dockery stated adamantly.

For the many of our readers who will probably agree with this philosophy, feel free to use the following explanation from Mrs. Dockery: “You can’t buy shoes for someone else and expect them to fit perfectly. The same is true of firearms.”

Femme Fatale’s most popular long guns are AR-15 carbines — and, Dockery adds, “AR pistols because they’re lighter. We sell very few shotguns. We have customers who walk in and ask for a shotgun for home defense, and Richard and I will discuss the misconceptions about shotguns and steer them toward carbines. We do offer shotgun classes, but the AR, usually in 5.56, is much more popular.”

A final lesson: Femme Fatale has won big credibility points from gun purchasers for the company’s avid support of Second Amendment rights. If you look at the recent picture of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the constitutional carry bill into law in his state, you’ll see Maria and Richard Dockery proudly flanking him. 

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