Women in the United States continue to join in the shooting sports at increasing numbers, proving that firearms culture isn’t just a boy’s club, but a way of life for everyone.
For nearly a decade, the number of females participating in shooting sports has increased in nearly every category, including hunting, target shooting and muzzleloading.
These aren’t a handful of extra women picking up guns and bows, but rather thousands of females learning new skills, taking up time-honored traditions, entering the competitive field, and investing in their self-defense through shooting.
NRA's Women on Target Program
By the numbers From 2006 to 2015, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported an increase of nearly 70 percent in the number of women participating in bowhunting. That same report details a more than 56 percent jump in women in target shooting, with a massive 75 percent increase in the number of women shooting pistols.
As of 2015 more than a quarter of American handgun users are women, with that number sure to increase coming off a record year for gun sales in 2016. Women also constitute about one-fifth of shotgun and rifle shooters nationwide.
Even muzzleloading, a bastion for hunting purists and traditionalists, experienced a nearly 49 percent boom in the number of females participating. With the exception of a minute 1.7 percent fall in firearm hunting and similar 1.6 percent drop in paintball participation, women are joining the shooting sports in record numbers.
Circle of champions As more women continue to enter the shooting sports, circles, more women are capturing championships and titles in those sports. They’re not just part of the team – they’re leading it.
Olympic gold medalist Ginny Thrasher
Recall last summer when Virginia teenager Ginny Thrasher stole the spotlight in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, bringing home the Games’ first gold medal, earned in her triumph in the Women’s 10-meter air rifle competition. Earlier in the year, she swept the NCAA Rifle Championship’s individual smallbore and air rifle titles, leading her Mountaineer team to their fourth-straight title.
Double trap and skeet champion Kim Rhode earned her sixth Olympic medal in Rio, a bronze in skeet. Fellow shotgun shooter Corey Cogdell followed suit, earning a bronze in women’s trap.
Just this past weekend, two female freshmen from WVU’s rifle team followed in teammate Ginny Thrasher’s footsteps, as Morgan Phillips and Milica Babic won individual in smallbore and air rifle at the 2017 NCAA Rifle Championships, leading the Mountaineers to a fifth consecutive title.
WVU's Morgan Phillips (Photo courtesy/WVU)
Notably, coming into this year’s NCAA champs, the top-ranked team in the country was the rifle team of Texas Christian University – comprised of all women. The ladies of the Horned Frogs’ squad finished second to WVU.
The rise of women in the shooting sports has inspired countless younger females to learn, train and excel in new ways, finding powerful new role models winning in a traditionally male-dominated field.
Competitive shooting events like 3-Gun, IDPA, USPSA, steel matches and other disciplines are showcasing female stars that routinely bring home titles with their incredible skills. Competitors like Gabby Franco, Jessie Duff, Julie Golob, Maggie Reese, Janna Reeves and Lena Miculek have proven their mettle in competition and become the faces of the companies that sponsor them.
These accomplished women are building the next generation of young ladies in the shooting sports, with rising stars like Cheyenne Dalton, Madalyn Stewart and Katie Francis next in line to lead the way.
Hunting for her Women are increasingly finding their place in the hunting lifestyle, especially in bowhunting. Even with more gradual growth of female participation in hunting overall – a 3.3 percent increase from 2006 to 2015 – the numbers show that more women are hunting now than ever before.
Ladies like Eva Shockey, Tiffany Lakosky, Nicole Jones, Shemane Nugent, and Junie Pack all host popular hunting programs on television, taking viewers along as they travel the country – and the world – on their hunts and in their lifestyles.
Outside of television, women are building lifestyle brands geared toward females in the shooting sports and outdoors lifestyles. Best friends Jen and Norissa founded Girls With Guns Clothing to outfit women in the shooting sports who’d been forced to wear men’s and boys sizes in outdoor clothing.
Jen and Norissa of Girls With Guns
Kirstie Pike founded Prois Hunting Apparel in 2006 to provide high-performance hunting gear for women, a category that had been woefully underserved.
For more than two decades, Peggy Farrell has led Becoming an Outdoors Woman, a Wisconsin-based non-profit program that’s introduced thousands of women to hunting by teaching them beginner’s outdoor skills.
Voices of freedom The freedoms that grant and protect the right to freely participate in the shooting sports and own firearms for self-defense purposes are constantly under attack by anti-gun politicos and pundits who seek to disarm the population in the so-called name of safety.
Setting the record straight and rising to defend the Second Amendment is a never-ending battle, and some of the best champions of our freedoms today are women who are unafraid to step up and speak out.
Talk and TV host, author and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch is a dedicated defender of the Second Amendment, routinely appearing on NRATV to discuss important gun rights issues and routinely tackling anti-gun contenders in her work with The Blaze.
Jenn Jacques is the editor of popular firearms new site Bearing Arms, where she covers not only gun rights and issues, but writes about the shooting sports lifestyle, encouraging women across the country to get involved in shooting for all it has to offer, and spearheaded a campaign last October to help victims of domestic violence.
Kimberly Corban, a rape survivor, met with former President Barack Obama to explain the importance of gun rights for Americans to be able to defend themselves and their families.
Firearm ownership can be much more than competition shooting, or hunting, or self-defense. More and more women in the U.S. understand the value of those sports and the freedoms that allow them to prosper with each passing year.
This Women’s History Month, we not only recall the heroism, courage and wisdom of women in our past that blazed so many trails for today’s generation, but honor the women in the shooting sports that are opening doors to the women of tomorrow, continuing to knock down barriers and show the world they’re every bit as talented, capable and prepared as the guys are, and they’re ready to prove it.