Women and Firearms: A Subculture We Love
Women and guns from 1776 to the modern-day
- Women have used guns since their invention, and they've been using guns in the USA since the American Revolution.
- Women have their own shooting competitions, and female gun athletes have surpassed men in some areas.
- Women gun lovers are part of the woman empowerment movement.
- Gun-loving social influencers are encouraging the rise of the women and guns subculture.
- The percentage of women who own guns doubled between 2003 and 2020.
The subculture of female firearm enthusiasts is an embodiment of the female empowerment movement of the 21st century. The increase of women using guns indicates that they aren't waiting to be rescued by a knight on a white horse or anyone else for that matter. They have abandoned the ideals of the damsel in distress and grabbed the tools they need to defend themselves.
Women are signing up for self-defense courses, getting concealed-carry permits, and buying guns and ammunition at record rates. This cultural shift is both a cause and a symptom of a more empowered woman. In response, manufacturers are making pink pistol grips, form-fitted hunting clothing, and other accessories designed to appeal to this subculture, but women don't just want the girly stuff.
Whether they're carrying a pink pistol or a black Glock, female gun enthusiasts are armed and ready. They are forming groups, winning competitions, writing websites, and sharing their love of firearms on social media. This guide dives into the subculture of women and guns from its roots, which are as old as this country, to its modern-day manifestations. Here's what you need to know about the love affair between girls and their guns.
A proud US tradition of women and guns
During the American Revolution, many women followed their husbands into battle to help with washing, cooking, and medical care, but a few women actually grabbed guns and fought to establish this great country.
During the Battle of Monmouth, Mary Ludwig arrived with water for the parched soldiers, but when her husband was injured, she grabbed his artillery piece to fire at the British. Another woman, Margaret Corbin fought almost to the death alongside her husband during the British assault on Fort Washington — he sadly died, but she survived and became the first American female to get a soldier's lifetime pension.
Pretending to be men to fight
Despite the success of the female shooters noted above, the American Army didn't allow women to take up arms. So, many women pretended to be men so they could join the armed forces during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
One woman, Deborah Sampson, used her deceased brother's name to join the Continental Army. After getting wounded in a Battle in New York, she let physicians take care of her head injury, but then, she snuck out of the field hospital and extracted bullets from her thigh on her own with a sewing needle so they wouldn't find out her identity.
Trapshooting — a feminine activity
In the 1870s, women played just as important a role in westward expansion as men, and they often had to wield guns to protect their properties. They also turned to gun-related sports. Gun manufacturers during this era promoted trapshooting as a "feminine activity" similar to shopping or club work.
Annie Oakley brings women and guns into the mainstream
Born in 1860, Annie Oakley was perhaps the most famous female sharpshooter to ever live. Like other women on the western frontier, she used guns for self-sufficiency and defense. She started hunting with guns as a child to feed her family in Western Ohio, and by the age of 15, she was winning shooting competitions against men.
Oakley traveled with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show throughout the United States and Europe in the 1880s, and she personally taught 15,000 women around the world how to shoot.
A growing number of female gun owners
Women with guns are not a relic of the Old West — they are a quickly growing subculture of the modern-day world. As of 2020, a quarter of American women own guns, while only 13% of women owned guns in 2003. This means the percentage of women with guns nearly doubled in 17 years — that's a big change!
The number of women obtaining permits is also increasing at twice the speed of the number of men with permits. The majority of women who own firearms say that gun ownership is essential to their personal freedom, and they are ready to protect themselves, their homes, and their families.
Organizations for female gun owners
As the number of women who own guns has increased, so too have groups and resources for these gun owners. The Well Armed Woman is an online resource that has over 350 shooting chapters throughout the United States. Similarly, the group A Girl and a Gun is a shooting league with over 100 chapters that holds competitions and events for female gun owners.
Some groups exist to support very specific segments of female gun owners. EmPOWERed, for example, is a group for women on college campuses who want to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.
Publications for women
There are also firearms publications just for women. Founded in 1989, Woman and Guns was the world's first firearms publication focused on women, and it continues to have a robust following over 30 years later. Women's Outdoor News is a news site that covers hunting, shooting, and fishing for women, and other female-focused websites include Girl's Guide to Guns and Huntress View.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram don't allow retailers to advertise guns, so female influencers have stepped in to help. Popular social media stars like Lauren Young, Kimberly Matte, and Liberte Austin promote guns and ammo on their personal pages, and these gun enthusiasts have played a significant role in the emergence of the subculture of women and guns. There is a strong correlation between the increase in female gun owners and the rise of social media between 2003 and 2020.
Women winning competitions
There are all kinds of gun-related competitions for female-only contestants. They include the USPSA Multi-Gun Ladies Championship. Women's events at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Shooting Championship, the South Dakota Lady State Championship, the Wisconsin Lady State Championship, and many other international, national, and regional events. Shooters like Dakota Overland, Diane Sorantino, and Kim Rhode have dominated these competitions.
Kim Rhode, in fact, is a six-time Olympic medalist, and her accomplishments have made her outshine many female and male athletes. She is the first (and only) American athlete to win six consecutive medals in an individual sport.
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