From the moment Earl and Deborah Curtis purchased Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Va., they wanted to establish a strong female customer base.
“Our main goal was to make it a place where women can come in and feel comfortable,” said Earl Curtis. “When we first bought the place 10 years ago, it was dingy and ugly. Now it’s a bright, clean, nice place to come.”
At Blue Ridge Arsenal, making women feel comfortable is a top priority — and no detail is too small. Curtis said he has trained his staff to really listen to female customers, and he employs a female shooting instructor. The store is clean, well lit and has a seating area so customers can relax between range sessions.
“We also have a very nice women’s restroom,” Curtis said. “It’s something small that means a lot to a woman.”
Other perks Blue Ridge Arsenal offers include free gun cleaning and two hours of free range time with the purchase of a gun.
Most of the women who come to Blue Ridge Arsenal are looking for self-defense guns.
“For women, it’s about empowerment,” he said. “They want to know how to shoot and how to handle a gun. They ask a lot of questions, and they want to experience a gun before they buy.”
He said it is definitely an advantage to have a range where women can try firearms and get comfortable with them.
She Can Shoot
Blue Ridge Arsenal has an established ladies night where women shoot for half-price, and Curtis said ladies night is always a busy night at the range. To reach even more women, Curtis has made his range available to a women’s group called She Can Shoot: The Shooting Divas of DMV.
She Can Shoot, founded by Tina Wilson-Cohen, offers firearm training to women by women. Instructors are NRA certified and complete six months of additional training required by She Can Shoot. Currently, there are seven active She Can Shoot chapters, with more in the works. Membership is free and the focus is on empowerment in a friendly, social atmosphere. Events include everything from low-light shooting training and pepper spray training to excursions to gun shows.
Curtis has hosted several She Can Shoot events at his range, and said they are a great organization. Typically, the Shooting Divas rent one side of Blue Arsenal’s Range and instruct women on an aspect of shooting. Curtis has seen gun sales increase as the new shooters who attend the events buy guns from his operation.
“The Smith & Wesson M&P is one of the top guns women buy,” Curtis said. “The Springfield XD(M) is also popular.”
He said these firearms are popular because they have an adjustable backstrap that can be sized to fit a woman’s hands. The Walther PK380 is another gun women like to buy because it’s easy to shoot and has less felt recoil, Curtis noted.
Blue Ridge Arsenal stocks the SIG SAUER Mosquito in pink and purple —
and the guns always sell out within a day or two of appearing in the display case.
Pink Says Shooting Isn’t “Just For Boys”
A continuing trend among women gun buyers is pink guns, which sell well, according to Curtis. He said Blue Ridge Arsenal has stocked the SIG SAUER Mosquito in pink and purple, and he always sells them within a day or two of the guns appearing in the display case. Curtis also donated a Glock 19 in DuraCoat pink to an auction and it was one of the top sellers.
No matter what your personal feelings are on pink guns, they definitely send the message to women that they are welcome. Just displaying guns and accessories in “feminine” colors says your store is woman-friendly.
Every gun store should have at least one pink gun on display — especially to attract young women. Imagine this scenario: A 10-year-old girl reluctantly accompanies her dad to a gun store. Until she walked into your store and saw a pink Cricket 22 rifle, she thought shooting and hunting were for boys. She knows right away that pink gun is for girls and, all of a sudden, shooting isn’t “just for boys,” but a sport she can pursue.
That’s how powerful the color pink is, and how easily you can set a young woman on the path of a creating new generation of female shooters.
Two out of five customers at Blue Ridge Arsenal are women, and with that, Curtis has made the commitment to stock accessories specifically for women. His best-sellers are Galco purses, pink ear and eye protection from Howard Leight, and Looper holsters. He also noted that women buy a lot of range bags, and one of the brands he plans to stock is Cody Range Bags.
Blue Ridge Arsenal has a strong online presence, with their own website at
www.blueridgearsenal.com, plus pages on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Using Social Media
What is Curtis’ goal in 2013?
“To improve on what I’m doing and expand social media,” he said.
Blue Ridge Arsenal has been posting activities and handgun ads on Facebook for a while, and has more than 5,000 friends.
Additionally, Curtis recently started posting on Pinterest because it’s a growing Internet site, and he thought it would be a good way to reach more women. Pinterest is an online virtual inspiration board that lets people share things they find on the Internet. People post photos of anything and everything they like — from recipes to targets worth bragging over.
Gun stores should explore creating a presence on Pinterest because its primary users are young women ages 18 to 34 — which is exactly the audience the shooting sports need to attract.
Ladies nights at the range is an obvious sign that women are welcome in the shooting world, but there are plenty of small, subtle details that send the message that women are valuable customers — such as female staff, lighting, clean restrooms and even pink guns. When it comes to advertising your store, think outside the box by using social media like Pinterest or distributing fliers in women-only gyms. Plenty of women are curious about firearms and just looking for someone to welcome them into the shooting sports. Get creative with your marketing and make sure they find your business. By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
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