By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
Personal defense is the reason most often cited by women as they decide to purchase a firearm. The reasons behind this decision vary — it could be because someone they know was the victim of a crime or they want to take a proactive approach and be responsible for their own protection. No matter why a woman decides it’s time to buy a firearm, the first thing she’ll want is training. Women tend to have more trepidation about firearms than men, and they’ll naturally seek out the advice of experts in the field, and (hopefully) their local gun store. What the gun store has to offer women and how she’s treated once she sets foot in the door will make all the difference in creating a shooting enthusiast and life-long customer.
At the Firing Line Indoor Gun Range and Gun Shop in Westland, Mich., one of the people women will most likely encounter first is Robin Boruta, a firearms instructor, salesperson and IDPA champion. The Firing Line holds monthly women-only Michigan Concealed Pistol License classes taught by Baruto. “Some women are intimidated by being in a class with men who might have more experience with firearms. They’re more comfortable in a ladies-only class and it’s different having a female instructor present to women,” she said.
Baruto said because she’s a small-statured woman, women see her and feel more comfortable — and if she can handle a full-size firearm, so can they. “I don’t conceal or carry a little gun,” Baruto noted. “I’m a GLOCK girl and the GLOCK 19 is my first choice. It’s user-friendly and the perfect size; there’s not a lot of recoil and it’s a defensive gun. It’s probably my first choice for anyone.”
A female firearm instructor in a woman-only class can offer different options and insights than in a regular class, Baruto noted. “For example, using a public restroom with a gun on your hip is an entirely different situation for men and women,” she said.
GLOCK 19 Gen4
Options For Carry
When it comes to carrying a firearm, Baruto is a strong proponent of on-the-body carry. “A purse holster is a last resort,” she added. “Strong-side on the hip, outside the waistband (OWB) is the most comfortable for many women. Inside the waistband (IWB) is difficult for women because we have curves. You’d have to buy your pants a size bigger and most women aren’t willing to do that.”
As an advocate of OWB carry, she offers women tips on how to hide a firearm. “Most people aren’t looking for a gun on the hip, so it’s not hard to hide. A hoodie, a shirt or a vest make a gun easy to conceal; as long as it’s covered, people aren’t looking.”
One of Baruto’s favorite OWB holster makers is Multi Holsters, which also happens to be made locally in Michigan. “I find their holsters to be the easiest to conceal and very comfortable,” she said. Multi Holsters are made of Kydex and come in both IWB and OWB styles, as well as a pocket holster. Customers can select the best holster options to fit their needs and give their holster a custom look by choosing from one of 40 different Kydex colors and patterns. Kydex offers the advantage of being waterproof, chemical-resistant, scratch-resistant and it won’t stretch out of shape over time. Multi Holsters also sells cool looking mini-Kydex wallets that would be a great add-on sale.
Another holster Baruto recommends is the BLACKHAWK! SERPA holster — especially for those who are new to concealed carry and want additional retention features in a holster. The SERPA Auto Lock Release reinforces a full master grip, which allows users to draw the weapon normally with the index finder sliding from the holster body to the weapon frame in one single movement. Upon reholstering, the Auto Lock immediately engages the triggerguard with an audible click that won’t let go until released.
Create Fun Opportunities
The key to building a successful female customer base is creating a pleasant and sociable atmosphere for women to explore the shooting sports. The owners of the Firing Line invested in a state-of-the art shooting range with a high-tech filtration system, which cleans the air and filters out gunpowder and soot. They have three separate ranges all under one roof: two eight-lane, 25-yard gun ranges and a three-lane, 50-yard range for rifles. Combine the ranges with excellent classroom facilities and most bases are covered. To make things a bit more fun and social, the Firing Line regularly hosts a ladies night consisting of a half-hour of instruction and then shooting on the range, ladies only!
The Firing Line also has an active chapter of the Well Armed Woman — a non-profit organization that facilitates local groups of women around the country to meet, practice, learn and grow as shooters. These chapter meetings are fun, interactive events where women feel safe asking questions and discussing firearms with other women. If you don’t already have a Well Armed Woman chapter meeting at you operation, reach out to the group and offer your range as a female-friendly meeting place. Dealers who become involved with groups like this often report a growth in their business and an influx of new clientele.
The Firing Line also has a class called “Fundamentals of Shooting,” which Baruto said is well attended by teens. Parents want their kids to be safe around firearms and they want to take them on the range with them, Baruto noted, so it’s a great introductory class for the family: “We’re seeing more families at the range. Parents feel if their children are familiar with firearms, it takes some of the mystery away.”
What works for the Firing Line may not fit perfectly with your store, but if you incorporate a few ideas — like hiring female staff members and offering shooting-related opportunities for the whole family — your shop is sure to profit.