Female Gun Ownership is on the Rise in the US
As recent as 2017, women only made up to 30% of gun owners. Now in 2022, they are the fastest-growing demographic of gun owners!
But women taking up arms is nothing new. Throughout American history, many female trailblazers didn’t allow gender to keep them from using firearms to serve and protect.
If you’re a female gun owner, you’ll be delighted to know you’re in good company. Here we cover the history of women who used firearms to defend their countries, protect their families and shoot for fun. We also compile the most recent data on women’s gun ownership from the last few years.
Female Gun Owners’ History
When it comes to women shooters, you probably think of legends like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane. But did you know that women fought during the American Revolution?
Meet Deborah Sampson, a teacher who disguised herself as a man and became a soldier for two years. She scouted territory, led expeditions and raids, and came under enemy fire.
And don’t forget Molly Pitcher, who traveled with Patriot soldiers and brought them water on the field. When her husband collapsed, she’s said to have taken her husband’s place in battle.
Almost a hundred years after the Revolutionary War, many women cut their hair and dressed like men to serve in Civil War armies. Historians estimate 400 women fought and died alongside male soldiers.
During the pioneering days, women learned to use guns for survival. They used their shooting skills to feed and protect their families. And the education of women and firearms continued from there. It’s even estimated that sharpshooter Annie Oakley taught 15,000 women how to shoot a gun.
The Early 2000s
Since the days of the American frontier, we have little documentation on female gun ownership. But it’s no secret that throughout history there has been a significant gender gap in ownership of firearms.
According to this study, over 50% of men were gun owners in 1980. That percentage takes a definitive decrease around the mid-90s, with only 35.8% of men owning guns in 2018.
Now, compare that to the women’s statistics. Just over 10% of women personally owned a gun in 1980. That number has largely stayed the same between 1980 and 2018 for female gun owners. The highest percentage was 13.7% in 1991, and the lowest was 9.2% in 1989.
While there was a decrease in the gender gap during these decades, that’s only because male ownership declined. But a lot can change in four years.
Since 2019, there has been a huge shift in gun ownership by women. According to the 2021 National Firearms Survey conducted by Harvard and Northwestern, nearly 50% of new gun owners were women between January 2019 and April 2021.
And in another survey compiled by the National Shooting Sports Foundation®, firearm retailers estimate that in 2021, 33.2% of first-time gun buyers were female. Additional surveys found that between January and July 2021, retailers saw an increase across female demographics:
- 96.1% of retailers reported an increase in white women purchasing firearms
- 90.6% of retailers reported an increase in black women purchasing firearms
- 83.6% of retailers reported an increase in Hispanic women purchasing firearms
- 76.5% of retailers reported an increase in Asian women purchasing firearms
Gun Ownership Breakdown
The FBI tracks all purchases of gun sales through background checks. In 2019, they conducted over 28 million background checks. In 2020, that number jumped to over 39 million. And in 2021, it was almost the same.
We know women are contributing to these numbers, but what kind of firearms are they purchasing? Credible data for this doesn’t exist, but we can find overall manufacturing data for gun sales.
Federal regulations require firearms manufacturers to report the number of firearms they make each year along with the type of firearm. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) publishes the numbers of firearms manufactured each year with a two-year delay.
The 2020 ATF report shows over 5.5 million pistols were manufactured. Of those pistols, 3.2 million were 9MM, making them the highest manufactured pistol that year. For revolvers, just over 993,000 were made. The highest manufactured revolver was the .22, which came to almost 600,000.
Shotguns and Long Barrels
Over 2.7 million rifles were made in 2020. In stark contrast, shotguns were below 500,000.
Number of Firearms
A report of miscellaneous firearms came to 1.3 million. Adding this number to handgun, rifle and shotgun production, the total manufactured firearms adds up to over 11 million.
So, What’s Changed?
We know since 2019, over 3.5 million women have become new gun owners. So why the uptick in female gun owners? The reasons vary, but recent surveys can give us an idea.
Higher Concern for Self Protection
A common reason for many women to own a gun is self-protection. The pandemic and civil unrest of 2020 largely contributed to more women wanting to increase their sense of safety.
A Girl and a Gun surveyed women who were new to firearms and inquired about their motivation to learn about guns:
- 14% Riots/Fear of mobs and civil unrest
- 12% Upcoming elections/fear of bans
- 8% Lack of law enforcement resources.
- 7% Pandemic/uncertainty of access to essentials
- 7% Rising unemployment/fear of crime
- 7% Fear of targeted violence/discrimination
Aside from concern over self-protection, other circumstances from the pandemic influenced first-timers. In the poll, 4% reported quarantine boredom and wanting to try it for fun. Another 3% reported their stimulus checks provided the opportunity.
More Safety Education
It’s also worth noting that firearm education for women has become more accessible. There are many classes, organizations, and gun clubs that are women-focused. All-female gun clubs are appealing because they offer a supportive and judgment-free environment for women to master their shooting skills.
Female Gun Ownership Is on the Rise, and We’re Here to Make Your Shooting Experience Better!
Gun ownership is on the rise, so get the right setup for your firearms. Silencer Central has provided gun owners with a safer and better shooting experience for over 10 years. We’ll set you up with a totally free gun trust and handle all the paperwork for you. Talk with one of our experts at 888-781-8778 or contact us today to hear about our eZ-pay program and direct shipping.