A Girl & A Gun is quite possibly one of the most important women's outreach efforts underway to introduce more women to shooting.
Not familiar with A Girl & A Gun? Well, you should be.
Founded in February of 2011 in Austin, Texas by Julianna Crowder, a female (obviously) firearms instructor, A Girl & A Gun Women's Shooting League
was born out of Crowder's desire to build a stronger community of women shooters.
Using a little marketing savvy and a variety of social media tools, including MeetUp.com
, Crowder kicked off her A Girl & A Gun events, like Girl's Night Out, Breakfast & Bullets, and "T" Time (the "T" is for "target" or "trigger", natch), with just five or so participants.
And then it began to grow...and grow...and, grow faster.
This past February A Girl & A Gun celebrated its one year anniversary with 250 members. Today, they have approximately 470 members - a mere 88% growth in five months - with 11 chapters in Texas, one each in Colorado and Virginia, and chapters forming this year in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia.
Women in Vermont, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, Arizona and New Mexico have voiced interest in expanding the program in those states, and Crowder hopes to add as many as five more chapters before the end of the year.
A Girl & A Gun is the future of women's shooting in more ways than one. Photo: P. Erhardt
The Arms Room outside Houston is an NSSF Five-Star rated range. Photo: P. Erhardt
While on a trip to Texas The Shooting Wire
attended one of the organization's Girl's Night Out events held at The Arms Room
in League City, just south of Houston. And let me tell you, there were lots and lots of 'girls' there.
Thursday night's event was held in conjunction with a Divas On The Prowl gathering, another women's social event, which helped draw as many as 200 women to the range that evening, making it an ideal opportunity for A Girl & A Gun to recruit new members, and The Arms Room to find new customers.
By-the-way, as most range and gun shop owners will tell you it's difficult bringing women into your facility, but it's a lot easier when yours is an NSSF Five Star rated
range, like The Arms Room.
Women line up for their chance to shoot. Photo: P. Erhardt
Once I waded through the sea of women lined up to sign their range waivers (a tough job I know, but somebody had to do it), I met up with Tracy Hughes, the facilitator for the Houston chapter.
You may remember reading about Hughes back in May when Between The Berms spotlighted her Brilliant Backstraps
After reading an article about the program in IDPA's Tactical Journal
magazine, Hughes contacted Crowder about starting a chapter in Houston. Then she turned to sisters Brandy Liss and Kathleen James at The Arms Room about hosting the chapter's meetings.
Knowing that most ranges would love to bring more women into their facility as customers, Hughes approached the sisters with a simple business proposition.
"Essentially I went to Brandy and Kathleen saying 'let me do all the work and bring the program and the women to you' and that's what sold them on it," explained Hughes.
Liss, who handles the marketing for The Arms Room, said that she specifically targets women, juniors and new shooters. So when Hughes approached them about the women-only program the two sisters didn't think twice before saying yes.
"We always say 'safety is sexy' so A Girl & A Gun was a perfect fit for The Arms Room," said Liss
Brandy Liss talks to some of the hundreds of customers that packed her store last Thursday night. Photo: P. Erhardt
And apparently it's also good business because the women's market, driven in part by A Girl & A Gun, has helped to spike traffic and sales at The Arms Room.
Since launching in October of 2011, A Girl & A Gun's Houston chapter has grown to 85 members, plus four junior members, ranging in age from 12-years-old to 65+.
Hughes observed that at least 50% of her membership is "returning to shoot at the range outside of the club's scheduled events." Crowder confirmed this was true across all A Girl & A Gun chapters.
Both Hughes and Crowder point to the social aspect of A Girl & A Gun as the key to drawing in new members and keeping them shooting.
June Murray is one of those women that hits the range more often now that she's a member.
Murray, a professional with a self-described 'desk job' with one of the major players in the oil industry, has had a CCW for five years, and since joining A Girl & A Gun two months ago she finds herself shooting more often.
"The first time I attended one of their events I decided I wanted to join and now I am looking forward to my Girl & A Gun time on the range," says Murray who had previously frequented an outdoor range with her boyfriend. Now her boyfriend sees her shooting more and more without him.
Murray (r) along with other members of the Houston chapter ran the range during the Girl's Night Out event. Photo: P. Erhardt
One of the reasons this might be is the fact that women find they are more comfortable learning to shoot among other women where criticism is seen as a bit more constructive.
"It's different getting a shooting critique from another woman than it is from my boyfriend. It's just easier to take," admits Murray.
Both Hughes and Crowder noted that women aren't always comfortable learning to shoot in the company of men because they don't want to look stupid in front of their male counterparts. A natural, and understandable, feeling considering women represent a small - but growing - minority within the predominantly male firearms world.
A Girl & A Gun gives its members a fun, social atmosphere in which to learn about firearms, without the interference of what Michael Bane famously described as the "Little Lady Syndrome" where men are compelled to be the "experts" and end up coming across more condescending than chivalrous.
Sorry ladies. We can't help it, it's in our DNA.
For women like Devon Kruppa, an 18-year-old college student, and Hughes' niece, the experience of shooting with the women has had an even more significant impact.
Kruppa was introduced to shooting by her father when she was 15, but explains that shooting with the other members of A Girl & A Gun has "made me more confident and less shy."
Back in January she joined the International Defensive Pistol Association, and just last month she competed in her very first sanctioned match, the Texas State IDPA Championship, where she (noted with great pride) "didn't finish last."
More and more women are looking to shoot and A Girl & A Gun is giving them the chance. Photo: P. Erhardt
While previous outreach programs targeting women have fallen flat, or had success limited by their niche focus, A Girl & A Gun is taking hold with a simple, yet effective formula that's rolling out the welcome mat to women and giving them their own space within the larger shooting community.
And just in time. Or about time, depending on how you look at it.
To learn more about A Girl & A Gun visit their website, AGirlandAGunClub.com
, or you can find A Girl & A Gun on Facebook
and follow @AGAGClub
If you are a range owner interested in hosting A Girl & A Gun chapter at your location, contact Julianna Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can help.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at email@example.com.