How many of us remember the cheesy PG-13 and R-rated gun advertisements from the ’80’s and ’90’s that mostly featured scantily-clad middle-aged women, poor trigger discipline and emotionless faces?  Even though the shots were captured by what must have been the most disposable cameras available, sex sold more than a few cheap guns.

Searching back even further, vintage gun ads show a degree of sexuality in their photos, though a much more restrained version that matched the more conservative morals of the day.  Innuendo, cleavage and a seductive wink were pushing the boundaries, rather than the norm.

Jumping forward in time, in came the new millennium and with it, the social media boom calling in a new generation of aspiring photographers and models looking to make it big on the internet.  Lingerie-and-machine-gun-hottie type videos were big in the 2000’s.  Likewise SHOT show “Gun Bunny” models had many tongues a-wagging, to the point where they seemed to detract from the very industry they were there to promote.  While the digital camera revolution may have increased the ease with which someone could take a decent photo, the mainstream marketing campaigns featuring scantily clad women, seemed to have peaked and begun its inevitable ebb during this time.

Why the decline?  If so many gun owners are red meat-eating, chest thumping sons-of-bitches, why shouldn’t there be an eternal supply of silicone-laden bleach-blondes lining up for one ad campaign after another?  There are a number of reasons and here are what I consider the most pertinent.

Women are buying guns in greater number than ever.

While the ATF doesn’t break down NICS checks by demographics, there have been numerous polls and studies showing a hefty increase in female gun ownership.  The National Sporting Goods Association featured a poll showing female participation in shooting sports up by 51.5% from 2001-2011.  A 2014 PEW poll showed women’s opinions on guns doing “more good than harm” as having raised 11% from two years prior.  A Crime Research Prevention center report showed a 270% increase in female concealed-carry permit holders from 2008-2015. While not scientific, a huge number of gun dealers across the country have anecdotally reported vastly increased numbers of female customers.

Do you want gun manufacturers to have healthy sales?  (Yes, you do.)  Then accept that to have the most robust sales possible, the half of the population that has been traditionally less likely to buy a gun needs to be welcomed in.  For that to happen in the most complete way possible, the T&A advertising has severely needed to exit the mainstream.

Women and girls are more diversely represented than ever.

There are more women competing in shooting sports (and winning them) than ever before.  5-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode, 7-time Womens USPSA champion Julie Golob and even teenage wunder-shooter Katie Francis provide a professional representation of females in the gun industry.  Not only are women buying more guns and participating in competitions, women (and girls) are increasingly featured on hunting shows.  Regardless of what one segment of the consumer base may enjoy for visual consumption, many have to ask themselves what kind of industry they want to expose their moms, daughters, sisters and wives to.  Positive role models such as the pro-shooters mentioned above are much better universal brand ambassadors than the models who are lacking the most basic knowledge of firearms safety or operation.  In an increasingly over-sexualized world, I want my kids growing up enjoying the pure thrill of an excellent shot, not getting improper anatomy lessons.

Girls And Guns | Has The Gun Industry Grown Up?
Photo courtesy of Katie Francis