You’ve heard the hype: women are the new shooters … females are the fastest growing demographic in the firearms industry. Great! But what does that mean down at your local gun shop, especially if you’re one of these new or would-be women shooters?
Welcome to Davenport Guns, the first female-owned and oriented gun store in the cornfields stretching from Chicago to Des Moines. Owner Jeanelle Westrom is serious about shooting and about getting women involved for sport, for self-defense, or just to blow off steam at the range.
“A lot of our customers are women who’ve never touched a gun. We change that. Our store is hands on. There’s no pressure or intimidation in our sales style. Some people are surprised at how quickly women take to firearms once given the opportunity. Not me.”
Jeanelle should know. She grew up shooting and has the trophies to prove it: long-distance … rifles … pistols. She’s still involved. Each summer she’s at Camp Perry, Ohio for the National Matches where she both shoots and sells high-power rifles. You can find her on the range or in her store on Commercial Row.
But back to Davenport Guns. This is serious business, but it’s not your grandpa’s gun shop. No cracker barrel, no dust, no dog-eared pile of shooting magazines. What you will find is 3,000 square feet of top-notch firearms and accessories. There’s everything a shooter could want, from big 1911s to high-tech AR-15s. But there are also a lot of small caliber pistols … not much recoil and perfect for smaller hands and first-time shooters.
“It’s not all about pink guns and pepper spray,” says Jeanelle. “It’s about making everyone feel welcome.” But, shooting for women customers means providing goods and services new to the industry such as all-female concealed carry classes and shooting clubs. Like on-site daycare for moms using the 12-lane indoor shooting range or the archery range upstairs on ladies’ night.
Jeanelle’s not shy about reaching out to the new demographic. “Our first TV and radio commercials turned heads … got us a lot of attention, and customers,” says Jeanelle. “The radio ad started with two sharp gunshots … then the words, ‘Women: you’re not as big. You’re not as strong. But you’re smart enough to know you can defend yourself.’ Our TV commercial showed guys firing pistols at the range. When the third shooter turned around to talk to the camera, there was no mistaking she was a woman.”
All this means long days. The shop is open late. Sunday is no day of rest. “We got a Facebook PM … private message … at 3:45 on a Sunday morning. It was a woman police officer. She was coming to Davenport for the annual Iowa Women’s Police Conference.” The officer wanted to visit the shop but was worried the conference hours would keep her past the store’s closing. The answer: “Come when you’re able. We’ll stick around to accommodate your schedule. We have a retired officer on staff who can take care of you.”
A visit to Davenport Guns makes it clear that attracting the “fastest growing segment of the shooting industry” is more than a dry statistic in a marketing report. It’s hard work in the front lines of an old trade made new. In this case, it also happens to be “Woman’s Work.”