Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

The Annies Are Getting Their Guns: Women Sports Shooters on the Rise

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Martin Banks

This is part two of my previous post on the history of shooting sports.


Annie Oakley rose to fame in the 19th century, renowned around the world for her incredible marksmanship. It was said that Oakley was so skilled a markswoman, she could shoot the end of a cigarette between her husband’s lips or put holes in playing cards launched into the air before they hit the ground.

Part of Oakley’s novelty wasn’t just her skill; it was once considered extremely rare for women to be able to handle a gun, let alone shoot one with that kind of skill. But things are changing, and fast. Let’s take a look at in what ways.

More Women Gun Owners Than Ever

Women gun ownership is growing at a remarkable pace. Last year it was reported that gun ownership among women had risen by 77 percent since 2005.

Opinions are divided as to why more women than ever are learning to shoot. Some believe that guns have been highly glamorized by a pro-gun American society. Others point to the vulnerability that many women experience in terms of violent crimes. An armed women may feel safer when by themselves than their unarmed counterparts.

The truth is that while some women may be eager to learn to use guns for safety reasons, some women have far less cynical reasons. The owners of Trop Elite Equipment have seen an increase in female customers and even have a woman on the homepage of their website.


Good Sportsmanship


The shattering of a clay disk brings a round of applause.

Despite the vocal support of the women shooters for one another, they are very much determined to win the competition. “Shooting sports is my passion,” said Annette Mueller. It wasn’t until Mueller was 55 years of age that she developed an interest in learning to shoot. Now Mueller feels perfectly at home competing in shooting sports. “Whenever you see a target explode like fireworks, there’s nothing better,” said Mueller.

Shooting competitions have seen a nearly 70 percent growth in women participants. Meanwhile the number of women who hunt is up by 43 percent.

A Feeling of Empowerment

If gun ownership isn’t just about safety, but about competing in shooting games and even hunting wild animals, then is there another unifying factor in why more American women than ever are carrying and firing guns?

Some believe there is an empowering aspect to gun ownership. Rather than relying over on men for protection or viewing shooting activities as only for men, guns are something of an equalizer. Perhaps there is some fear as a motivator for why more women are buying guns. But it seems just as often, women are simply drawn to gun ownership with no real expectation of ever needing to use them in terms of self-defense.

One wonders what Annie Oakley would think of a world where women who are competent and talented shooters weren’t so rare as to be a side-show attraction. Oakley herself was a top earner for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Perhaps in her own way Oakley was a trailblazer for many of today’s women who feel encouraged to not only learn to shoot, but to excel. Not just for necessity, but as a genuine pleasurable pursuit.

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