How to Sell a Handgun to a Woman
By Linda Gilbertson
Ladies, if you happen to be in the neighborhood of your local gun store, drop off a few copies of this magazine, or give them the website to subscribe. This issue has information that will benefit them and all women visiting their store.
The shooting industry has been full of advice on how to sell guns, from the point of view of the folks behind the counter. Now, here is how to do it, as seen from the other side of the counter! Over the last 5 years I have trained over 500 women how to shoot handguns, at my Ladies’ Day Firearms Training. As part of the course, I offer to accompany them when they go to buy their first firearm.
As a result, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of how men try to sell handguns to women. The truly ugly are the “tacticool” shops – where all the salesmen act as if the customer is a threat, and they must be ready to draw on them at any second. As soon as we enter, we are observed – and ignored! Occasionally, a salesman will come over and ask, in his most condescending tone, if he can help us “little ladies”? Generally, they remain aloof, as if somehow our money is not as good as a MAN’s. Of course, they never get to find out, as we do a quick about face and head for the door, and a more welcoming shop.
Next up are the shops that are, shall we say, stuck in the ‘50s. The salesmen direct the ladies over to the far counter, where the “cute little” .25’s and super light 2” .38’s with pink grips are stored. Some even offer .32 revolvers, to save the ladies from the “bone crushing recoil of a .38 Special”. My students have already fired a .22, a lightweight 2” .38, steel framed 4“.38, 9mm Springfield XD, and .45 ACP 1911. They know they can handle the recoil of all these guns, some better than others. Some of the salesmen appear shocked when my student heads for the 9mm, .40, or even .45 caliber XD’s and 1911’s. Guys, get over it. My students and many other ladies have well-formed ideas of what they want!
The best shops are those who, after seeing several of my students buying guns with me, have asked for, and listened to, the view from my side of the sales counter. First, they diligently train their staff to accept the ladies as customers, of equal merit with the men. The younger salesmen seem to accept my ladies better than some of the older gents. They don’t talk down to them, but ask the right questions -as they would of a man.
Of course among the first questions is “What are you going to use it for?’ Obviously, a ‘house gun/training gun’ can be larger than a carry gun. Some of my students, having tried a lightweight 2” .38, gravitate towards them, while others say “no way!” A surprisingly large number like the striker fired polymer guns (XD, Glock, S&W M&P), even as a carry gun. And smaller percentages want a 1911 style, perhaps in 9mm rather than .45.
Your sales staff also needs to listen to the language the ladies use. If they know the difference between a bullet and a cartridge, and between the ‘handle’ and the grip, your female customer has had some training. They may not know every bit of jargon about guns (you men have grown up with it), but please, respond in kind. Be ready to explain if your comment gets a quizzical look, or to move on if she nods knowingly.
The more ‘female friendly’ shops have a counter with a few of the “cute” guns and pink guns. They also have some light weight 2”.38s, and the 9mm polymer guns in the medium barrel lengths. Also in this counter are a selection of gun purses (Gun Toten Mama’s, Galco), and a few offset (or “ladies“) holsters. These are the holsters where there is a spacer between the paddle/belt loops and the holster body – as you men have noticed, women are built differently than men, and need this feature. Also in this area are some aftermarket grips – not all of us women have tiny, little hands. As you already know, a larger grip completely changes the feel of a small frame revolver, and can make the sale for you.
Treat the ladies right, and not only will they come back, they will start bringing their friends. The new trend among my students is the shopping trip – for gun gear. You can build a customer base for life with this fast growing segment of society. And you will find that when the men have a shooting partner under the same roof, they start shooting (and buying) more too.
In Part II, we’ll discuss who to avoid when buying a pistol and also the value of add-ons to make your shopping experience more complete and your subsequent shooting experience more comfortable.