By Dave Workman, Contributing Editor
No doubt about it, increasing numbers of women, including a lot of Millenials, are showing a growing interest in gun ownership and the shooting sports.
As you might expect, the firearms industry has taken notice, and many gun manufacturers will be including new and modified designs popular with women at the 2016 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas January 19-22.
Of course, Women & Guns will have a number of contributing writers prowling the show, looking for new guns to report on, and maybe qualify for test reports in upcoming issues. We did have advance notice of some of the newer guns to report here, but first a little more about the impact of women on the marketplace.
That’s the word from Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), who noted that shooting is seen as a social activity by many Millenials, as well as older people.
“In some areas,” he said, “up to 43 percent of the first-time gun buyers are women. They are not just buying guns and sticking them in drawers. They want to know how to use them, and safety is a big interest.”
NSSF has a program called “First Shot” that appeals to new shooters and it covers not only safety but care and cleaning of firearms.
Also, he said, enrollment in safety courses has exploded, and waiting lists to get into some classes is par for the course.
As 2016 unfolds, there are some new guns on the market that will likely get the attention of new and veteran shooters alike. Here’s a partial look at what’s available.
From Browning comes a .22-caliber version of the Black Label 1911 pistol, and this one has a threaded muzzle for fitting a suppressor. Two versions are avail-able, a full-size model with a 4½-inch barrel and a compact with a 3-5/8-inch barrel. They have composite frames with accessory rails.
Both have fixed steel sights, G-10 composite grips, an extended ambidextrous thumb safety and beavertail grip safeties.
With a little more horsepower, the Black Label 1911-380 Pro is available with or without a rail. It also has steel combat three-dot sights or night sights.
Sig Sauer will offer a slightly-updated model of the P225, a popular compact 9mm that has long been a favorite among women interested in personal protection and competitive shooting. The P225-A1 has a single-stack eight-round magazine, Siglite night sights, thin profile that fits a smaller hand, Nitron finish on the stainless steel slide and hard coat anodized frame. It has a 3.6-inch barrel, 4.4-pound single-action trigger pull and 10-pound double-
Another favorite is the limited edition P229 in either .357 Sig or .40 S&W. It has a 3.5-inch barrel, standard grip length, shortened slide and Siglite night sights.
Also, late in 2015, Sig Sauer announced a .22-caliber version of the P250 modular pistol.
A favorite among men and women who want a small, powerful and simple defensive revolver is a model from North American Arms and, during the first quarter of 2016, expect to see an updated return of the break-top Ranger model. Chambered in .22 Magnum, this five-round revolver will be built from 17-4 pH stainless steel, with a 1-5/8-inch barrel and fixed sights. The overall length will be the same as the original Ranger at 5-1/8 inches, and it will weigh just over seven ounces.
Remington has announced a compact .380 ACP-caliber pistol that is already getting lots of attention. It has a 6-round magazine, giving it seven-shot firepower with one in the chamber. It has a stainless steel slide with wide cocking serrations, ambidextrous magazine release, extended beavertail to prevent pinches of the gun hand, functional slide stop/release and long double-action-only trigger.
Pistols in both 9mm and .45 ACP are being introduced by American Tactical Imports. The FX-H 1911 is a single-action semi-auto on the 1911 frame with a 5-inch stainless steel “match grade” barrel, polymer frame and stainless steel slide with a fiber op-tic front sight. It features an ambi-dextrous thumb safety, beavertail grip safety and finger grooves on the front strap. There’s also an ac-cessory rail on the dust cover.
The striker-fired 9mm BB6 has a polymer frame, 5-inch barrel, steel slide and integrated optics mount, and it holds 18-rounds.
Ruger has introduced another version of its popular LCR revolver, this one chambered for the snappy .327 Federal Magnum. W&G had a chance to fire one of these recently, and it’s a real powerhouse. It has a 1.87-inch stainless steel barrel, Hogue Monogrip, fixed sights, double-action-only trigger pull and it holds six rounds. This gun will fit handily in pocket or purse.
New from Iver Johnson is a long-slide semi-auto chambered for 10mm. While some may find this round to be a bit too powerful, others enjoy the fact that it is a flat-shooting cartridge that can stop a bear in its tracks. Built on a Model 1911 single-action auto frame, Iver Johnson calls it the Eagle XL, with a 6-inch slide, adjustable rear sight, beavertail grip safety with a slight bump, checkered hardwood grips, skeleton hammer and cocking serrations front and rear. The finish is deeply blued and the front and rear sights are both dovetailed into the slide.
Smith & Wesson is responding to the increased consumer interest in suppressors by offering two new 9mm Performance Center versions of the M&P pistol with an additional threaded barrel included in the box at a $175 increased price. The new 9mm variants allow owners the ability to easily attach a sound suppressor of his or her choice without the use of additional tools. Both pistols offer a specialized mounting platform on top of the slide that can be conveniently changed to match the desired optic including the industry’s most popular aftermarket red-dot sight manufacturers. And both feature a new textured interchangeable back strap with prominent stippling.
Two standouts in Kimber’s Summer Series that were new in 2015 are still very much in the spotlight. They’re the Micro Bel Air and Micro Diamond models, both chambered in .380 ACP.
Stylishly compact, both guns have stainless steel slides and lightweight aluminum frames. The Micro Bel Air features a Bel Air Blue KimPro II finish, while the Micro Diamond has a stainless/silver anodized finish with modest scrollwork on the slide. Both pistols carry six rounds in the magazine, have high cuts under the trigger guard and the Carry Melt treatment to eliminate sharp edges.
Sanetti noted that while gun control groups have tried to minimize gun ownership, even to the point of using old data, the fact remains that the number of gun owners has soared. It isn’t just aging white males who already own guns that are buying more as some may suggest, it’s a new generation, many with a libertarian streak, and one thing they’ve demonstrated is that if the government says it is going to add restrictions on a certain product, they go out and buy it.
“It is indisputable,” he said, “that more and more people are coming in droves to responsible firearms ownership.”
And with the industry continuing to turn out new models that fit the needs of new shooters, that pattern is not likely to change anytime soon.