The Rise in Popularity of the AR-15 Among Women
It's a clear, sunny day on the shooting range. Only the crack of gunshots breaks the silence.
What's unique on this range is that all the gun owners are members of A Girl and A Gun Women's Shooting League—and they're all firing AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.
"I think there is a small bit of status for a gal that says she owns an AR-15," said Juliana Crowder, president and co-founder of A Girl and a Gun. "Especially right now, since they're so hard to get a hold of." ( Read more: Aurora Shooting Survivor: 'People Kill, Not Guns')
Recent attempts to pass stricter gun laws are having an unintended effect: AR-15s are flying off store shelves. The rifles and their accessories account for roughly a billion dollars of the $4 billion U.S. gun industry.
"The AR-15 is becoming extremely popular among women," said Crowder. "Some women are very gadgety or want to be personalized, they're painting them, getting these different grips and colors, and stylizing it. It's very popular because they can build it to their own specifications-- use it for fun, and feel pride of ownership in it."
Crowder's own AR-15 is purple—the same color as her former dance studio. An ex-dance teacher, Crowder now focuses her time on her all-female shooting league. In just two years it's grown to 28 chapters in eleven states. (Read more: New York's Assault Weapon Registration Begins)
"[It's] a friendly, supportive environment—making everybody feel welcome when they walk in the door," said Crowder. "Like they've got a whole new set of friends and sisters that they can depend on."
Club members attend a variety of events, which include the League's National Conference and even a "Girls Night Out," to socialize over dinner after a long day at the range.
Crowder says she trains women on the AR-15 because there is a longer frame to work with and more things to hold on to. This makes it easy for people with smaller frames—like their Youth Members, ages 10 to 17—to wield the gun.
"My favorite thing about my AR-15 rifle is the confidence I feel when I shoot it at the range," said Girl and a Gun member Jennifer Galle. "It gives me a sense that I can defend myself, that I can do this, and it brings me peace of mind knowing that this is a weapon that I can use for my own personal protection." (Read More: Newtown Mom Makes Heart-Wrenching Plea on U.S. Gun Laws)
"We know we can be safe," Crowder agrees. "We can be efficient. We can be effective to defend ourselves with that particular tool as our husbands and our fathers can."