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Gun Advertising in Tennessee

I find it funny that you can’t drive 10 miles in the Nashville area without passing a billboard for some kind of gun shop or seeing a gun shop from the road.

Even if many of them are very simple with their graphics and their messages, it’s entertaining. It certainly reflects that the gun culture is healthy even in an urban area.

However, there’s one that drives me up the wall in all of the years I’ve been driving through from the East Coast to Nashville area. It’s Outdoor Junction at exit 290 off I-40. In all of the years they have been advertising on billboards along I-40, they have only catered to men. They bill themselves as a place to buy “Men’s Toys” with a picture of a handgun. It would be one thing if, somewhere in their advertising corridor, they included a billboard catering to women. They don’t. They have multiple billboards to promote how they appear to only sell things to men. I can tell you right now that I would never be willing to walk in because their advertising sends a message that they simply don’t even acknowledge women as customers shopping for themselves as opposed to shopping for their men.

When I see some stores so obviously go out of their way to embrace the shooting culture as being only meant for men, it makes me wonder how long places like this will manage to hang on and stay alive in the evolving community. I’d be curious to know if those of you in other parts of the country see these kinds of gun shops that go out of their way to frame their products as only appropriate for men sticking around. Do they manage to pull of a bustling business in spite of ignoring outreach to the largest growing portion of the gun owning community?

50 Responses to “Gun Advertising in Tennessee”

  1. Merle says:

    Perhaps when they replace their signs things will change – sign are expensive. Also, I suspect it would help if some female type would call them up & tell the manager/owner just how they feel.

    Merle

    • Bitter says:

      They have multiple signs billboards that promote their guns are for men – at least one in each direction of the interstate. They have more than just say things like “hunt shoot fish,” but feature the image of a man shooting. I don’t think it’s an accident that can’t be easily fixed with budget since really only showing guns as a men’s thing is common across all or most of their billboards.

      • HSR47 says:

        Here’s an honest question: Did you attend the most recent gun show in Oaks?

        If so, did you see the booth babes (more like booth strippers) employed by one of the vendors? Which do you think is worse: non-sexually advertising shooting as a male-oriented recreational activity, or the absolute objectivization of women?

        • Bitter says:

          If you read previous posts, you’ll know we were even around for that show.

          • HSR47 says:

            It isn’t the first show that this vendor has done it.

            • Bitter says:

              It still doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t seen it. More often than not, when I’m at the Oaks show, I’m volunteering for a booth and not looking at the rest of the show.

        • ecurb says:

          Well, it’s one and the same really, isn’t it? They’re both a result of the folks in marketing being single-mindedly intent on selling to DUDES, with no thought to how their branding hurts their ability to reach other demographics.

  2. The Jack says:

    The signage in Indy is shifting.

    I was at the range yesterday and 20% of the shooters were women and there were signs up for some women’s shooting groups. (I wish I took a picture or remembered the name now).

  3. alcade says:

    In all the gun shops/shows in my area women are very scarce. Most of the gun owning women I know also own only a self-defense handgun. Anecdotal I know, but the women I know just aren’t buying a dozen handguns and piles of rifles.

    • Bitter says:

      Well, this woman owned multiple guns on her own. I didn’t buy piles of rifles, but I did collect fun handguns. I know I’m not the only one since Tam could put most other collectors to shame, and she does collect far more gun types than I ever could dream of. So regardless of who you know in person, the landscape is changing.

      • alcade says:

        Sure, it’s certainly possible. But I’m sure you’d admit that women like you and Tam are by far the exception rather than the rule. While more women are purchasing guns, men are still the bread and butter and I don’t fault businesses for catering to that reality.

        • Bitter says:

          Hmmm…I guess all my college girlfriends are also figments of my imagination and not real gun buyers who own multiple guns and have for years…

          • alcade says:

            The sarcasm is cute. Are you saying then that men and women are matching each other in sales dollar for dollar? You know, all my friends weren’t going to vote for Obama either, but here we are. How did that happen if everyone I knew didn’t support him? You seem to be saying that because you’ve got some friends that do it and can point to a few examples on the internet somehow advertising that caters to men is now “hostile” to women.

  4. KCSteve says:

    I work at the gun counter of the Kansas City, KS Cabela’s. Being the mentor (training guy) I make it a strong point to emphasize to the new hires that you will treat the women as customers, make sure to sell to them not their male companions, etc..

    Our goal is to be the place any woman in the area wants to go to any time they – or anyone else in the family – is shopping for a gun.

    • I can honestly say that I have never been in a gun store where I saw any sign that women were dismissed, looked down upon, or treated as though they weren’t serious buyers. I think the reason is pretty simple: for most of recent times, because guns were seen as “men’s toys,” if a woman came into a gun store to buy a gun, she had a real serious reason to be buying — and gun store owners overwhelmingly respect that reason, and stand with women against the monsters.

  5. S. Lynn says:

    We have a similar store where I live. Each and every counter person is informative and patient with questions from men AND woman. It’s a pleasure to go in and come out more knowledgeable (and a few dollars lighter).

  6. Scott says:

    Why does everyone who passes through Tennessee have this irresistible urge to fix it?

    I’m about an hour away from Cookeville, the nearest “big town.” Steve and Carolyn have a nice shop. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working – even the female customers seem to like the store.

    • Bitter says:

      How terrible that I suggest gun shops shouldn’t be so overwhelmingly unfriendly to women in their advertising! I’m not trying to “fix” anything. Do you see me linking some petition to demand change? I’m merely offering commentary on what I observed that makes their store appear hostile to women.

      Steve and Carolyn may have a wonderful shop. I’ll never know since I’ll never stop based on their current advertising. Not everything has to be geared for ladies, but 3 of their 4 signs that I see make clear that they want to sell to men, not women. (The 4th may have had the man shooting from another billboard, but I didn’t notice if it did, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt.)

      Now, as a Pennsylvania resident, they probably don’t give a damn that I think their advertising is to heavily focused on only selling to men. That’s fine, and that’s a reasonable position. But, as someone who has many family members in Tennessee, including a woman in the market for a new gun after the first of the year, they go to the very top of the list of places I will recommend against because I have zero reason to believe that a woman buyer will have a positive experience. However, the many other shops that simply advertise their products are all possible places I would suggest she look since there’s no reason to believe that they really only want the business of men.

      • alcade says:

        How does advertising “men’s toys” indicate hostility towards women?

        • Bitter says:

          When all of their advertising is focused on only selling guns to men and none of it focuses on even the growing female gun buyer population, that’s hostility. In fact, since I can’t remember with 100% certainty that their 4th billboard wasn’t also only about men buying guns, it’s possible that they don’t even have gender neutral advertising.

          • alcade says:

            So are all the children’s toy/clothing stores that only show pictures of smiling moms and cute babies hostile to men?

            • Bitter says:

              I would say that it is, especially if demographic changes in their customer base show that more men are caring for children. It would be unwise to not do some advertising outreach indicating that they wouldn’t try to make male customers feel unwelcome.

          • Merle says:

            Sorry, but I don’t see that as hostility; I would agree to calling it “ignoring”, which is only a short distance from “ignorant”. Hostility would be saying something like “women not allowed, unless accompanied by a man” or similar sentiment. Once again sorry, and with all due respect, but I think you are being overly sensitive on this one.

            Merle

  7. Andy says:

    Sandy Springs Gun Club here in ATL was opened by two women to specifically take on theat market. It’s a nice place. Tad pricey, but the prices reflect the facility. Private club member room, lockers, gun cleaning station, smith on site, 15 lanes in three areas, retail area.

    The more, um, aged local store closer to the house I’ve noticed now has more female presence at the counter, and the clientele for range time certainly has become, um, more female driven? Not sure what the proper description of ladies coming to shoot, as opposed to more wives/girlfriends shooting with men with an air of just there to hang with hubby.

    • HSR47 says:

      I can’t say that I’ve ever really seen women at ranges in my area who were there independently; typically they seem to be accompanied by husband/boyfriend/family. I’m not saying that they don’t exist, just that they seem to be like unicorns, and I wish I knew where to find them.

      • Bitter says:

        My college friends and I went to the range without men all of the time. In fact, a handful of times, we brought men we knew along so we could teach them to shoot.

    • Merle says:

      At this point I would like to add that the two shops nearest to me are both operated by women. The closest one is also owned by a woman, and she is quite knowledgeable. She has been in business for many years. I trust her far more than the man that operates the third closest shop. I give these two shops all of my business, as I feel they deserve it – gender doesn’t count but knowledge & attitude do.

      Merle

  8. dustydog says:

    Some men don’t want to be around women. Maybe they were horribly abused by their crazy mothers. Maybe it isn’t about you.

    • Bitter says:

      They can have whatever personal issues they want to embrace. However, as business owners, that’s not in their interest of making more money.

      If that’s the case, then I’d also suggest some major psychological counseling to deal with their issues since it’s only going to be tougher to avoid women in this issue.

      • HSR47 says:

        “However, as business owners, that’s not in their interest of making more money.”

        Perhaps they have a sufficiently large target demographic to cater specifically to male shooters.

        I’ve seen several classes advertised/held in SEPA in the last year (several at/through Wicen’s, as well as a Cathy Jackson class at NHRPC) that were only open to women. Clearly there is a demographic that is served by such services; why shouldn’t it work in reverse?

        • Bitter says:

          I have no issue with gender-specific advertisements existing. I am simply arguing that if a company only advertises that they want to sell to men, then expect women to feel like their dollars aren’t welcome there.

          What you cite with Wicen’s was due, in large part, to a request from local men to offer classes so that women in their lives who were just coming around to the gun issue could understand how to use them and get into the shooting sports. Wicen’s, at the same time, was also doing quite a bit of gender-neutral advertising and outreach to groups of predominantly male shooters. So, while I get what you’re trying to argue, I don’t think you picked a good example since that was part of a larger outreach effort that did include men, and the request for women-only classes that would make the women in their lives feel more comfortable with the introduction to shooting actually came at the request of men. If you want to highlight a hostile-to-men advertising campaign, you’ll need to go find a new target.

          • HSR47 says:

            I think the fundamental disconnect here is that you’re interpenetrating targeted advertising as being hostile.

            I simply stated that there is clearly a market for gun-related sales/training in a (almost) entirely male-free environment; It certainly isn’t a full-time thing, but it does exist, and it is therefore being catered to.

            The point I was trying to make in my previous post in this line is that it is entirely possible that the reverse is true, especially in a sufficiently large market.

            The beauty of capitalism is that you are free to vote with your feet; If you don’t like their advertising, business practices, customer services, or prices, you are free to shop elsewhere. If enough of their (potential) customers do this, they will either go out of business, or be forced to change their corporate behavior. Either way we win.

            • Bitter says:

              I agree with the beauty of capitalism. I’m also free to say that I don’t think their advertising which only says they want to sell to men, not anything at all for women, is stupid and makes women feel unwelcome. Why do you guys act like I’m proposing some kind of forced change on them? I’m noting that, as a woman (and even in Sebastian’s case as a man), the level at which this shop chooses to emphasize that their products are only meant for men to buy and use is rather insulting and wouldn’t make a woman feel welcome in the store.

              I’ll also add that the one reader who apparently knows the shop didn’t actually cite any examples of female-focused advertising. So they do appear to be purposefully ignoring women gun purchasers.

      • dustydog says:

        You object to being disarmed, threatened, and overtaxed, and when you explain why, the Bloomberg/MAIG/DNC’s response is “If that’s the case, then I’d also suggest some major psychological counseling to deal with their issues since it’s only going to be tougher” without your guns, rights, or money. Can you see why your post is offensive, selfish, and totalitarian?

  9. Dannytheman says:

    Stop complaining and make me a sandwich, woman.

    The smarter gun shops that are in it for the long run will be smart to look at demographics of who is buying firearms. The idiotic boys only businesses will die on the vine. Camo is now in fashion in California. I laugh out loud when I see it.

    • HappuWarrior6 says:

      I sort of see the “boys only” thing going by the wayside as gun culture 2.0 continues to permeate the social landscape. What Bitter mentions about women and shooting is obvious.

      We’ve all been to gun shops that should get with the times in terms of products or customer relations. To me those sorts of shops tend to put out the vibe that they are not interested in expanding the shooting culture so much as selling only to “their own.” As a new shooter (which I still consider myself since I’ve only been a gun owner since 2005 or so, and never really seriously got into it until about 2 years ago) it can be intimidating to anyone, male or female.

      I’ve also mentioned here that I think gun shops don’t do enough to motivate gun owners to vote on gun issues. Not their job? Perhaps not, but with the fights we have at the state level I see the LGS being critical to grassroots efforts.

  10. Zermoid says:

    Clearfield area of PA has signs for Grice, Belding & Mull, and rarely Bob’s Army & Navy, I’ve never noticed a gender specific leaning in their advertising. All 3 have women who work the stores, so might be a factor if the owner operators are all male at that store to assume most gun buyers are male.

    • Bitter says:

      Of the dozens of gun stores we saw advertised on billboards in Tennessee, no other store bothered to make it a gender issue. They simply advertised their products. This is the only store that chooses to embrace only one gender in their advertising along the major roads.

  11. Matthew Carberry says:

    I think you’re dismissing Merle’s point a little too quickly. If they have “X” billboards with an expected lifetime of “Y” -years- and a cost to design, print, and replace a billboard of “Z” -thousands- of dollars for a small shop with a presumably limited advertising budget given gun shop margins it makes no sense to replace billboards that likely aren’t -hurting- their business before their budgeted lifespan is up. Marketing a shop as selling “men’s toys” when even many female shooters view them that way isn’t overtly hostile to women. For example, the phrase “you can tell the men from the boys by the cost of their toys” isn’t that the toys are for men, it’s that in some ways men don’t lose their toy fascination. There’s zero intersect with women except their fond bemusement with their men.

    • Bitter says:

      I’m not saying that every advertisement geared for men is anti-woman. What makes this shop stand out is that they are the only gun shop I noticed anywhere along any Tennessee road that makes it a gender issue, and that gender issue is repeated across at least 3 of their 4 signs. I believe one of those featuring a man is fairly new since I don’t ever recall seeing it on previous trips. In other words, my observation is that they are doubling down on the men-only theme based on their advertising. It’s one thing to have an ad geared for men, but it seems unwise to then actively leave out the fastest growing population of shooters. New ads could at least be gender neutral, but it doesn’t appear they are.

      • Matthew Carberry says:

        And I didn’t say you did say that. I’m saying even if it was a bad marketing choice it is done and probably not cost-effective to change.

        Particularly since I think you’re over-emphasizing the wrong word on the sign. That a thing (like motorcycles, boats, cars, four wheelers that go too fast, or trucks that are big for the sake of being big, etc) has traditionally colloquially been described as a “big boys toy” does not say that thing cannot be a fun hobby, useful tool, competitive sport for women. The only implied exclusivity in the colloquialism is that women are mature enough to not view it with their inner eight year old.

        • Bitter says:

          But they aren’t using any of the common traditional phrases. They are simply calling guns “men’s toys.” If they did use a common phrase, I wouldn’t have noticed it in the same way. They also make the decision to only show men in their photographs of people in advertising, too. It’s not just about some kind of possibly misstated and butchered phrase, but also the fact that they only promote images of men shooting, too.

          I should also add that their obvious bias against acknowledging women as possible customers in their advertising also stuck out to Sebastian who, presumably, does not have the “inner eight year old” girl you seem to blame for acknowledging this bias.

          • hillbilly says:

            A Penni huh, sounds like you want to make sure that your on an even level with men all the time. But that just won’t happen, because women are too busy trying to put something against the men and the men doesnt get that emotional over the small things. In the state of Tennessee, we think our women should be barefoot and pregnant and still shoot the hair off a knats butt at 100 yards.

            • Bitter says:

              Well, according to your comment, Tennessee residents believe their men should avoid a basic education since four letter words are apparently too much for you to handle.

              • hillbilly says:

                Well, ok it sounds like I have offended you in the manner that I have spoken. I was trying to lighten the conversation with a joke but I now know undoubtebly that you do have some issues with the boy or men thing. Oh yeah by the way I am college educated, but In your case that doesnt mean you have common sense or courtesy to speak without trying to throw your massive education in there. Thank you for anwering my question. I really dont think I would want you carrying a firearm if youre that quick to respond to something or someone before you have the complete situation thought out.

                • Bitter says:

                  Let me see if I understand this situation that supposedly shows I’m incapable of handling a firearm. You say that, as a woman, my only role is to be barefoot and pregnant. You misspell words in your comment, and I mock you for it since it really highlighted your entire backwards thinking represented in the comment. When called out, you try to claim that it’s a joke, but then add that I shouldn’t be allowed to a firearm with which to defend myself since I’m supposedly incapable of getting your extremely poor (claimed, after the fact) attempt at humor. Yeah, that’s rational policy making to follow. Let’s ban everyone from carrying firearms if they don’t you get your lame attempts at jokes.

                  Fortunately for you and your rights, I don’t take the attitude that everyone who doesn’t laugh at my jokes should be banned from carrying or owning firearms.

          • Matthew Carberry says:

            You missed my point, apparently I wasn’t clear. I’m not denying your perception, I’m saying you are ignoring an equally valid, less offensive, and I’d bet correct in terms of owner’s intent one.

            Which sex actually fondly and bemusedly -says- the phrase “well, boys will be boys” when their men act a little childish (obviously in harmless ways), or patiently talk about the “big boy toys” cluttering the garage?

            Are those women saying they don’t feel equal ownership of the “toys” or are they simply noting the fact that they appreciate them in a different way than their men, who have an inner 8 year old boy that doesn’t go away and is -different- than the 8 year old girl inside every woman? How recognizing that difference becomes offensive I have no idea. It very well might be a generational thing.

            It isn’t “MEN’S toys,” it’s “men’s TOYS”. Which in no way makes them not simultaneously women’s non-toys, simply because women don’t as frequently stereotypically act like they are 8 around them. For example, do you own a Garand or SAA in large part not merely because of their engineering, shootibility or historical importance but because of the John Wayne movies you grew up watching? At various times I have, because it pleased my boyish heart.

            In any event, if spending thousands to change out advertising seemed necessary from a business point of view or because they got complaints from their current female customer base I’m sure they’d do it.

  12. Keith says:

    I guess if The Men’s Warehouse ever starts a women’s clothing line, you ain’t gonna be a customer.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of anyone being so openly and consciously hypersensitive.

    WOW

    • Bitter says:

      Since Men’s Warehouse openly supports many political movements that I believe are fundamentally disastrous for the country, you’re right, I wouldn’t shop there. Plus, if they carry women’s clothing, their name doesn’t indicate it. I would have no reason to assume that a store that promotes itself as only selling clothing for men would have anything that I would want to wear as a woman.

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