March 19, 2006 — -- More women, from soccer moms to professionals like the ones at the Blue Ridge Arsenal gun range in Chantilly, Va., are packing heat for sport, self-empowerment and protection.
"I am a short, chubby housewife," said Jaque Blundell of Arlington, Va. "I'm not as scared of the bad guys, because the guns are my great equalizer."
The gun industry is catering to women with everything from more girly guns and apparel to all-female hunting trips and free ladies nights at the range. It's clear the feminine touch is adding up to big business.
"A quarter to a third of all our customers here are women shooters," said Keith Weaver, who works at the Blue Ridge Arsenal.
Five years ago, the National Rifle Association offered just 13 firearms training classes for women. Today, there are more than 200 nationwide.
"If you look at statistics, there are more crimes of passion committed by men than there are women," said Sandra Froman, president of the NRA. "But I say that everyone has their emotions, and one of the things you learn when you take firearms classes is you learn to control your emotions."
Froman is the second female NRA president in 130 years. She said that owning guns usually begins as a self-defense tactic for many women and turns into a love for the sport.
Participation in the NRA's Women on Target program for shooters and hunters has increased more than 1,000 percent since 2000. Now it has 6,000 participants.
"We have a lot of women now going on women-only hunts for elk, for deer, for feral pigs, different kinds of game animals," Froman said. "And women who have never hunted before are learning about the enjoyment of hunting, of being in the outdoors."
But not everyone is convinced encouraging women to carry a gun is a good idea. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, it's at least 20 times more likely that you'll use your weapon to shoot someone in your home rather than using it to protect yourself from an intruder.
"If you bring a gun into the home, it increases the risk of homicide by three," said Becca Knox of the Brady Campaign. "If you decide that's the method of self-defense you're going to choose, you better be prepared to deal with the consequences."
John Blaschke says all parents need to lock up their guns like Fort Knox. His daughter Darby Nelson is already a pro at shooting at just 11 years old.
"Every time you pull that trigger you feel that rush," she said.
She's just what the gun industry is hoping will represent the next generation of pistol-packing women.