Armed and chic


America’s gun industry needs a makeover.

For years, the male-dominated industry has given women little attention, leaving them with bland, limited selections at best and pink versions of regular products or nothing at all at worst, says Clemson MBA graduate Melissa Clampitt. The result, she says, is a huge missed opportunity to the tune of 27.8 million women gun owners in the U.S. — and that number is only getting bigger.

“Women are one of the fastest-growing market shares for the gun industry and … there’s just not a lot of products designed for women,” says Clampitt, an Army wife, young mother and now founder and CEO of Clutch. “I’m putting my heel down when it comes to women in this industry getting the products they want and deserve.”

Women’s business attire rarely accommodates concealed firearms without ruining style, for example. Clampitt tackles the problem head-on with her first product, an adjustable gun holster that fits any purse and looks more like Gucci than Guns & Ammo. The proprietary design uses magnets to keep it upright and in one place, which make for easy access alongside adjustable quick-release straps. Premium leather, custom patterns and quality fabrics in classic colors help it match different purses, says Clampitt.

“I couldn’t find a holster that I liked and worked,” according to Clampitt, who says existing purse holsters don’t tend to stay in place, and aren’t made out of premium materials. “I just thought, ‘I need to solve this for all of the women who want to carry and be fashionable and wear business attire.’”


Concealed-carry couture


Though she has spent much of her life around guns, the idea for a premium gun accessory brand wasn’t obvious at first, she says. She learned how to shoot rifles and handguns through the ROTC program at University of Michigan, and traveled around the country as a military wife before earning her concealed carry license about five years ago.

“This didn’t cross my mind at all until my husband and I had another conversation about how I don’t carry … and he was concerned for my safety,” says Clampitt, referencing her penchant for classic clothing style. “All types of women conceal-carry … and they struggle with this every day.”

More than 42 percent of women gun owners hold a concealed-carry license in their state of residence, and nearly 30 percent plan to get theirs in the next 12 months, according to the most recent report on women gun ownership by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Women who purchased a gun in the last 12 months reported spending an average of $870 on firearms and more than $400 on accessories and were primarily motivated by defense, self-sufficiency and empowerment reasons.

The same study, however, showed many respondents were turned off by colors and patterns typically associated with female gun products, such as pinks, purples and prints. Nearly 75 percent reported that such patterns make guns look like toys, while more than half said pinks, purples and other patterns were inappropriate for shooting activities such as concealed carry and hunting.

“It is evident that a significant proportion of women do not respond well to guns in feminine colors and patterns,” according to the study. “It is not to say that there isn’t a place for pink or zebra-striped guns. The point is that women should have a choice among several options both traditional and feminine.”


More in the works


Clampitt has finished the design and prototypes for the Clutch holster and is looking for the right manufacturer, she says, but doesn’t know when production will start. Two retailers have told Clampitt they will stock her items as soon as they are available, she says, and she also plans to launch an online store targeting the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia.

Premium holsters are just the beginning. She already holds a provisionary patent on the holster design, including 40 additional designs, and a provisional patent on the utility concept that secures the holster in the purse. Clampitt is already working on designs and prototypes for other products, such as ear protection, eye protection, shooting shirts and range bags. More than a third of women gun owners say they would purchase more women-specific items if they were available, she says, and the sky’s the limit.

“I’m trying to bridge this gap between what was once a man’s world and fashion,” she says. Sports such as golf and bowling used to be heavily — if not exclusively — male activities, and today women have a plethora of options when it comes to functional, fashionable apparel in both. “That’s what I want the firearm industry to be, and that’s what I think Clutch can do.”

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women who report having a gun in their home (38% men)


agree that some of the colors and patterns on guns designed for women make them look like toys


agree that some of the colors are not appropriate for shooting activities


hold concealed-carry licenses in their state


plan to get concealed-carry licenses in the next 12 months


Sources: National Shooting Sports Foundation; Pew Research Center



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