Who Are the 24 Million Who Want to Buy Their First Firearm?


In our Fall 2019 newsletter, we introduced a new study completed by Southwick Associates for the National Shooting Sports Foundation that describes the eight segments that comprise the 24 million Americans interested in buying their first firearm. With these results, states and NGOs can enhance their R3 efforts. In this issue, we provide greater insights into these potential new excise tax-paying customers.

The eight segments can be grouped into two overarching categories: protection and non-protection. The first five segments listed in Table 1 (below) are the recreational and lifestyle segments: Aspiring Hunter, Fun Fanatic, Learner, Anxious Buyer and Aspiring Target Shooter. The last three segments are all protection-minded: Unarmed Aaron, Weaponless Wendy and the Unprepared Protector. While the Unarmed Aaron and Weaponless Wendy segments share primary motivations, they are differentiated by gender.


Table 1. Potential first-time firearm buyer segments

The reasons for not yet buying a firearm are many, but much of it boils down to uncertainty: not understanding the process required to purchase a firearm; not enough experience or knowledge about safe use, storage and transportation of firearms; plus, price options. Fearing the worst, as is normal when uncertain about any new activity or product, potential customers hesitate on taking the next step. Efforts by industry and the conservation community collectively to reach out to these potential customers will help boost sales and conservation revenues. 

Finding these potential new participants means using media sources often not familiar within our circles. Facebook – despite the difficulty posting content regarding firearms – along with YouTube and Instagram are the top social media sites used by this audience, along with magazines also not normal to our trade such as general sports, food & drink, science and tech and even entertainment publications. Crime dramas, local news and ‘hangout’ comedies are their most popular types of television shows.

Once you are in front of them, knowing what to say, how to say it and the types of imagery that will best capture their attention is vital. While the details for all eight segments are available within the free report, below are the messages and imagery that tested as most effective with Weaponless Wendy.




While the actual ads would need to be developed by professional designers, these messages and images, tested independently of each other, show the concepts that would best resonate with members of the Weaponless Wendy segment. First, they think their fears can be overcome by carrying a concealed firearm with confidence and the proper skills as shown by the lady in the first image. The tag line describes a core motivation. The second image shows her there are friendly places with competent, agreeable people ready to help her, along with a tag line that also connects with her core concern and motivation. Accompanied by information that can help her to action – such as upcoming classes for first time women shooters – ads based on these concepts will encourage more women to buy their first firearm.

Though we are emphasizing the differences between the unique segments of would-be firearm owners, at times there are needs or common issues that cross across all segments. This is certainly true when understanding why these 24 million Americans have not yet purchased a firearm despite their high level of interest. It boils down to uncertainty: not understanding the process required to purchase a firearm; not enough experience or knowledge about safe use, storage and transportation of firearms; with price options.

A special note can be made about safety. Unlike current firearm owners who understand how to own and use a firearm safely, these potential new buyers do not have that level of knowledge. They did not grow up around firearms and do not have someone close by to mentor them. Overall, they appear less concerned about their own safety as they are about the safety of those around them. Will they do something foolish at the range? How can they store it safely with kids in the house and still be able to access it? What if the time comes when they need to defend themselves – will they be able to respond properly and maintain control of the situation? These are among the key points our customers need to know BEFORE they think about visiting a dealer.

Considering the uncertainty and safety concerns in the minds of our potential new customers, they hesitate in taking the next step towards ownership. States, industry and our supporting non-profit organizations must collectively reach out to potential customers and help them understand the firearm options available, the purchasing process and most importantly, how they can safely own, use and store a firearm.

It’s important to address each segment based on their unique motivations, interests and preferences. Trying to reach all potential first-time buyers with a one-size-fits-all approach is a sure way to guarantee minimal returns from your marketing dollars. Click here to access this free report and learn more about the ideal approaches for targeting each of the eight segments that make up the 24 million consumers interested in becoming a firearm owner.