As more women are gaining an interest in the shooting sports, we are finding more female gun-store staff at retail counters and in management positions within the industry. I wanted to talk with some of these ladies whose profession is in the retail firearms workplace. Since I am the female owner of a firearms store, AZFirearms, along with my husband, Danny, I decided to ask my some of female staff members, as well as other professionals in the Industry about their experiences as “girls who sell guns.” In each part of this 4-part series, you will meet a different “Girl Who Sells Guns,” and each one of these ladies is as impressive as the next, and each comes from a unique life-perspective and background. Meet Jeanelle Westrom.
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Jeanelle is the owner of Davenport Guns & Shooting Club, a full-service firearms range, training and retail facility in Davenport, Iowa. Her family has been involved in the firearms industry for 3 generations, and she learned sight alignment and trigger control before learning how to ride a bike. Working gun shows with her parents, she’s been involved in the firearms industry one way or another since childhood, and her firearms interest has remained. In the late 1990s, she began shooting competitively, taking part in Bianchi Cup, ICORE, IPSC, PPC and Service Rifle, the latter of which included competitions at the prestigious Camp Perry. She is a certified instructor and has trained both rifle and pistol shooters.
Prior to opening her shooting facility, Jeanelle managed the ArmaLite store at Camp Perry, working with military and junior teams. In January 2016, she was selected to represent her home state of Iowa to join The DC Project, a nonpartisan grassroots organization of 50 women, 1 from each state, that encourages women to establish relationships with their legislators, and reveal the faces and stories of real gun owners.
Most recently, Jeanelle was elected to the Board of Governors of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
Cheryl: How long have you been interested in firearms and the shooting sports? Were you raised with firearms, or are guns something you decided to be involved in as an adult?
Jeanelle: I was born into shooting sports! My grandfather was a gunsmith, and my dad has been on the range since before I was born. In fact, if you ask him, the reason to have kids is so you have “brass rats” and “pit pigs” on standby.
We lived close to Springfield Armory and Bob and Carol Reese (2 of the best people you could ever be blessed to know) let me run around the shop as a pre-teen. At one time I had a silly notion that someday I would run Springfield Armory.
In 1994, my dad bought a small AR manufacturing company and in 1995 he bought the ArmaLite trademark and brought the company back to the forefront of innovation. I worked for him for a number of years and learned how to do everything – from accounting to assembly and sales.
Cheryl: You truly are carrying on your family’s and America’s traditions. What is your main interest in the firearms industry?
Jeanelle: I have multiple interests, I love pushing myself to shoot the smallest group possible with whatever I have in hand, although I thoroughly enjoy shooting high power rifle. Let’s face it, the best people in the world are the ones you meet at the range. Teaching someone how to defend from a bad actor who wants to do harm is pretty high up my list, too. I’ve had a couple customers who have used what they learned here to defend themselves, and I’m proud to have even a small part in them not being a victim.
Cheryl: I know you are particularly proud of the work you have done to empower women to not fall prey and be victims of such bad actors. The firearms industry has made huge strides in recent years in serving the female market. Can you think of any areas where there is still room for improvement?
Jeanelle: EVERYWHERE! And it’s not just the female market. The “old, pale and stale” gun shops need to wake up and realize they’re not just losing half the money out there (females) but the other half of the money out there, which is minorities in general. On the manufacturing side, having products that are in colors other than pink for women, along with innovations – like the S&W EZ, which 99% of the women that come into my shop can safely use – makes a huge impact on them. Ladies come in with the idea that they can ONLY get a revolver, and when they learn there are other options they’re excited!
Cheryl: What would you say makes you unique or different than your male counterparts in your approach to customers who visit your store? And does being a woman impact your approach?
Jeanelle:I understand the challenge women have when they walk into a gun shop for the first time. It’s awfully intimidating. With that in mind, the first thing you see when you walk into my shop is purses. More than one time I’ve heard someone say, “There really is something here for me.” The store is well lit and it’s CLEAN. Seriously, we clean the bathrooms daily. Products are on the shelves where they belong. Signs show what you’ll find in a particular area, so you’re not blindly wandering the shelves. Most importantly, I have a couple AMAZING women that work with me. They’re certified NRA instructors and bend over backwards to make sure that folks are well taken care of and happy.
The way we approach ladies wanting to look at or purchase a gun is by explaining that buying a gun is a lot like buying a gown … you don’t just walk into the store and walk out with the first thing you see. You take your time, you try on multiple gowns until you find the one that fits you best. The right one makes you feel comfortable, confident, and ready to kick butt and take over the world. If it takes us 2 hours that’s fine; my only plans for the day are to be at the shop.
Cheryl: What are your long-term goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Jeanelle:Great question … I don’t know. I’ve JUST started my 5th year in business at Davenport Guns, and both the shop and I have come a long way. I freely admit that I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing when the shop opened. I was wrong. Every day I learn something, and in 5 years I’ll still be learning.
Cheryl: Do you have a favorite gun or 2 and why are those your favorites?
Jeanelle: My favorite gun is whatever happens to be in my hand at the time, as long as it’s well made and accurate.
Visit Davenport Guns online.
Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world. View all posts by Cheryl Todd