Shop specializes in guns for women

Tri-Lakes customer Martin Wade shops for a handgun or rifle as a potential gift for his wife.

Just before 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, minutes before the store actually opens, there’s already a line at Tri-Lakes Shooters Supply in Monument. One guy wants advice about the gun to carry for his job as an armored-car driver. A soldier needs his rifle repaired. A third customer is looking for Christmas ideas for his wife.

And for that — guns for women — he’s come to the right place.

From classes about how to draw a gun from a purse to advice about which bra holster is best, Tri-Lakes Shooters Supply is catering to the needs of a specific customer: women.

About 12 million women own guns nationally, and Tri-Lakes Shooters is capitalizing on that market. Most women buy guns for personal protection, so the shop offers smaller guns that fit women’s hands, as well as a series of women-only classes.

“I think some gun shops tend to treat people very condescendingly,” said Angela Robbins, president of Tri-Lakes Shooters. “They think they know more and they can really intimidate people. I know women who won’t darken the doors of gun shops because of that attitude.

“We don’t do that here. From the minute we opened, we’ve been focused on being friendly, on being helpful. And it’s worked.”

Robbins, whose husband Dan is also an owner of the store, said the focus on helpful customer service has paid off. The store has been successful from the day it opened in 2010.

“It’s not unusual to have people waiting,” she said. “In fact, this is sort of calm, compared to how it usually is.”

So Tri-Lakes Shooters is getting ready to expand. They’re working on a rifle range in the back lot so people attending their classes don’t have to travel to a private range. They’re planning on doubling the store size once that goes through. And that means doubling the inventory.

Inventory is the real expense of a gun store.

“If you don’t have the inventory in place, you can’t sell it,” Robbins said. “So we focused on putting every dime into a really nice inventory — things people want; that they need — right from the beginning.”

People want handguns for personal protection, she said. And semi-automatic rifles and magazines are increasingly popular.

“It’s a big seller,” she said, “particularly after the election. The government tends to ban the semi-automatic weapons first, or they limit the size of the magazine. So whenever there’s an election, people get worried about their gun rights, and the sales of those go up.”

But it’s not all about politics, she believes. Some people — like Dan Robbins — just enjoy firearms.

“He’s been a licensed dealer for years, just working out of the house,” she said. “He has so much knowledge in his head. Sometimes, even I’m surprised.”

Before opening Tri-Lakes Shooters, Dan worked for Intel — “Corporate America all the way,” says Angela. But the store was always something they wanted to do.

“And we decided to do it here because we live here,” she said. “This is our town, these are our neighbors, and we want to do the best we can for them.”

That effort has paid off. The store has about eight workers who are strictly volunteers because they know and like firearms.

The owners don’t stop at good customer service. They offer classes about firearm safety, concealed carry permits, tactical shooting and legal courses about state gun laws. They’re taught by firearm experts — including snipers from Fort Carson, she said.

The classes have been embraced by the community, she said.

“People want to be responsible,” Robbins said. “They want us to help them be responsible. They don’t just want to buy a gun. Women, particularly, want to know how to use it safely. So we teach them those things. Many of our classes are for women specifically.”

And women, she says, frequently make better shooters.

“Once they get over flinching from the recoil, the noise and the smell — things that just aren’t natural — they’re better shooters, more accurate,” she said. “They’re more patient, more willing to take their time. Now in a scary situation, men might respond better because emotions can run high. But in target shooting, even our instructors say women are better shooters.”

Firearm stats

$11 trillion

National firearms industry

58 percent

Increase of background checks for guns in Colorado since 2007

200 million

Guns in private ownership in United States

32 percent

Of households own guns nationwide

15 million

Estimated number of women who own guns