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NRA still on target with gun magazine aimed at women

Publication meets growing demand, organization says

HOUSTON -- The cover of the glossy magazine Woman's Outlook each month features an attractive woman in her 30s or 40s holding a gun and wearing a self-assured, welcoming smile. "Modern Day Dianas," reads one headline, referring to the Greek god of hunting. "Silk & Steel; 650 Years of Women at Arms" reads another. And this month, the cover promises a story on "The Woods-Wise Woman."

The National Rifle Association's newest publication, a 75-page magazine written for its growing female membership, has been such a hit since it premiered last January within the organization that Wal-Mart began carrying it on nearly 10 percent of its newsstands nationwide this month. And over the next two months the nation's largest retailer will expand its sales, featuring Outlook in more than half of their 2,900 stores.

"We offer news type articles, how-to articles, like how to fit a shotgun. How do you go about finding a shotgun that's right for you? The right boots for hunting, for shooting?" explained the magazine's editor, Karen Mehall. "We don't have to wear our dad's hunting clothes anymore."

NRA officials say Outlook grew out of a demand by its female membership, a population that is growing, although the organization says it has no exact statistics.

"We were getting consistent and persistent calls from women who wanted to get involved in hunting and shooting," said Mary Sue Faulkner, director of "Women on Target," a two-pronged NRA community service program created in 1999 that offers instructional shooting clinics as well as hunting excursions. (In 2003, the NRA hosted 143 instructional shooting clinics around the country, a drastic increase from when the program launched in 2000 with 13 clinics). Faulkner estimates the organization has reached "about 10,000 women through these two programs," although she doesn't know how many have become members of the NRA as a result.

"Anecdotally, we've seen increasing numbers of women enrolled in our firearm safety classes and hunting safety and marksmanship," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "Sept. 11 was the benchmark for an increase in women's interest in self-protection."

There are four million dues-paying members of the NRA in the United States (annual membership cost $35), with some of the highest per capita memberships here in Texas. Encouraging women to become active participants is part of a strategy of investing in its future.

"It increases our political gravitas when appealing to a broad demographic is an admirable goal that every organization hopes to achieve," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

New members get to select a magazine published by the organization as part of a joining bonus. Hunter and Rifleman is the NRA's oldest and most well-known publication. America's First Freedom follows national legislative affairs.

"It makes sure you know who's fighting for your right to hunt and bear arms," Mehall said. But Outlook offers a different service, and it's delivered to approximately 50,000 women each month. It calls itself the "Official Journal for the Women of the National Rifle Association."

But the potential reach of Wal-Mart is already changing that. The magazine runs on advertising from companies like Winchester Ammunition, Kimber pistols, and Taurus revolvers -- companies that signed on before they knew the magazine could have exponential reach outside the new membership of the NRA. Wal-Mart is the world's largest single newsstand, and 70 percent of the magazines the chain sells are bought by women. Suddenly, the newsstand price of $3.59 could mean a nice bump in profits for the publishing wing of the NRA.

Wal-Mart's decisions about its newsstand content became more high-profile last May when company officials pulled three men's magazines off its newsstands. They said Maxim, Stuff, and FHM carried sexually explicit images that were not compatible with Wal-Mart's priorities. But Outlook, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said, offers wholesome articles and emphasizes responsibility, and they have placed it in the sporting section.

"I would prefer it be placed with mainstream women's magazines, which we think it is," said head of publishing for the NRA, Joe Graham. "It's designed to provide women's points of view on things that might be unfamiliar to women today, like selecting hunting clothes, a self-defense firearm, protecting the firearm with children in the house," he said. "By and large, it appears we're dead on."

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