Crimson Trace’s Interesting Banner at the NRA Annual Meeting

Among the subtle but very misleading claims made by Evan Osnos in his previously mentioned New Yorker essay on the gun industry is his statement, “The centerpiece of the N.R.A. annual convention this year was the endorsement of Donald Trump for President.”

Actually, the centerpiece of the NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits is always THE EXHIBITS: the 10 acres of booths purchased by businesses representing every imaginable aspect of the gun industry (which is more than just gun manufacturers). The one day I attended the NRAAM this year I walked over 12 miles taking it all in.

Walking the exhibition hall can be not only physically but also visually overwhelming. So I enjoyed looking through the 100s of photos taken by Gun Culture 2.0’s official photographer, Sandy Yamane, to see what I missed when I experienced the event live.

This image of Crimson Trace’s banner caught my eye.

Photo by Sandy Yamane
Photo by Sandy Yamane

Crimson Trace has been heavily marketing to women, so it is not surprising that three of the five images are of women. The pictures of the five models’ faces show the same determined expression. And yet . . .

And yet look at the different body postures in the silhouettes. Three are standing, but only the male silhouette is leaning in and pointing determinedly. The two female silhouettes are leaning back defensively.

Two models are on one knee, one man and one woman. And yet, again, the male is leaning in aggressively and the female is leaning back defensively.

Like me looking at the 100s of photos my wife took at the NRA meeting, I am sure the ad executives who work these up for Crimson Trace look at 100s of possible photos before choosing these. Are they consciously choosing different postures when they are featuring men vs. women, or is it working more subconsciously so that the aggressive male and defensive female just seem “natural” to the eye?

When examining the portrayal of gender in advertising, I tell my students to begin with a simple question: Would it look normal if you substituted a female model for a male model, and vice-versa? Often times the answer is “no,” but I have seen on at least one occasion a pair of ads that were very similar, one of which featured a male model and one a female model.

N82 Tactical 2 Ads
N82 Tactical Booth at USCCA Concealed Carry Expo

This photo shows the N82 Tactical booth at the USCCA’s 2nd annual Concealed Carry Expo. I was actually just taking a picture of the booth, but looking over the photos I took that weekend I was struck by the similarity between the posture of the male and female models in these two ads. You could easily have the two models trade places in the two ads and they would not look any different.

You don’t have to believe that there is no difference between men and women to want to see women included in gun culture on an equal basis. Gun advertising has a way to go in this regard.


  1. Just speculating here, but there’s a possible explanation for Crimson Trace’s choice of photos that doesn’t require malice or misogyny on their part:

    Maybe it’s not a matter of Crimson Trace themselves WANTING to put women in a bucket where they would only use deadly force as an absolute last resort and when they’ve literally been put on their back foot, but rather that their market research has led them to conclude that many WOMEN believe that to be true for themselves, and thus Crimson Trace is attempting to appeal to the actual beliefs of that segment of the market?

    Of course, I know many women who are as pro-active in self-defense, even more so, than many of the men I know–that’s the nature of being a decades-long member of the gun and self-defense community, birds of a feather tend to meet up from time to time. That doesn’t mean that those very pro-active women we all know are representative of ALL women or even MOST women. I’ve certainly also met women who would have difficult using deadly force until the last possible moment, delaying far longer than the law would actually require–and some of those Crimson Trace photos may be referencing that portion of the market.

    Anyway, as I say, just speculation on my part. I certainly have no insider knowledge on Crimson Trace. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


    • Thanks for suggesting this alternative possibility. I definitely would not attribute it to malice, but more to the unquestioned assumptions that often are baked into gun culture. Kathy Jackson and others talk about this.

      But you could be right that they are doing this consciously. It would be interesting to know the thought process behind the ad campaign.


  2. a) Wait’ll you see the EAA or Sarsilmaz’s (they’re from Turkey) booths if you think gun manufacturers are starting to”get” the woman’s market. Let’s just say there’s a long ways to go still…
    b) Trump’s appearance was the *political* centerpiece of the convention, and unfortunately, that’s how many people see the NRA, as just a political event. I think for most, it was the floor (it’s a close as you can get to SHOT), and if it wasn’t that, it was the entertainment (although country ain’t my thing: Memo to the NRA – Punk rockers own guns, too) and the camaraderie.


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