Kevin Michalowski, executive editor of Concealed Carry magazine, first fired an AR-15 in the early 1990s while hunting coyotes in South Dakota. He found it easier to use and more accurate than his old bolt-action rifle.

He now owns three.

While you can “do all kinds of cool things” with the AR — adding a scope or optics, putting a flashlight on the barrel, changing the stock — “none of this stuff makes a firearm any more deadly,” Michalowski said.

For Butler of the group Shoot Like a Girl, shooting was inspiring. After a divorce in her 30s that undermined her confidence, she went to the shooting range with a group of friends. She started shooting at Gatorade bottles and by the end of the day was using bottle caps as targets.

“I went in there feeling like a failure in life and I walked out having this renewed confidence,” said Butler, 49.