Every year the National Shooting Sports Foundation does a series of studies on the firearms industry. The one I find to be the most interesting is the report they compile based off the results from a survey of hundreds of gun stores from across the country which give us some insight into the trends in the firearms industry. This year’s report (full version available here) is no different, giving us some numbers to attach to the trends we’ve been seeing. Numbers like 40% . . .

Forty percent of all firearms sales, according to the NSSF, were semi-auto handguns. Considering that’s more than twice the number of firearms in the next highest category, that’s a pretty good indactor of what people want these days. With the increased prevalence of concealed carry laws and citizens actually exercising that right, its only natural that the market provide the firearms to supply that demand. We saw the result of that massive demand at SHOT — companies focusing on small, easy to conceal handguns rather than massive rifles or awesome shotguns.

The survey of gun retailers confirms this as the cause of the massive demand, with over 60% of customers purchasing a handgun stating that they will use it for some flavor of personal protection.

While handguns are still the proverbial elephant in the room, they’ve been that way for some time. That’s not necessarily big news to us. What is big news is that assault rifles are making a huge leap in terms of sales.

Assault rifles (or “Modern Sporting Rifles”), such as the AR-15 and other semi-automatic magazine fed firearms, have seen the largest jump in sales since last year. Whether that’s an effect of the upcoming election is still unknown, but for me that’s the most plausible explanation. Obama has stated that his goal is to re-enact the assault weapons ban, so people are stocking up while they can.

The biggest loser, however, are muzzleloaders. Already the redheaded stepchild of the firearms world, their sales have dropped to their lowest point in recent memory. With the increasing relaxation of hunting laws (see: Texas allowing silencers) it makes sense that more people are waiting for open season rather than going the muzzleloader route. Also, especially among the younger crowd, muzzleloading firearms don’t really have any appeal beyond getting that jump on hunting season. It looks like people are trying to find a versatile firearm for hunting that they can enjoy taking to the range in the off season as well rather than a one trick pony.

There’s more stuff in the report, but this is (to me) the most interesting bits. Handguns are huge, and AR-15s are selling like hotcakes. Which explains why Ben’s review of the M&P 15 Sport is so darned popular.

12 Responses to NSSF: Handguns = 4012 of Firearms Sales, AR-15s On the Rise

  1. I find it curious TTAG’s casual use of the term “assault rifle”. The term has largely fallen out of favor amongst the gun community, so I’m somewhat surprised by the frequency of it’s use here on a gun-blog.

  2. Is it really necessary to play into the gun grabbers hands by repeatedly using sensationally inaccurate terms like “assault rifle” in this article? At least put the term in quotes. This label obscures the real identity of such weapons which are after all semi-auto detachable magazine rifles. The aforementioned description may not be catchy or sensationalistic enough for you but it is technically accurate. Calling a semi-auto rifle an assault weapon is not. Why not call a semi-auto detachable magazine handgun an assault pistol? It makes as much sense as the “assault rifle” terminology.

    Here in Kalifornia we are suffering through the annual gun grabber legislative orgy with SB 249, a bill that will ban most of the few remaining semi-auto rifles we are still allowed to possess as well as magazine locks and “bullet buttons” and related parts. All the average Kalifornia resident knows about these weapons is what the lamestream media tells them, which is that they are “assault weapons”. Why does TTAG feel the need to perpetuate the bullshit by falling in with the brain dead lamestreamers? Why hand them another propaganda victory? Never use your enemies words to advance your agenda, invent your own terminology and use it assertively. Please, drop the AP style book and just tell The Truth About Guns.

  3. I agree with the previous posters, and hereby propose that we rename the category happiness dispensing rifle. After all, they’re really fun to own and shoot (I think the Gun Blast guy even used the word “joy”).

  4. “Obama has stated that his goal is to re-enact the assault weapons ban”
    [Citation needed]

  5. I wish In could purchase an assault rifle, but select fire rifles are practically verboten in MA. Semi-automatic rifles, on the other hand, are permitted, but they’re not assault rifles even if they are black.

    Call ’em whatever you wish as long as you know that if you call an AR an assault rifle, you are wrong. An AR is to an assault rifle what a dry hump is to a weekend with Salma Hayek.

  6. Thank you for referring to them as modern sporting rifles (MSRs). Nomenclature matters and we should not refer to semi automatic firearms as “assault rifles” and never ever as “assault weapons” which is a politically invented name to advance gun control.

  7. How interesting… apparently, AR-15s are not rifles… someone call the NRA! But even if they were, it seems equally apparent that the trend in semiauto handgun sales is currently outpacing AR and “rifle” sales by more than 15%. Should post a link to Arfcom, lol. The NSSFs email server would probably crash and burn within minutes.

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