Night hunting pig (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

The data for the estimated number of guns in America was gathered from two sources. From 1945 to 1987, the data was taken from Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America by Gary Kleck, Table 2.1. For the later years, Kleck’s methodology was applied to figures obtained from the ATF. The number shown is the cumulative addition of domestic manufacture plus imports minus exports, not including guns shipped to the U.S. military or foreign military sales. The figures are rounded to the nearest million. And the estimated number of guns in America is . . .

Three-hundred-and-forty-seven million. That’s the 2012 figure. It represents roughly one gun for every man, woman and child in America (not counting so-called undocumented Americans). Diving a little deeper . . .

Kleck attributes the 1945 – 1968 numbers to Newton and Zimring, which includes the calculation of the 1945 number of modern guns added to the stock from 1899 to 1945. Firearms manufactured before 1899 are not included. The starting figure in 1945 is 47 million; at the end of 2012, it is 347 million, an increase of 300 million in 67 years, a six fold increase in the stock. The year 2013 is shown on the end of the chart as a place holder so that the figure 347 will be visible for 2012. Numbers for 2013 are not yet available.

The numbers do not account for reduction of the gun stock due to wear and tear, loss, destruction or illegal exportation; or increases of the stock from illegal importation, individual or illegal manufacture, or acquisition from military sources.

The U.S. population increased from 133 million in 1945 to 313 million in 2012, a 135% increase in population, or over a 200% increase in the number of guns per capita. Guns per capita rose from .35 in 1945, to 1.1 guns per capita in 2012.

For some perspective, motor vehicle ownership in the United States has followed a similar trend,  with an increase from .22 per capita in 1945 to .809 per capita in 2011, a 269% increase.

For those who wish to put data into a program to create your own charts and graphs, here are the numbers:

From Point Blank, by Kleck:

1945     47
1946     48
1947     51
1948     53
1949     55
1950     58
1951     60
1952     62
1953     64
1954     66
1955     67
1956     69
1957     71
1958     73
1959     75
1960     78
1961     80
1962     81
1963     84
1964     86
1965     89
1966     93
1967     97
1968     102
1969     107
1970     112
1971     117
1972     122
1973     128
1974     135
1975     140
1976     146
1977     151
1978     156
1979     162
1980     168
1981     173
1982     178
1983     182
1984     186
1985     191
1986     194
1987     198

1988 – 2012  ATF reports

1988     203
1989     209
1990     213
1991     217
1992     223
1993     231
1994     238
1995     243
1996     247
1997     252
1998     256
1999     261
2000     265
2001     270
2002     274
2003     279
2004     284
2005     289
2006     295
2007     301
2008     308
2009     316
2010     325
2011     334
2012     347

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

Recommended For You

100 Responses to How Many Guns Are There in America?

  1. Guns and cars have kept pace numbers wise. But by far, cars are deadlier in our society than guns. And they’re much more costly and they do more damage to the environment.

    Ban cars! It’s for the chilluns.

    • yep, and they keep forgetting to remove from the stats… guns confiscated, and destroyed.

      just like gun seized, they include gun taken but later returned to innocent people, or guns just found. here in nj they have even been counting guns turned in at buybacks as seized guns.

      short of it is, criminals have enoufh huns n ammo to wage a nonstop war for 100 years. we civilians do not have enough and ALL restrictions even on full auto are insane!

      • The number of firearms confiscated and destroyed or sold to buybacks is tiny compared to the number destroyed as a result of abuse, neglect, wear, etc. over the years. This especially applies to cheap ones like single shot .22 “boy’s rifles” and single shot shotguns. Cheap “Saturday Night Special” pistols and revolvers are probably a close second.

        Not all guns become treasured heirlooms. Some rust in barns.

      • The gov confiscates firearms every year and the FEDS estimated that 1% of all firearms in America are confiscated then either destroyed or lost. So of those stolen by the FEDS figure half or .5% are lost back into circulation.

    • I suspect that many of the folks pushing for gun bans would have no problem in banning cars and pushing us all into some sort of public transportation. For the children. And the animals. And the planet. Only the enlightened will still be authorized private transport due to their importance. Think Al Gore preaching reduced standard of living and power use while he powers multiple mansions and flies private jets around the world…

    • People really need to stop trying to make a car-gun comparison. There isn’t one. Cars were invented for one purpose – transport. Guns were made for one purpose (primarily) – killing/maiming. Cars aren’t intentionally used to hurt or kill people, but guns are all the time. That’s why we need to be so careful with who gets them. Also you seem to suggest there’s a big push for banning guns. Not wanting violent criminals and crazies to be able to get guns is VERY different from wanting to ban all guns. Is that something you hear a lot of people say – “Let’s ban all guns”? I’m thinking no. Although, the more certain people think there’s a push for a full ban, the more willing they are to open their wallets for the NRA. I’m thinking that’s something the NRA and similar groups realize. Just something to think about.

      • This is a common strawman argument, that cars serve a purpose and guns do not. Guns serve a purpose of protecting homes, families and lives. Guns in the wrong hands, just like cars in the wrong hands are very dangerous.

        How stupid and hypocritical is it for the Left in the US to say ‘we cannot deport all these illegal immigrants, it’s impossible!… oh, buy the way, lets round up all the guns” If guns could vote for Democrats, you sure as hell would hear a lot less complaints about them.

      • Vehicles are used in crimes every day whether it’s used as a vehicle or a weapon. The intent of its invention is moot point. These things already exist it’s impossible to stop them. Let’s just say as of today every gun has been disposed of. Tomorrow someone will be 3D printing them in their basement. In my opinion it comes down to the person. I have guns; most of the people I know have guns. I do not know anyone (non-Military) that has shot someone. Trying to predict the unpredictable is a very hard thing and we have the right to protect ourselves Statistics & corpus or virtue & vices?

      • Well it depends on how you look at it because the there are thousands of armored and firearm mounted vehicles on our roads today. Guns were created for food gathering, defense, war, sports, fun and many other reason just like CARS are used for killing, sports, traveling, driving, racing etc. Someone ( young black lady ) just ran over a few people deliberately yelling the Arab slang so cars are used for killing just ask the climate control freaks.

      • “…Something to think about”? … Umm, a fallacious, anecdotal, poorly researched, agenda-driven comment is hardly worth ANYBODY’S time!

  2. How many are underneath our waterways? A recovery program with dredges may be feasible if the comments on TTAG are genuine lol.

    • If comments here are reliable in that regard, then the next time you go to any body of water, expect to be standing on firearms, rather than whatever usually coats the bottom of said body of water.

  3. What percentage is a sh*tton?

    As I like to say ‘one for every man woman and child by God!’

    I saw a book on the American revolution the other day, the title was ‘A people numerous and armed’

      • And spares.

        Let’s also not forget the formal / special occasion pistols, the BBQ gun, the high holidays shotgun, etc.

      • I have a combination of 25 revolvers, pistols, rifles and shotguns. I am the laughing stock of my family because I have so few guns. 🙂

      • I agree and well said, take it a step better and have 2 or more or 1 each for every family member. The NRA a while back said they have about 6 mil members and of that they said that the avg member has at least 7 firearms also of those 6mil members any that own an AR15 the avg is 3 AR’s. So figure 6mil x 7firearms =42 million firearms of which 18 mil are AR15 in 1 organization protecting YOUR RIGHTS. China has the world largest military troops at just over 1 million so the NRA members alone out arm the entire Chinese troops by 41 million firearms and not all members disclosed all their arms, I know for a fact.

    • Shhhh
      Talk like that means, of your five guns you get 87.9% of one gun, and the govt confiscates the rest for redistribution for “fairness.”

      If people have the wrong priorities their priorities should bevat least tested. When they need a gun, ask them ‘how’s that big screen tv working out for ya? Nice 1080p?’

  4. It doesn’t account for all those gun buy backs. They must have taken off the streets millions…..er….thousands …. er…. hundreds…er….a few dozen guns. Right ?

    • We don’t have those in my state anymore since the legislature decided no tax money, or any public funding, could be used for them. I keep looking for a privately funded one to get rid of my first handgun(I should have saved up for something better). I won’t sell it to anyone that might use it, not with a clear conscious atleast, so the craptastic jamomatic (would have been a much better model name than the one they used) just collects dust for now. I won’t admit the name on the side of it but it made the reviews for the r51 look good.

    • That number is included in the estimated yearly confiscation count of 1% of the estimated number of firearms in America. The ATF claims that about 1% of the estimated firearms are collected/confiscated half are lost and/or destroyed so say 300 million guns = 3 million collected/confiscated 1.5 million go back on the streets, private collection, recirculate etc. and sales increase by the millions every year and some in just 1 month. But violent gun crimes have decreased over these 30 years according to the recent ATF.FBI,DHS statistics, funny they use this to promote how their gun laws are working to reduce guiolence and then go back to saying gun sales have cause increased gun violence. WHICH IS IT FRAUDS aka FEDs

  5. Is there a good webpage to find training centers? Hardware is fine, hardware + skills, knowledge, and practice is better.

  6. It seems that on average (spike years excluded) the average number of guns sold is between 5-7 million. Sounds like a lot until you consider the number of players in the game. Then, it becomes a low value proposition to deal in guns. No wonder gun shops and blogs sprout like crazy and then die overnight. Hard to make money in this game. I try to support through Amazon affiliate purchases when I can. Just my $.02

    • Gun shops don’t just sell guns. Ammo seems to me like it’d be the biggest profit center, since it’s a consumable resource.

      Dealing with the ATF aside, I don’t see a gun shop being any more or less difficult to be successful with than any other retail establishment. Stores and restaurants of all stripes come and go all the time, because there’s little room for error in retail.

      • Oddly enough, my favorite local gun shop for looking at and buying guns rarely has much ammo at all. Yet they always have a nice selection of new and used guns. Another independent gun shop that is further away always seems to have a nice supply of ammo for sale and our local Cabelas shelves are overflowing lately and a lot of ammo sales going on. Great deals on 9mm and 223 and 556 target ammo right now.

  7. No way near enough. Some people aren’t doing their share and I can only afford a few extra guns myself.

    • WHAT?
      There are no “extra” guns. ????
      Like a comedian once said about sex. You never get enough sex, you ever find youself having had enough sex you send the rest over to my house.
      NO EXTRA GUNS ????

  8. Is “Undocumented Americans” a thing now?

    I’ve heard of “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented workers,” but this new term you’re utilizing seems to have a certain political motivation behind it.

    • My belief is:
      You are not an “American” unless you were either born here, or have become a citizen.
      I’m tired of hearing the terms like “African American” etc. What would you call a person who is is from South Africa, and is white, and came to America, has a “green card”? Would you also call them an “African American”?
      My father was from Sweden, but I never heard anyone call him a “Swedish American”. My wife is from the Philippines, but she was not a “Filipino American”, until she gained her American citizenship.

      What the hell is an “undocumented American” The only thing I can tie to that is an American citizen that has lost their passport! What a crock!

      • America can hold/support an infinite amount of Americans, and we gladly and openly accept them from wherever GOD directed the stork to leave them. However, not all immigrants are Americans, and not all persons entering the U.S. are immigrants, and not all those who have obtained citizenship should be allowed to say who the latest allowed batch of entries should be (e.g. https://www.usa.gov/features#item-211727). If America is yours to give-away, it’s mine to take away from you.

        “Government (anywhere, but most certainly, and observably, in the United States) is “We the People.” Without sovereignty of the term “people” there is no sovereignty in government. America (Americans) do not aspire to be any other nation in the world. America (Americans) do not aspire to be any other people(s) ––in the world. America (Americans) does not need anyone to come to our country who doesn’t aspire to be American.” [TERMS, J.M. Thomas R., 2012, Pg. 83]

        • Joe:
          Third line down,”However not all immigrants are American”
          I would say, NO immigrants are American. Not until they gain US citizenship.
          I understand some folks would say that all people who live in North America, or South America, are American.
          but it has pretty much been universally excepted, that when someone refers to an “American”, he is talking about a person who is an American citizen.
          Good post!

  9. I’m curious if the numbers can be broken down into caliber, specifically .22lr firearms sold. Every time I see a poll or “question of the day” about ammo availability I wonder what effect having all those new .22 models that look like their centerfire cousins has had on the market. It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed as if .22 rifles were limited to either a marlin with a tubular magazine or a 10/22 and .22 pistols were either a browning buckmark or ruger mk2. The first .22 I saw that looked like a centerfire was the walther p22 then came the .22 mp5’s, .22 ar15’s, .22 micro uzi’s, and dedicated .22 1911’s. There’s even a .22 sturmgewehr made today. I realize that everyone likes to yell “horders horders horders” when talking about the .22 shortage, but I’ve never seen anyone look at what the combination of new shooters and these new “cool” .22’s has done to the .22 ammo market. Hopefully the ammo manufacturers have some insight into this when they decide whether or not to add capacity.

    • 22LR manufacturers are more than happy just running extra shifts on their mfg lines versus risking new capacity.
      No additional EPA regulation hurdles for running extra shifts.
      Can you imagine now days how the EPA+state+federal regulators would want to drag you over the coals for making an ammo factory?

      • New machines, new floor space, new employees to train, and new regulatory hurdles eventually get outweighed by new demand. When they see more reward than risk they’ll add capacity. It’s not like new nuclear power plants where there are acceptable substitutes that produce the exact same electricity. You can get another gun that shoots another caliber, but you can’t get .45, 9mm or .223 to fire out of your .22 although I did see a video of someone using nail gun blanks with .22 pellets sort of like a muzzle loader but I sure ain’t gonna try it.

        • Yeah, but it’s a lot of work to scrape the paint off all those baby toys just to make a few bullets out of it.

    • This is an indirect result of three things . The manufactures have created look and feel replicas of larger calibers so we can experience training requirements without the cost of the higher caliber ammo , we can also start our youth and low experience citizens out with a lower caliber look and feel alike before transiting them to the higher caliber model and because with the small size bullet you get a faster discharge and reload on a semi auto and it makes them really fun to shoot . I love running red and green tracers through my 10/22 on the fourth of July . Lets enjoy the freedoms we have while we still can . The recent Supreme Court rulings should make us shudder when we realize that Barry still has a phone and a pen and apparently knows something really bad about Justice Kennedy . GO NSA .

    • I’ve put of any and all .22LR purchases because of the never-ceasing ammo shortage. It’s far easier to feed a .223, 5.56, or 9mm and the price per round (of non-existent ammo) isn’t much higher.

  10. Well, very soon, I will be adding my first AR to the count. The future has gotten worrying enough for me that I don’t feel I can put it off any longer.

    I truly hope I will never have to use it.

    • Never have to use it? Dude I use mine almost every day. The gun above is my Underground Tactical 6.8SPC with that evil suppressor thingy on it and a M646 6X night vision scope. Pigs and coyotes tell their children ghost stories about that gun. ARs are great guns that have a lot of uses. I hope you enjoy yours often.

      • Hah, you know what I mean.

        Yes I do hope to shoot it as often as ammo funds allow which may not be all that much at current prices…

        • Come to the Pacific Northwest. We have an abundance of ammo here right now and much of it is on sale. Box of 20, 223 target ammo under $10 and no limit on number of boxes you can buy. Saw one guy load up and ammo box for his pet 556/223 AR. I did not get that crazy but I got a few extra boxes. Always nice to have a good supply to take to the range. Love shooting my M&P 15 with a scope. Chambered for 556 but I shoot a lot of 223 through it and works fine. Good tight group at 100 yards. Not quite so good at 200 but working on that.

  11. My new G43:
    “I will call him George.
    And I will pat him, and pet him, and hug him, and squeeze him and shoot him regularly.”
    The wife a daughter love it too.

  12. Every blade of grass-and that number has more than likely increased by millions & millions since 2012. How many CC since 3 years ago? The # may be far higher…

    • No doubt there’s been another 10-20 million guns sold since 2012. The shelves were pretty bare of of all but the most expensive or specialized firearms for most of 2013, and all the factories were running at full steam. A lot of guns were sold in the panic, I’d guess a lot more than in an average year.

      • NOT “PANIC” – we call them the Salad Days, the days when your wife used to say “hell yeah, get us one honey before they’re $9,000.”

        I know, during the Obamascare of ought and 9, ought and 10, ought and 11, ought and 12, it was sad to see big old boys in their overalls down at the gun-shop, or at the gun show, with momma, and all they can afford (or all that’s remaining that’s available to purchase) is a 3rd Party Mfr’d .22 AR knockoff going for $700 + dollars. You know the scene, he’s been talking his wife outa talking him outa buying a real AR for about 12 years, and now the price is so high for the .22. Freekin Sad.

    • No, those are total numbers of guns in existence in the United States in each year. If that was yearly production Walmart would have ar’s on sale for twenty bucks a piece…hmm…I like where your going.

      • No, there’d still be hoarding. ; )

        But I getcha, and even cheap and easy it would never tarnish gun love. Bible, family, guns. Long may we (all) Cling.

  13. I have reached max storage capacity for firearms. My buying from now on will be very limited, but I did my part. I can probably fully outfit a platoon.

    • Just start buying NAA mini revolvers now. You can fit fifty of those in an ammo can. Storage problem solved!

      • Good for you,I have some of the NAA stuff too. Great little guns, especially in the magnum. Only good for self defense if the shoot is “in your face”. If the bullet doesn’t stop him, the flash will either “scare him to death” of burn all the hair off his head!

  14. Per capita gun ownership is interesting, but limited, in that it averages in all the nongunowners and all the owners of multiple guns. It doesn’t address the claim the antis make that gun sales are absorbed by an ever shrinking subgroup of OWFGs. What’s needed is a gun ownership rate. That is, what percentage of the adult population owns at least one operable firearm?

    There’s a study making the media rounds this week that purports to answer that question, broken down by region and state. Caveats: it’s an academic study, written by a Columbia University professor in the school of public health (graduated from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School, too), and published in an academic journal titled “Injury Prevention.” There’s more, but you get the idea of the slant.

    They peg the national gun ownership rate at about 29%, with Rhode Island at less than 6% and Alaska at greater than 60%.

    The abstract is available here:

    http://m.injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2015/06/09/injuryprev-2015-041586.full

    • You’re right, that would be a much more telling number. But in the current social and political climate, it’s all but impossible to get an accurate estimate of the percentage of people who own guns. A significant number of people aren’t going to answer a bunch of questions from a stranger about their guns…

      From that abstract: “YouGov is a nonpartisan research firm that recruits its panel online through a polling website…” Kind of a self-selecting group there, and likely not very representative of the wide swath of gun owners who are more libertarian and protective of their privacy.

      • You’re absolutely right. That self-selection aspect severely compromises any conclusions. Any serious study should at least start with hard numbers that tie individual flesh and blood people to ownership. Those would include the FOID cards, carry licenses, gun registration databases, NICS searches.

        None of those should even exist, of course, and even they don’t tell the whole story, but they’re a more credible starting point than, say, a government census taker at your door asking about your guns.

        • Won’t be long before you see the gun questions show up on your information sheet at the doctors office and if the doctor is going to bill insurance for you if you don’t answer the questions you won’t be seen . Do you have firearms in your home ? Are there children in your home ? Is anyone in your home take medication for any of the following …………………………….. ? Are your firearms locked away in an approved safe ? Blah , Blah , Blah .

    • And. . . a few that are available (apparently) in the trunks of police units and secret service autos. . . just sayin.

    • Yes, but have you dedicated yourself to growing extra appendages to carry them? Anything less, and you might only be an accessory : D

  15. At approximately one gun per American, there’s an implication here.

    Every gun you own, past the first one, means, statistically, one more person going around unarmed. No, I’m not laying the blame on you for having other people’s guns, I lay the blame on them for not having one.

    If you are one of those people who (before the boating accident) own(ed) a hundred guns, then for the the statistic to be true, there must be ninety nine unarmed americans out there.

    Clearly the average number of guns owned by someone who owns any guns at all, must be something like two, or we wouldn’t see stats to the effect that half of all households have at least one gun.

    I’d feel a lot better if the average number of guns per American were at least three.

  16. The author wrote, “The numbers do not account for reduction of the gun stock due to wear and tear, loss, destruction, … ”

    I think those reductions would have a major impact on the total number of guns, don’t you? I have a Sig Sauer SP2022 that is starting to have trouble cocking itself when the slide goes back, whether from recoil or from manually pulling it back. It is only 4 years old, and I am thinking about finding a way to legally destroy it, because it could cost more to fix and refurbish it than it is worth.

    So how many other guns have worn out and been destroyed since 1947? How many guns are worn out, and just sitting in a closet or gun safe, never to be used again? (The owner might think that it could explode in his hand if he ever tried to fire it again.) I think it would be a fairly high percentage – maybe as many as 40 to 60 percent.

    Since the study’s numbers do not account for a significant percentage of guns that have been removed from the US gun stock due to several common reasons, I must conclude that the study’s results are inherently flawed. I think the number of guns in the US that were actually usable in 2012 was somewhere between 150 million and 200 million.

    • Guns are very durable items. Some guns certainly wear out, but most guns are not fired much, and most people understand that guns are valuable and store them reasonably well. I have owned a number of guns over a hundred years old, that are still quite functional, and some in very good condition.

      I think your estimate on wear and tear is much too high. If we are simply throwing out numbers, my guess is that less than a tenth of a percent of firearms are “worn out” each year. Probably more are lost in fires, boating accidents, or tossed off a bridge by a criminal.

      It is a very difficult number to measure, by in my extended family, over about 50 years of memory, with hundreds of guns, I recall two being broke/unrepairable, and one lost in a fire. The broke guns were both low end items, Bryco and Davis, I recall.

      I do not know what is wrong with your Sig, but if you wish to get rid of it, I will pay the shipping and transfer fee to my FFL so that I can “dispose” of it properly for you… not to exceed $50 on your end.

  17. My question would be, what percentage of Americans could afford to own multiple firearms in 1947 vs 2015?

  18. I cannot believe the comments you are all putting . As a British citizen I am very proud of our gun laws and the fact that our police do not need to carry guns . How can you justify owning a gun by saying it is your right when the only people the guns will be used against are your fellow countrymen. It is a similar scenario to the cold war when countries just kept upping their arsenal to better others . So the excuse that your neighbour has 2 guns so I need 3 is just crap as the only guns you may justify would be those used for hunting which does not require assault rifles or hand guns . You can not say you have rite’s when they are consistently abused by so many unintellectual arsholes who take the lives away from so many which in turn affect many many more friends and relative’s.
    You need to a look at your selves and your country and ask why the world at large has the contempt and dislike for you that it has . You do not have the right to bare arms as you do not have the right to take lives .

    • You need to a look at your selves and your country and ask why the world at large has the contempt and dislike for you that it has .

      If that were true, I wouldn’t care. However, my understanding is that is FAR from the truth and the USA is still the envy of the world. As an engineer I work with people from Europe (inc. UK), Asia, and Australia/NZ every day. They want to be HERE, not THERE! I have engineer friends who go to other countries, not because they allow them to come like we do, but because they HAVE TO go. I had a boss come here on an ISP from Germany and he did not want to leave and go back to Germany. So don’t tell me the world doesn’t envy and want to live in the US. And I’m just talking about the first world.

      You do not have the right to bare arms as you do not have the right to take lives .

      We have a right to self defense, and how can you best defend yourself? What makes you think you are required to fight hand-to-hand to defend your life? How can you defend yourself against more powerful or more numerous assailants without arms?

      I find it laughable that you have to call out specially trained police squads to pick up found .22 ammunition when we have kids who are capable of owning and shooting guns in the US.

      You say your cops (bobbies) don’t carry guns, but even the Canadian cops carry guns, and they still carry the queen on their currency..

      Finally, yes, we have the right to take lives if they are threatening ours. What makes you think you must submit to being murdered? LOL!

      Also, don’t deign to lecture us when you are so ignorant of your own language that you don’t know the difference between bare and bear. Stick to something you know, like pumping gas/petrol or washing windows.

    • You say Americans do not have the right to have guns but you are wrong. It is You who doesn’t have the right. The reason we Do have the right is because our forefathers made sure of it by adding the 2nd amendment to our Bill of Rights. You see, they came from Your country and were sick of government oppression so they made sure we have the ability to take back control of the government if need be. Now you may not like it, but that’s OK. We don’t care what you think.

  19. Where in the hell do people get your facts???? 1 gun per American? There are over 3 billion weapons in this country not million, these are domestic and IMPORTS!!!!!!!!!! Ted Nugent owns over 10k himself…

    MORON

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *