2016 Shaping Up to Be Biggest Gun Sales Year on Record

NICS checks Private FirearmsStocks1999-2015

This year is on its way to being a record year for U.S. firearm sales. In the first two months of 2016, gun buyers and concealed carry permit applicants set records for the number of times gun dealers and state governments pinged the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). In January . . .

the FBI processed 2,545,802 NICS checks. That number easily surpassed the previous total: January of 2013’s 2,495,440 NICS checks. Both years eclipse the next highest January NICS total: 2015’s 1,772,794. The top two records are associated with President Obama’s highly publicised pushes for additional gun control.

Gun buyers and permit applicants propelled February 2016 to an even higher record: 2,613,074 NICS checks. In the history of the NICS system, only two months top that total: December 2012 (2,783,765) and December 2015 (3,314,594).

Last year, 2015, generated the highest ever number of FBI instant background checks for a year: 23,141,970. In the first 60 days of 2016, the FBI has run 5,158,87 checks. As 2016 is both a presidential election year and a leap year, firearms sales and concealed carry permits could well reach a historic high.

NICS checks correlate with an increase in private firearms stocks. In 2013, the last record year, one NICS check corresponded to .76 new private firearms. (The industry and government used the .76 ratio to extrapolate the increase in private firearms during 2014 and 2015.)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives generates data on the actual increase in the private stock, based on the number of firearms manufactured in the United States (excluding military firearms) plus imports, minus exports. The 2014 numbers will be available soon; the 2015 numbers will be ready in about a year.

The private firearms stock in the United States likely increased by about four million guns so far this year, give or take a hundred thousand. By the end of the year, we should see some 16 to 20 million firearms added to the private stock.

The more gun control advocates push for legislative controls on firearms, the more people purchase firearms. As extraordinary and counter-intuitive as this may seem, the evidence is incontrovertible. Americans have purchased some 88.5 million firearms since the start of the Obama presidency. By the end of his presidency, the number of private firearms in the U.S. will have increased by about a third, about 106 million firearms.

That’s about 20 percent greater than the number of all the modern private firearms that existed in the United States at the beginning of the modern push for citizen disarmament in 1968, when the estimate sat at about 89 million.

If a Republican president is elected, I predict the number of NICS checks and firearms sold will drop like a rock. If a Democrat is elected, they will soar to even higher records. Given the uncertainty of a presidential race, they will remain at record or near record levels through the end of 2016.

Source for NICS numbers: From fbi.gov(pdf)

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch


  1. avatar Rick K says:

    Much like Andy Cuomo is the national one-way U-Haul salesman of the year, Obama is the national gun salesman of the year.

    1. avatar Dog Breath says:

      Doing my part on both ends; buying and selling so I get double points.

  2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

    Doing my part, too bad I haven’t fixed the leaky boat my gun safe is stored on.

  3. avatar Gurney Halleck says:

    I did my part. S&W 686 plus on its way to my FFL soon.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      I did my part as well. I just recently picked up a second Marlin 60 (like the new shorter barrel), and an SKS for a second string 7.62X39, as a backup to my AK. I’ve only been craving an SKS for about 20 years now.

      1. avatar THC says:

        SKS Be careful when u take the gas tube off, if u move that lever to far the plunger and spring flies out.

  4. avatar BLAMMO says:

    TWO guns behind every blade of grass …

  5. avatar T Rogers says:

    My part done but not finished yet, Sig P938 and Colt M4A1 Socom so far this year.

  6. avatar IL-annoyed says:

    Doing my part 🙂
    Ruger Blackhawk in 41 Rem Magnum

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      New or used?

      And why not go with .44 Magnum instead of .41 Magnum? I only ask because .44 Magnum ammunition offerings and availability far surpasses .41 Magnum offerings and availability.

      1. avatar IL-annoyed says:

        I have a curiosity with cartridges that are under-appreciated. I got it new from Buds out the door for $500 flat. Cheaper than a 44mag from Ruger.

        Not knocking others choices in caliber, I enjoy some guns because of the history of it or the cartridge development, and I want to learn reloading.
        9mm? Nope, I chose 10mm
        44 magnum? Pass, I’ll go with 41 magnum.
        30-30? Fiddlesticks, I got a 35 Remington (and then got a 30-30 cuz I like westerns alot).

        I do wish TTAG did some posts about reloading…

        1. avatar Art out West says:

          Good for you man! I’ve been kind of craving a .41 magnum Blackhawk myself. I just started reloading .38 special, and know that .41 mag is a great reloader’s cartridge.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Fair enough IL-annoyed … I appreciate your mindset.

          Ever go deer hunting? That .41 Magnum would be just fine for taking white-tailed deer out to 50 yards with proper bullet selection.

      2. avatar THC says:

        Becsuse I allready have .357, .44, .45 S&Ws, n want to finish the collection

    2. avatar bobbob says:

      I love my Ruger Blackhawk 41. A lot of fun. Glad you picked one up!

  7. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Well, no one can claim that we, as a nation, would be unable to repel any open ground invasion from any nation or coalition of nations in the world.

    Maybe the Second Amendment really is about a free state. It’s almost like the Framers of our United States Constitution actually knew what they were doing.

    1. avatar THC says:

      Really? AR vs Tank

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        That tank needs a supply chain.

      2. avatar Stinkeye says:

        Wrong matchup. “AR vs. supply convoy” is how you defeat an invading force, not by going toe-to-toe against armored divisions. You can have all the tanks you want, but if you can’t bring ’em fuel and ammo (and food for the guys driving them), they’re not much use.

      3. avatar Scoutino says:

        And the crew has to get out of the tank eventually.

      4. avatar JT says:

        Tank vs. IED. A tank with one tread is immobile. AR for the survivors.

  8. avatar David says:

    “Maybe the Second Amendment really is about a free state. It’s almost like the Framers of our United States Constitution actually knew what they were doing.”

    Now isn’t that just a funny idea.

  9. avatar wrightl3 says:

    Hope to do my part this year.

  10. avatar BobS says:

    NICS reports are published in printable PDF form at https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics
    Any idea where we can get the underlying spreadsheet data from which those PDFs were produced?

    The “Month/Year by State” (19 sheets) and “Month/Year by State/Type” (208 sheets) are too much for any individual to type, and that re-typing labor will be prone to errors.
    If FBI doesn’t publish the data, has any private organization taken on the typing task?

    My goal: to play with these data alongside others in the Google Public Data Explorer https://www.google.com/publicdata

    1. avatar Don says:

      Adobe, the makers of the PDF software, will convert that pdf to an Excel file for you, you can do it online I think it’s like $24 for a year subscription…….

      1. avatar dlj95118 says:

        …the PDF to XLSX conversion appears to work.

  11. Anyone else smell a tail wagging a dog? If all anti-gun presidents do is cause more people to buy guns and they know this then it would stand to reason that they’d position themselves to reap the greatest gain from that fact. Why would they do anything substantive about furthering gun control if that were the case? Wouldn’t the logical step be to make superficial gestures of no substance whatsoever in order to inflame those that see it as infringement and to placate those that see it as “action”? They don’t even need a conspiracy. All they need is the natural credulousness of Americans to be given an avenue to interact with a two party system that had already degenerated into nothing more than a showcase of polemics science in action.

    1. avatar Accur81 says:

      You think Democrats care about reality?

  12. avatar James69 says:

    It’s “Buy a Gun TwoferTuesday” get out and buy!

  13. avatar brad says:

    I read Obama has stock in ruger

  14. avatar ThomasR says:

    This brings a smile to my face, a spring to my step and a song to my heart!

    While most of the rest of the world exists in the darkness of servitude and virtual slavery of government mandated disarmament; Americans continue to expand the ownership, practice and the bearing of arms that represents a free person vesus being a peasant, peon or slave through all of recorded history.

    There truly is something different about americans. Maybe the desire to be free has a genetic component; when those people desiring to be free came here against great odds, they might have passed that freedom gene on to their children.

    At least, to some of us. Hopefully, enough of us.

  15. avatar Brianflys says:

    Good thing we have this good news so Bill Frady has something to talk about on his podcast… 🙂

    He should interview RF.

  16. avatar Ralph says:

    If a Democrat is elected, they will soar to even higher records.

    Sure, at first. Then the Demons will strangle 2A in its crib.

    1. avatar Bob314 says:

      And then the country splits, and gun ownership in the red states will soar to levels that will make this latest surge seem like a rounding error.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        A balkinised US would be a real tragedy.

      2. avatar Accur81 says:

        Things could get interesting real fast – there are a lot of politicians like Feinstein and H Rod who fantasize about giving confiscation orders.

        1. avatar Adub says:

          Yeah, but they’re outnumbered by retired soldiers who would be eager for the fight.

          I’m not afraid of liberals. They don’t own guns, and they always run from a fight.

  17. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    Well, that’s great fodder for responding to the anti-folk.

    “So, nobody wants guns, except the 2.6 million or so who did a background check last month, who you want to make it harder on?”

    “Gun owners crazy and scofflaws? You mean like the 2.6 million people who did background checks last month are impulsive, and scofflaws?”

    “So, who doesn’t do background checks? 2.6 million people did them last month. So whoever didn’t would get checked if we make it extra, super required this other way too? Really, it looks like you just want a record of all the law-abiding gun owners out there (who aren’t the problem.)”

    “Well, we better brace for another 2.6 million gun deaths, given all those guns shooting things up, now.”

    “So, another 2.6 million or so people have a different opinion about guns than you do. So much they take time & money to endure a background check. But, you gotta have your way anyhow.”

    Really, there’s no need to let them off the hook any more. Call it what it is, politely and plainly. Make them own it.

    “So, you’re willing to cost 2.6 million people time and money each month doing what they’d like. So, what are we gonna get for it? And who?”

  18. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    Well my goal is getting a couple guns this spring. And I’m about to get SS checks. So the gubmint is funding my purchases LOL

  19. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    Dean, 2014 domestic numbers are out now. I haven’t checked the separate import numbers yet, but I think trade releases theirs before the ATF does.

  20. avatar sagebrushracer says:

    and this is only the recorded gun sales…. I hear plenty of horse trading goes on, even in the states where its not legal to do a private party transfer without a FFL.

    1. avatar THC says:

      My sons own guns, alot of guns, only two were bought using 4473. I had a bunch, but due to a boating accident I only have a cheap pellet gun now(wink)

  21. avatar jwm says:

    But…but I was told that gun ownership is dying in this country. Only ofwg’s buy guns now.

    For the record. I’m an ofwg and I haven’t bought a gun in at least a year.

    1. avatar Stinkeye says:

      A year? You’re not keeping up on your end, man.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I kept up my end for years. Now it’s up to you youngsters to pull the load. I am not buying another safe. I don’t know if the loadbearing members of my house could take another.

  22. avatar arsh says:

    sold a whole batch for $1700 that I inherited. Them promptly went and bid on a 686. Keep em coming!

  23. avatar Ben says:

    Steyr M95 last Sunday

  24. avatar Accur81 says:

    Bushmaster Magpul MOE ORC AR-10 here. I’m debating about a Sig 229 Legion. Glad to see I’m in great company. I hope every gun owner, or former gun owner boating accident victim, votes pro-gun in this election.

  25. avatar LJM says:

    You are wrong Dean, it won’t drop like a rock. Why? Because guns are fun and people love fun! (And guns)

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