Smith & Wesson factory
Dan Z. for TTAG
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By Joe Bartozzi

Twenty-one million. Let that number sink in for a moment.

That’s a very big number. If I told you at SHOT Show last year that the industry would see 21 million background checks for the sale of a firearm in 2020, you would have thought I was crazy. One year later and with the benefit of hindsight, this was truly a remarkable year for the industry across the board.

The final figures for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) put all of this year’s hard work into perspective. Twenty-one million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm over the past 12 months. That topped 2019’s totals of 13.2 million by 60 percent. It also shattered the previous record from 2016, when 15.7 million background checks were conducted for the sale of firearms. This year’s 21 million total surpassed 2016 by 5.3 million, or 34 percent.

Here’s another incredible number to ponder. NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people bought a firearm for the first time in 2020. That’s 40 percent of all purchases. This year’s buyer is increasingly diverse too. Forty percent of 2020’s buyers were women and the biggest increase of any demographic category was among African Americans, who bought guns at a rate of 58 percent greater than in 2019.


None of this was possible without the resilience and determination of the industry. Our own Government Relations teams – both in Federal and State Affairs – were quick to act to keep the industry open. When the rest of America was shutting down, NSSF’s team made sure gun manufacturers, distributors, retailers and ranges weren’t forced to close their doors.

It was apparent early on that Americans in every state were choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights in record numbers and that’s not possible unless manufacturers are turning raw metal into finished firearms and ammunition.

America’s Second Amendment freedoms are literally designed, assembled and shipped from NSSF member manufacturers, distributors and retailers each day.

Even while the firearm industry was cranking production to record levels, they were also serving their communities. Brownells offered computer server space to run modeling tests for vaccine research. Federal Premium, SIG SAUER, Radians, Smith & Wesson, Versacarry, Keltec and Ruger were among many of the firearm businesses that converted manufacturing space or donated supplies to help first responders. Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris donated one million masks to keep first responders safe.


The amazing thing is that among the concerns surrounding the pandemic, the industry responded. Manufacturing and distribution facilities shifted personnel and made physical changes to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Retailers and ranges adopted safety measures to keep customers and staff safe. This all happened even as the industry worked to keep up with the breathless pace of demand.

That demand is most clearly evident on the ammunition shelves. Most shelves are still bare, but that’s not a result of anything but overwhelming demand. At 8.4 million new gun owners buying just two boxes of ammunition each, that translates to 850 million cartridges. Federal Premium’s Jason Vanderbrink spoke directly to customers to set the record straight. Rumors of secret warehouses or reduced production capacity just aren’t true.

“We are doing our damnedest to meet this demand,” he said.

Jason Hornady of Hornady Ammunition echoed the same notion in his own video.

“The stuff that goes out today was literally put in a box yesterday,” he said. “We’ve made one-third more than last year. Unfortunately, we don’t have an extra factory laying around…”

This is true across the industry. It’s what’s made 2020 successful and what will set this industry up to meet demand across America in 2021.


Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

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  1. I don’t care. Start supporting the repeal of the nfa, gun control act of 68, the brady bill and all the other infringements or you are just a socialist tyranny lover who brags about getting exemptions from the tyranny every other business has to deal with.

  2. 21M would be nothing compared to number we would have bought if they would have been in stock

  3. 2021 is going to be a hell of a year too when the democrats try and probably succeed in banning everything under the sun and repeal the PLCAA and every single manufacturer is sued into a oblivian by the end of next year.

    • That would put a LOT of people out of work…wonder if they ever think about that?
      And they want to defund the cops…hmmm
      Oh…and no cash bail….hmmm

      • They dont give two shits about tax payers… well until were all run out of jobs or killed and no one is there to fund their shenanigans

        • Then they will “compulsory requisition” what they need directly from the people. Especially those identified as “class enemies”.

      • I don’t think they would be able to put out of business every US gun manufactured. I believe that a requirement for US Military weapons procurement is that it is made within the USA. Military officials may talk Biden out of it, or at the very least all other gun manufactures except one approved for production of the military’s firearms are shut down.
        If that is the case, I expect there to be backdoor deals as to which company gets the sole contract to manufacture.

  4. Just imagine when the Harris Admin starts banning online sales of guns, ammo & parts and all these companies that have been taking advantage of the people this year go bankrupt that’ll be ashame. Capitalism will go down to Socialism.
    Glad I got all I’ll ever need till the end of days!

    • I have my guns, gear, and ammo. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be acquiring replacement parts. Triggers, pins, springs, barrels, etc.

  5. How can we rejoice in the best year for gun companies when this year will see their destruction? The Biden campaign platform’s gun statement says it all. The second amendment will be dead soon after they pack the court and do away with the filibuster. Then what happens?

  6. Mr. Vanderbrink….really should have written a script and had someone review it…you come across as very whiny long before you cover the pertinent info for us end users.

    Mr. Hornady…straightforward and factual with no whine.

    As far as the shooting industry and 2021…we’ll see what Ho Chi Biden and his minion Skanky Ho, with the aid of all three branches of Government, can accomplish in redefining that pesky Constitution. By their statements and previous actions it appears that the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be subsumed under a new National Supremacy Decree. The 10th will be declared null and void in that the separate States are no more. The 3rd will be held in reserve for visiting foreign troops (hotels are sooo expensive and as serfs it is your duty to house / feed your Masters).

    It will be interesting to read our New Improved Living Constitution which will only be available digitally (so much easier to edit a strictly digital document than all those bulky, obsolete paper documents).

    I’m looking forward to living in Paradise…not having to worry about a roof over my head, food in my stomach, no crime, free schooling, unlimited free health care, guaranteed basic income so that I have no need to work, free access to any and all recreational drugs that may strike my fancy…absolute Paradise on Earth. It will be a duty, an honor…nay, even a pleasure to surrender my bank account, 401 and IRA’s to support this great Mission of Love and Kindness with Equality for All.

      • Anyone with a job will be the prostitutes unfortunately. We will all be government employees at that point.

        • Yup…working to support that 51 (plus) % that cannot or will not work to support themselves…’cause ya owe it to me. Third and fourth generation welfare that has never worked and cannot work…they have no concept of what it actually takes to obtain a job and all the responsibilities thereof to keep and do well in a job…so much easier to let others provide for meee!

          My spouse is a manager at her company and I hear about all the excuses people give for not showing up for their shift or for wanting unscheduled time off. No $#yt, there are really people whose maternal (paternal) grandparents have died repeatedly over the course of a couple of years…at least according to the less imaginative liars.

  7. You guys always talk about repealing the NFA, ’68 GCA. We need to repeal the Pittman-Robertson Act as well, probably first. I’m sick and tired of paying inflated prices on guns and ammo to support someone else’s hunting hobby that I never participate in.

    “How does the Pittman-Robertson Act work?

    The excise tax is set by law at 11% of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10% for handguns. It is paid by manufacturers, producers, and importers and applies to all commercial sales and imports, whether their purpose is hunting, sport shooting, or personal defense. “

    • If you want to see the FUDDs come out in force, just talk about repealing Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson.

      They *love* having hunting and fishing subsidized by people who don’t hunt or fish.

    • Would the price of guns come down 11 percent or would another excise tax take its place? It unlikely a repeal would return a nickle of savings to customers.
      Prepare to pay higher taxes on it all.

  8. Well, 2020 might have been a banner year but let’s see what happens this year.

    For a variety of reasons I rather doubt they do anywhere near as well. Hope I’m wrong but I’m not going to bet on it.

  9. When I was out at the LGS Christmas Eve the clerk at the handgun counter said they had surpassed the entire 2019 total revenue by July 2020. It also wasn’t intentional but the .gov subsidized all my firearm purchases in 2020. It was…stimulating.

  10. US arms and ammo companies should cease all government sales.

    Maybe when we have all the guns and ammo gov will at least pretend not to hate us.

    • @Shire-man

      Good afternoon,

      Naw. Too many Congress Critters have stock in those companies. They would declare the arms and ammo companies as “Critical Infrastructure – National Security”, nationalize them (place under Government control – see Cuba and Venezuela for examples) and prohibit those (now) government entities from doing business with private distributors or the public….problem solved.

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