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Americans Bought More Than 21 Million New Guns in 2020, Up 60% Over 2019

December gun sales — as measured by the NSSF’s adjusted NICS background check numbers — were 23% higher than the year-ago totals. That’s a nice (though probably inventory-restricted) jump over December 2019. But the big news is the number of guns sold in all of 2020.

Americans stocked up on firearms last year to the tune of over 21 million rifles, pistols and shotguns. That’s a whopping 60% increase of the number sold last year and proof positive that when it comes to defending themselves and their families, people across the country decided in 2020 that relying on local governments and law enforcement — especially given what they were seeing on their televisions — wasn’t a good idea.

The NSSF’s Mark Oliva had this to say about the results . . .

The fact that more than 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in 2020 shows just how much value the American public places in their God-given Second Amendment rights. This record year surpassed 2019’s totals by 60 percent and the previous record of 2016 by 34 percent. NSSF estimates that more than 8.4 million people legally purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020.

This occurred under the most challenging of circumstances. Law-abiding Americans demanded to exercise their right to lawfully purchase, keep and bear arms. Some governors, mayors and even Members of Congress actively stood in the way of that and didn’t relent until faced with court action. At the same time, workers in these firearm and ammunition factories, distributors, retailers and ranges made adjustments to keep their workforce safe and protected from infection while keeping pace with the demand of the American public. That’s a testament to the determination of the American worker that makes our freedoms possible.

It is arguable that background check figures could be higher, had inventory been fuller. Retail shelves are still sparse, telling us there is still a strong demand and that elevated levels of firearm sales could continue for some time. Pursuit of restrictions on gun rights or targeting of the firearm industry by the Biden administration will only signal that this will be an administration that won’t seek to support and protect American rights, but will cater to special interest groups that seek to disarm law-abiding Americans. Should that occur, I anticipate the growth of first-time gun buyers and overall firearm sales will be closer to what was seen in 2020 than in previous years.

How many of those 21 million more guns, let alone the 425 million already in civilian hands, do you think Americans will be willing to give up if the Biden administration decides to outlaw any of them?

Here’s the NSSF’s press release . . .

The December 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,906,916 is an increase of 22.7 percent compared to the December 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,553,965. For comparison, the unadjusted December 2020 FBI NICS figure 3,904,879 reflects a 34.7 percent increase from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,898,501 in December 2019.

The fourth quarter 2020 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 5,625,610 reflects an increase of 40.6 percent over the 4,001,455 figure for fourth quarter 2019.

The 2020 annual total of 21,083,643 is a 59.7 percent increase over the 2019 annual total of 13,199,172. The 2020 total is now the highest annual total on record, exceeding the previous record of 15,700,471 set in 2016 by 34.3 percent. NSSF estimates that in 2020, over 8.4 million people purchased a gun for the first time, based on retailer surveys.

Please note: Twenty-five states currently have at least one qualified alternative permit, which under the Brady Act allows the permit-holder, who has undergone a background check to obtain the permit, to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer without a separate additional background check for that transfer. The number of NICS checks in these states does not include these legal transfers based on qualifying permits and NSSF does not adjust for these transfers. Michigan had law changes that affected their Brady Law standing which removed qualifying alternate permits usage for firearm transactions. These changes went into effect March 3, 2020. NSSF-adjusted NICS for the state of Michigan in December 2020 were 124.7 percent higher than December 2019 which accounts for an additional 37,437 checks over the same time period.

The adjusted NICS data were derived by subtracting out NICS purpose code permit checks and permit rechecks used by states for CCW permit application checks as well as checks on active CCW permit databases. NSSF started subtracting permit rechecks in February 2016.

Though not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide an additional picture of current market conditions. In addition to other purposes, NICS is used to check transactions for sales or transfers of new or used firearms.

It should be noted that these statistics represent the number of firearm background checks initiated through the NICS. They do not represent the number of firearms sold or sales dollars. Based on varying state laws, local market conditions and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.

comments

  1. avatar GregV says:

    You will see gun and ammo sales going through the roof again in 2021, since a socialist, pro-China, corrupt regime is coming to power. Old “Plugs” Biden and his whole administration will be the best gun salespeople of all time. Let’s hope that the manufacturers can at least make some positive moves to keep up with demand.

    1. avatar Bart says:

      I’m curious whether or not we will even see a “Biden administration”. I wonder if the USA will even exist this time next year. The country seems to be going off a cliff.

      Also quoting from the above article:

      “…people across the country decided in 2020 that relying on local governments and law enforcement — especially given what they were seeing on their televisions — wasn’t a good idea.”

      Like trusting in Federal and/or State law enforcement makes any more sense. Around here (red part of a blue state), I trust our local city and county law enforcement far more than the Feds or state.

    2. avatar DustinM says:

      I would bet the number would be doubled, if we could have found the guns we wanted to buy. All the guns I want have been sold out all year. You literally have to have your email inbox open when the restock email comes in to be able to have any chance at all for a purchase.

  2. avatar Phantom30 says:

    46th POTUS will take office in Jan 2025

  3. avatar jwm says:

    I’m honestly glad for all the new gun sales. But I wish it would slow up a little. It would be nice to be able to buy something new and some ammo.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      Gun sale would have been higher if the guns had been available.

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        This !

    2. avatar D WIldstar says:

      I wonder how much of this ammo shortage is the result of the same hoarders filling up yet another pallet of ammo in their basement to go along with the pallets they stored up in 2008 and 2012, etc. All they are doing is making someone ELSE very happy at a future estate sale.

      1. avatar DustinM says:

        This also.

      2. avatar Leigh says:

        Someone is jealous they did not stock up while prices were cheap and ammo was easy to get…
        I told all my buddies to buy guns and ammo for the last 4 years…everyone poo-pooed me…
        I told them that things would happen if/when Biden was elected…nobody listened
        They better not come asking for guns or ammo if the shit hits the fan…just sayin’….

        1. avatar Joel says:

          There isn’t actually an ammo shortage per say. It’s just not very evenly distributed. Lots of ammo for sale on my local gun websites. At raw capitalism prices. Same with firearms.

          There is a shortage on easily available and affordable ammo and firearms, but time will likely sort that out…. Yes, it is actually possible that this is the end, and the sky is really falling this time. But I’ve been around long enough to not bet the farm on it.

    3. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      I think we’ll see prices for firearms, ammo, reloading components, accessories, all the stuff POTG buy going up in price that would have shocked us two years ago. Producers want profit same as everyone else, some are a bit greedy but that’s capitalism.

      Just don’t think things are going to calm down. I told the younger employees in my dept. that they had better buy now if they intend to.

      Ammo manufacturers are cautious about spending and ramping up, they’ve been burnt before, so I don’t see see shelves returning to 2019 levels for at least two years.

  4. avatar NORDNEG says:

    I’m happy about the gun sales, especially the new styles & models, I think that what needs to be watched is the ammunition end of the spectrum, from what I’ve noticed for the last year or so , is the ammo is either unavailable or way way overpriced. Guns are not my problem, it’s that I don’t want to waste ammo on practice. Since I usually hit what I shoot at , I don’t really need to wast ammo but I miss the fun of shooting.

    1. avatar Joe Biden says:

      Thanks for the tip!! I will have the crew draft up something.

    2. avatar Anymouse says:

      Practice isn’t a waste. Perhaps, “not have enough left for an emergency” is a better concern. I used to go through 3-4 cases of 9mm and 5 56 in a year for classes and practice. A brick of .22 was a fun weekend of plinking with the family. Now, I have to decide how I’m going to expend what’s above my SHTF level and when I can use .22 in its place.

  5. avatar Dennis Sumner says:

    Are you listening Joe, Barry, Nancy, etc!

    1. avatar VicRattlehead says:

      No, no they’re not…

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        The truth.

  6. avatar Ronald (sure shot) says:

    Good Deal, hopefully they got them for the right reasons and not to give to the demo-rats, in their plan to eliminate our freedom to own guns, carry /bare.

  7. avatar Tim says:

    First purchase of 2021 this Wednesday!

  8. avatar Debbie W. says:

    For those on a budget and know how to tweak firearms I highly recommend looking at the Sar9 on GunBroker, etc. We own 3 and none are for sale, trade or rent.
    Next value is the Citadel Warthog Semi-auto Shotgun also available on Gunbroker, etc. Don’t own one yet but reviews are positive.

    To whom it may concern…Please do not use your Made in China device to bash firearms made in Turkey. If you cannot provide info for a better deal you can mosey along.

    1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

      You about have me convinced to check one out. Maybe at the end of summer, I have a new scope to pay for right now. It sorta looks like my wife’s VP9..not a huge fan after shooting it. Too ergo.

      I went back and read what you wrote here and you are right. Some hate going on from some.

      https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/sarsilmaz-sar-9-gun-review/#comments

      No reviews yet on TTAG on the Citadel..you should write one.

    2. avatar Ron says:

      When you’re on your knees before an Ottoman Turk you’ll realize why so many have a problem with the direction Turkey is going.

      But go on… “It can’t happen here…”

  9. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    “How many of those 21 million more guns, let alone the 425 million already in civilian hands, do you think Americans will be willing to give up if the Biden administration decides to outlaw any of them?”

    To answer the question, one might look at the numbers of magazines surrendered in any of the Marxist states that banned them, numbers of bump stocks turned in under the un Constitutional order,aproching Bupkis.
    A law, rule,fiat or edict that is un constitutional is not a law at all.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Green Mtn. Boy,

      Good point.

      I was going to say that plenty of people desperately want to be part of “the crowd” and would (almost) cheerfully surrender their firearms, ammunition, and magazines if enough people — some nebulous critical mass — were doing it. Your point argues strongly against that idea. I stand corrected.

      1. avatar Ragnar says:

        The media will overplay the first smiling faces that happily surrender their arms (and lives). They will make a show of it and how cool it is to “comply”.

        1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          “…to “comply”…” just like the propaganda movies of the last century that showed thousands of people “complying” for their own safety by getting into packed railroad boxcars…

          The modern Fascists (Progressives) have learned and improved on their predecessors ways and means…see “cancel culture”, “virtue signaling” and “woke” as examples.

          Definition of fascism

          1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
          2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control *

          *Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster

  10. avatar former water walker says:

    Hmmm…I echo the seniment there’d be a boatload more owner’s if the “normal” supplies abounded. Just checked Point Blank for ammo & they had a 250rd 9mm pak for 161otd. Brass but not a major brand. BUT you have to have a membership or shoot then. So there’s some Ammo around(I’m flush with HP’s). I’m sure it’s a daunting task for a nervous novice!

  11. avatar VicRattlehead says:

    The problem with cheering these numbers is that they don’t mean jack-squat to the dems.
    They’re gonna do exactly what the plan on doing (socialism) irregardless of how many people object. They answer to no one except ‘the party’.
    I feel like we are DANGEROUSLY close to the point where only 1 of 2 things will stop them: a) civil war/armed resistance or b) mass succession (which could easily trigger option “a”.

  12. avatar . says:

    Who cares what Biden will do. What warms my heart is that countries of future aggression know American citizens are armed better then any other country on this planet. Come on Uncle Sam you’ve got a free army don’t shit it away. Repeal the NFA

  13. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    A couple of buddies and I were sitting around this weekend discussing “Where’s All the Ammo”?

    Four guys, 5 minutes and lots of search engine magic gave us some answers.

    CCI can make around 4 million rounds of .22 LR per 24 hours*….sounds like a lot of .22 doesn’t it? When you figure how it is packaged, that 4 million rounds fit neatly on only four standard pallets…which then have to be distributed to numerous wholesalers / distributors.

    Hard to find date quickly that estimates how many .22 LR forearms there are in the USA. Our group posited one .22 LR per firearm owner (100 million owners in the US). Considering 100 million .22 LR firearms and each only wanting 100 rounds equals 10 billion rounds potentially shot off on a weekend trip to the range.

    Suffice it to say that one’s day’s production of .22 doesn’t go very far (even when you consider all the various manufacturers cranking out .22 LR’s).

    We then looked at 9 mm production. The figures were not as defined as for .22 LR. It appears that a CCI plant (like in Idaho) can make between 100K and 300K of center-fire ammo a day. Considering the packaging of 9 mm this equates to 1 or 2 pallets per day. The failure in this thinking is that the manufacturers typically don’t just run one caliber at a time. There are usually several production lines pumping out several calibers simultaneously…which results in lower numbers of each specific caliber per day available to the wholesalers / distributors.

    If we only consider the 7 million new shooters by themselves and, for the sake of argument, figure that they each purchased (or want to purchase) only 100 rounds of their particular caliber that adds up to 700 million rounds…which is months of ammo production JUST for these new shooters.

    When you consider the bullet whores (hoarders), established shooters and the 7 million new shooters from 2020 the ammo being produced is far exceeded by the demand.

    I believe it when CCI, Speer, Remington, Hornady, et al say that they are making more ammunition than they have ever produced before.

    Just some old shooter’s $0.02 worth.

    *production data is several years old.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Dicks sold four sets of golf clubs last month

    2. avatar Art out Wext says:

      You mention 2¢ worth. That is about what a round of .22lr ran not too long ago.☺

    3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Old Guy in Montana,

      I believe you and your friends’ analyses are definitely on the right track.

      Here is another simple way to look at it. The overwhelming majority of businesses (regardless of the product or service) maintain enough capacity to meet average/long-term demand. Maintaining excessive capacity costs money, does not generate any revenue, and reduces profits. Thus very few businesses maintain excessive capacity.

      Now consider the recent increase in ammunition demand. Several sources estimate about 100 million established firearm owners and an additional 7 million first-time firearm purchasers. All those new firearm owners alone suggest something like a 7% increase in ammunition demand. Then there is the fact that a LOT of the established firearm owners wanted/want more ammunition. Exactly how much is anyone’s guess. Intuition tells me that established firearm owners easily wanted at least an additional 10%. And I don’t think it would be out of the question that established firearm owners wanted another 20%. Thus, ammunition demand in 2020 could easily be anywhere from 17% to 27% greater than historical demand.

      And if a bunch of people are trying to “stockpile” in case of a prolonged disruption to society, I can easily imagine that ammunition demand in 2020 was significantly greater — perhaps as much as 40% greater — than historical demand.

      The reality of the matter is that ammunition manufacturers simply do not have an extra 17% to 40% additional manufacturing capacity and market prices are going to reflect that fact.

      And here is where it gets really ugly: ammunition manufacturers are looking at the very real possibility of all Democrat controlled federal government for the foreseeable future and thus significant infringement of our right to keep and bear arms (and ammunition) which, in turn, would probably reduce future ammunition demand significantly. There is no way in the world that any ammunition manufacturer would even consider increasing manufacturing capacity until they have some confidence that Democrats will not decimate the firearms industry.

      Buckle up boys and girls: it is going to be a bumpy ride for the next several months — if not the next several years.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        Thank you.

        Your comments regarding manufacturer’s exhibiting caution facing a firearm-hostile Administration are spot on.

        Delving into my old-school Blues collection this morning…listening to Big Mama Thornton right now. That lady could sing the Blues with feeling.

  14. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    Is anyone considering the possibility that a significant percentage of the gun sales may be BLM, AntiFa, and like groups gearing up for their long anticipated violent revolution? If bitme and hairya** gain office the normal communist “cleansing” is looming.

    All is not calm, all is not quiet on the American front.

    Be Prepared !!!

    1. avatar GunnyGene says:

      Yes. It’s been a regular topic of conversation (on-line and ftf) in MS for the last year.

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    Let’s reform the electoral system. People should be allowed one vote for each gun they own, but they must cast those votes before they die. That will eliminate a lot of democrats.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Bloomberg could buy a lot of HiPoints

  16. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

    And Remington goes bankrupt. Amazing.

  17. avatar CTstooge says:

    NSSF: Who needs SHOT Show with these numbers? Amirite?

  18. avatar David B. says:

    True that is is not 1:1, but AT A MINIMUM it represents the smallest amount of firearms sold during the year, which means that a whole LOT more were actually sold. Congrats to everyone who took advantage of their right to bear arms.

  19. avatar ABN LRRP RGR 3 tours RVN says:

    What a bleak picture everyone is painting (shooting), I sure hope there is a bright side to this gloom!
    “Know guns, know peace, know safety….. No guns, no peace, no safety.”

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