ATF Report: AR-15 Manufacture Doubled From 2011 To 2012

Because we’re a few months into 2014, the ATF has just released their annual “Annual Firearms Manufacturing And Export Report” for the calendar year…2012. It’s a year late and a dollar short, so we’re lucky that good news can (in this case) wait . . .

Image: Chris Dumm for TTAG

So what’s the good news? It’s that the manufacture of AR-15 pattern rifles more than doubled from CY 2011 to CY 2012, to a paper number of over 825,000. I say ‘paper’ number because that 825K doesn’t include any AR-pattern pistols like this PWS MK107.

And it also doesn’t include any Ruger SR-556s like this one. Or any of the ARs manufactured by Remington or Bushmaster. If these manufacturers were included, as well as AR pistols, the number would approach an even million.

Nearly one million ARs produced in a single year.The year before Newtown. And we all know where that number went after Newtown.

It is pretty awesome, if you’ve been saving your pennies to buy one. I’m flooding you with pictures of ARs because they’re flooding the market. The sky-high Panic prices of early 2013 are long gone, and entry-level Modern Sporting Rifles can now be found for about $600, which is roughly the same price as in November 2012. AR Magazines have dropped back down to pre-Panic prices, and CTD doesn’t dare advertise a single GI magazine for $125 any more. The price of 5.56 ammo hasn’t quite come down off the ledge yet, but it’s getting there.

We won’t know for another year, but my prediction is that 2013 will prove to be an even bigger year for AR manufacture than 2012 was. I don’t see another 100% year-on-year increase happening, but it would be nice to see 2013 being another million-plus year for the single most popular rifle design in America.

Keep up the good work, people. The more ARs that exist in private ownership, the more trouble Shannon Watts & Co. will have if they try to ban them.


  1. avatar michael nieto says:

    its time to buy a second ar 15, for the children.

    1. avatar Roll says:

      2nd ar-15? you need some catching up to do…

    2. avatar SteveInCO says:

      surely you mean third (and fourth, and fifth) AR(s) for the children, as mommy and daddy should each already have one.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        I’m still trying to scrape up the pennies to buy a first one. (For the children…yeah, that’s it.)

        Never was all that interested in AR’s, but the events of 2013 have convinced me that it’s my patriotic duty to own at least one. Someday…

        1. avatar A-Rod says:

          Shotgun is a lot cheaper and has it’s merits. The Rifle may be the Queen of the Battlefield but the Shotgun is the King of the Castle.

        2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          If money is super tight I would grab a Commie gun, cheap AK or SKS will usually serve you better than a cheap AR.

          Unless you simply have your heart set on an AR.

        3. avatar doesky2 says:

          Agree with HellChild….

          Converted Saiga ak74 for $550 plus 15c/rd surplus ammo.

        4. Bastard…where are you getting 15 cent 7.62×39? Tell me!

        5. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

          AK74 is chamber in 5.45×39

      2. avatar Kory says:

        I think you misunderstood, everyone already has one, he needs to work on their second ones.

    3. avatar Accur81 says:

      They already have ARs for when they get older. Plunk! Aw, damn, I knew I shouldn’t have stood up in this canoe with all these guns and boxes of ammo. Guess the kids and I are out of luck.

    4. avatar Roscoe says:

      Reminds me of Heller and the phrase “… weapons protected are those in common use …”

      1. avatar Roscoe says:

        Sorry, the cite should be Miller.

    5. avatar gtfoxy says:

      Pfft, I left two behind long ago… never had an AR til this year!!!

  2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    It would be fanatic to see some American manufactured AKs come to market.

    1. avatar Mecha-Ben says:

      I THINK this fits the bill. Could be wrong.

      1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        Right on!

      2. avatar BDub says:

        If an when I buy and AK pattern rifle it will be that particular model of Century.

  3. avatar neiowa says:

    How does ATF generate this information? Are mfg “required” to report # of _____ manufactured to the feds? “Obviously” ATF/NSA/feds are not mining purchase permit info as that would be illegal.

    1. avatar Josh in TX says:

      I belive FFL types 7-11 are for manufacturers, they send info (serial no. Etc.) for the products they make to ATF. ATF rule 2009-5 has some info. I’ll have to dig around a bit to find exactly what the requirements are.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:


      When you hold a Type 07 (Manufacturing) FFL, you’re required to generate a report on how many of what type of guns you manufactured, so that the appropriate excise tax can be collected.

      Here’s a typical ATF report that makes use of all this data:

  4. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    Maybe BO actually has done something to earn his Nobel peace prize?

    1. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Ha! It’s funny cause it’s true…

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:


  6. avatar John says:

    Lets not forget the explosion in recent days of the “build your owns”. I wonder how many of those were made too?

    1. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

      That is a good question. I imagine since the lower receiver is the only part that is recognized as a firearm, it might take that into account. I sincerely doubt the numbers include AR builds from 80% lowers.

      1. avatar Daniel Silverman says:

        You are correct, they do not.

  7. avatar Ronaldo_Ignacio says:

    I am sitting on 3 R-GUNs lowers.

    1. avatar SteveInCO says:

      doesn’t that hurt your butt after a couple of hours?

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Maybe he installed giggle switches…

        1. avatar Unarmed and Unnamed says:


  8. avatar OODAloop says:

    Guess this kinda puts the “in common use” question to bed…

    1. avatar CentralIL says:

      Yes. Based on the numbers, I would argue that the AR-15 is not the civilian version of a military weapon. Rather, the M-16 and M-4 are military versions of a civilian weapon.

  9. avatar jimmyjames says:

    Sign in my local watering hole, “Free Beer…Tomorrow”. I’ll buy my last AR…tomorrow. And as Sarah Jessica Parker said to the irate person while smoking in a non smoking area…”I have an addiction sir”.

  10. Yowzers, ***doubled***???


  11. avatar ThomasR says:

    Who can we thank for this explosion (pun intended) in ownership of a “PDW”, (Personal Defense Weapon) as defined by the PTB)?

    Thank you Obama. It is funny in a twisted kind of way; everything that a Liberal/progressive/Marxist does has the direct opposite effect from what they intend.

    In this case, I don’t mind it.

  12. avatar Pulatso says:

    Question for the peanut gallery: I intend to get my first 5.56 rifle in a few months. I am leaning hard toward a Mini-14, but I have also been considering an SR-556 (we’re Ruger fans in my family). Anyone with experience with either or both feel like advocating one or the other?

    1. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

      Both are good rifles. It’s mostly aesthetics and weight. Magazines are more readily available and less expensive for the SR-556 FWIW. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of whichever rifle you like best. I had a Mini-30 that was a good little rifle for hog hunting, it never gave me any trouble.

    2. avatar ShaunL. says:

      My experience has been that the 556 will likely be more accurate out of the box as well as having more options for accessories/upgrades. It feels more(to me) like a precision instrument whereas the mini-14 feels more traditional and robust.

      I’d take the Mini-14 every time but that’s my personal taste.

    3. avatar Accur81 says:

      I’d take the SR-556 in a heartbeat. You have the modularity of the AR-15 platform, a reliable piston driven upper that’s easy to clean, and can use all sorts of AR mags. The SR-556 E is a bit lighter and cheaper, and you can bolt rail where you need it and save weight. My buddy’s SR-556 E was purchased after it was used as a rental gun over the weekend. It had about 3,000 rounds put through it with minimal cleaning. It ran just fine towards the end of the weekend.

      You can also easily swap uppers and grab a 6.8 SPC, 300 BLK, 6.5, .50, .458 SOCOM, etc. on the AR.

    4. avatar Steve says:

      I really wanted a mini 14 until I realized that:

      1) you don’t “slam” the magazines in, you “rock” them in. Sounds stupid, but IMHO simpler is better for a home defense/SHTF weapon.
      2) quality mini 14 magazines are REALLY expensive
      3) you can buy or build a quality AR for $150-$200 less than a mini(they are rare and pricey, at least around here)
      4) I don’t really want a mini 14; I want an M1 Garand ๐Ÿ™‚

    5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      If someone gave me a mini-14, I would use it for the $50.00 down payment on the 5.56

  13. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    Does the ATF number of manufactured equate to ALL OF THEM in the civilian marketplace? Are military (both US an intended for export to other nations military) included in this?

  14. avatar Mark N. says:

    Even if the prices are falling, they are still not inexpensive. You can buy a bolt gun in a far more effective (powerful) caliber with superior out of the box accuracy for the price of a good quality AR barrel. By the time you add in the receiver, handguards, bcg and all the other pieces to make a complete upper, you can buy two bolt guns. Yes, I know ARs are the most popular rifle in America today, but I still don’t understand why.

    1. avatar A-Rod says:

      It is like Barbie dolls but for men (and some women too). There are accessories, different colors, looks, feels, sounds and soundless (or suppressed).

      1. avatar Josh in TX says:

        Will everyone please stop with the wholeBarbie for dudes thing! Everybody knows Barbie ain’t got near as many accessories! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. avatar jwm says:

          And the AR has a hole in the right place. Barbie don’t.

        2. avatar Marcus Aurelius says:

          Jwm: HA!

      2. avatar ShaunL. says:

        I see them more like Lego’s.

    2. avatar Dave357 says:

      A semi-auto rifle is a different concept than a bolt gun.

      It’s a different plinking experience than a bolt gun; it is more suitable for self-defense than a bolt gun; finally, they say some AR-15 type rifles can be very accurate and are popular in competitions. In the days of yore, Mini-14’s, while not as accurate, were more affordable. I don’t know if they are still more afordable, but they also had (and still have) the advantage of not being as readily classified as “assault weapons” in the more restrictive jurisdictions. It’s even true in Canada, afaik.

      Regarding self-defense, one can there’s a pdf file out there for “Basic Firearms Instructor Course PATROL RIFLE Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee”, where it is stated, “The ideal choice for the patrol rifle is a semi automatic rifle chambered in 5.56mm or .223 Remington. For the purposes of this paragraph, we will consider them the same round. The 5.56 / .223 perform well in the law enforcement role. While only a 22 caliber bullet, it travels at velocities between 2800 and 3300 feet/second. This results in a tissue devastating hydrostatic shock wave which can literally destroy internal organs. While effective against human targets, the 5.56mm / .223 Remington rounds will not penetrate as many interior walls as your service pistol. Due to the high velocity, the bullet tends to shatter and break up after impacting the first wall.”

      They further state, “The two most popular (police service) rifles chambered for this round are the Mini-14 and the many variants of the AR-15. Both rifles have an extensive line of after market accessories and have a proven track record. The Mini-14 may be attractive to those departments that find the AR-15 to โ€œmilitaryโ€ looking.”

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        A shotgun is more suitable for home defense than an AR–and a lot cheaper, with readily available ammo. (Personally, I prefer handguns for HD, but understand how others prefer long guns.) Yes there are very accurate ARs–using premium rifled barrels and high end ammo, but they cost thousands of dollars. Just look up the cost of a Noveske, for example. For $500 you can get a bolt gun in .270, .30-06 or .300 win mag that will hunt anything in North America, and given the cost of the higher end AR, you’ll still have enough left over for the Mossberg shotty that doubles for HD duty and birds. The AR? Small deer, hogs, and coyotes, as anything bigger would be either illegal or unethical. That leaves you with a plinker that burns through large quantities of ammo in short order, least ways that’s what happens when my son gets his hands on one and tries to see how fast he can fire it. (Accuracy suffers.) For that much fun I can buy a 10-22 and still have lots of money to burn on .22LR when I can find it. Then again, my idea of plinking is competing to see who can hit the smallest targets at 100 yards or more with a .22. Diff’rent strokes and all.

        1. avatar Dave357 says:

          We have the kids load only 5 rounds at a time, even with .22. It breaks the bang-bang-bang syndrome pretty well.

    3. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

      Maineprepper gives a great argument for the external magazine feed, semi auto rifle over the standard bolt action rifle.

      He also talks about the need for a pistol and shotgun, good stuff and not just for preppers, but for everyone.

  15. avatar Morgan Y. says:

    Ar-15or M1a? I’ve been saving for an M1a Socom but maybe I should just tactic out and build an Ar if prices go lower.

    1. avatar ShaunL. says:

      M1a definitely….. while you save up for an AR second.

    2. avatar over-educated economist says:

      AR-15, every time. And, yes, I’ve got both.

      The M1A is a nice rifle, but the design is ancient, it requires real time/money to accurize, and feeding it is still expensive. That is to say, you’re spending like $1500 on a gun that isn’t particularly good at anything out of the box. OTOH, you can spend that kind of money on a bad-ass AR-15 or AR-10 and get pretty much the full monte out of the box.

      IMHO, the best value for an M1A is to get a plain-jane one used, and then hunt up a used EBR stock on ARFCOM. Still a ton of money, but at least you’ve got something that’ll shoot well and look sexy. (Yes, I know some M1A purists just barfed in their mouths – the truth hurts, girls and boys.)

      1. avatar A-Rod says:

        There is so much blasphemy in your post I cannot decide where to begin.

        1. avatar over-educated economist says:

          The guy wants to buy an M1A SOCOM, that rifle is basically blasphemy unto itself to an M1A purist. Barrel is too short, it’s got rails out the wazoo, etc.

          But, seriously: you get a lot more bang for your buck out of an AR-15 or an AR-10. The M1A’s days are over. Nothing wrong with that – half the guns in my safe could be described in similar terms. But if you’ve got to pick one, you need to pick the best… and that’s no longer the M1A. Hasn’t been for nearly 50 years.

    3. avatar Ralph says:

      If I could only own one rifle, it would be the M1A. A good AR-15 is a very capable rifle, but c’mon. 7.62 NATO vs. 5.56 NATO. Do you really want to compare those two rounds? I mean, really?

      Own both if you can. If you can’t, there’s only one choice.

      1. avatar over-educated economist says:

        An AR-10 would be a much better choice from an accuracy and ergos standpoint. Plus, most of them take pmags these days, which is awesome.

        1. avatar CentralIL says:

          Perhaps. But for extended field use, an M1A or FAL will be more durable and reliable than an AR-10.

    4. avatar Carvin shredder says:

      I’d go with an AR for target shooting. An m1a for hunting. You can shoot an AR for 1/3 to 1/2 as much money (or 2 or 3x the number of rounds) over an M1A.

  16. avatar DrVino says:

    Does this take into account 80 percent lowers?

    1. avatar Chris (not one of the other 2 chris's) says:

      Doubtful, the ATF doesn’t have records for them.

    2. avatar JaredFromTampa says:

      I don’t see how that would be possible, as it is only a partially machined hunk of metal, the ATF doesn’t consider it to be a firearm, and it does not have to be transferred through an FFL…It requires machining to complete. Pretty hard to keep track of those things ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. avatar DrVino says:

      How many 80’s were sold last year?
      How many were milled, got an LPK, a stock and were mated with an upper?…..
      And then there’s those AK 80% flat receivers…..

  17. avatar BLAMMO says:

    So whatโ€™s the good news? Itโ€™s that the manufacture of AR-15 pattern rifles more than doubled from CY 2011 to CY 2012, to a paper number of over 825,000.

    Okay, for the dummies among us (i.e., me), how did you determine that from that report? I only see it distinguish among pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and misc.

    Where does it distinguish AR pattern rifles?

    1. avatar CentralIL says:

      I’ve been trying to figure that out as well. The only way I can see is to add up the numbers for manufacturers that only make AR-15 style rifles.

  18. avatar dwb says:

    The most interesting statistic in the ATF report is the number of guns imported. About 2 million handguns, a lot from places like Brazil. If guns were banned like – I dunno, heroin and cocaine – anyone want to take a wild ass guess how many illegal guns would make it to deep water ports like Bodymore and New Orleans, along with the heroin?

    Ans: ALL of them!

  19. avatar Sean says:

    Could somebody loan me $600-$1300? And by loan, I mean give. I want an AR platform rifle, but can only buy one gun right now, and couldn’t pass up the Sub 2000 in my LGS

    1. avatar CRZ says:

      Sorry. The POTG are about personal responsibility. The handout crew are the ones trying to take guns away. You can’t have your free cake and protect it too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. avatar H.R. says:

      Buy a lower from PSA for $59 and build your AR as you can afford it.

      1. avatar Sean says:

        I was thinking about doing exactly that. Also considering one of the newer polymer 80% lowers, but I’m a bit paranoid about them still

  20. avatar LJM says:

    Love the AR and all, but I’m still targeting the M1A as my “assault rifle” purchase. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Well, good luck with that.

  21. avatar former water walker says:

    I too was never much interested in AR’s or AK’s. Handguns & later shotguns. But thanks to B. Hussein Obama now I want one. Or two. He sure earned his Nobel Peace Prize.

  22. avatar Tyler says:

    No matter a what laws get passed in the future, my children will have access to evil black rifles. Now to start thinking about the grand kids…

    1. avatar A-Rod says:

      What? No Garand kids?

  23. avatar gtfoxy says:


    When you buy it, you will build it.

    Seriously, what scares them so much is versatility and interchangeability.

    If the SHTF scenario occurs, and they are using the same weapons, we can easily adapt their FA lowers onto our rifles quickly in the heat of battle. Their ammo, all useable, their magazines all useable, their uppers all useable.

    That is, in my opinion, why the push for a different “military” rifle. Not because something may be better or more reliable.

    Every Gun owner should, in my view, sell atleast one Bolt-gun they own, even if the only one, and ammo-up to an AR. It is the Modern Day Musket!

    In the Revolutionary war we were able to use the British weapons just the same as our own. They were the same.

    Dive in boys

    As part of the, self proclaimed, Armed Intelegencia, Farago and his fellow writers should be acknowledging this fact and jump on the band wagon of the military keeping it as the primary arm.

    Therefore, not letting his love for the SCAR obscure an objective and subjective perspective of reality.

    1. avatar Adub says:

      I think every person should own an AR and a bolt action. ARs are fun to plink with, and they obviously make a great combat weapon, but if SHTF, I’d want a rifle with some range. Range is king.

      1. avatar William Burke says:

        That depends on if you can see the enemy at long range. Special forces? I don’t think so. You won’t see ’em until they’re in AR range.

  24. avatar gtfoxy says:

    In addition, this published, and misleading, number does not include the number of millions of lowers manufactured at home….Arms they have no way of tracking nor confiscating.

    “Ghost-Guns” as the Californication bearers call them.

    1. avatar CentralIL says:

      Thousands maybe. Probably not millions.

  25. avatar William Burke says:

    Hard times for the AR-15!

  26. avatar Jon in NC says:

    Not a surprise

  27. avatar allen says:

    i never was interested in buying an AR till NY passed the SAFE act, now i have 3. had they never passed the act, i would have never bought one haha

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