New Normal: Americans Bought Another 1.7 Million Guns in December, 4.5 Million in the Fourth Quarter

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Some will look at December’s adjusted background check (gun sales) total and note that it’s lower than five other Decembers in the past decade. Others will see more than 1.7 million civilian-owned firearms — over 4.5 added in the fourth quarter — and see that Americans’ desire for gun ownership is still quite healthy.

As the NSSF’s Mark Oliva told us . . .

The total of over 16.4 million background checks completed for the sale of a firearm in 2022 demonstrated that while retail sales of firearms were lower than the record shattering years of 2020 and 2021, there continues to be a strong desire from law-abiding Americans to purchase the firearms of their choice. This trend is similar to what NSSF has witnessed in the past.

When a new ceiling is reached on background checks for retail gun sales, the market settles to a “new normal.” That new normal typically exceeds what the trend line seen before the spike. In this case, there were nearly 13.2 million before the 2020 and 2021 spike. The 16.4 million figure shows that the industry continues to meet a signal from the today’s gun buyers.

Here’s the NSSF’s press release announcing the numbers . . .

The December 2022 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,747,506 is a decrease of 2.5 percent compared to the December 2021 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,792,797. For comparison, the unadjusted December 2022 FBI NICS figure 2,995,715 reflects a 2.7 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 3,080,295 in December 2021.

The fourth quarter 2022 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 4,532,341 reflects a decrease of 4.9 percent over the 4,763,439 figure for fourth quarter 2021.

The 2022 annual adjusted NICS total of 16,425,484 represents the third highest year on record, exceeded by 2020 and 2021 respectively.

Please note: Twenty-four 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.

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. 

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Meanwhile, the (usually) lowest priced eggs are 12$/doz, and the (normally) more expensive eggs are “only” 5$/doz, as of 1/3/23.

    Question: does anyone think that this post is OT?

  2. Well I tried to buy a Maverick88 Monday-cash in hand. No one had one. And tried to steer me to pos foreign junk. No thanks…oh & the Dims may not have the votes to pass draconian people control in ILLannoy. It may not fly in southern & central ILL even with Dims…you know where there’s a helluva lot of hunter’s!

    • ” tried to steer me to pos foreign junk”… you know, as opposed to a hodgepodge of plastic and Mexican made parts assembled just across the border in Texas, and without the desirable tang safety and no magazine extension. Maybe a good value, but you can do better with a used 870 or 500/590

      • Be careful of the 870. Quality control was really off for a number of years. I knew folks that bought new 870’s and gave trying to get them to run. I prefer Mossberg myself for a pump gun. I have a couple of the 500’s. I also have a Maverick 88. It works and runs.

        • Woe is me the 870 is falling apart, imports are awful, awful, awful and un-American, what to do, what to do? I’ll tell you grunts what to do…Take the damned thing all apart and you figure out how to make it run.

      • Highest rated cheap shotgun by The Firearm Blog. And me. Had one & sold it to fund buying a pistol. STILL AMERICAN.So where are the parts on your car from unicorn???

        • Hey, glad you asked… just had to have a head replaced on my Jeep ( 42,000 miles,
          under recall ) that were cast, machined, and assembled in Mexico. Had to wait for parts, as the replacement heads from Mexico were also defective. I believe the dealer said the new ones are being done in Canada and/or Europe. As for where the parts for my “American made car” come from,
          I can say pretty much anywhere…JEEP = Jumble of Everyone Else’s Parts.

      • Tang safety is desirable only with a standard shotgun grip (the only option for Maverick). I still don’t understand why Mossberg doesn’t use the crossbolt safety, which they clearly have the tooling for, on their pistol grip models where the tang safety is terrible.

    • I just bought a Uberti Cattleman. I want a Colt SA or USFA SA but do not want to pay that much for a revolver. The Uberti shoots well and is a decent gun for the price.

      • I got a pietta gunmfighter last month. I didn’t think I’d like it but for the price it’s okay.
        I’d rather have bought a Ruger but gees $1000.
        My oh my in 1979 I paid $198 for a RSBH Silhouette Special.

      • I have several Ubertis and have never had any issues with any of them. Piettas NOT so much.. Pietta, NEVER again.

  3. Hmm,

    40-year-high inflation, supply chain issues (and the most incompetent Secretary of Transportation since the ‘post’ was invented), crappy job numbers (when actually analyzed) . . . and people aren’t buying quite as many guns as some other Decembers recently. A total mystery, innit?

    I still have three firearms on my “need to pick up one of these” list, but . . . I’ve got a nice group of firearms, now. While there are three guns I’d like to acquire, none of them is an urgent need.

    I’ll be interested in the January and February numbers, but . . . this sounds very much like a non-issue. Now, if there’d only been a total of 200,000 guns sold in December? THAT would be news. This isn’t news.

  4. Unpossible. Our scholar, dacian, has claimed that Americans are not buying guns. What was his last bs? 21 to 33% of Americans are the only ones to own guns. In spite of over a million a month sold in near forever.

  5. The reason for lower sales is the ‘Bruin’ decision.

    The fear of bans is gone, and the market is stabilizing. Even the ammo situation is improving (somewhat)…

  6. Of course they bought more guns. They feel uneasy, pessimistic, and down right worried about the future. 2022 was bad, and many think 2023 is going to be worse, rightfully so.
    Owning a firearm gives them a peace of mind and security.
    Maybe with the exception of PMs, firearms hold their value (unless the barrel is shot out or something similar). Unless you plan on melting down your PMs to fight off a pack of wearwolves in a remote cottage in Scotland (ref: Dog Soldiers), or you want your bullets to match your gold plated Desert Eagle.

    • Epstine, That (Dog Soldiers) is a Great movie! and Outpost (nazi undead) w/ Ray “Punisher” Stevenson classics!. I’d rather talk about movie stuff than read drivel like the above article… rehashed/manufactured misinformation, It’s like Herr gobells once said ” Tell a lie often enough and the shepple will believe it!” (something like that)… They (.gov) are trying to turn America into a Marksist/Communist State, and PoTG are standing in their way!. With all the guns being sold every month I see that another INVADER would have a real bloody hard time trying to roll over us as the british tried not so long ago.

      Arm up and carry on!

  7. I’ll bet dacian, the DUNDERHEAD, Albert LJ Hall, and MINOR Miner49er are all in a dither about so many guns being bought by Americans.

    • Truth be known, those 3(?) guys/that guy probably own several guns and a stockpile of ammo… He/they would be wise to do so, considering…

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