March NICS background checks
Courtesy NSSF
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With the sole exception of January, the number of NICS background checks — a good barometer of gun sales — have lagged the prior year’s total in every month in the last 12. As the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports, March was no exception, coming in 12.4% below the prior year total. For reference, February’s total was 12.8% behind the year-ago total.

While high-profile shootings typically result in sales surges in anticipation of a push for more gun control laws, that doesn’t seem to have been the case here. The Parkland shooting took place on February 14 of 2018 with no appreciable effect on the number of background checks.

Here’s the NSSF’s press release . . .

NSSF-Adjusted NICS Background Checks for March 2019

The March 2019 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,317,114 is a decrease of 12.4 percent compared to the March 2018 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,503,967. For comparison, the unadjusted March 2019 FBI NICS figure 2,604,927 reflects a 5.4 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 2,753,881 in March 2018.

The first quarter 2019 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 3,414,361 reflects a decrease of 8.5 percent over the 3,731,375 figure for first quarter 2018.

March NICS background checks
Courtesy NSSF

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. FBI NICS and NSSF-adjusted NICS figures do not account for firearm sales or transfers using approved alternate permits such as a concealed carry license. Several states allow the use of such alternate permits that have become popular among consumers over the past several years.

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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  1. No new and different toys this year. So no NICS for me. Have the gun makers come out with something new. Id buy it.

    • Stribog. Legit new, legit good platform, legit good deal. Now, it doesn’t “take Glock mags” but you (read: gun market) can’t decry lack of innovation while refusing to embrace new ideas because they aren’t the same as the old familiar ones.

    • Hopefully we’ll have magazines in 9×39 available later this year, and the founts of subsonic innovation & historical intrigue will spring forth once more.

  2. Well, it ain’t my fault. I’m certainly doing my part. Retired; much time and money on my hands; and, no adult supervision in my life. Never met a firearm I shouldn’t own. Come on guys and gals, can’t do it by myself. How about a little help in keeping those numbers up. It’s for a great cause… piss off a Liberal..

    • I’m another old retired guy like you, unsupervised except by the dog and as long as he gets fed and gets his walks, he doesn’t give a shit how many guns I buy… I’m not rich, but none of the 11 guns I’ve bought in the last 3 years have gone through NICS due to my Texas LTC and the one off books. I would think I’ve done my part, but not for the record! How many other of the ~20 million U.S. licensed concealed carrier’s purchases are off NICS check like mine? I’m guessing nobody really knows, and thinking that’s a good thing.

  3. Sales are dropping as the year progresses. Why? Customers have already spent their tax return, Winter hunting season is over, no fun money???
    As a LGS, I’d like to know..

    • Summer is always slow. But a year-over-year drop is notable.

      What’s funny about these NICS numbers being used is that a handful of states don’t even participate in all cases. For instance, in Texas they don’t have to submit the NICS check if you have a valid CCW so most shops don’t. Lord knows how many dozens and dozens of guns I’ve transferred since moving to TX two years ago without ever pinging NICS. (Hint: it’s a lot)

    • Gunner2000,

      Prior to former President Obama’s first term in office, I did not prioritize firearm nor ammunition purchases.

      Then, near the end of Obama’s first term (just prior to elections), I began prioritizing firearm and ammunition purchases. Of course the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 accelerated my incentive to purchase. While I will not say how many firearms nor which firearms I purchased over the last seven years, it has been even more than I expected.

      At this point, I cannot justify purchasing any more firearms. While I made an exception for a screaming sale price ($202 including sales tax for a new 6-shot snubbie revolver), my firearm acquisition activity at this point is limited to window shopping. I even passed up purchasing a new youth-sized 20 gauge Pardner Pump shotgun for $130.

      My guess is that the market is fairly saturated at the moment. People who really like firearms have purchased so many over the last seven years that they are all tapped out. And anyone who was not a previous firearm owner probably already took the plunge. (I suspect it will probably be a few years before new firearm owners “get the bug” and decide to add to their collection.)

  4. One thing is for sure Standard Capacity Magazines sales are the highest the have ever been here in California…

    • “Real mags”?

      Am I to take from this that you ordered mags of a, dare I say, “high capacity” nature due to certain events in certain court systems and certain web-sites taking note and shipping like gangbusters?

        • Your “standard capacity” magazine is my “standard capacity” magazine but it is not Shannon Watts “standard capacity” magazine. For Ms. Watts that’s a “high capacity” magazine” Then there’s DeLeon, for whom a “standard capacity magazine” is a “30 bullet per second magazine clip”.

          Letting other people control language is extremely dangerous.

          Also, it seems the courts reversed that ruling already. Sorry to hear that, hope you get your lawfully purchased stuff on time and in proper working order.

  5. Hrmmm. The data on this kind of thing is interesting but the short-term trends don’t interest me much. Like investments, I think people often get way too focused on daily issues rather than trends that matter for the time frame of their investment strategy.

    The overall trend line for the last 14 years is up and up significantly. There’s no reason to think this year marks a sea change in that trend. Both 2010 and 2014 were “down years” yet the overall trend continued. 2009, 2013 and 2018 were all significant year-over-year gains which also didn’t change the overall slope of the trend very much.

    I wouldn’t worry about this in either direction at this point. The year is young and even if this year is down from 2018, which was an outlier itself, it doesn’t mean much because ultimately you can condense that into a single data point from which no trend can be deduced.

  6. What these numbers don’t account for Is a rise In people building firearms at home or private sale’s because their tired of playing drop the soap In the shower with the ATF.
    Don’t ask/Don’t tell.

  7. Well I’ve about $1400 siting there in earned points on my Cabela’s/Bass Pro credit card. If they’d offer the guns I want to buy at a price I want to pay, I’d use those points.

    I’m watching, waiting to be moved by their sales acumen …. c’mon fella’s, it ain’t my fault those boom sticks ain’t mov’n!!!

  8. Could it be we’re reaching market saturation?

    I’ve already had two bolt-actions, an AR, a shotgun and three pistols, all lost in a tragic boating accident. Aside from losing something that is suitable for making a 1000-yd shot, I can’t see expanding the collection (yeah, I know– I’ve got friends who tell me “Hell, boy, that ain’t even a good starter kit.” Oh well, to each his own).

    What would really be nice is if the NICS numbers broke it down between pistols and long guns, but I know they don’t work that way. Still, I’d be curious.


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