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The National Shooting Sports Foundation has toted up the adjusted background check numbers for December and we now have a full picture of 2021. That gives us a view of where the year stands in terms of Americans’ demand for firearms and where the demand for guns is probably heading. The numbers tell a couple of stories.

Just over 18.5 million guns were sold last year, making 2021 the second biggest gun-buying year ever, behind pandemic- and riot-riddled 2020. However, looking at how December and the fourth quarter compared to the same periods in previous years, it appears that the demand for firearms is finally reverting to the mean.

The initial buying binge was, of course, historic. Millions of people — the NSSF estimates about 11 million — made the choice to buy a gun for the first time. And plenty of existing gun owners decided that adding another firearm or two to the safe was a good idea.

But most of that initial flush of demand — high enough to carry well over into 2021 — now seems to have been met. You can see that with the availability of most firearm models (and, slowly, some ammunition stock) in retailers’ cases.

That demand, of course, was fueled by the uncertainty of the COVID outbreak, the Biden inauguration, and the nomination of a professional gun control zealot to head the ATF. But the political winds have shifted.

While crime in most urban areas is still high due to a variety of factors, Biden’s agenda, including his gun control push, is foundering. And thanks to bipartisan opposition to a deeply flawed and intentionally divisive candidate in the Senate, the Chipman nomination was roundly defeated.

Those developments, plus growing expectations of a shift in control of both houses of Congress in 2022, seem to have contributed to a gradual cooling of the overheated demand for guns.

The NSSF’s Mark Oliva told us that . . .

The fact that over 18.5 million Americans chose lawfully purchase a firearm in 2021 is indicative the value Americans hold of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The year 2021 was the second-highest year for background checks for gun sales, behind on the 2020’s record of over 21 million background checks for a gun sale. This has all occurred as Americans have taken stock of their personal safety concerns and their fundamental, God-given rights.

This has also happened as the firearm industry faced significant challenges and new opportunities. NSSF led the opposition to defeat President Joe Biden’s nomination of a gun control lobbyist, David Chipman, to regulate the firearm industry, the single most important fight of the year to preserve the firearm industry and Second Amendment rights.

At the same time, manufacturers announced significant investments in the expansion and relocation, signaling the anticipation for continued growth. The 2021 totals of 18.5 million background checks for a firearm sale prove the work to preserve and grow this vital industry is essential and the men and women of this industry are able more than capable of meeting the growing demand for lawful firearm ownership.

Here’s the NSSF’s press release announcing the final 2021 numbers . . .

The December 2021 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,792,797 is a decrease of 6.0 percent compared to the December 2020 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,906,916. For comparison, the unadjusted December 2021 FBI NICS figure 3,080,295 reflects a 21.1 percent decrease from the unadjusted FBI NICS figure of 3,904,879 in December 2020. Total NSSF-adjusted NICS figures for 2021 were 18,515,188, the second highest year on record.

The fourth quarter 2021 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 4,763,439 reflects a decrease of 15.3 percent over the 5,625,610 figure for fourth quarter 2020.

The 2021 annual adjusted NICS total is exceeded only by the previous record of 21,083,643 set in 2020.

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.

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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  1. Good. Now manufacturers can start selling models in their product lines beyond the 3″ barrel microcompact 9mm. Maybe we’ll see some decently priced .357 magnum, instead of wading through pages and pages of 9mm and .223. I’ll probably end up buying more in the near future, because there will be, finally after two years, stuff I’m interested in buying.

    • Agreed looking for a Glock 40 and Ruger Blackhawk once we get out of the 9mm boom. May be a bit for one of them up here.

  2. Locally more women are buying a firearm for the first time. The local sheriff allows women to use his shooting range for free in an attempt to encourage more women to join POTG. This is a good thing and more sheriffs should follow suit. A 1 year membership is only $25, but still free is even better.

  3. Well I bought 2 gats last year. And ammo & accessory stuff. If I had more cash I would’ve bought more. I used a part of my SS “raise” to buy another handgun mag yesterday. The gunshop was not busy but it was Monday. The gun range was crowded in December. Am I typical? Dunno but my neighborhood has been deteriorating for years. And we may cross the rubicon into Hoosierland.

  4. 18.5 million in just one year. Extrapolate that over a decade, that’s pushing 185 million more guns.

    I just might live long enough to see an America with *one billion* guns in private citizen hands… 😉

    • And that’s only a guesstimate based upon NICS. Imagine all the private gats made from 80% frames that (properly and constitutionally) are off the radar.

      • All my stores, big box and LGS, have 9mm and 5.56 out the wazoo at still-high prices. Heck, my Cabelas had over 30,000 rounds of 7.62×51 (.308). But rifle ammo in any other caliber is sparse, as is handgun ammo. Gun prices are retreating finally, though.

  5. “That demand, of course, was fueled by the uncertainty of the COVID outbreak, the Biden inauguration, and the nomination of a professional gun control zealot to head the ATF.”

    Nobody outside of the gun rights community cares about Chipman. He was a non-factor for the unprecedented volume of new buyers. The driving factor is the government’s refusal to enforce laws, which leaves it to the citizens to protect themselves. There are recent stories of Hollywood elites boosting their security, including buying guns, because of robberies and murders.

  6. And, with the large amount of not so committed gun buyers/owners there will be a big uptic in the availibility of second hand guns on the market in a couple years. Keep an eye on the dealers and pawn shops that handle used guns. As well as sites like

  7. It’s happening already… I just even up traded a cz75 clone (tristar t120) and 150 rounds of Fed. 124+p HP for an unfired 454 Super Redhawk that the owner bought during the mad rush as a ” house gun” … he says he hasn’t been able to get ANY ammo for it in the year and nine months he’s had it. I probably won’t be able to get cases for it to load for some time either, but what the hell were the gun dealers telling these people ?

  8. Oh and by the way, it was a REALLY nice clone with a Cajun trigger, VZ grips , and F.O. sights, so no, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about the trade.

  9. This one was done before Dave @CGW got so busy, I think he was going by “Schmeky” (?) at the time. Most Sp01 parts drop in, the firing pins need . O05″ turned off of them. They also have parts/work on IWI, Tanfoglio, and the hammer fired Canik 55s like the Tristars. Good people to work with. Oh, also, I think Starline Brass will need about year of running common caliber production before they get around to the 454, 444marlin, and 45super I’m currently waiting for.

  10. Looking forward to the secondary market in oh,…. let’s say…..2024.

    Gonna need moar gun safes.

  11. Has anyone but me seen this site turning hard left? “Deeply flawed and divisive candidate”?? Are you joking? It looks like you are bemoaning the death of the Chipman nomination. Someone talk some sense into me before I unsubscribe!

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