The National Sport Shooting Foundation (NSSF), the trade group for the firearms industry, reported earlier this month that there were nearly 5.5 million firearms sold in the United States in the first three months of 2021. That was up by thirteen percent from a year ago for the first quarter, and it was also the most guns sold in any three-month period since the FBI introduced its background check data system in 1999.
The FBI's data is compiled by the NSSF to determine sales of new firearms.
Even as February, which saw record cold and rolling blackouts in Texas, saw a slight decline in overall gun sales, the first quarter of the year was extremely strong, breaking all past records for the same period.
If that pace holds steady – and there are actually a multitude of reasons to suggest that it will, including calls for greater gun control measures – this year could even surpass 2020, when a record 21 million guns were sold nationwide. That number was already more than double the number of firearms that were sold when the FBI began to conduct background checks. According to data from CBSNews, the year 2000 saw fewer than 8.5 million guns sold in the United States.
Uncertain times can be bad for many businesses, and consumer spending falls in such environments.
People are less likely to buy a house or a car, and they cut back on vacation travel. Other seemingly "big ticket" items like video game systems and TVs also typically see sales fall when there is such uncertainty, but guns have been the exception. Firearms are simply recession-proof.
But the economic downturn from Covid-19, which resulted from shutdowns, was just part of the equation. Violent protests and calls to defund the police were also factors.
Strong Sales Continue
Gun sales reached records last year when many other products saw a decline in sales. In fact, other than backyard pools, which were in extremely hot demand last year and also show no signs of slowing down this summer, guns have been a product that has shown no sign of a slowdown even as the economy begins to recover.
Instead, record-after-record has been smashed in the past year.
One factor has been that while some Americans have really needed those stimulus checks to make ends meet, for a lot of others it has been essentially "found money." That certainly explains why firearms retailers across the country reported strong sales as the government sent out the third round of stimulus payments earlier this year.
It hasn't just been the pandemic either that has been driving sales.
The election of President Joe Biden, who has urged lawmakers to take action on gun control – already resulting in bills that have been introduced in the United States House of Representatives – has only pushed further sales.
For gun makers, it has been a boom time. Springfield, Mass.-based Smith & Wesson announced last month that it had sold more than 600,000 firearms and accessories in its late fiscal quarter, which ended in January. That was nearly double in year-over-year sales, and as a result shares of the company have more than doubled.
As long as Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, continue to push for new legislation and there remains uncertainty the strong sales will likely continue. For the industry 2020 could be the year to beat, but 2021 is well on its way to topping it.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.