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Gun Sales Smashed Records in 2020. What About 2021?

Gun Sales
Ruger GP-100. Image: Creative Commons.

Thanks to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 wasn’t a good one for many industries. The international movie box office saw the largest decline in its history; so much so that the Chinese film The Eight Hundred, about a largely unknown engagement during the Battle of Shanghai, became the top international grossing film for the year. Never before had a foreign film topped the worldwide box office – but its $461.3 million tally came mostly in China, and it was less than one-sixth of what Avengers: Endgame made in 2019.

It wasn’t just the movie industry that suffered through 2020.

Restaurants worldwide had their worst year on record, the air and aerospace industry nearly crashed and burned, cruise lines all but sank and auto sales hit a speed bump.

However, it was a good year for streaming services, video game sales were strong – and then there was the firearms industry. After the boom times that came during the Obama administration, the Trump years were largely a return to leaner times for the firearms industry. So much so that Colt Firearms repositioned its business, exiting the commercial AR-15 market.

For shooters, it was a blessing. Ammunition was plentiful and cheap.

Home Self Defense Gun

Glock 17. Image: Creative Commons.

Then the pandemic hit, and 2020 saw the largest increase in sales ever. The FBI reported that it processed a record 39.7 million firearm background checks in 2020, the most of any year since the law enforcement agency started recording sales data in 1998. Nine out of 10 of the highest weeks for FBI background checks were performed last year. 2020 saw a 34 percent increase over the previous high of 15.7 million in background checks that had been conducted in 2016.

The firearms industry trade organization, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), also reported that checks specifically related to firearms totaled 21 million – a 60 percent increase over 2019’s total of 13.2 million. The trade group also reported that last year saw nearly five million new gun owners, and 40 percent of all sales were to first-time buyers, while 40 percent were also to women.

Gun Sales, Gun Shortages? 

Then there are the high prices and the shortages. Ammo shortages are widespread across the country–or prices are so high many can’t afford the purchase. Even trying to buy a firearm at a reasonable price–or finding one at all in some stores–is a challenge depending on where you live.

Other figures put first time buyers even higher, estimated at upwards of 8.4 million but still accounting for 40 percent of all sales. A factor in this is that background checks aren’t conducted between private sales, including those at gun shows.

CZ P-09

CZ P-09

In addition to the increase in first-time buyers, 2020 also saw a 58 percent increase in sales to African Americans.

The sales weren’t just driven by pandemic, however.

What Is Driving Gun Sales?

2020 saw a true “trifecta” of fears that simply began with the pandemic. The protests throughout the summer months that began following the death of George Floyd certainly played a role, as did the presidential election. It has been an established fact that a democrat in the White House – or even fears that it could come to be – drive firearms sales.

It is clear that many gun owners feared that President Biden may not be a friend to the Second Amendment. Sales began to dip to the lowest point during the pandemic in September but increased as then candidate-Biden’s poll numbers picked up and spiked after the election.

Gun Sales in 2021: The Trend Continues? 

Even with a vaccine being rolled out, 2021 will likely still be a terrible year for restaurants while the movie industry has tried to adapt by releasing many films on streaming services – even if the latest James Bond film was delayed yet again. Meanwhile, 2021 could be another boom time for firearms and ammunition sales.

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

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on




    January 31, 2021 at 6:44 pm



    January 31, 2021 at 6:45 pm


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