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The Gun Safe

Why Americans Are Buying Up AR-15s At a Record Pace

AR-15 Sales
AR-556. Image: Creative Commons.

According to new data from firearms auction site, which publishes its top-selling firearms on a month-to-month basis and is compiled by the NRA’s American Hunter, the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II was the top-selling semi-automatic rifle in March. It was followed by the Ruger AR-556 and the Colt AR-15. Clearly, the AR platform continues to sell despite calls from President Joe Biden as well as Democratic lawmakers to ban firearms, which they’ve erroneously labeled as “assault rifles” and “weapons of war.”

Or rather the rifles might be selling because of the renewed calls for them to be banned.

AR-15 Sales: Why the Spike? 

One factor is likely, that if such a ban were to be pushed through private ownership it would likely be “grandfathered” in. There have been calls for a federal buyback program, but lawmakers have indicated those already in private hands wouldn’t be ceased and owners wouldn’t be required to take part in the buyback.

Such a compromise was already made with the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban (AWB), whereby no newly made AR-15s could be sold to consumers, but existing ones weren’t made illegal and owners could keep the guns they already had. Given that fact, it is easy to see why ARs could be hot sellers and may remain so in the weeks and months to come.

Colt, which had actually exited the civilian AR market in 2019, made a sudden about face last year as sales of firearms picked up.

Buy Them While You Can

Clearly the AR topped the sales charts, but the top-five selling semi-auto rifles was rounded out by the Ruger 10/22, a .22 long rifle that falls into the “plinker” category; and interestingly the Zastava Arms N-PAP, a Serbian-designed sporting rifle that is based on the AK-47 platform.

Except for the Ruger 10/22, all of the top selling semi-automatic rifles would be banned under the Assault Weapon Ban of 2021 which was introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). As NPR reported, the bill prohibits the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 “military-style assault weapons” by name, and bans magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. Moreover, it not only prohibits a greater number of weapons than the original law, but would also make it harder to retrofit them.

What Else is Selling?

Sales of all firearms have been strong this year, and it seems the old favorites continued to attract buyers.

The Benelli M4 Tactical and IWI Tavor TS12 were the top selling semi-automatic shotguns for last month, along with American Tactical Bulldog, Howa Boss-25 and Armscor/Rock Island Armory VR80. Semi-automatic shotguns have become increasingly popular in recent years as a home defense weapon.

In the semi-automatic handgun category modern designs dominated the market. The Austrian-made Glock G19 and Glock G43X were the top sellers, followed by the Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield, Taurus G2C and SIG Sauer P365. In the revolvers category, the retro-looking Heritage Arms Rough Rider was the top seller. But big frame revolvers certainly seem back in vogue. The newly re-introduced Colt Python was the second most popular handgun in revolvers, while the Taurus Judge, Taurus 856, and Colt King Cobra rounded out the top five.

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

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.