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Is the Great Gun Sales Rush of 2021 About to End?

2021 Gun Sales
Glock 17. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“Thank you, Joe Biden” should be the message from the American firearms industry, which has seen record sales even as the country begins to return to normal a year after the novel coronavirus pandemic began.

A record 4.7 million firearms were sold in March of 2021, the most in any month since the FBI started tracking background checks in 1998.

Those record sales could be slowing, at least a bit and according to industry estimates, last month saw 1.3 million firearms sold in the United States. That is a significant drop from earlier this year, and about 300,000 fewer sales – a 16.8 percent drop – from May 2020 according to the newly released Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) report.

The sales estimates are based on raw data taken from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and adjusted for checks unlikely to be related to end-user firearms sales.

While May 2021 saw that decline in sales from last year, the numbers still need to be in context, and 1.3 million would be an incredibly strong month in general. Sales were up almost fifty percent from May 2018 and 2019, and up thirty-five percent from May 2017.

Moreover, even with May’s decline, sales have continued to outpace last year, driven largely by January when more than 2.2 million guns were sold. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry’s trade group, reported that May 2021 was still the second busiest May on Record and was only outpaced by May 2020.

“The May 2021 number of about 1.4 million firearms is the second monthly decline recorded in the first five months of 2021,” said SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer. “Nonetheless, the overall firearms sales pace thus far this year clocks in at nearly 9.2 million units as compared to 8.7 million units for January to May 2020.”

Industry officials have also noted that May is typically a “slow month” for sales, especially compared to the busier holiday shopping period that actually begins with the fall hunting season. Thus it should not be surprising to see a drop from April.

It may be too early to know if 2021 sales of firearms will top last year’s 22.8 million, but a number of factors from the Covid-19 pandemic and the election of Joe Biden played no small part. In fact, as President Biden calls for more gun control that could further increase sales. A final consideration is that there is only so much supply, and while last year many would-be gun owners bought anything that was available consumers now may be a little more selective.

Sales may dip, and even if it doesn’t break records 2021 will certainly go down as a strong year for gun sales–and ammo sales as well.

“Any time you walk into a firearm retailer, you’re likely to see empty shelves and empty display cases,” Mark Oliva, NSSF spokesman, told Forbes. “There is certainly still a strong demand signal.”

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.