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The Gun Safe

The Great Gun Sales Boom of 2020-2021 Shows No End In Sight

Sig Sauer P226
SIG Sauer P226. Image: Creative Commons.

It may be too soon to suggest that the novel coronavirus pandemic is truly over, but life is returning to normal. As mask mandates and social distancing requirements are being relaxed, sporting events are seeing bigger crowds, people are packing airplanes and people are (begrudgingly) returning to the office. However, the pandemic drove the sales – even hoarding – of some products and that isn’t likely to change just yet.

As for firearms, the pandemic certainly created a buying spree, yet the return to “normal” hasn’t resulted in a sales slowdown. If anything sales of firearms has remained steady.

“There was a surge in purchasing unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, a gun researcher at the University of California, Davis, told The New York Times last weekend. “Usually it slows down. But this just kept going.”

What Is Different

What has also changed is who is buying the guns. It has already been widely reported that millennials, women and minorities had helped drive sales. The paper of record reported that new preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners. Moreover, data that has not been previously released, showed that new owners were less likely than usual to be male and white. Half were women, a fifth were black and a fifth were Hispanic.

The data also saw that there has been a significant rise in the number of households that now own a gun – up to 39 percent from just 32 percent in 2016, according to a General Social Survey, which was conducted by a research center at the University of Chicago. About 6.5 percent of U.S. adults, or 17 million people, had purchased a firearm in the past year, up from 5.3 percent in 2019. In 2021, gun owners overall were 63 percent male, 73 percent were white, 10 percent were Black and 12 percent Hispanic.

Sales have remained strong in 2021 and show little sign of slowing down. According to sales data from The Trace, a non-partisan group that tracks firearms sales, found that 2.3 million guns were purchased this past January. Overall in the first quarter of this year, sales jumped 18 percent, compared to the first quarter of 2020.

That is notable in that firearms sales for the Trump presidency had remained largely flat – but then the pandemic brought on the demand. Sales jumped by 64 percent last year. Data showed that the single highest month for firearms sales last year was in June, as protests swept across the country following the murder of George Floyd. Sales further remained strong after the election of President Joe Biden, who has vowed to make gun control a cornerstone of his administration.

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.