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Gun Sales Update: Could 2021 Break Last Year’s Sales Record?

Gun Sales 2021
Image: Creative Commons.

There are those in the media who have a “glass half empty” outlook on life, and have reported the drop in firearms sales in 2021. However, with nearly three full months left to go – which includes the fall hunting season and the holidays – 2021 is already the second-highest year ever for firearms background checks and sales in the United States.

The right chain of events could result in 2021 even breaking last year’s records. But even if that doesn’t happen, it is worth noting how 2021 has surpassed every year on record other than last year. And Paul Bedard, Washington Secrets columnist for The Washington Examiner reported this week, “what is untold in the new FBI numbers for September is the continued trend of women buying weapons for the first time and new owners expanding their arsenals.”

Both women and first-time buyers were what drove last year’s records. While uncertainty is always a motivator when it comes to firearms sales – and last year had no shortage from the pandemic to violent protests to calls by candidate and then-President-Elect Joe Biden for more gun control – it was the influx of women, including African-Americans, which drove sales last year.

The trend has continued and last month The Wall Street Journal reported that the preliminary results from the 2021 National Firearms Survey, designed by Deborah Azrael of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Matthew Miller of Northeastern University, showed an estimated 3.5 million women became new gun owners from January 2019 through April of this year. In other words, the trend of female customers at gun shops and gun shows didn’t begin with the pandemic and it has continued well into this year.

According to the survey, women now account for half of new gun buyers.

Downward Trend

It was also to be expected that the record sales would have to slow. Firearms are not all that different from other purchases of “durable goods.” Much like a TV, video game system or refrigerator, a firearm isn’t something most Americans continue to buy.

Yes, there are those who will have multiple handguns or rifles, but for a lot of individuals one or perhaps two firearms would be considered to be the “right amount.”

But that doesn’t mean strong sales have fallen, and it could be argued that sales have adjusted to a new normal that still has outpaced 2019 and the years prior. So far this year, The Washington Examiner reported, there have been over 30 million checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In 2020, there were a total of 39,614,395 checks conducted.

Likewise, while September 2021 lagged behind last year’s strong sales for the month, it was still the second-highest for the month on record.

Additionally, as noted we’re heading into the peek buying months with hunting season and the holidays just around the corner.

“Firearm sales typically rise during autumn months as hunters get back into the woods, fields, and marshes for hunting season and gun buyers take advantage of new models and holiday sales,” explained Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“It must also be considered that Americans continue to buy firearms for personal protection,” added Oliva. “The recent FBI Uniform Crime Report indicated that violent crime rose and Americans continue to buy firearms in response to concerns for their personal protection. Each month since April 2021 has registered as the second-strongest month on record for gun sale background checks, only behind 2020, when 21 million background checks were recorded. At this pace, 2021 could be the second-strongest year for firearm sales ever recorded.”

While President Biden has withdrawn his pro-gun control pick to head the ATF and currently is more focused on other issues than gun control, he may lose his colorful moniker of being the “best firearms salesman,” but across the country there are still those lawmakers that would seek to abolish or otherwise curtail the Second Amendment, and each call for bans or restrictions will just result in another uptick in sales.

A betting person might wager that 2021 still could break last year’s records for firearms 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

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.