What goes up will eventually come down, and that will at some point include firearms sales. Monthly firearm sales nationwide declined last month compared to last year, but 2021 still remains the second best selling year for firearms ever.
A couple of points to consider is first, unlike with many other “durable goods” from TVs to appliances to furniture, firearms aren’t typically replaced in the same way, yet additionally gun buyers may still make repeated purchases for a collection. That is often why firearm sales can remain strong even in bad economies, while a plethora of outside factors can drive those sales.
September sales did see a decline, and according to the latest data from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) estimated sales were about 1.45 million units for the month, a year-over-year decrease of 18 percent.
SAAF’s firearms unit sales estimates are based on raw data taken from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and adjusted for checks that were unlikely to be related to end-user firearms sales. The SAAF made certain adjustments to the FBI’s raw data based on retailer reports and other information, but noted that even so, its adjusted NICS numbers may still underestimate the actual unit sales level by some amount.
“Abstracting from the super-charged year 2020, the third quarter 2021 estimated firearms unit sales (July, August, September 2021) are about 38 percent higher than for the same period in 2019 but this is down from the first quarter increase of 64.5 percent relative to 2019 and the second quarter increase of 56.1 percent, also relative to 2019,” said SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer.
“This slow-down in the rate of increase is especially noticeable in the handgun segment of the market,” added Brauer. “On a different note, cumulatively from January to September 2021, estimated sales come in at about 14.8 million firearms units and already exceed the all-year total for 2019 by about 6.5 percent. Put differently, the firearms market remains extraordinarily active.”
In fact, the strong continued sales could actually be a problem – a happy problem to be sure – for the firearms industry. The NRA’s Shooting Illustrated reported, “Most experts anticipated a decline this year, although the continuing strength in sales caught many by surprise. Total monthly volume for 2021 exceeded 2020 figures until June, when figures finally dipped below those from last year.”
We’re also heading into the fall hunting season with the Christmas holiday season just around the corner. These are typically the “busy time” of the year for firearms sales, and retailers need to keep stocks maintained. Unlike other seasonable durable goods like video game systems and TVs, consumers may not wait for supplies to pick up. In the case of firearms, there remains the secondary market via gun shows.
What About the Ammo Shortage?
The other factor could still be the shortage of ammunition. If gun owners, and would-be gun buyers, can’t stock up on the ammunition they may opt not to make a new firearm purchase. For now however, it seems likely that sales will remain strong. Additionally, it may just take renewed calls for gun control to drive the short term sales back into overdrive.
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 Amazon.com.