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Slowing Gun Sales: Don’t Listen to The Hype

Gun Sales
Ruger GP-100. Image: Creative Commons.

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 Dip

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.

Written By

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Real Deal

    October 11, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    The best stuff is all bought up for now …. time to ammo up ….. and let the gun makers get back to making the better quality guns again …. quit with the slicked up plastic junk

  2. Publius

    October 11, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Remember that this number only reflects NCIS checks, which does not include people with concealed carry permits… which have exploded this year… i purchased 2 firearms this month.

    As i have a CCP, i don’t have to undergo a background check, so those are not counted.

    Multiply that times 22 million

  3. Stoneface524

    October 11, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    The data *may* be skewed now. My local gun dealers mention that I can buy more than one firearm per background check. So, instead of buying one gun at a time I’ve purchased two. Others are probably doing the same.

  4. NorgeX

    October 12, 2021 at 5:51 am

    Good article, but as the author acknowledges, there are a variety of issues and policies that can skew even the most concrete numbers of any given tracking system.
    I would posit that one of the most underestimated and under-considered acquisitions by buyers is the so-called ghost-gun, or more commonly known, amongst the shooters, the 80% receiver. As someone who is always looking, what I am seeing on auction sites is an amazing business in the 80% market. Many folks are ‘building their own’ and there is no one who has come up with way of tracking the sale of ‘gun parts’ (for build completion) with any degree of accuracy. Not only are they ‘building their own’ there are thousands and thousands of folks who are stockpiling 80% receivers. How do I know this? By simply watching the auction sites and selecting to put certain items on my ‘watch list’. When you see a seller who is selling 5-packs or 10-packs of 80% receivers, and says is has 20 of those packs for sale, and they are gone in 24-48 hours it tells you something. When this happens over and over every single day for months on end one begins to realize that the sheer numbers going out the door are not going to a select clientle, but must be going to the masses.
    Along with the staggering number of 80%’ers moving through the markets, are all the associated parts to finish those 80%’ers. Every single manufacturer that can produce AR barrels, upper (untracked) receivers, bolts, trigger groups, etc. is running at a ‘war production’ pace. I know this how? I’ve been trying to buy a custom AR barrel and the best time given to me by over a dozen different manufacturers is “at least 6 or 7 months, if raw materials in the supply line are available”……that is the best estimate. Many are simply saying “No orders at this time, check back in 10-12 months”. Others are saying, candidly when they realize they are just talking to a regular ‘Joe customer’, that they are on a war production footing until their supplies dry up, and that folks are going to be shocked when it happens as soon as it does.
    I suggest that folks best buckle-up. When supply chain issues have tanked car sales, and now they are going to tank the sales of the hottest industry in a lousy America economy, coupled with lower drought induced agricultural harvests on top of current food industry supply-chain problems, and increasingly bottle-necked energy supplies………I can forecast nothing good about the coming winter.

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