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Americans Have Purchased 18 Million Guns This Year

Gun Sales
Smith & Wesson 500. Image Credit: Smith & Wesson.

November Gun Sales Dipped, But 2021 Still On Track for Record Year: According to recent data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), total firearm-related background checks for last month declined by 25 percent year-over-year from November 2020. Moreover, total firearms sales were estimated to be 1.7 million units for the month, while annual U.S. total firearm sales for the first 11 months of this year were flat compared to the same period from a year ago.

Americans have purchased some 18 million guns this year, which has made 2021 the second-largest for gun sales – trailing only last year’s record numbers.

According to data from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF), a research consultancy that is focused on the business and economics of the global small arms and ammunition markets, even with a decrease of 22 percent in overall sales, last month was still the third-highest November on record since 1998. The highest November number on record was 2.1 million in 2020, followed by the 1.8 million in firearms sales in 2016.

SAAF’s firearms unit sales estimates are based on raw data taken from the FBI’s NICS, adjusted for checks unlikely to be related to end-user firearms sales – and it makes certain adjustments to the FBI’s raw data based on retailer reports and other information. As a result, SAAF-adjusted NICS numbers may actually underestimate the total unit sales level by some amount.

“Despite the year-over-year drop in November 2021 unit sales, the U.S. firearms market continues to boom, if at a lower level than pandemic-driven 2020. By year’s end, the industry is expected to have sold about 20 million units,” said SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer.

Strong Sales – Different Buyers

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, generated similar estimates. It found that 1.543 million guns were sold last month, while 16.722 million were sold in the first 11 months of 2021 as a whole, outpacing every year aside from 2020.

Approximately one-fifth of all firearms sales last year were to first-time gun buyers. Data from the Northeastern University and Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that the demographics of gun owners had changed in recent years, with half of all gun buyers being women, while one-fifth were Hispanic, and one-fifth were Black.

Supporters of gun control have warned that the increase in firearms sales could lead to more violence and even result in an uptick in crime. The NSSF countered such claims.

“I think it’s a very rare case that you’re going to find people will go through a background check, prove that they’re a law-abiding citizen able to be trusted with the responsibility of owning a firearm, … get that firearm and then go commit a crime with that firearm,” Mark Oliva, spokesperson for the NSSF, told Forbes.

With another month to go, 2021 will still be one for the record books.

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.