Gun Sales and Manufacturing Statistics [2022]

by Ryan Cleckner

January 3, 2022

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Jan 2022 – Update: December 2021 had 3,098,539 NICS checks – this is the second highest December on record (The prior December record for background checks for gun sales was from 2020).

This brings us to a total of 38,876,673 for the past year – also the second highest number on record beat only by the year prior!

With these huge firearm sales numbers, it’s clear why there have been so many people getting their own FFLs.

Gun Sales Statistics

In this article, we’re going to explore:

2021 has clearly been a strong year for firearm sales. Although it started out much stronger than 2020, background checks for gun sales dropped off and the yearly total for ’21 came in at the second highest on record.

To put some stats into perspective, the firearms industry is fairly cyclical seeing most firearm sales at the start of hunting season in the Fall and just before Christmas.

Predictably, firearm sales also spike before elections in which there’s a larger than normal chance of major gun control (see Biden’s Gun Control Plan). Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the most recent record was 2020 and the second highest before that was from December 2016 – more guns were sold that month than any other month in recorded history. That is, of course, until 2020 came.

To explain how “off-the-charts” 2020 was, March of 2020 (typically a very slow month of the year for firearm sales and typically too early to have an election bump) eclipsed December 2016 and set a new monthly firearm sales record of 2.3 million. The extreme increase was likely due to Antifa and Black Lives Matter violent riots across the country and the defunding of police in democrat run cities.

There is a very likely chance that firearm sales dropped off mid-2021 due to supply chain problems. So many firearms were purchased and millions of new gun owners decided to join the marketplace that there were simply no guns left in the stores.

2022 firearm sales stats

The previous record year of 2019 saw 28 million federal background checks (see below for how these relate to actual firearms sales). 2020 came in with  39.6 million! This is even more exceptional when you consider that most gun stores have been out of inventory for months – imagine how much higher the number could have been with more inventory.

YearBackground Checks
201014,409,616
201116,454,951
201219,592,303
201321,093,273
201420,968,547
201523,141,970
201627,538,673
201725,235,215
201826,181,936
201928,369,750
202039,695,315
202138,876,673

Firearm Sale Background Checks

Gun sales from licensed firearm dealers, also known as Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs), typically require a federal firearm background check. This is true even if a firearm is purchased online. There are two main exceptions to the background check requirement for firearm purchases:

  1. 21 states have their own background check system that can be used instead of the federal system, and
  2. Some states have concealed carry licenses/permits that allow a purchaser to skip the background check for a firearm purchase because one was already done for their permit/license.

The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) is our federal firearm background check system used by FFLs. Therefore, a strong indicator of relative firearm sales for any given month is to see how many NICS checks have been processed. The NICS number of background checks is not a direct indication of the number of firearms sold, however, for a few reasons:

  1. Some background checks find criminal issues that result in a cancelled/denied sale,
  2. Some firearm sales don’t have federal background checks (see above), and
  3. In rare circumstances, some states use the NICS system for permit renewals that aren’t tied to actual firearms sales.

Despite these potential inconsistencies in NICS numbers, the total number of background checks is still a reliable source for seeing trends in the industry. For a more accurate picture of which NICS checks might be related to actual firearm sales, the firearms industry’s trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), adjusts the raw NICS background check data with their own research to try to paint a more accurate picture.

Firearms Manufactured In The U.S.

Federal regulations, in 27 CFR § 478.123, require that firearm manufacturers (Type 07 and Type 10 FFLs) report the number and type of firearms they made each year.

The ATF publishes these numbers of firearms manufactured each year with a 2-year delay so as not to revel current competitive/commercial data. Despite the delay, it is still valuable to see gun manufacturing trends in our country.

Here is a chart showing how many of each type of firearm are manufactured in the U.S. each year (Data from ATF) and a chart showing the total number of guns made and a table of the raw data:

Firearm Manufacturing Statistics
YearPistolsRevolversRiflesShotgunsMisc.Total
20193,046,013 580,601 1,957,667 480,735 946,929 7,011,945
20183,881,158 664,835 2,880,536 536,126 1,089,973 9,052,628
20173,691,010 720,917 2,504,092 653,139 758,634 8,327,792
20164,720,075 856,291 4,239,335 848,617 833,123 11,497,441
20153,557,199 885,259 3,691,799 777,273 447,131 9,358,661
20143,633,454 744,047 3,379,549 935,411 358,165 9,050,626
20134,441,726 725,282 3,979,570 1,203,072 495,142 10,844,792
20123,487,883 667,357 3,168,206 949,010 306,154 8,578,610
20112,598,133 572,857 2,318,088 862,401 190,407 6,541,886
20102,258,450 558,927 1,830,556 743,378 67,929 5,459,240
20091,868,258 547,195 2,248,851 752,699 138,815 5,555,818
20081,609,381 431,753 1,734,536 630,710 92,564 4,498,944
20071,219,664 391,334 1,610,923 645,231 55,461 3,922,613
20061,021,260 385,069 1,496,505 714,618 35,872 3,653,324
2005803,425 274,205 1,431,372 709,313 23,179 3,241,494
2004728,511 294,099 1,325,138 731,769 19,508 3,099,025
2003811,660 309,364 1,430,324 726,078 30,978 3,308,404
2002741,514 347,070 1,515,286 741,325 21,700 3,366,895
2001626,836 320,143 1,284,554 679,813 21,309 2,932,655
2000962,901 318,960 1,583,042 898,442 30,196 3,793,541
1999995,446 335,784 1,569,685 1,106,995 39,837 4,047,747
1998960,365 324,390 1,535,690 868,639 24,506 3,713,590
19971,036,077 370,428 1,251,341 915,978 19,680 3,593,504
1996987,528 498,944 1,424,315 925,732 17,920 3,854,439
19951,195,284 527,664 1,411,120 1,173,645 8,629 4,316,342
19942,004,298 586,450 1,316,607 1,254,926 10,936 5,173,217
19932,093,362 562,292 1,173,694 1,144,940 81,349 5,055,637
19921,669,537 469,413 1,001,833 1,018,204 16,849 4,175,836
19911,378,252 456,966 883,482 828,426 15,980 3,563,106
19901,371,427 470,495 1,211,664 848,948 57,434 3,959,968
19891,404,753 628,573 1,407,400 935,541 42,126 4,418,393
19881,101,011 754,744 1,144,707 928,070 35,345 3,963,877
1987964,561 722,512 1,007,661 857,949 6,980 3,559,663
1986662,973 761,414 970,507 641,482 4,558 3,040,934

At Gun University, we have the unique opportunity to see the most popular firearms and ammunition researched (and, in some cases, purchased).

Our information shows record levels of interest in tactical shotguns and semi-automatic rifles – specifically AK-47 style rifles. This was surprising to us.

According to the FFL community of RocketFFL, the most popular firearm sales for the past year have been semi-automatic handguns (specifically Sig’s p365 and p365xl and Glock’s 43x and 48 – all small pistols intended for concealed carry). However, this year’s rush on firearms in gun stores has resulted in the same information we’re seeing here: a surprising increase in shotguns.

As far as ammunition goes, our reports are showing that 9mm Luger, 223 Remington, and 7.62x39mm ammunition are some of the most popular calibers. This is no surprise as these are typically the calibers most used and purchased in bulk. However, matching the sudden increase in shotguns is a big run on shotgun shells in stores across the country.

One of most popular topics we’ve seen with all of these new gun owners concerned about having a firearm for self defense is concealed carry insurance.

NICS Background Check Data by Month

Here is a chart and a table of the raw NICS background check data by month by the FBI to help illustrate the trend in firearm sales over time.

2022 NICS background checks by year
YearJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
1999591,355696,323753,083646,712576,272569,493589,476703,394808,627945,7011,004,3331,253,3549,138,123
2000639,972707,070736,543617,689538,648550,561542,520682,501782,087845,886898,5981,000,9628,543,037
2001640,528675,156729,532594,723543,501540,491539,498707,288864,0381,029,691983,1861,062,5598,910,191
2002665,803694,668714,665627,745569,247518,351535,594693,139724,123849,281887,647974,0598,454,322
2003653,751708,281736,864622,832567,436529,334533,289683,517738,371856,863842,9321,008,1188,481,588
2004695,000723,654738,298642,589542,456546,847561,773666,598740,260865,741890,7541,073,7018,687,671
2005685,811743,070768,290658,954557,058555,560561,358687,012791,353852,478927,4191,164,5828,952,945
2006775,518820,679845,219700,373626,270616,097631,156833,070919,487970,0301,045,1941,253,84010,036,933
2007894,608914,954975,806840,271803,051792,943757,884917,358944,8891,025,1231,079,9231,230,52511,177,335
2008942,5561,021,1301,040,863940,961886,183819,891891,224956,872973,0031,183,2791,529,6351,523,42612,709,023
20091,213,8851,259,0781,345,0961,225,9801,023,102968,145966,1621,074,7571,093,2301,233,9821,223,2521,407,15514,033,824
20101,119,2291,243,2111,300,1001,233,7611,016,8761,005,8761,069,7921,089,3741,145,7981,368,1841,296,2231,521,19214,409,616
20111,323,3361,473,5131,449,7241,351,2551,230,9531,168,3221,157,0411,310,0411,253,7521,340,2731,534,4141,862,32716,454,951
20121,377,3011,749,9031,727,8811,427,3431,316,2261,302,6601,300,7041,526,2061,459,3631,614,0322,006,9192,783,76519,592,303
20132,495,4402,309,3932,209,4071,714,4331,435,9171,281,3511,283,9121,419,0881,401,5621,687,5991,813,6432,041,52821,093,273
20141,660,3552,086,8632,488,8421,742,9461,485,2591,382,9751,402,2281,546,4971,456,0321,603,4691,803,3972,309,68420,968,547
20151,772,7941,859,5842,012,4881,711,3401,580,9801,529,0571,600,8321,745,4101,795,1021,976,7592,243,0303,314,59423,141,970
20162,545,8022,613,0742,523,2652,145,8651,870,0002,131,4852,197,1691,853,8151,992,2192,333,5392,561,2812,771,15927,538,673
20172,043,1842,234,8172,433,0922,045,5641,942,6771,901,7681,742,5461,925,1461,967,1042,030,3912,382,7882,586,13825,235,215
20182,030,5302,333,1932,767,6992,223,2132,002,9921,935,6911,835,3182,073,2961,956,6812,086,8952,393,0432,543,38526,181,936
20192,165,0942,053,8862,644,8512,334,2492,349,3092,312,3092,030,6612,366,8242,207,3122,393,6092,574,7522,936,89428,369,750
20202,702,7022,802,4673,740,6882,911,1283,091,4553,931,6073,639,2243,115,0632,892,1153,305,4653,626,3353,937,06639,695,315
20214,317,8043,442,7774,691,7383,514,0703,222,1053,054,7262,882,6762,715,2232,626,3892,593,1682,717,4583,098,53938,876,673

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, Ryan! It’s interesting to see the trend busters in this data. The largest being the dramatic fall in gun sales during Trump’s first year in office (25.57% decrease), which was after the 2016 election-year increase of 22.85% in sales; the driving force there was the expectation that Hillary would win.

    Typically, it’s the first year of a new administration when gun sales rise compared to the previous election-year percentages. That “trend” didn’t hold during the Clinton midterm election or the 2000 Presidential election.

    Not surprisingly, we saw huge spikes in sales both during and after Obama’s re-election — 31.13% increase during the 2012 election year and 26.42% increase in 2013. Obama was hands down the gun industry’s best friend when it came to sales. I’m predicting Biden will blow Obama out of the water as a gun salesman.

    Anyway, the Democrats are their own worst enemy when it comes to increasing guns sales and new gun ownership, but we already knew that. It’s difficult to be anti-gun when you yourself own a gun. New gun ownership is key to winning this battle. As such, I think these numbers are encouraging.

  2. Ryan, great article. I check in every now and then to see what the sales are like. This is a go to for quick stats. Thanks for putting this together.

  3. Based on numbers I have found, there are about 9 million firearms manufactured annually in the USA. Additionally an average of 4 million firearms imported. Not allowing for military consumption, the firearm supply in the USA grows at most 13 million units annually. You cannot equate background checks with increased ownership especially new firearm owners.

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