The Great Gun Buying Boom Of America

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America’s relationship with “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” has seen the sale of legal firearms skyrocket over recent years, making the United States one of the most heavily armed countries in the world.

This marks perhaps only the start of the great-gun buying boom, and its billowing full steam ahead.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, gun sales have increased, almost doubling since 2019. According to figures provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Small Arms Analytics, monthly gun sales were up from 1 million per month in 2019, to more than 2 million per month by 2020.

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The surge in sales marked a new dawn of American gun ownership, even as lawmakers in the largely Democratic federal government push to enact stricter laws that could make the legal purchasing of guns even more stringent.

The numbers are outstanding. Annual sales are also up, between 2010 and 2019, an average of 13 million firearms were legally sold each year. By 2020, and the later part of 2021, this number skyrocketed to more than 20 million.

Despite the ongoing boom in sales, with an estimated 393 million firearms - legal and illegal - floating around the country, the relationship Americans have with guns and firearms has challenged modern society and political systems even further.

Commercial sales aren’t the only side of the legal firearms market that has experienced significant growth in recent years.

A report released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) found that nearly 170 million firearms have been produced in the U.S. over the past three decades. Smaller handheld guns such as pistols accounted for almost 50% of all the firearms produced in the U.S by 2021. In 2001 that figure was closer to 21%.

Embedded in the social fabric of the nation, the relationship Americans have with guns and firearms has become an increasing challenge in modern-day society.

The nation has been arming itself to the teeth with guns and firearms. While the reasoning behind the soaring sales varies, from self-protection to hunting and recreational purposes, the gun and ammunition store market is set to bring in more than $15.5 billion in revenue this year alone, an annual increase of 3.6% according to the latest statistical figures.

These numbers paint a statistical portrait that is both amusing and certainly shocking regardless of which side of the political aisle you may be sitting.

Gun Sales Are Up Across The Market

Amid a surge in mass shootings and gun-related crime, an enclave of action groups and Democratic leaders in the Biden Administration have been working to pass new laws that would make it harder for civilians to legally purchase firearms.

While there is currently no government or national database of gun sales, the FBI currently holds records of pre-sale background checks. In March 2021, the FBI reported close to 4.7 million background checks, a jump of 77% from March 2019. This marked the highest of any month since the agency started keeping records more than two decades ago.

Looking deeper, the lines have become increasingly blurred on why Americans have been purchasing firearms at an alarming rate. Currently, U.S. gun ownership totals around 120 civilian-owned guns per 100 residents, the highest among any country in the world.

Growth In Retail Firearms Sales

There are currently around 10 gunmakers in America that collectively manufacture and distribute around 70% of total production. While sales have climbed non-stop in recent years, top gunmakers have also been producing more to keep up with surging demand.

The most dominant firearm category in recent years has been pistols (36%) and rifles (35%), being the most commonly produced firearm in the U.S.

Today, most firearms cost between $400 and $800, while smaller carry pistols such as those mentioned above retail on average around $500. Hunting rifles and firearms used for recreational purposes cost between $600 and $750. These prices exclude an additional magazine, cleaning solution, and oil or licenses.

Gun enthusiasts have had an ongoing debate on whether a handgun, rifle, or shotgun is perhaps the best defense weapon, though production numbers reveal that smaller pistols and handheld guns are becoming increasingly popular.

Ammunition & Accessories Demand Remains Steady

It’s safe to say that while the sales of firearms have grown across the board, the demand for ammunition and accessories has also increased.

While there is limited data available on the growth of sales regarding ammunition and accessories, tighter regulations have not halted many Americans who are emptying gun shops across the country.

Various gun retailers and sellers have stated that gun prices will only increase in the coming years under new proposals by the Biden Administration to tighten the regulations on legal gun ownership.

Moreover, the widespread price and performance challenges have filtered throughout the sector. In the recent months, gun-related accessories such as holsters, protective wear, among other items have experienced a share increase in retail purchases. The shift in consumer interest is widely present, both for online and in-store purchases.

Some experts in the commercial and retail firearms market have also laid claim that if any current proposals do end up passing through the market could soon become flooded with “ghost guns” or illegally privately homemade firearms.

Between 2016 and 2021, law enforcement agencies recovered more than 45,000 suspected ghost guns from crime scenes. From this figure, around 20,000 were traced and recovered in 2021 alone.

While it’s not yet clear how proposals will potentially impact the price of ammunition and firearm accessories or the availability thereof, we’re still seeing significant growth in retail purchases throughout the market.

States Leading The Gun-Buying Boom

While every state regulates the purchase and ownership of firearms, several states - Texas, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania - experienced the biggest jump in annual gun sales throughout 2020, with an estimated one million firearms sold.

Reporting on the sales of guns will be different in every state due to the differences in how some states report local sales to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

According to most recent estimates, based on figures provided by the FBI background check system, several states - Kentucky, Illinois, Utah, and Indiana -  reported having the most gun sales per 1,000 people between January and July 2022.

For this period, Kentucky saw roughly 542.3 gun sales per 1,000 people, up from 444.7 for the same period in 2021.

The state with the lowest number of reported gun sales per 1,000 people was Hawaii, which reported 7.7 in 2022, up from 6.9 in 2021. Besides Hawaii, The District of Columbia currently holds the lowest percentage of legal gun sales per capita. In 2020, D.C. reported roughly 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants.

The common understanding here revealed how larger states, with more residents, had higher rates of gun sales per capita as opposed to smaller regions in the country.

Who Owns America’s Guns?

The percentage of Americans that own a firearm has remained marginally unchanged according to a 2020 Gallup report.

The metrics in this report have been tracked since 2007, and most recent estimates revealed that roughly 32% of American adults cited they personally own a gun.

When breaking this down into smaller demographics, we see that gun ownership among men is the highest, 45%, while only 19% of women say they personally own a gun.

More so, gun ownership was reported to be higher among white individuals (38%), while non-white Americans (18%) and Eastern residents (21%) had lower percentages of owning a gun.

Politically, Republicans (50%) held the highest category of gun ownership with Democrats (18%) coming in behind those who identify as Independent (29%).

Regardless of their political classification, ethnicity, or even level of income, Americans are keeping strong to the underwritten notion that owning a gun or bearing arms will forever be part of their modern culture.

The Names Producing America’s Firearms

Americans have been purchasing their beloved firearms from several well-known gun manufacturers that have locally been producing a collective 70% of current firearm stockpiles.

Manufacturing of guns and ammunition are set to bring in more than $21.1 billion in 2022, while the overall market has grown by 6.7% between 2017 and 2022 according to most recent estimates.

Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWBI) and Strum, Ruger & Co (NYSE: RGR) are the only two publicly traded gun manufacturers that produce more than one-third of American firearms.

Other big names include Sig Sauer 7.7%), Freedom Group (6.4%), 0 F Mossberg & Sons (4.7%), Taurus International Manufacturing (4.2%), and WM C Anderson (3.8%) that currently produces some of the most widely purchased firearms.

Although these big names have been fueling the American firearms industry, in a recent PBS NewsHour correspondence, companies including Smith & Wesson and Strum, Ruger & Co, have come under media scrutiny over how they market new guns and other offerings to consumers.

Many of these companies have claimed that their practices are within a common understanding of consumer demand and are done so by directing media and marketing efforts directed towards target audiences.

Despite their influence in the market, and how much leverage they have, they are only a small but fragile piece of the bigger puzzle that makes up the American firearms industry.

The Bottom Line

Guns and gun ownership will forever be a topic that rivals conversations on both sides of the political sphere. Despite the push coming from the White House to introduce sweeping gun reforms, the years ahead could see the firearms industry only experience expansive growth as many more Americans look to withhold their civil right to bear arms amid the heating social concern that surrounds gun ownership.