Firearm sales increased in May by 0.7 or 1 percent—depending on source—compared to the same period last year. The number of requests processed through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) also set an all-time high for the month at 2,349,309. The same 31-day period in 2018 saw only 2,002,992.
NICS provides a relative gauge of overall firearm sales, although the gross figure includes new carry permit applications and their periodic checks, renewals and other administrative use of the system. More than 17.25 million Americans have CCWs, a fact that makes the raw numbers significantly higher than the guns purchases reflected in the system.
After adjustment, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimated gun sales in May were up 0.7 percent compared to 2018. Sporting Arms Analytics & Forecasting’s calculations put the increase at closer to 1.0 percent. Each organization’s methodology is slightly different, explaining the slight discrepancy. The latter, for example, employs different market research to address two otherwise clouded sales categories: the number of firearms each of the FBI’s “multiple” column entries reflect; and guns purchased by CCW holders in regions where a NICS check isn’t necessarily recorded when a valid permit is presented to the retailer.
NSSF estimates 910,910 firearms were sold last month, up from 904,834 during the same period in 2018. Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting put the number slightly higher at 957,725. “Likely single handgun sales (542,654) increased year-over-year by 0.7% but single long-gun sales (321,749) decreased year-over-year by 3.2 percent,” it wrote in a June 7 press release. “All other likely firearms sales (93,322) increased year-over-year by 21.9%. This includes so-called ‘multiple’ sales where the allocation between handguns and long-guns cannot be determined from the data record.”
The increase in purchases comes on the heels of survey results recently released by Southwick Associates that found retails sales in the shooting and hunting industry increased to $2.13 billion in 2018—up 11 percent from the year before. “Much of the sales increases can be attributed to consumers high-grading their purchases versus actual unit increases,” said Nancy Bacon, vice president at Southwick Associates. “For the categories tracked, the average sale increased 20 percent in 2018 versus the previous year. Total units were down seven percent, driven primarily by decreases in the ammunition, blackpowder and reloading categories.”