Despite Sales Decline, 2022 on Pace to See the Third-Largest Number of Guns Sold Since Records Began

The effects of the pandemic and recent social unrest are passing, but firearms sales remain very strong.

posted on August 11, 2022
Gun sales still strong

Ignore 2020’s and 2021’s record-shattering firearm sales pace—driven by the historic collision of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest—and this year is shaping up to be another banner one for the industry, likely eclipsing the mark set in 2019 and vying to place among the top-three in all-time purchases. “[T]he contrast to prior years is remarkable, with total (estimated) unit sales from January to July of 7.4 million in 2019, 13.1 million in 2020, 11.9 million in 2021, and 10.0 million thus far in 2022,” Jurgen Brauer, Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF) chief economist, noted in a press release last week.

This year will probably not set the highwater mark, considering that title is held by 2020’s estimated sales at somewhere between 21 and 23 million guns (depending on the source and methodology). Roughly 18 million guns were purchased during 2021, which eclipsed 2016’s election-year total of around 16.6 million. The latter year currently holds third place, although that status may be in jeopardy.

With firearm inventories finally refilled, ammunition reappearing and five months remaining in the year—including the heaviest buying times of November and December—2022 could be poised to claim third place. In 2019, a total of around 14 million guns sold. Using Brauer’s figure (above), that means 6.6 million of them went home with enthusiasts from August to September. If the pace is identical this year, 2022 will come in at around 16.6 million, a photo finish for bronze with 2016.

SAAF estimated July’s firearm sales totaled roughly 1.3 million, a year-over-year decrease of 5 percent relative to July 2021. The organization estimates handguns outsold long guns by a factor of 1.77 to 1.

Estimates are based on the volume of FBI NICS checks conducted nationwide. Those generated for concealed-carry permits and other administrative use are subtracted to generate a rough snapshot of industry health. NICS figures do not include private transfers , however, nor any transfers made by valid carry-permit holders in states that do not require conducting a redundant check.


Rico RS HD75 thermal optic
Rico RS HD75 thermal optic

First Look: iRayUSA RICO HD RS75 Thermal Optic

Setting the standard for other thermal optics with an outstanding resolution and a great feature set.

Shotgun Light Roundup

When it comes to home defense, a shotgun brings a lot to the party. Bring some light as well.

Controlling Our Fear

Having the ability to stay calm when trouble shows up takes time, effort and training.

First Look: Riton Optics Thunder Ranch LPVO

A new 1-6x rifle optic designed in conjunction with a renowned rifle training expert.

I Carry: Springfield Armory Prodigy 9 mm 1911 Double-Stack Pistol in a DeSantis Holster

In today's episode of "I Carry," we feature the new Springfield Armory Prodigy double-stack 1911 in 9 mm along with a Hex Dragonfly red-dot optic carried in a DeSantis Speed Scabbard holster.

Skills Check: Present Arms

We refer to the draw stroke as the presentation at Gunsite. It’s a better explanation than simply “drawing” the pistol, because it describes the act of presenting the pistol from the holster to the target or threat. In our “basic,” five-day pistol class we expect students to present the pistol and make hits on targets from 3 to 7 yards away in 1.5 seconds. Most students can do this in two or three days of training.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.