Guns and Gear Purchases Were up 60 Percent in 2020

posted on June 10, 2021

Results from a recently released report from Southwick Associates indicate firearm and ammunition sales were up at least 60 percent in 2020—despite manufacturing constraints and supply-line strain. The first quarter of last year exhibited the kind of modest and methodical growth in purchases now considered normal, although the rest of the year built to record-setting proportions.

Unlike gun-transfer volume estimated on FBI NICS checks, the study includes cartridges and items specifically used for recreational shooting, personal defense and hunting. The results come as no surprise for enthusiasts frustrated with lack of inventory at FFLs, although the study does put a number on the demand through Dec. 31.

“2020 presented many business challenges that both spiked and suppressed sales,” said Nancy Bacon, vice president at Southwick Associates. “COVID-19 and social issues drove demand to all-time highs. Simultaneously, the same factors resulted in depleted wholesale and retail inventories, closed factories, shortages of materials, and backed-up ports, causing significant supply pressures.”

With cartridge manufacturers running 24/7 and the Remington ammo plant back in full operation, supply lines are slowly filling. Also, firearm sales cooled slightly last month. The number of FBI NICS checks in May conducted for the transfer of a gun totaled roughly 1.4 million, according to an estimate from Small Arms Analytics & Forecasting (SAAF).

That figure represents a 0.3 million drop when compared to the same period in 2020. The numbers have declined for two consecutive months when compared to last year, but SAAF Chief Economist Jurgen Brauer notes, “Nonetheless, the overall firearms sales pace thus far this year clocks in at nearly 9.2 million units compared to 8.7 million units for January to May 2020.”

Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing and outdoor recreation markets. For more than 30 years the company has delivered insights and statistics to assist business, government and non-profits to help determine trends and make strategic decisions.


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