Guns for sale at a gun shop
Guns for sale at a gun shop / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: A Close Look at Black Friday’s Gun Sales Numbers [Member Exclusive]

Gun sales for this year’s Black Friday managed to outpace last year’s numbers. That’s pretty remarkable given that last year’s record-setting pace. So, I thought it was worth a closer look.

The FBI processed 187,585 gun-related background checks on Friday alone. That made it the 10th-best day of all time. Interestingly, it didn’t make it the best Black Friday even as it surpassed 2020.

Black Friday 2017 and 2019 did better than 2020 or 2021.

Some of this could be explained by a shift in recent years by the industry towards spreading out Black Friday sales across an entire week to avoid overstressing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Black Friday week 2021 saw 687,788 NICS checks. But that, oddly, doesn’t put it into the top ten weeks of all time.

2021 dominates when it comes to both best days and weeks, though. This year holds six of the top ten weeks and seven of the top ten days on record for NICS checks. By contrast, 2020 holds just one of the top days and three of the top weeks.

That’s all a bit strange since 2020 holds the all-time record for gun sales in a year. And, it’s very likely to keep that crown with 2021 finishing a relatively close second.

These numbers don’t mesh mainly because of the difference between the FBI’s raw NICS numbers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) adjusted numbers. The raw numbers count all NICS checks, including those that aren’t for gun sales. NSSF takes those numbers and splits out the gun sales number from other checks like those for gun-carry permits.

The raw numbers have become further uncoupled over the past few years as a number of large states have begun rechecking all of their gun-carry permit holders every month. Since the FBI does not provide a detailed breakdown of NICS checks in its single-day or single-week rankings, that likely explains why 2021 is doing so much better in those metrics than 2020.

Of course, this is also evidence there are many more gun-carry permits this year than last. At the very least, that is something that we can glean from comparing the NSSF and raw NICS numbers.

And, comparing single-day raw NICS numbers are apples-to-apples comparisons. So, they show 2021 sales can top even 2020 at points.

Ultimately, they demonstrate demand for guns and the desire to carry them has risen in the United States. And it’s unlikely to fall back to the levels it was at before the onset of the pandemic and everything that came along with it.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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