Guns for sale at a Virginia gun store
Guns for sale at a Virginia gun store / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: The New Normal for Gun Sales [Member Exclusive]

A trend has emerged.

July 2021 saw a decrease in FBI background checks on gun sales from July 2020, according to an industry analysis. The same was true for June. And May before that.

It’s also true that 2021 saw the second-highest level of checks for all those months. Thus, the trend. It seems we’ve settled into a new normal for gun sales.

2021 looks like it will see sales that don’t quite match the all-time records from last year, but not far off either.

Oddly, the biggest gun and ammo makers aren’t seeing the downturn–however modest it may be–at all. In fact, two of the biggest publicly-traded companies just reported incredible profit increases over 2020. Ruger saw gross profits jump 98 percent. Winchester’s parent company went from a $220 million loss to a $599 million profit over the same period.

Winchester’s success likely comes down to the fact that it mostly makes ammo. That part of the industry is still seeing huge demand it likely won’t catch up with for years. And its sales aren’t captured in background check data.

Ruger is a more interesting situation. They primarily sell guns, and all new sales are captured in background check data. So, why did their profits jump so much even as FBI checks decreased?

The company ventured three guesses that sound reasonable. CEO Christopher J. Killoy pointed to “strong consumer demand for the Company’s products,” “increases in production for each of the past seven quarters,” and the “introduction of new products that have been met with strong demand.”

When stock got light, many gun stores put whatever brands they could find on the shelf. Perhaps when big brands such as Ruger began catching back up with demand, people gravitated back towards their guns over the lesser-known brands. Ruger also reported its sales pipeline is still low on inventory even today.

So, it’s safe to say they probably aren’t going to see sales slide for a while.

Sales were always bound to regress from the all-time records of 2020. But the question was always where things would level out. Now, it looks like we’ve found the new normal, and it’s one the gun companies–especially the biggest ones–are going to be happy with.

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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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Stephen Feather
1 month ago

I’m a FFL and here in Georgia I push my customers to get their Georgia Weapons Permit. Since it can be used on the 4473 to exempt a NICS check, this skews the sales/transfers:NICS ratio. One state level NICS check followed by 5 years of NICS free purchases.

Carl Brill
1 month ago

I’ve used the NICS exempt feature three times within the last year.

Michael T Boyd
1 month ago

Interesting, I didn’t know you could do that. Is this the case across all states? I live in Missouri and have a CCW permit, would love to go that route on future puchases.

Michael T Boyd
1 month ago

Thx!

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