Wall of guns at All Shooters Tactical in Woodbridge, Virginia
Wall of guns at All Shooters Tactical in Woodbridge, Virginia / Stephen Gutowski

April Sets Gun Sales Record

April 2021 saw the most gun sales of any April on record.

The month saw nearly 1.7 million background checks on gun sales, according to an industry analysis of FBI numbers released on Monday. That puts it about one percent up from the previous record set last year. It also continues the remarkable surge in gun sales that has gone on for more than a year.

Sales have been between 1.5 million and 2 million per month since the coronavirus pandemic began last March. 2020 was the best year on record for background checks on gun sales. The first quarter of 2021 was the best quarter in history for gun checks.

April gun sales chart
Graph of April gun sales / National Shooting Sports Foundation

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the gun industry and performed the analysis, said the continued gun-buying spree was largely a result of political considerations.

“President Biden’s talk about gun control, Congress’s talk about gun control continues to drive firearm sales,” Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the foundation, told The Reload. “People are concerned that they’re not going to be able to buy the firearm of their choosing when they want to exercise their rights. They’re doing it while they can before roadblocks are put in front of them.”

He pointed to President Biden’s recent speech before Congress where he called on legislators to institute new bans on commonly owned ammunition magazines and popular rifles including the AR-15.

Oliva said, “ongoing concerns about personal safety” were “certainly a factor” in the continued surge. A survey of dealers from last year found 40% of buyers during the early surge were first-time gun owners. A collection of those first-time buyers said uncertainty created by the pandemic, prisoner releases, new gun-control proposals, racial injustice, and widespread rioting motivated their decisions to become gun owners.

Some of them have gone on to delve into politics and even formed groups like Asian American and Pacific Islander Gun Owners to reach underserved groups. It is likely a significant number of the sales that drove April 2021 to record levels were also made by first-time buyers. Whether, and how, their politics change will determine how guns are regulated across the country.

The analysis of sales was conducted by removing non-sales checks from the FBI’s monthly report on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Numbers from the NICS checks are considered to be the best representation of gun sales in America because sales conducted by licensed dealers are required to go through a check. The numbers are not a one-to-one representation of gun sales for a number of reasons.

Raw monthly NICS numbers include gun-carry permit checks. In recent years, several states have begun re-checking every resident with a gun-carry permit on a monthly basis, which has further pushed the raw NICS check number away from the number associated with just gun sales.

Additionally, more than one gun can be purchased during a single NICS check, most states do not require NICS checks on sales of used guns between private parties, and some states also allow residents to forgo NICS checks on gun purchases if they already hold other permits that required a NICS check to obtain.

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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

Comments From Reload Members

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Print Freedom
5 months ago

Since 1992, it feels like gun-rights are in a positive feedback loop (stick with me on this). What are people’s thoughts on this theory?

  1. Unified Democrat government elected (1992 & 2008 & 2020)
  2. Public panic buy guns (1993 & 2009, 2013 & 2021)
  3. Democrat(s) push gun control agenda (1993 & 2009, 2013 & 2021)
  4. Public panic buy even more guns (1993 & 2009, 2013 & 2021)
  5. Democrats gun control agenda fails or falls short of expectations (1994 [watered down AWB with a 10-year sunset], 2009 [distraction on ruining our health care system and the subsequent loss of MA lead to a stuck Senate], 2013 [Senate bills die after fierce public backlash], 2021??)
  6. Public is now more armed and pro-gun (1994 & 2009, 2013 & 2021)
  7. Democrats punished during next election (1994 & 2010, 2014 & 2022??)
  8. Federally Elected Republicans do absolutely nothing (1995 – Present)
  9. Tide naturally swings back towards the Democrats (2006, 2018)
  10. Unified Democrat government elected…. (2008, 2020)

Every time this cycle repeats…more people are armed, understand guns aren’t the problem, would be impacted by gun control laws, etc… which makes gun control even harder.

Print Freedom
5 months ago

Good point. As with a lot of other political trends, COVID and the political response to rioting was like adding gasoline to this already hot fire.

Yet Another Endowment Member
Reply to  Print Freedom

The loop is so predictable that you can profit off it with some reliability (e.g. buying manufacturer stock before Obama was elected paid out because this feedback loop is that predictable).

I’ve lived through a number of gun and ammo shortage cycles now, I get the chain reactions of supply and demand that affect store shelves as people take up new rounds and platforms to pass the time waiting for their favorites to come back. I’ll say this though – you know things are bad and deep when you can’t even find lead shotgun target ammo on the shelves.


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