October Gun Sales Second Highest On Record

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The number of firearms flying off of store shelves may have slowed a bit compared to the blistering pace set back in the summer of 2020, but gun sales are still well above their historical averages according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The firearm industry trade group has released its adjusted NICS figures for the month of October, and they’re pretty eye-popping.

According to NSSF, there were 1,427,264 guns sold at retail last month, which is the second-highest sales figure ever recorded for the month of October. The highest total, of course, came last year, when more than 1.7-million guns were sold. Last month’s figures are an almost 20% decline compared to last year, but the 1.4-million sales absolutely dwarf the October numbers of 2019 and 2018, which is an indication that Americans are still turning to self-defense as violent crime and homicide rates spiral upwards from Portland to Philadelphia.

The NSSF’s Mark Oliva says sales do typically rise in October, as both the hunting and holiday shopping season approach.

The annual total so far of nearly 15.2 million background checks is putting 2021 on the path to being the second strongest year on record. It is currently behind only the record shattering 21 million background checks witnessed in 2020 and the 15.7 million background checks conducted during 2016.

This continued and sustained pace of background checks for the sale of a firearm, that is climbing in the closing months of 2021, shows the resiliency of the firearm manufacturers to meet this sustained, high-level demand and the personal interest by the American public to participate in the exercise of their God-given Second Amendment rights.

The high demand for firearms means that there’s also a high demand for ammunition, which continues to be in short supply, hobbling many gun owners who are hoping to put some meat in the freezer over the next couple of months.

As the gun deer season approaches, hunting ammunition is hard to find due to supply chain disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and surging demand for guns and ammunition. Gun dealers say they’ve struggled to stock shelves as firearms sales have climbed due to unease stemming from the pandemic, civil unrest and 2020 presidential election.

Pat Kukull, owner of Superior Shooters Supply, said they had a shortage of shot gun ammunition for trap shooting over the summer with vendors sending maybe 2 percent of the usual 500 cases they might receive. She said there’s been “absolutely nothing” for those hunting pheasant, grouse or waterfowl.

“Now, we’re moving into rifle season, and we haven’t had any .30-30 shells in a year to speak of, really,” said Kukull.

Kukull has been rationing ammunition to one box per person and tries to keep one box of ammo for every caliber gun they sell. She said .243, .308, .30-06, and 6.5mm Creedmoor are the most popular hunting cartridges right now. The shortage has prompted rumors and conspiracy theories of gun dealers or manufacturers hoarding ammo.

“It’s no big conspiracy at all. It’s simply there was 8 million new shooters, and the new shooters want guns and ammo,” said Kukull. “That started it. And, then with the riots that went on in the (Twin Cities) area, that self-defense (gun purchases) went way up. It’s just a perfect storm.”

And unfortunately, it’s not a storm that’s going to abate in the immediate future. It will likely be sometime next year before ammo availability gets back to something approaching normal conditions. Until then, it’ll be harder to find a lot of the more popular calibers for hunting and self-defense, and prices are going to be higher than what they were pre-pandemic, but the ammo is out there, even if you have to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt to find it.

As annoying as this is, I try to remind myself that, all things considered, this is a good problem to have. By that I mean I’d much rather deal with supply shortages because of sky-high consumer demand than artificial shortages created by new gun control laws or anti-gun executive orders. Ideally, of course, I’d love to walk into a gun store and see the shelves bending under the weight of all that ammo available for sale, but at least I know that I’m sharing the supply with millions of Americans who are new to exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET