While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.
From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.
While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. In the following Visual Capitalist's Nick Routley digs into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.
Gun Manufacturing in the United States
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.
America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.
Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:
Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.
In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.
Who is Producing America’s Firearms?
There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.
Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:
One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NYSE: RGR), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NASDAQ: SWBI)
Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:
- 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
- 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)
*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)
The Geography of Gun Manufacturing
Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.
These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.
Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.
If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.