Focus: Handgun Sales

Semi-Autos Continue Market Dominance

By Rob Southwick & Cody Larrimore

According to research compiled by Southwick Associates, shooters and hunters spent more than $3 billion on new handguns in 2015. More than 80 percent, or $2.4 billion, of these dollars was spent on semi-autos alone. Purchases involving revolvers, break-actions and others make up the remaining total. Details on the amount spent for handguns, with breakdowns provided by action, major caliber and type of use, are provided in detail inside Southwick Associates’ “2015 Hunting & Shooting Equipment Retail Market Size” report.

Southwick Associates’ HunterSurvey and ShooterSurvey trade-monitoring services keep track of hunters’ preferences and purchasing habits — which provide additional insights for dealers. In 2015, 77.4 percent of all handgun purchases were for semi-autos; this includes new and used handguns. Top brands, in no specific order, include Smith & Wesson, Ruger and GLOCK. The average price of handguns purchased in 2015 was over $500. And, something SI readers will appreciate, the type of store where handguns were purchased most often (43% of all purchases) was described as a “local store,” or independent retailer.

Centerfire handguns made up 86 percent of the handguns purchased, with rimfire well behind at 16 percent. The top calibers purchased include: 9mm, .45 ACP, .22 LR and .380 ACP.



*Southwick Associates’ “2015 Hunting & Shooting Equipment Retail Market Size” Report
** Southwick Associates’ “2015 Annual Hunting and Shooting Participation & Equipment Purchases” Report

Why Customers Are Buying

More than half of all handguns reported among hunters and shooters in the last two years have been purchased for the primary purpose of self-defense. Only a quarter of handguns purchased are primarily for casual shooting/plinking.

Other information gleaned from Southwick Associates’ HunterSurvey and ShooterSurvey includes the kind of shooting activity per firearm type. For handguns, three out of four handgun shooters reported participating in informal target shooting. One out of four used their handguns to either test ammunition or firearm accuracy. Twenty-nine percent of handgun shooters reported shooting for the purpose of sighting in their firearm. And, the vast majority of handgun shooters shot outside.

In an encouraging sign for the sport of shooting, 14 percent of those who shot handguns participated in some type of competitive shooting in 2015. The most common types of competitions participated in include: local clubs and leagues, shooting with family and friends and IPSC/USPSA.

To learn more about the shooting, hunting and outdoor market, or to purchase copies of Southwick Associates’ “2015 Hunting & Shooting Equipment Retail Market Size” report, contact or visit

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