Focus: Long Guns

Long Guns’ Economic Impact On Industry

By Rob Southwick & Cody Larrimore

This article examines the long gun market and given the broad topic, the available details would take dozens of pages to review. So, our focus here will be to report on the overall size of each category, and then we’ll share some insights regarding hunters’ preferences and motivations.

According to research compiled by Southwick Associates for the NSSF, hunters have spent roughly $4 billion annually on long guns in 2014. Of these dollars, 36 percent went toward modern sporting rifle (MSR) purchases alone (see Table 1).

Southwick Associates’ HunterSurvey and ShooterSurvey track the preferences and purchasing habits by hunters. For calendar year 2015, 67 percent of all long-gun purchases were for rifles. Of these rifle purchases, 43 percent were for MSRs and the remaining were for traditional rifles. Focusing on traditional rifles, 60 percent of sales were bolt-actions, while 20 percent were semi-automatic — with the rest scattered among break-action, lever-action and others.

What are these traditional rifles firing? Centerfire rifles made up 73 percent of these rifles sales, while 27 percent of those purchased were rimfire. Looking at MSRs, the AR-style remains the most commonly purchased MSR rifle with 70 percent of reported sales. In other data, casual shooting is the top reason for purchasing an MSR rifle (41%) followed by hunting (21%). This data differs for traditional rifles, where hunting is the top motivation for purchases (52%), followed by casual shooting (26%).



Insights On Shotguns, Muzzleloaders

Shotguns, while not purchased as frequently as rifles, were purchased 28 percent of the time a long-gun sale was made — which still averages out to about one out of every four long guns purchased. You might be surprised, but with over 1,000 shotguns reported purchased in Southwick Associates’ 2015 database, pump-action and semi-auto styles were purchased at the same rate. Over/under shotguns were purchased 18 percent of the time while side-by-sides were purchased less, at 7 percent. Not surprisingly, most shotgun sales were for 12-gauge (70%) followed by 20-gauge and then by the others: .410, 16- and 28-gauge. Table 2 shows consumers’ top reasons for making a shotgun purchase.

Muzzleloaders, which make up 5 percent of long-gun purchases, are primarily inline, represented with 55 percent of all sales. Standard muzzleloaders represent 30 percent. Interestingly, 41 percent of all reported muzzleloader purchases were for used firearms.

As we mentioned before, these are just highlights of the vast long-gun market. To learn more, contact Southwick Associates at

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