8 Hot Takes From 2021 AFMER Data


Publisher Emeritus Russ Thurman used to call it a “sickness” — and I’m inclined to agree — but the July issue is one of my favorite issues to put together thanks to the copious amounts of data we feature from ATF’s Annual Firearms Manufacturing & Export Report. 2021 is the most recent year available (2022 statistics will be released early in 2024 — there’s a two-year gap to protect potential trade secrets), which will be presented in detail in the July issue.

Here’s a preview with eight hot takes from what was a record-breaking year from U.S. firearms manufacturers.

1. New Benchmark Reached: In 2021, U.S. firearms manufacturers produced a record 12,511,637 firearms — smashing the record of 10,664,318 set in 2016.

2. Pistols (9mm In Particular) The Driving Force: Corresponding with the record overall firearms production, pistol manufacturers produced nearly 8 million in 2021. This figure alone would rank #7 in all-time single-year firearms production. No surprise: More than 60% of the pistols produced in the U.S. in 2021 were chambered in 9mm (4,301,814).

3. Volatile Swings Nothing New: In 2020, U.S. firearms production ballooned 53.3% — the largest single-year jump since 1993. From 2020 to 2021, U.S. firearms production climbed a further 28.5%. Wild swings in production are nothing new for the industry: Year-over-year firearms production increased or contracted by more than 15% 10 times over the past 20 years.

4. Revolver Resurgence? While subcompact semi-autos rule the roost, there’s no question wheelguns continue to be a popular plinking and self-defense option for end users. Revolver production reached a new plateau in 2021, crossing the 1 million mark for the first time!

5. 2 Bring 2 Million: For the first time, two manufacturers crossed the 2-million threshold in the same year: Smith & Wesson and Ruger. Smith & Wesson was the top U.S. manufacturer for the second year running in 2021, producing an impressive 2,312,313 firearms. It was the top pistol producer, as well as the third-largest revolver and rifle maker. Ruger was the top rifle producer, as well as the #3 pistol and #2 revolver producer.

6. Rifles On The Rise: Rifle production rebounded in 2021 — increase of 42.5% over 2020 (from 2,760,392 to 3,934,374). This total is the third-highest figure on record, behind 2016 (4,239,335) and 2013 (3,979,570). Springfield Armory nearly doubled its year-over-year rifle production to become the second-largest long-gun producer.

7. Shotgun Surge: Domestic production of shotguns has been in decline over the past several years — with the influx of imported shotguns staking a significant claim in the market. In 2021, shotgun production recovered to its highest level since 2016, totaling 675,426.

8. Movers In The Market: There were several significant movers from 2020 to 2021. The following manufacturers claimed spots in the top 40 that weren’t there in 2020: IWI US (#21), RemArms (#26), Shadow Systems (#28), Stag Arms (#39) and LWRCI (#40).

This is just a preview of what’s to come in the annual “U.S. Firearms Industry Today” report — which will include international trends and more analysis of U.S. firearms production.

An Industry On The Move

Based on the impressive firearms production figures, the U.S. firearms industry is an industry on the rise. NSSF released its annual Firearm and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact report in mid-April, further highlighting growth.

The industry’s economic impact climbed from $70.52 billion in 2021 to $80.73 billion in 2022. Showcasing long-term growth, the report revealed the U.S. firearms and ammunition industry rose 322% percent from 2008 to 2022 ($19.1 billion to $80.73 billion). The total number of full-time equivalent jobs associated with the industry has likewise blossomed — increasing from 166,000 in 2008 to 393,696 in 2022 (136% increase).

The firearm and ammunition industry paid over $7.48 billion in business taxes, including property, income and sales-based levies. An additional $1.15 billion was paid in federal excise taxes, which directly contributes to wildlife conservation.

“Our industry’s economic input is undeniably contributing to every state and every community. This milestone achievement of over $80 billion in economic impact proves the American firearm and ammunition industry is strong,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF president and CEO.

Visit nssf.org/government-relations/impact.

Hunting License Sales Drop To Pre-Pandemic Levels

It’s not all rosy news for the industry, however — it appears as though the “COVID bump” from increased hunting license sales has evaporated. According to the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports’ (CAHSS) Hunting License Sales 2021–2022 report, hunting license sales dropped 3.1% in 2022, back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We continued to track hunting license sales as one indicator of participation, and our results indicate that the impacts of COVID on getting people outdoors may be waning. Hunting license sales are settling back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Swanny Evans, CAHSS director of research and partnerships.

The study was a follow-up to the past two years’ CAHSS studies that documented a 4.9% increase in hunting license sales from 2019 to 2020 and a 1.9% decrease the following year from 2020 to 2021.

The Hunting License Sales 2021–2022 report, which provides the most representative data on the current state of hunting license sales nationally and regionally, can be accessed on the Council’s website, cahss.org/our-research/hunting-license-sales-2021-2022.

Visit cahss.org

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