How Are Guns Sales Still Booming?

The fact that gun sales have been off the charts in 2020 is not news, but I was still surprised at the extremely high July sales numbers (using NICS checks as proxy). The second highest month on record.

My question isn’t why are so many people buying guns. I address that in my chat with Jake Charles from the Duke Center for Firearms Law, about the COVID (now COVID + social unrest) gun buying spree that begin in the spring.

My question is: Where are all the guns people are buying coming from? Inventory is crazy low at most of the retailers I have looked at. Are people just buying whatever happens to be in the stores?

Screen cap from

In any event, for those who want to look at the great gun buying spree of 2020 in context, the newsadvocacy organization The Trace has created an interesting data visualization (the screen cap above is from it).

For those who are worried about a bunch of untrained newbies buying guns, don’t worry – no one has ammo.


  1. The punch line indeed is “yes, we have no bananas…”. Or ammo. Even Midway is out of stock on most stuff. I wonder where the holdup is. Closed factories? So right now all those newly sold guns probably make pretty display pieces but most useful as something to throw at an intruder and in that case, get an N frame Smith and Wesson so it hurts more!


    • They are definitely buying whatever is on the shelf. But firearms manufacturing seems to be keeping up production to a degree. I suspect by concentrating on fewer but most popular models.

      As for ammo and ammo components, I have seen statements from manufacturers about impacts from reduced work force causing issues (both social distancing needs vs space and absenteeism). I’ve also seen also complaints with regards to getting raw materials. Not that they can’t, but that everything is coming in shower due to similar issues up the supply chain. Less explicitly, but implied by explicit situations is that you get fits and starts you can’t get the right amounts of items A, B and C in at the same time.

      Then there is extrapolation. Primers have gone poof. Booking primers is a relatively manual process. It would be hit the hardest by the labor constraints caused by covid in terms of absenteeism. It is my understanding that safety precautions would already cover social distancing.

      I doubt it will matter if they get back to full capacity though. The market seems to have effectively unlimited capacity right now.


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