30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America

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. Let’s dig 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:

Year      Pistols Rifles Revolvers Shotguns Misc. Firearms Total Firearms
1989 1,404,753 1,407,400 628,573 935,541 42,126 4,418,393
1990 1,371,427 1,211,664 470,495 848,948 57,434 3,959,968
1991 1,378,252 883,482 456,966 828,426 15,980 3,563,106
1992 1,669,537 1,001,833 469,413 1,018,204 16,849 4,175,836
1993 2,093,362 1,173,694 562,292 1,144,940 81,349 5,055,637
1994 2,004,298 1,316,607 586,450 1,254,926 10,936 5,173,217
1995 1,195,284 1,411,120 527,664 1,173,645 8,629 4,316,342
1996 987,528 1,424,315 498,944 925,732 17,920 3,854,439
1997 1,036,077 1,251,341 370,428 915,978 19,680 3,593,504
1998 960,365 1,535,690 324,390 868,639 24,506 3,713,590
1999 995,446 1,569,685 335,784 1,106,995 39,837 4,047,747
2000 962,901 1,583,042 318,960 898,442 30,196 3,793,541
2001 626,836 1,284,554 320,143 679,813 21,309 2,932,655
2002 741,514 1,515,286 347,070 741,325 21,700 3,366,895
2003 811,660 1,430,324 309,364 726,078 30,978 3,308,404
2004 728,511 1,325,138 294,099 731,769 19,508 3,099,025
2005 803,425 1,431,372 274,205 709,313 23,179 3,241,494
2006 1,021,260 1,496,505 385,069 714,618 35,872 3,653,324
2007 1,219,664 1,610,923 391,334 645,231 55,461 3,922,613
2008 1,609,381 1,734,536 431,753 630,710 92,564 4,498,944
2009 1,868,258 2,248,851 547,195 752,699 138,815 5,555,818
2010 2,258,450 1,830,556 558,927 743,378 67,929 5,459,240
2011 2,598,133 2,318,088 572,857 862,401 190,407 6,541,886
2012 3,487,883 3,168,206 667,357 949,010 306,154 8,578,610
2013 4,441,726 3,979,570 725,282 1,203,072 495,142 10,844,792
2014 3,633,454 3,379,549 744,047 935,411 358,165 9,050,626
2015 3,557,199 3,691,799 885,259 777,273 447,131 9,358,661
2016 4,720,075 4,239,335 856,291 848,617 833,123 11,497,441
2017 3,691,010 2,504,092 720,917 653,139 758,634 8,327,792
2018 3,881,158 2,880,536 664,835 536,126 1,089,973 9,052,628
2019 3,046,013 1,957,667 580,601 480,735 946,929 7,011,945
Total 60,804,840 59,796,760 15,826,964 26,241,134 6,298,415 168,968,113

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:

Rank Firearm Manufacturer Guns Produced (2016-2020) Share of total
1 Smith & Wesson Corp 8,218,199 17.2%
2 Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc 8,166,448 17.1%
3 Sig Sauer Inc 3,660,629 7.7%
4 Freedom Group 3,045,427 6.4%
5 0 F Mossberg & Sons Inc 2,223,241 4.7%
6 Taurus International Manufacturing 1,996,121 4.2%
7 WM C Anderson Inc 1,816,625 3.8%
8 Glock Inc 1,510,437 3.2%
9 Henry RAC Holding Corp 1,378,544 2.9%
10 JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises 1,258,969 2.6%
Total 33,274,640 69.7%

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.

Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:

State Licenses (2000) Licenses (2020) Population Licenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)
Alaska 8 117 733,391 16.0
Alabama 40 276 5,039,877 5.5
Arkansas 28 302 3,011,524 10.0
Arizona 100 959 7,276,316 13.2
California 159 620 39,237,836 1.6
Colorado 27 481 5,812,069 8.3
Connecticut 71 194 3,605,944 5.4
Delaware 0 10 989,948 1.0
Florida 131 1,009 21,781,128 4.6
Georgia 52 510 10,799,566 4.7
Hawaii 0 11 1,455,271 0.8
Iowa 11 187 3,190,369 5.9
Idaho 38 358 1,839,106 19.5
Illinois 40 263 12,671,469 2.1
Indiana 39 280 6,805,985 4.1
Kansas 17 229 2,937,880 7.8
Kentucky 22 211 4,505,836 4.7
Louisiana 20 258 4,657,757 5.5
Massachusetts 67 263 6,984,723 3.8
Maryland 36 146 6,165,129 2.4
Maine 13 107 1,362,359 7.9
Michigan 43 386 10,050,811 3.8
Minnesota 63 254 5,707,390 4.5
Missouri 62 401 6,168,187 6.5
Mississippi 12 190 2,961,279 6.4
Montana 24 240 1,084,225 22.1
North Carolina 52 628 10,551,162 6.0
North Dakota 3 46 779,094 5.9
Nebraska 15 91 1,961,504 4.6
New Hampshire 25 188 1,377,529 13.6
New Jersey 10 26 9,267,130 0.3
New Mexico 18 179 2,117,522 8.5
Nevada 45 276 3,104,614 8.9
New York 35 299 19,835,913 1.5
Ohio 80 644 11,780,017 5.5
Oklahoma 37 423 3,959,353 10.7
Oregon 55 226 4,237,256 5.3
Pennsylvania 87 519 12,964,056 4.0
Rhode Island 1 20 1,097,379 1.8
South Carolina 25 284 5,190,705 5.5
South Dakota 14 79 886,667 8.9
Tennessee 76 352 6,975,218 5.0
Texas 150 2,022 29,527,941 6.8
Utah 33 478 3,271,616 14.6
Virginia 48 412 8,642,274 4.8
Vermont 15 85 643,077 13.2
Washington 49 351 7,738,692 4.5
Wisconsin 38 306 5,895,908 5.2
West Virginia 20 115 1,793,716 6.4
Wyoming 20 147 576,851 25.5

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.