State of the Industry: Gun Traffic, Sales Going Down?

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Is the gun industry flagging? Bottom line says not. (Photo: FBI)

Gun sales are booming. For nearly two years straight, sales have increased year-over-year in a trend that seemed unstoppable. Until now. As of December 2016, gun sales didn’t shatter the record books.

What does this mean? It will probably be seen as a “Trump effect.” Now that a gun-friendly President is taking the national reins, the amount of panic-buying is tapering off.

It’s more than just gun sales. Gun websites are getting less traffic, too. Is the world of guns shrinking? More like just breathing a sigh of relief. Let’s be clear: gun sales might be down compared to 2015, but the FBI still processed over 2,750,000 background checks in December. That’s more sold in this December than every December before 2012. It’s just down from last year’s record of 3.3 million gun sales in one month.

The FBI processed around or more than 2 million background checks every month for the past 15 months. The FBI came close to running 28 million checks in 2016. Turns out, Americans are still crazy for guns — as if there was any real doubt in the first place.

It’s not surprising that gun website traffic is down, either. Many gun owners are single-issue voters. When it comes to politics, those people want to get their news from pro-gun media.

This election was exhausting. Voters looking to stay informed had to face an overwhelming amount of news. every new headline was out to bury the last one, each one more outrageous or eye-popping, day after day, for months. It’s OK to want to take a break from that, we get it.

GunsAmerica (website), the Firearm Blog (website), Guns & Ammo (website), Guns.com (website) and the Truth About Guns (website) and many other websites with news and politics in the mix saw a drop in post-election traffic (Some of those aforementioned websites witnessed a severe dropoff in traffic. Thankfully, GunsAmerica saw only a small decline). Meanwhile, gun websites that don’t rely on news like Forgotten Weapons (website) seem to be doing just fine, though, to be fair, its traffic is comparatively low to the rest of the websites listed.

Of course, it’s only a matter of time before something big comes along and the news starts to pick up again. But now, instead of worrying about what headline is about to hit next, gun owners are going to see a lot more headlines they want to see.

Gun rights organizations are already set to remove restrictions on gun ownership with the help of a sympathetic administration. Instead of headlines with things like “assault weapons ban” or “magazine capacity limits” we expect to see more with things with”national concealed-carry reciprocity” and “win for campus-carry group.”

The big picture isn’t that gun sales are down, it’s just that gun owners just got a lot pickier about what they’re going to buy next (or for the first time). And that thing people are saving up for: it could be a shiny new suppressor.

With the introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367, there is a chance that suppressors, or silencers, get downgraded from NFA-regulated accessories to standard safety gear every gun owner should have.

“The Hearing Protection Act would make it easier for sportsmen to purchase the tools necessary to protect their hearing,” said NRA-ILA executive director Chris Cox. “Many gun owners and sportsmen suffer severe hearing loss, and yet sound suppressors – a tool that can reduce such loss – is overly regulated and taxed.”

Right now gun owners have to jump through hoops and spend a lot of money to purchase a suppressor, including a $200 tax stamp, and wait times for approval run long.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Cox. “The Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act would allow people easier access to suppressors, which would help them to better protect their hearing.”

If this law goes into effect then not only will the cost go down by several hundred dollars just in taxes and fees, but the cost of manufacturing suppressors will go down as suppressor sales go up.

See Also: How Will President-Elect Donald Trump Impact the Gun Industry?

This won’t just be a win for gun rights supporters, it will be a win for all suppressor users, including the military and police. By artificially restricting the market for suppressors it restricts the speed of development. By freeing this technology everyone will have access to cheaper, better and safer suppressors.

The same thing happened after the end of the national “assault weapons” ban. As soon new designs became available to the public the guns themselves started getting better. Today’s firearm market is brimming with high-quality, affordable and richly-featured guns.

And on the subject of guns, the biggest firearm expo is just around the corner. From what companies are already teasing, this year’s SHOT Show will be one of the most exciting shows in years.

The Hudson H9, just one of who knows how many interesting new guns 2017 has in store for us. (Photo: Hudson)

While it was entertaining to see non-stop increases in gun sales for so long, the practicalities of years of frenzied buying could be very frustrating.

During these panic years, we saw high prices, product rationing, ammo shortages and worse. People weren’t buying the guns they wanted, they were buying the guns they could get.

Gun companies had to back off on introducing new products because the demand for existing firearms was too high. Ammunition companies were forced to focus on mainstream cartridges which left a lot of people without ammo options. And everything cost too much.

So with this year’s SHOT Show we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017. It’s not so much that things are slowing down. For the first time in a long time, the gun industry has a chance to focus. And that’s a very good thing.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Jon Wilob January 14, 2017, 1:14 am

    It doesn’t matter how many guns or how much ammo a person stocks up on. If the powers that be decide the folks have enough guns and ammo all they need do is make what you have illegal. At that point all the firearms and bullets you have will do you absolutely now good whatsoever. Use what you’ve acquired and go to jail. Don’t use what you have and be maimed or killed by some maniac. It’s a no win situation any way you cut it. All the politicians need do is make what you have illegal to own and your S.O.L. You have just experienced gun confiscation in it’s purest form. California is the prime example of this tactic in full play. Coming to a state near you very, very soon!

  • Scotty Gunn January 13, 2017, 6:17 pm

    Dear Gun Industry. Try to keep us interested. Not everyone wants a plastic pistol (I do own several, but don’t pull them out of the safe to admire). Not everyone wants a new odd caliber on an AR platform (admittedly, I do own several ar’s,too).
    Guns like the one pictured above for over a thousand bucks is ridiculous (at least it isn’t plastic). We all can’t afford $1000+ guns, especially for just plinking.
    Revisit the classics, and study why they are so popular,even used. Very few companies make real blued guns anymore….

    • Mikial January 13, 2017, 7:06 pm

      “Guns like the one pictured above for over a thousand bucks is ridiculous (at least it isn’t plastic). We all can’t afford $1000+ guns, especially for just plinking.”

      Excellent comment. I understand that manufacturers are looking for new and better products to offer us, but some of the things coming out lately are just plain fads. Read a few issues of Recoil sometime. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the magazine, but it seems like so many of the newest guns are simple fads that cost an arm and a leg and don’t really enhance the abilities of an already solid shooter.

  • JamesB January 13, 2017, 12:56 pm

    Don’t forget that NICS check counts don’t tell the whole story!

    With CCW licensing up, in states like Arizona if you have a CCW permit you are not required to submit to a background check so your purchases aren’t even reported to NICS (though you still go into the de facto national gun registry made up of Firearms Transaction Records, or Form 4473, that you fill out at every purchase from a dealer that every FFL in the end has to send to Washington).

    How many guns do you figure the typical CCW holder buys in a year? Likely several, some more some less.

    So as states adopt CCW, and provisions where license holders are exempt from background checks, the NICS statics will be more and more on the low side of reality…

  • Rick January 13, 2017, 10:30 am

    The drop in sales of guns and ammo is definitely a response to Trump being the next POTUS. In the last two years I have purchased five handguns, two tactical 12 gauge shotguns, one nice Del-Ton AR-15 and a bunch of ammo. I already had a bunch of other hunting rifles and shotguns but nothing really designated for self defense. Now that Trump will be in office instead of Clinton the fear of not being able to purchase guns and ammo is logical that sales would go down. Hell maybe I can find an American made 9mm revolver soon that won’t break the bank. And I have Trump and my fellow Americans that voted for him to thank for that. Thank you!

  • Mitch Barkett January 13, 2017, 10:13 am

    Because freedom is going up.

  • DRAINO January 13, 2017, 9:34 am

    Make the tax stamp go away and things will blow up for the suppressor market…..for a time. Prices will drop but they will have a hard time keeping up with sales….for a while. Gunsmiths will get a boom because people will want to fit their pet rifles with cans, therefore sending them to get threaded vs. replacing them. People will continue shooting so ammo production should remain steady. And Mike Pence will be the next President after Trump…..as long as neither one screws up big.

  • Billybob January 13, 2017, 7:58 am

    Obama did away with the CLIO requirement ! ATF wait time is 8 months to a year ! How long does it take to get a NIC check and type in the new owners NAME – TYPE- CALIBER -BARREL- OVER ALL LENGTH-SERIAL NUMBER ! YET THEY HAVE
    TIME FOR 70+ AGENTS TO VISIT FPS Russia ! Finding nothing wrong ! There was talk of confiscating his guns saying no one should be allowed to own them !

  • Dr Motown January 13, 2017, 6:11 am

    There’s virtually no market now for used suppressors because of the “tax stamp” requirement. Once that is removed, you’ll see such a market open up, either consumer-to-consumer sales, or used-item sales to gun stores (which are reluctant to buy used suppressors because they too must purchase a “tax stamp” to buy it back from you, adding an extra $200 to the purchase). The presence of a used market could possibly put pressure on manufacturers to lower the cost of new products too. Right now, they can keep prices artificially high since few people want to bother with the hassle and costs…

  • Tom Horn January 13, 2017, 5:50 am

    Buy what you need in the next four years. I predict that there will be another major spike in firearms/ammo/accessories sales, and hence a price increase, in 2020, with the Presidential Election. All those Trump protestors out there who didn’t vote in this election, may be inspired to vote in the next. And, Bloomberg ain’t going nowhere.

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