November 2019 Firearms NICS Checks Numbers Explained

Comments by Gary Ramey of Honor Defense

National Instant Criminal Background Check System NICS
November 2019 Firearms NICS Checks Numbers Explained

USA – -( To truly understand the recent reported NICS data, we are going to start with basics and then drill into some numbers. If you want to understand more fully, go to the FBI website for all NICS details.

What is a NICS check?

NICS is a national system that checks available records on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms. The FBI developed the system through a cooperative effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and local and state law enforcement agencies.

Approximate United States Firearms Sales (January 1999 to November 2019)
Approximate United States Firearms Sales (January 1999 to November 2019)

November NICS checks – What the numbers are really saying.

Total November NICS checks are reported at 2,545,863 vs November 2018 at 2,363,705. That’s an increase of 182,158 NICS checks (7.7% increase).
Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, these facts don’t tell the whole story.

NICS and Adjusted NICS are impacted by two significant factors:

  1. Impact of Permit Checks and Re-checks
  2. State Requirements on NICS checks

Impact of Permit Checks and Re-checks

Understanding NICS checks is not easy, which is one reason NSSF publishes “Adjusted NICS” to take out permit checks and re-checks by the states. Adjusted NICS for November were 1,342,155 vs last year at 1,314,193. Of the 2,545,863 total NICS checks, 1,203,745 of those were permit checks/re-checks.

Most interesting is there were more NICS checks/re-checks in November than there were handgun and Long gun purchases combined.

  • Permit Re-checks: 894,966
  • Permit Checks: 308,742
  • Total Permit checks: 1,203,708
  • Handgun Checks: 637,123
  • Long Gun Checks: 557,445
  • Total Handgun/Long Gun NICS checks: 1,194,568

The bottom line for November, Adjusted NICS increased 27,962 NICS checks, that’s a 2.1% increase. But that’s not true either as some state requirements shifted.

Impact of State NICS Check Requirements

This is the part that most people do not understand. There are currently 25 states that have “Alternate Brady Laws”.

This means that 25 states use the current NICS background check to serve as the NICS check when purchasing a firearm.

Last year there were 27 states that did not have to duplicate checks.

This year, Alabama and Minnesota were required to do a NICS check. As a result of that change, those two states had 38,939 more NICS checks in November vs last year. That’s more than the 27,962 increase in adjusted NICS checks.

More states required to do checks results in more NICS checks.

Long Gun vs Handgun data

The most interesting data is comparing Long Guns to Handguns. In November, Handguns checks were 14% larger than Long Guns.

 Long GunsHandguns
Nov 2019557,445637,123
Nov 2019 YTD4,118,8366,022,074

On a YTD basis, Handguns are 46% larger than Long Guns.

Most concerning is that Long Guns checks have declined vs last year.

Overall, it appears that 2019 will shape up to be the 5th highest on record for adjusted NICS checks.

Nothing to crow about, but we are heading into an election year which is typically strong for the firearms industry.

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Get Out

If the democratic candidates keep bleating about they’ll implement their gun control fantasies these NICS check numbers are going to continue to rise. We also have to wonder how many guns will be bought through private sales.


@GetOut – Private sales do not represent an increase in the number of guns in circulation, just transfer from one individual to another. NICS checks are proxy for new guns added to our national inventory.


Long guns sales are down because of the Holidays, I look for them to be Huge in Dec, plus if you look at the numbers of semi auto rifles bought we have had a increase of over 2 million purchased over 2018 stats for the year. I am an old codger been around a LONG time, and I have never seen the prices OVERALL esp on semi auto’s as low(EVER),spans decades. There are SO many good quality units Milspec to choose from at the $4-600.00 range it’s insane,twenty years ago they were $1,000.00. Ammo is as inexpensive as I have… Read more »


Long Gun total NICS (exclude category of “Other”) are down roughly 4% YTD vs 2018.

Pa John

I’ve asked this elsewhere and have yet to find a clear answer: How does the FBI differentiate between NICS checks for firearm sales and NICS checks for ammo sales in states like California that now require this? Do they even classify them separately or are they simply all mixed together into one big total, such as they are for permit checks and all the other “state required” checks as referenced in the article above? Assuming the vast majority of people are not going to invest in reloading presses and all the other expensive tooling for loading up their own ammo… Read more »


I would contend that handgun increase relative to long guns may not be such a concern for several reasons. (1) Typically gun neophytes first purchase is a handgun – thus we may be seeing more first time gun owners – which is a great thing. (2) Home AR assembly is becoming more popular. Check for an AR receiver is classified as “other” rather than handgun, rifle or shotgun. (3) Several shortish shotguns have been introduced to the market such as the shockwave. Believe these are also classified as “other”, yet most likely replace purchase of a regular shotgun rather than… Read more »


Finnky – you make some great points. I went back and looked at “Other” and it is only 3.9% of the Handgun + Long Gun total for November. Actually DOWN compared to YTD at 4.8%.
I think what we are seeing is more people broadly acquiring handguns.


@GaryRamey – Thank you for looking further into the data. Appreciate your work and clear presentation of the analysis. Hopefully we are seeing broader adoption of personal firearm ownership. I suspect that “gun people” mostly bought rifles during prior scares, so are not buying too many more. Possibly the increase in concealed carry licenses across the country (and constitutional carry) contributes to handgun sales. Even “gun people” who already own a large number of firearms, may discover they need something different when they start carrying concealed – or even update their EDC as needs, experience and options change. An example… Read more »


Thanks. I think you are correct in your analysis. There is little differentiation in long guns, so no reason to buy more. Handguns provide differences in size, caliber, features and are lower priced than long guns. More reasons for current gun owners to purchase and a good entry product for new folks. On the Shield pricing, the shame is that there is no value to their products given the way they have depressed prices. But they are moving alot of units.


These numbers will continue to rise as long as DEMOCRAPS continue to take away our freedoms. People are buying guns because of fear from the government. Numerous members of our founding fathers talked of their fear of government control of freedoms. The moronic DEMOCRAPS in congress claim the populous has nothing to fear because they government will protect us. How can we rely on the government when they can not even protect us from ROBO PHONE CALLS? Want to know about protection? Ask the Indians about government protection. Ask the American citizens of Japanese descent living on the west coast… Read more »