Millions Of First-Time Gun Buyers During Covid-19

Opinion By Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Research and Market Development

Millions Of First-Time Gun Buyers During Covid-19 InfoGraphic Cropped
Millions Of First-Time Gun Buyers During Covid-19 InfoGraphic Cropped

USA – -( early part of 2020 has been unlike any other year for firearm purchases—particularly by first-time buyers—as new NSSF® research reveals millions of people chose to purchase their first gun during the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 2020 started out with a strong SHOT Show®, followed by buzz surrounding background check figures on firearms with NSSF-adjusted NICS data showing year-over-year increases of 19 percent in January and 17 percent in February.

Mid-March brought the COVID-19 pandemic to the front of every news cycle, and firearm sales during this time were a lead story.

Thanks in large part to the work done by NSSF’s legislative team, the firearms industry was deemed essential in most states, and firearm retailers were allowed to stay open to conduct business. And conduct business they did, with NSSF-adjusted NICS figures showing year-over-year increases of 80 percent in March and 69 percent in April 2020. These strong increases led to more than 6.5 million NSSF-adjusted background checks in the first four months of 2020, up 48 percent from 4.4 million during the same period in 2019.

NSSF has been the go-to source for information on the firearm industry, providing insights on topics such as women gun owners, first-time gun buyers, and shooting sports participation for more than a decade. In May 2020, NSSF surveyed firearm retailers to learn more about what they were seeing pertaining to sales during the first four months of 2020.

Not surprisingly, retailers reported an increased number of first-time gun buyers, estimating that 40 percent of their sales were to this group. This is an increase of 67 percent over the annual average of 24-percent first-time gun buyers that retailers have reported in the past. Semiautomatic handguns were the primary firearm being purchased by first-time buyers, outpacing the second-most purchased firearm, shotguns, by a 2 to 1 margin. Modern sporting rifles, revolvers, and traditional rifles rounded out the top five types of firearms purchased by first-time gun buyers.

Millions Of First-Time Gun Buyers During Covid-19 InfoGraphic

Retailers noted that these new customers were spending $595 on an average sale and that 40 percent of first-time gun buyers in the first four months of 2020 were female. The main purchase driver among the group was personal protection, followed by target shooting and hunting. Also of note was that 25 percent of first-time buyers had already taken some form of firearms safety course and 63 percent inquired about taking a firearms safety course in the near future.

All this equates to more than 2.5 million new gun owners in a very short period of time. Past NSSF research has shown that in order to keep these new owners active and avoid them becoming lapsed participants, they will need information on topics such as how to safely own, operate and secure their new purchase. Additionally, these new gun owners will need an invitation to go to the range or to the field to learn about firearm safety, personal protection and the recreational side of gun ownership, so be sure to add a +ONESM and invite some of these first-time gun owners with you as the nice weather returns and social distancing requirements are relaxed.

For additional insights on the firearm industry, visit Please click here to print and share an infographic outlining the results of this survey.

National Shooting Sports FoundationAbout The National Shooting Sports Foundation

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 10,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers.

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Overall it’s good to see females taking action to their own self defense.


Now is the time to get them the proper training, and for the men of the first time buyers, so they all can do it right and the proper and safe way, also that they can enjoy the hobby of shooting for fun as well as self defense!


Wait til the numbers come in for sales after the recent rioting. It could be huge.


@joefoam – Wouldn’t be too sure. Have been in multiple retailers over the last week and all are thin on inventory. Some only slightly and others practically bare. There is only so much product available for immediate sale at this point. I suspect at this point manufacturers are building quite the backlog of custom orders and plain old retailer restocking orders. So I expect June to end up inline with April and May for total sales. However, if consumers maintain their concern sales may just remain high for the remainder of the year. Our goal should not be record setting… Read more »


Finnky: If you really want to track firearm demand, do it by the secondary market. When new manufacture cannot keep up with demand, people turn to buying pre-existing examples of whatever the item in question is. If demand goes really high, you will still see new items going on the shelves, but the secondary market will be gone, simply because the supply is so limited.
A used item, once sold, cannot be replaced, unless there are people willing to trade one in. When the used guns are gone, it usually means that the new ones are too.


My way of keeping track is watching availability of more obscure firearms.
Like you say Knute..
The Glocks, S&W all sell but when guns like what I carry SAR-B6P all of a sudden go from dozens on gun broker to 1 available you know things are getting scarce

Wild Bill

What percentage of first time gun buyers realized that government control is not in their best interest?


Hopefully… enough! Hopefully.
There’s your positive waves, Moriority. Don’t worry. When the time comes I’ll be sitting right there in harm’s way with you. I’ll still probly be talking about ‘money’, though…:-)


Once again, it takes lawlessness and political agenda to wake some people up to the fact that personal safety is in your own hands.

Greg K

Spot on! The worse part is that we have to let the scum burn major cities to the ground, so to realize just how ill adjusted they are culturally. Even then Barr is slow walking this criminal investigation, and allowing the “Terrorist” moniker to be applied, when criminal statutes should apply quite nicely.

Get Out

I’d bet a lot of these people believed the anti-gunners they could just buy a gun using the internet loophole too. These first time gun buyers are now seeing that these anti-gun laws only apply to the law abiding citizens. Hopefully more of them become pro-gun now and sign up for gun safety classes to learn how their firearms should be handled.


So its a good thing that so many people are buying, and realizing the news lied to them about ease of purchase in many states. I still have to wonder how many people built one instead of bought one. I dont think we’ll ever know, and Im ok with that.

Get Out

If you happen to come across one of these new gun owners on a range, step back and observe them to see if they know enough about their weapon, if not ask them if they need some help or direct them to the LGR training staff to help them.