NICS All-Time Record for March 2021, Gun Sales Down 20% from Record Set in 2020

Millions of law-abiding citizens submit to background checks, as intimated by the president's comment to reporters. (Dave Workman)
NICS All Time Record for March 2021, Gun Sales Down 20% from Record Set in 2020 (image provided by Dave Workman)

U.S.A.-( The total National Instant background Check System (NICS) checks In March of 2021 were an all-time record for the month. The total checks done were reported at 4,691,738. The next highest month was January of 2021, with 4,317,804. The third highest month was 3,937,066 in December of 2020. Those numbers are very large. They reflect the continuing expansion of the use of the NICS system for purposes other than firearm sales. Most of the increase is in carry permits and carry permit rechecks.

NICS All Time Record for March, 2021, Gun Sales Down 20% from Record set in 2020
NICS All-Time Record for March 2021, Gun Sales Down 20% from Record Set in 2020

There were about 2.6 million permits and permit rechecks, about .66 million permit checks, and 1.94 permit rechecks. Over 1.35 million of the permit rechecks were from Illinois, which appears to be rechecking permits nearly every day.

Very close to two million guns were sold as estimated by the records in the NICS system, in March 2021.  Most of those were pistols, over 1.1 million, with about .67 million rifles, the remainder being classified as other and multiple sales. It is the second-highest March on record for firearm sales.

A year ago, in March of 2020, an estimated 2.37 million firearms were sold in the NICS system.

The ATF certifies 25 states to substitute various permits for NICS checks because the permit required a NICS check already. Roughly 7 million people have permits which can be substituted for a NICS check. Firearm sales conducted with one of those permits are not included in the NICS firearm sales numbers.

The number of privately held firearms in the United States, with an increase of 2 million more last month, is about 470 million. The estimate is made using the method pioneered by Newton and Zimring, and extended by Gary Kleck in “Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America”.

While demand for guns and ammunition remain at historically high levels, the recorded sales of guns has dropped a slight amount compared to last year. This may be due to some demand being satisfied. Firearms are durable goods which, with a little care, can remain effective and operational for hundreds of years.

Ammunition, if stored under reasonable conditions, appears to remain effective for more than a hundred years.  Ammunition is an expendable commodity. It may be the exceptional demand for ammunition, which has emptied store shelves, is dampening the demand for firearms.

In spite of increases in productive capacity, demand has far outstripped the supply of ammunition.

As Mahbub Ali noted in chapter 10 of Kipling’s iconic novel “Kim”, “of what use is a gun unfed?“.

Both political unrest and increasing crime in urban centers are driving the demand for firearms and ammunition.

The more media coverage and promotion of restrictions on the ownership of firearms, the more the demand rises. The desire for personal arms is on both sides of the political divide.

Firearm and ammunition manufacturers are producing products at maximum capacity. The demand is fierce. Reloading supplies and equipment are sold as fast as they are being produced.

Even the recharging of used primers is being explored and refined.

Firearms are a 500 to 600-year-old technology.  It cannot practically be unlearned.

In countries with 150 years of strong restrictions on gun ownership, the demand is met by black-market gun and ammunition production. Only in the United States is the natural demand allowed to be met by legal production and distribution channels.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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Gun sales are down because there aren’t any/many in the LGS display cases.


Gun sales are high because most of the guns being produced are being sold very rapidly – typically before they are put in the display cases.

Retail gun sales in March of 2021 are down compared to March of 2020, because in February 2020 most gun dealers had a lot of inventory. In March of 2020, they sold the on-hand inventory as well as product received during the month of March.

Gun sales in February of 2021 were higher than February of 2020, so most dealers did not start March of 2021 with a lot of inventory on hand.


I see a rise in 80% lowers. This could also be affecting the sales. At least in my area. No need for the fee or aggravation of waiting for hours.


Stimulus checks were late.


I got another pistol last month and my little Cuban wife is working on her concealed carry. She has lived with communism and says “no mas”.


I wondered just how long these “record gun sales” would continue to be reported. Given the dearth of guns and ammo to be found, I have been more than a little skeptical of new “records” being reported each month. I mean, how are they selling record numbers of guns when there aren’t that many guns available to sell?

Last edited 1 year ago by Grigori

As Dean wrote, manufacturers are producing firearms and ammunition as fast as they can. The fact shelves remain bare in spite of manufacturers best efforts to stock them – is a reflection of sales remaining high. True for ammunition, firearms, and reloading gear. May not be as true for reloading components as components manufacturers output is primarily going to commercial loading facilities.


Correct. WE have been here before many times. Boom and bust based upon wide swings in public policy.

Arizona Don

There are lots of guns if you know where to look.


You are fortunate to live in a state (Az) with guns to sell, many other places have few to none.


There aren’t many guns for sale because most have been purchased before (or as soon as) they arrive at the store. That’s the way a relatively free market works for goods in high demand.

There are some shops that have guns in the case for longer periods of time, but they are priced higher. If you want to buy a firearm, you can.

The same dynamics apply to ammo. It’s been going on for about a year, it’s amazing there are still some people who are baffled by these dynamics.


I see plenty to buy online if you want to spend the money.


Illinois doesn’t use NICS, we have the State Police website to do background checks and since UBS we can check FOID cards.


I never bought a new gun or any ammo . I bought components to build a new gun
before the prices went through the roof ! Panic buying is for people who have mental issues . People who panic buy guns or toilet paper should seek therapy.


We have suffered from a few maladies as of late. Mask hysteria. Ass hysteria. Mass hysteria. Next, as the Green New Deal takes effect will be Gas hysteria. Fear is the foundation of the New World Order.