NICS Gun Sales December 2021: 1.76 Million Guns Sold

NICS 2020 (bars) vs 2021 (lines) by type of firearm

U.S.A.-(– The numbers for December 2021 National Instant background Check System (NICS), background checks conducted by the FBI, and gun sales, are in. It was the third-highest December for both background checks and gun sales.

December 2015 was the highest on record for gun sales, with about 2.22 million. It was second-highest for background checks, with 3.3 million. December of 2020 was the next highest, with about 1.90 million gun sales, and highest with 3.9 million background checks.

In December of 2021, there were about 1.76 million gun sales and about 3.1 million background checks.

The annual gun sales for 2021 are the second-highest on record, about 18.1 million. Total background checks for 2021 are the second-highest on record with about 38.9 million. 2020 had the highest total number of background checks with 39.7 million. The numbers are rounded for brevity and clarity.

With the actual numbers compiled by the ATF for gun manufactures, imports and exports, through 2019, the total number of private firearms in the United States is estimated to be 480 million at the end of 2021.

The number of firearms sold through the NICS system has tended to become a smaller fraction of total NICS background checks because background checks are being used for more and more purposes outside of gun sales. The biggest use of background checks is for carry permits and carry permit rechecks. Notably, Illinois and Kentucky conduct multiple re-checks on carry permits per month. The Kentucky and Illinois permit checks account for over 700,000 NICS checks in December of 2021.

Previously, I predicted the total NICS gun sales for 2021:

The trend is moderating. I expect the gun sales in December to be between 1.5 and 2 million firearms. The total for 2021 will be over 18 million firearms.

The trend continues to moderate. To me, the driver consists of two things: we are producing guns about as fast as we can, and ammunition production is inelastic. That is, it is very expensive and difficult to increase ammunition production capacity. Once the manufacturing plant is operating at full capacity, 24/7, increasing capacity is a long-term process that is capital intensive. It takes years to accomplish, once the decision to increase capacity is made.

Such decisions are not entered into lightly. Companies do not spend multiple millions of dollars on what may be a short-term bubble of demand. The demand is becoming longer-term, in that it has lasted for two years. There are other factors to consider.  Political factors.

If the attempt by the left to permanently take power in the United States, through corruption and nationalization of the election process is successful, legal demand for ammunition is likely to drop, as strict controls would likely be imposed by an emboldened Leftist regime. This was the template followed by the successful attempt to overthrow the democracy in Venezuela. In addition, much of the demand appears to be due to political instability. If Conservatives are successful in repelling the assault on the Constitutional order, then political stability is more likely. In either case, the demand for ammunition is potentially reduced.

Millions of new gun owners have been created in the United States in the last two years. Some of the demand for ammunition is likely to be permanent, barring a tremendous upheaval in the political landscape.

Such an upheaval is a serious possibility, which keeps the current demand high, and the motivation to invest in more ammunition manufacturing capacity low.

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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Cutting back (Banning Russian) imported ammo isn’t going to have an effect ? If it’s up to the left I look for them to ban more imported ammo. Or charge more of a importing fee. Which then will raise prices & demand. Especially since we have all these new gun owners. I don’t see how companies can’t afford not to invest in production ? They don’t need to go crazy. If I had a company. I would invest in a dept to run odd calibers. At $50.00 & up for a box of 20. How could you lose ?


JJE Holdings (Palmetto State Armory) got ahead of the game on the Russian ammo ban and purchased the machines and tooling, from several FSU Eastern European countries, to become the world’s largest (private???) steel-cased ammo producer. They made the announcement a few months back as the cargo ships were already loaded and leaving port(s). It came as a bit of a surprise not only that steel case would become a US product but also that the manufacturing facility was already nearing construction. They expected to have products coming out of this new factory by the 3Q of 2022. There was… Read more »

Last edited 10 months ago by Tackleberry