Sunday, July 10, 2011

2010 - The Year Of The .380

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released their 2010 interim Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report on Thursday of this past week. These summary statistics provide a clear view of the trends in the firearms industry over the past year and especially when compared to the prior year's report. The table below shows both the absolute and relative changes by category in firearms production in 2010 from the prior year.

Production of rifles in all calibers dropped by over 650,000 rifles or a drop of 28.4% when compared to the previous year. By contrast, total pistol production was up by 19.25% for a total of 2,227,871 pistols manufactured in 2010. Revolvers are in a separate category from pistols. Production for that category was flat with an insignificant drop from the prior year. Shotgun production was also flat with 1.2% drop in the number produced in 2010 as compared to 2009.

The production figures by manufacturer within each category are not yet available. Thus, I can't say for sure that the drop in rifle production is due to the bubble bursting for AR-15's but I think that is a reasonable supposition. With the fear of a new Assault Weapons Ban that began with the inauguration of Barack Obama fading, the market for "modern sporting rifles" or "sport utility rifles" is returning to normal.

Change in Firearms Production From 2009  to 2010


To .22
To. .22
To .25
To .32
To .32
To .357 Mag
To .380
To .38 Spec.
To 9mm
To .44 Mag
To .50
To .50
Total Pistol
Total Revolver
Total Rifles

Total Shotguns

While the market for rifles has dropped, the same can't be said about pistols. That market had an over 19.25% growth in production in 2010. If 2009 was the Year of the AR, then 2010 was the Year of the .380. Production in that category of pistol grew by 70.2% or 274,613 units. The growth in the production of .380 pistols accounted for three-quarters of the total growth for pistols in 2010. If one listened to the stories from last year, you knew that .380 ammo was hard to find. These production figures, while not sales figures, definitely point to the increase in demand for these small pistols.

9mm pistol production also grew in 2010 while the larger pistol calibers - .40 S&W and .45 ACP - contracted just a bit. I imagine that the 2011 numbers will show a growth in that category with 2011 being the centennial year of the Browning-designed 1911.

I think a strong argument can be made that the growth in .380 pistols has come from the concealed carry movement. The Ruger LCP, the Kahr P380, the Sig P238, and the Kel-Tec P-3AT are all easily concealed and have been readily adopted by those who want a small pistol that fits in the pocket. It will be interesting to see the complete production numbers by manufacturer when they are released by BATFE.

In conclusion, while 2010 was a down year for the firearms market overall - 5,107,309 units in 2010 versus 5,417,003 units in 2009 - certain segments grew very strongly. While the Violence Policy Center and other gun prohibitionists will try to spin this as a negative overall for the firearms industry, it really isn't. It merely illustrates that firearms production has peaks and valleys in demand by segment just like any other industry. I think most industries in America would have been very happy to only have had a 5.7% drop in production for 2010 when compared to the prior year.


  1. I figure the drop in rifle production is due to all the ones that went unsold in 2009.

  2. In conclusion, while 2010 was a down year for the firearms market overall - 5,10730 units in 2010 versus 5,417,003 units in 2009 - certain segments grew very strongly.

    A longer view paints an even rosier picture for the life and liberty preserver industry--2010's total of 5,107,309 (I think there's a typo in your "5,10730" figure--a missing 9 at the end?), while down 5.7% from 2009, is an almost 21.7% increase over 2008's total of 4,196,873.

  3. @Chris: You could well be right.

    @Kurt: Thanks for catching the typo. I've fixed it.

    Thanks for posting the link to 2008 data. Checking it against the 2010 data, pistol production is up in virtually all categories from 2008 to 2010.