Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2011 - A Mixed Bag For Firearms Production

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released their 2011 interim Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report on Tuesday of this past week. These summary statistics provide a 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 2011 from the prior year.

If 2010 was the Year of the .380, 2011 certainly was not. Production of .380 pistols fell by 128,449 or 19.3%. It appears that demand for small pistols has shifted from the .380 to the micro-nines such as the Ruger LC9, the Kimber Solo, the Beretta Nano, and the Kahr family of small pistols. In their letter to shareholders for the first quarter of 2011, Ruger attributed new introductions such as the LC9 (and the Gunsite Scout rifle) for 29% of the quarter's sales.

There was significant growth in the medium and larger pistol calibers with 9mm production growing by 33.3% and the greater than 9mm calibers growing by 32.9%. With the way the ATF compiles manufacturing statistics, it is impossible to break out production of the .40 S&W from the .45 ACP. I did suggest last year that I expected to see an increase in this category as 2011 was the centennial of the 1911. While the 1911 did garner a lot of attention in 2011, I just don't think the amount of growth in the category can be attributed to that alone. I do think that a good deal of the growth in these categories can be traced to what Michael Bane calls Gun Culture v. 2.0. That is, That is, those who have come to guns not through growing up in a hunting family - Gun Culture 1.0 - but as a result of the concealed carry movement.

Change in Firearms Production From 2010  to 2011


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

Total Misc. Firearms

While overall production of revolvers was up 2.48%, production fell in all categories except the very smallest and the very largest. The detailed report which shows production figures in each category by manufacturer are not yet available. Thus, I can't say the 29.2% increase in revolver production in calibers larger than .44 Magnum is only due to increased production of the Taurus Judge and S&W Governor as opposed to a large growth in the number of Single Action Army revolvers in .45 Colt. Nonetheless, it is a reasonable assumption given the marketing campaigns for both the Judge and the Governor by their respective manufacturers.

I think we can safely say the market for long guns has rebounded. After experiencing a significant decline last year, production of both rifles and shotguns grew by double digit percentages for 2011. Even more importantly, both categories saw more shotguns and rifles produced in 2011 than in the banner year of 2009. I anticipate that rifle production in 2012 will be even greater given the continuing unease that gun owners and would-be gun owners feel about President Obama and potential gun control measures his administration might enact in a second term.

One final category of note is what the ATF calls miscellaneous firearms. They define this category as consisting of items that don't fall into the normal firearms classifications of handgun or long gun. Included within it are silencers. As the American Silencer Association pointed out last month, applications for the NFA tax stamp for silencers are growing by leaps and bounds. That would be consistent with the 169% growth in production in this category.

This last year was a good year for the firearms industry. If the continuing year-over-year growth in NICS checks is any indication - and I think it is - 2012 will be an even better year for the firearms industry.

CORRECTION: In my original chart, I compared the Interim 2011 numbers with the Interim 2010 numbers. I have corrected the 2010 numbers to reflect the final report for that year. It does not change the trends but it does change some of the percentages. I have corrected them within the original post.


  1. Excellent analysis. I concur with your assessments.

  2. I concur and will be purchasing more for my collection the rest of 2012 and into 2013.

  3. But don't forget: the firearms industry is crumbling, and support for it is declining. Those numbers are a NRA conspiracy. The Bradys said it, I believe it, that settles it.

  4. @Archer: You forgot to add that we know the ATF lies about stuff.

  5. Interesting that sales of small caliber handguns is down and larger calibers are up. I'm also surprised that pistols so outnumber revolvers.