Total US Firearms: Not 300 Million, but 412-660 Million?

Fun With NumbersThe typical estimate of the total number of firearms in the USA is about 300 million, depending on whom is queried. For example (some of these links are .pdf):

The numbers are all over the place, and many of them seem to recursively refer to one another, not exactly building confidence in the rigor of their development. But they seem to cluster around a Narrative-friendly 300 million. But what if that number is wrong?

millions-of-guns

We believe that the correct number is much higher — somewhere between 412 and 660 million.   You may wonder how we came to that number, so buckle up (and cringe, if you’re a math-phobe, although it never gets too theoretical): unlike most of the academics and reporters we linked above, we’re going to use publicly available data, and show our work.

What if we told you that one ATF computer system logged, by serial number, 252,000,000 unique firearms, and represented only those firearms manufactured, imported or sold by a relatively small number of the nation’s tens of thousands of Federal Firearms Licensees?

ATF maintains a system, introduced in 1999, called Access 2000 or A2K (GAO report; details are in the .pdfs linked at that .html link). This system allows voluntarily participating manufacturers, importers and wholesalers (no retailers) to enter their firearms by the identifying data that goes on a 4473 directly into an ATF computer. The firms can’t see the data on this system, they can only feed it in. This system is then used by the National Tracing Center in West Virginia to respond rapidly to trace requests: given serial number, make and model they can produce an instant hit, saving field agents a trip to the manufacturer, wholesaler, or jobber. Sometimes this hit can instantly tell the trace technician what retailer was the firearm’s point of first retail sale, really expediting the trace.

The participating licensees get significant benefits from this system. They can dump their computer data directly to ATF (ATF actually provides a data-entry only terminal node for A2K in the participants’ premises) and then they never have to drop everything for an ATF trace, because ATF can track the firearm from creation (or importation) to sale out of point-of-origin from a desk in Martjnsville, West Virginia’s National Tracing Center. You can comply with your legal requirement to support crime (and found, and idle curiosity, and fishing expeditions and dragnet) gun tracing without any additional expense.

From the ATF’s point of view, it eliminates a possible source of security leaks in investigations. (This is not saying that they automatically suspect licensees more than anybody else. They just know, as Ben Franklin said, “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”) It also gives the ATF the bones of a future national registration system, a controversial idea even within the agency, but one that has its internal champions, including Deputy Director Thomas Brandon, who has been campaigning for Hillary Clinton on that exact issue.

Field agents and criminal investigators have no direct access to A2K. Only 44 employees of NTC (some of whom are sworn agents, mostly in case someone has to testify in court, but most of whom are support personnel) have access to the system. That access is controlled by an access roster set up to deny non-admitted personnel both physical access to A2K terminals and computer access to the data. Systems are supposed to be in place for intrusion detection and auditing.

millions-and-millions-of-guns

None of the current academic media and academic estimates were developed with A2K data, even though this data has been made publicly available. You’re probably reading about it here for the first time.

The participants in A2K include, as of fall, 2015, 35 firms representing 66 FFLs total.

Because some of the participants are wholesalers, some firearms manufactured by non-participating manufacturers are included, in addition to all the firearms made by participants.

For legal reasons, A2K is kept separate from all other agency computer systems, and while it is on the public internet for maintenance purposes, it has no direct connection to any other ATF database.

As of 2 October, 2015, the data in A2K included 252,433,229 records, representing one firearm each. That means that at least those 250 million firearms have been manufactured, or imported, or sold at wholesale in approximately 15 years.  (Duplicate records, say from a manufacturer or importer in 2000 a jobber as a used gun in 2007, don’t increment the count; the unique serial number ties those data points together as a single “record”).

For the total count of firearms in the USA to be 300 million, the following must be true:

(A2K + all firearms made and sold by non-A2K FFLs from 1999-2015 + all firearms made by everyone 1899-1999 +  all firearms imported 1899-1999 + all firearms made or imported since October, 2015) – firearms exported = 300M.

It seems unlikely that 5/6 of all firearms were made or imported in the last 17 years.

Because one or two of these big distributors or jobbers may account for many surplus and used-firearms imports, they may include used as well as new guns, but they almost certainly don’t include resales of individual guns. And if police guns are counted once (sales from manufacturer, etc. to police) they shouldn’t be counted again (sales of surplus police guns to the  distributors enroute to the public).

We know that the ATF collects the records of out of business FFLs, and that these records are very slowly digitized but never OCR’d (they are legally forbidden to do this. They had preserved out of business records from A2K, which they deleted when GAO caught them [.pdf] in March, 2016. The preservation seems to have been inadvertent). The ATF can only estimate the number of out of business records as “hundreds of millions.” Absent computerization, there are many duplications in these records as the same serial number moves around. How many times has that World War I Mauser Gewehr 98a changed hands? As far as we know, no one has even tried to estimate this. But with the use of make/model/serial as a unique key in A2K, we do know that this 252 million does not include any significant number of duplicates.

We also know that ATF compliance with the law in this case is slow and grudging — for example, ATF’s own Chief Counsel’s Office, the nominally subordinate department that is considered by many ATF managers and agents to really run the agency, noted aspects of noncompliance with A2K in 2009, but never corrected the problem until 2016, after GAO called them on it in 2015. But that’s another story.

Now, the question of estimating how many guns exist in the United States can be restated as a single question: what percentage of all the guns in the country were handled by these 35 firms / 66 FFLs in the period 1999-2015? 

It is a difficult estimate to make in any supportable fashion. While those include some of the largest manufacturers and producers, as of October 2016[.pdf], there are 2,451 licensed importer FFLs (Class 06) and 11,093 manufacturer FFLs (Class 07) outstanding. Thus your 66 A2K paricipants account for less than one half of one percent of operating manufacturers and importers. Also, these are last year’s count of A2K participants and this year’s count of FFLs; it seems likely the participant count was much lower when A2K launched, and possible the FFL count was lower, after the mixed successes of the first Clinton presidency’s attempt to push FFLs out of business. Thus, the percentage count of participant FFLs is not constant. (For example, in October 2013[.pdf], there were 2,336 Class 06 importers and 9,082 Class 07 manufacturers).

Applying the Pareto Principle, it is possible, probable even, that a small percentage of high volume manufacturers and jobbers produce the largest percentage of the nation’s new firearms. Selecting 80/20 as a rule, which seems improbably generous over the lifespan of A2K, during this period these 66 FFLs produced 80% of all firearms traffic. Thus, the 252 million is 80% of 315 million new-to-the-market firearms.

One easy thing we can do is add 2016’s numbers, because we know they can’t be included in A2K’s 1999-2015 data set. Two ways to estimate 2016 production are to use FBI NICS checks (which are an imperfect measure) and NSSF adjusted NICS numbers (which are an attempt to make a conservative estimate by eliminating sources of upward bias in the FBI data, like one state’s monthly NICS on all permit holders). According to the FBI, there have been 19,872,694 NICS completed through 30 Sep, 2016; and NSSF adjusts that to a conservative 10,837,308.

Using a conservative algorithm to extend these numbers through the end of the year, we get 26,496,925 from FBI and 14,449,744 with NICS. (This is done by adding up the nine months’ data we have already, dividing by nine to get an average, and multiplying that average by 12 to get an annual number. It is conservative because of the seasonality in the sales data; the top sales months are always November and December). As we are making a conservative estimate, we take our conservative average-based forecast from the more conservative data source, NSSF, and we round (down) to the nearest million. We now have 329 million firearms, with fairly trustworthy data and estimates in which all the most conservative assumptions were used, introduced to the US on-the-books market from 1999-2016.

Items Excluded

Some sources of firearms are probably not numerically significant, at this time, and can be excluded. The first of these is off-the-books private production. This has increased greatly in the last 15 years, as we known from our own built-from-non-firearm-80% receives. How big this market is, no one knows. We conversed with one manufacturer last year who said, not for attribution, that he had shipped in excess of 100,000 80% lowers in the previous year and was constrained by the production schedule of the forging subcontractor he used. Assuming 80% of those were spoiled by end users, ratholed for future use or held for resale, and only 20% completed (which seems to us like a very conservative estimate), then that’s 10,000 more from one off-the-books source. There are at least ten manufacturers in the position this one is in, so up to a million more incomplete receivers move towards the (horrors!) “ghost gun” home and small-business gunsmithing market annually, and 100,000 of them make it to test fire. Given the impossibility of measuring these, and their small effect on the totals, and our attempt to make a conservative-biased estimate, we chose to leave these firearms out. But we all know they’re there.

Clandestine production by unlawful entities can not be known. It is a known unknown. And illegal importation by smuggling is known to have increased since the essential abandonment of border enforcement in 2009, but it is not thought to be numerically (as opposed to criminologically) significant. It is a small known unknown which can probably be discounted.

The most significant thing about these non-traditional and clandestine producers is that, as we have seen in places as disparate as Australia and the West Bank of the Jordan, they are prepared to fill the gap, should firearms production be further restricted by officialdom. The market is like flowing water — it finds a path, or makes a path.

So What’s Left?

At this point we have a reasonable and very conservative, very low estimate of 329 million new firearms to the US market 1999-2016. The question becomes one of estimating how many firearms were made and imported in the period from the invention of modern metallic cartridge, smokeless powder ammunition from, say, 1899 to 1998 — and how many of those survive as practical, usable firearms.

There are several ways to estimate this number:

  • We can throw a Pareto 80/20 number out there (about 412-413 million);
  • We can make a SWAG that about half the guns in circulation are pre-1999 (about 660 million);
  • We can comb old books for production data (TBD);
  • We can ask the ATF (we’re sure they’ll be forthcoming… right?);
  • Or, we can ask you for your ideas.

Absent a better idea, we can say that the US inventory of firearms is almost certainly between 412 and 660 million, not the lower numbers recently trumpeted in the media. And your ideas are welcome, in the comments or to @Hognose on Gab.

UPDATE

Thanks to TheGunFeed.com for picking this up as its featured article on 25 October.

TheGunFeed links weaponsman

We’ve been linked by the site frequently, and it’s brought us a lot of new readers, but we don’t recall ever being the top dog before. We’re extremely appreciative. Many thanks!

WeaponsMan readers: If you ever want to know what the hottest stories in the gun world are, The Gun Feed has a constantly updated page of them for you.

TheGunFeed readers: welcome! Don’t miss the comments below, because we’re blessed by an unusually experienced, educated, and agreeable cohort of commenters. Consider joining them if you have a point to make, you’re always welcome. We try to keep it clean and civil.

UPDATE II:

Welcome to readers of Peter Grant (we enjoyed Brings the Lightning, by the way) and Vox Day (who linked Peter’s post at Gab).

 

68 thoughts on “Total US Firearms: Not 300 Million, but 412-660 Million?

  1. James

    As for article title of the piece,can only say whatever the number,not enuff!As for the 10-23 month sentence in fed Kathy got,again,not enuff!

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s actually the PA state pen, not Club Fed, and as the whitest of white-collar criminals, she’s probably going to be in minimum security. Still, she’s getting locked up, and the people of Pennsylvania will be safer.

  2. James

    Hog,how about a shout out for your Russian fans,tis Russia Special Forces day!As for kathy,bet she gets out 5 months tops,some good behavior what have you/special situations,but yep,in a box for the moment.The way govt. is abused by some at local/state/fed level we are going to need a lot of boxes it seems.

  3. Roger

    Y’all must be joking.
    Trying to tell me that a dimocrat politician was actually convicted and
    sentenced! We all know that laws, regulations and rules do not apply to
    dimocrat politicians. Further, the closer the dimocrat is to Karl Marx, the
    less likely they are to even get media attention to their malfeasance.

  4. Alan Ward

    One should be able to gestimate 1899-2000 numbers from manufacturers totals for the most popular items plus numbers from the CMP, and possibly getting numbers from the major surplus importers. After ignoring the lesser, or untraceable sources, one still comes out with a conservative number several SD’s above the mean of 300 M as reported by the lame streamers.

    As previously commented, not enough.

  5. 10x25mm

    You also need to estimate the number of firearms destroyed by surrenders, police confiscations, corrosion, bubbas, ka-booms, etc. Maybe 100,000 per year?

    I once heard a U.S. Congressman estimate that 5 million firearms were imported by WW II veterans from a rough count of the number of permission documents completed.

    The Library of Congress estimated the cost of buying back the handguns in circulation in 1934 when the National Firearms Act was being debated. I can’t remember the number or the price per handgun they used, but it was high enough that Roosevelt decided not to include & tax handguns in the NFA registry.

    1. M2AP

      Up to 1,226,146 were taken as souvenirs from the Japanese home islands alone. That figure wouldn’t include the battlefield pickups from the Pacific campaign and stashed in sea bags or mailed home. I’d assume a similar number were taken from the European theater, as a similar proportion of troops probably wanted souvenirs as well.

      http://forums.thecmp.org/showpost.php?p=1186033&postcount=6

  6. John M.

    Around 20 years ago, when I was first getting interested in guns, I remember hearing the estimates that there was approximately one gun for each man, woman and child in the USA. (I can’t source that, unfortunately.) That’d put the number at around 270MM guns in your pre-99 phase.

    But then, that estimate was probably about as good as the ones that get tossed around these days.

    -John M.

  7. John M.

    It would be interesting to look at how A2K’s number changes year-over-year and compare it to NICS numbers for that year. There’s certainly noise in the NICS data (CCW checks, as you point out, used guns changing hands, plus 4473s run without NICS checks, as in my state for CCW permit holders), and comparing it to the A2K data would be interesting if not completely conclusive.

    -John M.

  8. A.B. Prosper

    Looks like the weak link is ammo.

    Using the link in the above article we have at least 500 million guns but only 2.5 billion rounds ammo. 5 rounds per gun .

    I do suspect though with the ammo hoarding going and reloading supplies on its more like twice that, so 10 rounds per weapon

    Interesting.

    My personal SSWAG is that there is about 1 box of ammo per weapon in use including ammo in the weapon however much that is.

    Preppers and collectors have lots more than this but normies with guns, typically a cheap handgun or a shotgun probably buy one box, maybe two and half the ammo

    1. RSR

      I think there’s a certain number of guns in any collection where this might apply.

      But after the last couple panics and ammo not being available, or only at ridiculous prices, I think most shooters that shoot once a month to a few times a year have enough ammo on hand for self defense and a couple practice sessions.

      I also find that for most, the volume of a given cartridge seems to result in it being stockpiled less. 12ga shells vs 22lr cartridges.

      How ammo is packaged results in how much ammo on hand — 20 round hunting rifle cartridge vs 50-100 handgun and rimfire ammo.

      Lastly, cost per round also seems to contribute to number of rounds kept on hand, or not.

    1. Hognose Post author

      To the extent that the manufacturers are among the 66 FFLs participating in A2K, I believe the answer is yes. ATF publishes an annual report on manufacturing, import and export, although the last data they have published was 2013. It’s one of the ATF reports I track, and exports are average 273,000 a year, or a total of bout 7.7 million from 1986 (start of data) through 2013. Manufacturing is 173 million and imports 60 million in that same period.

      Again, that is not A2K data but ATF Firearms Production Report data.

  9. 11B-Mailclerk

    The “antis” have to be able to do math. They have to end the will to use arms, to end the will to resist, and then round up most of the arms as well as the “incorrigables”. Look for some really ugly “examples” to be made, to discourage resistance to “common sense laws”.

    I suspect that the era of “incremental” disarmament is over. A “bold new approach” will be the new way, one -likely- to inspire dramatic overreaction, to justify more direct and drastic action.

    1. Big Bill

      I don’t believe that anyone in any official capacity (unless you live in California) will come looking for our guns. If they did, the carnage would be truly awesome to behold.
      Instead, I believe the powers that be will make the “transfer” of, first, “assault weapons” illegal. When the owner dies, the state gets the gun. As the populace gets used to that, other guns will be added to the list.
      Gun trusts will not be able to list any new members.
      Within a hundred years, the law-abiding people will be disarmed.

      I’m not giving the hoplophobes any ideas; this has already been floated.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Bill, they’re not willing to wait. Look at the press release from NY AG Schneiderman, with a variety of other national socialist politicians on board (DA Cyrus Vance, a 3rd-generation lapdog of Lenin; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the dimmest Senators since Caligula bestowed the honor upon his horse; etc.). They are explicitly saying that, because their revolving door justice system has lost control of violent crime in NYFC, the Federal Government must replicate New York’s failed policies nationwide. Or look at the recent doings in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, where Glock is suing the state AG’s determination that all Glock firearms are unsafe, and the AG keeps modifying her gun ban; and the soi-disant Republican governor named her front boy on gun bans to a judgeship.

        They’re national socialists. Patience is not in them.

        1. W. Fleetwood

          I rise to defend the honor and good name of Senator Incitatus.

          I ask you, is it not a fact that this Senator, perhaps uniquely, has accepted no bribe, groped no Aide or Page, enriched himself not a whit from the public funds, while proposing no new tyranny against, nor tax upon, the citizenry? And when these were proposed by others has he not been a stalwart, voting “Neigh.”, “Neigh.” and again “Neigh.”?

          Would we not be Blessed if all members of the body were to hold such an exemplary record?

          Sua Sponte.

          1. Kirk

            OK, I laughed.

            Then, I cried, because I realized that Incitatus was a better Senator than either of my two moronic clowns from Washington state, both of whom are likely to be in the Senate until carried out feet-first.

            Hell, the horse is even better-looking than either of them…

          2. Aesop

            Au contraire.

            The esteemed Senator in question ate unceasingly from the public hay trough and granary, and as his sole contribution shat hither and yon all his days, leaving lesser men to clean up after him, as well as provide his forage and shelter. Rather exactly like every senator to ever hold the title.

            I would therefore humbly suggest that the best use of them is as pet food.

          3. Aesop

            But it’s carbon-friendly, renewable, and overcomes the 98% recidivism rate among incumbents, thus promoting diversity. Buzz word hat trick, right there.

  10. Jim Scrummy

    So, the over/under number is around 550 million? Just spitballin’ that number. Of course if you know how many guns you have, you don’t have enough. That’s a gun problem I need.

  11. Brad

    The anti-gunners are facing a terrible dilemma, which explains why they go to such efforts to present lower numbers of firearms than reality indicates. If too many people own guns than gun-control becomes impossible to impose. And greater numbers of firearms would logically imply greater numbers of gun owners.

    Even with the massaged numbers, the anti-gunners are going into all kinds of mental gymnastics to try and convince the public that gun ownership rates are declining rather than increasing. One nut claimed that more than a million gun owners own more than 100 guns each. It was the only way he could reconcile the pitiless math.

    If actual numbers of guns are closer to 600 million than 300 million, the anti-gunner theory of “super owners” becomes even more ridiculous than it already seems.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Also, consider this: even at 300 million guns, that means roughly 1 in 10,000 is used in violence per annum. And gun crime has declined nationwide (only homicides are up, and primarily in cities that are unusually weak on crime) even as the gun supply has increased by between 10 and 20 million a year.

      This makes any attempt at crime control that operates on the 10,000 to affect the 1 seem like a very inefficient, ineffective and wasteful public policy.

      1. 11B-Mailclerk

        The folks “at the top” of the political pyramid are operating from a very different premise than most of the folks here.

        We see crime as a fairly pervasive threat, but one that is deterred or defeated by personal action, best via the use of arms for self defense, and strict sentencing of violent criminals, to prevent further predation.

        The hard-core anti probably does not see it that way, at all. They do not “go to bad neighborhoods”. They do not “associate with bad people”. They see crime a something that happens “over there” to “those people”. Crime is avoided by living right, and especially living in protected areas, sending kids to protected schools, etc.

        The threat the perceive is that -you-, the gun owner, might get angry with -them-, or just go nuts on -them-. Thus the best way to prevent crime against -them- is to take away -your- arms.
        All that chaos in the “inner cities” matters not a whit to them, because they neither live nor go -there-. Crime statistics and self defense success stories are utterly futile in arguments with this sort of thinking. If you are disarmed, you cannot go nuts on -them- to any real effect, and if you become enraged you cannot do anything too terrible.

        Call it delusional. Call it projection. Call it elitist. Does not matter what you call it, because they -know- that -you- are the threat to be addressed, because crime is someone else’s problem and -you- are in -their- world, armed, and thus scary.

        Note: “Molon Labe” and “From my cold dead hands” just feed their beliefs, because “rational” people see things their way and do not make angry, crazy declarations.

        They do not see the armed person as a sheepdog, but as a potential rabid dog. If you want to change their minds, it is a long-term effort, as you have to undo core beliefs. And often, all you do is convince them that -they- are sane enough to own a gun, but most others are definitely not.

        If your goal is persuasion, you are going to spend a great deal of effort getting inside the heads of people who will seem very “wrong headed” to you. The received wisdom we repeat at the range will often have exactly the opposite effect on them.

        But is it fun to see when that little light finally goes on in their brain.

    2. staghounds

      I know six people whom I have observed to possess a hundred guns apiece.

      I don’t know 2100 people, which is what my acquaintance base would be if I knew 350 people for every hundred gun owner.

      A million “superowners” is not ridiculous at all.

    3. Pete

      While I think Hognose’s estimate is probably pretty conservative, remember that for the anti-gunners, the tranche of those guns that are in State control, be it mil, LE, forest service, etc are A-OK (as long as they don’t make their way down to your grubby private hands). Obviously the private market for firearms and ammunition in the United States is and, by all accounts, pretty much always has been significantly larger than the .gov market, but it is a not insignificant chunk. And a statistically significant portion of those guns will never make it into private hands (excluding the “Oops, I left it on the trunk lid” portion). Given ~1million LEOs in the US + military possession that’s at least a few million firearms which are OK with the anti’s. Some of those would be counted in those numbers (LE semi-autos and select fires which come new manufacture to the agency through an FFL), some maybe not (military weapons or .mil-LE hand-me-downs). Anyways, not enough to really skew anything, but worth mentioning I thought.

  12. Fuel Filter.

    “The anti-gunners are facing a terrible dilemma, which explains why they go to such efforts to present lower numbers of firearms than reality indicates.”

    Same thing goes for illeagal aliens. The number has been 11 million since I was a teenager (born ’51). I figure the real number is around 40-45 million by now.

  13. 6pounder

    There was a recent study done by someone I don’t know that concluded that here in Kentucky there was one gun for every three feet of ground. Hoorah!

  14. Tom Stone

    A gun can last a long time, I’m acquainted with an old boy around here who uses a Remington model 8 for deer hunting.
    His grandpa picked it up used as part of a trade in the early 1920’s and although almost all the finish is gone the bore is perfect and it functions reliably.
    There are about a dozen guns in that household but not a lot of ammo, they accreted over the decades and are viewed as just another tool.

  15. Ben C

    The BATFE has manufacture, import & export numbers for things since the mid 80s.

    https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/data-statistics

    Scroll on down to “Firearms Commerce Report in the United States” and check out the reports.

    From the 2015 report:

    Puts us at 125,233,494 manufactured 1986-2013
    plus another 55,643,405 imported in the same time

    Total 180,876,899 manufactured and imported from 1986 through 2013. Manufacturing trending strongly upwards 2009-2013 going over 10 million per year in 2013. Exports from this same time period are 7,668,759. Not noted if exports return the the USA.

    Looks like over a minimum of 173 million NEW firearms from 1986 to 2013. Based on trends, 200 million from 1986 through mid 2016 is completely reasonable and in range.

  16. James In Australia

    Here in Australia they had no real idea how many Firearms were in circulation when they decided to “Buy Back” full and semi autos in 1996. I cannot remember the numbers off hand but I do remember that the total number of semi autos surrendered was less than the number of Ruger 10-22’s imported.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I just saw an estimate that there are 270k remaining banned guns that were never turned in, but didn’t read beyond the headline.

  17. 10x25mm

    Pittman-Robertson Act tax revenues may be of some use estimating firearms production, at least from 1938 – 1970 when this excise tax only applied to firearms and ammunition. Total PRA tax revenues were $ 4.7 billion from 1938 to to 2007, but I have not been able to find an annual history.

  18. Ray

    The number of “military use” firearms produced by humans is a staggering 1.5 to 3 (no one knows for sure) BILLION since “modern” breach loading, metallic cart. firearms went into mass production at the end of the 1860’s. NO ONE has the slightest idea how many of those firearms are in working order with useable ammunition. NO ONE knows where they are, who has them, or how many of them still work. ALL OF THEM will kill you just as dead , as ever they would. The total numbers of “sporting” firearms produced worldwide since the beginning of the twentieth century ALONE is simply unknown. NO ONE even tried to keep track of them before the 1960’s. The “numbers game” is pure propaganda and bullshit. The only true and honest “number” is: “No one has the slightest idea”. P.S. No one even try’s to track “blackpowder” firearms and they never have. They kill just as well as any other firearm and can be used, AND HAVE BEEN USED, to “secure” “better” weapons by “irregular” forces for a VERY long time. I won’t even get started on underground arms factory’s. There are AT MINIMUM enough firearms in working order in the CONUS ALONE to arm every man woman and child in the us. Several times over.

  19. Hillbilly

    When I was growing up I can only remember one household that didn’t have a gun. The high school principal who was a transplant from Bay Area.
    Most folks had 3-5 guns around and more than a few had 20+.
    My personal guess is somewhere well North of 300 million.

  20. Keith

    Whatever the numbers are there not going to count someone like be that bought all but the STG-N I preorderd this month in the period 1992-1996. And of those three were mil sup manufactured in 1940/41 (K98K), 1941 (SMLE) and 1951 (SKS). Nor will it count the three that were gifts from my father manufactured even further back (1950’s to 1970’s). Also does it count things like my reproduction Remington 1858 New Model Army from Italy back in the early 1990’s?

    When I took Statistics the thing that struck me the most is it actually has a math symbol that is ‘=’ with this ‘/’ and what that means is the number is a close as I can get to being totally correct. Then there is the whole issue around how the questions are formed.

  21. Rob

    Hognose,

    Curious if you looked at the ATFs’ reports on firearms manufacturing and imports that can be found here:

    https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/data-statistics

    I skimmed the “2016 Report on Firearm Commerce in the US” and plugged in some numbers in a simple spreadsheet. From 2008 to 2014, the firearm “supply” in the US (manufactured + imports – exports) increased by 74,781,452. Of course, this does not include any destroyed firearms. I assume this includes firearms made for government sale, and I strongly suspect this includes rifles, handguns and shotguns for military use.

    I have been seeing the “300 million guns” figure for a long, long time. If the supply increased by 74 million in the last 7 years, that estimate has to be much too low. Honestly, I think your high figure of 660 million may be low.

    Rob

  22. Docduracoat

    I bought My Federal Ordnance M 14 new in 1987
    My newly imported, used Chinese SKS in 1988
    I seem to remember I bought my Colt Sporter AR in caliber 7.62 x 39 new in 1995
    So none of these is on that list I never knew about called A2k
    From just grandpas’ old Colt .45 pistol to a collection of military style rifles we all have at least one gun in my neighborhood
    No ones been shot here even though it gets pretty acrimonious at the homeowners association meetings!
    Lots of threats of lawsuits though.
    So at least one gun per person sounds about right to me

  23. Geoff

    I have 7 (6 rifles and pistol). So if that is average, and there are 80M to 100M gun owners, that makes it 560M to 700M guns.

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  25. TRX

    > [statistics]

    Yeah, but the big pistol in the foreground is an Automag IV or V…

    Larry Grossman’s design was pretty good, even is AMT/IMI/et al’s quality control was haphazard or nonexistent. I wouldn’t mind an Automag IV in .50AE, or even one of the wimpy .45 Win Mag Automag IVs…

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  27. Aesop

    Apropos, today’s LASlimes refered to some mental midget who was phoning in threats to the local chapter of Aloha Snackbar as possessing an “arsenal”, which turned out to be half a dozen long arms and three handguns.

    My response was that nine guns made him a piker.

    I know the gradation of martial arts belts, but does anyone have the levels authoritatively assigned beyond “arsenal”?
    I seem to have crossed that Rubicon some decades ago, and just wondered where I now stand. My guesstimate is that it’s somewhere personally beyond “Alamo”, probably between the levels of “state militia” and “Banana Republic weapons depot”, and well shy of “Persian Gulf oil prince’s gun room”.
    IMHO, anyone whose documented printout wouldn’t run the local BATFE’s fax machine – if not their supply cabinet – out of paper simply is not qualified to ante up to the table.

    And my personal guess would be that there are north of a billion firearms hereabouts in the US, with but a fraction under government control.
    Then again, dope by the ton is walked up here everyday by people smuggling the drugs Americans won’t smuggle, and firearms are far lighter and handier to tote than 80# bundles of weed.

  28. Tom

    I’ve run the numbers separately and slightly differently. I’ve started with the Karp and Krouse Estimates from 2007 that place the number between 270 and 294 million. The Firearms Violence Estimate and ATF estmate from 1999 lists 258 million and 260 million respectively (which would be 299-301 million in 2007). Then using the total new manufactured firearms numbers from published by BATFE (non-military-issue) and the importation-exportation number from BATFE we’re looking at an average of an additional 9 million between 2007 and 2012 (last year of solid data). Doing a correlation between BATFE numbers and NCIS checks through 2012 we see that the (on average) 61% of NCIS checks were likely for new or newly-imported firearms. Using the 2013 numbers from BATFE, we see that number jump to 76% because nearly all firearms sold were new since used firearms were making it to the market less than normal because of the 2012/2013 scare. I estimate that New-NCIS has stayed near this new normal of 75% post-scare as the number of used firearms likely are making it to the market less since people are holding them.

    So, bottom line:
    2007: add 6.66 million
    2008: add 7.11 million
    2009: add 9.16million
    2010: add 8.30 million
    2011: add 9.79 million
    2012: add 13.42 million
    2013: add 16.03 million
    2014: add 15.94 million
    2015: add 17.59 million
    If we add this to the low and high estimates from 2007 and 1999 respectively (Karp and F&V estimates), we see that at the end of 2015 between 365 and 395 million firearms were present. I personally use the 2009 Krouse Estimate as a baseline (because it’s history between 2007 and 2009 tracked with both BATFE and FBI NCIS numbers). The Krouse 2009 estimate was 310 million through 2009 which would mean 389.4 million at the end of 2015 and 406 million by the end of 2016.
    Knowing that estimates about firearms are traditionally low, this is a conservative number. I believe that at a minimum we crossed the 400 million threshold during the month of July of this year.

    Looking at trend data, from 1986-2005, the US introduced (on average) 5.2 million firearms per year, 104 million over 20 years. From 2006-2008 we added 19.9 million, From 2009-2011 (first years of Obama) we added 27.3 million. Since 2011 we’ve added roughly 16 million per year or 79.7 million. The increase started before Obama and has likely leveled off and we can probably expect an average introduction rate between 10 and 15 million per year (2-3 times the introduction rate prior to 2006) going forward.
    One last trend, the past 30-year growth of firearms was 222 million; during the past 8 years 106 million. BEST PRESIDENCY EVER! This administration is responsible for the sale of firearms equal to the previous 4 administrations.

    Even if we take into account the unknown “loss rate” due to breakage and loss which I estimate is below 1% / year, we’re still looking at a minimum of 401 million firearms in the hands of the U.S. citizenry by the end of the year.

    One last caveat: I’ve researched estimates going back to the 1800s, the trends of those estimates are conclusive that we surpassed the 1:1 gun-population ratio sometime in the early 2000’s likely around 2003 but no later than 2008.

    Slightly different topic, but one brought up in the treads, ammo estimate. Assuming each firearm has at a minimum a box of 20 or 50 cartridges, we’re looking at 14 billion at a minimum (since I like many preppers are over 10,000 rounds, I can say with certainty that 35 rounds per firearm is a conservative estimate).

  29. Adam Piersen

    In the late 1980s I worked for a company called Federal Ordnance out of South El Monte California. The main product of the business was surplus military imports from overseas. I couldn’t begin to guess at the numbers, but I saw firearms of every type imaginable being imported by the cargo container almost weekly. They would sell pretty quickly too.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Adam, there are several pages online dedicated to the imports of Fed Ord and related companies. A fascinating story.

  30. Historian

    If you look at this question from the OWNER’s side, this can be revealing. Stats I have seen count about 100 million gun owners in the US. This is people who admit they own a firearm. The real number is probably higher, perhaps 1 in 2 Americans.

    Of those, the vast majority own more than one gun. I know of one chap who had a personal inventory of much more than 1,000 firearms, including 217 Class 3 weapons. While this sort of person is obviously an outlier statistically, almost all shooters I know own at least 5 guns- a pistol, a carbine, a shotgun, a rifle, and at least one .22 rimfire, maybe several. Few people, even the very poor, who own guns own only one or two.

    It is not at all unusual for someone interested in a particular type of shooting to own several guns suited to that type of shooting.

    If we say that the average is five guns, (probably low) and that the number of US owners is no more than 100 million, then your minimum number is 500 million.

    If you say that the average is eight, and the number of owners is 150 million, then that is 1.2 billion guns. That is my estimated range, 500 to 1200 million.

    1. Aesop

      The stats on the subject parallel those regarding the practice of Onanism.
      1/3 of Americans admit to owning a firearm. 2/3 of Americans admit to lying on surveys.

  31. Pericles

    Well, when I was stationed in Germany, due to having over 10 guns, I got the “arsenal” rate on registration ….

    Think of the 03 Springfields, 1917 Enfields, M1 Garands, and bringbacks not in those figures along with 1911s and other pre 1980s production. The 80/20 split may be that the 250 million in the database are the 20%.

    1. Brad

      The Brady II Bill offered up by then NY Congressman Chucky Schumer in 1994 (which supposedly prompted Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995) defined as an “arsenal” 10 or more firearms or 1,000 or more rounds of ammunition. And legal possession of an “arsenal” required a Federal license costing $300 every three years IIRC.

      It doesn’t surprise me that Chucky based his definitions on German law.

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  33. Long Island Mike

    How about a different approach? In economic circles it is not unusual to double check national manufacturing figures with underlying energy consumption. In other words there is a correlation between electrical production and manufacturing. You NEED electricity to run a plant making ball bearings or iPhones or toys. So if the commie Chinese say manufacturing increases 8% yty then damm well better see increase in electricity numbers.

    Sooooo…what do ALL firearms require? Over all time (historically) and correlated with modern numbers ? Remember that as you move up the production food chain you usually have fewer vendors involved so it might be easier also to get at these numbers.

    I am thinking that ALL firearms require barrels and ammunition. Maybe track down suppliers of barrels or makers of the underlying steel. Say the firearm manufacturers use in production, a specific type of steel. Would like to see tonnage produced per year over time. Correlate that to modern numbers and work backwards. Also correlating ammo production to number of firearms. Like I said, just a thought….

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s an interesting analytical approach. The question is, what percentage of specific steels is used in the firearms industry? Most steels have automotive and aerospace applications, as do aluminum alloys, and those sectors dwarf the firearms sector.

      Barrels are largely made in-house by large vendors (SIG, Beretta, Colt, Remington group, etc.). We’d probably have to do a supply chain analysis to see if there was a discrete marker for firearms production.

      This is intriguing, because it also ties in to history: much American and global industrialization was driven by the firearms industry, which drove the production of, inter alia, machine tools.

  34. Cap'n Mike

    When I worked Patrol, we had about a half dozen guns a month turned into the PD, mostly from relatives of deceased owners.
    We tried to direct these owners to the local gun store, so they could legally transfer them to the FFL and put some money in their pockets.
    If they wanted nothing to do with that, or the guns werent worth anything, we sent them off to the State Police for destruction.
    I would guess about 2-3 out of the 6 per month.
    This is in a city of 100,000, with a 50/50 mix of blue collar and white collar people

  35. Tom Kratman

    Now, why, one wonders, would the numbers have been under-reported, mainly by those who don’t like guns? One theory might be that if they admitted that there were that many they’d also have to admit something they are either dirt-ignorant of, or pretend to dirt-ignorance of; guns don’t really wear out much. If they admitted that then they’d have to admit that all their incremental plans to disarm us can’t work, because we already have plenty. That would leave them with nothing but massive confiscation, and that would mean civil war.

    I suppose that all means that their fantasies, posturing, and virtue signalling are what really matters to them.

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