Another Month, Another Sales Record

The June numbers are in at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and they show that Americans are buying more and more guns, still. In fact, not only did June beat last June’s numbers, but it represented a long stretch in which every month’s sales totals exceeded the totals for the same month in the previous year. That stretch is now 25 months of successive year over year gains. Sales weren’t up just a small amount either — the increase was almost 25% to over 800,000 guns. As the 13-year-history slide (l. — click to embiggen) shows, over the last ten years, unit gun sales have more than doubled (as proxied by the National Instant Check System, whose imperfection as a model of gun sales we discussed the last time we talked about NSSF sales figures).

If that was the record of an individual business in the midst of a sputtering recession and anemic-to-nonexistent recovery, the CEO would be on the cover of Forbes and Fortune — and probably general-circulation magazines, too. Of course, Fortune has collapsed into the CNN-Time-Warner propaganda machine and is circling the circulation drain, and the so-called “general-circulation” magazines aren’t, by any real measure, anymore. But while Fortune won’t cover the gun sales exception to the recession, due to its editorial slant, even the other news media haven’t had much to say about this.

So you have to get it from gun blogs or directly from NSSF. (CWCID: we got it from No Lawyers — Only Guns and Money. Read their blog. After all, the late Warren Zevon, whose art inspired their title, was practically the musical muse of 1980s Special Forces. “Patty Hearst heard the burst of Roland’s Thompson Gun and bought it” is a line of inspired mischief if ever there was one, and if you weren’t an Excitable Boy in those years, you really missed out. For those of you who survived to retire, we recommend [language alert] My Shit’s Fucked Up from one of his last albums).

Why do we compare June to last June rather than June to May? Well, both comparisons can be made but gun sales, like the sales of many other goods, show considerable seasonality as an MBA would say: the sales levels rise and fall tidally, like the seasons, or more exactly, with the season. The main season that drive gun sales is the Christmas holiday season, with sales peaking in December and dropping in January (see the chart of 2010-11 and 2011-12 numbers, right). A second peak comes in February and March, probably driven by anticipation of spring and the coming of better weather for outdoor sports — but even in a slow month, 600,000 guns sell. The year-over-year numbers, then, show real sales growth shorn of the confounding effects of seasonality, and they’re the numbers a manager uses to determine whether his or her sales are up or down.

How long can the growth continue? The only answer the science of economics can absolutely rule out is, “indefinitely.”  Sooner or later a sales downtick will bring some month below its last-year counterpart. In a way, it’s surprising that it hasn’t happened yet. But whatever the market for guns in the USA is, we know what it isn’t: saturated.

Note: This story has been corrected. The magazine “Forbes” and “Fortune” were originally reversed. – Eds.