Report: Rifle manufacturers back on top in 2015

Rifle manufacturers produced nearly 3.7 million firearms in 2015, the most recent year data is available. (Photo: Wall Street Journal)

Rifle manufacturers produced nearly 3.7 million firearms in 2015, the most recent year data is available. (Photo: Wall Street Journal)

Rifle manufacturers reversed a five-year trend and outproduced pistol makers in 2015, according to a federal report released this week.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives updated the Firearms Commerce in the United States report Wednesday with manufacturing data from 2015 — the most recent year available.

Since 2009, manufacturing totals have favored pistols by a comfortable margin, maintaining a dominance in the industry not seen since 1994, when pistol production nearly doubled the number of rifles made that year.

Data shows gun makers in 2015 produced nearly 3.7 million rifles, 3.5 million pistols and more than 885,000 revolvers and 777,000 shotguns — an overall 3.5 percent increase from 2014. Firearms manufacturing has increased 68 percent since 2009 and nearly tripled since 2005.

The shift in the trend marks a return to the top for rifle makers, who outproduced all other firearm categories for 15 years between 1995 and 2010, according to the report. The second year of former President Barack Obama’s term, however, saw manufacturing of rifles plummet almost 19 percent after hitting a then-record high of 2.2 million in 2008.

Despite losing their top spot, pistol manufacturing has more than doubled since 2009. Gun makers have also made more revolvers each year since 2005, including a 19 percent uptick over 2014.

Estimated gun sales in 2015 topped 13.3 million, according to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — a 9.3 percent increase over the year before. Dealers processed background check applications for 7.3 million handguns and 5.4 million long guns that year — falling less than 600,000 short of eclipsing 2013’s annual totals, a year bolstered, in large part, by the Sandy Hook shooting. 2015 remains the second biggest year on record for unadjusted background checks and third highest on record for estimated gun sales,  according to NICS.

Gun manufacturing hit an all-time in 2013 at 10.8 million firearms produced that year alone. Manufacturing data for 2016 – the biggest on record for gun sales – will be available in 2018.