The trade association for the U.S. firearm industry crunched the numbers and came up with one solid fact: Americans really like guns.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation used data from the ATF, information from the Congressional Research Service, and reports from the U.S. International Trade Commission to get a snapshot of roughly how many guns are in current circulation in the country.
This includes an estimated 434 million firearms in civilian possession, with about half, 214 million, of those entering the market since 1991. Of those, "America's Rifle," the AR-15 and similar semi-automatics dubbed Modern Sporting Rifles by the NSSF, account for an estimated 19.8 million, lending concrete numbers to the argument that such guns are in common use.
The NSSF has argued that semi-auto firearms intended for the commercial market-- which made up 70 percent of firearm production in recent years-- are far from being "weapons of war," as described by gun prohibitionists.
"The Modern Sporting Rifle continues to be the most popular rifle sold in America today, and with nearly 20 million in circulation, is clearly a commonly-owned firearm that is being used for lawful purposes every day in America," said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF’s President and CEO in an email to Guns.com. "The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves, their family and homes, as well as to participate in the recreational shooting sports."
Speaking of common use, the group estimates there are approximately 71.2 million pistol magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges, and another 79.2 million rifle magazines capable of holding 30 or more rounds in circulation. Such magazines are often targeted by progressive politicians and anti-gun groups for restriction as "large-capacity magazines" although in most cases they are actually standard capacity for the firearm's design.
When it comes to ammo figures, the NSSF estimated that 8.7 billion rounds of all calibers and gauges were produced in 2018 either domestically or overseas for the U.S. market. Recent numbers are sure to swamp that with Vista Outdoors, owner of ammo brands Federal Premium, CCI, Speer, and others saying last week they had a $1 billion-- with a b-- backlog on orders.
“These figures, combined with the record-breaking 17.2 million NSSF-adjusted background checks for the sale or transfer of a firearm in the first ten months of 2020, demonstrates that Americans have a strong desire to continue purchasing firearms for lawful purposes,” said Bartozzi.