Federal background check data for October hints that Americans bought over 1.4 million firearms in over-the-counter sales. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System saw 2,577,913 checks initiated in Oct. 2021, the second-highest figure logged since NICS was established in 1998. To be sure, when compared to Oct. 2020's record NICS figure of 3,268,909, it reflects a 20.1 percent decrease, but it dwarfs all Octobers prior to that pinnacle. 

When the data is adjusted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation by removing figures for gun permit checks and rechecks, the figure shrinks to 1,427,264, which is a shorter decrease of 19.3 percent compared to the Sept. 2020 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,769,553. As with the unadjusted data, it is still robust and is now the second-highest October on record when it comes to adjusted checks. 

NSSF NICS Chart October 2000 to 2021
October 2021 was the second-highest month in terms of background checks for likely firearms sales via FFLs, bested only by the election year/pandemic/riot-infused October 2020. (Chart: NSSF) 

The true number of guns sold across the country is likely even higher than what the NICS figures suggest. The data does not reflect private gun sales in most states or in cases where a carry permit is used in lieu of a check. Over 20 states accept personal concealed carry permits or licenses as Brady check exemptions.

New Models, Seasonal Changes Amping Sales

Firearms industry experts are quick to point out that there are several reasons for the uptick in gun sales. 

"Background checks for gun sales continue to be strong and steadily rising," Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the NSSF, told Guns.com. "Background checks in the fall months typically rise as hunting seasons open across the country, new firearm models are being introduced and gun buyers start to consider holiday sales." 

In September alone, Beretta announced a series of new Model 92 pistols and 1301 shotguns, CZ delivered the P-10F Competition pistol to market,  FN debuted its first rimfire pistol, HK gave MP5 fans a new rimfire variant of the popular SMG, and Kimber released its new R7 Mako compact 9mm. Meanwhile, Nosler and Weatherby debuted new hunting rifles while Mossberg had new 940 series shotguns.

Oliva said the annual total so far of nearly 15.2 million background checks is putting 2021 on the path to being the second strongest year on record. It is currently behind only the record-shattering 21 million background checks witnessed in 2020 and the 15.7 million background checks conducted during 2016. 

"This continued and sustained pace of background checks for the sale of a firearm, that is climbing in the closing months of 2021, shows the resiliency of the firearm manufacturers to meet this sustained, high-level demand and the personal interest by the American public to participate in the exercise of their God-given Second Amendment rights," said Oliva.

Banner image: Beretta Tomcat 3032 in the Guns.com Vault.

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