National gun dealer survey shows unique buying trends for ARs, women


The National Shooting Sports Foundation has just released their fifth survey of federally licensed firearms retailers across the country – the best source of current buying trends.

The survey has a simple goal: to find out what products are the biggest sellers and who is buying.ar2

The data shows which types of firearms and ammunition were most popular in 2012, and at the same time allows retailers to compare their businesses to that of other gun stores across the country.

“What retailers tell us in this survey helps our entire industry assess the current state of the shooting sports market,” NSSF Managing Director of Business Development Randy Clark said in a press release. “The NSSF Retailer Survey is an extremely valuable business tool.”

A total of 752 firearms retailers located in all 50 states responded. The businesses ranged in size from single proprietors to large outdoor specialty retailers.

The report identifies sales trends by comparing results from past years’ surveys.

“These surveys have given NSSF and industry a valuable benchmark to identify trends during what has been an extraordinary sustained dynamic market for firearms, ammunition and accessories,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of industry research and analysis.

Categories in the report include products sold, sales trends, markets and customers, advertising and online marketing, and shooting ranges and buying groups, among others.

While NSSF sells copies of the entire report, here are the highlights:

  • 84 percent of retailers surveyed reported that overall sales in 2012 exceeded sales from the previous year.
  • 76.9 percent of retailers surveyed said sales of AR-style modern sporting rifles in 2012 exceeded sales from the previous year (60.1 percent), the largest increase in the firearms category.
  • Retailers surveyed said that 25.8 percent of their customers were first-time firearm buyers in 2012 compared to 25 percent in 2011 and 20.8 percent in 2010.
  • For the third year in a row, the number of female customers increased. For the year 2012, 78.6 of retailers surveyed said more women came to their stores, compared to 72.8 in in 2011 and 61.1 in 2010.
  • Firearms most often purchased by women were a semiautomatic handgun followed by revolvers, modern sporting rifles, shotguns, traditional rifles and muzzleloaders.

The number of retailers who participate in the survey has grown each year.

For more information, or to purchase a copy of the survey, visit NSSF’s Retailer Survey Report Web page.

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 8,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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