30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.
From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.
While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. Let’s dig into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.
Gun Manufacturing in the United States
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.
America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.
Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:
|Year||Pistols||Rifles||Revolvers||Shotguns||Misc. Firearms||Total Firearms|
Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.
In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.
Who is Producing America’s Firearms?
There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.
Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:
|Rank||Firearm Manufacturer||Guns Produced (2016-2020)||Share of total|
|1||Smith & Wesson Corp||8,218,199||17.2%|
|2||Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc||8,166,448||17.1%|
|3||Sig Sauer Inc||3,660,629||7.7%|
|5||0 F Mossberg & Sons Inc||2,223,241||4.7%|
|6||Taurus International Manufacturing||1,996,121||4.2%|
|7||WM C Anderson Inc||1,816,625||3.8%|
|9||Henry RAC Holding Corp||1,378,544||2.9%|
|10||JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises||1,258,969||2.6%|
One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWBI), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR)
Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:
- 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
- 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)
*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)
The Geography of Gun Manufacturing
Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.
Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:
|State||Licenses (2000)||Licenses (2020)||Population||Licenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)|
These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.
Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.
If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.
Just 20 Stocks Have Driven S&P 500 Returns So Far in 2023
From Apple to NVIDIA, megacap stocks are fueling S&P 500 returns. The majority of these firms are also investing heavily in AI.
Just 20 Stocks Have Driven Most of S&P 500 Returns
Just 20 firms—mainly AI-related stocks—are propping up the S&P 500 and driving it into positive territory, signaling growing risk in the market.
The above graphic from Truman Du shows which stocks are making up the vast majority of S&P 500 returns amid AI market euphoria and broader market headwinds.
Big Tech Stock Rally
Tech and AI stocks have soared as ChatGPT became a household name in 2023.
The below table shows data from last month, highlighting that just a small collection of companies drove most of the action on the U.S. benchmark index.
|Company Rank||Name||Contribution to S&P 500 Return||Average Weight|
|7||Alphabet (Class A Shares)||0.34%||1.72%|
|8||Alphabet (Class C Shares)||0.31%||1.53%|
|10||Advanced Micro Devices||0.16%||0.39%|
|Top 20 Companies||7.05%||29.17%|
*Based on the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF as of April 11, 2023. Source: Vanguard S&P500 ETF, Bloomberg.
Microsoft invested $10 billion into OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. It has also integrated generative AI into its search engine Bing. This large language model is designed specifically to make search capabilities faster, generate text, and perform other automations.
Also of interest is NVIDIA, which is the most valuable chipmaker in America. It sells $10,000 chips called A100s that allow machine learning models to run. These models perform multiple tasks simultaneously to develop neural networks and train AI systems, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Companies that are developing AI-related services, such as chatbots or image generation, may use up to thousands of these chips.
Despite being the world’s most valuable company and a key driver of returns, Apple is an outlier among tech giants with no major projects announced in AI (so far).
Implications of Market Divergence
The problem with the strong gains seen in a few select AI-related stocks is that it clouds wider stock market performance.
Without the AI-led rally, the S&P 500 would be returning -1.4%. as of May 17, 2023.
4. AI is fueling the stock market
A handful of stocks are spearheading the S&P 500's impressive 9% rally this year.
Here’s the kicker: if you excluded AI stocks, the S&P 500 would be down over 1% (according to Societe Generale). pic.twitter.com/SME1mJVpoW
— Rowan Cheung (@rowancheung) May 22, 2023
This form of steep divergence, known as market breadth, often signals higher risk in the market.
When more companies experience positive returns it is less risky than a small handful seeing the majority of the gains. Today market breadth is very narrow, and these companies make up over 29% of the entire index’s market capitalization.
How long AI-related firms mask the broader performance of the S&P 500 remains to be seen. A growing number of market pressures, from higher interest rates to banking uncertainty could add further challenges.
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