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Guns Sales Pre and Post COVID: What the Numbers Are Saying

Handguns, body armor, and ammo. We chart what people are searching and interview retailers for their best sellers during the pandemic and protests.

It’s no mystery that gun sales are up since the start of Covid-19 as people panic buy and hoard all things survival or “tactical”. 

But the data on what people are currently searching for paint an interesting picture. 

Popular Rifle Calibers, Part II
Ammo of all shapes and sizes has been especially bought-out

We looked at what kind of articles our readers are most interested during this time and our findings might explain why some things you are searching for are out-of-stock.

We also interviewed some of the largest firearm retailers in the business to see when things will be back-in-stock, and what they are doing to address firearm shortage issues.

What People Are Searching

Since March, we’ve seen a lot of searches on handguns for self-defense, ammo, body armor, and much more.

How much growth in search of these items? Here’s data we pulled from Google Search Trends:

keyword interest

Google uses a scale from 1-100 to chart “interest over time”.

Terms like “buy ammo” spiked up over 900% from January to March; and terms like “best handgun”, also spiked over 300%.

While interest over terms “body armor” gained a lot of interest in June when riots broke out all through the nation. 

Here at Pew Pew Tactical, we also saw terms like “ar pistol”, “best-concealed carry guns”, “300 Blackout”, “1911 pistol”, “gas mask”, pick up as folks are looking for adequate and effective protection for themselves and their families.

Roy Hill, a PR Specialist from Brownells, one of the world’s largest firearm retailers, said “…we saw immediate demand increase for popular types of ammunition, especially 9mm pistol along with 5.56 and .223 rifle ammo. That demand has remained high, and has expanded to other calibers of ammo along with different types of products – including guns – in the recent weeks.”

Palmetto State Armory also reported a massive surge in first-time gun owners as well as a strong trend toward anything defense or AR-15 related.

Body Amor Sales (Year-To-Date)

Interest for body armor grew tremendously this year with spikes in January, March, and June.

Google trends showed interest in “body armor” increased by over 130% from January to its peak in early June. People are looking at defending themselves, and that includes body armor along with handguns and shotguns. 

We asked Alex Lind, Marketing Manager at AR500 Armor what they’ve been seeing the last few months and he said they’ve seen sales soar “approximately 450% from the same period a year ago.” 

Lind added, “we believe demand will be high until at least the end of the year, but it wouldn’t be surprising if demand increased as we get closer to the election, or if a new round of civil unrest begins.”

keyword interest body armor

What This All Means

With events of COVID coupled with bouts of riots, people are scared and they’re looking to protect themselves.

“This is the first time in my life that I can say people are just scared,” said Bill Murphy, a career law enforcement officer who taught at Gunsite Academy before founding Firearms Training Associates in Corona, California, in 1998.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), there are more than 2.5 million new gun owners in the first half of 2020 in America.

People who didn’t own guns before are now becoming first-time gun owners. People who owned guns are now looking to conceal carry, buy more ammo, and stock up for the winter, so to speak.

Looking at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), there were 3.9 million background checks conducted in June, the highest amount ever since it began operation in 1998.

The Brand Manager from Guns.com, Jennifer Simunek, sees that there is a great demand for self-defense guns.

When asked what was selling, she said “…lots of semi-auto handguns, rifles and pump-action shotguns are flying off the shelves. We think 2020 has a lot of people thinking more about their safety and how they can ensure that”. 

When Will Things Come Back In Stock?

Since nearly everything is sold out right now, but manufacturers are working hard to restock shelves nationwide — it must be coming back eventually.

Jennifer said “We are already starting to see popular firearms and ammo available more often than they were a month ago, but it’s hard to say when things will fully return to ‘normal’. Manufacturers are doing what they can to keep up with demand, but we’re all being impacted by these record-breaking numbers.” 

For most retailers, it’s hard for them to foresee when demand will fall back down.

Guy Walker, Director of Sales at GunPrime.com likened the strain on manufactures to that as during wartime. “The manufacturers are working hard, like full wartime production kind of hard, but there just aren’t enough parts to make guns.”

Walker continued, “We are already seeing new shipments from the manufacturers, but what we’re getting is usually a small fraction of what we have ordered. For example, if we order 700 of one gun to be delivered ASAP we usually end up getting 1-2 in a week dripping in.”

LuckyGunner.com‘s Anthony Welsch, Director of Marketing, echoed the same sentiment. He said “Right now, between the pandemic, civil unrest, and upcoming election season there is a lot to feel anxious about. I’m not sure any of us are qualified to say when those nerves will be eased.”

While the extra sales and work and surely welcome, it must be taking a human tole on their employees also.

“The warehouse guys are working extremely hard right now. They’ve been working a lot of overtime and weekends as order volume has been higher. They’ve done a great job with it thus far and we’re still shipping most orders out the day they get placed on our website” Welsch said.

According to Roy Hill from Brownells “We’ve been shipping orders out as quickly as we can. But the whole industry is running into supply chain issues…For example, if Company X is inside a state with strict COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s hard for Company X to manufacture many products, much less keep up with this very high level of demand. And if Company X also supplies components or parts for Companies A, B, and C, well the challenges just multiply.” 

This kind of chain reaction is likely a major cause of slowdowns and low stock.

Some retailers have also increased their own efforts to help bridge the gap between what the customers want and what the manufactures can deliver.

Terry, the Director of Purchasing and Product Manager for Rainier Arms said that “I am ordering more to keep up with demand. As well as ramping up production on our own products in case manufacturers are unable to deliver.”


As no one is surprised by much of these changes, but we think some of this data is interesting to share as many are looking to see when prices for guns and gear to come back down.

Many of us are tired of everything being out-of-stock and long lines at the gun store so it does feel good knowing that manufacturers are doing something about it.

We also appreciate all of the front-line workers, from the sales persons behind the gun counter to the warehouse pickers working overtime to fill orders.

Light is at the end of the tunnel, for all of us.

Are you a new gun owner? If so, comment below and share with us how your journey to gun ownership has been! 

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16 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Kevin Norcross

    I have been buying ammo since 2007-08 shortage. And have been telling my family to get your conceal carry buy ammo and guns. Since that time. They finally started to listen. Best time to buy ammo was last Christmas it was good deals. I missed out but have a few more guns. It was a trade off. Now buying mags. I don’t know when it will end but I do enjoy the sport. Bought a carrier about two years ago. But there are good deals on those. Keep fighting the good fight.

    December 7, 2020 1:18 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I would really be interested in knowing the number of reported stolen firearms from January 2020 to today July 31 2020, comparing it to the number of "new gun" owners might be interesting.

    July 31, 2020 10:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I’ve just purchased my 1st 2 handguns. The 1st was a S&W 686+ Just prior to lockdowns. The 2nd was a Walther PPQ. I was all over the ammo acquisitions as soon as I read the tea leaves. Unfortunately, the ammo shortage has left me reluctant to hit the range with my 2 new tools, but I’m dry firing to get comfortable with them for self defense. Next up is a lever action or pump shotgun.

    July 21, 2020 3:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joe Nunzio

    I've had to put a lot more effort than normal into searching for the firearms and ammo I want this year. However, I feel it's well worth the investment and commitment to do so. YTD I've purchased 2 AR-15's, 1 rifle, 3 semi auto handguns, 1 revolver, and well over 3,000 rounds of ammo. IMHO my hunt for the best deals available has proven to be well worth the effort. Since I still have some room available in my new gun safe, the hunt goes on.

    July 19, 2020 4:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Narine Khalulyan

      Hi, hows it going? I'm all about getting the best deal for everything I buy. I want to buy my 1st handgun but I don't want to spend an arm and a leg Plus 3 fingers, lol. Only because it's my 1st. I dont know what I like yet. Anyway, I was hoping u could point me on the right direction. Who has the best prices and deals? I'm even open to used guns aswell.
      .if u could help, that would be greatly appreciated!!!!!!!

      Thank u!

      July 22, 2020 9:47 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        check out taurus. they are rather inexpensive. i have a g3 and a g2c and would reccomend either

        August 4, 2020 11:15 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Yep I’m one of those guys. Just recently purchased a LWRCI DI 5.56 rifle a couple weeks ago. Can’t wait to shoot it.

    July 17, 2020 2:10 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I am in new hire orientation at Midway USA and they said order volume is up so much they have already increased their total employees by 50% and they aren't done yet. Sales are double expectations and they no longer anticipate it falling back down.

    July 16, 2020 1:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jason Greaves

    Oh, and for my wife's P320x, she knew exactly what she wanted because she had shot one at our local range, so I was checking the availability every day on 6 or 7 different online retailers for about a month. It finally came back in stock at Palmetto State Armory for a brief window last week, and I was able to nab one.

    July 16, 2020 12:05 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jason Greaves

    I have owned a Springfield XDm Compact for home defense for many years, but when the pandemic started, I stocked up on ammo and bought my first AR-15 (Springfield Saint Victor). I'm glad I bought when I did, because now things are even more scarce. After the civil unrest started, my wife and I both got our concealed carry permits, and she ordered a handgun for herself (Sig P320 xCompact). I am now carrying regularly, when the thought would not have crossed my mind a year ago. I have also started to invest in survival gear.

    Given the history of humanity, I have always known that the veneer of civilization is thin, but the events of the past year have shown just how quickly and unexpectedly things can fall apart. Better to be over-prepared.

    July 16, 2020 11:59 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    First time gun owner. I searched for a defense shotgun in April for all the stated reasons. Very hard to find. The easiest defensive firearm to acquire was a stripped AR-15 lower and build kits.

    July 16, 2020 9:30 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    t gleden

    thanks all you ammo hoarders...now i have to pay 25 bucks for a 50 count box of 9mm..

    July 16, 2020 3:59 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joe Nunzio

      I find it's currently best to buy ammo in bulk. If you look around you can easily find 9mm @ 500 for ~$160 and 1,000 for ~$300.

      July 19, 2020 4:02 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Cool analysis approach. Try using the term "pepper spray". No one cared in March. They cared about pepper spray more than anything on this list during the riots and during the riots more than twice than people who cared about "buy ammo" back in March.

    July 15, 2020 4:35 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      John Franklin

      I have been carrying since the 70's but bought a new S&W Shield 45 with a red dot sight.
      For the person talking about pepper spray try Bear spray.It will stop them DEAD COLD.

      July 19, 2020 7:55 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Bear spray is generally weaker than human-use pepper spray

        August 6, 2020 6:20 am
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