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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

What Type of Guns are First-Time Owners Buying?

The amount of first-time gun owners is skyrocketing during this unprecedented time of the pandemic combined with civil unrest and increased crime.

Infographic on first-time gun buyers during the first half of 2020, including 40 percent female first time buyer, guns for self-defense
Breakdown of first-time gun buyers

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reports more than 6.5 million NSSF-adjusted background checks in the first four months of 2020, up 48 percent from 4.4 million during the same period in 2019.

The NSSF says these figures include a historic high number of first-time buyers.

There have been more than 6.5 million background checks done in the first four months of 2020 which is an increase of 48% from the 4.4 million background checks during the same period in 2019.

During this time there is an estimated 40% of these buyers that are first time gun buyers. This is a record high number of first time gun buyers and an increase of 67% over the annual average of 24% first time buyers that have been reported in the past.

More than 40% of new first-time buyers were women.

Most Popular Firearms for First Time Buyers

Here are the most popular firearms bought during the first half of 2020, in descending order:

  1. Semi-automatic handguns;

  2. Shotguns;

  3. Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR);

  4. Revolvers;

  5. Traditional rifles.

The popular semi-automatic handgun dominated the purchases by a 2 to 1 margin over the second most purchased firearm which were shotguns.

Shotguns were closely followed by Modern Sporting Rifles. Trailing these top three were revolvers and traditional rifles.

The overwhelming intended use of these firearms were given and personal protection and self-defense:

Semi-automatic handguns

  • 80.3% for personal protection

  • 14.4% for target shooting

  • 5.3% for hunting


  • 74.2% for personal protection

  • 9.5% for target shooting

  • 16.3% for hunting

Modern Sporting Rifles

  • 67.2% for personal protection

  • 24.3% for target shooting

  • 8.5% for hunting

The lone exception to this trend is the traditional rifle category which was mainly sold with the intention of the owner for hunting and target shooting. It is interesting to note that even in this category, more than 30% of buyers intended it to be for personal protection.

Traditional Rifle

  • 30.3% for personal protection

  • 23.6% for target shooting

  • 46.1% for hunting

NSSF does not show a similar breakout for revolvers purchased, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to extrapolate that these handguns would mirror the same intended uses of semi-automatic handgun purchasers.

We've shown in another infographic that concealed carry permit holders are generally more responsible than even law-enforcement when it comes to firearms safety. The same report shows that almost one quarter of first time gun buyers had already taken some form of firearms safety training course before buying their new firearm . An additional 62.9% a first time buyers asked for information about taking a firearm safety training course when purchasing their firearm. Both of these statistics seem to speak well towards responsible citizens and firearms ownership.

Bottom line, it appears that nervous citizens concerned about their self-defense believe that firearms are one of the best tools to have for their personal protection during these uncertain times.

Related: Follow-up: Couple Chooses Handguns

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