FBI: NICS Checks For December 2015 Hit New Record (3.3M!)


If these numbers are anything to go by, then gun owners across America had a very merry Christmas this past year. The last month of 2015 not only broke the FBI NICS all-time record, it shattered it, with over 3.3 MILLION NICS checks in December. That’s over half a million more NICS checks than the previous monthly record, December of 2012, and it thoroughly stamps out the idea promoted in some media outlets that the gun industry is “waning”.


December’s total: 3,314,594 NICS checks.

In the summer of 2014, gun sales and their associated NICS checks waned in the aftermath of the biggest consumer rush on guns in history. However, there was no question that sales would stay well above pre-2007 levels, as part of what the NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti dubbed “the new normal”. Black Friday of 2015 hammered this point home, breaking the record for most NICS checks in a single day.

As the FBI disclaimer at the bottom of the chart says, NICS checks are not a direct measure of how many guns were sold on a given day or month. Multiple guns can be sold on a single NICS check, and the tally shown in the chart above counts the number of checks initiated, counting checks that may have been rejected or delayed. NICS checks are, however, a reasonable gauge for consumer interest. NICS checks are performed by licensed gun dealers at the request of patrons, so each NICS check is indicative of at least a possible, if not definite, sale of at least one firearm.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Fantastic. Here’s to 3.3 million more!

  • Mister Thomas

    What. All of these so called “background checks” that 0bama and the democrats are promising to me that _aren’t_ happening??????

  • KestrelBike

    Would have been interesting to see the breakdown across type of weapon (pistol/rifle/shotgun)

    • Sir TuberKopf

      We also don’t know if the buyer is buying one or three.

  • Edeco

    Woot for the new normal!

  • Robert Powell

    In most states a concealed weapons permit allows the buyer to avoid needing a background when purchasing a firearm. I may be wrong but when I see a stat like this I think that double the amount of guns were sold. So to me, 3.3 million checks means 6.6 million new guns are in the publics hands. This is great news!

    • Doubleoevan

      I might be wrong, but don’t most purchases even with a concealed permit require the NCIS check? At least in Washington State, I thought they still did an NCIS check, but it was usually instant and there was no waiting period. Without a permit, there is a 5 day waiting period. Clearly, I’m not certain one way or another.

      • USMC03Vet

        No. Also in states like Michigan which require purchase permits from law enforcement for private party handguns sales if the buyer has a CPL they don’t need to get one at all.

        Private long gun sales you can sell without any law enforcement involvement at all too.

      • Robert Powell

        Some states require them no matter what and a few require a check for handgun purchases only but I believe the majority require no additional check as the permit is sufficient.

    • Aaron E

      If you are purchasing a firearm from an FFL there WILL be a NICS check, it is required by law before any purchase from an FFL. If, on the other hand, you purchase from an individual then no check is required.

      • Robert Powell

        Here in South Carolina you do not need a nics if you have a concealed weapons permit. That was the same in Utah and Texas, two other states I’ve lived in. That includes purchasing from an FFL.

        • Guest

          Same here in KY.

      • 1911a145acp

        Not quite. In MANY states that issue Concealed Carry Permits, the holder of the permit is pre-approved, and no NICS call-in or on-line background check is required or performed. In some states a waiting period, and a NICS check is STILL required even if the purchaser has a valid CCW license. I do not believe the NICS totals include PAWN redemptions as they are specifically ID’d separately in the NICS process. The totals CANNOT reflect the number of pre-approved transfers in which new and used guns are sold to CCW holders because NICS is NOT contacted. In my estimation the TOTAL number of of “Retail” over the counter gun transfers, including PAWN redemptions, new sales, used gun sales, trades, Internet sales / transfers, transfers of “receivers” and “frames” which are NOT identified as “long gun” or “handgun” in the NICS process and NFA transfers could easily total half AGAIN as many total transfers. For 2015 that could be close to 25 MILLION. So why do we spend MILLIONS of dollars and man hours constantly checking law abiding citizens, with no criminal history who avail themselves to background checks and rarely investigate punish or the tiny fraction of people the system DOES identify?

  • Southpaw89

    I can’t help but wonder how many of these are new buyers and how many are adding to an existing collection, more sales is always good for the industry, but new customers are better for gun owners and the industry.

  • Cleophus

    “NICS checks are performed by licensed gun dealers at the ‘request’ of patrons”????
    I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I’ve NEVER “requested” a NICS check. I have been forced to comply with a stupid and nonsensical federal mandate, which I am then forced to pay for, but “request?” Nope, never.

    • Twilight sparkle

      You don’t pay for a NICS check when you have one

    • You request it when you ask to buy the firearm.

  • hydepark

    Awesome! TFB finally realizes that guns AND politics are inseparable. Took long enough. Might wanna change that logo now.

    • Aaron

      I wouldn’t say inseparable, many articles do not refer to politics in any way.

    • In what way are NICS checks political?

      • hydepark

        In what way are firearms (our 2nd) political?

  • HenryV

    Here in the UK the MSM have been giving a lot of coverage to Obama and gun shows. Both the BBC and SKY News have actually visited gun shows in California. Typical hit pieces.

    The AKs susposedly used in the San Bernardino attack were they Californian legal? Does anybody know? I saw pictures but couldn’t tell.

    • Eric

      They were ARs, not AKs. I know the media goofed reporting that here too. And yes, they were illegally modified and acquired via a straw purchase. Shady to say the very least.
      Interesting that they’re visiting gun shows in California when the guns used were bought by a third party at an actual gun store.
      Then again, after living in Britain recently, I don’t recall the media being particularly knowledgeable on either guns or America. That’s MSM for ya!

      • HenryV

        So Cali’ legal AR but modified? Interesting………

        Thanks Eric. .

    • Reef Blastbody

      Their heads would literally explode if they visited a gun show in Free America, say Texas or Arizona. CA “gun shows” are a pale, watery shadow of what we here in the land of freedom enjoy.

      Also, you can configure an AR or AK pattern rifle to legally use detachable magazines, i.e. no bullet button needed, just as long as there is not a pistol grip or a collapsible stock on the rifle. A “shark fin” grip wrap attached to a standard pistol grip, which prevents a pistol style grip, complies with the letter of the law.

      Idiotic in the extreme, both the law and CA politics in general.

      • HenryV

        Actually I think some of those non-pistol grip ARs look a bit cool, a bit sci-fi. 🙂

        Well hopefully when Donald builds his wall he makes a right turn where he reaches the California border with Arizona………..

    • Sgt. Stedenko

      They were ARs, not AKs, and no, they weren’t CA compliant having a flash hider, pistol grip, adjustable stock and no bullet buttons.
      Something about that story stinks.

      • HenryV

        Oh yes indeedy it stinks to high heaven.

  • Some Dude

    I am happy to have contributed to the 3.3 million. I could not resist adding to my already sizable arsenal of freedom.

  • Anomanom

    Looks like that number is gonna kick up some more with the new executive order requiring checks from individual sellers.

  • Reef Blastbody

    I did my part this year, as my nigh-overflowing safe will bear mute witness to.

    Here’s to another year of the same. I see an MDR in the not too distant future. 😀

  • Sgt. Stedenko

    I did my part.