NICS Checks Increase for February 2017

While stock prices drop, large firearm companies file for bankruptcy protection and analysts predict a softening of the entire firearms industry, the FBI’s NICS Firearms Checks statistics show a marked increase in February 2017 over January.

The NICS section of the website publishes monthly totals and running totals of firearm background checks. While these totals do not perfectly reflect the number of firearms sold, they are a very solid indicator of firearm sales volume and make for a handy comparison.

Not every state requires a NICS Firearms Background Check for every firearm purchased from a dealer, and some do not require checks for private sales between two non-FFL holders. Some states have their own qualifying background check systems and many states have some sort of firearm permitting system that replaces the need for FFL dealers to conduct NICS Firearms Background Checks for a gun transaction. In most states if you purchase or transfer more than one firearm at a time the FFL dealer need only perform one background check for that purchase or transfer. If, heaven forbid, you pawn a firearm the pawnbroker must perform a NICS check when you get your gun out of hock. If you purchased a used gun from an FFL dealer a NICS check will be performed. That was a really long-winded way to say that the number of background checks performed by the federal government do not accurately reflect the actual number of new guns making their way to the general public.

Experts do agree that the number of NICS Firearms Background Check reportedly performed is a very good indicator of the health of new firearms sales, and it makes for a handy comparison tool to see the growth and shrinkage of the gun market.

February NICS checks hitting over 2.2 Million last month represents almost a 10% increase over January 2017. That number for February is only slightly lower than the number of checks performed in October 2016, a record for that month. Some I have spoken to attribute the increase in sales to the liquidation of inventory acquired before the presidential election. If this is the case we should see a drop in the near future as sales slow. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting.



Scott is a firearms enthusiast and gun hobbyist whose primary interest is the practical application of gun ownership. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he hosts and blogs for The Firearms Podcast, a podcast and blog about gun stuff by gun people. Scott is a 20-year veteran of the USAF and been a member of his base, state and the All Guard marksmanship teams. He can be reached via email at


  • Rick O’Shay

    There’s some fantastic prices starting to pop up, and not just with MSRs and associated gear. I bought a decent bolt action at close to 25% off the usual retail price. I do wish AK stuff would start dropping a bit, but with import restrictions and poor QC in stateside manufactured stuff, that’s the one part of the firearms industry I don’t really see prices coming down on in the near future.

    • PK

      AK prices seem to have come down at least a bit from the latest spike. At a glance, prices are back where they were a few years back before prices on AKs in specific went wild.

  • Risky

    Those numbers would also include used firearms sold by dealers, as well, which probably wouldn’t be used to gauge the current health of the industry. Any educated guesses as to what percent used gun sales might be of total gun sales? I imagine pawn shops would be more and box stores would be less (or none).

    • PK

      Also of course the numbers don’t include home built from kits as long as the receiver is finished at home, builds from scratch, private sales, and so on. There’s a tremendous amount of secondary market activity.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      That’s a great point. Seeing a lot more used inventory in my local store. Handguns mostly of all types. Looking forward to seeing what opportunities come my way on the barely shot market.

  • valorius

    The left is arming up for war with allowed single stack automatics, revolvers and lever action rifles.

    • Russ Kell

      Which they will post pictures/Instagram (is that still a thing?) and never use. Except for AD and mean tweets.

    • John

      …so people are simplifying logistics with weapons that can all accept the same kind of ammunition?

      • valorius

        Or they’re arming up with weapons that their leftists masters allow them to own in their gun hating states.

        • Those revolvers and lever action rifles were fairly effective at getting the western varieties of those states built in the first place, as I recall.

          • valorius

            Sure… 150 years ago.

      • You can always tell when a prepper really means it by the way their handgun and long gun use the same proven-by-many-decades-of-hardscrabble-conditions designs and cartridges. A Henry lever action and Ruger revolver in .357 will most definitely stay in ammo and constant use long enough for civilization to be rebuilt.

  • Critter

    Meh, it’s February, and folks are just getting their tax checks and getting their guns out of hock.

  • Makes perfect sense to me that NICS numbers would be up in this market; so many manufacturers overproduced (and so many suppliers stocked up and so many buyers went out on a limb) in anticipation of The Prophecied Hillpocalypse that the market was flooded like a Key West basement. An overabundance of panic-bought product combined with stockrooms full of shelfwarmers means a huge boost in both the used market– in the form of “my wife says I have to sell this crate full of AR lowers or I might as well take off my ring”– and steep discounts on overstock.

    It seems especially weird anyway that the feds have gone so long allowing states to faff about with their own standards– or “standards”, as the case may be– for background checks; it seems like it would be in DOJ’s best interest to have one national standard, since it would prevent states from using onerous statutes to deny people their Constitutional rights whether those states are to the left of common sense or to the right of common decency.

  • USMC03Vet

    We need more handgun frames in OD green.

    • LGonDISQUS

      Is this a Bersa 9mm?

  • nonobaddog

    This is a really stupid article because it doesn’t say anything that makes sense.
    February NICS checks have been higher than January NICS checks in 18 of the last 19 years. Why does some jackhole think this is news?
    They appear to want to make it sound like there was a big increase in NICS checks but they fail to mention the number is lower than November and December of 2015 and lower than January, February, March, October, November and December of 2016.
    There just isn’t a whole lot of newsworthyness (is that even a word?) in the number.

  • James Young

    Checking Slickguns and Reddit Gundeals all the time shows why gun sales are up. Sub $500 ARs and great handguns that are lower than I’ve ever seen.

  • Louis Bethel

    The author does not take into account that there is seasonality to NICS checks. February is usually a bigger month than January anyway. You have to compare vs last year, not vs the prior month.
    The real answer is that Dec-Feb is the 3rd highest on record!

    The reason you are seeing inventory at shops like ours is that S&W and Ruger over -produced as they expected hIllary to win. So they are promoting heavily and pushing goods into the marketplace.

    As for validity of NICS, in many states, if you have a CCW license, no NICS is needed (you had it completed when you got your license). But it is a good indicator of category health, but also of newer gun owners.