American Civilians Estimated To Own 400 Million Firearms

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
Gun Store Wall (Photo by Michael Saechang)

In a new study published by the Small Arms Survey estimates that American civilians own owning just under 400 million guns. Worldwide it’s estimated that civilians own nearly 1 billion firearms, with India a very, very distant second to the US.

American Civilians Estimated To Own 400 Million Firearms

The report published by the Swiss-based research centre in June estimates that the number of firearms owned globally by civilians, military and law enforcement totals around 1.1 billion. With American civilians owning 393 million of those or 40% of the world’s firearms. That’s more than those held by civilians in the other top 20 countries combined.

It is difficult to quantify exactly how many firearms are privately owned in the US. There many numbers suggested by numerous sources with estimates ranging between 250 million to as high as 600 million. The Small Arms Survey’s estimations are based upon official firearms registration databases, expert estimates, surveys and comparisons to similar countries on page 8 of their report the Small Arms Survey go into detail on how they computed their estimates.

The report makes use of a number of tables and diagrams to break down the data and perhaps the most interesting is he first pie chart, seen below. It shows how over 1 billion firearms around the world are distributed with civilian ownership, at an estimated 857 million, by far the largest group.

Small Arms Survey global firearms ownership estimates for 2017 (Small Arms Survey)


Here’s Small Arms Survey’s table showing the estimated total civilian-held legal and illicit firearms in the 25 top ranked countries and territories, 2017:

United States 393,300,000
India 71,100,000
China 49,700,000
Pakistan 43,900,000
Russian Federation 17,600,000
Brazil 17,500,000
Mexico 16,800,000
Germany 15,800,000
Yemen 14,900,000
Turkey 13,200,000
France 12,700,000
Canada 12,700,000
Thailand 10,300,000
Italy 8,600,000
Iraq 7,600,000
Nigeria 6,200,000
Venezuela 5,900,000
Iran 5,900,000
Saudi Arabia 5,500,000
South Africa 5,400,000
Colombia 5,000,000
Ukraine 4,400,000
Afghanistan 4,300,000
Egypt 3,900,000
Philippines 3,800,000

Just over 10 years ago, in 2007, the Small Arms Survey published a similar report that estimated that 650 million guns were owned world wide. The report also believed that 270 million of these were owned by US civilians. This clear increase shows that the US civilian market is the foremost driver behind the increase in firearms ownership in the world. The latest report suggests that 120 firearms are owned per 100 people in the US. By this metric the next country to hold a substantial number of guns per 100 people is Yemen, with 53 guns per 100 people. Japan and Indonesia have the lowest number of guns per 100 people, both with an average of just just 0.3 guns per 100 people.

The report’s author, Aaron Karp, said that “with acquisition averaging around 14 million guns annually during the last five years, growth of civilian holdings in the United States contributes disproportionately to the increase of the global firearms stockpile.”

Small Arms Survey have also created a dedicated interactive map that shows the distribution of firearms globally and by civilian, military and law enforcement ownership. Check it out here.

Sources: 1 2

Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at:

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  • Andrew Foss Andrew Foss on Jul 23, 2018

    I don't own any. Not since the tragic boating accident, at least.

    That's the problem with this survey. Were, forex, there talk of revoking the applicable right and/or punishing people for being gay, having had abortions, or similar, the number of people that would answer truthfully would be the same.

  • Dobraya Utka Dobraya Utka on Jul 27, 2018

    I'd prefer a title that says "American Citizens and Immigrants Estimated To Own 400 Million Firearms."

    A civilian is an individual despised by the system, is viewed as helpless and useless, and is always getting in their way.