Gun and ammunition sales are booming as firearm background checks surge, and the CEO of Vista Outdoor says millennials and women are leading the charge

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  • Gun and ammunition sales are skyrocketing as the US begins to reopen and pandemic restrictions ease.
  • In March, the FBI received more firearm background checks than any other month on record.
  • Vista Outdoor’s CEO said younger generations are helping drive a spike in ammunition sales.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gun and ammunition sales are surging as the country begins to reopen from the pandemic.

In 2020, the FBI processed a record 39.7 million firearm background checks – the most of any year since the agency started recording the data. This year, data indicates there could be another record set, with firearm background checks up over 30% from this time last year.

Vista Outdoor, a company that manufactures ammunition and outdoor sports and recreation equipment, told Fox Business that it has seen heightened interest in firearms and ammunition in recent months.

While the pandemic drove people outdoors, and even as restrictions on indoor gatherings are easing, people continue to express interest in outdoor activities like hunting. In March, the FBI received about 4.7 million firearm background checks – more than ever recorded in a single month.

New demographics have begun to express interest in firearms, Vista Outdoor CEO, Chris Metz, said. Vista Outdoor added 8 million new people to its hunting and shooting categories in 2021 – most of which have been younger generations, as well as women and people of color.

Meltz attributes the interest to a shift toward outdoor activities, especially hunting, in the wake of the pandemic.

“We haven’t seen these trends before. More millennials, more younger-generation people, more people of color, women are embracing hunter and field to table movements, filling their freezers with fresh meat, embracing safety and self-resiliency,” Metz told Fox Business. “It has created this structural shift in who is entering the market and using the product, which is really exciting for us.”

Earlier this month, Vista Outdoor reported that sales increased 40 percent in the company’s fourth quarter ending March 31 compared to the same quarter last year.

Overall, the pandemic seems to have given new life to recreational hunting. The Washington Post reported earlier in the year that states known for wildlife hunting, including Michigan and Nevada, saw a 67% and 30% hike, respectively, in registrations for new hunting licenses in 2020 as compared to 2019. Of the new hunters, women and younger generations make up the fastest growing groups, the publication reported.

Hunting licenses and rifles are not the only types of firearms seeing an uptick in interest. In the past four months, nearly 16 million people have initiated firearm background checks.

Firearm background checks are not required to receive a hunting license, but they are required for any gun purchase. The background checks are not a direct representation of the number of guns sold. The data includes checks related to concealed carry permits and suppressor sales, in addition to gun sales. However, they are considered a key indicator of sales in the US, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

In January alone, the number of people looking to become first time gun owners more than doubled from the previous January, according to the FBI data.

Historically, gun sales rise during presidential election years because of fears related to possible new gun regulations. Gun sales skyrocketed after President Obama’s election in 2008.

Experts told Insider’s Kate Taylor that the rise in gun sales in 2020 was driven by three major events: the coronavirus pandemic, protests following the death of George Floyd, and the presidential election.

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