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Research Report

A Guide to the US Small Arms Market, Industry, and Exports, 1998–2004

Tamar Gabelnick
Maria Haug
Lora Lumpe
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2006
Published by: Small Arms Survey
Pages: 127

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. i-vii)
  2. (pp. viii-ix)
  3. (pp. xii-xii)
  4. (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. (pp. 1-7)

    The United States is by far the world’s largest consumer of small arms. It is also a major manufacturer and innovator of both civilian and military firearms, and the world’s largest exporter of small arms (in terms of value, if not quantity). All these facts are well-known to scholars, diplomats, journalists, and activists concerned with the global gun economy, violence prevention, or some other aspect of small arms.

    Among arms-exporting countries the United States is often said to be a model of transparency or openness in the provision of information, especially on small arms exports (see, for example, Haug et...

  7. (pp. 8-16)

    The large population, widespread acceptance of guns for use in hobbies and self-defence, and the limited system of Controls on firearms purchases combine to make the United States an enormous market for small arms consumption. In fact, the US population is the world’s leading market for US and most foreign firearms manufacturers. In 2002 there were believed to be about 640 million firearms worldwide (Small Arms Survey, 2002, p. 63). While there is no precise data available on the quantity of small arms held b y the US public, recent credible estimates place it at between 230 million and 280...

  8. (pp. 17-30)

    The US military, with a force of 2.6 million and a presence in more than 146 countries, is a significant purchaser of small arms, albeit in much smaller quantities than the US public.24 US military spending and associated weapons procurement declined in the 1990s with the end of the cold war, but has increased sharply since 2001 due primarily to prolonged military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. As described below, ammunition is the first to go during combat, but the regular, intensive use of small arms erodes weaponry as well, in particular the M16 assault rifle and M4 carbine ammunition...

  9. (pp. 31-48)

    The late 1990s and early 2000s were difficult for US producers of firearms—especially those seeking sales in the civilian market. As Chapter 2 demonstrated, that market feli sharply in 1995, grew only slightly from 1998 to 1999, stagnated in 2000, and dropped again in 2001 (with the exception of a minor boom after 9/11). This period saw a decline in the number of US firearms producers and factories, although not in the overall number of workers. The impact of declining sales was felt across the top US firearms manufacturing firms, though it hit Colt’s Manufacturing Company and Smith & Wesson...

  10. (pp. 49-56)

    According to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade46 —the international clearing house of customs data—the United States is the largest importer of small arms in the world. As shown in Chapter 4, imports as a percentage of the total firearms available to the US civilian market have risen consistently since the late 1990s (see Figure 1). Many of the major exporters to the United States, such as Beretta, Glock, and SIGARMS, produce highquality guns that are receiving increasing attention from US civilian, police, and military customers. In addition, many of these companies now have production facilities on...

  11. (pp. 57-76)

    In addition to being the world’s leading firearms importer, the United States—including government and private industry—is the largest exporter, in terms of value of guns if not quantity.59 According to US Customs data (which fails to count some US military shipments), the United States exported, on average, about 350,000 firearms per year during the years 1998–2003 (see Table 15).

    Even so, the United States imports significantly more guns than it exports. Gun imports in 2003 totalled USD424 million (see Table 13), while exports were valued at around USD100 million (see Table 17). Moreover, small arms represent only...

  12. (pp. 77-80)

    The following are among the findings on the US small arms economy—production, imports, domestic sales, and exports—that can be gleaned from public information sources:

    The US public is the leading world market for US and most non-US firearms manufacturers.

    The US public holds about 230,000,000–280,000,000 guns—at least one out of every three guns in the world, and nearly one gun per per person in the United States.

    The US military holds approximately 3,600,000 small arms—1.38 guns per uniformed serviceperson.

    US law enforcement officials hold approximately 900,000 small arms.

    On average about 5,300,000 new firearms were...

  13. (pp. 100-105)
  14. (pp. 106-111)