The Number of Guns in the United States

There are estimated to be 393 million civilian owned firearms in the United States.

The U.S. Military is estimated to have 4.5 million small arms, while U.S. law enforcement firearms are estimated around 1 million.

In the United States civilians are not required to register firearms, with the exception of NFA regulated items (like fully automatic weapons and short-barreled rifles). This means it is not just difficult, but impossible to get exact figures for civilian firearm ownership in the U.S.

"Gun ownership is one of the hardest things for researchers to pin down." - Drew Desilver, Pew Research

United States Civilian Gun Ownership Estimates

In recent years, the most cited source for a civilian gun ownership estimate in the United States is a Small Arms Survey global report. The report used survey data, other data, and "expert estimates" to make their own estimates for the end of 2017.

The report estimates that there are 393,300,000 civilian-held firearms in the United States, including both legal and illicit firearms. The rate of firearms per 100 residents was estimated to be 120.5. In other words, they believe there to be more firearms than people in the United States.

The 393,300,000 figure represents a substantial increase from Small Arms Survey's 2007 report, which estimated at the time there were 270,000,000 civilian owned firearms in the United States.

Civilian Firearms in U.S. vs U.S. Population, 2007 and 2017

Other Estimates

Some sources indicate that Small Arms Survey's estimate could be high. The most noteworthy example is a survey by Harvard and Northeastern which estimated American civilians own 265 million guns in 2015.

A 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service estimated there to be 310 million civilian firearms in the United States in 2009. This estimate seems more in line with Small Arms Survey's findings, considering other indicators on how many firearms were purchased between the publishing of the two reports.

Civilian Gun Ownership in the United States vs the Rest of the World

According to the 2017 Small Arms Survey report:

  • The United States has more guns in civilian's hands than the next 24 countries combined.
  • The U.S. has more than 5.5 times the amount of civilian firearms as the second leader India.
  • United States civilians have 45.89% of all the civilian owned guns in the world (857 million).

Number of Civilian Owned Guns in the Top 25 Countries - United States vs Other Countries

The number of firearms per civilian in the United States is also astounding. The chart below shows the civilian firearms per 100 residents in the top 25 countries (excluding countries with a population below 150,000).

Guns Per 100 Residents In Top 25 Countries - U.S. vs Other Countries

  • The U.S. (120.5 per 100) has a civilian firearm rate more than double the second leader Yemen (52.8 per 100).
  • The U.S. civilian firearm rate is nearly 3.5 times that of Canada (34.7 per 100).
  • The United States is the only country estimated to have more civilian owned guns than people.

Difficulties in Estimating Civilian Gun Ownership in the United States

As mentioned at the onset of this article, Americans are not required to register their firearms. This makes it impossible to know how many legal guns civilians own in the United States, let alone how many illegally owned firearms there are.

Estimates of legal gun ownership rely heavily on survey data, but its commonly suspected that some percentage of civilians under-report and hide their gun ownership.

It's also impossible to know the number of guns that are lost, damaged beyond repair, or otherwise removed from the ownership of civilians.