For the sake of clarity – and who doesn’t like clarity? – let’s establish some groundwork.
We customarily think of the USA as the gorilla in the room when it comes to selling weapons around the world, from derringers to missiles.
But it ain’t necessarily so. Necessarily…
SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, estimates arms exports in millions of US dollars “at 1990’s prices”.
Here are the top six exporting nations for 2010:
Of course that’s everything from a $4 million Russian T-90A main battle tank to a $20 million US F-16C Fighting Falcon. So, sure, we can pound our chest: “We’re number one!”
It may come as a surprise that SIPRI estimates the USA is also one of the top weapon importers (again, 2010 data in millions):
South Korea $1,131
The US is a major supplier of armaments to governments around the world – and a significant importer as well.
But isn’t that what we would expect, the US being the “land of the free and home of the brave,” the world’s policeman, the world’s only super power? Or is the story is more complex…?
According to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the ATF) Annual Statistical Update for 2012 (reporting 2010 data – keeping the playing field level here), US manufacturers produced 5,459,240 small arms:
Miscellaneous (pistol grip firearms, starter guns, frames and receivers) 67,929
That’s a lot of sidearms but the total was actually down slightly that year – down about 95,000 from 2009.
What was down? Rifles by 400,000.
What was up? Pistols by about the same number.
Surely, with only four per cent of the world population, all those guns are not for domestic consumption. Many of that 5.5 million must be exported… or not.
The ATF says that in 2010 less than five per cent of firearms built in the US were sold abroad:
The US export high was almost twice that in 1993 – 431,204 guns!
On the other hand, the country of cowboys and the Wild West, of Dirty Harry and Rambo, of concealed carry and individual freedom and stand your ground actually imported about 12 times the number of guns it exported in 2010:
Who sells into the USA?
Something is afoot around the sales counters of America’s gun stores and the ATF has come close to identifying just what that is. Get ready for more numbers…
The top six export countries selling into the USA:
Brazil – handguns 359,846; rifles 381,097; shotguns 105,676. Total 846,619.
To more effectively tap the US market, Taurus created a subsidiary, Taurus International Manufacturing Inc, or Taurus USA, in 1984.
Austria – handguns 515,396; rifles 7,191; shotguns 51. Total 522.638.
Glock commands 65 per cent of the market share of handguns for US law enforcement agencies and supplies numerous national armed forces and security agencies worldwide.
Germany – handguns 265,092; rifles 46,288; shotguns 2,148. Total 313,528.
A host of manufacturers sell on name and the reputation for German craftsmanship: Anschütz, Heckler & Koch, Krupp, Mauser, Sig Sauer, Walther and Krieghoff.
Italy – handguns 104,911; rifles 12,222; shotguns 137,768. Total 254,901.
A lot of Davide Pedersoli handguns, rifles (including muzzleloaders) and a few of the shotguns (including Rossi) arrive in the USA destined for cowboy action and re-enactor games but many of the shotguns are superior and expensive shooters from Perazzi, Fausti, Franchi and Caesar Guerini.
Russia – handguns 16,900, rifles 148,556, shotguns 50,837: Total 216,293.
Not too many years ago the USA and Russia fought terrible battles through puppet states in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. The fact that Kalashnikov’s AK-47 would eventually become a popular truck gun in the US (cheap and rugged) or that factories in Tula, Russia, would accept capitalist partnership with ‘the West’ was unthinkable… a generation ago.
Croatia – handguns 211,001; rifles 0; shotguns 0. Total 211,001.
HS Produkt is a Croatian firearm manufacturer best known for the design and production of the HS2000 and XDm, a semi-automatic pistol sold in the US market as the Springfield Armory XD.
America’s biggest exporters
It would seem that value attaches to the “Made in the USA” stamp on a firearm and perhaps it still does but, in the middle of a worldwide economic recession, these companies have been able to hold on to foreign market share… or they did in 2010. Nevertheless, get ready for some surprises!
Top pistol exporters
Smith & Wesson 19,602
Beretta USA 12,859
Sturm, Ruger & Co 11,703
Sig Sauer 9,921
Top revolver exporters
Smith & Wesson 17,071
Sturm, Ruger & Co 5,690
Top rifle exporters
Sturm, Ruger & Co 25,823
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 13,141
Thompson Center 6,503
Legacy Sports 4,045
Top shotgun exporters
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 35,138
Braztech (Rossi) Int’l 4,464
Miscellaneous firearm exporters
Maverick (Mossberg) Arms 12,646