7 Tips for Selling Firearm Products Internationally – Follow The Money

By June 20, 2019 April 1st, 2021 Firearm Export Sales
international firearms sales

Tip No. 1: Follow the Money

If you want to boost your company’s revenues from export sales, we have 7 tips for selling firearms, parts, scopes and other accessories to customers outside the United States.

Our first tip is: “follow the money.” In other words, identify the markets in which your products will sell best and focus your sales and marketing resources there.

1. Consider Starting with Canada

Most everyone in the industry who ventures outside U.S. borders goes to Canada first. There are lots of good reasons for that (we’ll cover a few others in future posts) but foremost is the fact that Canada is where you are likely to find the most sales opportunities.

How likely, you ask? Here’s a good gauge:

Table 1 – U.S. Exports of Firearm Products to Canada

 

2017

2016

2015

Sporting rifles

$47,080,166

$41,221,550

$48,589,252

Handguns

$22,562,709

$15,769,845

$20,264,606

Sporting shotguns

$13,653,938

$14,753,850

$17,768,434

Riflescopes
(sold separately from guns)

$18,798,423

$16,637,599

$18,539,475

Parts and accessories
(includes frames and receivers)

$31,298,888

$28,366,285

$9,935,565

ANNUAL TOTAL

$133,394,124

$116,749,129

$135,097,332

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Table 1 says that Canada is a big market for all types of U.S. firearm products. In fact, Canada is the number one international market for U.S. exporters in the firearms industry. That’s great, but it’s also not a secret, so there is competition, which is not so great.

That said, there are plenty of U.S. companies that export to Canada and nowhere else. It’s the best place to start if you’re new to exporting.

After Canada . . . . Where Next ?

Why stop at Canada once you have dipped your toe into the export waters? To maximize your company’s international sales potential, consider looking beyond Canada to other countries where opportunities exist and where it may be a little easier to stand out from the pack.

Which countries?

The best source for free data regarding which firearm products sell best in which countries is the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau receives data from exporters when products are shipped. Compilations of annual sales information for each “Schedule B number” are publicly available and easy to find on the Census Bureau website. NSSF also publishes compilations that are available to NSSF members.

We’ll save you some trouble and give you stats right here on the top 10 foreign markets, after Canada, for U.S. firearm products, based on available Census Bureau data. Countries have been color-coded to help you spot year-to-year trends.

Even with color-coding, the raw statistics can be difficult to digest, so here are some overall observations:

  • The leading markets vary by type of product: sporting rifle, handgun, shotgun, riflescopes, parts and accessories. In other words, the best markets for one product category may not be the best for others.
  • Census Bureau statistics distinguish between military and sporting rifles but the military/sporting distinction does not carry over to handguns, riflescopes or parts and accessories. The significance of this is that governmental purchases are uneven from one year to the next, creating anomalies (see, e.g., sales of riflescopes to Pakistan in 2015 and to Jordan in 2016 in Table 5 below).
  • Wide swings in exports to a particular country from one year to the next are common.
  • There are limited export opportunities for U.S. shotguns.
  • Over the last 30 years, the export market for firearm products has been cyclical, but the most recent 15 years have been marked by steady overall growth, as illustrated in Table 7, which is derived from annual AFMER reports filed with ATF by U.S. manufacturers. If new export regulations for firearm products take effect as planned, it would be reasonable to expect the positive trend to continue.

These aren’t the only foreign markets to consider, of course, but they are the biggest ones for U.S. firearm products. If you sell into Canada today and see countries on these tables where you don’t already have a presence, they probably are the places to go next.

Top 10 Non-Canadian Markets for Firearms, Scopes, Parts and Accessories

Table 2 – Top 10 Foreign Destination Countries (after Canada) for U.S. Sporting Rifles

2017

2016

2015

Australia

$9,151,266

Australia

$8,625,292

Australia

$11,450,773

France

$6,847,089

Germany

$6,028,620

France

$3,474,098

Germany

$6,007,858

France

$5,376,993

Ukraine

$3,432,924

New Zealand

$2,986,534

South Africa

$2,244,052

Germany

$3,216,798

Belgium

$2,310,615

Belgium

$1,997,958

New Zealand

$3,140,698

South Africa

$2,235,062

Italy

$1,864,301

South Africa

$2,943,775

Italy

$2,148,405

New Zealand

$1,853,912

United Kingdom

$2,698,981

Ukraine

$2,132,296

Ukraine

$1,714,923

Italy

$1,928,996

United Kingdom

$1,966,761

United Kingdom

$1,459,311

Belgium

$1,642,188

Switzerland

$1,781,617

Switzerland

$1,346,173

Thailand

$1,421,774

ANNUAL TOTAL

$37,567,503

ANNUAL TOTAL

$32,511,535

ANNUAL TOTAL

$35,351,005

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Table 3 – Top 10 Foreign Destination Countries (after Canada) for U.S. Handguns

2017

2016

2015

Thailand

$22,499,262

Peru

$14,548,249

Thailand

$9,979,743

Belgium

$7,774,732

Belgium

$9,672,881

Belgium

$6,912,984

Philippines

$6,130,231

Thailand

$7,178,144

Saudi Arabia

$5,638,252

United Arab Emirates

$5,271,641

Israel

$7,062,529

Israel

$3,684,927

Paraguay

$5,138,721

France

$4,148,712

Mexico

$3,582,862

Indonesia

$4,829,684

Germany

$3,699,242

Germany

$3,373,445

Germany

$4,757,143

United Arab Emirates

$3,072,537

Paraguay

$2,906,607

Israel

$3,883,689

Australia

$2,742,547

Australia

$2,768,219

Switzerland

$3,627,216

Philippines

$2,721,300

Guatemala

$2,112,243

France

$2,921,289

Switzerland

$2,649,014

Philippines

$1,956,718

ANNUAL TOTAL

$66,833,608

ANNUAL TOTAL

$57,495,155

ANNUAL TOTAL

$42,916,000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Table 4 – Top 10 Foreign Destination Countries (after Canada) for U.S. Shotguns

2017

2016

2015

United Kingdom

$410,308

Thailand

$1,270,955

United Kingdom

$3,839,562

Japan

$329,168

United Kingdom

$964,791

Brazil

$1,861,141

Portugal

$286,674

Turkey

$793,868

Turkey

$1,754,564

Brazil

$266,554

Germany

$689,293

Thailand

$1,087,758

Mexico

$244,174

Mexico

$641,055

France

$1,060,861

Thailand

$237,258

Guatemala

$493,830

Italy

$711,959

New Zealand

$233,144

Brazil

$477,064

Argentina

$708,932

Turkey

$222,180

Italy

$432,040

China

$547,309

China

$164,875

France

$423,410

Ukraine

$544,020

France

$138,975

Switzerland

$405,543

Guatemala

$449,785

ANNUAL TOTAL

$2,533,310

ANNUAL TOTAL

$6,591,849

ANNUAL TOTAL

$12,565,891

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Table 5 – Top 10 Foreign Destination Countries (after Canada) for U.S. Telescopic Sights for Rifles

2017

2016

2015

Australia

$13,547,449

New Zealand

$12,448,133

Pakistan

$40,795,410

New Zealand

$7,970,212

Australia

$10,052,078

Australia

$9,769,173

Netherlands

$6,983,246

Germany

$6,600,669

Germany

$5,398,028

Germany

$5,858,887

Jordan

$6,073,736

Sweden

$3,769,523

United Kingdom

$3,941,871

Netherlands

$5,558,483

South Africa

$3,566,724

Israel

$3,457779

United Kingdom

$3,273,297

United Kingdom

$3,415,585

South Africa

$3,036,730

South Africa

$2,841,737

Turkey

$3,159,001

France

$2,207,492

Japan

$2,790,757

Indonesia

$2,850,542

Japan

$1,482,336

France

$2,501,325

Singapore

$2,586,052

Sweden

$1,476,764

Indonesia

$2,030,964

New Zealand

$2,000,381

ANNUAL TOTAL

$49,962,766

ANNUAL TOTAL

$54,171,179

ANNUAL TOTAL

$77,300,419

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Table 6 – Top 10 Destination Countries (after Canada) for U.S. Origin Parts and Accessories

2017

2016

2015

Australia

$13,803,662

Japan

$16,785,263

Japan

$31,592,591

Japan

$8,281,377

Australia

$14,174,907

Australia

$22,932,097

Germany

$7,380,998

United Arab Emirates

$11,570,154

Mexico

$5,034,013

Mexico

$7,323,916

Mexico

$7,913,781

Iraq

$4,682,488

United Kingdom

$7,057,122

Korea, South

$7,371,253

Portugal

$4,395,666

United Arab Emirates

$4,568,407

Germany

$5,526,990

Korea, South

$4,205,341

Italy

$3,197,771

United Kingdom

$3,644,515

Germany

$4,063,261

Portugal

$3,139,300

Netherlands

$3,336,059

Netherlands

$3,329,650

France

$2,963,858

Israel

$3,317,302

United Kingdom

$3,138,539

Israel

$2,690,587

Italy

$2,754,938

Saudi Arabia

$2,572,802

ANNUAL TOTAL

$60,406,998

ANNUAL TOTAL

$76,395,162

ANNUAL TOTAL

$85,946,448

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Table 7 – Year-to-Year Trends in Exports of Firearms (units exported).

Firearm Export Sales

 

Next Steps?

Identifying the best markets, does not, of course, mean your firearm products export business will succeed. That’s why we will have a few more tips for you in future posts.

Tip No. 2: Develop a Proactive Strategy.

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