Shotgun Sales on the Rise: More Heading for the Field

There is a shooting range with shotguns. Either you have an old heirloom pump-action shotgun or a small collection of target and hunting shotguns. Compared to the myriad of cartridges for pistols and rifles, the variety of shotguns tends to come in action type and appearance.

2020 and 2021 were strange years for gun sales. The pandemic and political unrest inspired many to look at home protection options. For whatever reason, most turn to a firearm as their first line of defense, even if it’s not the best option under the circumstances. A shotgun is longer and you can’t hide much, but it’s perfect for someone who just wants something around the house. Shotguns are valued for their versatility. If you just want to have one gun, a shotgun will do for hunting, target shooting, and personal protection.

2019 is what researchers call the last normal year for gun sales. Dealer data revealed that in 2019, shotguns accounted for 8.5% of the firearms market. As of September 2022, they represent 9.7%. This growth in shotgun sales is made up primarily of field guns. The data indicates that as the fervor for the pandemic began to wane, more hunters returned to the field.

Field weapons have outperformed home defense/tactical shotguns for the past several years, except for 2021, which saw a 44.2%/55.8% split in favor of home defense. This year, the tides turned again, with field gun sales up 15.4% since 2021.

Although there are several types of action, the pump and semi-auto are the most popular. In 2019, pump-actions were the most popular, holding 3.6% more of the shotgun market than semi-automatic shotguns. Things have changed. As the industry has begun to normalize once again, 2022 figures show that semi-autos now account for 5.4% more of the shotgun market than pump-actions.

Pump-action and semi-auto shotguns can be used effectively for self-defense/tactical and field (target shooting, hunting) purposes. Aggregated dealer data revealed that, across both action types, field guns have been substantially more popular than tactical shotguns with the exception of 2021. The data also shows that while semi-automatic tactical shotguns have seen the biggest change as of 2019 (20.92% in 2022 vs. 14.34% in 2019), pump actions still dominate the tactical shotgun market and semi-automatics dominate the field gun market.

On average, semi-auto shotguns cost about $200 more than a pump-action shotgun. Field guns have also cost more on average than home defense/tactical shotguns since 2019, with the exception of several months in 2020, when both cost dealers around $385 on average. In summary, dealer data indicates that while the popularity of shotguns has increased across the board, retailers (and therefore consumers) are currently purchasing semi-automatic field guns. They are not choosing the cheapest option, which means they are spending more money on their hobbies/sports again. Semi-auto shotguns are also known for having less recoil and are ideal for women or youth.

Ryan Link, GMM/Big Rock Chief Marketing Officer, confirmed the data findings. “Participant growth and consumer demand continue to be strong on semi-auto shotguns coming out of the Covid period,” he said. “The offer in the semiautomatic segment to satisfy this new demand, although it improves, continues to be restricted.” He was also sure to highlight the growing popularity of shotguns. “All shotgun segments continue to perform above historic 2019 levels and point to the increase in the number of entrants in the sport currently turning to this segment for their sporting needs.”

Link also explained the pattern of pump gun sales. “Over the last several years, we have witnessed many manufacturers and models entering the pump market increasing overall inventory levels in the market. There has not been the same level of supply increase in the semi-auto segment, in the context of an increase in entrants, and therefore we have seen more consistent demand in the semi-auto segment.”

SCOPE now offers retail data in addition to dealer data, although currently only 2021 and 2022 data is available in CLX. This is still valuable as it supplements dealer data.

Retail data shows that semi-automatic shotguns continue to outperform pump-action pistols, but the gap has closed by 2022. This year, pump-actions accounted for 37.4% of the shotgun market, up from 33, 3% in 2021. Semi-automatic shotguns made up 48.1% of the 2022 shotgun market, a 7.5% decrease from 2021. When broken down by application, the data reveals that while sales of tactical shotguns have generally declined, sales of semi-automatic tactical shotguns have declined at a faster rate, likely due to price. Currently, SCOPE’s sample of retailers show an increase in field weapons year-over-year, although tactical weapons still account for nearly three-quarters of pump and semi-automatic shotguns sold.

Peter Lehman has been working at Fin Feather Fur, a popular Ohio sporting goods chain, since May 2020. He said the shotguns are very popular, but “for the right purpose. Most shotgun buyers are looking for old-school waterfowl, turkey, and deer hunting. Shotguns are still being purchased for home defense, but pistols and rifles are the popular choices for home defense.” He also said that whether a customer buys a pump shotgun or a semi-automatic shotgun usually depends on the price. “If the buyer has a more conservative budget to make a purchase, a pump shotgun is the usual route they take. If they bring a suitable budget, they usually go for the semi-automatic option,” he said.

Retail sales data confirms the market move from tactical/home defense to field weapons. Although CLX currently only includes data for 2021 and 2022, during this year field weapons have grown by 7.5%. More hunters are heading to the field and may be bringing new hunters with them, as indicated by the growth of semi-automatic field weapons.


The National Sporting Goods Wholesale Association is comprised of national and international wholesalers, manufacturers, independent sales representatives, media and service providers, all primarily focused on shooting sports equipment and accessories. As a trade association representing the business interests of its members, NASGW’s mission is to bring together buyers and sellers of shooting sports. For more information on NASGW, visit the association’s website at