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3 Gun Trends to Look for in 2021

Smith and Wesson Pistol with Red Dot Gun Trends

With the uncertainty of the election coupled with the violent rioting in many major metropolitan areas, new gun owners were minted at a record pace the past year.

Estimates were, that from March to September 2020, roughly five million people purchased their first gun.

No one expects that trend to stop in 2021. Here are other potential gun trends you can expect in the coming year.

Trend #1: More people will buy obscure or niche firearms.

Retail gun stores will continue to have a limited selection, backorders and waits for the most-popular pistols, as well as entry-level shotguns and AR’s.

The run on ammunition has been coupled with a run on the most-popular gun platforms.

A portion of that comes from new gun owners as they figure out the need for a utility home-defense gun, a convenient carry gun, a shotgun and perhaps an AR-15.

Combine that with existing gun owners who are short in one or two of those categories and you have demand that far outstrips supply, in those categories.

This is somewhat softened by brands like GLOCK and Smith and Wesson’s capacity, but even that has been consumed.

The larger brands like these do have some flexibility in what they produce, so with the GLOCK example, they can switch the line that makes G34 or G17L’s over to making G19 or G43’s.

However, that does have limits.

Those who have their basic defensive gun needs secured, have begun a trend towards more esoteric items.

This will continue as many people are taking advantage of price dips in obscure, niche or fun guns.

There is a section of the market who is taking advantage of all the attention (read as demand) for defensive firearms, to pick up that 6.5 Arisaka with a strong Chrysanthemum, a fully-engraved Smith and Wesson Model 27, or their “holy grail” gun such as a fully-functional MG42.

Many of these buyers are not able to buy their choices as new. They stopped making the MG42 a few decades ago, so those purchases fly a bit under the radar.

Woman Looking at AR-15 in gun store

Trend #2: Optics will be one of the most popular accessories.

As the market ages, we are buying way more optics. This is most commonly seen in the explosive growth in red dots on carry pistols.

In previous years, most choices were designed around full-sized and duty-sized platforms. This trend continues, but many of the smaller carry guns are also getting optic options.

An example would be the RMSc cut on the Sig P365, which is easily filled with a Swampfox Optics Sentinel.

I already run a Holosun on my M&P carry gun and have for about 18 months. Not exactly an early adopter, but certainly ahead of many.

It also means that now, I am very comfortable with having a dot sight on my carry gun.

That means more of them will be appearing, as my cheater glasses are not exactly handy and you don’t get a timeout in a self-defense situation.

The manufacturers will continue to bring out new designs based on niche markets. This has been a trend for the last few years.

Many of the more savvy brands have seen the excitement and media exposure this brings from the hardcore niche fanboys and how it tends to spill over to their other product lines.

The Boberg bullpup would be a great example of this. The surge in popularity of optics is one of the gun trends that is probably here to stay.

SIG P365 XL with Red Dot Sight

Trend #3: Customization will be king.

The last of the gun trends that I am going to discuss is customization. This is something that I thought was mostly the arena of the experienced gun owner.

I was wrong. There are lots of people who have grown up personalizing many things they own. Their firearms are no different.

For some people, this simply means adding a Gunskin or a Cerakote job to make their GLOCK 19 look different.

Other people are doing what I did recently with a Remington 700.

My goal was to buy and build an action. It turned out that purchasing the rifle strictly to obtain the action was cheaper.

By the time the rifle was complete, it had a new heavier-contour Shilen barrel, a precision-machined recoil lug, Magpul stock and bottom metal, a Geissele trigger and a 20 MOA optic mount.

It is heavier, but has more capacity, much greater precision and does not overheat the barrel after four shots.

It is also, very obviously, no longer a factory rifle. My girlfriend really likes that aspect. Once we get the Cerakote done, it will be even more definitively HERS.

She also likes the fact that it shoots much better. The rifle went from a 2 MOA shooter at 100 yards (opening up to 4 MOA at 300 yards), to a sub ½ MOA at 100 yards and still well below 3/4 MOA at 300 yards.

Where we hunt, there are definitely 300-yard shots, and the factory rifle was not capable of making them. With the current setup, the shooter is the limiting factor.

Man with Remington 700 Rifle

Conclusion: 2021 Gun Trends

In my opinion, these segments of the market will see large growth in 2021. Many of the newer gun owners are not happy with basic guns that have no personal touches.

A growing segment of mature gun owners are looking for better performance, more than they are looking for “another” basic gun.

Combining this with the lack of supply in the new gun market, will drive many to spend their gun budget on upgrades.

Some of these will be DIY, while others will be sending the firearm to a custom shop.

What gun trends do you predict for the upcoming year? Let us know in the comments section below.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (12)

  1. I am so glad that I have steadily bought ammo on line for the past 5 years from web sites at reasonable prices. I have 1500 rounds in every caliber of gun I own except .22LR, where I have around 5000 rounds. So glad! Next up: a humongous federal tax on ammo.

  2. One trend I expect, but don’t want to see: current(!) and former anti-gunners who become first-time buyers. A relative few may add to urban terrorism, shooting at anything and anyone they don’t like. Far more will just want to protect themselves in the current climate where crime and terrorism are rampant in cities, but they won’t learn how to handle firearms safely. If all they know comes from TV and movies, they will be dangerous to themselves as ell as others — and may lose their guns (and lives) to anyone who knows just a little bit more.

    A trend I endorse: more ranges and qualified trainers.

  3. As a answer to your question about trends. I see an increase in interest for reloading. I’m already seeing shortages in components, caused by profiteering lamented by a previous responder. Also, turning to older action platforms with obscure calibers as also previously stated.

  4. A significant player in the gun and ammo new buyer craze — and new buyers are signing up in droves for both concealed carry and tactical home defense training — yes, training — is a phenomena long time gun owners and NRA members warned about for years. The irrational creep of Leftism and it’s ultimate undoing of societal stability and institutions. The perfect storm of the Leftist’s lurch forward toward policies, groups, governance and judicial conditions they pine for as a status quo, just a year ago, would have been thought itself irrational and paranoid.

    That perfect storm, made possible by COVID and George Floyd’s death on May 25th, which was more of a pretext for Leftist supported groups such Antifa and BLM than a precipitating event — any other similar happening would have served as the false casus belli — provided the opportunity for the Leftist movement to “out” themselves.

    Would any average working American have thought that mayors and city councils would possess both the authority and will to command entire police forces to stand-down and let criminals run amok, burning tens of thousands of law abiding businesses, stealing free will, and in some cases, committing murder sans consequence?

    Who could have imagined police forces would so easily comply, so too Governors and Legislatures? A year ago, if someone told you there would be a legitimate movement to actually do away with police forces by defunding them would you have believed?

    Would you have believed Leftist groups would have the power and where-with-all to confiscate entire sections of major cities? A year ago we may have conceived of a duplicate Ruby Ridge or Branch Davidian Compound event, but those markers of recent history look like child’s play in comparison to the last year.

    Governors, Mayors, City Councils have wielded unprecedented extra Constitutional power under the auspice of the National Emergency Act, and in so doing, have proven their willingness, but more, their ability to do so with scant pushback from alternate balance of Constitutional power entities whom we all assumed would provide a bullwork against such Constitutional overreach. What a spectacular wake up call for the American citizen.

    Who then remains? The average working American, the heretofore anti-gun or merely gun ambivalent citizen is witness to this perfect storm in real time, and through it all can only conclude that, “It is only I that remain.”

    Whereas in prior days the gun-afraid Liberal citizen secretly hoped that some person in and around their proximity might be concealed carrying a firearm in the unlikely event of a nut illegal gun toting shooter running mad. They secretly hoped at least someone might take on that responsibility, lest they ultimately be the subject victim of a post tragedy investigation but nothing more.

    Now many who were that citizen have come to realize that it must be their responsibility. That perhaps it should be they who assume the grave responsibility and other hapless victims look to them, rather than the other way around. Finally, common sense, logic and the circumstance of today’s Leftist peril have come full circle. The incrementalism and gradualism Leftist chickens have come home to roost.

    This will not be a fad. The firearm trends you describe have less to do with Gucci-ing out one’s gun, or a popular awakening to the pleasures of recreational shooting, and more to do with an ongoing political movement and an awakening citizenry that finally trusts their lying eyes more than the bovine excrement they have been sold.

  5. I know I’m definitely eyeing a pistol with an optic now when it seemed like a novelty before. The prices for optic-equipped guns are ever more reasonable these days. I’m most impressed with Springfield as they seem to have made a real specialty of it; I’m really keen on a Hellcat or an XD-S with a Crimson Trace optic.


    Bad attitude, man.

    I’m just glad that so many people are beginning to see the light and become 2A believers. Every good person should be armed to protect themselves and their loved ones.

  7. To ELADS2

    Sorry, but I think you completely missed what ETPH was saying. He never said he was hoarding, he simply said the 4-5 years ago he began buying ammo. I do the same thing. for years I have ordered in bulk when I fond something available that I need so I don’t find myself running out or having to indulge in binge buying. I do the same with things like canned food and emergency supplies.

    Take a chill pill and stop sending out the hate.

  8. After 60 years of handloading I have my own little stockpile of ammunition as well as ample components (primers powder etc.) to handload for several years to come. Also rimfire ammo aplenty. I can either cast my own bullets or swage what I need in FMJ Powder coating in another option. So for the moment I am set!

  9. I expect greater sales of bullet reloading presses to offset the lack of ammunition in the market.

    Due to increased sanctioned civil violence, expect a significant number of new CHL applications & increased sales of holster and car carry kits in 2021.

  10. REIVER

    I hear ya. I stocked up about 4-5 years ago and some thought I was silly. One family became worried because they thought the worst. This was during the time when media sold us the lie about mass shootings, in which the FBI colluded. A few of the calibers I have aren’t very popular (5.45, .32 WS and .40), but they’re also not very easy to find, especially the .32 WS. Interestingly, it was my fixation and love of my pristine 1908 Winchester 1894 that was gifted to me, which began my desire to stock up on the ammo for it and for my other guns.

  11. More than a response to the article, I have to respond to the prior comment.
    The Pro gun 2A community is turning on it’s own, much to the delight of the anti’s.
    I have seen gun prices going up as demand sky rockets, and ammunition is in short supply, but we should welcome new gun owners. If you’re buying ammunition to stockpile in hopes of making a profit then you are part of the problem.
    After Sandy hook many people did just that. I saw it at gun shows a few years later.
    I hope you choke on your stockpile.
    I work for a medium sized ammunition/bullet manufacturer and we can’t get primers and our company buys them buy the 100’s of thousands at a time.
    Lonoke going under hurt everybody.
    Don’t be a tool!
    As to current gun trends, it seems that women are the increasingly new gun buyers, and they are looking for simple and concealable and affordable.
    Give them a chance to learn how to shoot without breaking the bank.
    Prove that our side does indeed hold the moral high ground.

  12. i will enjoy the discomfort of these current new buyers paying the exhorbitant prices now and in a cpl. of years trying to get what they paid for them when the prices tank. enjoy all the foolss that pay the extremely high prices for ammo when the prices drop to a quarter of what it is now.
    Although if under the commies if it goes even higher the fact that i stock up when the prices were lower and i can sell my stash off for even higher $$$s.

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