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by John Lindsay-Poland, Stop US Arms to Mexico

Led by pistol exports to Thailand and Mexico, the number of semi-automatic pistol exports globally more than doubled in 2020 to 403,863, growing by 148% compared to 2019. If we only examine the six-month period of July-December after the new rule was in effect compared to the same period in 2019, semi-automatic pistol exports grew by 124%. (The percentage increase for all handgun exports during the same 2019-2020 six-month periods was 76%.)

It should be noted that semi-automatic pistol exports had already been growing dramatically before 2020. The dollar value of these exports averaged $12.8 million in 2005-2007. In 2015 they’d grown to $58 million, in 2017-19 to an average of $97 million, and in 2020 semi-automatic exports were valued at over $161 million.


A majority of the exports of all handguns (including revolvers and other pistols) in 2020 – 54% of revenue – can be attributed to Sig Sauer in New Hampshire. Another $28 million, nearly15% of handgun export revenues, can be attributed to Glock in Georgia, while handguns valued at $12.7 million were exported from Missouri (probably most or all from Smith & Wesson).

The top U.S. handgun importers in 2020, by number of guns, were Thailand (214,212 handguns!), Mexico (55,736), Tunisia (18,732), Brazil (14,058), Saudi Arabia (12,638), Philippines (11,110), Oman (10,006), Afghanistan (7,727), Guatemala (7,710), and Canada (5,182).

Military rifles and shotguns exports, which should fall under the new rule, increased slightly from 166,529 in 2019 as a whole to an unprecedented 175,263 military long guns exported in 2020. Compared to 2018, military rifle and military shotgun exports increased by 72.7% in 2020 as a whole.

As with handguns, Thailand imported far more military rifles and shotguns from the U.S. – 43,887 – than any

 other country. It was followed by India (27,402), Lebanon (17,990), Kuwait (15,201), Tunisia (12,613), Oman (10,000), Ukraine (5,947), Mexico (4,404), Iraq (3,862), and Canada (3,420).

Most other firearms exports remained stable or fell in 2020 compared to 2019. The number of handgun parts exported – also covered by the new rule under Commerce – increased slightly during March-Dec. 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, from a value of just under $16 million to $17.7 million.

Bullet exports actually fell during 2020, by 16.6% compared to 2019 and by 32.9% compared to 2018, perhaps because the industry was struggling to supply the enormous run on the domestic bullet market that came with the pandemic.
Artillery weapon exports (e.g. howitzers, mortars) – which were not transferred from State to Commerce – fell dramatically in 2020, from more than 224,000 in 2019 to less than 37,000 in 2020. Machine-gun exports (also still under State Dept) also decreased in 2020, by 20%, and were less than half the number exported during the peak machine-gun export year of 2014.

Examine the data:

Number of firearms, parts and munitions exported by the U.S. to all countries, 2002-2020, by HS10 codes. Data from U.S. International Trade Commission:
US Exports of Firearms, Parts, Munitions, 2002-2020

Number of firearms, parts and munitions exported monthly by U.S. to selected countries (Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, UAE), 2019-2020, by HS10 codes. Data from U.S. International Trade Commission:
US Exports to Selected Countries, monthly, 2019-2020

Dollar value of firearms, parts and munitions exported from selected U.S. states (CT, NH, VA) to all countries, 2020. Data from U.S. Census Bureau:
US Exports of Firearms, Parts, Munitions from selected states, monthly, 2020

Dollar value of firearms, parts and munitions exported from the United States to all countries, monthly, 2018-2020, with comparisons of second six months of each year. Data from U.S. International Trade Commission:
Dollar value of exports, 2018.2020, monthly

Sources for this data: