So yeah, 16 million ARs/AKs were made in the U.S. since 1990
Curious about some actual figures on how many semi-auto (Title I) AR-15 and AK-47 style platforms there were in the country, I contacted the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade organization for the gun industry. This is what they sent me as a production estimate after combing through the ATF’s AMFER data compared to manufacturers:
Yup, just over 16 million ARs and AKs from 1990-2016.
As far as the number in circulation, while some have surely been scrapped, worn out, broken or otherwise retired, guns manufactured or imported before 1989 are not listed in the 16 million figure. Likewise, guns assembled from so-called “80 percent” lowers or kits by home builders are not tracked by the industry. Keep in mind that before 1989 an estimated one million SKS rifles (some of which were M-models with detachable mags) and about half as many Chicom AK clones came in the country. Further, I do not believe the figure includes Mini-14s and Mini-30s, which Ruger have cranked out in seven-figure quantities since the 1970s.
In short, I think the 16 million mark may be a low-ball.
The debate over just how common ARs are has been a matter of legal contention at the federal level for several years. More in my column at Guns.com.