Do more people own longguns vs. handguns? Personal Observation.


January 8, 2013, 11:32 AM
First a quick outline of my background so you'll understand where I am coming from.

I've been shooting for almost thirty-three years. I honestly don't know how many firearms I've owned over the years. A bunch. Bought, sold and traded many of them. Of that I am certain. I should make a list one of these days. The point is I've spent many hours in gun-shops and visiting with other gun-owners.

I am also a police officer in Idaho - where there are many personally owned firearms. Over the past twelve years I've met more than a few folks (on and off duty) who own firearms. I also have many relatives who live in the southeastern U.S. (Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina) who are serious about firearms.

Over the past several years I've noticed that it seems many private collections usually seem to consist of between 3 - 7 firearms. On average. I know that there are those who own less and those who own many many many more. Just bear with me please.

The other thing that I have noticed is that typically the number of rifles and shotguns (on average) outnumber the handguns in many of these privately owned collections.

For what it's worth I've also noticed that long-guns often outnumber handguns at your typical gun-shop. Once again let me stress the words typical and average.

The other thing I've noticed is that many of the private collections might have some pretty nice rifles and shotguns, but often the handgun (and sometimes it might be just one or two handguns vs many long-guns) are utilitarian. A Ruger 22 pistol and/or a mid-size .357 magnum revolver with a 4" or 6" barrel. In the past few years younger gun-owners will typically have a Ruger, Glock, or Taurus 9/40/45 pistol instead of the revolver. And that's it.

More than once I've gotten raised eyebrows and expressions of amazement when I tell other gun-owners that I own five long-guns and twenty-two handguns. I've had a couple folks use words like specialist , connoisseur, snob and interesting.

I've done some research lately on well known gun-owners in the past. It seems that for every Elmer Keith, Jeff Cooper and G. Gordon Liddy (read his book Will) you find guys like Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery and Steve McQueen who evidently owned 3 or 4 rifles and shotguns for every handgun that was in their collections. I understand that not every piece in their collections have been sold off, but what has been sold off tends to be more rifles and shotguns.

So fellow High Roaders my question is this.

Are long-guns owned in greater numbers than handguns? Are there less (hardcore) handgun owners than long-gun owners? Are there more long-guns spread among a larger number of private citizens than hundguns? In other words are more handguns owned by a smaller percentage of the population than long-guns?

I'm inclined to say yes, but I'm basing this on personal observations and my gut.

Please weigh in. I'm honestly curious as to what others think.

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Old Fuff
January 8, 2013, 11:49 AM
I think you are right in that many of those who aren't seriously into guns, but own a few for hunting plus one or two handguns are the most representative of gun owners overall. But on the other hand they are outnumbered by those who own a single handgun and nothing more - and seldom or ever shoot it. In states where handguns a seriously controled the same may be true, but the "single gun" is a rifle or shotgun.

January 8, 2013, 11:51 AM
My ratio of handguns to long guns is 47:30. I love rifles and have a bunch of `em but I am a revolver nut and do more shooting with them than anything else.

January 8, 2013, 11:54 AM
True. I lived in New York state for several years (1996-2000) and it was not as much of a chore to own rifles and shotguns. It took jumping through some hoops to be able to (legally) own a handgun. I forgot about that. Those types of states would definitely effect the ratio.

January 8, 2013, 11:55 AM
people in cities will overwhelmingly own handguns and almost no rifles.
people in less populated areas or areas with access to hunting land will own somewhat more rifles than handguns.

January 8, 2013, 12:07 PM
I own considerably more rifles/shotguns than I do handguns. This also holds true with my friends and associates. I didn't even own a centerfire handgun until I was 27 years old, that's a 17 year spread from the time I had my own shotgun. Personally, I just never really had a "need" for pistols growing up. In my family firearms are used for hunting 1st and besides practice punching paper was a distant 2nd. We didn't have concealed carry back then and with no real interest in handgun hunting pistols just were not a priority.

January 8, 2013, 12:08 PM
I think that serious handgunners do tend to be connoisseurs. Like Craig, I'm really a revolver guy; more of them in my safe than all long guns combined. I make no bones about being called a 'specialist' though, I confess as much readily.

Somewhere in one of our many AWB threads there was a table on gun ownership by type since the 60s. Handguns used to be a rarity, and they've slowly caught up (in terms of gun owners having at least one, that is) over the last 50 years. There is definitely a traditional cultural bias towards long guns in the US. I think your observations about gun ownership are pretty spot on, based on the same type of conversations that you have had. I'd also add that the majority of my shooting (over roughly the same time period as you) has been in Idaho; a trend that continues to this day.

In short, my experience seems to agree with yours, FWIW.

<edited to add:>

people in cities will overwhelmingly own handguns and almost no rifles.
people in less populated areas or areas with access to hunting land will own somewhat more rifles than handguns.

This is a good point. Like to OP, I've spent my gun counter BSing time in relatively rural shops with the stereotypical 3-4 glass handgun display cases, along with aisles of racked long guns. The few times that I have been in seriously Urban shops/ranges, the proportions even out with huge displays of handguns in cases typically along a long wall, with a smaller selection of rifles racked behind the counter. Might indeed be an urban vs rural thing.

January 8, 2013, 12:09 PM
My experience with the people I know and hang out with is that most own more long guns than handguns. I am in a rural part of the country. Although I also lived in down-state Illinois for a long time and when it's illegal to carry, the usefulness of a handgun is somewhat diminished. So those who had more than one handgun tended to be "enthusiasts", but everyone has a shotgun and .22 rifle.

Since moving to Iowa I've definitely noticed more handguns than before, but still not normally more than long guns.

January 8, 2013, 12:15 PM
I'm basing my response on my personal experiences.

I think things are changing, but historically I think folks had more long guns than handguns. The long gun was used for putting food on the table, protection and recreation much more so than the handgun.

You also had so much specialization with the long guns - different calibers for different game, different shotguns for different purposes (duck hunting, skeet and trap, etc). Sure you have different calibers and styles for the handgun, but for me the primary purpose was always defensive in nature.

My friends and family also used the long guns more for recreation than handguns. Sure we used them both, but the long gun was used more, generally speaking. The handgun was carried as sidearm out in the field and for protection in the house (along with the trusty shotgun).

I think a lot of that is changing these days. Less people are into hunting (although I see signs of revival) and with higher density it's harder to find long ranges, but indoor short ranges are popping up. And I know plenty of folks who have a handgun or two strictly for taking to the range for recreation. And more and more folks are keeping one around the house for protection purposes.

All that said, I have more handguns at this time than long guns. But I also have more long guns currently on the "to acquire" list than handguns. Why do I have more handguns? I carry a couple different ones, I make it to short ranges more often for shooting and when friends and I go shooting we tend to take the hand guns more. Oh yeah, and it's easier for me to take the handguns when I travel - where I go they one or two of them often go.

Keep in mind, neither myself or my friends and family are what I would consider to be "hard core" firearms enthusiast. But we do like to hunt, plink and protect ourselves and families.

January 8, 2013, 12:49 PM
Most people I know who have/want only one or a couple guns will opt for a handgun, because you can carry it easier than a long gun. I think it largely depends on whether the person with only one or a couple is interested in personal protection or hunting.

January 8, 2013, 12:50 PM
I was a hunter first then when CC was legal a few more handguns were added so its a close mix.

January 8, 2013, 01:29 PM
Same situation hardluk just mentioned.
Personally I own far more long guns than handguns as I have been hunting for over 50 years now.
So in my opinion there are far more long guns owned than handguns.
How many Remington 870's have been made as well as Remington 700's??
That right there on just two long guns should give everyone a clue.

January 8, 2013, 01:36 PM
I live in a very rural environment and I don't have an answer. There will always be a hunting rifle(s) in the home, then there's the AR/AK aspect. Sidearms have always been popular in this area and I would guesstimate that women own more handguns than rifles given the ever increasing CCW demand.

I find it easier to carry a pistol or revolver when out walking on the property than slinging a rifle over my shoulder, however, an AR usually accompanies in the pickup.

January 8, 2013, 01:41 PM
I own many more rifles and long guns than I do pistols. I suspect your theory about people owning more long guns than pistols would be correct. Quite frankly, I think long guns are serve more of a use than a pistol. IMO, a pistol is primarily used as a back up weapon or simply for protection. obviously, if one was ever inclined to have to live off of the land a long rifle will prove to be much more handy for many reasons.

2nd 41
January 8, 2013, 01:48 PM
I'm a HG person mainly because of living in the city and having local indoor ranges. Most of my friends own HG and maybe a rifle. Now that I'm in Florida with 50-300 yard outdoor ranges my interest is changing toward rifles. I doubt I will ever own a lot of rifles. I have 2...would consider a 3rd. My shooting buddy has more rifles than HG. I would say more Hand Guns than rifles in most collections. Just basing that on the people I personally know.

January 8, 2013, 01:50 PM
I own more long guns, but not by many. I prefer semi-autos. My gun ratio is 61% rifles. My wife's collection is 70% handguns.

January 8, 2013, 02:02 PM
I sold off most of my rifles when I took up handgun hunting then moved to bows.. Leaving only a couple sentimental ones and an AR. I've yet to master hitting flying foul with a bow so I still have 5 shotguns.
So that leaves me with a rather large collection of handguns. I live rural

January 8, 2013, 02:08 PM
I live in a huge metropolitan area and own more long guns than handguns, a ratio of about 1.3 to 1. I am lucky to have access to ranges where I can shoot them.

January 8, 2013, 02:31 PM
I currently have 2 long guns and 4 Handguns... but. still building the collection. the scales should tip the other way with my planned next few purchases.

Texan Scott
January 8, 2013, 02:56 PM
Welcome to Texas, where the State has no idea and doesn't need to!

January 8, 2013, 03:09 PM
I love the reply, Texan Scott.... How true, how true

January 8, 2013, 03:14 PM
I for one have way more long guns than pistolas. I just love me some rifles and shotguns.

January 8, 2013, 03:25 PM
I tend to only own guns for what I need...

Hunting, target practice and shooting IDPA... so I have mostly long guns, half a dozen revolvers and one pistol.

Just like my truck is made for hauling stuff around it is also used for commuting... all/any of my guns could be used for self defense but I own none for that purpose so I have no need for pistols.

January 8, 2013, 05:38 PM
I would guess that for gun owners generally, long guns are the larger number. Many people have no interest in guns other than hunting, where long guns are more typical, and some may only have a single pistol for self defense.

My guess is also that there are a lot of casual owners with not much more than a .22lr rifle to plink with, and maybe a pump action shotgun.

For gun enthusiasts (where the guns are the goal themselves, not just a tool), I think a mix of long and handguns are more likely. Competitive shooters, collectors and the like would fall into this group, and most members of this forum would probably fall into this group as well.

January 8, 2013, 05:44 PM
Texan Scott

Welcome to Texas, where the State has no idea and doesn't need to!

Oh good. Texas chimed in. I was worried there for a moment. ;)

Glad people are enjoying the thread. It's actually been a topic that I've been thinking about for the past few years. Decided it was time to take it to others and get their feedback.

Interesting responses. I'm not a hunter, trap or skeet shooter nor do I do participate in Cowboy Action shooting or 3 gun shooting competition. I used to own more rifles and when I was younger (over 20 years ago) I actually preferred long-guns.

But times and tastes change. I found that I enjoyed shooting and collecting revolvers and pistols more. It didn't hurt that (as the years went by) I became a better handgun shooter which increased my enjoyment. Gradually I've sold and traded the bulk of my rifles and shotguns and I have become a handgun collector. Oh and the responses have made me realize something..........okay I already knew this thing, but I didn't think to apply it to my question until now.

I live in a city of approximately 45,000. The Boise-Nampa Metro area has a little over 400,000 living in it. There are many firing ranges (this is Idaho after all) and there is still a lot of wide open territory fairly close. Texas isn't the only state in the Union where gun ownership is respected.:neener:

But, truth be told ,I'm not really the woodsman type and the indoor range I go to is better for handguns. I like creature comforts (A/C, hot water, electricity, fridges with cold beer etc.) and handgun shooting is just more comfortable.:cool:

Go to a range in a dress shirt, tie and slacks if you want (when I was a detective with my department I was known to go to the firing range dressed like that), fire off a couple boxes of ammo and never once have to lay down on the ground (memories of the Army), put the handguns in the compact easy to carry range-bag, wash hands in the bathroom with hot running water, get a cup of coffee, shoot the breeze with the employees and go home. If it's raining or snowing or 105 degrees outside it's okay because you're inside - with a roof and everything.

So for me part of the appeal of handguns is it's easier to be comfortable. I'm not Rambo and I'm not Daniel Boone. I'm a city boy through and through.

January 8, 2013, 05:45 PM
I own one shotgun. I would be over-the-top joyful to own a handgun, espcially in 9mm or larger. FTR, my dad owns a few rifles and only 1 handgun, so yep. I love handguns I find them to be more enjoyable to shoot, that's just me. I guess it is the cost that is stopping me from getting one but in the future I plan on getting several, if not more than long guns.

Sauer Grapes
January 8, 2013, 07:38 PM
I own considerably more rifles/shotguns than I do handguns. This also holds true with my friends and associates. I didn't even own a centerfire handgun until I was 27 years old, that's a 17 year spread from the time I had my own shotgun. Personally, I just never really had a "need" for pistols growing up. In my family firearms are used for hunting 1st and besides practice punching paper was a distant 2nd. We didn't have concealed carry back then and with no real interest in handgun hunting pistols just were not a priority.
I grew up never owning or shooting anything but rifles and shotguns. At the age of 26 I bought a used mod 28 revolver and never fired it for 10 years!
Times change though, now I don't hunt anymore and shoot mainly sporting clays and USPSA and club level steel matches.
Now my handguns have a 2 to 1 majority over my long guns. {mostly shotguns}

It's funny, if I'm on the pistol range, most guys own more handguns. If I'm shooting clays, almost everybody owns 6 or 8 shotguns and rifles and maybe one or two handguns.

January 8, 2013, 08:13 PM
I have twice as many handguns as long guns. This wasn't the case a few years back but lately I've been bitten hard by the sidearm bug.

Steel Horse Rider
January 8, 2013, 09:02 PM
My long arms outnumber my pistols by a 6 to 1 ratio with one just over legal 12 ga pump shotgun.

January 8, 2013, 09:58 PM
Hum. Had to check the list :)

Long gun to handgun ratio is about 2:1 here. But that's mainly because almost half of my long guns are 22LR and are therefore less expensive than their handgun bretheren...and I did sell a couple of handguns recently in the name of caliber consolidation. I strongly prefer to shoot what I own, and I can only shoot so many different ones with any kind of regularity.

January 9, 2013, 12:57 AM

It's been my observation that most who own handguns almost always but have long guns as well, but those who own rifles & shotguns don't necessarily own handguns. I would say I know more people who have long guns. Personally I probably own more handguns than long guns.

I asked the same question over on the Smith & Wesson forum. I got several excellent posts there and here. But this one by Chief38 hit the nail on the head. At least as far as I'm concerned. I just didn't manage to say it as succinctly.

January 9, 2013, 07:01 AM
I own roughly three times as many handguns as rifles or shotguns. Starting to lean more towards rifles now since I have the necessary pistols already.

January 9, 2013, 08:46 AM
Very regional. For new shooters, SD is the driving factor. So, I think the ratio is changing toward the smaller semi-automatic. Compact Glock, S&W M&P, XDm, and Ruger SR9c seem to out sell everything else to new shooters. 9mm is most popular, next is .45ACP. .40SW seems to be slipping but I suspect not a long term trend. Second gun seems to usually be a semi-automatic 22, like Ruger 22/45 or sr22.
I have assumed that at some point I would add an AR15, mainly for a tactical league locally. Not sure with the current attacks from our government.

Guy de Loimbard
January 9, 2013, 09:10 AM
I own six times as many pistols as I do rifles, currently. Except for when I only owned 1 gun, (my first gun, which was an AR-15) I have always owned more pistols than rifles.

January 9, 2013, 10:32 AM
I'm 66 years old and shot my first gun at 8 years old, grandfather was a LEO in Miami Florida. Now I've owned a lot of guns since I turned 18 years old most of which I sold or traded. I now own 3 groups of guns, 3 semi auto pistols one of which my wife carries, one I carry and a third I just love to shoot at the range. Now I own 3 revolvers all SAA 45 Colts that I use for Cowboy Action events. I also own a lever action 45 colt rifle that I use for hunting and cowboy action as well as a side by side 12 ga and 20 ga. My last gun is a modern lever action 45-70 for the bigger things to hunt that my 45 Colt won't. I've not bought a gun now other than the 45-70 in well over 5 years with nothing on my wish list any more. I've actually owned most of them at one time or other. I've have owned and shot both AR and AK platform guns but not really my kind of long gun, the same with pump shotguns for me. I just don't have the need for them in my small collection. Besides on not a collector and if I don't shoot it then it soon gets sold.

I've actually gotten into reloading only in the last 2 years which has become as much fun as shooting has.

January 9, 2013, 02:49 PM
I grew up shooting rifles and shotguns, but own neither. I own 2 handguns.

Most gun owning friends of mine own 1-2 handguns, and only a few own a shotgun or rifle.

January 9, 2013, 09:37 PM
Personally I own more long guns than pistols. People I know usually have more long guns than handguns.

January 10, 2013, 05:07 AM
I've personally owned about a hundred handguns over the last 35 years, and in that time, I've owned 3 long guns. One of them was a Nylon 66 that I sold a long time ago. I currently have my other two, a Kel-Tec Sub2000 9mm that takes Beretta 92 mags, and the S&W AR I just bought. Only long guns I plan on buying anytime soon is some sort of .22LR rifle and a .357 lever action.

January 10, 2013, 06:07 AM
Okay, I fall into that demographic. Maybe a dozen rifles, two pistols.

Each rifle has a specific task - target, hunting, plinking. Big bore, medium bore, small bore. Sporting, mulsurp, assault. Et cetera.

For the pistols... the 1911 fills all my "pistol" needs other than CCW.

My take: pistols are more versatile, so I don't need as many pistols as I do rifles.

January 10, 2013, 11:24 AM
I'm balanced! Exact same number of rifles as handguns. The shotguns however tip the scale so that I have slightly more long-guns than hand guns.

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