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Official February firearm data has just been released by the FBI showing that 2,309,393 background checks were done through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) during the month. This figure is 96,500 higher than Pipeline Data's estimate of 2,212,855.

February's results demonstrate continued demand for firearm checks, but represent a slight decline from the 2,495,000 checks performed in January (which was second only to December's 2,784,000 checks). February's figure is 32% higher than that of February 2012 and exceeds the 19% growth rate for all of 2012.

Now that we have the official data, let's look at the implications for Sturm, Ruger & Co (RGR) and Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (SWHC). As you can see from the chart below, annual growth fluctuated throughout the year until September. After that month's 16% increase, growth steadily accelerated for several consecutive months. October came in at 20%. November's growth was 31%, followed by a 49% increase in December and an incredible 81% spike in January. As we predicted, February's data is impressive in its own right, but clearly breaks the momentum of the trend.

NICS Background Checks

2011

2012

Growth

SEP

1,253,752

1,459,363

16%

OCT

1,340,273

1,614,032

20%

NOV

1,534,414

2,006,919

31%

DEC

1,862,327

2,783,765

49%

JAN

1,377,301

2,495,440

81%

FEB

1,749,903

2,309,393

32%

Looking at the sequential growth figures, February is usually a stronger month for background checks than January. Consistent with our forecast, this February was weaker than January for the first time since the turn of the century.

NICS Background Checks

YEAR

JAN

FEB

CHANGE

2000

639,972

707,070

10%

2001

640,528

675,156

5%

2002

665,803

694,668

4%

2003

653,751

708,281

8%

2004

695,000

723,654

4%

2005

685,811

743,070

8%

2006

775,518

820,679

6%

2007

894,608

914,954

2%

2008

942,556

1,021,130

8%

2009

1,213,885

1,259,078

4%

2010

1,119,229

1,243,211

11%

2011

1,323,336

1,473,513

11%

2012

1,377,301

1,749,903

27%

2013

2,495,440

2,309,393

-7%

Make no mistake -- 2.3 million background checks is a strong result. As we stated in our February forecast, RGR and SWHC have a hefty backlog and will be busy for some time to come. However, stocks are often swayed by momentum and expectations. February's figures show that momentum remains strong, but took a breather from the breakneck pace experienced in January.

Source: Official FBI Data Released: Firearm Background Checks Exceed 2.3M In February