Every wonder which countries have the most firepower in private hands? This article lists off those nations. Unlike most lists that cover this subject, ours will be based on total amount of privately-owned firearms rather than guns per capita.
Data is taken from Small Arms Survey.
Honorable mentions that didn’t make the top 10 include Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Serbia, and Finland.
- Estimated private firearms: 9,950,000
- 31 guns per 100 residents
We expected Canada to be a lot higher on this list but the True North barely squeezed by into the top 10. Canada does have a long and rich history of gun ownership, and experts say that more and more young people are getting involved in shooting sports. However, a lengthy and complicated process to purchase firearms dissuades many from buying their own.
- Estimated private firearms: 10,000,000
- 16 guns per 100 residents
On a single road in Bangkok, over 80 gun shops fight and jostle for customers to enter their shops or check their stalls. This is indicative of the reverent gun culture in Thailand—one that is a match for the United States. Actually purchasing a firearm is still a long and demanding process, but that does not stop residents from being armed. Firearms are much more expensive in Thailand than in the States, and the same brand-name guns that are widely available elsewhere can cost up to five times higher in the Asian nation. This is due to the fact that there are few gun manufacturers in Thailand and most weapons are imported. Most of the guns there are American or Chinese-made.
“Consumers for firearms in Thailand are mostly middle to upper class,” Firearms Association of Thailand’s Polpatr Tanomsup told CNN. “They want better quality, because if they imported China-made guns, it would not be much cheaper than American-made firearms, and the quality for American is much higher. It is collectible, easy to sell, easy to buy, easy to get parts.”
- Estimated private firearms: 11,500,000
- 55 guns per 100 residents
If there is a country that can outmatch the United States in gun ownership, it might be Yemen. It is nearly mandatory for residents to own at least one firearm, and almost wherever you go, you will find guns up for grab. Uncertain about their future, the people of Yemen rely on their trusty firearms for protection.
“In Yemen, no matter if you’re rich or poor, you must have guns. Even if it’s just one piece,” Abdul Wahab al-Ammari, a tribal sheikh from Yemen’s Ibb province, told The Atlantic. “I have maybe 14 high powered weapons, and 3 handguns [at home].”
- Estimated private firearms: 14,840,000
- 8 guns per 100 residents
Unlike Yemen, one of the world’s poorest nations, Brazil is a rising star on the global stage. Like most of the nations on this list, gun ownership is not a legal right in Brazil. Residents have to be at least 25 years old to apply for a ownership permit, which must be renewed every three years, and actual carry permits are hard to obtain. Despite these hurdles, gun ownership remains popular in Brazil and being home to notable manufacturers like Taurus makes the country the second-largest gun-producing nation in the Western Hemisphere.
- Estimated private firearms: 15,500,000
- 15 guns per 100 residents
Previously, Mexico’s constitution guaranteed the right to bear arms. The current version limits that right to only keeping arms, and in practice, gun ownership is heavily restricted. In some of Mexico’s more dangerous areas, security forces are spread thin and residents are called upon to defend themselves with their own firearms.
- Estimated private firearms: 18,000,000
- 12 guns per 100 residents
Home of the notorious Khyber Pass and its gun “industry,” it comes as no surprise that Pakistan made it onto this list. Amateur and experienced gunsmiths alike work in the Khyber Pass region, producing unlicensed and, in many cases, homemade-quality firearms from materials like railway rails and scrap metal.
- Estimated private firearms: 25,000,000
- 30 guns per 100 residents
Whether it’s for hunting wild boar or sport shooting, guns are very popular in Germany. Commonplace though they might be, Germany has severe restrictions on what kind of guns one can buy, and applicants for gun ownership must prove a need before being issued a permit. Self-defense isn’t necessarily an accepted reason. Nonetheless, German gun owners say that such regulations are expected.
“On the one hand, we think, ‘Oh, it’s very restrictive, and we don’t like that,’” sport shooter Friedrich Gepperth told NPR. “On the other hand, each case of misuse by a legal gun owner is very bad for us, so we are not going against the restrictions very much.”
- Estimated private firearms: 40,000,000
- 5 guns per 100 residents
Surprised to see this country on the list? Despite having some of the strictest gun laws in the world—a blanket ban on private firearm ownership—gun culture seems to be taking hold. How is this possible? With a multitude of shooting and hunting clubs, guns are once again finding their place back into Chinese hands. According to some, it’s hard not to romanticize firearms due to their popularity in film and television.
“In the 1960s, shooting was for national defense,” Xie Xianqiao, a former shooting coach, told The Wall Street Journal. “These days, shooting is entertainment.”
That said, private ownership without the proper permits can still lead to a hefty fine and lengthy prison sentence. Crimes committed with a firearm often receive the death penalty.
- Estimated private firearms: 45,000,000
- 5 guns per 100 residents
Guns in the world’s most populous democracy are both protection and a status symbol. Proper firearms are expensive—enough to be included in dowries—and a single 1911 pistol can sell for several times its asking US price. Domestically-produced guns are available, but lack the reliability and style of foreign-made firearms. Concern over sexual attacks have also led to guns becoming more popular among women—as well as fathers.
Bank manager Jagdeep Singh says he keeps a pistol on his hip to fight off bandits during long car rides, but it also gives him safety of mind when he’s home.
“I have two good-looking daughters,” he told The Los Angeles Times, “another reason I keep a gun.”
1. United States of America
- Estimated private firearms: 270,000,000
- 89 guns per 100 residents
Was there ever really any doubt that we’d be number one on this list? The United States of America is by far the best country in the world to be in if you want to own guns. The constitutional right to keep and bear arms (where it isn’t infringed upon by local law), combined with large popular support for gun ownership and easy availability, make the United States a gun collector’s dream.