Special Report

These Are the 50 Most Popular Guns of All Time

Firearms likely made their combat debut in 14th century China, taking the form of “hand cannons.” These early weapons swiftly spread across the globe westward. Within a century, Europe developed the matchlock, the mechanically fired gun, changing warfare forever by reducing the need for close-quarters combat. Since then, a variety of diverse firearms emerged, some serving niche markets or fading into obscurity. However, some guns achieved massive popularity due to design or historical importance, achieving millions in sales, sometimes over decades.

In order to identify the world’s 50 most popular guns, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed a variety of sources to get estimates of global gun sales. We ranked guns by estimated lifetime sales. The origin of each gun is the historic country of origin, where the gun was first created. Different models of the same gun released in different years are included in the gun sales estimates. 

By 2017, the world surpassed a billion firearms in circulation, a count that has only increased in the five years since. A majority of these arms are held by civilians, as reported by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. Notably, over a third of the global total, about 393 million, are the United States, making the Americans the most armed population on the planet by a significant margin. (also see: the guns used by the Green Berets.)

Given its unique position, it’s unsurprising that almost half of the 50 most renowned firearms trace their roots to the U.S., ranging from the iconic Wild West Winchester lever-action rifle to the contemporary AR-15.

Russian influence is evident in seven of the all-time top gun models, including the enduring Makarov semi-automatic pistol from the Soviet era, and the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle, along with its many variations and replicas. (Also see: the 17 prototype guns rejected by the US Military.)

Numerous other highly ranked firearms have European origins. Some on the list hail from China, Japan, and Israel. While several models on the list are no longer in production, like the French and British muskets of the colonial era, and many guns from the world wars, approximately thirteen of these firearm models are believed to have surpassed the 10 million unit mark in sales.

Here are the top 50 most popular guns of all time

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