Special Report

These Gun Calibers Are Used the Most to Commit Crimes in the US

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News via Getty Images

A total of 44,470 Americans were killed by a firearm in 2022 — down from 45,153 in 2021. The modest reduction in deadly gun violence marked the only year-over-year decline since 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Despite the improvement, federal law enforcement data indicates that gun violence overall — including both lethal and non-lethal incidents — have been on the rise in the U.S. for nearly a decade. (These are the states where gun deaths are on the rise.)

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives assists state and local law enforcement agencies across the country in criminal investigations by tracing recovered firearms back to their original point of sale. Typically, the firearms traced by the ATF are those recovered at crime scenes or taken from suspects.

The number of ATF firearm tracings has increased in each of the last nine years, topping 504,000 in 2022 — up over 10% from 2021 and more than double the number reported in 2014. Though not all guns the ATF traces have been used in a crime and not all firearms used in a crime are traced, tracing data reveals key trends related to gun violence in the United States — including the types of firearms most likely to be used for illicit purposes.

Using tracing data from the ATF, 24/7 Wall St. identified the firearm calibers most commonly used in crime in 2022. Our list includes rifle, handgun, and shotgun calibers and gauges.

Many of the firearm calibers with the most ATF tracings are those commonly found in handguns, a category that includes both revolvers and pistols. These include firearms chambered for 9mm, .40 caliber, .22 caliber, and .45 caliber ammunition. Handguns are relatively easy to conceal and in recent years have become the most popular type of firearm in the U.S. by a wide margin. In the last five years, nearly 30 million handguns were manufactured in the United States, compared to only 15.1 million rifles and 2.8 million shotguns, according to the ATF. (Here is a look at the 25 most popular handguns.)

The number of tracings reported by the ATF increased in the last year for 24 of the 28 firearm calibers on this list. The largest year-over-year increases were for 10mm, .310 caliber, and 5.7mm firearms.

28. .30 caliber

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • All .30 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 540
  • 1-yr. change in traced .30 caliber firearms: -5.4% (-31)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Target shooting, small and medium game hunting

27. .243 caliber

  • All .243 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 566
  • 1-yr. change in traced .243 caliber firearms: +12.5% (+63)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting

26. 16 gauge

Source: dlewis33 / E+ via Getty Images
  • All 16 gauge firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 593
  • 1-yr. change in traced 16 gauge firearms: +12.1% (+64)
  • Most common firearm type: Shotgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Home defense, hunting, target shooting

25. .50 caliber

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • All .50 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 602
  • 1-yr. change in traced .50 caliber firearms: +19.0% (+96)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun and rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting, target shooting

24. .270 caliber

  • All .270 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 732
  • 1-yr. change in traced .270 caliber firearms: +6.6% (+45)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting, target shooting

23. .30-30 caliber

  • All .30-30 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,255
  • 1-yr. change in traced .30-30 caliber firearms: +10.2% (+116)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting

22. .45 caliber/.410 bore

  • All .45 caliber/.410 bore firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,298
  • 1-yr. change in traced .45 caliber/.410 bore firearms: -3.1% (-41)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Self defense

21. .300 caliber

  • All .300 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,425
  • 1-yr. change in traced .300 caliber firearms: +29.4% (+324)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, law enforcement, big game hunting

20. .410 bore

  • All .410 bore firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,448
  • 1-yr. change in traced .410 bore firearms: +0.3% (+05)
  • Most common firearm type: Shotgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting, target shooting, home defense

19. .30-06 caliber

  • All .30-06 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,504
  • 1-yr. change in traced .30-06 caliber firearms: +3.8% (+55)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, big game hunting

18. .308 caliber

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • All .308 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,694
  • 1-yr. change in traced .308 caliber firearms: +6.9% (+109)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, law enforcement, big game hunting

17. .44 caliber

  • All .44 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 1,851
  • 1-yr. change in traced .44 caliber firearms: +7.5% (+129)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Law enforcement, hunting

16. 20 gauge

  • All 20 gauge firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 3,292
  • 1-yr. change in traced 20 gauge firearms: +9.8% (+295)
  • Most common firearm type: Shotgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Home defense, hunting, target shooting

15. 10mm

Source: Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • All 10mm firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 3,510
  • 1-yr. change in traced 10mm firearms: +40.7% (+1,015)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting, self defense

14. 5.7mm

Source: arinahabich / iStock via Getty Images
  • All 5.7mm firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 3,849
  • 1-yr. change in traced 5.7mm firearms: +20.9% (+666)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, self defense, target shooting

13. .32 caliber

Source: Ted Soqui / Getty Images
  • All .32 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 4,021
  • 1-yr. change in traced .32 caliber firearms: -7.8% (-340)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Self defense, target shooting

12. .25 caliber

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • All .25 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 4,479
  • 1-yr. change in traced .25 caliber firearms: -8.0% (-391)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Self defense, target shooting

11. .223 caliber

  • All .223 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 6,336
  • 1-yr. change in traced .223 caliber firearms: +16.4% (+892)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, hunting

10. .357 caliber

  • All .357 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 8,948
  • 1-yr. change in traced .357 caliber firearms: +6.2% (+526)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Hunting, self defense, target shooting

9. 7.62mm

  • All 7.62mm firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 9,332
  • 1-yr. change in traced 7.62mm firearms: +14.7% (+1,199)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, law enforcement, big game hunting

8. 5.56mm

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • All 5.56mm firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 12,605
  • 1-yr. change in traced 5.56mm firearms: +16.9% (+1,825)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, hunting

7. .38 caliber

  • All .38 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 16,323
  • 1-yr. change in traced .38 caliber firearms: +0.2% (+31)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Target shooting, self defense

6. 12 gauge

  • All 12 gauge firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 20,505
  • 1-yr. change in traced 12 gauge firearms: +8.0% (+1,516)
  • Most common firearm type: Shotgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Law enforcement, home defense, hunting, target shooting

5. .45 caliber

  • All .45 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 29,580
  • 1-yr. change in traced .45 caliber firearms: +3.3% (+940)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Law enforcement, self defense

4. .380 caliber

  • All .380 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 30,517
  • 1-yr. change in traced .380 caliber firearms: +0.8% (+254)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Self defense

3. .22 caliber

  • All .22 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 36,784
  • 1-yr. change in traced .22 caliber firearms: +2.9% (+1,041)
  • Most common firearm type: Rifle and handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Target shooting, small game hunting

2. .40 caliber

  • All .40 caliber firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 50,494
  • 1-yr. change in traced .40 caliber firearms: +4.5% (+2,159)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Law enforcement, self defense

1. 9mm

  • All 9mm firearms traced by the ATF in 2022: 227,830
  • 1-yr. change in traced 9mm firearms: +15.3% (+30,196)
  • Most common firearm type: Handgun
  • Common legal usage(s): Military, law enforcement, self defense, target shooting

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