The use of self-defense in non-lethal or lethal ways is generally used in life-threatening situations. The goal of this industry is to teach people how to use defensive weapons safely so they can get away or incapacitate their attacker in some way. There are numerous segments of this industry to consider, from martial arts classes to firearms manufacturers to light devices, such as knives, stun guns, and pepper spray.
Over 15 million background checks for firearms are processed in the United States each year. In 2016, the firearms segment of the industry produced over 10 million weapons for only the second time in history. That figure was a 19.7% increase over 2015 production levels. Over 5.5 million handguns were made for the U.S. market alone.
More rifles were made in 2016 than in any other year before as well, with over 4 million produced. That was a 6.5% increase over the previous record year of 2013 when 3.9 million were manufactured.
With global military expenditures expected to top $1.7 trillion for all nations, with the United States contributing over $610 billion of that figure alone, self-defense is both a national and a local concern – especially for Americans.
Critical Self-Defense Industry Statistics
#1. Martial arts studios in the United States have revenues which are trending upward since 2013. The industry as a whole has grown by 4.2%, reaching total revenues of $4 billion in 2018. (IBIS World)
#2. The total number of firms involved in the self-defense industry in the United States has grown by 6.6% since 2013, with the total number of employment opportunities growing at a 6% rate. (IBIS World)
#3. Over 80,000 businesses are involved in the teaching of self-defense or martial arts concepts in the United States, providing employment opportunities for almost 90,000 people. (IBIS World)
#4. 68% of women who purchase pepper spray at least once per year say that they bought it for themselves. Most people who choose to buy this self-defense product prefer to use the Mace brand above any other. (Business Wire)
#5. 71% of people who say that they own pepper spray as a self-defense option purchased their current product within the past 12 months. 32% bought it at a sporting goods store, while 18% said they went to a big box retail outlet. Only 15% of consumers say that they purchased their current product online. (Business Wire)
#6. 48% of people between the ages of 18-31 say that they received their current pepper spray as a gift from a parent. 45% of people in Generation X say that they got theirs as a gift from a spouse. (Business Wire)
#7. 95% of men who purchase pepper spray for self-defense say that they are buying the item for their personal protection. (Business Wire)
#8. About 9.4 million adults are currently enrolled in some form of martial arts in the United States throughout the year. About 52% of those who join a martial arts club are men. (IBIS World)
#9. Roughly 35% of participants in self-defense training take mixed martial arts classes. Karate is the next most popular option, with 22% of enrollees, followed by taekwondo (13%), Judo (10%), and Jiu-Jitsu (6.3%). (IBIS World)
#10. About 3.2 million children below the age of 13 are currently enrolled in martial arts classes in the United States. Another 5.5 million teenagers are also part of this self-defense community. (IBIS World)
#11. There are 16 times more self-defense schools in the United States when compared to Australia, who are first and second in the global industry. (Martial Info)
#12. Australia currently operates more than 1,000 self-defense schools, including martial arts academies. New York, Florida, and California would all be the top provider in the world if they were their own country instead of part of the U.S. for statistical purposes. (Martial Info)
#13. 15% of enrollees who attend martial arts classes regularly do so because they wish to train for themselves or with a small group. (Association of Fitness Studios)
#14. Over 18 million people try martial arts for the first time each year in the United States. Adults tend to prefer karate or mixed martial arts, while children trend toward karate or taekwondo for their self-defense classes. (Simmons Market Research)
#15. 43% of the households in the United States own at least one firearm. 33% of the homes with someone 65 years of age or older living in them own a gun. (Statista)
#16. There are over 637,000 registered weapons in Texas alone, making it one of the top locations in the world to own a firearm. (Statista)
#17. Most of the firearms that are manufactured in the United States are sent to the domestic market. Only 376,000 guns are exported each year by the self-defense industry. (Statista)
#18. Over 4,000 firearms are found by airport screeners in the United States each year. (Statista)
#19. 71% of Americans say that there should be a law which bans the possession of handguns except for people who are authorized to carry them, such as through a license. 61% say that gun laws should be stricter in some way, like through an enhanced background check. (Statista)
#20. 65% of Americans say that they strongly support the idea of banning bump fire stocks that can turn semi-automatic firearms into something that is effectively an automatic. (Statista)
#21. 64% of gun-related killings in the United States are homicides, compared to 30.5% in Canada, 13% in Australia, and 4.5% in England and Wales. (FBI Statistics)
Self-Defense Industry Trends and Analysis
There are many ways one can defend themselves. Some prefer to use non-lethal emergency intervention products. Others want to train in ways that help them to respond appropriately during a crisis situation. Then a minority prefer to keep lethality as their primary method of defending their life.
The benefits of learning self-defense tactics are potentially therapeutic. By taking martial arts or self-defense classes, it is possible to improve one’s coordination, stability, and flexibility. Continued practice can lower blood pressure, reduce cortisol levels in the body, and provide a stronger foundation of homeostasis.
Different segments of the self-defense industry face unique challenges. For those who teach intervention techniques, only 20% of those who say they are interested in learning martial arts concepts will actually take a class.
A significant majority of gun owners are only adding to their arsenal, as the 40% figure for firearm ownership in the U.S. has stayed relatively stable over the past decade.
The challenge for non-lethal products is to market themselves as a viable alternative to escape a situation.
The industry as a whole will continue to see growth, especially if instability in local, national, and global politics continues. Even if changes happen that take uncertainty away, there will still be a push toward industry products, which creates a secure network of growth.
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