Rising violent crime has made personal protection a driver of gun sales. Image source: Chuy Benitez

The most recent data from the FBI shows violent crime is on the rise. In its preliminary report on uniform crime statistics for the first six months of 2015, the law enforcement agency said incidents of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault rose 1.7%, with murder rates jumping more than 6%.

If you're looking for a catalyst behind spiking gun sales, there you go. It may be amusing to call President Obama "the greatest gun salesman in history" due to his desire to impose new firearm regulations -- threats that have gone largely unfulfilled -- but guns sales have surged as a means of personal protection. And if announcements from SHOT Show last week were any indication, gun makers have taken notice as they designed many new releases for self-defense, specifically concealed carry.

The fever pitch of activity even forced Smith & Wesson(NASDAQ:SWBI)to raise its quarterly and full-year sales and earnings projections. Management now expects fiscal third quarter revenue to increase 16% higher than previous guidance with earnings up 40% as well. Sturm Ruger(NYSE:RGR) has yet to revise its outlook, but in November, the company said its third quarter sales had grown 23% with earnings up 76% year-over-year. Rising demand should allow the company to enjoy an equally robust fourth quarter.

And it is precisely in the area of personal protection that gun makers may see that outperformance.

Some of the best-selling handguns purchased last year were those designed for concealed carry. According to the online auction site GunBroker.com, Sig Sauer, Taurus, and Smith & Wesson had models that were among the most popular due to their small size, lightweight design, and ability to deliver accurate firepower.

Smith & Wesson in particular has said that its M&P Shield model, created precisely for this niche, has proven so popular they have quickly become "the best-selling personal protection and self-defense pistol" on the market, with the gun maker already producing its one millionth model since their introduction in 2012.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield model has proven exceptionally popular with gun buyers looking for a concealed carry option. Image source: Smith & Wesson

Now, Fox News had an early report out of the SHOT Show indicating that several manufacturers are planning to tap further into this hot market:

  • Beretta unveiled its PX4 Compact Carry in 9mm, an improved version of its PX4 Storm Compact.
  • Colt announced the Lightweight Commander in .45 ACP or 9mm, based on the immensely popular 1911 platform.
  • Kimber made waves with its K6s, a compact .357 Magnum revolver.
  • Walther showed off its PPS M2 in 9mm and .40 S&W, the newest version of the original PPS.

All the major gun manufacturers have models on hand designed for self-defense, even as they continue to develop products aimed at the rest of the firearms market, too. With crime rates creeping higher and concerns of personal safety growing, this looks like it will be the niche to target in 2016.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.