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Which Weapons Are Most Commonly Used for Homicides?

Updated: November 20, 2023
Nicholas G. Gounaris
By Nicholas G. Gounaris

Nicholas G. Gounaris is a skilled trial lawyer and founding partner of Gounaris Abboud law firm. He provides clients of the firm with competent legal representation and focuses his law practice in the areas of DUI Defense, Criminal Defense, Family Law Issues, Federal Criminal Law and Personal Injury cases.


According to the CDC, there were 24,576 homicides in the United States in 2020.

Broadly, homicide is defined as the deliberate and unlawful killing of another person.

There are many ways people commit murder using objects clearly defined as weapons, everyday objects, or no weapon at all.

However, there are three categories of commonly used weapons for homicides: firearms, knives, and body parts, including fists or feet.

As you will see, firearms come out on top of the list of most common weapons used for homicides in our country.

If you are in need of an experienced Ohio criminal defense lawyer, please call (937) 222-1515 or fill out our online form today. We offer free consultations.

Murder by Numbers

In the United States, as one might imagine, firearms are the leading cause of homicides. Firearms are a vast category encompassing many different types of guns.

There are several different types of firearms most often used in homicides.

The FBI researched to determine homicides by weapon type within the United States. The data was based on 13,922 out of 16,425 total homicides in the U.S. in 2019.

The main focus of the study was to determine which firearms were most frequently used. However, the study did also compare those murder rates to non-firearm homicides.

The data revealed that non-firearm weapons made up about a quarter of all murders in the U.S. This includes knives and bodily weapons such as hands, fists, and feet.

Most Common Murder Weapon

Of the leading causes of murders in the U.S., the FBI report unsurprisingly concludes that firearms are at the very top of the list.

Out of the 13,922 homicides analyzed, 10,258 were committed using a firearm.

The study dove deeper and further broke that down by firearm type, classifying them into four categories: handguns, rifles, shotguns, and unknown types.

While the news and media often spotlight “assault-style rifles,” that is not the most common murder weapon. Handguns were the type of weapon found to be the leading cause of murders.

The FBI data further revealed that handguns were used in 45.7% of homicides nationwide.

The following is a simple breakdown of the percentage of each type of firearm used in nationwide homicides:

  • Handguns 45.7%
  • Rifles 2.6%
  • Shotguns 1.4%
  • Firearms (type unknown) 23.9%

Although assault-style rifles are generally the center of attention, it does make sense on a fundamental level why the most common weapons used for homicides are handguns.

Handguns are easy to carry because they are lightweight, small, and easily concealable.

It stands to reason that handguns would be the gun of choice for homicides, robberies, and gang violence.

A pistol is ideal if the perpetrator needs to hide the weapon to avoid being caught. The more diminutive stature of a handgun makes it favorable over a long gun.

The need for a small, concealable firearm is especially true in inner cities and heavily populated urban areas.

Ohio Statistics

In 2019, there were 521 homicides in Ohio, and 178, or 34.2% of them, were committed using a handgun.

During the same time period, 188 homicides were committed using a firearm, while only 26 used a knife or other cutting instrument, and only 25 used bodily weapons.

Knife Deaths in the U.S.

While it is clear the most common type of murder weapon in the United States is a firearm, knives seem to be the second most used weapon of choice.

Knife deaths in the U.S. are a problem and occur at a relatively high rate.

According to the FBI, knife deaths accounted for 1,476 homicides or 10.6% of all homicides nationwide.

As with handguns, knives are easily concealable and lightweight, making them a popular weapon.

Homicide Rates Are at a High

In 2020, the murder rate rose drastically by close to 30%. It is reported that approximately 75% of these murders were committed with a firearm.

This data may come as a surprise to some people. According to the CDC, 2020 had the highest homicide rate since 1995.

Murder remains a problem in the United States, and it remains to be seen whether the best approach to curtailing increased homicide rates is on the state or federal level.

We Can Help

If you have been charged with a crime, up to and including homicide, you need an excellent attorney to help protect your rights.

At Gounaris Abboud, LPA, we pride ourselves on offering our clients personal, one-on-one attention. We take each and every case very seriously.

Our committed and compassionate lawyers have 50 years of combined experience and an excellent reputation to back up our claims of offering you the most aggressive defense possible.

Call (937) 222-1515 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.

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