The rush by Americans to purchase weapons continues apace, with background checks surpassing last year's total and US gunmaker Smith & Wesson announcing Thursday that it had doubled its profits in the second quarter.

For months, the US weapons industry has been profiting from a surge in sales of handguns and other firearms. The FBI in July noted a 28-per-cent increase in background checks, which are required before most legal weapons purchases.

So far in 2016 there have been more than 16 million such background requests, which are a reliable indicator of private weapons purchases. Such requests are on pace to exceed last year's record of 23 million.

Major reasons behind the demand include terrorist attacks and mass shootings, which have spurred Americans' desire to defend themselves, along with a fear of coming stricter gun regulations.

Political science professor Robert Spitzer of the State University of New York in Cortland says the US election has played a role in weapons sales.

"The trend is spurred both by the fear that there might be new, tougher laws, and by politically motivated sales - buying guns to make a political statement," Spitzer said.

Spurred on by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, gun enthusiasts fear a crackdown if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected.

The head of weapons manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Company, which has also profited nicely from the weapons boom, has characterized the situation as being historically unique.

"With Clinton you have for the first time a serious candidate who has reservations about the right to bear arms," Michael Fifer said.

Smith & Wesson's profit for the quarter ending in July was 32.6 million dollars compared to 14.4 million dollars in the same period a year prior. Its overall revenue grew 40 per cent to 207 million dollars.

"We are very pleased with our first quarter results, which exceeded our financial guidance," company head James Debney said in a statement.

Smith & Wesson shares have gained 35 per cent since the beginning of the year. On Thursday its shares gained 5 per cent.

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