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Reader BP Dealer writes:

By no means is this intended to be the end-all-be-all to firearm purchasing, merely a few quick points I wish somebody had pointed out to me earlier on.

1. Know your item and the law
Do some online research regarding going prices and comparable equipment, as well as legalities (i.e. req’d age for shotgun vs. rifle vs. handgun ownership). An excellent research tool for prices and availability that I use is SlickGuns.com, a site of “deals posted by users.” Excellent sources for legalities are the online dealers themselves (such as Bud’s Gun Shop, GrabAGun) . . .

2. Know the difference between online dealers vs local dealers
The only real advantages to buying locally are A) getting something now (as opposed to an online dealer which will typically be a week or more), and B) supporting your local merchant (via increased revenue) and city/state (via taxes, something out of state online dealers aren’t required to charge). Buying from a reputable online dealer, you can rest assured they know the legal ins/outs of their trade, don’t let a local dealer salesman persuade you otherwise. If there are questions left nagging in the back of your mind, contact the online dealers and ask the question, even if it feels like a dumb one. Odds are, they are asked the same question a hundred times daily.

3. Be prepared to bargain locally
If a gun sells for $500 at an online dealer, the amount I would consider spending locally would be about $550 out the door. Why the extra $50? Taxes! Figure that buying from an online dealer is going to cost you right around $50 for the necessary local FFL transfer (typically about $30) and potential shipping charges (if any). Most folks won’t need a firearm right now, and can afford the trade-off of waiting a couple extra days for a cheaper total cost.

4. Be prepared to walk away
I’ve had salesmen use the “this is the last one I’ll be able to get for months”, and “everybody is after this one” etc., ad nauseam. Why is the item still here then and not sold? Don’t listen to the story they are telling you. They want you emotionally invested so you aren’t thinking logically, operating on emotional “want” instead of logical “need”. You don’t need anything except for food, shelter, and water. Which brings me to my next point….

5. Don’t get emotionally invested
Don’t get anxious or spun-up about the purchase. Have fun shopping! We should all be enjoying the freedom of firearms (safely, of course) without the anxiety of money and work being tied in. Most dealer salesmen seemingly have no passion for the 2A industry or community, and it only hurts our cause supporting them with your dollars.

Bottom line: they are your dollars, dollars you traded your finite time and energy for. Enjoy the freedom of doing whatever you want with those dollars. I prefer to get more bang for my buck (pun intended again).

Enjoy your freedoms responsibly, hard-earned as they are by our people in uniform.

 

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61 Responses to Five Tips for Getting the Most From Your Gun-Buying Dollar

  1. tip #1 for getting the most from your gun buying dollar-dont buy from Gander Mountain, Scheels, or Bass Pro

    Tip #2 for getting the most from your gun buying dollar- STRONGLY consider buying used but in good condition equipment.

    • Addendum to Tip #2: Buy “QUALITY” used guns. Not much will be a wrong with a respected brand; but, if a gun has spotty user reports, you may just be buying someone else’s problem.

      • excellent point. I either put hands on the gun and rounds down range before I buy, or in some cases, buy only from smaller, community based websites from users with excellent reputation. (snipershide.com is one of my favorite places to buy/sell guns)

      • Indeed. I’ve acquired most of my 25+ guns used, but in near new condition, both from retailers (Cabelas now that I’m in DFW, and local gun stores and private party either via Texas Gun Trader or Calguns) and always go for the best price/quality point I’m willing to pay. Cabelas seems to be more flexible and more realistic on their consignment (and new for that matter) pricing than other big box retailers like Academy or Dicks. Can’t speak personally to Gander Mtn or Bass Pro as I’ve not shopped at either yet, but based on feedback from friends here in the metroplex, they’re not pricing their guns very competitively.

        • they’re not pricing their guns very competitively.

          That’s no joke.

          There’s a certain LGS here that’s very big, I’ve overheard people call it “Gun Walmart.” (Even it suffered from bare shelves during the crunch…except for six cases of fancy 1911s that weren’t moving for some reason.) A lot of people complain about their prices, and they do seem to go “list price” a lot.

          Bass Pro is far more expensive than this place, at least if you compare the Glocks (which is fairly easy to do and be assured your comparison is apples-to-apples).

          Bass Pro prices are horrible.

    • Seems like the primary use of Gander and Bass Pro gun counters is to serve as a hands on final checkpoint before you buy online. Kinda like the function Circuit City served for electronics.

      • thats exactly what I do when I think I want a certain model-go find it at GM, fondle it some, then go find it somewhere far more reasonably priced. FWIW I used to work at GM, and they must have the WORST gun buyers ever at corporate. they pay more from their distributor for most guns than I (as a customer) pay at my LGS. ridiculous for a company with that much purchasing power.

      • Showrooming! I was going to mention that.

        Speaking of which I went to Bass Pro today because I’m looking to fondle a Sig P224. The guy at the gun counter told me that BP no longer handles Sig! That’s a bad move IMHO.

        • I was told that they don’t carry sig because they couldn’t get their distributor down to a reasonable price. It’s most likely temporary.

    • The majority of my gun purchases have been used, and I only had a problem with one once. I also had a problem with a new S&W revolver once. I like the used guns just fine, although you don’t usually get the box. You do get the same gun for about 50-80% of the new price.

  2. I would just like to add to #3 a bit. Don’t be fooled by a lower price online. When you add $30 for shipping and $20-$50 on a transfer, the LGS shop prices maybe right in-line. Even if the LGS is still a bit higher, remember that little extra if what keeps his lights on and gives you a place to go actually handle stuff or find a good deal on used equipment.

    My other hobby, model railroading, has had it’s brick and mortar side obliterated because of exactly this.

    • In my community, the added costs of doing an on-line purchase usually make buying local cost just about the same–even if the gun is not available locally. Pretty much everyone in town charges $75 for a transfer for a gun they did not sell, compared to $25 or $35 for one they did. Add in shipping (usually $25), and that great deal on line is now $75 more, bringing you in line with local prices not including the transfer fee. Taxes are collected regardless, so no saving there. Time is not an issue–California still has a ten day wait, although a trial court has declared it unconstitutional (decision is on appeal).

      • You have horrible dealers in your area (maybe it is specific crap California laws). Where I am, dealers don’t charge you anything on gun transfers when buying from them and charge around $15-20 when you just transfer through them.

        • It’s crappy CA laws. Transfers from out of state are typically $75, with a few exceptions. All that bureaucracy and delay means transfer cost more $. Sucks, but the weather here is great.

        • Actually let us be fair here. No law says the FFL has to charge 1¢ for a transfer. It is just that they can charge whatever the heck they want.

          The background check is another matter, that is $35, of which $10 goes to the FFL. If you come in to do a private party sale, $10 is all they can get max ($25 state, $10 FFL), but on online transfers, etc they have no cap. Cheapest here is $50.

      • I can usually find a gun for “buds price” or less at my favorite lgs. I do pay taxes though, and i sometimes have to wait till what I want comes in…then I have to pass on it cause I spent the money I saved for a gun on bills/ braces/ car repairs/ house repairs/ etc…… (Sigh)

    • It costs me $10 for a transfer and $25 shipping per rifle. YMMV. Just keep these costs in mind and compare against the taxes you are paying face to face.

      Also – online, you can’t see the gun in great detail. You can’t work the action. You can’t remove the bolt and look down the bore or at the throat, or see the muzzle crown or rifling at the muzzle. You can’t pull the trigger and feel it’s workings. If you are buying a used gun online – you need to be trusting this online store. “Very good bore” to an online supplier might be “worthless piece of garbage” to you when it arrives. This is generally not the case for “brand new” firearms purchased online from reputable suppliers/importers.

      Many times if you buy a “used” gun from the pawn shop – there is something wrong with it (that is why it is at the pawn shop). Out of 3 pistols I purchased from a pawn shop – 2 of them were defective. Their defect was not readily apparent and I didn’t discover it – until the firearm is shot. If you don’t like doing gunsmithing and fixing this kind of stuff – if it is used – shoot before you buy.

      One of the handguns I purchased had machining chatter on the feed ramp and jammed often (FTF). I polished this out and never had a problem with it again.

      Another was not broken in and some components were too tightly fitting. As the pistol warmed up during firing, the metal would expand slightly and the slide would stop cycling and hang up. I’d set it down, let it cool and could easily operate the slide again after it had reached room temperature.

  3. I saved $90 buying a pistol from Grabagun vs my local shop. I like supporting the local guys… but not that much.

  4. #6-if you buy from a local shop they may service your gun for free-it happened to me when I bought a used shotgun and couldn’t unjam it. That said I’m going internet next time. YMMv…

  5. There really is merit to buying locally, but you should be picky about who you buy from. I’ve found that for every great local gun shop there’s at least one sleazy salesman who is only out to make a quick buck. Typically these are the same guys who jacked up all of their prices during the scare and the ones who are now trying to sell you “Super Green Tip Armor Penetrating Death Rounds” at $1/per round. I found a very reasonable shop close by with a friendly, knowledgeable staff that likes to talk about anything guns/knives related. Sometimes I go in there just to browse and talk, so when I need a gun, I don’t mind spending an extra 10-15% or so. Honestly, it’s really a good investment when you think about it. For one, you’re supporting local business and keeping money in your community. Secondly, I get the product right then, and if you pay for expedited shipping the cost would probably be closer than you think. Also, if something ever goes wrong with the gun, they’ll do everything they can to make it right because they understand the value of a loyal customer. $50 extra for a pistol that I’ll probably keep a lifetime doesn’t really sound so bad when you factor it all in.

    • So much this. I’ll usually be willing to pay a small amount extra to buy locally if the level of service warrants it. You call me a wuss when I’m looking for a 20 gauge shotgun for home defense (as opposed to a 12) like one LGS did and kiss my dollars goodby.

      Be willing to let me handle and dry fire and be able to answer questions about magazine and parts availability? Yeah I’ll spend a little extra to buy from you

  6. I too use Cabelas as a place to touch and handle several models of new firearms before I track them down elsewhere. However, I do buy from them when they line up one of their exclusive products with a sale price. With 2 lefty kids I got them both Cabelas field/home defense combo Mossberg 500. With a 18.5 defense barrel and a 28 field barrel for $339 on sale is nearly impossible to beat. Doesn’t hurt that they are just 8 miles away. I am lucky and also have 5 nice local shops nearby as well. Even in the “blueberry in the tomato soup” of Austin, TX.

    • Cabelas also offers a 5% military discount. Plus depending on where you work you can purchase gift cards at a corporate discount for me that translates to about 25% off all items in store including items on sale. The only downside for me is the 35 minute commute.

  7. Even if you don’t buy from a local source, you still help them by transferring to that local source. That’s an easy way for them to make a few hundred bucks a day, just doing some 10 min transfers. A very small shop here gives me about the same price as I’ve found anywhere else, so I support the little guy as much as possible.

    Bottom line though, save as much money as you can, you’re not getting anything more by spending more.

    • Depends. I’ll pay a little more for being able to see and work the gun before I buy it. Paying another 30 bucks to be able to test fire the gun for a magazine is worth it to me. And I’m not going to screw the shops that do that by never buying from them just because the good’s a little higher price since the service is better.

  8. I have no problem using a B&M store for purchases, besides, if the internet drives the stores out of business it will be pretty hard to fine an FFL to do transfers.

  9. If I’m buying new, I have a local FFL who operates out of his home with very competitive prices. He gets the bulk of my business unless it’s something he can’t get at a competitive price from his distributor.

  10. Its kind of a two way street. I don’t mind paying a little more to a LGS for the chance to handle the firearm and see how it feels. The flip side is how dicky the salesmen are at the LGS. They have no idea what customer service is. Treat your customers like a-holes and see how long it is before they do all thier shopping on line. Give me some good service and don’t try to rip me off and ill keep coming back.

  11. Giving credit to ACME in Seymour and Bradis in Camby; their prices are very close to Bud’s or Able Ammo list prices. Throw in the FFL and shipping and ACME and Bradis are cheaper. Rural King sometimes is not too bad. I have not had the best luck buying used guns regardless of dealer. The FUDD crowd shops are the worst, avoid them like the plague. Bass Pro in Clarksville at least has a nice selection of hunting guns. Buying guns out of production results in difficulty in getting parts and service for it.

    • Tom, it sounds like you’re in my area. You should also check out the gun counter at Ace hardware in Scottsburg. It’s less than a mile from 65 at the corner of 31N. Jeff usually has a decent selection and prices aren’t bad at all for a B&M shop. There’s also Cabin fever about 5 minutes away from there if you’re looking for something different.

  12. Used LEO guns, blue label guns, wholesale prices if your friends with an FFL, gun shows, and good consignment sales = maximum fun / dollar ratio.

    • Yup.

      There’s a shop near where I live that specializes in LE supply. The prices on used glocks and HKs are excellent, and most of the hardware is barely used.

      • Did you say those inexpensive barely used firearms came from U.S. law enforcement or France? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    • One of my favorite and honestly one of the most accurate and nicest gun that I own is a Remington 700 VLS in 308win that I bought from the used rack at Cabels for a few hundred bucks out of my pocket after some haggling. Makes it hard to look at new guns now as it completely changed my perception of used guns.

      I stuck very hard to rules 1 3 and especially 5 and walked away very happy in the end.

  13. It pays to watch Pawn Stars/Hardcore Pawn. Don’t forget gun shows. Some are private owners. Got $100 off the $575 asking on my S&W .357 M28.

  14. One of my best friends works the counter at my LGS (an ACE hardware). I have not bought any guns from them but I do all my transfers there, buy accessories, rimfire ammo, and reloading components from them. I would buy guns from them but I’m not an impulse purchaser and the guns I buy are usually a result of months of research and I buy the exact model I want. If I want a compact .45, for example, I find THE one I want and get it. Unfortunately ACE never seems to have the one I have homed in on.

  15. “Buying from a reputable online dealer, you can rest assured they know the legal ins/outs of their trade,”

    Not always. If you live in a gun restrictive state that likes to change their laws a lot, some online dealers just say forget it and refuse to deal with anyone in that state. Even if what you’re buying is legal there, they don’t want to deal with the legalities or the risk.

  16. I’ll buy wherever is cheapest. If LGS wants my business, then they’ll change to meet the market. That’s capitalism.

  17. 1. And 5. 110% spot on I have paid hundreds of dollars learning those two lessons either because I overpayed or got emotionally attached/ impulsive and bought something I ended up selling or trading months or years later because it wasn’t the right one.

    I will add a point #6 if you can afford it never buy “cheap” anything related to firearms and by cheap I mean quality not price plenty of items have a cheap price and are awesome quality but always above anything else buy the highest quality item you can afford.

  18. Online stores know the law? What planet is the author from? My experience is that a precious few do. Most just say “ah its too hard” and screw over, say the 9 million gun owners in California (California which in 2012 spent more in the firearms industry than TEXAS)

    There are quite a few that just refuse to do business or ship to CA. Now you may excuse them, why should they learn the details of every state’s laws. And it doesn’t help that, as bad as the laws are, the common perception is that they are even worse than they are (how many people think you need to take a class to buy a gun in California? Hint, you don’t). If they get enough business elsewhere, well bully for them. I don’t blame them. But they sure as hell are not sources to go to for understanding the law. That has to be the dumbest thing I have heard in disputes over online versus LGS

    Now online can sometimes charge less because of volume. Again, the LGS is usually making very little on guns. The mark up is well below MSRP on most (which generally presumes a 40% markup at the retail level). Instead 15-25% is normal, 10% is a good deal. You cannot run a business on that. Not at the volume a brick and mortar store operates. They make their money on accessories, ammo, etc.

    Many states will collect the sales tax too, if not online directly, either at the LGS or through use tax. Sure you may fail to pay the use tax, but that can bite you in the butt with pricier items if you are caught.

    Brick and mortar stores are also necessary. Without them you won’t get your online orders. So don’t forget to factor that in. If the LGS goes the way of the dodo bird, a complete gun ban would be easy. Big box stores can easily drop sales of firearms with little pressure, online sales could be outlawed, and even if they aren’t without a local FFL, good luck completing the transfer

    Those who go the an LGS to handle the gun, but have no intention of buying it there, but rather always intended not to, are essentially cheating the FFL of his time. Sure you may buy elsewhere, but he only lets you handle things because you are a potential customer. But if you are just using him, without compensation … well that doesn’t strike me as very ethical.

    Also keep in mind that some LGS will price match. There is a great pawn shop here (they sell new and used), and I saw a gun I want but it was $40 more than at Turners. I said so, and the guy took $40, knowing that he may make little money (it was new and by my calculations that was very little markup) but I will patronize him further (and I drop by there on the way to range because of that and buy ammo or targets when I need it)

    Now if all of your LGS’s are dicks, or if the gun you want is hard to find, or if, like a few LGS’s I know, they really do have high mark ups, online is fine. But the long term benefit of good relations with an LGS can pay dividends.

  19. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on these points.

    1. Slickguns is packed with spammer accounts from big retailers pushing the same bad deals to the top of the list every day.

    2. I have absolutely no motivation to give any government entity more taxes. That’s not a plus. I would support a local business, but reminding me of the taxes I have to pay for doing it doesn’t help.

    3. Any extra 10% I’d be willing to pay locally has nothing to do with taxes. NOTHING. Because it’s $550 and then still “plus tax and transfer”. The $50 goes to the cost of running that local business. I know that because I stand behind a counter, too, and if the person writing this is a businessman, he should damned well know that.

    4. I want to agree with the logic for understanding the sales pitch lines for what they are, but when *I* tell a customer that the snowplow they’re thinking of buying is showing three left in stock in the warehouse and I’ve sold seven this week, I’m not doing it for my health. It’s nothing but schadenfreud when they come back the next day to buy it and we’re both out of luck, him for no plow and me for no commission.

    Also: you need food, shelter, water, and a gun with ammo. It’s not a survival triangle anymore, it’s a square. Most gun purchases are not the first gun someone owns, but by the time you’re building a collection, most people either figure out how to choose smartly, or make peace with letting themselves get screwed due to a desire for instant gratification.

    5. I’ve never met a gun dealer who was not significantly more passionate about gun rights than even I am. To say that they all may as well be car salesmen who couldn’t tell you if this model has power windows without checking first is to insult someone who has entrusted their paycheck, and their family supported by it, in the gun industry.

  20. Figure 50 bucks for shipping and FFL transfer combined, compared to 8.25% local sales tax, and it’s cheaper to buy online for anything in the $600s or higher when the pricetag is the same. Online guys are often kitchen table types, though, so they often hit you with a credit card fee. (DON’T buy online unless using a credit card.)

    We buy our less expensive guns locally, typically from Academy, and our more expensive guns online, through larger retailers with no CC fees, free shipping, and great pricing out-the-door pricing. We use a nice, laid back local FFL with a store front who happily charges just $20 for transfers and gives us no grief about buying online.

  21. We are a online FFL Dealer and Distributor for many reasons but one that is most important to us, we sell Firearms Cheaper because we can. Big Box stores have way higher overhead and that dictates the prices. I have customers all over the US because Big Box and some smaller local shops think they have a hold on the Market, wrong. The thing that really drives us is by selling cheaper ( a lot cheaper) than everyone else is that more people can afford quality firearms, accessories, and ammunition and not break the Bank doing it. If someone values there dolar, they usually try to make it go as far as possible. As far as Taxes, we still get hit just like everyone else and that goes to the State and local government. We don’t want to make one Sale that is nothing but Raping the Customer and never hear from them again, we want to sell in volume at lower prices so they will come back and tell their friends as well. There’s plenty of things we don’t have that will keep the Big Stores in Business but when it comes to what we sell, our Customer Service, and our Prices..just ask one of our customers how we did.

  22. I’ve purchased several guns online and agree that better prices can often be found that way. It’s not always the case though, a lot depends on the local dealer. I know a local dealer who is retired, runs a small shop out of his basement, more to stay busy than to make a killing. If you know what you are looking for, he can get it for you about the same as any online dealer.

  23. Is this picture of Bill Jackson’s in St. Pete? If not, they’ve got the identical counter layout.

  24. I have a home-based FFL; we do the least expensive transfers (including NICS check) in the area.

    So . . . in the past few years, I’ve personally bought firearms
    – From an online retailer
    – From a “big box” retailer (Sportsman’s Warehouse)
    – From a local gun shop
    – From one of our wholesalers (still paid sales tax when sold to self)

    Bottom line: it depends on a lot of variables. There are cost-convenience trade-offs, desires to keep the LGS in business (we buy all our cleaning supplies locally rather than from one of our wholesalers), availability, etc. Don’t get stuck in an “only one way” mindset: remember, “one size fits all — doesn’t”.

  25. Lame article puts no value in the knowledge provided by a local dealer. I always support the local guy. Knowledge is with a lot of $$$ that you cannot get from the dime a dozen online jackwagons that get an ffl and think they know something about guns or the industry.

    • Tamarack Sports has made a valid point. There are many home based FFL’s that don’t know or care anything about Firearms and see it as a quick buck and fly by night operation. same can be said about a lot of local Gun Shops. I have seen both sides. There are plenty on both sides that do know there Business and it’s easily deciphered for anyone who knows Guns. In my area there are plenty of LGS that don’t know anything but how to sell and the cheap help doesn’t bring anything to the table either. A lot of LGS don’t even have true Gun Smiths but one’s that got their degree “Online”. Just remember that this is not just on the online side of things, there’s idiots everywhere especially in the Oval Office. Knowledge can come from both types of Business and depends on what there background is. we actualy deal with LGS people on a regular basis and likewise, we just steer clear of the one’s who have no concept of the Industry.

  26. I really appreciated the third tip you give to be prepared to bargain locally. As you suggest, if an online gun dealer sells for 500 dollars, then you have to be prepared to pay 550 dollars because there are taxes tacked on. Being aware of these expenses will help you to prepare your budget before you begin buying and so that you can ensure to the gun and supplies that you are wanting. Thank you for sharing!

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