By Steven Hsieh
As TTAG has pointed out on a few occasions, manufacturers and dealers are predicting sales to jump around election day. While gun sales are definitely rising right now, the industry hasn’t seen the levels of the widespread panic buying that was reminiscent of late 2008. Still, it’s wise to prepare yourself for a significant increase in demand. Here are a few tips to navigating through the crowds that I’ve picked up working as a sales employee for a high volume retail and wholesale operation . . .
1. Know what to expect during the rush
When demand is high, most FFLs (especially the high volume ones) will expand hours and assign extra staff. While this certainly helps, it just won’t be enough in most cases. To put it simply, there are going to be more customers than employees to serve them. FFLs know this and will operate emphasizing retail triage. Time is money, and while the size of purchase is considered, the main focus will be on getting the most customers served.
2. Plan ahead
This is critical to successfully navigating in any rush environment and will make your experience (and our job serving you) easier. You want to pick the right time to go shopping. If at all possible, avoid weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are usually the busiest days of the week. As for the time of day, the early bird just about always gets the worm (or in this case the gun). Those who come in during the first hour or so are the ones that receive the most personal attention and service.
3. Know what you want ahead of time
A surge in demand for firearms isn’t a good time to go window-shopping. Inventory will be changing fast so have a contingency in mind in case the item you want is sold out. I recommend having a couple of fallback choices in mind. Know that some items may be harder to find than others during a rush. “Black weapon” items, such as AR and AK pattern rifles, high cap magazines, full-sized handguns, etc. and the ammo they shoot are going to be in higher demand (especially depending on the election results) than peripherals like cleaning kits, cases and optics. The availability of some items during holiday periods is less predictable, so research and plan accordingly.
4. Get the right price
Learn to recognize a deal from a steal. Unfortunately, there’s no sole source for determining whether a price is an accurate reflection of value. It’s up to you to determine that. My advice is to check various retailers and compare prices (www.slickguns.com aggregates multiple retailers for you). Put together a general price range for what you’re looking for and stick to it. If your local FFL’s price is on the high side, see if they’ll match another store’s price. Keep in mind that some items may be non-negotiable because they are in such high demand or are discounted on sale.
5. Take the initiative with the sales staff
Working with the sales staff is worthy of an article in itself. For now I’ll just say you need to be proactive in getting assistance if every available employee is working with someone. Instead of waiting for me to get to you, politely ask me if I will help you when I am finished with my current customer. You’ll be the very next person to receive my full attention and the current customer I am with at the moment will understand that other people need attention.
6. Consider waiting out the storm
When it comes down to it, you’ll need to decide for yourself if now is really the right time to buy. While it’s always nice to have more firearms, the timing might not be right financially. Especially if your wife/girlfriend will put a hole in your head with that new gun when she finds out about it. The point is that for one reason or another, it may not be in your best interests to buy that gun you’ve been lusting after now. So instead of picking up another heater, you may be better off investing in the ones you already own. An upgraded sight and few range sessions or classes can be (almost) as much fun as a new one.