Why a ‘Kitchen Table’ FFL is a Bad Idea

how to be an ffl kitchen table firearms license

courtesy ATF

Here at TTAG, we get lots of questions from our readers about a variety of gun-related and regulatory topics. One of the those that we’ve been meaning to cover over the years is so-called kitchen table FFLs. These non-conventional federal firearms licenses have advantages and disadvantages, both aspiring firearm industry professionals and consumers alike.

My general opinion of kitchen table FFLs is that it’s a bad idea, and here’s why. The first thing that usually comes to mind for some gun people is that they like guns, so why not make it a business? Get your FFL, make some money, use said money to buy more guns. Easy, right?

Not so much. Let’s start with the basics. I’ve been in this industry for a shade over thirteen years and I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

Unfortunately for some, the best of intentions can get tangled by the worst of city hall red tape and regulatory difficulties. What you need to be a federal firearms licensee is 100% compliance with the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act of 1934, state level regulations, local level regulations…all while you run a business.

What this means is you’ve got to be on the same page as the zoning office at city hall, maintain the ability to run background checks and determine who is eligible and not eligible to purchase or transfer firearms through you, link up with NICS or your state-level point of contact and run background checks.

You’ll have to maintain all your records to ATF standards – including warehousing 4473 forms for two decades and be able to process form 4’s – which means sitting on stuff (think: suppressors) that belongs to other people until their stamp clears months (or sometimes years) down the road.

Here’s what the ATF says you’ll have to do when you apply:

The application must be accompanied by the proper application fee ($200), which you can pay by check, credit card or money order (we do not accept cash). Once the application fee is processed, the FFLC will enter your application information into its database and commence a full review of your application.  For all license types, except type 03, required supporting materials, including fingerprint card(s) and photograph(s) will also be reviewed. As required by law, the FFLC will then conduct an electronic background check on all the Responsible Persons you have identified on your application. ATF defines a Responsible Person (RP) as a sole proprietor, partner, or anyone having the power to direct the management, policies, and practices of the business or activity as it pertains to firearms.

Piece of cake, right?

Most people don’t really want to run a business, so that’s the first thing the ATF typically asks. And that’s the largest sticking point that potential kitchen table licensees struggle with. The ATF wants to see you running an actual business, and if your local zoning doesn’t allow you to do that out of your house – you’re out of luck before you even start.

I’m not saying that all kitchen table FFLs are like this – some of them are very good, some not so much. I know a number of folks who started a firearm business from their kitchen table or out of their garage and have gone on to be good purveyors. I’ve seen some who were not so successful.

Some readers will stand up and shout, “Of course Hank is going to say having a kitchen table FFL is a bad idea. He doesn’t want the competition!” But the competitive aspect of things is secondary to the reality.

The biggest thing that I see in this industry, particularly among the kitchen table licensees, is that a lot of them don’t have the time, technical expertise or desire to be compliant with all of the rules and regulations. Not to mention that details like keeping tabs on the UPS guy, the FedEx truck, the other FedEx truck, the USPS letter carrier and ever-changing ATF regulations is pretty much a full-time job.

For most kitchen table licensees, there isn’t always someone available to sign for and receive packages until after close of business. They have regular jobs and aren’t home all day. That means items get put back on the truck to sent out again the next day – usually re-delivered at about the same time with the same result.

On the topic of technical expertise, one of the F class shooters at my gun club has been talking about getting his own FFL at his house for the past ten years. His reasoning is simple. He’s been building F class guns for 35 years and now he wants to do it for money. But he doesn’t want the expense of running a business burdening him like a millstone around his neck.

Locally we had one fellow who had decided that expensive silencers were a waste of money and decided that he had better technical knowledge and engineering expertise than Todd Magee at Dead Air and Mike Smith at AAC/Remington. This from all his years as a skid steer operator. If anyone is wondering, most of his groundbreaking designs came right out of The Anarchist Cookbook.

The ATF eventually pulled his license after they found out that he wasn’t running background checks on any of the items that he had sold. He was a terrific guy to call if you need some land clearing done, but an awful choice if you want someone who’s going to be around and smart enough to follow the law on that silencer tax stamp application and transfer.

The biggest complaint that I hear from customers when transacting with kitchen table FFLs, though, is the lack of time and regular hours they’re available. Simply put, someone who’s working gun shows on the weekends may not be able to call a vendor and order a gun for you on Monday and be able to sign for it when it arrives at noon on Tuesday. They’re probably going to get out of work, grab it at the FedEx terminal after the truck gets back at 8 PM and hopefully call to let you know your item is ready. If you’re lucky. In our instant gratification society, this is less of a selling point all the time.

One of my customers, Jeff, had a fairly horrific story to share about a kitchen table FFL he dealt with. He lives in a rural part of a northeastern state where there aren’t many dealers nearby. He had just bought a highly collectible firearm that required a tax stamp from a dealer out of state. 

Exotic devices have exotic problems. As far as taking delivery, Jeff had two practical choices. The first was to get his own C&R license from ATF and take delivery directly once he got the paperwork worked out with the licensing division and then ATF’s NFA branch.

The second was to find a licensee near him that would be able to handle a transfer for him. Having no desire to become a collector and wanting to limit his ATF contact as much as possible, he chose to just pay someone to do the transfer.

I tried to help him find someone near him who would do the transfer, but in his area there were no licensees who could handle it. I called everyone I knew and nobody had a good answer for me. Eventually he found a kitchen table FFL that was three-and-a-half hours away who was willing to help him get him his gun. Jeff telephoned him and the FFL was more than happy to handle the transfer. Things then went downhill in a hurry.

Jeff took the lead with the selling party and got the out-of-state dealer all the paperwork they needed and got the transfer rolling. His gun shipped out and got to his not-so-local kitchen table FFL. Jeff took the lead because the dealer on his side didn’t seem very interested in doing the work. That was bad sign number one.

Bad sign number two was that he hadn’t gotten his Form 4’s from his dealer. He kept calling the dealer asking for his forms. The dealer kept asking for the same info repeatedly – the name of his trust, his contact info, etc. – and after the third or fourth time Jeff was fed up.

He decided to fill out the forms himself and send them to the FFL for him to sign and then get them shipped to ATF’s NFA branch for approval. The next thing Jeff knew, his phone calls to the FFL weren’t being returned and his emails weren’t getting any replies.

Jeff was wondering if this guy was still alive. After spending a restless Friday night unable to sleep, he realized that taking matters into his own hands was his only option. He decided to embark on an early morning drive to see the FFL who was holding his machine gun, three-and-a half-hours away.

I was browsing Facebook and saw him post a small blurb about his quest while I was in Las Vegas for SHOT Show. As it was just past midnight Vegas time and just past 3 AM east coast time and Jeff had just hit the road. I was worried for both Jeff’s sanity and safety.

I called him and asked if his wife approved of this insanity. The notion of driving through the middle of the night, through northeastern snow and ice, with the goal of arriving at a total stranger’s quonset hut, pre-dawn, and banging on the door is something worthy of a Darwin Award nomination.

Jeff wasn’t happy. He had spent a significant amount of money on this gun that was being held by the FFL who wasn’t responding to him. He wasn’t able to sleep and decided to get some resolution to this issue in person. I suggested that he call local law enforcement before knocking on a stranger’s door.

Arriving at his destination before daybreak, he sat at the edge of the driveway and called the local law enforcement officials who STRONGLY suggested that he wait until the sun came up before banging on the door. Being a pretty reasonable guy, he spent the time between arrival and sunrise sitting in his car drinking convenience store coffee and revising his last will and testament in case this went terribly wrong.

What happened next is something straight out of a Hollywood writers room.

He knocked on the door and the fellow who answered responded as if it wasn’t anything unusual to have someone show up uninvited at 7 AM to ask about paperwork for their machine gun. The licensee invited Jeff in, offered him a cup of coffee and acted like nothing was a problem. As Jeff walked in, he noticed papers taped to the kitchen cabinet doors in his house which he described as a shotgun shack.

Every single one of these documents was a different federal license. The kitchen table dealer had made it his mission in life to acquire just about every license the ATF offered. Including explosive licenses. The only problem was that while the man had all of those licenses, he had no idea what to do with them. Jeff was his first transfer and the FFL had no idea how the process worked.

The dealer riffled through his paperwork and eventually found the form 3. They completed the form 4 for Jeff’s gun, the transferring dealer signed it and Jeff was happy that his forms were finally ready to roll to ATF and got ready to head home. Knowing that the man holding onto his gun was clueless, Jeff asked him if he knew what to do when the ATF eventually approved the paperwork.

The answer, of course, was no.

There is no IQ or proficiency test to be a FFL, but after hearing this story, maybe there should be. I am in no way proposing more government regulation, but there has got to be a better way. The ATF issued that kitchen table dealer every license that he had asked for and paid for without any guidance or demonstration of competence.

Jeff educated the dealer as to who would be getting the final paperwork and has been regularly checking in with ATF ever since to see if any of his documents require corrective action. This, because he’s acutely aware that the dealer holding his (very expensive) property will likely not know what to do with it, how to correct it, will probably ignore it. And won’t call or email Jeff about it if there’s a hitch.

To be clear, not all kitchen table FFL’s are so inexperienced or uninformed. There are certainly good ones out there. The problem is, from a customer’s perspective, how do you know? Most brick-and-mortar FFLs have established reputations that can be researched to determine whether or not you want to do business with them. That’s not as easy with someone operating out of his home.

If you are an aspiring kitchen table merchant of death and you’d like to jump into this business head first, by all means, go ahead. It’s a free country. I just hope you’ve done the due diligence to know what’s involved, both for your sake and that of your customers.

If you’re a consumer who wants to know what the potential downsides are to doing business with a kitchen table FFL, you’ve just heard one of the strangest situations that I’ve ever seen. But you could very well have a perfectly fine experience and find someone you like doing business with and live happily ever after.

I have adapted an old quote from Dr. Ian Malcolm that a lot of kitchen table dealers seem to have never heard or have long since forgotten. Kitchen table dealers are so preoccupied with whether or not they could become a licensee, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Your mileage will undoubtedly vary.

comments

  1. avatar Kevin J. says:

    So you are smarter than everyone else. Check.

    You know better how everyone should be running their personal affairs. Check.

    All kitchen table dealers are idiots like the one bad apple in your example. Check.

    You think 13 years in the industry means you know everything. Check.

    Maybe what we really should avoid is your articles. The people on the other side are bad enough, having elitists like you on our side is worse.

    1. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

      lol His next article will probably be telling us to not get into NFA items because it’s too complicated and red-tapey for us common folk peons.

    2. avatar bob says:

      I don’t know who TTAG’s “FFL experts” are, but they or this one guy always seems to have this huge ego.
      Every response I have received back from TTAG with an FFL question has been answered this way, talked down upon and insinuated that you wouldn’t understand, its too complicated and not for the average person, you must possess advanced skills to be this level.
      Well bull!
      How do you know you ask? Do I have 13 years experience… well, yea, plus some… I am also surrounded by “kitchen table” FFL license holders who are managing just fine without this guys smug attitude.

      100% agree Kevin.

      1. avatar Napresto says:

        I liked this bit: “There is no IQ or proficiency test to be a FFL, but after hearing this story, maybe there should be. I am in no way proposing more government regulation, but there has got to be a better way.”

        The better way is to end the NFA (and while we’re at it, all the other red tape associated with owning and running a small business in this country). The fact that his go-to is an IQ test instead of liberty says it all.

        1. avatar UsedtobePun says:

          Napresto for the win!

      2. avatar Southern Cross says:

        There was a dealer who used to go to my range. He had such a head swell from being “A Dealer” that he refused to pay range fees.

        His club told him no fee, no shoot and wouldn’t offer his membership until he did. He stormed off in a huff and never returned.

        Another got caught supplying firearms to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

        And another will not respond to requests via phone or email.

        The disdain and contempt for us mere mortals is even beyond that of wannabe operators and us mere civilians (said with a sneer).

    3. avatar Rector says:

      That was the dumbest article I have ever read on this otherwise good site.

    4. You said a mouthful Kevin..! The more I read, the more pissed off I got! The arrogance of this writer is amazing to say the least. I AM one of those ‘kitchen table’ FFL’s and have been in operation for over 5 years! I’ve gone through one compliance inspection from the ATF in which I came through with flying colors! In any event, before I even filled out the form for my 01 license, I’d carried an 03 C&R for about 12 years. I knew I had to have an actual business set up in order to be in compliance for the 01 license. So before I even mailed out the form, I had already formed my LLC, got everything cleared with my local city government and had gotten the ok from all of my neighbors to proceed,

      I had my night in front of the city council and got the ok to proceed shortly after. THAT is when I filed the paperwork with the ATF. The agent arrived to perform the site inspection about a month later and we spent over three hours going over EVERYTHING! I still to this day have the notes I took when he was first here. That same agent is the one who ran my 1st compliance inspection and was impressed at how well everything looked. How about that?? I’m nothing but a southern redneck but I’ve managed to set up and run a successful firearm business from my “kitchen table”..! Over the past 5 years, I’ve gotten the reputation for being the cheapest transfer agent in the Middle Georgia area and have processed thousands of firearm transfers! I’m also a certified gunsmith and have more work than I can handle coming to me! I’ve got active accounts with almost a dozen distributors even though I’m not a brick and mortar shop!

      I started all of this for one reason….. ready for this…??? I LIKE GUNS!! I’d also like to point out that I started this business after retiring from a successful 36 year career with the DOD (Air Force)…. Now I get to do what I love .. working on guns and meeting hundreds of like minded freedom loving patriots like myself… So say what you want Mr. 13 years of experience, THIS GUYS GOT IT RIGHT!!!

      1. avatar Gunner2000 says:

        Jesus, Robert, you need to get over yourself.
        You sound as full of shit as every one else dumping on the writer.
        Hank makes some valid points but no one can see them. What a bunch of a-holes.

        1. avatar Kestrelbike says:

          Agreed. Lordy but some people can’t be bothered to read something to understand it.

        2. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

          Gunner you missed my point entirely and you say I need to read the article..? This fella…Hank is it? Was basically calling out “kitchen FFL’s” What the hell did you expect to happen? Did you really think no one would jump all over this? Read my response again and then read it again! Maybe (doubtful) you’ll understand where I was coming from with my response!

          In my opinion, gun stores are like auto repair shops! There are good ones that will help you and not try to rip you off or sell you something you don’t need. Then there are the ones that will sell you a set of tires when all you needed was an oil change!

          I got my C&R because I got tired of paying $35 for every transfer… I got my 01 because I wanted to help folks save money and quit getting ripped off by the shops in my home town! It’s never been about the money for me! I love guns pure and simple! Get over myself you say? LOL, Go to hell Gunner!

      2. avatar CertifiedSkeptic says:

        What exactly is a “certified gunsmith”. Is that issued by the same governing body that ordained all these “Master Gunsmiths” I’ve met over my career as a “plain-old gunsmith”?

        1. avatar Robert hanlin says:

          Haha…. it means I took a year of classes and got a “certificate” proving I’m not just OJT trained. Some customers feel more comfortable leaving their firearms with me knowing I’m not simply calling myself a gunsmith but actually got some training…

        2. avatar louis Ringe says:

          Let me think how about going to 13 or so factory certified armorers classes. And after retiring from a sheriffs Dept in CA I am now in TX and still doing business, having had an FFL for almost 40 years.

        3. avatar Ted Unlis says:

          Lots of folks hold themselves out to be gunsmiths, but unfortunately many are not what I call a “Real Gunsmith”. Anyone who doesn’t have at a minimum a lathe, milling machine, and a drill press in their shop is a parts installer/assembler, aka “Armorer”, not a “Real Gunsmith”. And of course anyone taking delivery of and keeping someone else’s firearm to do any kind of work better have the appropriate FFL.

          Oh and I agree, the consensus that the author is an arrogant elitist @$$hole is spot on. For some reason people drawn to the gun business and competitive shooting seem to be know it all pricks half the time, not sure why.
          Some of the best Gunsmiths I’ve known treat their customers like $#it and act as if their doing their customers a favor to take their money.

        4. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

          Where I live, there are/were more ‘parts changers’ than Gunsmiths. That was my reason for getting training/certification six years ago. Ted, if you go to a true Gunsmiths shop, you ‘should’ find more than just a lathe, milling machine, and a drill press… LoL. I wish that was all I’d of needed! A true Gunsmith’s gonna have a LOT of tools! Some will be ‘one off’s’ (usually fabricated by ourselves hence the need for the lathe and milling machine) that were needed to do that job you might come across once in a blue moon! Some will be super expensive (at least to me) like the English Hydraulic Dent Raiser I bought and have only used three times! BUT, I’ve got it when the next dented shotgun barrel comes into my shop…! Gunsmiths also accumulate specialty tools used for specific firearms like 1911’s etc. You should also add welding equipment (at least TIG) and an oxy/acetylene rig for when you are doing repairs or heat treating the parts you made for that 100 year old double you’re restoring for a customer..! Oh and both stainless and carbon steel tanks for bluing, parkerizing, or boiling barrels, barreled actions, or handgun frames and parts! OR…ETC, etc, etc…. ! You get the idea…. Yeah, Brownell’s has gotten a lot of my money over the years (lol)..

    5. avatar Ams says:

      “Kitchen table merchant of death”
      Guess I know where you stand.

      1. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

        Haha… I kinda like that: “Kitchen Table Merchant of Death”..! Mooah ha ha ha..!

    6. avatar Rad Man says:

      I’ve been a KTFFL for six years, in Massachusetts no less, and it’s been wonderful. I buy at a discount from national wholesalers, sell on gunbroker, and deal with other FFLs only. No 4473s, background checks, or commercial location headaches. No customers at my house, no issues with my local zoning commissioner. There’s more than one way to skin a gerbil.

    7. avatar Diksum says:

      Some people have 13 years experience, while others have one year of experience 13 times. We report, you decide.

    8. avatar DamnYankee says:

      Well said, Kevin. Based on the authors logic, we shouldnt have gun stores and manufacturers, because of Red Jacket Firearms and their white trash, incestuous, rapist owner, Will Hayden. Id trust a Kitchen Table FFL long before I bought any of their garbage.

  2. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

    In WA there is no more private sales. I know a “kitchen table ffl” that makes decent money just doing just transfers.

  3. avatar AllArms says:

    “The ATF issued that kitchen table dealer every license that he had asked for and paid for without any guidance or demonstration of competence.”

    Am I the only one who’s ATF agent went over everything during the interview? They do check that you know what you’re doing as far as I know. Yes, it is a minimum of knowledge, but it isn’t without any guidance. My interviewer was very helpful with the questions I had. In addition, my ATF field office has always been very friendly and helpful.

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      My guy was very reasonable as well.

    2. avatar Totmacher says:

      My chick, and yes she was smoking hot, was awesome. Went through everything and followed up on all questions. Literally gave me a glimmer of hope for the BATF.

      1. avatar Anon in Ct says:

        As much as I dislike the mission and even the existence of the ATF, the actual agents with whom I have interacted over the years have been smart, pleasant and professional. It’s too bad they don’t work for a useful law enforcement agency.

        1. avatar AllArms says:

          Agreed, never had a bad experience with an agent. A local one at my field office even spoke to my local town business license office to clear up a misconception they had.

  4. avatar pwrserge says:

    Sadly, in the Demokkkratic Peoples Republik of Illinoisistan we can’t have kitchen counter FFLs anymore. Thanks Rock River and Springfield Armory.

  5. avatar Ralph says:

    Translation: I am a professional. Do not try this at home. If you do, you may cut into my profit margin.

    1. avatar Ted Unlis says:

      Amen!

  6. avatar PeterK says:

    The guy I have gone through a couple times is a local police officer. He’s seems like a great guy, and I had great experiences both times. It’s literally just a job of accepting a package and making a phone call for him, plus the nuance of running the red tape for me. But if you find the right Kitchen Table FFL you will save money on a simple transaction and help out a local small business. It’s win-win. I’m sure you can have crap experiences and crap FFLS, but that’s true of the bigger boys, too. So just watch your butt and do your due diligence. Not sure how this turned into a whole article knocking the entire concept…

  7. avatar ai338 says:

    Thankfully a lot of the idiot dealers are being forced out now that Obama’s not president anymore.

  8. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    I’m of the opinion that it lends its self to be a supplemental form of income for people in the right professions. As an example the last gun I had transferred in was done via a fire fighter. He has long stretches where he’s not working and scheduled inbound around it. Not only that but if you have the tracking # of a Fedex/UPS shipment you can just go to them and sign for it.

    Oddly a house mom may be able to pull it off too. She has time when her kids are at school so she could use it to run a side biz.

    Good management is good management regardless. As said, if you don’t want to be doing paperwork don’t start a business. That’s pretty well common sense in its own right

  9. avatar RetroG says:

    So his buddy who bought an expensive machine gun (redundant) decided that instead of getting a C&R FFL, he would minimize his interaction with the ATF by going to a “kitchen table” FFL 3.5 hours away?!? What a maroon. And now he regularly contacts the ATF as a result. That worked out perfectly for him.

    Yes, it is a hassle getting an FFL, like almost everything to do with the feds. And it is a hassle running an FFL business, like almost everything to do with the feds and businesses.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      I’m the moron in the story.

      Guess who has their C&R now?

  10. avatar Mark N. says:

    My kitchen table FFL is a retired local police chaplain. He lives right around the corner, and only charges $25 for a transfer (unlike the brick and mortar folks who won’t do it for less than $75.) Plus here in California, we are not allowed NFA items, so that is not an issue. The only issue is the currently pending bill that will ban table top FFLs and impose burdensome and oppressive video monitoring and record keeping on the regular stores. There is no public safety rational for the bill; its sole purpose is to limit the availability of firearms.Just as in Illinoisistan, the Legislature has discovered that it is easier to run FFLs out of business (and easier to defend lawsuits when there is no 2A issue for regulation of businesses) than it is to ban guns.

  11. avatar former water walker says:

    Golly gee is Firearms Concierge back under a pseudonym?!? You unsophisticated hicks are too stupid for a kitchen table FFL dontchaknow😄😊😏

    1. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

      Beat me to it.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        Awww, I miss FC.

        Having spent some time behind a gun counter, a lot about what he wrote about rang true, with the ‘personalities’ he encountered…

    2. avatar frijoli says:

      That’s exactly what I thought!

  12. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

    So now we know that “Hank the Gun Dealer” and “Mike the Gun Guy Weiser” are the same person. Good to know.

  13. avatar HEGEMON says:

    There is nothing wrong with being an FFL of the table top variety. Bill Clinton decimated thousands of part-time table top dealers. You are absolutely wrong.

  14. avatar James Tompkins says:

    My kitchen table FFL manufactures their own firearms out of a home shop and I love not having to go to some grumpy guy who writes articles like this because they know more than myself and because I didn’t buy an overpriced gun from them.

  15. avatar Bob says:

    …sounds like “Hank the Gun Dealer” just wants to scare away the competition…

    1. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

      You’re absolutely right! I know that since I’ve got little to no overhead costs, I can afford to sell firearms cheaper than ANY local brick and mortar store. My customers know that my mark up is 5% above wholesale! Fortunately for them (other FFL’s) my business is gunsmithing so I don’t push retail sales.

  16. avatar copdocretmil. says:

    Time to stop wasting time on this site.
    FFL since 1987.
    Through Clintinista and Obamination harassment.
    And I can even use a computer to run 4473’s.
    I do NOT need another Hotel Sierra Alpha Hotel telling me I can’t do what I do.
    Good bye.
    Everything else from this site goes SPAM

  17. avatar Ample_Arms says:

    I recently opened up my home-based FFL business to replace a gentleman in my neighborhood that recently retired. I met with him to go over all the details of potentially running a biz like that. He was doing 20-40 transfers per month, plus the occasional special order. He gave me some invaluable tips, and now refers his previous customers to me.
    I’m in a pro-2A state, and my local city has no problem with home FFLs. The business works for me, makes a bit of side income, and helps me teach my kids how to treat customers and manage money. We get to see and handle a variety of different firearms, and we offer our local customers the privacy of doing business in a neighbor’s home.

    However, I’m technically selling guns from my living room: That makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. ATF can pretty much come in and inspect my home whenever they wish: so there’s that. If I goof up and disobey any GCA or ATF ruling, I’m legally toast. If I’m lucky, I’ll bring in one shifts’ worth of income extra per month in exchange for at least double the amount of my time.

    So far, I like it. My customers like it. My kids like it. My wife tolerates it.

    1. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

      My business has pretty much run the same as yours Ample_Arms… My customers like being able to sit down, relax, and chew the fat a bit while filling out the 4473 and I get to meet some interesting and cool people. Getting to handle some of the coolest new firearms out there is one of my most favorite perks!

      1. avatar Ample_Arms says:

        Yup! I helped my first customer find a Galil ACE in 5.56; I’d never seen one of those before. That’s a cool rifle! Way out of my price range (I got kids, man!), but now I’ve got a friend who’s got one – sometimes just as fun!

    2. avatar Totmacher says:

      Im a Kitchen Counter FFL (with SOT), though most business is done in the game room… So a Pool Table FFL? I do it on the side to make some cash and help people out. This article has without question been the biggest load of bullshit I have read on TTAG.

      2 hassles…

      1) Getting good dealer connections. They all want a brick and mortar store (see #2 for why). It typically takes a relationship or two and you will eventually get in with one, then using it as a reference gets you more. Though grass roots manufactures will still typically go direct.

      2) someone home for signing packages. Thankfully my Inlaws stay with us in the winter and my wife works from home Fridays.

      Other then that if you are good with paperwork or recordkeeping, and it can be digital, I do all mine digital its a cake walk.

      I laughed at his stupid comment about running NICS checks… clearly your 13 years in the industry has been extremely limited or you dont k ow what the hell you are talking about. Easily 90% of my customers have CCW/LTC’s so its 3 minutes of paperwork then cash and carry. NICS check what? Hell I have gone full cycles of them forcing me to change my NICS passwird without running a NICS check.

      And hours? People LOVE my hours… it’s way more convenient.

      This article is quite literally the definition of “Fake News”.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        “This article has without question been the biggest load of bullshit I have read on TTAG.”

        So, you’re a new reader.

        1. avatar John in Ohio says:

          I belly laughed at that. Well done.

      2. avatar Diksum says:

        Some years ago when I worked for the DOD, a fellow employee and FFL holder ran his business out of his government office. He would take orders during lunch, and when the gun arrived, you would visit him, do the paperwork, and leave with your gun. Probably violated several regulations, but no one had any problems.

      3. avatar AllArms says:

        And even if there is a NICS check, it’s another 3 minutes online.

        Very difficult, can only experts should try.

    3. avatar Diksum says:

      No, the ATF cannot go into your home any time they want. The can go only at your convenience, at a time you agree to.

  18. avatar Tim U says:

    Had a “kitchen ffl” for several years – only reason I let it go was because I was moving and the new city wouldn’t permit it (before anyone asks why I went through with it, the choice was have an ffl but watch my neighbors have an illegal gun fight outside or no ffl but live in a relatively safe neighborhood farther from the major urban populace…. next time I’ll move farther out where it won’t matter).

    Never had an issue with the process. The atf agent that came went over everything, and then I never had an interaction with the atf again until I called them and said I was moving and unable to relocate the ffl.

    Now, the big problem I DID have was everybody wanted to order a gun from me at below online retailer pricing…. which in turn was lower than what I’d have to buy it for at wholesale. Advised them to just buy online and let me do transfers because I was never going to get the price that good..

    1. avatar Lma says:

      THIS is the reality. Being competitive to online is near impossible as a little guy currently. Unless you can get a source on used guns (buying collections, etc). Most of the “kitchen table” FFL business is doing transfers or collecting sales tax on a distributor sourced firearm that is higher than your profit margin.
      FFLs need to unite and charge a reasonable percentage on transfers vs a flat fee system like most do.

      1. avatar TomC says:

        Why should the transfer fee be a percentage of the alleged selling price when the work (if you call it that) is exactly the same whether the FFL is transferring a $100 gun or a $10,000 gun?

        As long as the firearm in question isn’t an NFA item, the background check and paperwork for the transfer is 5 to 10 minutes of time for someone who is a slow writer or slow typist (less if the customer has a concealed carry license which eliminates the NICS check here).

        For that five to ten minutes of work most FFLs around here charge $25 — a few say they charge $50 but the ones who say that simply don’t want to do transfers at all but might end up doing one or two transfers a year for people who didn’t think to call around.

        In most cases it seems that the transfer fee is really intended more to discourage customers from buying from online dealers. My usual LGS will happily tell you that for almost any gun he can sell you the same gun for no more than what it would cost you to buy it online, have it shipped, and pay the transfer fee.

        Of course where I happen to live, the serious LGS operators have figured out that they can’t stay in business by gouging customers too badly because two of the major online dealers are located within comfortable driving distance — one is 40 minutes from me and the larger better known one is about 90 minutes from me.

        1. avatar Mark N. says:

          When you add in the usual transfer fees in my community of $75, plus California DROS of $25, plus shipping, the cost of an on l ine purchase is equal to or greater than buying a gun locally. And they do not care that they do not carry or cannot obtain the gun you want If you buy from them, the transfer fees suddenly drop down to $25 or even free at the larger dealers. Yeah, it is all about discouraging on line purchases.

      2. avatar Dave M says:

        $10 where I live if they did not sell it to you, none if they did. CCW = no NICS. Hope freedom holds out.

        1. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

          That’s how I work Dave…. I figured charging $10 was reasonable considering the little bit of work I have to do with picking up the firearms (I have all incoming firearm deliveries going to an alternate address) every morning, logging them in and maintaining the 4473’s.

          Finding out about using an alternate shipping/ mailing address was a real boon for me since I am a home based FFL. I actually learned about it from an FFL in Washington state. I found the BATF newsletter that covered it and had my license amended. Now I can relax knowing that incoming firearms will be delivered to a secure location. Some deliveries do slip past and still come to my house since some FFL’s chose not to work with me and think they can ONLY ship to the residence address listed on the license even when I include a highlighted copy of the newsletter showing that it’s ok to ship to the other address but it’s rare.

          Getting back to the fee though… I could never really understand why shops charge as much as they do! There is not that much work involved and processing the 4473 takes just minutes of our time! But heh, I’m glad they do, LoL, it’s more money in my pocket!

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “I could never really understand why shops charge as much as they do!”

          Charging whatever traffic will bear is a bedrock fundamental of free enterprise. Market forces will discipline the seller.

          I have detailed knowledge of Statistical Process Control (Demming). I will sell you that knowledge at $150/hr. You can get the same information in a $25 book. If $150/hr represents a value to you, why should I sell at a lower price? Bidness is bidness.

  19. avatar Anner says:

    I think this article inaccurately portrayed Hank. He’s written several others, all informative and friendly in tone. I doubt he meant to sound arrogant in this one.

    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/author/hank-the-helpful-gun-dealer/

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      He kinda got quickly lumped in with Firearm Concierge, unfortunately. ‘FC’ also laid down some cold truths, and his delivery style (highly embellished) raised some (fuck, *lots* of!) hackles.

      If you’re running your home FFL on the up-and-up, my hat’s off to all of you. But the cold truth is, there are some jackwads out there, causing some folks real problems…

  20. avatar Mad Cow says:

    I hope Hank sees some of these comments and takes note. I personally have enjoyed his other articles and found him to be a breath of fresh air compared to Firearms Concierge, but this article smacks a little of “elitism”.

    I think the point of “knowing federal, state and local regulations” is valid, as are the bumps in the road to running your own business, but I’ve dealt with a few kitchen table FFLs and had almost no negative experiences (the “worst” one was the guy was busy the same day the gun came in and asked me to chill out after courteously asking when he was available…it was fine, but he didn’t get more business from me). I’ve had much worse experiences with big shops that felt they needed to tell me what I wanted/needed.

    And that’s the point: get to know who you’re doing business with. If you don’t like them, or how they act or communicate, etc., then try somewhere else.

    The guy with the machine gun sounds like he was desperate, hadn’t sought out a reliable FFL before his purchase, and decided to roll the dice…and lost. It sucks, and is a warning to us all, but that’s life.

    I look forward to more articles by Hank.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      “I personally have enjoyed his other articles and found him to be a breath of fresh air compared to Firearms Concierge”

      Damning with faint praise. A fart is a breath of fresh air compared to Firearms Concierge.

    2. avatar Jeff says:

      The story about the machine gun has been simplified considerably. I thought I had a dealer lined up. Twice. But ran into issues and was forced into desperation mode.

  21. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    There is no IQ or proficiency test to be a FFL, but after hearing this story, maybe there should be. I am in no way proposing more government regulation, but there has got to be a better way.

    There is a vastly superior way that is also vastly simpler: eliminate the entire Federal Firearm Licensee program and let firearms businesses proceed just like they did before 1968.

  22. avatar strych9 says:

    I’m not sure why so many people are offended/angered by this article.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      You speak a large truth. I’m kinda jaded on the gun biz, having been behind the counter of 3 establishments. And having seen one of those establishments *lose* their FFL after mouthing off to a female ATF official doing an inspection. (This was after I was long gone, but it was *all* the talk of the other local shops, and knowing who it was that did the mouthing off, not surprising in the least. His general attitude was why I split in the first place. So, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer…).

      Folks should have their antenna peaked up a bit when dealing not with a brick-and-mortar. (And sometimes with the B-n-M.). Buyer beware…

      Nice job, Hank. I enjoyed it…

  23. avatar Jim says:

    I run a small shop and when I got my license the ATF agent was super nice and went over everything. I havent had any issuses with them. I follow the regulations as I dont need any trouble. I charge $15 for transfers and mark up about 8% on sale items. I treat everyone that comes in my shop just exactly how I want to be treated. No problems and good customer base.

  24. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Wanted to obtain an FFL to do transfers, as not all stores/ranges will do private transfers (which is one purpose of requiring UBC for private sales). I got the business package to prepare for running a business legally, but found out that BATFEAEE stopped issuing “kitchen FFL” licenses several years ago. If so, what are we to really learn from the posted article?

    1. avatar George from Alaska says:

      Sam, I don’t think there is any law or FFL regulation or statute that prohibits home occupation firearms sales. I know quite a few home occupation FFL’s. There is nothing in the FFL regulations that mandates that you have to have a brick and mortar store or even what security you have to have. Often if a person calls the ATF and asks about how to get a FFL they will hear so much compliance information that they may believe that you cannot operate out of a home, or at the least it will be overly difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth although one does need all applicable State and local business licenses, pay state or local taxes if required, fill out a business profit and loss schedule with your Federal taxes and either live in a zoned general use area or a residential area where home occupation businesses are legally allowed by city ordinance.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Sam, I don’t think there is any law or FFL regulation or statute that prohibits home occupation firearms sales. ”

        Thanks for the update!

      1. avatar AllArms says:

        “the ATF has informed them that they will no longer issue home based FFL’s and that if the home based FFL does not renew their license it will be terminated and they cannot get it back under their residence. However the ATF is allowing current home based FFL’s to renew their FFL’s at this time.”

        And that is known as complete bullshit. It never happened.

      2. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “there was this: https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/06/foghorn/death-kitchen-counter-ffl-no-new-licenses-distributors-stop-shipping/

        Thanx. Guess this is why I had a fuzzy notion that kitchen table FFLs were a thing of the past.

        1. avatar That One Guy says:

          there was also this:
          https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/12/foghorn/anti-gun-violence-policy-center-founder-atf-approved-kitchen-counter-ffl/

          which suggests that there was a successful anti-gun shift in how “in the business” was defined during the Clinton administration which other articles go on to suggest resulted in the loss of many kitchen table FFLs.

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “there was also this:”
          https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/12/foghorn/anti-gun-violence-policy-center-founder-atf-approved-kitchen-counter-ffl/

          ‘Preciate the research I probably should have done, first.

  25. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    I’m old enough to remember when “Kitchen Table” FFLs were quite common and normal.

    This before Clinton and his administration.

    Bit longer than 13 years ago though.

  26. avatar WI Patriot says:

    Afraid someone is going to cut you out of your markup…???

  27. avatar Grumpster says:

    The democrats in Illinois felt exactly the same way about all FFLs and gun stores that Hank The Gun Dealer did about kitchen table FFLs so they created a new state licensing law to shut many of them down by making it too expensive and complicated to do business anymore. Just “common sense” stuff they say.

    https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2019/01/john-boch/illinois-governor-pritzker-signs-gun-dealer-licensing-bill/

    The bad news for our gun dealers? This new law still has all manner of onerous provisions:

    Up to a $10,000 civil penalty for each and every violation of any provision
    Requires mandatory training of employees
    Mandatory video surveillance of the entire facility, with the exception of restrooms
    Records of the video surveillance shall be maintained for at least 90 days
    Requires licensees sign up for an alarm monitoring service
    Multiple signage requirements. If one of the required signs fall off the wall or become obscured? $10,000 civil penalty. Make your check out to the Illinois State Police.
    Security plans must be submitted to the Illinois State Police and there’s no set standard. In other words, an ISP bureaucrat may deem a submitted plan “inadequate” at any time for an arbitrary reason.
    Requirement that licensees make a photocopy of ID for each firearm transfer. Don’t lose that copy, dealers! Each lost ID will cost you $10,000 to the ISP.
    Submit to random, unannounced inspections by any law enforcement agency or the Illinois State Police. So the Chicago Anti-gun Enforcement Unit could drop in, unannounced, at a dealer in Cairo, Illinois and go through the records with a fine tooth comb. Any violations, no matter how trivial, will cost the dealer $10,000. Each.
    All manner of application and ongoing paperwork requirements. Miss filing the appropriate affidavit for a new employee, break out that checkbook.
    Implementation of electronic-based record keeping system by 2020. Better make sure you backup those hard drives! Each record lost will cost you… big bucks.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      It is easier to run dealers out of business than it is to ban guns. The plan, as is the similar plan in California, is to reduce the availability of firearms, even if legally purchased. They have drunk the KoolAid: “fewer guns means fewer gun deaths.” As if….

      1. avatar SoCalJack says:

        Mark N. Thanks for sharing. Any insight on all those Turners gun/fishing stores opening up in California? I don’t have a grasp on the size of the firearms market pie (I.e. are mom&pop’s getting a smaller slice, is the pie shrinking?). Thx.

    2. avatar binder says:

      Look, I’m in Illinois, I already lost two FFLs because of legislative crap. But after reading this blog on a FFL compliant software site, I now know why that law was really passed. From what I’m gathering, a FFL who is gun running has the be fairly stupid to get busted;

      “There’s a misconception that the ATF can impose monetary fines or suspend a firearms dealer’s FFL for any violation. Since 2004, they’ve lost much of this authority.”

      “Today, the ATF can only fine a seller or suspend the seller’s FFL in a single, specific circumstance: If the seller fails to conduct a NICS background check, and only if the check would have discovered that the buyer was prohibited from owning a firearm. (The buyer being prohibited isn’t enough to meet the standard of the fine or suspension; the background check would have had to undoubtedly discover it.).”

      “If the ATF feels the seller isn’t committed to improving their business practices, they can deny a seller’s license renewal or revoke the license outright. This only happens after the seller has collected severe or repeated violations.”

      You may also want to look up MKS Supply owner Charles Brown some time. It was documented he sold 181 guns to 4 people (they did not have FFLs) of which 141 were known to be fenced
      “”To prosecute a dealer, you’d have to show they were KNOWINGLY making illegal sales”, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Violant

      I remember reading reports about 20 years ago from the ATF that as much a 40% of crime guns came direct from FFL run running. Now no ones talks to much about it.

  28. avatar Duane says:

    Hank should name his business, his location since he is so proud of it.

  29. avatar enuf says:

    I’ve bought from several small FFL businesses run out of the guy’s home. One had a small retail store set up in a room built behind his garage. Two did their paperwork on the kitchen table or a dining room table. Never had a problem with any of them and that includes ordering guns and parts.

    I do not doubt there are bad examples I’m only saying I have not met one.

    So, based strictly on personal experience, I will ignore this little warning and commercial advertisement and continue as before.

    1. avatar YuGo HuGo says:

      “I’m not saying that ALL kitchen table FFLs are like this – some of them are very good, some not so much”. Did you fellows NOT see the quote above near the onset of this article?

      1. avatar enuf says:

        Yes, read that. The positives in his piece are drowned out by the much greater negatives.

  30. avatar tom says:

    What a bunch of garbage! Your article should have been titled “I’m an arrogant ass and here is one reason why…”
    Your fictional story has nothing to do with why home-based FFL’s aren’t a good idea. It could just have easily been about a brick & mortar store owner who didn’t do the paperwork required, violated zoning, skimmed profits to save on taxes, stole inventory to expand his personal collection, and whined about entrepreneurs who found a way to compete with him by creating legal and well-operated businesses with lower overhead. I guess that wouldn’t have supported your asinine premise that home based businesses are bad.

    1. avatar George from Alaska says:

      Right on Tom… I was just about to write a slightly toned back version of what you wrote. Glad you put it all out there! This is no time for any of us gun owners to be divided on firearms issues…

  31. avatar possum says:

    I believe I would rather have a paper ffl.

  32. avatar Bill says:

    I suggest TTAG read over its own articles before dumping them here.

    Anyone working for TTAG that thought this was a good idea to put on a pro gun page should be fired.

  33. avatar neiowa says:

    If you want to go into business AND you want Chuckie Schemer and AOC as partner/boss then an FFL is a GREAT idea.

  34. avatar Joel IV says:

    Licensing and regulating a constitutionally protected right and the free trade thereof is a bad idea.

    There, I fixed your article.

  35. avatar Bt justice says:

    When I bought my wife an engagement/wedding ring set, I was referred to a private jewler who worked out of his house. Very professional, knowledgeable and priced way better than the chain stores, with a much better product. I immediately thought of the crappy, overpriced gun stores I’d been to all my life, and compared his service to the condescending, know-it-all dorks at the gun shops who charge way over retail for a gun thats “hard to find” or “in high demand”. Sadly, gun stores in general are a huge disappointment, but I can understand the frustration of the salespeople. Im sure they get tired of tire kickers, video game nerds asking about machine guns, and obvious dirtbags attempting straw-purchases. Nonetheless, I got my FFL and really enjoy saving my customers money and getting them what they want, not just what the store has in the case. And making a dent in the a-holes business in the next town…

    1. avatar Sua Sponte says:

      Spot on sir.

  36. avatar Sua Sponte says:

    I agree, partially in that yes, there could be/may be/will be/have been issues with home based FFL’s as there are issues with any home based business or any business for that matter. I’ve been running mine nearly a year with little issue, then again, I’m a bit of an OCD type. My gunsmithing/transfer is only word of mouth at this time which may make it a bit easier for me, but at the same time, let customers know up front what my requirements are of not only them, but also me prior to them purchasing a firearm. True, not being a brick and mortar store has it’s disadvantages, but, the advantage is building a closer relationship with my customers and building a solid customer base. Once I get to a reasonable level and have the capital to look at moving into a brick and mortar location, then I’ll cross that bridge. The area that’s been most beneficial to me is the lines of communication between myself and the customer. Email and text notifications on status of orders and such let’s people know that you actually care about their business. One has to be willing to adjust their life. The outcome so far has been repeated and dedicated customers, many who have become friends, who know that I’m not going to lift their wallet.

  37. avatar Hanksaneffingiddiot says:

    Another awesome article by Hank The Idiot Gun Dealer!

    First, his stories are fabricated. Bold. Faced. Lies.
    As in entirely untrue.

    Second, his generalizations of “kitchen table dealers” can be applied to all gun dealers. There are those who are knowledgeable and competent and those who are not. ATF sorts out one from the other.

    Third, for a hint of credibility try using your real name.

    1. avatar bob says:

      That last part kills me Hansaneffingiddiot 🙂

      But completely agree!!

  38. avatar Damien says:

    This article is garbage.. The only difference between a brick and mortar FFL and a KT FFL is that the brick and mortar FFL has a huge overhead. My neighbors love the fact that they can come to me to transfer firearms, and people who live close love the flexibility of hours to transfer firearms..

    Brick and mortar is old fashioned, and becoming the dinosaur of the industry. Online sales, and KT FFLs is the way to go, and the growing trend that will last the test of time.

  39. avatar Jaqckass Jim says:

    I got my first FFL decades before you did – probably before you were ever even able to buy a gun let alone advise anyone about the nuances of guns or the law.

    Get lost kid.

  40. avatar Jonathan-Houston says:

    Of course Hank is going to say having a kitchen table FFL is a bad idea. He doesn’t want the competition!

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “Of course Hank is going to say having a kitchen table FFL is a bad idea. He doesn’t want the competition!”

      Could the article just be a cautionary tale for people who think they want an FFL, but have no real understanding of “the business” part of the business?

      1. avatar AllArms says:

        Yes, it could be. And it could be that without all of the down-talking.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “And it could be that without all of the down-talking.”

          That is what puzzles. Didn’t take any of it as down-talking. Must sound different to people with “skin” in the FFL game. Or maybe I am guilty of superficial reading. It’s all curious.

  41. avatar BradP says:

    Maybe if more LGSs didn’t have employees that act like douche bags, charged reasonable prices, and listened to their customers instead of treating them like potential thieves, more people would shop at the LGS and there wouldn’t be a need for KTFFLs?

  42. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Well, a gun lawyer with his own podcast has gone on record saying every gun owner should get their own FFL. This way at least if you want to get anything, you’ll be able to do it for your own personal use.

    It sounds like a good idea to me based on what could possibly happen in the very near future in this country.

  43. avatar arc says:

    “There is no IQ or proficiency test to be a FFL, but after hearing this story, maybe there should be. I am in no way proposing more government regulation, but there has got to be a better way.”

    There is a better way. Dispose of all licensing and return to the people of America being able to purchase their own damn weapons.

  44. avatar Gary Lamb says:

    The man was telling a story about a nightmare experience not how all home based FLL Dealers weren’t as smart as him.I personally think it was informative but my question is about getting a C&R Liscence.Is it as much of a pain in the Ass as the FFL.My wife and I are retired and would like to make some extra money.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “My wife and I are retired and would like to make some extra money.”

      If I remember the online course information, C&R is not for selling or transferring as part of a business…other than purchases/trades for your collection. Too many sales/transfers in a year can bring unwanted attention.

      Records must be kept, just like a normal FFL (but you can destroy them when you surrender your C&R license. The biggest advantage seems to be those instances where you get better pricing on some items, and that the firearm can be shipped directly to your door. You are not allowed to do transfers for other people (private sales), other than buying/selling a relic.

      Any body else got better info?

      1. avatar Robert C Hanlin says:

        Your info is correct Sam…

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Your info is correct Sam…”

          Thanx !

  45. avatar Ryan S. says:

    Your buddy doesn’t want to go through the trouble of getting an 03 C&R License because he wants to minimize his contact with the ATF but is buying a machine gun on a Form 3 and Form 4. That is about the dumbest thing I have ever read. Getting an 03 C&R is about as simple and painless as getting a permit for a bake sale at church. The dealer he chose wasn’t the only idiot in your story, your buddy was too.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email