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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 ( 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.


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  1. Also: gun geeks are like any other geeks. Do your research, know your subject and they will treat you with exponentially more respect. See: video store clerks, record store clerks, auto and motorcycle counter clerks etc. Most likely they are enthusiasts and have a harder time relating to/understanding folks who aren’t. It’s not that they don’t try, they literally don’t understand people who don’t share the same passion they do. I should know, I’ve been a record store clerk,motorcycle parts counter guy, gun counter guy and video store clerk and i’ve done the same thing.

    • And one other thing: most true geeks pride themselves on their knowledge, and are happy to be be schooled by someone that knows better. In fact, nothing makes them happier than learning some new piece of trivia or minutiae. Some of the best hours of my life have been spent listening to a crusty old timer setting me straight.

  2. The gun stores in and around Portland have been busier (at times insanely busier) than normal (it’s also hunting season) the past few months yet there has not been panic shopping and buying of guns or ammo. If you are going to ask the gun store employee for a discount (or to match a competitive price or to throw in some free ammo etc) if you buy a gun then first quietly pull the clerk aside away any other present customers and then make your proposal. Considering how strong demand is now for guns many gun stores are refusing to cut a deal yet others will still deal.

  3. I always love it when I go to a gun store knowing EXACTLY what I want, but when I get in there there is only 1 guy behind the counter, and he’s got a line of customers who are asking questions like,”So, what do you think is a good gun?”, or “…so is a 9 millimeter any good?”, launching a 20-45 minute summary of the history the modern firearm, ending with the customer saying,”okay, that’s cool, I think I’m going to shop around a little bit”. Love it.

  4. I’m going to try and enjoy gun shopping this holiday season, but it’ll be hard knowing that it’ll likely be the last Christmas many (if not all) of the guns I see will be allowed in this dictatorship.

  5. if i go to a gun store now and am buying I bring a sign that says I am here to buy.

    I find this gives me better service and alot of times the person behind the counter will ask what i want. I tell them and they go get it real fast got back to talking to the other customer while in inspect and when they are done then fill out the sheet. gets my my pretty and only takes 2-3 minutes away from the jackhole asking about the diff between 7 diff firearms in 4 diff cases.


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