Even if you’re a seasoned gun owner or you’re new to guns – we wanted to talk a little bit about strategies you can use to most effectively use your time and the time of your retailer during these strange times. As a firearm retailer, we’ve talked about this before but from what I’ve seen, it bears repeating.
Let’s start with a brief primer.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but if you buy a firearm from a local retailer, they are still going to have follow every federal and state law. Their continued licensure depends on it.
That means comlpeting an ATF Form 4473 and complying with waiting periods if your state mandates them. That means meeting any state-level requirements.
If you live in a state where your concealed carry license exempts you from the background check, terrific! That will save you lots of time at the dealer. It’s less work for us, it’s less time spent out and about for you and everyone wins.
If you’re buying from a retailer out of the area/out of state – it’s going to ship to a federal licensee of your choosing to do all the required paperwork under federal and state laws.
What we’re seeing here at Hank’s — and probably every other gun dealer in the country — is someone calling in from out of the area wanting something that’s hard to find. If I have it, I tell them I have it, I take their payment and ship it to a FFL near them.
Lots of first-timers are buying. We’re still getting calls from folks who do not know they can’t get a firearm shipped directly to their house and they don’t know of any dealer that’s open right now that’s doing transfers.
Strategy Number 1: Before you shop online or out of state, line up a local FFL first.
Lots of brick and mortar dealers are closed and lots of home-based FFL’s are, too. These are interesting times. They demand interesting solutions.
What’s happened here at Hank’s and many other gun dealers is someone calls in looking for something hard to find. That item is in stock and available. The prospective buyer then calls every FFL in a 50 mile radius near them on the Gunbroker FFL finder to find someone to handle the transfer.
By the time they locate someone and call back to pay, the item has already been sold to someone else who has their payment, their FFL info and everything squared away on the spot.
When someone calls a dealer looking for a gun, can’t find an FFL to do their paperwork and then finds out the product has been sold to someone else with everything all ready to go, it wastes everyone’s time and they’re not happy.
Even outside of extremely busy times like we’re in now, you can ensure a good transaction by getting everything in place up front and having your ducks in a row. You’ll also avoid the disappointment of having the gun you’d been looking for sold to someone else.
Strategy Number 2: Take care of the little things.
That means CURRENT ID, or supplemental ID that is not expired and ready to go. Have any state level safety certificates, etc. that need to be brought with you. Double check your documents before you walk out the door.
Another problem this industry is having is that the government shutdown has impacted everyone who’s recently moved to a new state and hasn’t had a chance to get their ID updated yet with their new address. What that means, unfortunately, is that an FFL can’t sell you a gun.
Most private party sellers who want to see an ID aren’t going to sell you a gun either. We’re seeing folks come in with expired drivers licenses and lapsed concealed carry licenses and we can’t do anything for them because the ATF will not let us.
If you don’t have current ID, download ATF Form 4473 and look at the supplemental forms of documentation to see if you can bring the retailer something that meets that requirement. If you can’t, they won’t sell you a gun. It’s that black and white.
If you forget something, it’s no big deal. But by the time you run home to get what you forgot, you’re going to need to get back in (frequently long) line to get served by one of the counter staff again. That doesn’t sound very fun, does it?
Worse, lots of retailers are only seeing customers by appointment now to minimize the number of people in their stores. If you don’t have the right documentation, you probably can’t just run home and get it. You’ll have to make another appointment and come back again (and hope they still have the gun you wanted).
Recently, one customer drove two hours to get a gun that we had in stock that we’d set aside just for him. He came in, plopped down his cash, and…forgot his photo ID. There is nothing I can do for someone who has forgotten their ID except tell them to go home and get it.
Strategy Number 3: Know what you want.
Dealers are not displaying guns like before. This is new to all of us. Dealers are setting up tents in their parking lot and bringing guns to people in their cars. Customers aren’t even setting foot in the store.
I’ve taken call after call from people asking for me to pull a bunch of guns out to show them or their spouses so they can get a feel for what’s they’re buying because they’re new to guns.
I’ve talked with some friends in the industry and no one I know is pulling out or displaying inventory. Everything sits on the wall or behind the glass until it’s sold and written up.
The reason is simple. Why am I going to put a bunch of guns into a bunch of hands and take the risk of spreading the virus? Why am I going to let someone inside the store if I don’t have to?
What this means in many cases: no touching guns. No feeling guns side by side. No comparison shopping.
You walk in, tell me what you want or point at what you want on the wall and we’re wrapping it up as fast as possible. Don’t like it? Sorry. We’re selling plenty of guns this way, I’ve got lots of people to wait on who know what they want and understand the new normal.
The reason we’re doing this is simple: it’s not worth the risk of spreading the virus to other customers or the retailer’s staff.
The less exposure, the better.
Any retailer who is not deploying these sorts of precautions isn’t taking this situation seriously and I would steer clear of them now for that reason alone. These are scary times and they’re demanding aggressive social and industry changes to adapt.
Strategy Number 4: Have a plan and be patient.
Background checks are backing up. Every dealer I talk to is having the same problem. Delays on common last names like Smith, Jones, Diaz, Martinez, Johnson, Williams, etc.
This could mean you’ll wait hours or even days to get your gun. If you have a common last name, be prepared to go back later to pick up your purchase.
Let the dealer do the work, give them your phone number and they’ll call you when your merchandise is ready to pick up. Start your 4473 and head out and do a run to Home Depot or brave the grocery store or Target to hunt for some Charmin and Lysol wipes. Ideally your merchandise will be ready to roll when you’re done.
Don’t be surprised when the dealer tells you that they’re running behind on background checks. Most of the nation is so don’t be surprised if you are delayed.
The earlier in the day you can get to the dealer, the faster this usually goes. Between 9 to 10AM is usually a good window to get some background checks done. Saturdays are consistently the busiest day of the week, so when you show up at 4PM on a Saturday afternoon and everything’s been running three hours behind and the store closes at 6PM…that means you’re not going home with your gun that day.
However, if you come in on Sunday, we are normally able to move stuff through very quickly. My average transaction time start to finish is 10 minutes on a Sunday versus 2+ hours on a Saturday. If you’ve got a dealer near you that’s open 7 days a week, take advantage of the lull by doing your transactions on a Sunday.
Strategy Number 5: Guns are half the solution. Ammo is the other half.
Every day the phone rings with the same question: “When is your next delivery of bulk 9mm coming in?”
Answer: We have no idea.
Please don’t shoot the messenger. Every wholesaler we deal with is zeroed out on ammo. A lot of online ammunition dealers are running weeks behind on shipping orders.
If you’re going to be waiting a few days to get your gun, it might not be a bad idea to get an order in at an establishment that can ship on a timeline that works for you. Prices are not great right now, but it is what it is. And we’re not going to see demand abate anytime soon.
Right now, we’re seeing unprecedented demand for most of what we carry and highly limited supplies. If you keep these tips in mind, you could have a smoother buying experience and experience less frustration.
If you’ve got any other tips to add, please comment below and if your suggestion is good – we’ll edit it in.
Keep your mags loaded and your Lysol wipes handy.