Gun Shows for Beginners: Walking, Gawking, Wheeling and Dealing

gun show

courtesyTheMagazineGun and twitter.com

[ED: Here’s an oldie but a goodie from the early days of TTAG. Kozak’s take on gun shows for the uninitiated. See what you think.]

By Brad Kozak

Gun shows are one part trade show, one part swap meet, one part bazaar, and one part Americana. (Seriously; can you imagine a gun show anywhere else on the planet?) Gun shows offer everything from firearms and ammo to knives, jewelry, cookware, clothing, accessories and food.

You’ll see booths from sporting goods stores, mom ‘n pop vendors, collectors and nomadic retailers, who hop from one gun show to the next. There are tables as far as the eye can see, filled with every kind of gun you can imagine, from vintage rifles to derringers to 50 cal. Army surplus semi-auto monsters. So, are gun shows the best place to buy a gun? Uh, no.

Gun shows are a huge business. The ATF reckons America plays host to some 5,000 gun shows a year. Shows like the Fort Worth Gun Show and the huge Wanenmacher’s in Tulsa draw thousands of attendees from around the country. Smaller, regional shows are no slouches in the income/attendance departments, either. Whether big or small, gun shows are great for deals—if you know what you’re doing.

If you don’t, well, caveat emptor, pal . . . caveat emptor. If you go to a gun show to buy a gun and you don’t do your homework in advance, you will get what you deserve. I.e., not much.

The big issue: provenance. This is the flip side of the highly contentious any much mythologized “gun show loophole,” which allows private individuals to sell guns to private individuals at gun shows without running a criminal background check.

Much is made of the possibility of guns sold at shows falling into criminal hands—despite the fact that a criminal can buy a gun from a private seller just about anywhere (save a licensed gun dealer). From a consumer’s point-of-view, buying from an individual means running the (small) risk of buying a “hot” gun. Aside from the moral implications, the police can and will confiscate and destroy a gun that was used in the commission of a crime.

Sporting goods and gun stores sell used guns, but they are very – VERY – careful to ensure that the firearm comes from a legal source. They file paperwork on each and every firearm; if and when the ATF, FBI, or one of the other alphabet agencies comes a-knockin,’ the gun store will have the bona fides to show where it came from and where it went.

This does NOT mean that every gun (or any gun, for that matter) you find at a gun show is hot, but it can happen. Without proper provenance, you’ll never know for sure.

If price is your deal, gun shows aren’t necessarily a bargain hunter’s paradise. In Amarillo, Texas, several sporting goods stores sell Springfield XD polymer handguns with an MSRP of $650 for $475 retail, regardless of caliber. A spot check of Amarillo gun shows revealed a range of prices for new and used XDs, from $650 to $495.

You can find a less expensive, pre-owned version of the same XD at gunbroker.com. You’ll have to pay a fee (usually around $20 or so) to a dealer with a FFL (federal firearms license) for the transfer. The problem here: you have no assurance that the gun is in the condition as advertised since you can’t inspect it before you buy. For the uninitiated, it’s the same problem they’ll encounter at gun shows.

Firearms are subject to considerable physical stress and suffer from wear and tear with use. Unless you know exactly what to look for, and where to look for it, a used gun can contain defects, or simply not shoot as cleanly and accurately as it should. Yes, guns can be repaired. But you can’t factor the attendant time and expense in if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

The positive side of gun shows: selection. It’s much bigger than even the biggest gun stores. There’s also the thrill of haggling. If you know how to negotiate, you can trade and/or talk down the vendor to a price that’s at least a bit better than elsewhere. In theory. Ish.

If you’re looking for a firearm that’s outside the ordinary—vintage, collectable, or maybe in an odd caliber or for a special purpose—a gun show is a far better bet than your friendly neighborhood firearms emporium. Attend enough shows, and you can develop friendships (alliances?) that keep you informed when a hard-to-find pistol or rifle hits the market.

If you approach gun shows armed with research on prices and quality, you can score some good deals. Most of the time, you’re best advised to settle for window shopping. In that sense, buying a gun at a gun show is a lot like hunting. Sometimes the game “cooperates” and sometimes it has other plans. And so should you.

comments

  1. avatar GS650G says:

    Gun shows are good for collectors and finding parts for that old gun. I found a rare magazine for a rifle at one and a firing pin that was quite unique.
    Other than that they are expensive, crowded, and full of weirdos selling stuff you don’t want to buy. I don’t even bother with them any lo get and buy from stores.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      I’ve been to the Tulsa show many times. I might even be in that picture.

      It’s hard to not buy a gun in the parking lot waiting in line to get in from someone looking to trade. I much prefer the show to the store. Especially the Tulsa wannemacher show.

      It has a particular pleasing smell of hoppes #9, cosmoline, toxic benzene from all the safes, and cheeseburgers. Just fantastic! Nothing can replace that smell.

      Also, they have a lot of promotional deals there. I routinely hit SAF, Sota arms, JSE surplus, the endless ammo can shop, and a small momma pop shop from Kansas that sells Berdan metric primers. Almost anything gun related that is for sale, can be found at wannemachers.

      And there are both deals and blatant price scams, where to odd seller is selling a gun 3x what it’s worth hoping for the ignorant buyer.

      Regardless, it’s an adventure!

      1. avatar Big Sky says:

        So there I was. Walked in the door and a few tables in was a mint stainless python 6” barrel with original box and papers. Supposedly unfired (but everything used at a gun show is unfired or so were told) $1400.

        Well dumb me thinks if this python is sitting here there must be more at this show so I’ll look around a little more.

        Came to my senses within 10 minutes but it was too late. I still lose sleep over that one.

        1. avatar Porridgeweasel says:

          That hurts just to read that. Ouch.
          Got a nice one in the display at my local gun range. They want $3500 for it. It’s been there a long time…..

    2. avatar Anonymous says:

      At the last wannemacher I went to, they had a huge booth for 80% lowers, and jigs. Thought I saw a ghost gunner there too. Also a little booth selling threaded barrel adapters to standard oil filter threads 😉

      No show is better than he wannemacher. It’s the biggest gun show on earth and people from all around the world go to that show.

    3. avatar frank speak says:

      their appeal is that you can find stuff there that isn’t in the stores…

      1. avatar Salty says:

        I’ve heard SAR show in Phoenix (or near there) rivals it. Supposedly ore geared to automatic stuff/mil surp. Honestly, the Wanenmacher is kinda over priced. Tables cost double what they do at other shows, and prices on the table reflect that. Me, I go looking to jack my jaw and eyeball stuff, cause it usually takes me all of 2 days 2 find something at a good price, and something that I want, at least recently that’s been my issue

  2. avatar Yarbles says:

    I have purchased a number of NEW guns at gun shows from dealers and have gotten very good prices on all of them at the time.

    Caveat emptor is the correct attitude. When in doubt, pass or get the dealer’s contact info and get back to them if necessary.

  3. avatar anonymoose says:

    rule #1: call a buddy
    rule #2: bring a friend

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    Meh…quit going after buying bad reloads. Nobody wanted to deal either. That’s a BIG no-no as I am a longtime antique dealer. Not looking for anything exotic or rare either.The interwebz has killed gunshows too.

  5. avatar RF s a BFBD says:

    Road kill jerky, stinky old men, dirty beards, wheel chairs, cheap stunguns, WWII German stuff, chinese counterfeit optics, and everything over priced.

    1. avatar JD says:

      AMEN! Exactly what I was gonna type!

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      And those are the highlights!

    3. avatar Clark Kent says:

      Wow. Generalize much? You, amigo, need to grow up.

      1. avatar RF s a BFBD says:

        are you stinky, in a wheelchair, or selling the chinese counterfeit optics? Wait, maybe you’re the roadkill jerky guy.

    4. avatar Porridgeweasel says:

      Nicely done. Sums about just about every gun show I’ve ever been to.

  6. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

    Last gun show I went to they had guys selling used glocks for $600 and 500rd boxes of American Eagle .223 $225. One guy had a sign that said “do not touch” over the rifles he was selling… lol. It was a waste of time haha.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Yeah I’ve seen those guys. I’m convinced there’s a few “sellers” who travel the gun shows just to put their guns on display. They have obscene prices and look at you wierd when you want to look at one. Like they don’t want to sell, just show off.

  7. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

    Haven’t gone in years. Too many annoying people. Same reason I don’t do Black Friday shopping.

    1. avatar Clark Kent says:

      Of course, YOU have never been annoying (not). Grow up.

      1. avatar New Continental Army says:

        The guy going around telling everyone to grow up… kinda like the guy that goes around calling everyone else an asshole. Guess what bud, if you think everyone you meet is an asshole, chances are, you’re the asshole.

      2. avatar RockOnHellChild says:

        I bet you’re fun at parties…

  8. avatar RCC says:

    I’ve been to gun shows in USA, Canada, NZ and Australia. Good places for bargains in the 80’s.

    Pre 1996 gun shows in Australia were fun with crates of Lee Enfields, Mausers and SKS for sale cheap. No license or background check. Now they are like ones I’ve been to in California overpriced and usually better deals at local store. Only worth going to if your hunting for rare parts.

    Canada usually only a few bolt action and overpriced.

  9. avatar Pmac says:

    I used to go to gun shows. Years ago. I was looking for the no longer imported/manufactured. I remember buying a heavy bipod for a HK 91 for $100. They were available from an importer in Shotgun News for $380 at the time. Now it’s all plastic pistols and AR-15s. At retail. From dealers. You can look at them for $10.00 admission fee. Bass Pro. Academy. The local gun shops? Same thing for free. In fact a lot of the local shops bring their inventory to the show. Look at it for free Monday. By the way, with all those dealers,background checks and waiting periods: what loopholes?

  10. avatar Enuf says:

    Guess I’ve given up on gun shows too and I say that with sadness. There was a time that the walk-in fee was between $zero and $cheap. you could find deals and parts and conversation.

    Now there are big operators running shows, one near me hit $26 to park and enter. Endless tables of Chinese crap. Toys galore, optics from the worst place in the world to buy them from. Loads of jerky sellers. Lots of sellers are above typical retail and will not haggle. You talk to enough and you learn why, the show operators are soaking the sellers too. Steep entry fee, every imaginable thing is an extra charge and not cheap. Does not cover enough helpers or employees to both run the tables and cover bathroom breaks. So sellers have to buy entry tickets, pay for parking too.

    Used to find deal on ammo, magazines, bought a few old guns here and there. Now it’s just insanity, dense crowds, high prices and loads of stuff unrelated to guns.

    Plus the Communist Chinese made junk. Wish I could run every last one of those sellers feeding money to our enemy out of down on a rail wearing a suit of tar and feathers.

  11. avatar The Pontificator says:

    How to prepare for attending a gun show: 1. Don’t bathe for 2 weeks (a month is better). 2. Don’t brush or floss your teeth for at least a month prior (3 months is better). 3. Wear clothes that haven’t been laundered in at least 6 months. 4. Eat copious amounts of gas-producing foods the day before.

    1. avatar LB says:

      Looks like you are describing the typical MAGA idiot.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        Or the ANTIFA crowd waiting outside the doors.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Nah, the antifa crowd are inside buying up all the nazi stuff they can find. For them it’s the same as religious icons. Fascists love their own history.

        2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

          Yeah, I have noticed a lot of Nazi stuff at gun shows.

    2. avatar frank speak says:

      sights, sounds and smells reminiscent of many hunting camps!….

  12. avatar arc says:

    Khajiit has warez, if you got coin.

  13. avatar MyName says:

    Over the years, I’ve found several pretty good deals at gun shows but for the last few years it seems like things haven’t been quite as good.

    I’ve never purchased a new gun at a show – too easy to get a good deal elsewhere – but I have gotten several nice used guns. Overall, I think the key to getting good deals is to know what you are looking for and to know it well enough to evaluate condition and price. If you are able to spot a good shooter that is a bit ugly, and are able to refinish a gun, a couple hundred dollars and a few weekends in the workshop can generate a piece you are proud to show off.

    I used to get pretty good deals on reloading components at the gun show but, I don’t know if those days will ever return. The post sandy hook ammo drought seems to have fundamentally changed the way ammo and components are marketed at gun shows. In my neck of the woods people are still trying to get well above retail for .22LR – I’m not sure what they are thinking. I also don’t think I’ll ever understand the people that rent tables trying to sell magnetic bracelets or scented candles or costume jewelry – does anyone ever buy that junk? I get the crappy knives – there will always be 14 year old boys with a little allowance cash in their pocket.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      the “good” knives are under the table!…

      1. avatar MyName says:

        There are usually a few guys with nice knives at the shows I go to, even bought a couple over the years, but there are a *lot* of really junky ones.

    2. avatar Big Bill says:

      Do people buy that crap?
      You bet they do! Especially the women who accompany their boyfriends. They aren’t necessarily into guns, but they are into the guy, so they go to the show. The guy is into her, so when she sees something she wants, he buys it for her. THAT is why those tables are there.
      People watching is one of the reasons I go to gun shows (among other reasons). You learn a lot by watching people.

      1. avatar MyName says:

        My wife is not particularly into guns but she’s not particularly into scented candles and cheap jewelry either.

  14. avatar Herbert says:

    I frequent gun shows for casual encounters that often end up in a more room. There is nothing like rubbing one out near that table full of guns, people WILL look at it, some might get offended, some will appreciate it as much as a custom 1911 or the latest tacticool polymer thing.

  15. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    “Deals” have been pretty rare for years. The guys who had stacks of Lee Enfields, Moisins or SKS’s are out of the surplus business because the supply of those rifles is pretty much gone. The pallet lots of slightly faded and just a little rusty ammo cans are gone. Most of the old military spam can ammo is gone.

    The sellers look for impulse buyers who have to have the latest and greatest and are willing to pay big money – often well above MSRP – for instant gratification. Hoarders who paid $15 for a 50 round box of .22LRs a few years back are still trying to recoup their “investments” by telling me that a pre Sandy Hook box of CCI Mini Mags is “better” than the one I bought at Academy Sports last week for 1/3 the price.

    Too many wanna be operators posing in 511 ball caps and Airsoft vests. Too many home made or obvious prison tats. Too many cheap knock offs of brand name equipment. Too many knives that are hammered out from old Pearl beer cans. Too many sellers who are so busy visiting with their buddies that they can’t be bothered to actually sell something.

    Despite all of my gripes I do a gun show once or twice a year. I enjoy looking at the older stuff that people bring – I remember one guy who had a table full of Remington Nylon 66 22s. I didn’t want to pay his prices but the exercise in nostalgia for this old man was worth the price of admission. I might buy a part or a magazine from somebody that I know and trust and on a very rare occasion I might actually find a firearm that I want in good condition for a price that I want to pay. About five years ago I bought a lightly used 870 police model shotgun from a retiring deputy who worked in the next county. He was doing the private sale thing with a lot of his gear and we had a couple of mutual acquaintances so he made me a pretty good price.

    If I could travel back in time I’d pick up a couple more No 4 Mk2 Enfields to match the one I paid $75 for with a sling and Bowie blade bayonet in the mid 1980s. That ain’t gonna happen but its still fun to talk about – and I have to remember that $75 wiped out my mad money fund for about six months!

  16. avatar Craig in IA says:

    The deal that has made gun shows difficult for everyone concerns people who either have no idea how to haggle honestly, or the twerp who makes an offer and when taken, tells the vendor he’ll “have to think about it”. I still make tremendous deals at shows in Iowa and Minnesota primarily, I believe, because the dealers/vendors know me and know I’m not BSing them- if I make an offer, I’ll take it if things are accepted.

    It’s also tough on the vendors/dealers to have some novice (?) come in with a gun and have absolutely no idea what he/she/it wants for it. I’ll ask someone what their gun is worth, often to be answered by “I’m taking bids”, to which I’ll answer “I’ll give you $10”. After they get done jumping up and down and hollering that it’s “worth more than that”, I’ll ask then again- “what do you think it’s worth?” I’ll also tell them they’ll likely get about the same treatment from everyone else- appraisals cost money. Some still think ANY Win Model 12 is worth at least $400, and a little 1890 .22 pump at least $600, regardless of condition.

    It may also helps me in picking up new pieces that I’m set up at the door of the shows hawking NRA memberships and also see all the guns coming in before anyone else. I’m not supposed to buy at the door before they visit the rest of the show but I’ll often make a lowball offer to someone on something I’d be interested in and tell them to check back when they leave if they still have the gun. If they’re unreasonable or what they have is not a hot ticket, they usually come back and are ready to deal on the way out. It’s a rare show that I don’t take home something new and usually at a very good price. If you want to buy, HAVE CASH IN HAND. Works with boats, jetskis, musical instruments and other cool stuff as well.

    The comments about the gomers who need a bath, shave, weightloss program or decent clothes aren’t just apt at gun shows, I can name a few local gun shops that have critters hanging around all the time drinking the owner’s coffee for free, being obnoxious to people coming in who might actually have a dollar to spend, and thinking they actually are part owners or something. “Physician heal thyself” is very appropriate with a large segment of our “crowd” and it’s these “worthies” that the MSM and gun banners always seek out for on-air interviews.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      Ohio has some of the best…guys in PA always seem to be uptight about something or other…

      1. avatar frank speak... says:

        Sunday morning is the best time for deals…just before they start to pack-up….

  17. avatar possum the red nose delete says:

    I went to the one in Tulsa, it was fun to look at all the stuff. But hey, no place to get a real bargain. Used to go to auctions and get some deals, not anymore.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      good place to meet some of the dealers…especially the class III guys…

  18. avatar Ralph says:

    Brad Kozak was (is) a cool dude.

  19. avatar Michael says:

    Ignore the Big Sign. Gun shows are not about the guns. You are there for fun. Repeat it ’til you believe it. ALL’s fair in love, war and gun shows…Especially in Texas. (I’ve have heard ALL of these at gun shows, some of them twice at the same show) “That much?”, “What’s MY price?”, “I’ve got one at home, spent less than that for it…oh, two years ago.”, “proud of that one, ain’t ‘ya?” Anything surplus was, “carried a lot, only dropped once.” “What if I bought all of them?”, “How much will this be on Monday?”, asked on a Sunday afternoon at a two day show. “Can you hold this for me ’til I call my wife…can I use your phone?” Gun shows are not about making money. They’re gun carnivals, held in a shark tank. You get to meet new, interesting, unusual people that you’d never let into your own home. Always bring LOTS of small bills, carry ’em like you’re at a dog show and have a fresh steak in each pocket. The Gun Show…one of Americas’ greatest traditions. Good times. -30-

    1. avatar Clark Kent says:

      ‘If I owned Texas and Hell I would rent out Texas and live in Hell’ – General William Tecumseh Sherman. ‘Nuff said.

      1. avatar Michael says:

        Au contrair, I wasn’t born in Texas…I got here as soon as I could. Texas…it REALLY is a whole other country. Ya don’t mess with Texas…besides Miranda’s from Texas, she’s very pro firearms and sings like an angel and…well, heck no, you don’t mess with Texas. -30-

        1. avatar JH says:

          Wait until you have enough liberal transplants to “reshape” Texas, it WILL happen, that’s what they do. They vote election after election for their self destruction (taxes, loss of freedom) in blue states, then they move by the thousands, rinse repeat. At some point they won’t have anywhere to go and that’s the only question I cannot answer for sure: What will they do? Return to CA, NY, IL etc?

  20. avatar 2WarAbnVet says:

    I used to love gun shows, but now 90% of what I see there are ARs and Glocks. It’s just discouraging.

  21. avatar New Continental Army says:

    I went to my last gun show sometime around the end of the last great panic. Full of garbage now. They were a little better in the 90s and 00s. Still plenty of weirdos, but far more interesting stuff. And the weirdos back then were at least socialable. Now it’s like they’re bitter and upset all the time. Think I’d rather visit my local dump these days.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      where the rats can be shot at.
      oddly, many do seem bitter at these gala events lately.

  22. avatar DrDKW says:

    Some of the gripes here can also be said of many flea-markets, and bazarrs today.
    I typically hurry past the Glocks and ARs, And now & then, I’ve overpaid. But I’ve found decent buys on many DIY projects, parts and the more unusual or oddball stuff. Prices on some of the mil-surp pistols are still acceptable, at least until the supplies dry up.
    And there are even occasional outright bargains, like a real nice Browning High-Power I snagged late last year for $400!
    Admission charges at some of the local ‘mega’ shows are getting out of hand though.

  23. avatar Shwiggie says:

    I’ve never been to a large-scale gun show, just the little ones in my corner of MS. The first one I went to had a new in box S&W Hand Ejector in .38spl for $500. I left with plans to return in the morning, but the guy packed up and didn’t come back. Been kicking myself ever since…the first gun I ever handled was the same model inherited from my dad but not in firing condition. Every other show I’ve been to since has been uniformly garbage, generally with the same garage-built ARs, half-stitched nylon accoutrements, pistols from odd-ball manufacturers, and knives straight from Chinese wholesale, all with crusty weirdos with strange hair and wearing lots of leather selling the stuff.

  24. avatar You Kids Get Off My Lawn! says:

    Interesting read, along with the comments. I was born and raised in Fort Worth and remember the FW and Tulsa shows in the 70s and 80s (and happened to make the Pomona show once). I saw the dramatic changes take place from the late 80s onward in both the shows and the “gun community.” ARs are now by far and away the most-owned, accessorized/modified firearm out there and combined with the desire for all things “tactical,” those that set up at the shows tend to reflect what the majority of their potential customers want. Heck, in 1979, only Colt sold a couple of models of ARs and HK 91/93/94s were around $200 and had an extra 5-10 mags as a come-on, and hardly anyone wanted them anyway, yet many, many grown men would act like teenage girls over a nice SAA or pre-64 Win. In 1980, walking around a show with an AR would get you side-eyed by most, but a 100 year old Winchester would get you treated like a rock star. 40 years later, most wouldn’t even notice or care about the Win and the AR would be just one of thousands. Of course, 15 years previously, you could mail-order crates of $50 surplus 1911s and Garands, and any other firearm you might wish (except full-auto, of course) like you order everything BUT firearms today.

    My point? Times change, interests change. Add to that the internet and expecting a 2018 gun show to be like a 1988 show seems a waste of time. The 2-3 shows I’ve been to in the last 10 years weren’t my cup of tea, so I haven’t been back, but I certainly do not begrudge or condemn those that enjoy them.

  25. avatar Minuteman says:

    Most of the comments here are quite funny. Yes there are knives and jerky and a lot of other things there as well as guns. I have found lots of good deals and lots of not so good deals. They are usually what you make of them. Where else can you spend 4 or 5 hours doing something and only spend $10? All you haters stay away. Reloading equipment and ammo finds abound at shows. There are some real gems being carried around by the public. Sometimes it’s crazy what you can find . Learn how to haggle also. Just because the tag seems high means nothing when you have some cash. It’s all about the attitude. If you don’t like these shows please stay the hell away. There are rip off artists everywhere. Bass Pro is one of them.

  26. avatar Big Bill says:

    Gun shows are too often looked at as being gun shows. They aren’t. They are fairs, but for different people.
    You don’t like county or state fairs? Many don’t. But those who do have a blast, for the most part. You don’t go to a fair with the intention of buying anything in particular. Well, OK, some do. But most don’t. It’s like bowling: when you’re done, you’ve spent money and had a good time.
    Gun shows are fairs for those who like guns. Sure, you might go hoping to find a particular gun or doo-dad to put on your gun, just like a fair-goer might go hoping to find (and ride) the latest and greatest ride. But the thrill is in the chase; looking to see what’s there.
    Some have lost that thrill. That’s OK, but telling everyone else that gun shows are now bad because of that is like telling a hunter that he shouldn’t hunt any more because you have given it up. Just don’t go; you won’t be missed.
    Yes, the entry cost can be high. Some shows here charge for parking and entry. SO does the fair. It’s the cost of entering the fair. But inside! Ah, the dancing lady from Sumatra! The 1200 pound pig. The 15 foot long alligator! The cotton candy! That rare gun you’ve heard about but never actually seen! No, you can’t afford to buy it, but it’s actually there.
    If you’re smart, you carry a notebook. You collect business cards. You write on the card why you took it.
    You need ammo? Have a budget? Try reloads. Buy a hundred or so from a few sellers, and try them out. Chances are, you’ll find a seller who actually has good ones. Next time, buy some more from him; talk with him, so he remembers you. If his stuff is still good, you may have found a source of good inexpensive reloads for range fodder.
    Watch the people; they are fascinating. Watch what they buy. You’ll shake your head a lot, but you might also jump up and ask, “Where’d you get that? Do they have more?”
    As has been mentioned, do your research. But you can’t possibly research everything you’ll see at a bigger show. Beware!
    Carry cash. A lot of it. Few things will seal a deal like being able to say, “I have cash.” Especially at a private sale table. (Dealers aren’t nearly as impressed by cash)
    For me (and this is for me, not necessarily anyone else) gun shows are a good form of exercise. I’m handicapped, and I can walk the aisles for hours, with stops for sitting to help the back and hips. I’ll talk with others, finding what they found interesting, and possibly going back where I’d been, but didn’t notice something they did notice.
    It’s true, gun shows aren’t what they were decades ago, but what is?
    Don’t like them any more? That’s fine. More for me! 🙂

    1. avatar Anymouse says:

      I stay the hell away from reloads. Was the guy competent, sober, paying attention when he made them? Did they use the same components or did they run out and change in the middle of a batch? If it’s a company that has insurance, a type 6 FFL, and is trying to make a profit and have repeat customers, sure. If it’s Ed who made up a couple thousand rounds in his garage and paid $75 for a table, no way. I’ve seen too many guns blown up because of wrong powder, double or triple charges, .45 bullets in .44 cases, etc. I’ll load my own or get some from a buddy I trust to know what he’s doing.

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        There’s people who sell reloads, and then there’s people who sell reloads.
        I poass right on by tables that have a few baggies of reloads, because, like you, I find it hard to trust those who do it for a few extra bucks, as a hobby.
        OTOH, there are companies who make reloads as a business. Right now, I buy most of my range ammo from Scorpion, in Tempe. Their reliability is on par with name brand ammo. It took a few tries to make them my main suppler of range ammo, but it’s paid off.
        There’s no problem with swearing off all reloads. Of course, I’ve had problems (mostly duds) with pretty much all “name brand” ammo, too. You really can’t shoot on a regular basis and not find some problems. Nothing is perfect. By swearing off all reloads, all you lose is a few dollars, which isn’t really a big problem (in the amounts involved in this case ) for very many.
        So don’t use reloads. It’s fine.
        The reloads are, though, just an example of why I go to gun shows. It’s fun (to me) to try new things, learn from the experience, meet new people. It takes all kinds, including me.

  27. avatar Wally1 says:

    I used to like to go to Gun shows, however in the last few years almost all the firearms on display could be had at a local dealer much cheaper. It is an interesting mix of people and the stories, yes the B.S. stories you hear will keep you entertained all afternoon. However once again the prices are way to high, especially when a local store was selling new Rem 870 pump shotguns for $200.00 during a Christmas sale.

  28. avatar Pmac says:

    I did rent a table at a gun show once back in the day. A friend and I had a bunch of “junk” we wanted to sell. My brother in law and I manned the table. (My friend had a business to run.) The guy at the next table bought my HK 91 retractable stock before the show opened and marked it up $100 and sold it. Anyway, a Leopold scope, a couple of rifles, (no background checks, but I knew the guys) quality knives (Oregon Gerbers, Randalls, etc.), those terrible high capacity magazines, I packed up what little was left and told the show organizer I wouldn’t be back the next day. Wasn’t worth it. Mike and I retired to my abode for grilled rib eyes and adult beverages with enough cash to buy a really good used pick-up. When the girls came home from shopping my wife took her bags to our bedroom. She came back into the den wanting to know where “all that money” on the dresser came from. I told her from selling my gun stuff. The queen of garage sales said she didn’t make that kind of money when she had one. I told her she would have to sell a lot of $5.00 lamps. lol Those were the days.

  29. avatar Ironked says:

    I have also gotten picky. There is a big ShowMasters show that rotates through the big exhibition center about once a month. Never been to it. Yeah, lots to see, but they are charging up the yingyang for admission. There’s also the “DC suburbs tax”, which means whatever the market will bear. It’s the home of four of the richest jurisdictions in the nation. The state gun collectors association hold two shows every year close to my home, farther out. Admission is reasonable. There are a number of historic displays of collections. Most of the guys there are selling something they don’t need and will deal. They discourage new gun sellers and nomads unless they have a good representation of used guns on the table. I’ve gotten a couple of reasonable things. I don’t really care if I find anything to buy, It’s interesting. Other than that there are a couple of small (fairground) and almost micro (VFW) shows. Depends on if I am looking for something and if a certain dealer is planning on being there. I like one shop one shop that sells old police guns and lowers. Otherwise, I don’t need jerky, healing crystals or fudge.

  30. avatar Michael says:

    Best deal I ever made was at a gun show. Taking some knives I’d bought out to my truck, I walked into a long box being carried by some average guy looking a little overwhelmed. I asked him what was in the box and he told me, “rifle I’ve had forever and never used”. He saw the gun show ad, didn’t want another gun, just turn this for cash. Said he’d only taken it out of the box once, never fired it. Inside the box was a colt. He told me what he’d paid for it. I took a quick look and offered him $100.00, cash, over that. Closed that deal and got out to my truck before I did something stupid, like going back in and turning it for what it was really worth. This all happened back in ’04. In the box was papers, instruction book, a warranty card, a magazine and in the original, factory plastic bag was a perfect, unfired SP 1, AR-15. Oh, before you ask, it was lost in a sudden and tragic boating mishap we’d all seen coming for quite some time. I’m not sure exactly what’s gonna send me to the devil. I am sure that this is gonna be high on the list.-30-

  31. avatar Jean-Claude says:

    Last one I went to was right before the 2016 election. It was crazy busy but I also found an outstanding deal on a Springfield XDS .45.

    The experience sucked, though. Too many people crowded into a fairly large hall. Giant fat people on Rascal scooters bumping me. Too many people in front of the tables so I can’t look at anything.

    I’ve found good deals online, and at the LGS’s used case.

  32. avatar RedBaron says:

    I refuse to EVER go to a gun show. Why? Because I am required to disarm myself before walking into a room where everyone wants to sell me a gun. What a hypocritical stand. We believe in the Second Amendment . . . but not in our gun show! No thanks.

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