Another year is nearing an end and as Black Friday and Christmas approach, I just wanted to discuss a few things with the readers regarding holiday firearm purchases and why things are going to require more patience than ever this year.
FBI NICS data reports indicate firearm sales as strong as 2016. That’s probably due to both the good economy and the Democrats’ push for gun control and outright confiscation. The added seasonal buying volume could mean a potential headache for customers.
Just for the record, I never understand why everyone seems to want their duck gun cleaned/checked out, scopes mounted on deer rifles and their Christmas gun shopping done all in the same two weeks each year.
Inevitably, though, the firearms industry is always swamped with work right around this time of year because hunting season and Christmas somehow take folks by surprise.
Sharing some gripes/comments from others in the industry, I’ve noticed a few things worth mentioning to readers.
Instant Checks…Minus the Instant
A number of dealers I’ve talked to, particularly those in point of contact states (places like Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania that implement and maintain their own Brady NICS program) have reported massive delays in transaction processing.
Just to be clear I’m not talking about folks with a names like John Smith getting a delay from NICS or the state POC agency and asked to come back later. I’m talking about a regular person with a non-common last name going into a store at 11AM on a Saturday and the retailer not being able to get a decision on the transaction for an hour and a half.
Dealers (myself included) have typically borne the brunt of this by getting yelled at by irate customers. Just last week I got both barrels from a lady who screamed at me with her husband about how she has never had to wait an hour for a transaction to clear.
She hadn’t purchased a firearm for nine years and apparently didn’t know we have to wait for a decision before releasing firearms. I don’t make the rules. I just follow them.
Sometimes the system actually goes down and transactions stack up until the system comes back online. We see NICS and state POC systems go down frequently during the year and every retailer with transactions pending has to sit tight and wait for things to return to normalcy.
Other times, like my most recent instance, retailers are told that transaction volumes are high and to expect transaction processing to run behind until the system catches up with demand.
What This Means for You
An unintended consequence of the government taking an hour or more to approve your transaction means that retailers get to hold you hostage and show you more guns and ammo that you probably want to buy while you’re waiting. Call it the vast right-wing up-sell conspiracy.
But really, what it means is that it’s going to take more time and effort to get in and out of your favorite retailer this time of year. You may be told by the retailer that there’s a one hour wait or you could get a thumbs up in the standard five minutes or less.
Businesses that rely on seasonal help will often be staffed up with people who aren’t familiar their products, the process they use to sell firearms, etc. and that can add to the level of frustration as well.
As a general rule, free time is often in short supply around the holidays. Couple this with standard levels of yuletide rage and add an hour or more to complete a 4473 and you’ve got all the ingredients for the shopping experience from hell.
I’m not a big fan of shopping. I hear some folks love it; trying stuff out, pushing the cart around the store. Me…I get in, I get out and I get home.
If you’re like me, here are a few tips that could make your shopping adventures a little less stressful.
Do Your Shopping Early
I know a lot of folks are holding out for the big Black Friday deals, but in this industry a lot of the items are low margin and only the big box retailers will do doorbusters. Is it really worth waking up at 4AM to get in line to save $40?
My sleep and free time are worth a little more than that, but to each their own.
Just this morning I wrote up a sale for a special order rifle for a customer doing her shopping early for her husband. She knew what he wanted and was working on a budget.
After some fast analysis, her budget was very close to what she wanted to buy. In the spirit of being able to get a sale out the door before the thundering horde with a slightly larger discount than I would normally like, it was worth making the customer happy and not kicking the can into next week when things are going to start to get really busy.
Plus, this nice lady is making sure her husband is getting a rifle for Christmas that he’s been saving up for a year. That’s something we should all encourage whenever possible.
Don’t Be Surprised When Items Run Out
It’s just one of the realities in life: the good stuff goes first. Doorbusters and specials — especially on things like ammo or accessories where the price point is low and they’re something that everyone needs — are often in short supply.
Yesterday, I sold the last of the Springfield Hellcats that came in and I doubt we will be able to get more before Christmas. Some promo Federal RTP 9mm that I ordered in a few months ago is about to run out and I may not be able to match the prices on the restock since I order big when I get deals from my suppliers.
If your favorite dealer is out of the item you’re looking for, don’t be surprised. And don’t take it out on the dealer.
Lots of popular new products has rolled out this year and they’re in short supply. SIG P365 SAS, P365 XL and Ruger Wranglers have been notoriously hard to come by at times. Some more exotic stuff like SCAR 17‘s or KelTec CMR30‘s are even harder to come by. This won’t bode well for someone with their heart set on something specific with only four weeks to get the order filled.
Which means you need to . . .
I cannot stress this enough. Just as there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment, a little thought can go a long way.
Our consistently busiest day is Saturday. If you can pick up your stuff in the middle of the week or first thing in the morning on Saturday, you’re going to save yourself (and the retailer) a lot of time and work. You’ll avoid the crowds and early in the morning, NICS typically isn’t that backed up. Which means you’ll spend a lot less time waiting.
If you do have to go in on a Saturday, by all means, stop in and get your paperwork rolling. If we’re really busy, go do some other shopping or errands and tell me (or your local FFL) you’re coming back after lunch in a few hours.
The retailer can call in the transaction and deal with it later and it lets us deal with the folks standing in line while you get other things done.
Many retailers are offering extended hours until Christmas, so you may consider taking advantage of that as well. Keep in mind that there’s probably a ton of other people doing the same thing and you likely won’t save much time — but your 4473 and firearm will be out the door that day.
Special Requests: You Are Not a Beautiful, Unique Snowflake
This is something I’ve never quite understood with other dealers. One dealer I know offers gift wrap around Christmas. There’s only one problem. He’s a little bit older and absolutely terrible when it comes to the art of gift wrapping.
He means well and has good intentions, but poor execution. Know what you’re good at and stick to that.
I call in the local Boy Scout troop that just got their merit badges from the gun club and ask them if they want to set up a station for gift wrap and accept donations. It supports a good cause and that’s one less thing I have to deal with as a retailer.
If you’re looking for something special, Christmas is often not the time to be buying it. Warehouses run behind on shipping. Fedex and UPS experience delays due to their package volume doubling or tripling. Many retailers are simply not going to have the time to order in special items and get them mounted/set up just the way you want it before the 24th.
All of this can complicate with your gift-giving plans.
As a wise man once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one. Especially at this time of year.
I can’t tie up two counter staff and a gunsmith during the busiest month of the year with a store full of people just to finish your project in time when your special custom parts arrive the morning of December 23rd. Assuming they arrive.
Keep in mind also that many manufacturers are closed for a few days around Thanksgiving/Christmas so their productivity in cranking out special requests is often back-burnered until after the holidays.
Many smaller manufacturers have to do a distributor show in January and SHOT Show to show off their new products. Frequently a lot of their sales/technical staff accompany them on said road shows for the better part of three weeks and nobody is truly caught up until mid February.
As a result, over the years I’ve seen poorly-planned Christmas gifts turn into highly inappropriate Valentines Day presents.
If buying online, be wary of the OUT OF STOCK or BACK ORDER labels as you could be in for a long wait.
All of which is to say…get out there and get your items as soon as you can. Or expect delays and possibly disappointment.
Hopefully this gives you some insight into what happens behind the scenes and the potential problem areas that we run into this time of year when tensions are high, the eggnog isn’t spiked with enough hooch.
What problems have you had trying to buy guns post Black Friday in the past?