Previous Post
Next Post

You may have heard that Best Buy is going bye bye. Maybe not tomorrow, or next week, but its long, slow decline seems inevitable. There are plenty of theories about why they’re tanking, but the most popular seems to be “showrooming” otherwise known as, er, customers strolling the aisles to check out the goods in person, then buying online at a lower price (usually avoiding tax and shipping, too). And while few tears will be shed over the loss of a big box retailer where the same guy tries to sell you a washing machine and a USB hub, the showrooming phenomenon isn’t exactly unknown in the gun world . . .

Online retailers like Bud’s, Cheaper Than Dirt, CDNN and plenty more have made their bones largely on gun buyers testing out things that go bang at their local fun store, then buying via the Innertubes through a willing FFL. And as with Best Buy, if enough people do that for long enough, your favorite local gun store may just dry up and blow away.

Plenty of gun buyers get to know and appreciate their local retailer and choose to support them by getting their gats there even if it costs them a little extra. After all, they sell more than guns and being able to get that stuff locally when you need it can be plenty convenient.

Others are strict economic Darwinists who figure that whichever retailer that can get them what they want at the lowest price has earned their business. They reckon there’s nothing wrong with using a local store to give a gun the once-over before buying one from someone else who’s efficient enough to offer it a lower price. Have you showroomed before? Would ya?   [h/t Instapundit]

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. Everyone does this. I happen to live within 10 miles of Palmetto State Armory which already advertises from time to time some of the lowest prices on the internets. They also happen to be very knowledgeable and friendly so I buy from them whenever I can. However if I was looking at a new pistol and Bud’s was $200 less Id be hard pressed to buy it locally. Its $200.

    Im happy to support local businesses but Im not going to do so to a fault.

    Best Buy sucks and isnt a good example of a local store trying to remain competitive but I get your point. BB cant go away quick enough IMO.

    • I live roughly 2 hours from PSA and I love the hell out of that place. Especially their warehouse store. I go in there and end up buying some for my AR build parts for less than what buying them online plus FFL transfer would cost. I love that place, my wallet however, does not. I have yet to go in there without spending at least a thousand dollars.

  2. i never have , and i probably never will. I like my small business sized gun shop, i am been going to this store since it opened, and the fact that the owner, and his employee both know me by name and actually give a crap is what will keep me going back there again and again.

  3. I’m not oposed to it in principle but I’ve never had cause to. My local place has very competitive pricing, especially on guns. Usually about $50 per gun and $3 per box of ammo lower than the nearest Gander mountain. They even, usually, beat lucky gunner on ammo.

    • “Usually about $50 per gun and $3 per box of ammo lower than the nearest Gander Mountain.”

      Considering how hilariously high the Gander Mountain I went to marked up their firearms, that’s like saying…well, I can’t really think of a good simile, but Gander Mountain is not a very good baseline to use.

      Case in point: even after the Walther PPS had an MSRP drop (from $700something to $599), Gander Mountain was selling theirs for anywhere from $650-$800, usually on the high end of that range.

      I bought mine at a local shop. Technically used but in immaculate condition (even had the factory “rust” on it still) for $445 out the door.

      • My Gander Mountain has a M1903A3 that isn’t even a Springfield Armory for $999 needless to say they’ve had it for over a year.

        Well they are the only store that regularly stocks 16 gauge for my Winchester 1897, so I guess I’ll keep going there.

  4. My local shop is family owned and has excellent customer service w/decent prices. They would warp space and time itself for me and their other clients if that’s what it took to resolve the situation. As such, I only order a firearm online if there’s no practical alternative due to a firearm being discontinued or their distributor not having any in stock.

    Best Buy’s a bad comparison, since they’re a big box electronics store which has essentially become obsolete. Why waste gas buying product at a store when Amazon will send it to your door at a lower price? May the local gun dealer never suffer the same fate.

    • +1

      Especially when it comes to guns themselves, which should be touched and felt before buying. Ammo and other gear, less so. But I don’t care about saving $20-50 on a gun purchase when that difference is nothing compared to the thousands of $s worth of ammo I plan to put through it.

  5. I have no problem using a big-box retailer to check out a gun potential gun purchase. Stores like Gander Mountain and Dick’s can shove it. I’ll throw business to my local dealer and use the internet.

  6. I showroom with most things except my gun shopping. My gun guy will match or beat any online price just to keep you going there. He is also very good at what he does and knows most everything about any gun I have ever asked about and demonstrated to me enough times (in removing all the parts of one rifle in a few seconds that I hada question about) that he has actually maintained his forces knowledge and knows his way around a firearm even if he has just picked it up that week.

  7. I stick to my local firearms stores that have excellent prices. Sure, I might pay $25 more for a gun at a local store. That beats $20 in shipping costs plus an additional $30 for an FFL transfer fee.

    And when I inspect the gun at the local store, I know it doesn’t have any defects. This actually happened when I shopped for a small frame revolver. I was really interested in a certain model of an excellent manufacturer. Upon inspection, the salesman noticed a defect. He set that piece aside and retrieved another. It also had the same defect. At that point the salesman recognized there was an obvious manufacturing problem and helped me choose a different model revolver. If I had ordered that revolver from an online vendor and recieved a unit from that defective manufacturing run, it would have been incredibly disappointing: I would have had to pay to ship it back to the manufacturer and would have waited weeks to get it back.

    • You are ordering from the wrong online retailers. Buds is free shipping and if you find a defect when you go to pick up the gun, you can refuse to accept it and Buds will make it right at no cost to you. I’ve done it several times myself with no complaints. And my FFL only charges $22.

  8. I always check online first to see what the range of prices are. Then I see if my LGS has it. If one place in particular has it, I buy it. For new guns, he charges 10% over his cost, across the board, period, so I’m paying within a few of bucks of the cheapest online price.

    If there’s like, a $200 spread, no way, I’m going online.

    But actual “showrooming?” Never, at a LGS. However, I wouldn’t mind doing it a Gander Mountain, but heck, trying to get some help there to check out a gun, well . . .. It ain’t worth the bother.

  9. I qualify for LEO pricing at the distributor that provides most of the local PD and Sheriff depts. Thier prices are some of the lowest I can find, even on the internets. But I do it for electronics and other stuff.

    • Shush about the LEO prices! We’re in enough trouble on TTAG as it is. The only one who still lives me at this point is my Weimaraner.

      • Yeah, it sure is nice to be able to get a new Glock with factory night sights for under 500 out the door…

  10. Four local Missouri shops get the lion’s share of my money, but I enjoy the cost effectiveness of buying used and it’s not yet possible to break down a gun and examine it online. A shout out to JW Firearms in Barnhart, Blackwood in Festus, Denny Dennis in Fenton, and Dunn’s in Herky! Support your local businesses. I do buy accessories online, usually from Midway due to their fast shipping, fair prices, and great selection… and they are in Missouri, too.

  11. Prices need to be in the ballpark and I buy local. If my LGS has a gun for $1050 and buds is $1000 I buy local. If that same lgs wants $1300 then I go elsewhere.

  12. I haven’t had a decently-priced small local gun store to patronize for more than 10 years, and the prices at the local big sporting goods stores are hit and miss. So are their selections.

    I like the idea of supporting local businesses, but not to the point of paying $750 for a $600 gun. An extra $50 wouldn’t bother me, but I’ve rarely seen price differentials that low.

  13. I don’t buy any new firearms or accessories, so no, not exactly. I have checked out a new gun at the gun store and then went and tracked down a used version on Armslist though.

  14. I compare prices and if the LGS is close, I buy there. I will not buy local if they are way out of line. However, I have printed a price from several Internet sources and brought them to my local store and had good luck getting them to drop the price. Once again, I will pay a little more locally, but not so much that I’m feeling ripped off. This applies to all local business, not just guns.

  15. I don’t see a problem. They get me to walk into their store, they get a chance to sell me something. Maybe I buy this time, maybe not. If they treat me well and don’t have a terrible price, I’m more likely to go back and buy from them the next time if they have what I want. I like instant gratification and that has a value too. If I have to order it, then I might as well order from the cheapest place, but if I can get it right now, I have a good chance of buying it from that store.

    There should be no complaining. Best Buy is tanking, not because of showrooming, but because they have terrible sales people and I always get the impression that they’re ripping me off.

  16. A lot of times gun stores don’t have the gun I’m looking for so I have to buy it online. Either way, though, they’re making money off the transfer fee.

    I think the days of online retailers beating out retail stores is going to come to an end because the gummint’s trying to force people who buy stuff online to pay state sales taxes. If you factor in shipping and sales taxes an online bargain may not be as much of a bargain as it was before.

    Plus there’s the whole delayed gratification thing.

  17. Big fancy new gun store 12 mins’ drive from my apt, free parking in a safe area? Why don’t I shop there? – prices too high, and sales staff that aren’t especially nice to you unless you’re active duty or retired military – even local LEOs generally aren’t treated all that well there – OK… I’m not going to that place. So yeah, I’ve showroomed.

    Contrast that with the shop I will always use – nearly 30 min drive to a slightly scary part of Yonkers. Owner has excellent pricing, and always treats me (and everyone else) with respect and a friendly attitude. That combination of pricing, attitude and service will always keep me coming back. I’ve actually been tilting my ammo and accessory purchases *away* from the internet and giving this guy more business, as inconvenient as it is to get there.

  18. I will buy local whenever I can, unless the price discrepancy is impossible to ignore. At this point, every gun I own came from a local store, but not always the same store. I will shameless lean on one local store against a price at another local store, but I don’t even mention the online guys to them.

    For what it’s worth, several people have slammed Gander Mountain, but my closest GM (~40 minutes away) has very nice, very helpful people. I’ve had one stand and chat with me and answer questions, when I was clearly not buying that day, and when there were clearly people waiting. While that may have been frustrating to the people waiting, my point is that he didn’t cut me off in pursuit of the almighty dollar standing behind me.

    • As one of the slammers, I agree with everything you said. The people at my local Gander (and Academy, for that matter) were real gun guys who knew about their products and who you could shoot the sh*t with for hours. If you’re seriously interested in the piece, they’ll even say “forget the dry firing policy, you need to know how that trigger feels.”

      They are some of the nicest, helpful people I’ve ever interacted with. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Gander Mountain itself prices their stuff way too high.

  19. The FFL transfer requirement and fees (+ having to pay sales tax at time of transfer here in WA) have kept me from doing this. Unless I’m getting a truly SCREAMING deal, or getting a very hard to find item, I shop locally and usually come out even. I nearly sort of showroomed when buying my Dan Wesson Guardian .45 1911, as I fondled a CCO at a local gun store but wanted the commander size grip of the Guardian. I was going to buy from Buds, but ended up finding a local shop that had the Guardian for less than Buds was wanting, even before FFL transfer fees I would have paid.

  20. Yes and no. I use the ‘net to know what I can get, but I always give the local guy a chance to earn my business. Free markets work. Case in point: I am on a list for a Smith & Wesson AR which I intend to buy online, but only because my local shop wants $100 more for it. Another example: I saw a Beretta U22 Neos carbine kit in a local shop and, knowing I could get it for $251.27 shipped, talked the store down from $276 before taxes to something much more reasonable. I am all for small, local business… But it doesn’t fit into my plans for charitable giving.

  21. I check out the prices online then shop locally and give the dealer the chance to price match including paperwork. Only once has a dealer failed to budge on their price and they lost the sale to an online firearms merchant.

    This is the way of things with online shopping being available so brick and mortar stores need to wheel and deal or close. It is simple economics.

  22. I buy online for most of my shopping because it makes sense. and cents. I can find what I need and buy it in a two minute span online. Or I could drive to all the local shops and big boxes and still not find what I’m looking for. Like the CRKT Ken Onion Ripple I just lost….. What’s my time worth? More than being frustrated by a retailer that can’t possibly satisfy my esoteric whims.

    I’ve always bought my camera equipment online or used from an individual or online from BH, Adorama, or KEH. The local retailer was always a step behind and way too expensive to be competitive. And warranty service- they were gonna send it off anyway, so why bother?

    Guns are a different story. I prefer to buy off an individual 1st, local gunshop 2nd, and big local gunshop 3rd. Ordering and transferring are out in my book.

    • Markd brings up a point I forgot about. My comments above about preferring local gun stores apply pretty much only to gun stores. For most everything else (including firearms accessories) I shop and buy online all the time.

  23. Davidson’s Gallery of Guns “Gun Genie” lets the shopper have it both ways so to speak. You select the desired item from Davidson’s large catalog. You actually purchase the item from a local participating dealer. No FFL transfer fees. Typically the final price is a modest discount from the MSRP.

  24. If my local gun store has the gun in stock or can get it with in a week I will buy it there. If not, then I will go to Cheaper than Dirt and ship to my local gun store. They will at least get the transfer fees. That is the major diffeence between guns and Best Buy. You have to go through an FFL anyway so your favorite shop will continue to get your business. I have found that after shipping and transfer fees the prices are about the same.

    As far as Ammo goes, Dicks or Walmart have the best prices for common calibers. If I need 300 win mag or 243 hypervelocity rounds then I will order on line.

  25. A CD or a flash drive are basically commodities. They’re the same whether I get them from Amazon or from Best Buy. Guns, particularly used guns, are different. Even new in the box, they’re like clothes. I have to try it on before I know if it will fit me. With a used gun, I want to inspect it before I buy.

    But here’s one reason that Big Box is failing. I went in to buy a CD back when Amazon was still new (to me, at least). Only one register was open, so there was a line of ten customers slowly being processed. At the front of the store stood a crowd of the teenager employees gabbing and tinkering with some gadget. The manager finally saw them and ordered them to open up more lines, but by that point, the customers had already paid.

    By contrast, a small store with employees that know me and know the products for sale, a small store that sells something that can’t be bought as easily or as well on-line will always have a place.

  26. I strongly dislike Best Buy since they changed to a very restrictive & punitive return policy.

    Why should I pay 25% more than online prices PLUS sales tax for the privilege of a return policy that’s less friendly than online retailers?

    As for guns, I pretty much know what I want before I get it, usually I have shot it in classes or from a friend.

    The KSG was what I *was* going to get next, until I saw the recent reviews on it panning it seven ways to Sunday.

  27. There’s a big difference between a gun that’s $50 higher when $50 is 10%, and a cable that’s $25 higher at best buy when $25 is 500%.

  28. I buy ammo and accessories mostly on line. But gun buying in the bay area is difficult even at the lgs. If you order online and go through the dealer for the transfer here it saves you zip.

    I long for the pre 68 gca days when you could mail order a gun straight to your house, those were the days.

  29. Davidson’s Gallery of Guns “Gun Genie” allows one to shop on-line from a large catalog but then purchase the item from a participating local dealer with no FFL transfer fees. The final price is usually modestly discounted from the MSRP.

  30. My town has 2 LGS (opposite sides of town), both with horrible pricing. They take about $5-10 off the MSRP for pistols, maybe a bit more for rifles.

    My last purchase was a Beretta Nano, new from a gun show (FFL dealer) for $360. I liked it, wanted a second one, and called both shops. One quoted $460, the other $465. That’s insane, especially for a pistol that is not selling well. I’d love to help out my local businesses but 25% of the price is ludicrous.

    • Gun Genie has the Nano in stock. I found seven participating local to me dealers. My best price, including tax and fees, came to $460. My tax would be $30 of that. If your dealer’s $460 price does not include tax then Gun Genie might be cheaper.

  31. I see several mentions of “sales tax” above. In the states (CA and CO) where I’ve purchased things online from out-of-state vendors, state law has always required payment of “use tax” – generally the same rate as sales tax. Legally, there is no “sales tax savings” in those states when purchasing online.

  32. Here in CA – I’m sure some guys buy guns online. But the rules are SO strict about what can be shipped in – it seems hardly worth it to me. So – I only buy in person. Even interfamily transfers in CA require paperwork and a $19 fee.

  33. My FFL is an hour drive from where I live, but I shop there whenever possible because the service is good and the prices are great. He beats the online dealers, so no, I don’t showroom because I don’t have to.

  34. Honestly I’d rather spend extra 30 bucks to avoid all the BS and buy locally anyway. the LGS closest to me, he’s x-fer fee is exactly what his mark up is, he hasn’t told me that but math isn’t hard. So what’s the point? unless he can’t get what I want, I don’t see any reason to order the actual firearm online.

  35. Best Buy is going under because they are very poorly run, I have tried to buy items there in the past but after attempting to buy a laptop or smaller TV you get the inevitable “we don’t have that model in stock ” runaround. It took us aver two hours to find a small laptop for a friend, of five different models they were either out of stock and could not find the battery for the demo model we wanted.

  36. I support my local gunshops – 99% of the time. Angelito of “The Gun Zone” (Clackamas Oregon) is a really good guy. Once he had 6 HK LEO marked Ar-15 mags but I didn’t have the money handy (and I had vowed to stop using credit cards) so he just said “take ’em and pay me the next time you are in the shop.” You simply have to reward that kind of koolness. Keith’s guns in Gresham has been really kool with being flexible on layaway terms, esp on high-ticket items, so they get a lot of my business as well.

  37. I kinda do this, but not in favor of online retailers. My local guy has a very small shop, and his stock is rather handgun-centric. About 30 min south of me, there is a much larger LGS, and he almost always has what I’m looking for in stock. His prices, and the CS there, sucks. After I was quoted MSRP on a pistol there (after having bought there twice before), I havent bought from him again. I’m happy, however, to go ogle the new guns, and take up his time, only to then go see the other guy, who always quotes a fair price.

  38. 1. What’s a LGS in a mostly urban locale?
    2. Showed up at one in Fairfax, Virginia.
    3. An unmarked was on the lot. Looked like the driver was photgraphing license plates and whatnot.
    4. Happened to have parked in an adjacent lot. Left without going into the store.
    5. Am in enough data bases.
    6. My FFL guy isn’t real cheap; he doesn’t have to be.

    • I’m from across the Potomac, but I know of shops in Herndon, Sterling, Chantilly, Ashburn, and Leesburg, to (not) name a few. Try some others, not all will have cops parked out front, maybe it’s just the county guys.

      • 1. Thanks for the encouragement.
        2. Was the shop in Chantilly. Generic Fairfax.
        3. Certainly was FCPD taking snaps.
        4. Folks in my neighborhood are very uncomfortable with weapons of any sort.
        5. From what I hear, your neighborhood is pretty much the same -tho I hear Atlantic Guns adverts on my car radio. Nothing like that going on, on my side of the river.
        Best regards,

  39. This post brings up an important issue for consideration by the gun community. I do value my local gun stores and have an interest in wanting/needing them to continue existing. Here is what a friend and I do living in Portland Oregon:

    1) We examine the guns in person at one of our favorite stores such as Northwest Armory, Wholesale Sports (82nd Avenue location), and The Gun Broker which has three local stores (not the big auction online site). I also like doing business with Oak Grove Ventures based in Eugene which I can always meet-up with at the local monthly gun show in Portland. All the above named stores offer good service.

    2) Make notes which of the three has the lowest price and then also make a phone call over to Keith’s Sporting Goods in Gresham for their lowest price. Neither one of us will do business with Keith’s.

    3) Here is the real kicker: both of us have found multiple times, even after doing extensive Internet searches, that our local stores are usually less costly than the selling price from either the big Internet gun stores or a brick and mortar retailer somewhere in the country. Those selling prices are even before shipping and the FFL fees are included.

    4) We go to the local store were we examined the gun, received good information, and feel responsible to give them our business. We inform them that local competitor ABC is selling the gun for a lower price. In almost every case they will match the price without an issue. If they can’t match it they come real close to the lowest price. They want your money and to see you again.

    BTW, we used to go to the gun shows monthly. However, we have found that the shows are now over-priced, negotiation on gun prices are laughed at, and the service is rushed.

  40. No gun stores are really that ‘local’ to me. Except for pawn stores, but they’re high as hell. It’s either gun show, used,or online for me

  41. I always buy at Gun Shows. Seems I’ve gotten the best deals there. Granted you have to do your homework and know what you are looking for. So the Best Buy analogy would fit what I personally do.

  42. Although its a small town, we have four lgs and two big box retailers. Three of the LGS have guns listed for MSRP, and one has some good deals. One of the big retailers seems to begrudgingly handle its guns business–unfriendly staff and unfriendly prices, and no handguns. The other, Sportsman’s Warehouse, has very competititve pricing, and charges only a $25 transfer fee. The other shops, obviously fighting the internet market, now charge $65 to $75 for an internet transfer, and being in California, are required to collect sales tax. This takes any benefit of buying at Bud’s off the table. Which pretty much sucks if the internet has the gun you want and the local doesn’t. I assume this applies to purchases of used guns as well, pretty much eliminating any savings. Maybe I’m cheap, but adding about $100 to the purchase price of a $500 handgun for fees taxes and DROS seems outrageous.

  43. Yeah, I do. Normally, what I do is I go and handle the guns I am looking at/thinking about/lusting after at a major retailer, such as Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s or Cabela’s, and then buy it at a local gun store. After all, local gun stores need the business more, since the big-box stores sell things other than guns, and their business is not contingent upon guns. There is another facet to this, however.

    There are two somewhat-noteworthy gun stores in my home town. One, which has a bigger stock in-house, is known to charge an arm and a leg for transfers, is known for less-than-satisfactory customer service and prices that are well over MSRP. The other, less-known gun store has a much smaller inventory, but they also have better prices and are much friendlier. The rule of thumb in my home town is to handle the gun you want at the one store, but order it at the other one.

  44. I usually see what the price is on line for new guns, than check out the pawn shops at used guns. You can get some good deals at the pawn shops but you have to know prices.

  45. I might shop around at local gun stores, but in general, even if I can get it online, you need to order, and have it shipped to your local LGS. Here in CA, we pay tax for the purchase price, transfer fee, and in many cases, places like Cheaper than Dirt won’t ship to CA, or if they do, like Bud’s my LGS won’t except from them.
    If it is a part, like a scope or something, I might go to Bass Pro Shops or something to have a look, then order online. I don’t have the money to be a parts snob, plus many times, my LGS might mount it for free, or offer in house service on it should there be any issues. That is something very few folks online can help with.

  46. Last two guns I bought were ‘previously owned’. Prior to that, every gun I bought was from a local gun store called Ace Sporting Goods in Washington, Pennsylvania. I’d much rather be able to examine (and hold) the merchandise that I’ll actually be taking home before I spend a couple of hundred dollars on something that is not electronic.

  47. I’ve only bought two guns online. One I could not find at any LGS withing a 50 mile radius so I really had no choice. The other was a lower receiver I got from Palmetto State for $60. Pretty sure no one could beat that price anywhere, even other online stores. At least my LGS got $25 out of it. All my other guns I have bought at my LGS. They have already competitive prices, and are willing to haggle aswell, so if you factor in the transfer fee and shipping, most of the time it’s about the same price, or really close.

  48. Like a lot of comments above it depends if local price gouging is involved and on the individual item. I can never buy clothes online as they never fit right, and returning any non-working or damaged items online is just a pain in the……………. As far as Best Buy goes their usually out of stock or they don’t have it in the first place. So I go down the street to Fry’s as they almost always have what I need cheaper.

  49. Portland area has some good stores, I’ve always liked Northwest Armory, and Kurt’s for AR stuff. There’s also some nice guys behind the gun counter at the 82nd ave. wholesale sports.

  50. Most gun stores near me are horrible service, horrible prices, and often don’t smell so hot. Luckily we have one great LGS with lots of new and used guns, great prices, and great service. Without them, I would definitely go to the trouble of the Internets. Luckily I don’t have to and make sure to buy early and buy often to support them.

  51. I can;t for the life of me figure out why anybody buys guns at Gander Mountain or Cabela’s. My LGS has everything they have for about 20% less.

    • Today, I priced compared the Ruger LCR .357 snubbie at the Cabela website and NW Armory in Portland. Cabelas wants $549, NW Armory $449, and WholeSale Sports will price match NW Armory at $449. A $100 almost 20% difference!

  52. I usually showroom at best buy but i have no problem buying from my local gun store. Honestly the prices are just about the same. If my LGS is a bit more expensive it usually isnt enought to warrant me going online and paying for shipping and an FFL fee

  53. Try Sharpshooters in Lorton. Some of their CSRs are good, others have their nose in the air. Prices are decent except for bulk ammo.

  54. I used to but then realized that after shipping & transfer fees the price is not much different from some local stores. Online shipping is just for the ones I’m having a hard time getting locally.

Comments are closed.