Here are some simple tips for shopping the gun shows —
Know before you go:
This is a simple one, and may seem obvious. It’s also multi-faceted meaning that you need to know a lot of stuff. Bear with me here, this is important.
- What you want: This sounds stupid to say, but you should know what you’re looking for before you ever leave the house. Otherwise, and I’ve done this before, I’ve left with a bunch of stuff I wasn’t looking for, only to have a pissed wife when I got home. “Hey,” she says. “I thought you were looking for a hunting rifle why’d you come home with a pistol, a shotgun and 4 cases of ammo?”
- What is fair market price: Gun Shows are a great place to find some killer deals, but you have to look for them. They’re also a great place to get ripped off. What’s more, y’all actually have to know what a fair price is before you go. One thing I like to do is check Gun Broker and other similar websites for prices on what I’m looking for so I know how much I should be spending.
- How much you can spend while there: This one is huge because the last thing you want to do is go to the show expecting to spend a total of $300, and then accidentally spend the next month’s mortgage money. Having a solid number in your head that you can spend beforehand will help you save a lot of headache later on down the road.
- Download the right apps: Sometimes, you just find a great deal on something that wasn’t on your list. Again, I’ve been there and walked out with something that I wasn’t looking for. Hey, I collect guns. It helps the argument a lot if you can justify your spend. For example, if you walked by a pristine Springfield 1903A3 for $400, and you looked on Gun Broker and saw they were commanding about double that in similar condition, you’d be dumb to pass it up. Since you did that research on the fly, the wife may be more inclined to not stick you on the couch when you get home.
While at the Gun Show:
Here are some things you can do while at the actual show to help you get the best deal you possibly can.
- Timing is everything: As with everything in life, timing is one of the most important aspects to hunting for goods at a Gun Show. While a lot of folks like to go during the first few hours to scout out all the goodies, I’m a bit different. While I’ll go early on to scout what I’m looking for, I also return before the close. The reason why I go back, is because if they still have that item I was looking for they may be more willing to haggle.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle on price: Here’s the deal, the people manning the table at the gun shows are aware that other people are likely selling the exact same stuff they are. Because of this, they have to be willing to adjust their price if they expect to sell anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for a dollar amount off, or to bundle something together. What I mean here, is that if you’re buying a rifle and they’ve got a sling you want, ask for them to include it in the sale. Need ammo? Ask for a box if you buy a certain amount. It can’t hurt to ask, because you can always walk away.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away: If you find yourself haggling over price or a bundle and it’s not going your way, you’ll have to walk away. Many times, when the guy/gal at the counter is unwilling to move on price, it isn’t because they’re being a big dick. It’s hard to lose money on something and you really can’t expect them to go broke selling you something that they can’t make money on. Nicely bow out of the conversation, saying you may be back.
- Then, don’t be afraid to walk back: Just before the end of the gun show, don’t be afraid to walk back and see if they’re still firm on their price, if that piece of equipment is still there. Unless you were a dick, of course, because then they won’t want to work with you at all. Other than that, they may be more inclined to make a sale if they haven’t sold enough to justify the cost of going to the show.
- Follow the rules of the show, and vendors: Different shows have different rules. Different vendors have different rules. I always ask if I can handle a firearm before I touch one, even if there aren’t any signs that say I don’t have to. You usually earn instant respect if you do ask. And, there are always rules at the show you must follow or risk getting removed from the show.
- If you are carrying, or are a vendor, leave your holstered weapon in its holster: Do I really have to say this? Unfortunately, yes I do. I was at an out of state gun show once where a firearm was negligently discharged because someone felt the need to try out a holster with their carry gun that was loaded. Don’t do it. It’s stupid.
Websites/Apps to reference:
I like to do a majority of my research beforehand, but I also check things on the fly if there’s a corresponding app, or just using the browser on my phone. It looks like these apps were taken down but there are still websites.
- Gun Broker: This one is a must. I check prices on guns all the time on Gun Broker. Sometimes these prices can be inflated, but it’s a great resource for also checking on the fly. I have walked away from sales in the past because something I saw at a gun show was more than most of the vendors on Gun Broker had it. Checking that app saved me money.
- Ammo Seek: This one is also one I check whenever I need ammo. It literally lists out all the web-based ammo sellers of a specific caliber, whatever one you entered into the field. It’s a great resource, and if you’re looking for ammunition you can check what everyone else is listing theirs for to make sure you get a good deal.
- Armslist: This is one I check less often, but is still a valuable resource to find out going prices on guns.
Other things to consider:
I wasn’t sure where to put these tips, so I’ll just give them their own category.
- Bring Cash: This kind of goes along with haggling over price, but is different enough that it deserves its own spot. You can say something along the lines of, “what if I can pay cash, what’s the best price you can do?” It may not get better, but a lot of vendors would rather not have to deal with their credit card processor to close a sale. If they can keep them out of it, it’s better for them because many credit card processors put a cap on the amount of sales a “high risk” store owner can do. It’s ridiculous, but that’s how it is. Plus, many times they have to pay somewhere between 2-5% of each sale to the credit card processor, another reason for them to want to avoid using them. If you offer cash, it usually helps.
- Condition: Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to check the full condition of a gun at a gun show. Many times the actions are locked and cannot be manipulated. It always pays to buy from a reputable shop who is willing to put some kind of guarantee on the item you’re buying. That way, if you purchased a turd, you can bring it in to them or send it to them, and tell them what’s going on with it. Often times, however, what you see is what you get.
- Never Assume: When I say never assume, I mean whether or not the gun is loaded. If you just happen to be at a gun show where the action isn’t locked, always check to make sure you’re not going to shoot someone with an “accidentally” loaded gun. It’d be your fault for not checking, as well as the guy who left a loaded gun out. It has happened.
Are there any other gun show tips you’d like to present to us? Let us know in the comments section, and also tell us which gun show is your favorite.