Supposedly, patience is its own reward. When you buy online, that reward is matched by also saving some scratch. When you shop Amazon.com for movies or cat litter, what you spend on shipping you save on taxes and the stuff’s just cheaper all around. Unless you live in Washington, but anyway.
This isn’t any different for guns except, yeah, guns are totally different. There’re all these laws. When you boil it down, the benefits stay the same, but the process is less impulse-friendly. But, what’s better: having a gun today, or having a gun in a few days with enough left over for a few hundred rounds of fun?
Assuming you’ve decided on a firearm, you have a couple of steps to take before you make your purchase.
1. Pick a dealer
2. Pick a nearby FFL holder
See, two. They’re not completely straightforward, though. There are lots of dealers, private or otherwise.
Your main dealers are going to be online shops, which may or may not have retail locations. Impactguns.com, brownells.com, cheaperthandirt.com, midwayUSA.com, gunsinternational.com and ebang.com (which I promise is gun site, not a porn site) all fit into this category. There are good and bad shops; some dealers don’t keep their websites up to date, some intentionally list firearms they don’t have in stock and order them after they sell. Google them before you place your order. And use your noodle, if the website’s shifty-looking, identical in format to a bunch of other super-cheap gun websites, or just too good to be real, it isn’t.
Gun auction sites are great ways to buy new, used, or rare guns from both dealers and individuals and they are all the rage right now with new sites popping up every couple of months. Some popular gun auction sites are gunbroker.com, gunsamerica.com and auctionguns.com. Because auction sites have seller and buyer rating systems you can see immediately if the person you’re buying from is reputable. Unless they don’t have a rating, in which case, judge the listing: if it’s got nice, high-resolution photos of the firearm and a well-written description, the seller’s put work into it. Scammers are lazy.
Community websites often have buy, sell, and trade sections. Like with auctions, quality listings are always a good sign. Because people’s social reputation is on the line, they tend to be honest.
But with all of these, it’s a good idea to use some kind of transaction insurance, like paying with a credit (not debit) card, or through a service like PayPal or Google Checkout.
If you’re a fan of Craigslist, well, Craigslist doesn’t do firearms, but armslist.com and gunlistings.org do and buying and selling guns face-to-face, for cash, is sexier than shit. You will feel like Chuck Norris on Chuck Norris day.
Still, and I cannot stress this enough, if you feel at all nervous, uncomfortable, or suspicious about the seller, move along. You’re spending a large amount of money on something that your life might depend on. Grave warning over. Whee guns!
So once you have the gun and the seller picked, you need to find a Federal Firearms License holder. The way it works is like this: any time an FFL-holder receives a firearm for a transfer, they have to do a background check on the recipient (asking around, they do this even if you ship yourself a firearm). Depending on your state’s laws, there may or may not be a waiting period. This is true even for same-state sales.
Gun ranges, gun stores, and pawn shops all usually have FFLs. Call them and ask what they charge to receive a firearm and do the background check. I’ve found that gun ranges are cheapest because, c’mon, you know you’ll want to buy some lane time when you first get that piece. If they charge you more than $25 for this, go somewhere else, if you can.
And if you have any questions about your local laws or procedures, ask your FFL dealer while you’ve got someone on the line. You’re talking to an expert, someone whose livelihood is staked on that knowledge.
Note: This is just for shipped guns; for person-to-person transfers, the background check isn’t necessary, although some sellers like to do the transfer at an FFL and have them do a background check to limit their liability.
After you’ve picked your FFL, get the address and FFL number. You’ll need this when you buy online. Then it’s just a matter of filling in the fields. And waiting. It’s worth it. It’s always worth it.
Again, the money you save turns into bullets… which, by the way, you can also buy online. And ammunition doesn’t go through FFLs. They ship that to your door.