Buying Your First (Next) Gun

Gun buying isn’t complicated, in fact it’s rather simple.  There are four different ways – (1) buy from someone you know, (2) buy from a store, (3) buy at a gun show, and (4) buy online.  And contrary to the anti-gunners’ constant rants, “universal background checks” already exist.  There are advantages to each way of buying.  If you buy from a store or buy at a gun show, you have to pay sales tax, but you can go home with the gun that day.  If you buy online, you don’t pay a sales tax (unless the store you are buying from is in your state), but you have to have the gun shipped to a a Federal Firearms License a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer and pay the dealer a transfer fee. Buying any of these ways you get a warranty.  If you buy from a private individual, you may get a good deal and you won’t pay shipping or sales tax, but unless you know guns, that deal may not turn out to be as good as you thought it was.


What is a background check? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) requires anyone engaged in the business of buying and selling guns to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL).  And every gun you purchase – except a private sale by someone not engaged in the business of buying and selling guns – has to go through a FFL dealer. To take possession of the gun you have to go to a FFL dealer, fill out ATF form 44731 swearing you are eligible under federal law to posses a firearm, the FFL dealer sends the information to a federal database, and if you come back clear, you can get the gun. The only time any gun is not transferred through an FFL dealer is when it’s a private transaction between two private individuals.


So how do you go about buying a gun?  Think about it like buying a car.  Do your research and figure out what gun you want.  Go look at guns – at a gun store or a gun show or a find a friend that has one or two (or more).  Pick up the gun.  How does it feel in your hand?  What’s the gun for – target practice, home defense, concealed carry?  If it’s a carry gun, is it a gun you will carry?  Then shoot the ones you think you might like.


Once you’ve decided, go online and search to find out what that gun is going for.  I use  Go there and find Bud’s  price for gun – Bud’s might not have the best price, but it will be a good price and shipping to your FFL dealer is free.  Now that you have a base price, you can check local stores, gun shows or search the web and compare prices.

Gun shows are good places to buy a gun – and here in Texas, there’s one every couple of weeks.  Almost everyone selling guns with a table is an FFL dealer.  The dreaded “gun show exception” are private folks walking around with a gun they are looking to sell or someone looking to liquidate a private collection, usually after someone has died.2  But don’t be in a rush – the gun you’re looking for may be cheaper, sometimes quite a bit cheaper, at another dealer.  Walk the aisles and look at guns.  If you do find the gun you want, at the price you like, you can buy that gun, that day, and go home with it. You sit down and fill out the ATF form 4473 swearing you are eligible to purchase a firearm.  If you have a License to Carry, you have already passed a background check and you are eligible.  If you have any doubt, check your eligibility online.3  The FFL dealer will send in the form electronically, you’ll be cleared, you pay for the gun plus tax, and you walk out of the show a proud gun owner.


Buying a gun online may get you a better deal, but you’re going to have to wait to get it and you need to calculate all your costs.  First, take your time and search the best price for the gun.  Look for where the store you are buying the gun from is located – if it’s in your state, you pay tax.  Look for shipping costs – they can vary from free to quite a bit.  Factor that into your cost.  And finally, a gun bought on-line has to be shipped to a FFL dealer.  That dealer has to handle the gun, fill out the ATF paperwork, and is going to charge you a fee for that transfer.  All those things go into your cost comparison.


Just type the “gun name” and “for sale” in the search engine and go down the list looking at the guns and prices. or are Ebay like sites that will list guns for sale that you can check to find a deal.  Or there are several good gun search engines to find the best deal.  I use .  When you go to the site, on the web page top left you’ll see a magnifying glass with three short lines underneath.  Click that, click handguns, and when that page opens, go to the filter icon and put in the caliber and gun brand you want.  The page will open with all the guns made by that company.  When you find the gun you are looking for, click on that deal and then scroll down and you will find a list of all the other deals posted for the same gun.  Click on the deal you want and it will take you to the page where you can buy the gun online.  Fill out the information, give them your credit card information,  and buy the gun.  Some charge a credit card fee, so watch for that.


Whenever you buy online, you’ll have to have the gun shipped to a local FFL dealer, where you’ll go have to in, fill out that ATF form 4473, pay the transfer fee, and pick up your gun.  Transfer fees can vary widely, so just like shopping for the gun, shop for the transfer fee.  If you are a member of a gun range, many do transfers free as part of your membership.  If you’ve never had a relationship with a FFL dealer, go to , put in your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel, and the site  will display the dealers in that area and the prices they charge for the transfer.  The site is not always up to date, so call the dealer and make sure the price listed is the current price, then tell them your name and that you are having a gun shipped to them.  When they get the gun, they will call you to come in, fill out the paper work, pay the transfer fee, and you pick up your new gun.


When all is said and done, it’s pretty much like anything else you buy.  The only difference between buying a gun and anything else is filling out the form 4473 and that takes about 10 minutes.



2Despite the anti-gun railing about the gun show loophole, there has never been a single reported case of a person not eligible to posses a firearm purchasin a gun at a gun show and using it in a homicide.