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How to Buy a Gun Online [Ultimate Guide]

Quickly learn how to buy a gun online. We cover the best online stores, pros & cons of buying online, dealing with your FFL, and background check specifics.

So, you’ve decided that buying a gun is the right decision for you.

And why not?

They’re fun. You can protect yourself and your home. You can use them for sport.

Best Beginner Handguns
Best beginner handguns.

We’re going to help you navigate the process of purchasing a new gun online so that you can enjoy your newest addition as soon as possible without any headaches.

It’s easy and not sketchy!

Table of Contents


What You’ve Heard About Buying Online

There’s a lot of noise in the media about what buyers can and cannot do when purchasing a firearm.

So, what’s the reality?

While there certainly are loopholes that allow some unsavory folks to purchase weapons illegally, buying online is not one of those loopholes.

This isn’t the loophole.

In fact, the internet marketplace for gun sales is highly regulated thanks to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prevents sellers from mailing guns directly to private parties (more on how to navigate this process later).

This means that unfortunately, there is no Amazon Prime for guns that allow you to simply have your purchase on your doorstep within two days of ordering.

Amazon Prime Air
Amazon Prime Air.

Let’s Buy a Gun Online

Once you’ve made your decision about the type of gun that you want to purchase, there are loads of reputable online firearm dealers you can use to purchase your firearm. Here are some of our favorites:

Check out our complete review of the Best Places to Buy Guns Online.

Pros & Cons of Buying Online

However, there are also plenty of great local gun shops (LGS) that would love to have your business. Let’s cover some of the pros and cons of buying online vs buying from your LGS.

We Need Guns
We Need Guns


  • Cheaper price since they don’t have to deal with the overhead of a physical store.
  • No tax if your vendor is out of state (some caveats such as CA which requires you to still pay tax on pickup).
  • Huge selection when you factor in all the places that sell online.


  • You can’t form a relationship with the employees like at a LGS who can readily answer all your questions
  • You don’t get to see and feel the gun in person
  • If something breaks, there’s no real place to bring it except to the gunsmith or factory
  • Not supporting a local business
  • Wait for shipping

Steps to Buying a Gun Online

Once you’ve selected your online retailer, picked out your gun, and made your purchase, remember that the company will not send the gun directly to your doorstep in the mail.

Bud's Gun Shop Store Display
Bud’s Gun Shop Store Display

To pick up your firearm, you will need to find a local dealer with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Any reputable gun store in your area will work just fine.  

Even some pawn shops and collectors may have them, so all you have to do is ask around a little bit.

After the gun arrives at the FFL, the process becomes the same as buying in person.

FFL gun is in meme
Happy days!

If you would like to keep the process as speedy as possible, set up your FFL pickup location before you even order your weapon.

Here are the steps:

  • Contact your local FFL
  • Inform them that you would like to have your firearm shipped to their store for pickup (tell the FFL if the gun is coming from an outside source like Brownells)
  • Ask them about their fee for providing the pickup service (usually around $50 to $75, but it varies depending on the state and individual FFL)
  • If you agree with the fee, arrange the transfer
  • Provide your local FFL with the mailing address, email address, or fax number of your online retailer so that the FFL can send proof of their license (popular online stores likely will have your FFL on file since this only has to be done once)
  • Let your retailer know who your FFL is and the address to which they will be sending the gun

To give you a fair warning, some FFL holders hate it when you buy your gun online since they lose out on the margin of the actual gun and time spent helping you transfer. So research and ask around your area to find the most accommodating FFL.  

Before you buy a gun make sure you know the gun’s MSRP and what it’s being sold for at other stores and online.
Before you buy a gun make sure you know the gun’s MSRP and what it’s being sold for at other stores and online.

Some states like California will also still collect taxes on your firearm through the FFL.

Some will try to make up the lost profit with higher fees. But I can’t really blame them…

What Happens When It Arrives?

Once the FFL receives your gun, they should call and let you now. At that point, the process is the same as it is if you buy at the gun store.

First, you’ll let them know that you’re there to pick up your gun. They’ll ask to see your ID and have you fill out a Form 4473.

Form 4473 NICS and Shield
Form 4473 (gun not included)

Some shops have upgraded to a customer computer system where you sit down at a kiosk or computer and input your info and submit it for the backgrounch check. Other shops require you to fill out a paper copy then hand it to them to input.

Before you buy a gun make sure you know the gun’s MSRP and what it’s being sold for at other stores and online.

Then you wait…depending our state and how overwhelmed the NICS system is it can be as little as a couple of minutes or longer. And remember, some states have a waiting period of a few days so factor that in too.

Once your paperwork is cleared and you’ve paid your FFL’s transfer fee, you can take your new toy home!

Do You Need a Background Check?

Of course, you do.

Your local FFL dealer will conduct a background check on you before you can complete the transaction to make sure that everything is on the up and up. This is no different than if you were to walk into a store to purchase your gun in person.

Background Check

There are just a few things that would prevent you from purchasing a firearm.

Not to get too serious on you, but if you meet any of the following conditions, you will not be legally allowed to purchase a firearm, and your local FFL dealer will deny the purchase:

  • You were convicted of a crime punishable with over a year in prison
  • You’re a fugitive from justice
  • You are an unlawful user or addict of any controlled substance
  • You are in the United States illegally
  • You were dishonorably discharged from the military
  • You have renounced your United States citizenship
  • You have a restraining order out against you
  • You are under indictment for a crime that could be punishable with over a year in prison

As long as you have lived a relatively normal, lawful life, you will not be turned away.

One Last Thing

Even though you’re going to be excited to get your gun home for the first time and to the range or farmland, do not exit the dealer until you have fully inspected the gun to make sure that there are no damaged parts.

If you do find damaged parts in your new gun, refuse the transfer, and make the FFL aware of your problem. Any reputable retailer will arrange to have your firearm replaced at no cost.

PSA AK-104 Fixing
The range is not where you want to find issues…

Once you accept the transfer, your sale is final.  

If you have any questions about your firearm (how to clean it, take it apart, etc.) ask your FFL questions. Most of them are very friendly and will be happy to help you out with any of your questions.

Final Thoughts

That’s it. It’s really that easy. Now that you completed your first online purchase of a gun…we cover cleaning, ammo, safes, and range time.

Gun Vault
Get your personal collection started!

And most importantly, be safe and responsible. Need more info on buying a used gun? Take a look at How to Buy a Used Gun [Ultimate Guide]!

Tell us about your experience purchasing firearms online. How did your FFL help you? Be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Guns for more help!

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37 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Gaaron Bethel

    My name is Gaaron Bethel and I wish to get my Carry and Conceal License in the State of Florida.
    I got in trouble in 1993 in Florida and had to do 11M
    25Days. The case have now been ordered to be destroyed by the judge on appeal in the case and has been according to my most recent document from the court of law. My basic question is can I now purchase a handgun in my name without interference of the law?

    November 20, 2022 11:20 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      assuming you intended to write "dismissed" instead of "destroyed'

      I would suggest you contact a gun rights attorney and let them give you the information and guide you through this. They can make sure the dismissal is coded correctly in the NCIC system so you don't get denied when you go to purchase.

      March 6, 2023 1:55 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Frederick Basham

    Cancel - I did the wrong thing and did not read the previous comments - My question was aleady answered.

    August 26, 2022 5:12 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Frederick Basham

    When does the "Clock" start for the "three day" waiting period? If you buy a gun on a Monday - then it takes 3 days to arrive at the Dealer - do you have to wait another three days post background check?

    August 26, 2022 5:10 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    You can’t form a relationship with the employees like at a LGS who can readily answer all your questions"
    Hahaha. I don't know what gun stores you're going to but 7/10 times those guys are ***holes.

    August 20, 2022 10:23 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I must be going to one of the 3. That said, even that store had an arse there for a while, but he's gone. Now I find that having a relationship really has its benefits.

      March 6, 2023 12:22 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    vcxxzx cxcxxc

    guns, gun, online gun store, handguns, dealers, rifles, ammo, gun dealers, gun dealers online, gun stores online,

    June 11, 2022 11:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Some of the online buying cons also exist at local gun stores.
    1. You don’t get to see and feel the gun in person.
    2. Wait for shipping.
    The guns stores within a few hours of me all have limited inventory. Sure they can 'get' any gun but then it is just like buying online. Plus, sadly, I've found many gun stores to be filled with opinionated employees that are only interested in pushing their favorite gun.

    May 7, 2022 2:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jack Toffmore

    I also recommend bass pro / cabellas for online as well. They have a pretty wide selection and you can order on the website and have it shipped to your local store. No 3rd party FFL weirdness to deal with. Sportsmans Warehouse is also good like this.

    January 27, 2022 2:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      The stores you mention really blow in the state of Washington. We have a ten day waiting period. Most stores besides those large ones will turn the gun over after the ten days, not SW or Cabela's. They insist on waiting until they get a response. I know of an individual that waited for 30 days and then had to start the process over. I get that those stores have those policies because their FFL is important but come on, 30+ days when the state only insists on 10.

      March 6, 2023 12:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I'm pretty sure that online retailers all have to collect sales tax now, so the part about not paying sales tax should be checked. All the guns and ammos I bought online have had my WA sales tax added to them.

    November 2, 2021 11:02 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      What? You don't want to give 10% to Ferguson and Inslee so they can take more rights away?

      March 6, 2023 12:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    At a local gun shop, I was informed that just having a record of having seen a psychiatrist or of having taken certain anti-depression medication disqualifies you.

    January 18, 2021 9:18 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Federally, your LGS is 100% wrong. Local laws might apply, but I have never encountered such strict and horrible laws.

      January 18, 2021 11:13 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Aaron O. Pineda

        Shall not be infringed!!!!!

        I don't understand what part of that people can't or don't understand, comprehend ECT....
        It's trampled on every day to everyone.
        Let's just do away with the whole Constitution. That's the way things are going.... IMHO

        November 17, 2021 5:28 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      James Allen

      It would depend on where you are. In NJ, you have to have a permit to apply for a handgun, and on the permit application they ask you if you've been to a psychiatrist, and if you have, it could make everything much more complicated.

      February 2, 2021 7:08 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    How can I get a clearance to purchase & own a weapon without first buying a weapon?

    January 2, 2021 7:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I bought a gun online and was denied by NICS at the FFL. The online store that I purchased the firearm from says, NO returns! Now what happens to the gun that I paid for? I've read online that the gun is the FFL's property now. How can this be? Is this how it is profitable to be an FFL? Free guns from legal scam?

    December 25, 2020 11:33 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    hello have a question ? I was arrested for DV in 1994 and I completed everything they asked and it got reduced and I went and got my criminal record report and it says unknown on the disposition. The clerk couldn't even tell me anything about it i even called the main police station and the said he can't run my name,but when I told him about the case he really couldn't tell me either even about the unknown dispo. Will this stop me from getting a gun.

    September 12, 2020 3:15 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David Nunes Lendvay

    What’s the fast way to get a gun in California? “Define by , a online transfer only takes couple minutes . Then you wait for delivery date when it arrives at the ffl . That’s should only be 2-3 days of the purchase . Does that bypass the 10/30 eta day hold ? Or is the a better idea just to go to a ffl and wait the , 10/30 day waiting period ?

    July 2, 2020 10:37 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Hello! Getting a firearm in CA requires a 10 day wait that starts when you do the first round of paperwork at the FFL. Even if you buy online, the 10 day wait doesn't start until the in-person paperwork at the FFL.

      Right now, the fastest is likely to go to an FFL and buy whatever is on the shelf. But your options are likely going to be very limited.

      July 2, 2020 10:53 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Does this mean I could purchase a gun not on the California list of approved guns? Or am u still limited to only the guns on the California list of approved guns via DOJ?

    thanks in advance!

    March 28, 2020 11:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      You are still limited to the handguns on the CA Roster :(

      March 28, 2020 1:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I just used grabagun.com to purchase a firearm. The process was VERY easy and quick, plus their prices can’t be beat. I wish the FFL I chose was as easy. I guess you live and learn...

    December 12, 2019 1:08 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert K

    Last month I retired from the Army and became a legal resident of Virginia. I received my new drivers license on the 1st of August and thought I would celebrate retirement with a new pistol. Ordered through Buds and had it shipped to my FFL. Found out while doing the transfer that your ID needs to be at least 30 days old. Come to find out its a Federal law that is part of the very fine print at the bottom of the transfer paperwork. Needless to say the shop agreed to hold the firearm until the end of the month...

    August 16, 2019 5:16 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Katherine Borrow

    I bought a gun online from Ultimategunsales.net and they transfer it to my local gun store. I was quite skeptical about payment but everything went smoothly. I can recommend ultimategunsales.net to everyone new in buying online guns

    June 29, 2019 1:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Loro Guerrero

    I’m in CA I just want to purchase a firearm and excersize my right to bare arms with no drama,just pay and go (buisness )

    January 30, 2019 12:09 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jeff M

    Can someone tell me if you can purchase a used gun from a pawnshop and have it sent to a California ffl dealer?

    January 24, 2019 8:49 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Can someone explain to me how it’s worth it to order, say, a lower online? So you pay for the lower, pay shipping, DROS?, pay the local ffl dealer ~$50 for the transfer and pay tax (CA) and possibly tax on the senders side? Wouldn’t that be like paying double the price of the lower? I know I must be misunderstanding all this because if plenty of people order firearms online, it can’t be the way I understand it to be. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated!

    January 21, 2019 4:34 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      A lot of it depends on where you are. Many states have FFLs that will do transfers for $20 or less. For CA, the DROS is charged no matter what so that doesn't impact ordering online or in the store. Tax should only be collected once, if the seller and the FFL charged you tax then someone screwed up.

      Finally, it comes to who has what in stock. The gun stores near me never have the lower I want in stock when I want it, so ordering online is my only option. I've never seen a lower for sale in my LGSs for under $100, but I can order a $50 lower online, get a $35 transfer, and wait for a free shipping coupon.

      January 21, 2019 6:44 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Florida has a 3 day waiting period from time of purchase to time of pickup if you don’t have a concealed carry license. If I order a gun online, does the 3 day waiting period start at the time I complete the transaction online, or does it start at the time my local FFL gets the fun in their possession?

    I’ve had the hardest time getting an answer to this question!

    December 18, 2018 1:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Waiting periods start once the paperwork is filed, that is always after the firearm has been received by the FFL and you go down to fill out the paperwork. We have a 10-day wait in CA and have to deal with the same thing, so we feel your pain.

      December 18, 2018 1:23 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        At least I’m not in CA... haha. Thanks for the answer!

        December 18, 2018 4:24 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Starts at time of online purchase in Florida, not when gun arrives at FFL.

      January 12, 2019 10:06 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        That makes no sense. What if the gun is defective? You wouldn't want to do the paperwork and start the transfer. I believe that David is correct that the 3 days begins with the submitting of the background check.

        March 6, 2023 12:33 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    There are some typos in the article (13 occurrences). FLL should be FFL.

    December 12, 2018 11:08 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor


      December 13, 2018 7:35 am
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