Safe? Effective? Worth it?
Armslist is one of the most controversial websites out there. In an age of de-platforming, I’m honestly surprised they are still around. I’ve been using for close to 8 years now to buy, sell, and trade guns.
My experience has gotten me some good deals, and I want to share how I have successfully used the system for almost a decade.
I’ve gotten great deals here, and due to my cautious nature, I’ve never been ripped off. My best deal involved trading a Ruger Ranch rifle and a WASR 10 for a SIG 556R, one of my all time favorite rifles.
Armslist has been good to me. Ever since Facebook has banned the private sales of guns, ammo, and accessories. Armslist has been the place to buy and sell used firearms.
Table of Contents
What is It?
As we’ve established, it is a place you can buy and sell guns.
Armslist is Craigslist with firearms, and tactical gear, and ammo. The idea is simple; all you have to do is post what you want to sell, or browse the listings what others are selling.
You don’t even have to create an account. Although it is easier to create an account if you need to manage multiple postings, FFLs can create premium accounts and post multiple guns. Private Parties and dealers can be quickly sorted, and you browse by city or state.
It’s straightforward to use and to create listings. It’s all done over email, and you can upload a photo of your gun with ease. It’s pretty simple and Armslist can be as successful as you need it to be. Armslist is a fickle beast though.
It’s a very, uhm, exciting service and you get great opportunities to meet some very odd and unusual people. If you want your time and your listing to be worth it, we can show you the best way to save money and time over Armslist.
Also, guns are high-value items, and like any high-value item there is a risk with a face to face sale, so we are also going to go over how to use the service safely as well.
How to Use It Safely and Successfully
The key to being victorious over Armslist is putting the work into your post and pictures. You need to detail what exactly your gun is. Listing “.357 Magnum for sale”, with that exact description, is garbage.
All we know is its a .357 Magnum. You need to answer a few questions, like:
- Who Made It?
- What Model Is It?
- What is the Approximate Round Count?
- Does it come with anything? (Box, magazines, any extras.)
Past that you need to take a good picture with good lighting. The better the picture, the more looks you’ll get. A good outdoors photo with morning or evening light will be perfect.
You don’t have to get artistic with it. You need a solid photograph of the gun from the outside that is a complete overview of the weapon. You also need to list any of the defects the weapon may have.
If the wood grips are chipped, you should list that. If you meet someone and all of a sudden they start seeing defects in the gun you have wasted their time and your time. Be honest and upfront about what you are selling.
Speaking of selling if you want the gun to sell you need to be realistic about the price. Weapons don’t lose much value unless they are beaten to a pulp. However, it’s good to research what your gun is selling for on the used market.
Also, even if you’ve never fired a round, the gun is not new, and you won’t have much luck selling it for the price you purchased it for. Be realistic about your price and what you can trade the gun for.
The Ugly Underbelly
I went with a hardcore and hyperbolic headline to grab your eyes! However, if you want to stay safe on Armslist, you need to make sure you at least acknowledge there is some risk. The risk results from the fact that guns, in general, are expensive items.
Stealing a gun also typically will mean the use of serious force by the thief. If you want to steal a gun, you’ll probably bring a gun to do so. It’s best to avoid this whole sticky situation.
Since private sales over Armslist are done in a face to face manner nearly 99% of the time its best to plan to meet in a safe place. The parking lot of that closed K-Mart isn’t the best place to sell or buy a gun.
Pick a very public place where plenty of people are around. I also tend to meet during the day. Some Police Departments have even set up small parking lots for face to face sales of all kinds. These are under surveillance and near a police department most of the time and are great places to make a sale or trade.
Also, if you have their email copy and paste it into the search bar for Google, this can give you a picture and idea of who they are, as well as a real name. You can Google that name and see what comes up. Maybe that’s paranoid, but I like to have my backside covered.
Another big problem with Armslist is scammers. Armslist does try very hard to prevent these scammers and does an excellent job of policing them, but they strike now and then. The two scams I know of are pretty similar.
The “Fake Listing” Scam
The simplest of scams. They put a phony listing up, you reply, and they offer to ship it to your FFL. You see they are out of town with their sick Mom and they need the money so they’ll send it for you for free.
Just send them a check, or better yet Paypal (Friends and Family of course) and bam it’ll come your way. Guess what? The gun never comes, and you are out whatever money you sent.
One way to spot a fake is a deal that is too good to be true. The price is way too reasonable. Second, a generic listing with information that looks like it copy-pasted from Wikipedia or a generic listing. If you suspect a scam run the photos through Google image search and see where it ends up.
The “Little Bit Extra” Scam
The next scam is a little trickier. The buyer is interested in your gun they contact you. Again they are from out of town, and they are willing to buy the gun from you and pay for shipping. They also have their FFL and send you a copy. You run through the ATF FFL database and bam, it is a real FFL.
First, they send you a check. A cashiers check of course with extra to cover shipping. You ship the gun, and you cash the check. The check is a little more than it all costs, and the seller asks you to refund the extra money.
You do because you are a good person, often through PayPal or more popularly lately, Zelle. Then the check bounces and you are out the money you sent, and a gun.
The gun was never the goal, that little extra cash was. It’s likely overseas and gone forever.
The best way to avoid this is to refuse to ship in the first place, or contact the actual FFL ower and let him know people are trying to scam him or her.
Using the Service Legally
Like anything to do with guns if you want to use the service legally, you need to observe your state laws. State laws vary greatly when it comes to guns, and you need to know your state’s laws before using Armslist.
Here are a few examples of Laws You Need to Observe:
- Does your State have Universal Background checks?
- Is there state laws regarding the age of the purchaser?
- Are you buying a product that’s illegal in your state? (Such as, a New Production High Cap Magazine in States with restrictions.)
Additionally, there are plenty of federal laws that are easy to violate, and a few of them seem to keep popping up in my experience with Armslist. For example:
NFA weapons have to be sold through the NFA process, and this includes SBRs, Machine guns, Suppressors, and SBS guns. I’ve seen a scary amount of ARs with pistol uppers and rifle stocks that are not registered. The seller often doesn’t know that they are breaking the law.
So avoid NFA weapons where the seller apparently doesn’t understand the NFA. Also with the bump stock ban in effect, it might be good to avoid those for now. The same goes with people wanting you to ship their gun on the low through the mail.
Ammo is another issue, you can’t use USPS and must use a different carrier such as UPS or FedEx.
Handguns must be shipped to an FFL in the state that the purchaser resides so keep that in mind.
My Personal Rules for Armslist
I have a few of my own rules that are entirely optional to follow with Armslist. These are rules many will disagree with, but I’ve never been scammed and have been quite successful at Armslist.
- Never give out my phone number. Made this mistake once and when we couldn’t come to an agreement, the buyer would not stop texting and calling me.
- I never Ship. It’s too much of a hassle, and the risk is too high.
- Always cash, I never accept a check.
- We meet where I want to, during the day or early evening only.
- I ignore criminally low ballers.
- I ignore anyone asking me to violate the law.
- Always clearly establish the price of the item, so the buyer knows how much I am accepting/or willing to give. I want people to understand precisely what the deal is prior to a meeting.
- If I meet with a buyer/seller and they attempt to undercut the agreement I walk.
- I never waste time trying to argue with someone who over evaluates their item. It’s not worth your time folks.
- Always ask for an ID to make sure they are a resident of my state and the proper age to purchase a firearm.
The Four Types of Folks On Armslist
So now that we’ve talked legality, how to avoid scams and my rules for using Armslist I want to talk about a few of the folks you’ll find on Armslist. I’d say 95% of Armslist buyers and sellers are great people, but that extra 5% is made up of my favorite stereotypes of the gun community. If you’ve used Armslist a lot, you’ll recognize a few of these and if you haven’t you can at least be prepared to encounter them.
The Bubba is the guy who takes a cool classic firearm like a Lee Enfield, a Mosin Nagant or even a Springfield 1903 and then “upgrades” it. These Bubbas often tack on useless parts that the gun isn’t designed for.
They drop these guns into new stocks, add scopes and scope mounts in bizarre ways, tack on pistol grips, or worse yet they turn them to bullpups. They take pieces of history and turn them into amalgamations of the greatest level of horror.
The problem is Bubba often thinks his upgraded Garbage Rod is worth as much as a high-end Remington 700 Tactical or a Ruger Precision rifle. Bubba will list his rifle for an extreme price, and that’s fine. The problem is when he sneaks into those DMs he starts trying to make some crazy trades for his decked out rifle.
The “I Know What I Got.”
The “I Know What I Got,” is the type of guy who doesn’t know what he’s got. He or she often doesn’t understand what they have at all. They will mistake their gun for something much more valuable than it actually is.
Like Bubba, they are mostly harmless and often overprice their gun online. For some reason, they see old Double Barrel shotguns that are worth a lot of money and assume their Savage 311 is easily worth 1k. Then they start offering you that shotgun like they are doing you a favor.
Annoying sure, but it gets worse. They often leave the price unknown and want you to “make Offers,” and when you do they pick and poke and proclaim that “I know what I got,” before tossing out a crazy price.
They often own beat to hell and rusted Colts that are worth well over a grand, or are quick to send a link to a random listing on Gunbroker for a gun close to what they have, but often well beyond what they have.
The Weird Trader
A Weird Trader is a person who rarely annoys me. They are just interesting people. Gun trades are not uncommon on Armslist, but the Weird Trader doesn’t want to trade a gun for gun. No sir, he has something else in mind.
In my time on Armslist I’ve been offered a ton of different weird non-gun items. This includes Taxidermied animals of all kinds. I’ve been offered a boat without an engine, or trailer, that was sitting in a junkyard. I’ve been offered a Parrot before too, which was my favorite.
I also get offers for Pit Bulls a lot. Like why are there so many Pit Bulls? I’ve seen the Weird Trader post on Facebook with a variety of items he or she wants to trade for guns. This includes services like car detailing, home cleaning, and of course tattoos.
The Weird Trader is one of my favorites, I’ve never taken a trade from the weird trader, but I appreciate their offers.
We all like a good deal, and admittedly I’ve tried to negotiate for a lower price when I see something slightly above average.
However, the cheapskate is different.
He wants to grind your price down by at least 25%, if not 50% and then after you refuse his offer he keeps bothering you about it.
Sometimes he mentions he’s out of work and broke, or his kid just went to the hospital, or this or that, and tries to guilt your price down. Other times the cheapskate tries to make it seem like they are doing you a favor by buying your gun.
If you refuse long enough they spiral into a pattern of insults and a lack of self-control. It’s a really fun time with a dedicated cheapskate.
Armslist is a cool website, one that I love.
Armslist is a great place to find used guns, as well as weird weapons that tend to be hard to find in other places. Knowing how to use it is invaluable.
From other Armslisters what are your experiences? Your tips? Tricks? Let us know below your rules for Armslist.
28 Leave a Reply
May want to take this review down - armslist turned into a scam itself. Scam listings, zero support, totally retarded "business" model. Run by morons who should take the site down and go back to their old jobs testing water at the local sewer.
Be careful. I PAID Armslist to post today, and they STILL won't let me do so, and they NEVER, EVER respond to emails. Be aware that they may do the same to you: take your money and not offer you the service.
Same happened to me.
Armslist WAS a highly useful service - WAS! If they really wanted to encourage transactions they'd make searching based on a radius from your zip. Then even of its out of state, you can arrange a FTF @ an FFL so everyone stays legal.
In the old days, you could Poer Search w/ several parameters (calibre, action type, price from-to etc) If I want a BA .308 for around 600.00 & prefer Ruger, why do I have to go through a list of over-priced or not-relevant items to find what I seek?
Saved items: a great way to build a list for consideration BUT there's no way to sort (price, distance, whatever) and worst of all, once you're done w/ that search, no way to easily bulk delete. And, if the vendor pulled the add, why not just delete that item in any saved lists?
Actually I was wrong: what's worse is there's no way to add your notes to the saved search items.
Well then there's the lack of a trader system. If I think about it, I'm sure I can come up w/ more.
IF ARMSLIST would consider some of these changes (in the case of the old Power Search, just turn it back on) it would be worth the few dollars/ month they want, particularly if we-the-public got an annual price break, like Merchant Accts get; I'd sign up for a year at a time.
There's always room for another firearm right? Or maybe you can't get your fav ammo locally but somebody will sell/ship it or there's a vendor 90 minutes up the road w/ case lot prices. EeeHah!!
As it exists, they just got my first & last single month, crippled search subscription; there are a host, A HOST of other options.
I knew it: there's something else! In fairness this mightbe a little work to accomplish but a lot of the ads are just badly written; very, very badly. We don't need (or want) a book but AK47 doesn't cut it; Romanian import, Stamped, from Riley or Polish AK47 by Century w/ para stock might. If I found those in a search list and, be still my beating heart, had a check-box-to-compare tool w/ (OK, might as well dream big here) a csv or txt export function.....
WOW!!! Now THAT would be something
I knew i forgot something - if you approach Armslist w/ a question or suggestion, it is extremely rare to get a meaningful response; in my experience, there is rarely if ever even an acknowledgement.
There; I'm pretty sure I'm done now
As of late October 2020, armslist is no longer offering its free accounts anymore. Now you have to pay to post on armslist. This site is very annoying to begin with, now this. I won’t be using them anymore. Not gonna pay to be able to use this trash website just to see shitty overpriced fuddled guns for sale.
I have made a profile on armslist, but when I try to login, it says my email, or password is wrong. I have tried to contact armslist, but they do not reply. I do not even know if people can see my ad, it is really frustrating
I just tried to join and I keep getting "error in payment method" I tried to contact them via email and the message doesn't send. Dunno what's up.......
Just had a guy whom I bought a revolver from (already paid via Cashapp) and then 2 days later, he says he can't ship it because he's received a better offer for $250 more, but he will still sell it to me if I pay him $150 MORE than what I paid. Keep in mind, this was already a done deal and should have been shipped out today, but now he suddenly has a better offer, but will take less than what they offered him if I send him more money. Think it's a scam? Should I report his ass and does this count as a fraudulent transaction of a firearm on his part?
This is a SCAM
Here in VA, background checks are now required even for private sales. So this is my situation: I'm interested in an in-state gun 3.5 hours away, and neither of us have plans to drive to meet. How do both buyer & seller protect themselves? The only way I can see it working is:
1) Seller ships to FFL (he now knows both sending/receiving FFLs)
2) Buyer goes to FFL for UBC - if failure of UBC or gun inspection - FFL sends it back. Seller gets gun back and is out a few bucks for shipping?
3) If UBC & gun inspection pass, FFL holds onto gun until buyer pays seller. Buyer pays with - paypal? zelle? bank check? what's the best method?
Any flaws with this?
Adding step 0) Buyer & seller exchange photocopies of driver's licenses.
DO NOT PURCHASE FROM KCFIREARMS.COM - here is what I'm currently dealing with.
"My husband purchased a firearm through their website, KCfirearms.com. The gun was shipped to our FFL dealer (CLYDES SPORTS SHOP in Halethorpe, MD) to which we noticed the holster was illegal in the state of MD. We reached out to KC and were advised that upon receipt and inspection of the firearm (returned) we would be issued a full refund (I have the email correspondence for proof). We received confirmation via CLYDES that the merchandise was shipped back and received OVER 60 DAYS AGO, and have YET to receive our refund. My husband and I have both reached out to numerous departments at KCfirearms.com (at least 8-10 times) and receive ZERO correspondence and compliance from their company. They have ignored every attempt at contact that we have made to them, regarding where our refund is. Mind you, we had zero issues with email contact PRIOR to our refund request. At this point, our money has been stolen from us, as they possess it after promising a refund and we are no longer in possession of the firearm and haven't been for over 2 months. I have reported KCfirearms.com to the FTC and sportsman's guide (a mutual supplier/merchant that uses KCfirearms.com). I will proceed to report them to local authorities if my money is not refunded in 7-10 business days and I have made that very clear in my last email to KCfirearms.com. They've had 2 months to refund us and have since posted the SAME gun/holster for sale on their website, to which is has been sold.
My husband is an essential employee and we are down to one income, due to COVID. He still chose to spend his hard-earned money on a firearm through them and we are now left to deal with the shambles that KCfirearms.com has left us in, due to their theft and non-compliance. They are in violation of SO many laws right now, including their own policy.
As I have stated, I am out of work. I will spend my time blasting their name throughout various forums and social media platforms to ensure that their business is limited, from here on out. I am a very well-known member of the gun community, along with my husband and will ensure that other enthusiasts do not make the same mistake that we made, of purchasing through their website.
If you payed by credit card call the credit card company up and put a stop payment. You will have your refund in days. KC will probably notify you first saying you will get your money now. I have done this twice since the virus thing and it works fast.
I love the guys on the South Side who send me a FOID card to run with the address completely blacked out. Then they get pissy when I tell them it was declined. Or the guy who is just so eager to buy RIGHT NOW, I google his name and find a 2016 arrest for Battery. And so on. Of course, the best ones are the guys who are ready to buy, want me to ship when it expressly says NO SHIPPING, and they'll pay me extra, just send it to my buddy's army friend's brother. Boing....
I had one good experience using ArmList. I purchased my first AR from a local guy. I have browsed potential purchases on there many times, however, I have never seen any of this information about scams until I myself fell victim to the "little bit extra" scam. I feel like such a fool. But the people who execute this scam really know what they are doing up until the point when they had my money I felt like I had things under control and then things suddenly became clear this whole purchase is just a scam!! It is sad that I could have avoided loosing a sizable amount of money if this information was more widely available. Yes I know all you have to do is google Armslist scam but when you are in the middle of you are not thinking as clearly and with the pressure on finances with corona viris I let my guard down.
When you bought your gun, did you have to go through a waiting period, or a background check.?
the biggest one is people can not read -with all the info spelled out and ' contact with your phone # and time to call -and 'ad still up ? -still have - - will not play email tag games - will not answer with out # & time to call you back - - - and they still waste time wanting 'what color black is it * yep* or the price that's in bold print on the ad - - = 'trolls'
I’d say the “The “Little Bit Extra” Scam” and the “Weird Trader” are probably most common for me.
As with any online front, the most annoying attribute with Armslist or other sites is the lack of communication from buyers. A good example is when someone sends you an email, (in my case with Armslist, one of my M17 Sig Commemorative guns), with their phone number and a short message indicating interest. I respond to the message thread and I get nothing, and I even call and leave a short voice mail, and still nothing. The person called me back once and then when I answered, not long after, I get cut off, with the said person saying he'll call me back. That never happened and since then, I have not heard so much as peep from that person who supposedly was interested in the gun I was selling via Armslist. I am not sure if this was some BS scam or just a person who does not know the concept of basic communication.
In my ads, I make it clear to not contact me unless you have genuine intentions and use a reliable form of communication. I later find my listing was removed saying my Sig M17 Commemorative pistol was over priced, when in reality it was at a realistic price point, so it seems lots of jokers like to flag people's listings for no legitimate reason(s) on these sites aka bunch of cheap skates who don't know the difference between a standard production P320 M17 and a limited production Commemorative M17 model.
Usually, I don't mind trading or even selling a gun to my local shop as in many cases, my time is far more valuable, so I'll gladly take a hit on what my gun is worth for a production firearm if it saves me the time with dealing with these online jokers and cretins and the infamous "tire kickers" as such. It's one of those scenarios where you have to weigh out paying with your time vs. your wallet.
Recently I was trying to sell a rifle on Armslist. One day I got a text message on my phone by someone saying they were interested . I don’t know how they got my phone number, usually Armslist inquires are via email. I googled the number and found it belong to a woman that lived on E. 52nd street in NYC . I never replied. I’d like to know how they got my phone number though. I’m sure this rifle wouldn’t be legal in NYC.
Also recently I get requests for specific photographs of a rifle I have had listed . They don’t want to buy, they just want photos. Don’t know what for.
I had a good deal on my Saiga 223. The seller and I met in a local FFL early in the morning and the transaction went smooth. With the experience been able to strike a deal for a bargain on Armlists, I expanded my categories from gun of local seller to accessories. Again, I got a bargain price for some rifle magazines almost half of the prices and in very good condition. But after that I started searching for more expensive optics, I have no luck, at least up to now. Most of the sellers heard my asking about “ do you ship to xxxx”. They went quiet. I don’t blame them but I am a legitimate buyer living hundred of thousand miles away just try to find a bargain. Like I said, I understand. If I am the seller I probably would use the same cautions. That’s sad. Because of the outgrowth of scammers, it causes me lose many opportunities to make good deals from distance. It seems like I can only deal with local face-to-face.
Ahhhh..... armslist. Love it. Both for the great deals I've gotten over the years, and for the amusement value. I've been using it since it was a thing. Had one instance where it seemed like an ATF agent was attempting to get me to break the "law" by selling to an out of state buyer, and another time when someone tried to scam me with the shipping trick. Both of these people were plenty obvious and I just refused to deal with them.
I would say the most annoying thing is the prices. The prices have always been somewhat silly. But lately, its been people listing their guns "as new", "LNIB", "minty" or whatever, and thinking its worth retail plus taxes plus background checks.
I mean, every other lister seems to think their gun is "as new", "LNIB", "minty" .
And that their second hand buyer should have to pay their taxes.
I guess they've never heard the term "depreciation" before.....
But in any case I personally will not pay store prices for a gun on armslist, because if I wanted to pay store prices, including the tax and NICS check, I'd go to a store.
Alot of sellers just don't seem to get that concept- that the buyer is on armslist for a deal, and could just go to the store to pay their asking prices.
Knowing the actual value of guns goes a long way.... and its pretty easy to find that on the internet. Besides just checking similar listings on the online gun stores like Buds guns and Gunbroker, one website that helps with handguns is "genitron.com", they collect data on handguns, from weight to caliber to models and such, as well as the MSRP and a used value that is garnered from blue book and so forth...
One thing that I've started to do, is ask 'em for a clear picture of the breech face(where the firing pin hole is, for anyone who may not know). You cannot hide the fact that a gun has had a few hundred rounds thru it there.
One of my favorites right now in my area is the lister that has a stainless revolver up for sale, claiming its, you know it, "LNIB" except that the front of the charge holes in picture are heavily caked with powder residue despite the half-assed job to try to clean it off, also, there is no actual -box- fir the gun to be "like new" in........
I'd buy these guns only if I really, REALLY wanted them, and could get the seller to be reasonable.
Otherwise, big pass.
Also, if I notice that you are making multiple listings of "minty" or "new" guns as a private seller, and being silly demanding that your buyer pay MSRP and/or practically do a nics check for you, I'm marking you as a dealer listing, because, according to all the rules you want your buyer to follow, you have to have an FFL to make a living selling guns..... just sayin.
Speaking of the flagging system, people- use it.
It helps keep the riff-raff of the site ;) .
Funny story- a guy had listed a "Duck's Unlimited Limited Edition" 1911 in 9 mm caliber. "Make me an offer-I know its value"
Good for him- but I never knew people hunted ducks with 9mm 1911's and had no idea what a fair price was. I asked him- more than I was willing to pay.
I've been stood up twice-once while selling, once buying.
I think the SIG P220 for $300 was a bit low- but I had just bought two pistols at very reasonable prices and thought I might be on a winning streak- he said he was leaving - never showed. I wonder if he had stolen it and was afraid of the FFL stuff- I will never know. He never asked me for $ in the mail, etc- just annoying.
I was trying to sell a gun to some guy- when I called his phone number a woman (his mom?) answered. A land line? This was 2019! Said he was on his way- I waited at the gun store for another hour- not a bad place to hang- but this was a friday night.
Its hard to predict a no-show- but don't agree to drive too far if you have any doubts.
That being said- I bought at least 4 guns off of Armslist- nice guys - no hassle. Just be careful.
I’ve been using armslist for years and have not once been scammed or scammed anyone.
Lucky you. I was scammed out of $1800 on armslist. Armslist is vague for how to deal with transactions from other states, and take zero responsibility if anything goes wrong. Now they are charging for their service, and claim to help prevent scammers and fraud, but still they do nothing if a person is scammed, and take no responsibility. Yes the person was caught, but so what I used usps money orders and what a joke that was. the thieves get your money and do little or no time if they get caught.
I started using ArmsList last January. In these few months I've managed to purchase several pistols that I wanted, and at a decent price, too. I've met some really cool folks and some really weird ones, as well. As Travis said, you just have to be cautious.