How to Buy a Gun Online [2019 Guide]

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.

It’s your right.

No matter what your reason is for wanting to purchase a firearm, you’ve come here to us today for some guidance, and we’re happy to help.

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!

Lord of War
Lord of War

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.

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 allows 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 that 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

Pros:

  • Cheaper price most likely 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

Cons:

  • You can’t form a relationship with the employees like at a local 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.

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.

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 Cabelas)
  • Ask them about their fee for providing the pickup service (usually around $25-75, 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.  

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…

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
Background Check, fbi.gov

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.

Broken Gun
Broken Gun, gunandgame.com

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.

That’s it.  It’s really that easy.

Conclusion

Now that you completed your first online purchase of a gun…check out our Beginner’s Guide to Guns?  We cover cleaning, ammo, safes, and range time.

And most importantly, be safe and responsible.

Tell us about your experience purchasing firearms online.  How did your FFL help you?

10 Leave a Reply

  • 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 )

    3 months ago
  • 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?

    3 months ago
  • Ironaddict123

    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!

    4 months ago
    • 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.

      4 months ago
  • Christian

    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!

    5 months ago
    • Dwayne

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

      4 months ago
    • 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.

      5 months ago
      • Christian

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

        5 months ago
  • Milanor

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

    5 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Um...ya...fixed!

      5 months ago
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