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.
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.
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.
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:
- Buds Gun Shop
- Sportsman’s Warehouse
- Rainier Arms
- Euro Optic
- Palmetto State Armory
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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?