The right to buy a gun as an American citizen is one of the many important freedoms we have and enjoy in the United States. But where do you start? Where do you go to buy a gun in the first place? That’s what we’ll answer today.
Perhaps you are a gun owner already (as in maybe you were gifted or inherited one) but just haven’t gone through the actual gun buying process yet. This guide is aimed at first-time gun buyers or those who have never gone through the gun buying process before and don’t know where to start.
We’ll first outline and discuss critical tips you should know as a first-time gun buyer, and then we’ll dive into the best places to actually buy your new gun.
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General Tips To Remember When Buying A Gun
Before we dive into the options you have for buying a gun, it’s important we first go over some critical tips to keep in mind, so you have an idea of what the process entails.
Research Your Local and State Laws
Some states and local jurisdictions are stricter in regard to buying guns and firearm ownership than others. For example, some states or cities will have a mandatory waiting period in place for buying a gun. Others will have laws regarding how the firearm must be stored at home or transported in a vehicle.
It’s ultimately your responsibility to research what the laws are in your state and local jurisdiction. The best places to research are online or to go talk to the people working at one of your local dealers.
Do Your Research
It goes without saying that you should thoroughly research what type of gun you want to get. And not just the general type (pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc.) but also the specific make, model, and caliber. Think carefully about what your intended use is for the gun, and then go from there. Again, doing research online or talking to people at any of your local dealers is a good idea.
Another good idea is to ‘try it before you buy it.’ Actually hold the gun you want to buy in your hand (most gun stores should allow this under supervision) to make sure you like it and that you find it ergonomic. Hopefully, you’ll even be able to shoot the same make and model of gun you want to get (either by knowing someone who has the same gun or going to a local shooting range that allows you to rent guns).
Even if you plan on buying your gun online, it’s still a good idea to at least hold it and see it for yourself at a local gun store if you can.
Make Sure You Can Legally Buy A Gun
Yes, the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures that U.S. citizens have the right to bear arms. However, not all citizens can legally buy firearms.
Potential gun buyers have to pass a background check when buying from a dealer based on the information in an FBI database, and if any of the following apply to you, you’ll be denied being able to purchase the weapon:
- Convicted of a misdemeanor
- Indicted for a serious crime (even if not yet convicted)
- Dishonorable discharge from the United States military
- Fugitive from justice
- Involuntary committed to a mental institution
- Subject to a restraining order due to domestic violence
- Known as an abuser of alcohol or drugs
Hopefully, none of the above applies to you. Speaking of the background check…
Be Ready To Fill Out ATF Form 4473
U.S. citizens in all 50 states are required to fill out ATF Form 4473 when buying a firearm. This form attests that you can legally purchase the firearm (in other words, meaning that none of the above-listed disqualifications apply to you).
The gun dealer is not the only party who’s going to review your information. The dealer will submit your information (based on your form) to the FBI via a phone call, who will then run you through its databases to complete a background check. It’s at the FBI’s discretion to approve or deny the gun sale (or delay it if they decide they need additional information before making a decision).
When your ATF 4473 form has been filled out and approved by the FBI, you will be granted thirty days to complete the purchase of the firearm. If you do not finish the purchase within those thirty days, you will need to fill out and submit a new form.
Take note that filling out ATF Form 4473 is not as intimidating of a process as the above may sound. When you go to a gunshop and tell the dealer which gun you want to buy (or when you’re picking up a transfer from an online purchase), you’ll just fill out the form, and then when you’re approved, you can pay the dealer and walk out the door with the gun.
Additional Considerations To Know When Buying A Gun
Besides what we’ve covered above, here are additional considerations to know when buying a gun:
- You must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a rifle or a shotgun and rifle or shotgun ammunition.
- You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase a handgun and handgun ammunition from a Federal Firearms Dealer (FFL). However, you can own a handgun at 18-20 years of age and be sold one from an unlicensed individual, provided you are not otherwise prohibited from owning a gun, and you are being sold the gun from an individual who resides in the same state as you.
- When purchasing a firearm online, the gun must be delivered to a local FFL (Federal Firearms Dealer). You’ll be alerted when the gun has arrived, and you’ll then head in to complete your ATF 4473 form.
Next, let’s dive into the best options you have available for buying a gun.
In-Person Options For Buying A Gun
Here are the primary in-person options for buying a gun:
Sporting Goods Stores
Sporting goods stores are the go-to place for buying guns for most people. Most towns and cities have at least one sporting goods store in the area that should have a firearms department. If a sporting goods store has a gun department, it should also be a dealership holding an FFL license, meaning it can also facilitate transactions involving buying guns online.
Even if you don’t buy a gun in-person and plan to buy one online, at least going into a sporting goods store (or an actual gun store) can be wise so you can hold the gun you’re planning to buy (if they have it in stock). Besides the guns themselves, sporting goods stores can also be a good place to buy ammunition and accessories such as holsters, slings, cases, and so on.
Any establishment that includes the words ‘Guns’ or ‘Firearms’ in its title should be a gun store where you can see, try out, and buy guns. A gun store should also be a dealership holding an FFL license, so it can also accept firearms orders from online (you’ll just need to pay the FFL transfer fee).
Some pawn shops will sell used guns at very affordable prices. Be sure to carefully inspect the firearm carefully before buying to make sure it’s functional.
Yes, you can legally purchase firearms from unlicensed individuals, or those who do not possess an FFL. Under current Federal laws, private gun sales are legal between unlicensed individuals so long as the following conditions are met:
- Both the buyer and seller live in the same state
- The buyer is not prohibited from buying a firearm
No background checks or ATF 4473 Forms are required for private gun sales between unlicensed individuals. However, if the buyer lives in another state from the seller, the buyer will need to undergo a background check.
Friends or Family
Friends or family members can also be viable, provided you have a friend or a family member selling a gun in the first place, of course. The same legal rules apply here as with unlicensed individuals as described above. If your friend or family member selling the gun is living out of state, the transaction will need to be completed via a dealer and an ATF 4473 Form must be filled out.
Online Options For Buying A Gun
You’re likely to find more options and better deals for a gun by perusing online. Some of the best options include:
Armslist is a site where people go to post their firearms for sale (along with the description and photos for each firearm) and then you can meet up with them to complete the transaction. You’ll need to pay a $6.99 membership fee to join, meaning that you can post your guns for sale and message other members. However, you can browse the site and see what’s available for free. It’s a good place to see what firearms are for sale in your local area.
Bass Pro Shops
Bass Pro Shops is one of the largest retailers of outdoors and sporting equipment in the world. They’re also the parent company of Cabela’s. If you’re on a budget, check out their ‘bargain’ cave where you can usually find good deals on firearms and firearm-related accessories.
Easily one of the most popular firearm and ammunition retailers in the United States, Brownells offers one of the largest selections not only of guns but also of gun-related accessories as well. Firearms, ammunition, equipment, tools, and spare parts can also be found on the Bronwells website. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re on the hunt for a specific make and model of gun or a spare part or accessory to go with it.
Who hasn’t heard of Cabela’s? It’s one of the largest and most well-known retailers for outdoor products in the entire world. Now owned by its parent company Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s offers a very wide variety of new firearms for sale, both in-store and online. They also sell ammunition, tactical gear, and firearm-related accessories. Just take note that it’s usually not the best place to shop if you’re on a budget.
Besides selling high quality optics, scopes, sights, red dots, and other firearm-related accessories EuroOptic also specializes in selling high end rifles as well from companies such as Barret and Sako. If you’re looking for high quality long range rifles and the equally high quality accessories for them, EuroOptic is a great place to do your shopping.
GrabAGun is one of the largest firearms retailers in the country. They offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of their products, which includes firearms, accessories, and ammunition. Shipping is also free on each order over $99.
Guns.com is one of the best online places to go shopping for used guns. While originally known for their gun reviews and firearms-related news, they recently opened up a marketplace for used firearms as well.
Essentially, the site buys used guns from people around the country, inspects them to confirm function, and then lists them for sale on their site with a description and photos for each one. The site is also partnered with a large FFL network across the country to facilitate easy transactions.
Gunbroker is the world’s biggest gun online auction site. It’s essentially like eBay for guns. Search for any gun model and you’ll find either new or used options from dealerships and private sellers show up. Some deals allow you to buy the gun outright, while others will require you to place a bid and compete against other potential buyers if you want to try and get it.
Besides firearms, GunBroker also holds auctions for ammunition and firearm-related accessories. Shipping costs and payment methods are up to the discretion of the seller.
Kygunco, or the Kentucky Gun Company, offers a massive selection of firearms and is also known for their good shipping times. Their ‘text-a-check’ method means that you can save 3% on products in comparison to paying via credit card.
Palmetto State Armory (PSA)
Not only do they also manufacture their own guns and gun parts and accessories, Palmetto State Armory (or PSA) has also become one of the most reputable online gun retailers in the world as well. They offer a decent selection of both new and used firearms, and they’ve also become known for manufacturing high quality tactical firearms at budgetary prices as well.
Primary Arms offers a very wide selection of handguns, rifles, shotguns, AR lowers, and accessories. They generally have a well-stocked inventory and are also known for their spare parts for tactical rifles as well. Overall, it’s worth checking out and seeing what you can find.
Rainer Arms specializes in selling premium, high-end pistol, rifles, and shotguns meant for tactical purposes. They also offer SBRs (short-barreled rifles) and NFA products such as suppressors. If you have money to spend and are looking for high grade tactical weapons, Rainer Arms is worth exploring. They offer custom-made products as well.
Another top supplier of firearms and ammunition is Sportsman’s Guide. The site has a wide selection of firearms for sale and also offers a $9.99 a month Buyer’s Club option where you’ll receive free shipping on all orders $49 or over and a discount of 5% on all firearms and ammunition.
Recap: Best Places to Buy Guns For Sale in 2023
As you can tell, there’s really no shortage of places to buy a gun. When you’ve selected the make and model of gun you want, do your research and evaluate all of your online and in-person options for buying the gun so you can get the best deal.