101 Gun Show Tips

101 Gun Show Tips

Attending a gun show can be quite the experience even for veteran firearm enthusiasts. Whether you’re there to buy, sell or trade at gun & knife shows it’s always good to be prepared. If you’re not already planning a trip to the gun show, now is the time to start!

Here are 101 quick tips to help attendees, dealers, traders and enthusiasts make the most of the trip to their gun show. If you’re interested in finding gun shows consider using our gun show list or subscribing to our weekly gun show newsletter.

Gun Show & Knife Basics

  1. Call Ahead. It’s ALWAYS best practice to call ahead to verify dates, times and the location.
  2. Be Polite. It will go a long way to provide a great show experience for everyone involved.
  3. Safety. Make sure all firearms are unloaded and secure.
  4. Guns Aren’t Toys. Don’t treat them like ones.
  5. Respect. Return firearms, knives and merchandise the way you found it.
  6. Empty your clips. Even if your carry is open and secured with a tie your magazine should be empty of ammo.
  7. Wire Ties. Many promoters require all firearms to be wire-tied through the action.
  8. Check in your firearm(s). Many times it’s required to check your firearm(s) in at the front door.
  9. Properly handle firearm(s). Nothing is worse than pointing a firearm (even if it’s unloaded and the action is open) at someone.
  10. Open the Action. Every time you handle a firearm check the action to ensure it’s unloaded.
  11. Don’t Sweep! Never point the barrel towards someone.
  12. It’s Sharp! Don’t ever touch the blade or edge of a knife.
  13. It’ll Snap! Never close a folding knife hard. Not only can you seriously injure yourself, but it can break the handle or backspring.
  14. One Blade. Only ever open a single blade at a time (including multi-bladed knives).
  15. Never Interfere. Don’t interfere in a deal between a buyer and seller. Do not comment on any interaction that is not your own.
  16. Know the State Laws. No Excuses.
  17. City and County Laws. Sometimes they are different. Check local ordinances before attending a show.

Gun Shows for Attendees

  1. Show Up Early. Some of the best sales and deals will happen in the early hours of the show.
  2. Check Everything. Don’t stop at the first table you see. Check the entire show before making a purchase.
  3. On the Contrary, also show up the last few hours of the show. Many vendors will have last minute specials. (The less they have to bring home the better.)
  4. Take Cash. Cash is king and some times it can help to get you a better deal
  5. Not all venues have an ATM readily available.
  6. Many vendors will not accept checks.
  7. Some vendors will charge a 3% to 4% fee on credit card purchases.
  8. Dress for the occasion. Is the gun show outside or inside? Make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes.
  9. Bring a small dolly. Ammo is heavy. If you plan on purchasing a lot of ammo make sure you have a means to transport it.
  10. Wear a back pack. This helps keep your hands free while browsing.
  11. Drink Water. You can easily fit a few waters in your backpack. It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated. Time flies when you’re at a good show.
  12. Find a Coupon. Sometimes gun show promoters will provide a coupon in a local newspaper or ad.
  13. Have identification readily available. 99% of the time you will be asked to provide a government issued ID when purchasing a firearm.
  14. Bring your CCL. Depending on state laws and the type of firearm you purchase, this can allow you to walk out the same day with your new firearm.
  15. Ask. If there’s an item you’re looking for, ask the dealer. Sometimes they have it behind the table or you simply passed over it.
  16. Talk to the seller. Adding another firearm to your collection is always good! Make it even end better by getting to know the vendor. It’s possible you might even up making a lasting relationship (and get good deals from it!).
  17. Don’t Touch! Often vendors will have a “Don’t Touch without permission” sign. Please respect it.
  18. Ask before handling. Even without the presence of a sign, it’s not always best practice to open the action on every gun you see a vendor selling. In many states vendors are required to secure every firearm that’s on display (Thus all but negating Tip #4). Ask the vendor if it’s “okay” to handle the firearm.
  19. Don’t Grab. Unless an item is being handed to you, never take it from the dealer’s hand.
  20. Serious Inquiries Only. Don’t ask the dealer to cut the zip-tie if you have no intentions of buying the firearm.
  21. Don’t dry-fire. Sometimes this can damage the firing pin on a firearm. Ask the seller for permission and do a safety check.
  22. Haggle. Don’t be afraid to try and get a better deal. What’s the worst they will say, “No”?
  23. Sometimes it’s a Game. This expands on the previous tip because some dealers really do love to haggle.
  24. Don’t be Rude. If you throw out a ridiculous offer to a dealer, more than likely you’ll get laughed at.
  25. Bring a Calculator (or your phone). Don’t trust your math. Don’t trust the dealer’s math. Don’t trust your buddy’s math. Use. The. Calculator.
  26. Price Check. Use your phone;check other dealers for better deals.
  27. Internet Pricing. Keep in mind that prices on the internet are not always the “best”. Many times additional fees are added including shipping, handling, transfer fees, etc… Also know that if you can’t pick up the gun in person it usually has to be shipped to a local FFL (more fees).
  28. Be Patient. If you’re in a rush you’ll most likely miss the best deals.
  29. Wholesale. Keep in mind when selling your firearm that the dealer buying it has to re-sell it.
  30. Be Reasonable. Remember that even though you may have paid $500 for your item last month, last year or 10 years ago does not mean it still holds the same value.
  31. Rarity is King. Many collectors will go crazy over extremely rare firearms.
  32. Bulk Pricing. Often Dealers will offer bulk discounts on ammo.
  33. Buy Accessories. From working gun shows as a dealer, I know it’s not always possible to give a discount on a firearm. However, throwing in a holster, cleaning kit or accessory was usually applicable.
  34. Don’t Believe everything you hear. Dealers are salesmen and sometimes may tell you anything you wish to hear.
  35. Inform Yourself. Do research before you attend a show.
  36. Inspect Before You Buy. Be sure everything is in working order.
  37. No Refunds. In most cases it’s all-but impossible to get a refund. This mainly has to do with legal issues, among other reasons.
  38. Sell To Dealers. Do not try to sell your items to other attendees unless you have paid for a vending table. It’s acceptable to sell to dealers at the show, but if you find a private seller get their contact information and talk to them after the show.
  39. Parking. Some shows/venues have a parking fee.

Gun Shows for Vendors/Dealers

  1. Show up on time. This may sound like a “no-brainer,” but I’ve attended gun shows where 20% of the dealers didn’t show up until noon.
  2. Be Knowledgeable. Know the items you’re selling. Nothing is worse than talking to a dealer who doesn’t know what type of action the firearm has.
  3. Be a Teacher. Many times you will get first-time gun owners at your table(s). Help teach them the right way of being a responsible gun owner.
  4. Deals aren’t always on your table. Keep an eye out for attendees looking to sell their items.
  5. Don’t Snatch! Unless an attendee is handing you an item, don’t snatch it from their hands.
  6. Have Accessories. Everyone needs ammo, a holster, safe and cleaning supplies to go with their new firearm!
  7. Bulk Discounts. Sometimes you’ll get buyers looking to buy ammo (and sometimes firearms) in bulk. Accommodate them and get the sale.
  8. Shop around. Most shows will have early hours for vendors to setup. Use this time wisely to “scope out” your competition.
  9. Be presentable. First impressions are everything. If you don’t look the part, many sales will simply walk by without even glancing at your inventory.
  10. Tablecloths. While most shows provide the tables they are often not in the best shape. Purchase a few “nice” tablecloths to make your “shop” look better.
  11. Signs. There’s an endless array of signs to make and/or purchase for your table(s). At the very least, have one large sign to help buyers find you.
  12. Display the Price. I know, another “no-brainer,” but you would not believe the amount of dealers that refuse to display prices. The majority of buyers won’t even ask about prices if they aren’t marked… no matter how badly they want the item. It is perceived as “shady” to many.
  13. Lighting. Some halls will be dark. It’s always great to bring extra lighting (if the show permits).
  14. Business Cards. It’s always good to have business cards handy. Even in the technology driven world we live in a good old business card can go a long way.
  15. Wire-ties. Often gun shows require all vendors to wire-tie all firearms. Be sure to bring extra in case they break or you end up purchasing firearms.
  16. Accept Credit Cards. It’s so easy to accept a credit card payment these days. All you need is an iPad, a card reader and an account to collect the charges.
  17. Bring Extra Cash. Sometimes you’ll have to break larger bills than anticipated, or you might find a few deals you can’t pass up. It’s always good to have a little extra cash.
  18. Negotiate. Everyone wants to feel special when they purchase an item. Help them purchase it by making them feel special with extras and/or a better price.
  19. Be Trustworthy. Not only will it help you with initiating sales, but with repeating sales as well.
  20. Have Specials. If it’s a multi-day show have a different special each day.
  21. Stay until the end. I can’t tell you how many times a dealer has missed a sale because they packed up early.
  22. Bring an Assistant. There will be times that you are extremely busy and need some extra help. It also helps for bathroom breaks and the accumulated knowledge.
  23. Bring a Friend. If you can’t bring/hire an assistant, bring a friend.
  24. Pack Food. If you don’t have someone assisting you bring snacks and a lunch to help you throughout the day.
  25. Know Your Neighbor. You’ll be next to these people for the duration of the show. Get to know them.
  26. Book Early. It’s always good to secure your spot. Some promoters will even offer better placement for those who book early.
  27. Bring a Cart or Dolly. Not all venues will have a way to transport your merchandise inside the show. Buy a cart or dolly to help make your life easier.

Gun Show for Promoters/Organizers

  1. List your Gun Show! This is free and it provides you with great exposure!
  2. Contact Information. Have multiple ways that both attendees and vendors can get in contact with you (also provide this information to the Gun Show Trader).
  3. List Show Hours. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a gun show that doesn’t list the times.
  4. Location. Location. Location. I can’t begin to tell you how many wonderful flyers I’ve seen that include everything… except where the show is held.
  5. Feature Your Gun Show! Tell us that you appreciate our hard work and reward yourself by becoming a featured event.
  6. Provide Coupons. Everyone loves a good deal.
  7. Give Stamps. Often times you’ll have repeat customers. Stamp the hands of attendees to allow them a return visit for free! (This will greatly benefit you at future shows)
  8. Children are Free! Not all attendees are able to leave their kids at home or get a sitter.
  9. Discounts. Provide discounts for Active Military, Retired Military, Law Enforcement Officers, NRA Recruiters, etc…
  10. Treat your attendees as your friends. If your attendees are happy they’ll bring their friends and make for happy vendors.
  11. Vendors are customers too. Nothing is worse than attending an empty gun show. Treat your vendors with respect and they’ll keep signing up for shows.
  12. Local Advertising. This is still a great way to promote your shows whether it’s through billboards or newspapers.
  13. Internet Advertising. There are great ways to get more attention for your gun shows via banner ads on credible website.
  14. Tweet About It. Tweet with us and we’ll retweet your shows!
  15. CCL Classes. Dealers love it. Attendees show up just for it. Not to mention it’s another source of revenue.
  16. Early Bird Hours. This helps get the dedicated enthusiasts in the show early.
  17. Update Your Information. If anything ever changes on your gun show be sure to inform us. We’ll be happy to make any changes to your listing(s).

Most Important Tip

  1. Don’t be a Jerk. No one wants to deal with a jerk.

All in all gun shows can be a great experience. This is just a general guideline. Let me know your thoughts on these tips and if you’d like to see more.

Comments

  1. liam armstrong says

    i honestly cannot wait for the gunshow, it felt like years since the last one took place :D

    still an adolescent however >.>

    well, i dont really own a rifle, but there is one at home that i really like, problem is, i wanna use it for hunting, i wanna put some sort of a zoom or a cheap holographic sight on it. but i need a rail for it and we cannot find the right sized one to put above the bolt/ round chamber

    haha, either way, i love gunshow’s and i hope this one is as amazing as it was the last time :)

    • Frank says

      I just purchased an universal rail mount from Brownells and installed it on a M1 above the bolt system. It has a cutaway for shell ejection and install a 49.99 holographic scope from MidwayUSA. I’ve put 190 rounds so far and haven’t had any problem what so ever. I love it, I turned this M1 to. A tactical style with a synthetic Thompson folding stock.

  2. says

    Good Stuff here! Like oithers have said, I wished I had read some of this 25 Years ago, or Paid more Attention when MY UNCLE dragged me with him to all those Shows In the N. East when I was a kid. Jason, if you ever have the time We’d love to have you as a Guest on the FIREARMSTTALK.COM Podcast! Thanks…

  3. John Kime says

    Brit shooter coming to Vegas as part of the ‘bucket list’ and as if by magic there’s also a gun show the last weekend I’m there!!!!! Will be looking to pick up all the stuff that’s legal to as a ‘non-resident alien’ – leatherwork, belts, minor bits ‘n’ pieces and chewing the fat with other like minded folk.

    • Rick says

      P.S. I forgot you can buy a MAC 10 or 11 or a nice INGRAM T-ninetynine-open bolt and just tell MI5 that they are good models-heh-heh. A little British dry humor. Tx.

  4. LeRoy Bernard Jr says

    Great advice on politeness remember you get more flies with sugar then vinegar.. And also Vendors Go with the mantra Cash an curry no wait no worry.

  5. Richard L Robinson says

    Thanks for the info. I would like to purchase a handgun at the Fort Worth Gun Show June 21. Is there a way I can get a background check done on myself beforehand, so I can take the gun home directly from the show?

    • says

      A NICS check is valid for 30 calendar days, as long as it applies to a single transaction. An FFL may not rely on a NICS check that was conducted more than 30 calendar days prior to the transfer of the firearm.

      Example: A NICS check is initiated on December 15, 2004. The FFL receives a “proceed” from NICS. The purchaser does not return to pick up the firearm until January 22, 2005. The FFL must conduct another NICS check before transferring the firearm to the purchaser, and must record the results of the check on the Form 4473.

      ATF: Period of time a NICS check is valid.

    • says

      So it is done when you decide to purchase a firearm. It has to be done by the dealer you are also buying it from. In theory you could purchase the firearm from a dealer prior to the show and pick it up at the show. However, I do not believe you can do a background check with a different dealer and have it apply to a purchase at the show.

      I remember when doing gun shows, when we called in our number was attached to the 4473 form for each purchase. Keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.

  6. Wes Bomar says

    Just a quick question for all the gun lobbyist out there to see if you can back up your talk. I hear people demanding their right to carry guns because guns are safe. I even here that if guns are so dangerous why are there no murders at guns shows where there are numerous guns, using thet old cliche to prove how safe guns are. Now I see that you have to jam up your weapons action so it wont work. If guns are so safe why are guns at gun shows so dangerous, going by the rules that you have to unload and jam up the action?
    Just asking

    • says

      Hey Wes, I’d be happy to help answer this for you.

      The thing is, guns are dangerous. In fact, nearly everything in the world is dangerous if handled the wrong way. Kitchen knives are dangerous. Electricity is dangerous. Automobiles are dangerous.

      That’s why there’s a proper etiquette when handling and storing kitchen knives. That’s why a person has to go through extensive training and tests to become an electrician. That’s also why we cover the outlets in our house to protect our children. It all has to be handled properly. Guns are no different and gun enthusiasts have rules to follow to.

      To further explain, compare the number of people killed by firearms to the number of people killed by cars and in automobile accidents. More people actually die every year from car accidents than they do from firearms. However, we keep using cars. We need cars. Without cars our world, as we know it, wouldn’t function.

      Gun, like many things in this world, have a particular purpose. When they are used for that purpose and are handled in particular way, They are safe.

      Now, one would ask, “Why do you need guns?” It’s a pretty simple answer: to protect ourselves from other people with guns. I, personally, treat my firearms like I do insurance. I always want to have it but never want the need to use it.

      To sum it up: Firearms are no different from everything else in the world in the sense that they require special handling to be safe. That’s my two cents and I hope it helped answer your question.

      • bill atherton says

        I was present at a gun show where a gun dealer took in a gun on trade. She didn’t check the chamber and when she was packing up at the end of the day, she had a negligent discharge. Luckily, in this case, no one was injured. Just because I’m experienced and know how to handle firearms safely, that doesn’t mean that everyone coming through that door has any idea what they’re doing. Disabling every gun that comes through that door helps save the gun show organizer from any possible insurance liability in any case of a firearm discharge inside the gun show. It also enhances the safety of everyone present. You never know the experience or the maturity of the guy coming in the door right behind you. I’m glad that they use wire ties on the actions. It makes everyone safer.

  7. Janet says

    What brand and size handgun would you recommend a lady of 60 yrs to buy for herself.
    Easy to fire and lite weight. Want something that will do the job, if needed… Protection…

    • says

      Hey Janet,

      There are a couple schools of thought on that. One is that revolvers are great because they “cannot jam.” In this case I’d recommend a 38 Special or a .357 Magnum revolver. There are a few manufactures that make concealed carry versions of these including Ruger, Tarus, Rhino, and Smith & Wesson.

      The other school of thought is to get a conceal carry .380. The slug is actually the same size as a 9mm. The difference is the length of the cartridge. It allows for a smaller magazine thus allowing the firearm to be smaller. Also most rounds will have less powder than a 9mm making the recoil not as strong.

      I hope these tips help. I’m going to be writing an article on concealed carry firearms for next week.

  8. Capwhan says

    Does your record follow you all your life?
    I did something stupid some 50 years ago.
    But there have been no problems since then.
    Would this prevent me from owning a gun?

    • says

      Hey Capwhan,

      Honestly, from my experience working with an FFL Dealer at gun shows, the best thing to do is try. I’m not an attorney, nor is this a legal advice. From personal experience running the NICS background check may be the only way to find out. Keep in mind that you will most likely have to pay the application fee (usually $5.00). Also be sure to clarify with the dealer that you will get all your money back if the application doesn’t go through. Some dealers may charge a fee for denied application.

      The most important thing to do When filling out the application is to be honest. I hope this helps.

  9. Wilbur E. Haggerty says

    Is there a definitive source for finding the value of older handguns? As you can tell by my question, I’m not too swift when it comes to guns. Have a few. Have never fired most of them.

    • says

      Hey Wilbur,

      There are a couple of books out there including “Blue Book of Gun Values.” However, similar to cars and other valuables, one must be very meticulous with older firearms. It’s also going to depend on the buyer and the seller. There’s also FirearmPriceGuide.com.

      One thing that may help is to bring it to a gun show. Call ahead, sometimes the promoters will have a person on hand to evaluate older gun values for you.

  10. Will Farris says

    If buying a long gun, what happens to the California five day wait period? Is there a way to walk out with a shotgun? How is the shotgun delivered if bought at the show/

  11. Stevo says

    Excellent article. Attending my first gun show (in a long time) this weekend in KC. Was wondering the protocols for selling my own handgun at the show as an attendee. Your feedback was very helpful. Thanks!

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