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 gun show 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
- Call Ahead. It’s ALWAYS best practice to call ahead to verify dates, times and the location.
- Be Polite. It will go a long way to provide a great show experience for everyone involved.
- Safety. Make sure all firearms are unloaded and secure. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Top Ten Tips for Firearm Safety)
- Guns Aren’t Toys. Don’t treat them like ones.
- Respect. Return firearms, knives and merchandise the way you found it.
- Empty your magazine(s). Even if your carry is open and secured with a tie your magazine should be empty of ammo.
- Wire Ties. Many promoters require all firearms to be wire-tied through the action.
- Check in your firearm(s). Many times it’s required to check your firearm(s) in at the front door.
- Properly handle firearm(s). Nothing is worse than pointing a firearm (even if it’s unloaded and the action is open) at someone.
- Open the Action. Every time you handle a firearm check the action to ensure it’s unloaded.
- Don’t Sweep! Never point the barrel towards someone.
- It’s Sharp! Don’t ever touch the blade or edge of a knife.
- It’ll Snap! Never close a folding knife hard. Not only can you seriously injure yourself, but it can break the handle or backspring.
- One Blade. Only ever open a single blade at a time (including multi-bladed knives).
- Never Interfere. Don’t interfere in a deal between a buyer and seller. Do not comment on any interaction that is not your own.
- Know the State Laws. No Excuses.
- City and County Laws. Sometimes they are different. Check local ordinances before attending a show.
- Practice proper safety for firearms left in your vehicle. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Firearms Safety in Vehicles)
Gun Shows Tips for Attendees
- Show Up Early. Some of the best sales and deals will happen in the early hours of the show.
- Check Everything. Don’t stop at the first table you see. Check the entire show before making a purchase.
- 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.)
- Take Cash. Cash is king and sometimes it can help to get you a better deal
- Not all venues have an ATM readily available.
- Many vendors will not accept checks.
- Some vendors will charge a 3% to 4% fee on credit card purchases.
- Dress for the occasion. Is the gun show outside or inside? Make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes.
- Bring a small dolly. Ammo is heavy. If you plan on purchasing a lot of ammo make sure you have the means to transport it.
- Wear a backpack (when permitted). This helps keep your hands free while browsing.
- Drink Water. You can easily fit a few bottles of water in your backpack. It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated. Time flies when you’re at a good show.
- Find a Coupon. Sometimes gun show promoters will provide a coupon in a local newspaper or ad.
- Have identification readily available. 99% of the time you will be asked to provide a government-issued ID when purchasing a firearm.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 to making a lasting relationship (and get good deals from it!).
- Don’t Touch! Often vendors will have a “Don’t Touch without permission” sign. Please respect it.
- 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.
- Don’t Grab. Unless an item is being handed to you, never take it from the dealer’s hand.
- Serious Inquiries Only. Don’t ask the dealer to cut the zip-tie if you have no intentions of buying the firearm.
- Don’t dry-fire. Sometimes this can damage the firing pin on a firearm. Ask the seller for permission and do a safety check.
- Haggle. Don’t be afraid to try and get a better deal. What’s the worst they will say, “No”?
- Sometimes it’s a game. This expands on the previous tip because some dealers really do love to haggle.
- Don’t Be Rude. If you throw out a ridiculous offer to a dealer, more than likely you’ll get laughed at.
- 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.
- Price Check. Use your phone; check other dealers for better deals.
- 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).
- Be Patient. If you’re in a rush you’ll most likely miss the best deals.
- Wholesale. Keep in mind when selling your firearm that the dealer buying it has to re-sell it.
- 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.
- Rarity is King. Many collectors will go crazy over extremely rare firearms.
- Bulk Pricing. Often Dealers will offer bulk discounts on ammo.
- 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.
- Consider Storage.As a gun owner, you have plenty of options for proper firearm storage. Pick the one that’s right for you. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Gun Storage Infographic)
- Don’t Believe everything you hear. Dealers are salesmen and sometimes may tell you anything you wish to hear.
- Inform Yourself. Do research before you attend a show.
- Inspect Before You Buy. Be sure everything is in working order.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parking. Some shows/venues have a parking fee.
Gun Shows Tips for Vendors/Dealers
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 owners .
- Deals aren’t always on your table. Keep an eye out for attendees looking to sell their items.
- Don’t Snatch! Unless an attendee is handing you an item, don’t snatch it from their hands.
- Have Accessories. Everyone needs ammo, a holster, safe, and cleaning supplies to go with their new firearm!
- Bulk Discounts. Sometimes you’ll get buyers looking to buy ammo (and sometimes firearms) in bulk. Accommodate them and get the sale.
- Shop around. Most shows will have early hours for vendors to set up. Use this time wisely to “scope out” your competition.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Display the Price. I know, another “no-brainer,” but you would not believe the number 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.
- Lighting. Some halls will be dark. It’s always great to bring extra lighting (if the show permits).
- 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 that can go a long way.
- 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.
- Accept Credit Cards. It’s so easy to accept a credit card payment these days. All you need is a Clover Flex to collect the charges.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be Trustworthy. Not only will it help you with initiating sales, but with repeating sales as well.
- Have Specials. If it’s a multi-day show have a different special each day.
- Stay until the end. I can’t tell you how many times a dealer has missed a sale because they packed up early.
- 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.
- Bring a Friend. If you can’t bring/hire an assistant, bring a friend.
- Pack Food. If you don’t have someone assisting you to bring snacks and a lunch to help you throughout the day.
- Know Your Neighbor. You’ll be next to these people for the duration of the show. Get to know them.
- Book Early. It’s always good to secure your spot. Some promoters will even offer better placement for those who book early.
- 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 Tips Promoters/Organizers
- List your Gun Show! This is free and it provides you with great exposure!
- 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).
- List Show Hours. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a gun show that doesn’t list the times.
- 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.
- Feature Your Gun Show! Tell us that you appreciate our hard work and reward yourself by becoming a featured event.
- Provide Coupons. Everyone loves a good deal.
- 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)
- Children are Free! Not all attendees are able to leave their kids at home or get a sitter.
- Discounts. Provide discounts for Active Military, Retired Military, Law Enforcement Officers, NRA Recruiters, etc…
- Treat your attendees as your friends. If your attendees are happy they’ll bring their friends and make for happy vendors.
- 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.
- Local Advertising. This is still a great way to promote your shows whether it’s through billboards or newspapers.
- Internet Advertising. There are great ways to get more attention for your gun shows via banner ads on credible website.
- Tweet About It. Tweet with us and we’ll retweet your shows!
- CCL Classes. Dealers love it. Attendees show up just for it. Not to mention it’s another source of revenue.
- Early Bird Hours. This helps get the dedicated enthusiasts in the show early.
- 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
- 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.
Brian Johnson says
Never been to a gun show & anxious to attend one.
I live in Massachusetts and see a gun show in RI that I would like to go to.
Since I am not a resident am I able to purchase a gun in RI?
If so, what are the gyidelines for the purchase?
I have a license in Massachusetts that is active.
Any info is helpful.
You can usually check online to see if your state license is reciprocated in RI. An example is that I live in UT and can buy in any state touching my state border with reciprocity BUT if it is 2 states away then I’ll need it shipped to an FFL in my state to purchase.
Usually you need to check your own state’s specific laws and its is usually an easy google search away.
Lou Samsel says
I always look forward to receiving the PA Gun Shows Calender. After entering the upcoming show dates in my Monthly Planner book (it’s a paper version) I forward the Calendar link to all my friends who enjoy gun shows. The shows are a great place to find good buys in not just guns but in all sorts of things such as clothing, books, gun-related DVDs, and tools. The shows are also a great place to meeting interesting and knowledgeable people and make new friends. So, Jason, keep up the good work publishing the Gun Show Trader and Calendar.
Ezequiel Rivera says
My 1st gun show ever and will be attending with my wife, we hope to have a great experience and even make a purchase during the event. My wife and I are great supporters of the 2nd amendment. As a new NRA Pistol Instructor & Concealed Carry Instructor for the state of Illinois & City of Chicago, I am looking forward to adding these types of events into my CCL class for those first time gun owner.
Patrick M says
Find that respect the dealer or man at table like you liked to be treated, have in mind what you have to spend or cash you have with you or available for what you like to buy, don’t handle any thing your not interested in is best for you ask about what your looking for find that some gun sellers have other behind table with them.
Glad I looked hear found some things that I didn’t think about will see how they help me next time I go to buy at gun shows.
Dale la Roy Smith II says
Ok so lets say I find a weapon that I wish to purchase. Have the cash. The seller does a back ground check & I pass. Can I expect to leave the gun show with the weapon?
J.S.T. Andrews says
There are a lot of variables involved. Including the state/county/city you purchase the firearm in, the type of firearm, the state you are from, if you have a concealed carry license, etc…. I’d recommend reading the Gun Law Book.
Jeff R. says
Depends on the State/and or local laws where show is located.
Kentrell Julian says
I’m am 19 and I plan on coming to a few shows but I don’t really know all the guidelines. What exactly would I need to get any guns?
Arian Johnson says
Hi, I am thinking about purchasing a firearm and I do not have a CCL yet. My dad told me that I should take a class and practice with my own firearm at the range but I’m in Texas and was unsure if I needed my CCL before purchasing a firearm at a Gun Show.
Go to any public gun range, you can rent guns at most to try before you buy. You will have to buy their ammo in these ranges. You do not have to have a Texas CHL to do this and it will give you some understanding and experience on guns and how they work before you buy. Most instructors want you to have some experience with your handgun of choice before the class. Also be sure to follow ALL the range and safety rules.
William M Viverette says
You did not state your age. Texas minimum 21 unless military 18.
You will have to pass a background check if you purchase from a dealer. The CCL is not required for a gun show purchase, but having one can speed up the background check.
In Texas you do not need a CCL (LTC) to purchase a firearm. A LTC will eliminate the need for the FFL to run a background check since you already have had a FBI and DPS background check to attain your LTC.
Can I carry my hand gun concealed into the show?
Can’t wait, first gun show and I’m looking to buy a handgun for protection and carry.
The question has been asked but I need a clear answer.
I bring my id to purchase a gun from this show and then they run a background check… And then what??
I have to wait multiple days to get the gun and how do I receive this gun exactly.??
Any help is great I don’t want to walk in and try to get a gun and not know what the heck I’m doing hahaha.
I haven’t read everyone of these reply’s so perhaps this topic has been covered and that topic is rule number 10. I have been to hundreds of gun shows and I cannot recall being at one where every gun was not checked at entry and every gun weather on a dealers table or in the hands of an attendee had a tie wrap on it. This indicates that the gun was checked to be sure it was unloaded and placed to prevent the action form being opened and therefor cannot be loaded. Many dealers can be unhappy if you were to ask them to remove the tie wrap so you can check the gun, work the action and then have them put a new strap on. In most cases they only want to do this if you are a serious buyer. The suggestion that you check every gun to be sure it is unloaded is of course good and common advice until you enter the gun show where every firearm has a properly placed tie wrap or other means of showing that the gun is safe and then this becomes a real bad practice.
J.S.T. Andrews says
You are 100% correct, Len. One would have no need to check the action at a dealer’s table who has properly zip-tied their merchandise. However, not all gun shows have these rules. Also it is best practice for when purchasing from another private seller at the show.
Dennis Janssen says
Hi, we’re from Europe (Netherlands) and in sept 2016 we will be in Californie for a holiday.
Is it possible for us to attend a gun show? As you know, here in Europe gun shows are rare. We do have military collector shows (Ciney for example) but almost no gun shows.
We do have a law enforcement background, i don’t know if that will do any good?
Thanks for the info
You are free to attend a gun show no matter what you country of residence is, You will however be severely restricted in what you may be able to purchase.
Fire arms are as SAFE as the person handling them.
Dry firing does not ruin nor will damage a firing pin or your rifle, pistol or whatever. Why do people believe this? How did this even get started? We dry fired hundreds to thousands of times before we even loaded a round in the chamber in the military. Zero damage. This myth needs to go away.
My military was long ago, but we never ‘dry fired’ a weapon. Our ‘gun’ sometimes, but that is a story for another venue, lol. I was always told that dry firing would damage the firing pin. It made sense back when I didn’t know the mechanics of the things. These days, with the safety features of the firing mechanisms, I don’t see how they could be damaged. But old habits die hard, and I still will not pull a trigger unless all other facets of gun control are in place. to wit: “hit what you’re aiming at”. (sic)
Gregg, A proper answer to your question concerning the damage that might be done to a weapon or some of its mechanisms would be lengthy and involved. Suffice it to say that without a round in the chamber, the firing pin (or striker) will travel further than the original design intended. In some cases, the damage to parts would be difficult to imagine, but the damage is there, nonetheless. For instance, consider a revolver that has the firing pin built into the hammer.
Quality revolvers with this arrangement have a part, known as the recoil plate, pressed into the frame. The firing pin passes through this recoil plate on its way to the chamber, where the weapons designer envisions the travel to be terminated when encountering the cartridge primer. If that cartridge is not there or if a “snap cap” is not there, additional force is exerted on the recoil plate, as well as abrasion on the firing pin itself. Over time, that seemingly minor trauma can cause catastrophic failure. In fact, I have seen recoil plates so damaged from dry firing that they actually fell out of the frame. (They are only staked in place, not welded or screwed in.) In such an instance it is easy to see what would be the result if a primer, which is no longer protected by the recoil plate, ruptures and all the hot gasses shoot rearward. Goodby eye!
Revolvers with floating firing pins have similar damage if they are over utilized.
In the case of the M1 Garand rifle, the weapon fires when the primer is struck by the firing pin, which in effect, acts as a “striker”, after it is struck my the concealed hammer. Even though the M1 is a great rifle, continuous dry firing of an M1 can cause “work hardening” of the firing pin, which can cause it to break at the most inopportune time.
Even the simple .22 rifle should not be dry fired because the firing pin repeatedly strikes the face of the chamber peening it and eventually making it difficult to insert and/or extract cartridges.
In essence, most of the weapons I have examined over the years were designed in such a manner that the forward travel of the firing pin is expected to be terminated when it impacts the surface of a primer. Travel of the pin beyond that point violates the intent of the design.
Dry firing any weapon without the proper “snap cap” is not a good idea.
Richard Mora says
Thanks for the info. If i dry fire a few times only will that do any damage?
That is a great explanation, Tom. Thanks for taking time to spell that out. It makes perfect sense and I’ve always wondered about that.
In reply to #6 above. Empty your “clips”? Really? Is this just for those bringing a Garand to the show?
nancy g says
just a FYI: Don’t treat women like they don’t need a gun or assume that she knows nothing about a gun. “Fact” ladies spend way more money for what she wants than a man. I have walked out of a store with $2500.00 cash because the sales man kept talking to my husband and not me. My husband even told him,” I am not buying a gun” she is, so we left.
Amen Ms Nancy!!!
There is no greater way to make me flat out just cease and desist from purchasing a firearm from someone than when they absolutely flat out ignore your presence or, just plain don’t interact with you because they presume you are there with your significant other because they wanted to go and you had “no other choice but to go along with them” I have even had a few ask if I would rather be somewhere else than having to be drug along to the the gun show….say what now???
Leda Jones says
Just yesterday in a sporting goods store, when the ‘salesman’ realized it was a woman interested in buying, he immediately put the guns back in the case and pretty much brushed me off. We ended up buying a $500.+ semi-auto pistol even though he didn’t like me producing the certificate to do so. In California you have to be certified to buy anything and wait 10 days to take your purchase home. A small laff for everyone, he watched as I filled out the paperwork, answering NO to all the questions, so I commented, why don’t they just give the choice of marking “Pure as the driven snow!” I think I saw him crack a slight grin.
Some of the worse mistakes vendors make at the gun shows are not putting tags on the guns that tell the make, model, caliber and price. Some vendors do, but they write it on their tags, and it’s hard to read their chicken scratch. PRINT IT ON THE LABELS FELLAS! If there are no labels or no labels on the guns that I can read, I just walk on by. If they can’t take the time to mark their guns, I don’t have the time to try to figure out what they are. I know that there are a lot of gun vendors out there that have lost a sale due to this. There are many guns I would have bought had their been a little service. Many times the dealers are already busy with another customer, or they’re eating lunch, or they’re talking to the vendor next to them and you can’t get a hold of them……..= loss of sales! Business cards are a must also. If I can’t find a business card, I’m off to the next table. All it takes is a little common sense sometimes to make a sale, and the I don’t give a damn attitude of the vendors, and it also = loss of sale(s).
Great tips! I will have my son read this before attending his first gun show with me in two weeks. He is respectful and safe with firearms but gets excited and over-eager at times. He has gone through safety courses through boy scout camp and obeys rules when we are at the range but your list will just reinforce what he already does.
Thanks again for putting this together.
Here’s a tip, don’t start at the center aisle when you enter the gun show, Dive for the end aisles or the aisle where everyone isn’t. You get more face-time with the vendor and won’t get pushed along in the “current” of people. There’s plenty of good deals everywhere, “good deals are where you find them”, not just the center aisle or whatever aisle you enter into.
I wish the gun show would supply chairs for the buyers. If you really want to examine everything, you have to take trips to your truck to sit and rest the old knee’s, then you have to re-enter which is a pain to do all that extra walking. The longer someone stays, the more they buy, or the more likely chance they will buy. (retail 101).
Michael. Casselman says
Good thinking ! Will keep this in mind, thanks
Tom Dokulil says
I collect cartridges, rifle, pistol and shotgun. Found it a lot easier to bring a printed want list in large printed characters of what I actually need then it is to try to explain to some seller who might have it tucked away in a 3lb. coffee can. Also bring some business cards with your name and e-mail and better still bring several copies of your “want list” for them to take home! Hope my hobby of 50+ years is still going to be legal in the future.
Rosemary Alsworth says
In 2016, I will be relocating to FL from NM where for years I have sold my high quality fragrance oils and incense at gun shows. Is this allowed at FL gun shows?
dennis taylor says
I always try and bring a newbie to a gunshow with me,you’d be surprised at how much they will enjoy themselves and its good PR that can help to dis spell some of the myths that the lefty’s put out about how evil gunshows are.
WHEELING AND DEALING AT GUN SHOWS!
Gun show promoters rent sales space to private vendors and establish parameters and guide lines on what can be sold at a particular show. Vendors at gun shows rent tables from the show promoter and display their products for sale or trade. From the vendors’ rent and customer admission fees, the promoter pays the rent for the building, advertising, security guards and other expenses. All firearms transfers must be done through a licensed firearms dealer who will run a background check on the buyer. The promoter usually has a table set up to accommodate private seller and buyer background checks. If an individual buys a firearm from a licensed dealer, that dealer can do the background check or the buyer can use the promoter provided dealer to complete the required check. As of now the fee for a background check is $17.00, but that can change at the whim of the government.. You can buy two or three guns on the same background check.
There is no way that the gun show promoter can know what will be available for sale at a specific show because there are always different vendors renting tables. If you are looking for a new firearm or accessories you will probably do better price-wise at a local gun shop. Do your price shopping before you come to the show and don’t be afraid to negotiate prices with the sellers.
A gun show is usually not a good place to buy new firearms, but a great place to find used or out of production guns. For example, let’s say you want to find a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 rifle or an older classic pump .22 rifle with an octagon barrel.. Look in magazines or on line to get a good visual image of what that rifle looks like and get an idea of what they are selling for on line. Determine the maximum price you are willing to pay and bring that amount of cash in a separate wallet. Now that you know what your “target” is, hold that mental image and walk the entire show to locate all of the guns that are available. It can be hard to spot the gun you are looking for when they lined up side-by-side on a table with dozens of of other guns and accessories, but you will be surprised at how many of your “target” guns nearly jump off the table when you spot them.
When you find the gun you like, make an offer on it for what you are willing to pay. If the dealer refuses to budge on the price, open your wallet and show him the cash you have available, with $20.00 in reserve to pay for the background check. You can also tell him that there are others available at the show (be truthful) and tell him where they are located. He may want to walk over to those tables and take a look. to check out his competition.
If you are unable to come to an agreeable price, ask the vendor for his phone number and give him yours. One of you may decide to renegotiate later on and you can still do the background check at a local gun store.
I have a NJ Firearms Puchaser Indenyification Card. When I come to your gun show will I be able to leave with a gun?
marvin j.t. says
I am curious about the rational of free admission for law enforcement personnel. I attend 15 to 20 shows each year and have yet to witness a single instance of law officers purchasing a firearm, and rarely any ammo or other products. they get a free cup of coffee and browse. I suggest that you allow free admission for NRA life members. lifers have invested $1000 to $10,000 in their memberships, and are known to carry $$$CASH$$$. you will attract hundreds more attendees with $$$CASH$$$ —and promote more nra life memberships! it’s a no brainer!
Believe me, we buy plenty. We just don’t carry it around with us or put it in a departmental cruiser, we pick it up the next day or at the shop later.
Just because they aren’t in uniform doesn’t mean they aren’t there 😉 trust me, they are.
I disagree with #55.
At all the shows I have attended it is accepted practice that your ticketed and tagged gun can be for sale to whoever will give you the best deal for it. I have never had anyone say a word about who I bought/sold a gun to or traded with for that matter.
A few years back I sold off a number of Garands. I’d sell none, one and on one occasion two at each show. My wife and I attended shows almost every weekend for about a year.
I’ve made many friends among the dealers across Southeast Texas and I’ll direct traffic toward them as they have done for me.
I will soon be the proud mommy of my first gun. I’m first doing research and trying to see which one I feel comfortable with…. I am in California, I’m buying it for home protection….. I have taken a saftey course and fired several different guns……I would like some advise from more experienced persons …tia
You will never know what gun you are most comfortable with until you fire it. Before you even think about going to a gun show to buy a gun, go shooting first. Go to a range where you can rent a gun. Go shooting with friends who own them. Try different calibers (9mm, .45, .357, .380, etc.) Try different styles (striker fired, hammer and pin fired, polymer framed, aluminum framed). You can read all you want, but until you have thrown lead down range you are in no position to be purchasing anything. I say that with helping you in mind. Go out and shoot, then start thinking about a decision.
I too generally lose interest if there’s no price listed to start bargaining from.
Safety is all in the mind. If the grey matter isn’t being applied properly that’s when things can go wrong. Paraphrasing froma 50’s cop show rerun, ‘chamber loading condition is too important to take any man’s word about, but must always be checked personally’. Cable ties on the action are an assist to tell about loading condition.
Courtesy and respect just make such a difference in improving everyone’s experience.
Thanks for sharing these great tips. Gun shows can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers so this is the perfect guide on how to act.
Mike Price says
I could add a few more to this. Don’t bring guns to a gun show just to show them with no price on them. I come to buy guns and accessories, not a car show. Don’t try to give me some BS about how the price of these are going up. Every seller tries to BS every person about his gun. It tells me you are not an honest person to deal with and I will move on. I don’t need somebody blowing me a bunch of lies trying to build up the price of your item when I know different.
Nothing bugs me more than asking how much an item is and having a dealer respond with, “How much are you willing to pay?” or, “What’s it worth to you? Now when I go to gun shows if an item doesn’t have a price on it I assume the person is there showing off his stuff and it isn’t for sale. After years of gun shows, flea markets, yard sales etc. I’ve noticed when people ask about a price of an item and don’t like the price, or the demeanor of the seller, they don’t tend ask about the price of any more items. That means one bad response when the dealer is trying to customize a price on an item by what he thinks a buyer can afford doesn’t give him a second or third chance at a sale on any other items. Price tags and signs are cheap and easy and if prices are good draw more sales than starting a conversation by asking for prices.
Why do the people who sponsor these gun shows allow the ATF to set up camp and to conduct surveillance on patrons who come to the show?
Derrick Lawrence says
Lots of good information. This year will be my first gun show. Question, if you have your ccl with you, is it common practice that you still have to do the back ground check.
J.S.T. Andrews says
In most states, yes. A CCL, in many states, allows you to take the gun home immediately (following the background check). If you don’t have a CCL you will have to wait a few days before taking it home. For more information about your state visit: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/
Philip DAngelo says
Great common sense advice. This advice applies anywhere you might attend an event such as this! Thanks and shoot safe!
Dave Kasmarcik says
Was looking for the admittance charge for the show today and started getting curious and found this. I have enjoyed getting and seeing all the advice for new as well as experienced gun hobbists. Your advice is spot on and sincere. Thank you for your dedication to safe, fun and responsible gun practices for all.
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!
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/
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.
J.S.T. Andrews says
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.
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?
J.S.T. Andrews says
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.
Leda Jones says
Department of Vehicles (in California) with supply you with a background check for $5. only takes a minute. Always nice to see if anything is attached to your state issued ID.
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…
J.S.T. Andrews says
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.
J.S.T. Andrews says
Here’s the link to the article: 101 Concealed Carry Firearms
“Any gun will do if you will do”.
John says, My wife and I are older than you. Any lightweight revolver might suit you, such as a Ruger LCR in .38 special. You should go to a friendly gun range and ask them to rent you a revolver & help you learn to handle it safely, load it, and practice fire it. They should provide eye & ear protection. Hope I helped.
Hugh D. Roberts says
Hello, Buy a Taurus, used, .357 magnum revolver. Taurus firearms have lifetime warrantees and the warranty is transferrable. Buy one that holds 6 shells. The .357 magnum revolver shoots both .357 magnum bullets and .38 specials. I recommend you buy only .38 special shells for it until you feel comfortable in shooting something bigger. The revolver shoots four kind of shells. .38 shot shells, .38 specials. .38 plus P specials, and .357 magnums. You will have a choice of shooting approximately 25 different kinds of shells that can be purchased any place in the United States.
You can purchase ammunition that can be bought for less than $20 for fifty rounds. A round is a single shot.
You can purchase a used handgun at pawn shops, gun shops, gun dealers, gun shows. You should be able to purchase a decent used handgun for approximately $250.00. You can purchase a brand new one for approximately $100 more.
Where ever you purchase your handgun I recommend that you if possible to with someone that is “into” guns. If You have no one you feel you can trust or you dont want to tell anyone what you are doing just go to a large gun store. Chances are they will not steer you wrong.
You need someone to look at the revolver and do a few quick safety checks on it before purchasing it.
There are hunreds of choices you will have and you will pay the most usually for Smith and Wesson. In the United States they are the cadillac of handguns. Taurus are made in Miami Florida and are 90% as good as a Smith and Wesson for normally alot less money. They all carry the same warrantees regardless of how old they are and for someone starting out will serve any purpose you have out there from home protection, concealed carry, hunting, collection.
Your next investment should be in a cleaning kit and you can get all you will need in Walmarts for about $15.
Finally dont plan on purchasing a weapon unless you are going to get proper instructions in using it. Plan on going to a range preferrably at least once every 3-4 months.
Always practice safety and go to the library and get a book with lots of pictures in it all about gun safety. Read it.
When ever you handle the gun in your home for cleaning or just looking at it empty the weapon.
Never hand the weapon to someone else while it is loaded and never give it to a child until they have gone through the same training you have, and that includes shooting it.
The NRA has places you and your children can go and recommend training areas near where you live.
Never drink any alcohol and carry your weapon. Be careful using home medications and handling your weapon.
Know the laws of your state on how you can carry and transport your weapon. You do not need a concealed carry permit to transport your weapon in your car. You only need it to carry outdoors. Where and how you place your weapon in your vehicle varies from state to state.
Dont just ask a policeman or go to a police station and ask them the regulations. Ask the NRA, get a new book on current gun laws for your home state from the library. Read it.
Do not ask a clerk at the gun department in Walmart. Better to go to a gun dealer and ask them. Always act like the weapon is loaded and always point the weapon down wind. Never point it at anything you dont want to destroy.
FRANK J KUBIK says
Hi Janet, the first step is to find out what caliber you are capable & confident with.The old saying of I rather hit my mark with a 22 than miss with a 38 still holds true today.Try going to a range that allows you to try different firearms if you can.Or take a few lessons from a gun club Instructor in your area,then selection will be easier & less expensive for you.
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?
J.S.T. Andrews 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.
Michael Ward says
I’m very impressed how you handled this question from someone who is OBVIOUSLY anti 2nd amendment. Your response was exact, complete, and without malice. Kudos to you sir and thank you for your blog. It is highly informative. Cheers!
Richard Gray says
Wes, you wrote: “I hear people demanding their right to carry guns because guns are safe.” I’ve never heard anyone demand the right to carry because firearms are safe. I’ve heard people demand that their right to carry a firearm be recognized. But not because firearms are safe. That would be like me telling you that I watch TV because TV is safe. No, I watch it because there is something on it that I want to see. Most people would tell you that they carry to protect themselves from threats such as criminals and animals, not because guns are safe.
All of that was sort of sarcastic, since your orginal premise is flawed. The premise doesn’t even make sense. You might as well have said, “If bananas are yellow then pigs fly.” Your original premise shows your bias and hate of firearms (or at least the carrying of firearms). If you really are “Just asking”, then you could have just asked “If guns are so safe, why wire the actions open?”
The answer to your obviously hostile, loaded (pun intended) question of why are the actions wired open, is simple. With thousands of people handling thousands of firearms, ensuring that those firearms will not fire reduces the risk of accidents. When’s the last time you went to a car show where people leave the keys in the cars? If cars are so safe, why not leave the keys in them?
Great answer Richard!
Guns are safe. As a Police Seargeant, I carried my gun loaded for decades and it never fired unless I wanted it to. At gun shows, you, I, and everyone (vendors and MOST of the customers) know not to load the gun inside the show, there’s no need to. I have yet to see any gun go off all by itself. If a gun discharges, it’s because someone loaded it, and someone did something to activate the trigger mechanism, anything made in the last 30 year the trigger HAD to be pulled due to modern designs.
Guns are safe, but people aren’t . Mistakes happen, so procedures are put in place to make safe handling of a firearm…..well…… routine. IF a gun discharged at a gun show, a cascade of mistakes or disception occurred , someone “hid” it from the front door security officers, or better security is needed. In NY State, these guys are on the ball, offer an unloading device, and tag and inspect all guns from non-uniformed patrons. If anyone is that concerned for their fellow man- then make cars and knives illegal, they kill far more people than guns do.
First of all, your sarcasm is rather obvious. Second of all, that is a loaded and rather ridiculous question. Of course guns are safe. They are inanimate objects. They can’t hurt anyone. Also, guns do not go off by themselves. This is real life, not the movies. Guns also will not fire when dropped, believe it or not. Don’t you think utd be rather silly of a car company made a car that randomly had axles break on it and all the time? Well same with guns. Why would they make something that can launch a deadly projectile faulty to the point that it fires when you don’t want it to? Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And to answer your question further, almost all mass shooting have occured in “gun free zones”. The places with the strictest gun control laws also seem to have the highest violent crime rates and highest gun death per capita, where as the places with the most guns have the least. Just look at Kennesaw, Georgia for example. Go ahead, Google it quick. You’ll see that it is the LAW to own a gun there. You are legally required to own a firearm and ammunition. Lowest crime rate in the country. One of anyway. Or what about Switzerland, where every person is required to own a military style “assault rifle” (made up term that no one actually uses except when using scare tactics) and ammunition and know how to use it? One of the lowest crime rates in the entire world. You see, it’s not guns that are dangerous. It’s people that are dangerous. An armed populace = a safe populace. There will always be more good guys with guns than bad guys with guns, unless of course the liberals win and take the guns away from the good guys, who are the I KY people who would give them up. The only reason people like you are safe is because there are men like us ready to do violence. Remember that. So when you think “guns are bad hur derp derp they should be banned derp derp der”, the only people that ban will effect are those keeping you safe and those keeping themselves safe. If you want facts, just look at the numbers. That should prove it. There are so many studies, facts, articles, and data that show an armed people is a safe people, while the counter arguments used against this are nothing but fear mongering, buzzwords, and absolute folly.
I’ve had friends murdered. Stabbed, shot, beaten…. this only strengthens my resolve to keep us law abiding citizens armed.
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?
J.S.T. Andrews says
ATF: Period of time a NICS check is valid.
J.S.T. Andrews 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.
David Allen says
All dealers will do a federal background check at the show. Takes about 30 minutes – costs nothing extra. Buy the gun … go see some more stuff and pick up the gun in 30 minutes.
Also, if you get a License To Carry you can skip the background check because you are already approved by the state.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Bill 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…
Jason A. says
Hey Dr. Bill,
Thank you for the feedback! I’ll shoot you an e-mail about the podcast.
liam armstrong says
i honestly cannot wait for the gunshow, it felt like years since the last one took place 😀
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 🙂
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.
Thanks for taking the time to compile this list… good stuff!
Jason A. says
Thank you, Bob. I appreciate the feedback!
Yes thank you I will be going to my 1st gun show soon and glad I cam across
HI Ebony, I wanted to buy a small gun. I am a 65 year old woman. I live alone and afraid all the time. When you go to these guns shows what exactly do I need to bring to buy a gun..do I need to bring a SLED check, do you know?
Bring CASH. Dealers want CASH. Not checks. Also, bring more than one form of ID, just in case. Don’t feel scared having that much cash on you. You’re at a gun show surrounded by mostly good people. Bring a friend who knows about guns, and knows the values of firearms. Not just someone who was in the army 40 years ago, I mean someone who is an avid gun enthusiast. Just because someone was in the military does not make them a gun expert. In fact, I know many military guys who don’t know their sidearm from a freaking candy bar. BRING A FRIEND WHO SHOOTS, OWNS, AND COLLECTS GUNS. They will be your most valuable asset. Also, don’t just buy a gun and put in a drawer to make you feel safer. GET TRAINING. You are never too old to train. I shoot with men and women in their 40s, 50s, 60, 70s, and even 80s. Get a good teacher, take classes, and go to the range REGULARLY. Going once every 6 months will NOT help you at ALL. Not honing your skills and learning new ones will get you KILLED.
-Avid firearm enthusiast and knife/sword collector for almost 20 years-
Thanks Jay!!!! I had plan on bringing my military friend all because he was in the army… lol and I was going to put it up and use it every 6 months ,,lol,,Thanks again… You hit everything I needed to hear……
I wish you would come with me, Jay. I’ll be attending my first gun show in a few weeks in Costa Mess. I want to buy a gun to protect myself as I’m a single woman and a real estate agent. I’m also searching for a good place to teach and train me.
Dan Thornley says
I have a complaint about the gun show knifes basics, I am a NRA Life Member and have a problem with the shows i USED to attend in my state of Massachusetts, For everything we stand for with supporting the 2nd Amendmant why do we get asked to check in our guns in and unload them when we go to a show? We fight politicians and anti-gun lobbyist all the time for our freedom and our constitutional Rights to carry yet we are asked to give up those rights when we go to a gun show???? I had a discussion with a anti-gun person i know and they laughed when i told them i had to unload my gun and make it so it can’t be used when i went to a show…….isn’t that making a gun show basically a “gun free zone” where you are not permitted to carry? Are we forgetting why we support the 2nd Amendmant?
David Allen says
I typically lose respect for people who’s first words are “I’m an NRA LIFE MEMBER”. It isn’t EARNED. Anyone can BUY that. I’d rather hear that you’ve competed in shooting events and shooting sports for X number of years and are a responsible (and trained) gun owner.
Unloading at a gun show is not required by federal law … it is optional for the show promoter. When a show is full of yahoos whose main credential is that they once wrote a check to the NRA (and probably haven’t handled a firearm in 6 months or more) and are more likely to show off with a gun and cause an accidental discharge.
Spend some time watching You-Tube videos of self proclaimed “experts” handling guns and you’ll be glad they have you unload at gun shows.
John Tripp says
I’m not sure what your problem is with an NRA Life Member.. I don’t think people purchase a life membership just for the fun of saying “I’m a a life member.” Usually they care about the sport and are helping preserve your right to own a gun. I also am concerned about why I can’t exercise my second amendment right at a gun show. Not everyone is a competitive shooter.. That is not everyone’s interest You sound a bit jealous or maybe you are one of the yahoos. BTW I am not a life member, I can;t afford it.. I do have a CCL, I am a member of the NRA. l like guns and I like to shoot.
Hildy Langewis says
CA gun show laws specifically state ‘no loaded weapons in the show, including CCW holders. On duty LE is exempt’
I am for unloaded secure guns at a show. Two years ago I was at a show in Raleigh and some Yahoo brought in a defective 12 gage in a case loaded. When security was checking it it went off injuring 3 people. Rules are not derived to be against you personally, but there are are lot of unintelligent careless folks who have guns.
Bob Peters says
Great advice, I should have read this 30 years ago. Instead, I learned by trial & error.