More often than not when we want to sell a firearm we go to the local store that sold it to us some time ago. We ask for a trade-in value, or ask if they want to buy our firearm for cash. We wait a long time as the store owner or local ‘expert’ examines the firearm. They come back with a serious face, and the rest of the story is fairly universal. We all know the shocking disbelief that comes with an insulting low ball offer that generates a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. What was gold when we bought it is now utter rubbish that isn’t worth a pile of yesterday’s lunch. And that’s the backdrop for this article. Here we’ll show you how to sell your firearm on-line at a good price. The trick is to be able to reach a far greater audience from all over the U.S. We’ll show you how to safely sell a firearm on-line, turning an unwanted asset into cash. In a future article we’ll show you how to buy a firearm on-line, which means greater selection, better prices and the satisfaction of cutting the local, low balling middleman out of the picture for good.
Selling firearms on-line isn’t hard, but it requires careful attention. You can’t just post a gun on eBay and then send it to the winning bidder. As you know, firearms are highly regulated items. In the case of on-line sales, the ability to sell your firearm to people in other states is restricted by ‘The Gun Control Act of 1968’. In essence the law says that, as a private, unlicensed individual, you can’t sell or transfer firearms across state lines to other unlicensed individuals. The law established the creation of special, licensed dealers known as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) and dictated that only they can legally transfer firearms across state lines. This is defined in section 478.29, “Out-of-State acquisition of firearms by nonlicensees: No person, other than a licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed collector, shall transport into or receive in the State where the person resides (or if a corporation or other business entity, where it maintains a place of business) any firearm purchased or otherwise obtained by such person outside that State…”
That means that you can’t ship the firearm out of state. There’s an additional restriction that says that you can’t even sell the firearm to a visiting out of state buyer (i.e. they can’t come to you and buy the firearm). To make sure the law is enforced and to regulate the dealers, the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) got additional power and people to enforce the law. If you want to read more about these laws and regulations, you can read the ‘Federal firearms regulations’ reference guide and the ‘Commerce in Firearms and Ammunition’ guide that lists individual rules, which we must obey. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to make sure you follow all the laws—both Federal and local when selling your gun on-line. In some places such as the entire state of California, or more specifically, municipalities such as Chicago, Illinois, these local restrictions can be quite bothersome, but still the law must be followed.
Steps to sell your firearm on-line:
- Value your firearm: To sell you firearm for a fair price, you need to know the current market value. First run an Internet search to find the current selling price. That’s the upper limit of the price you can ask. Then run a search for used firearms and write down the difference in value. Be sure to search for the exact same model, since options and sometimes even color affect the price. In addition to price, take note of the amount of similar firearms. The price you ask will be affected by the number of available firearms.
- Understand related costs: When selling a firearm on-line, expect to have additional costs. You may need to pay for listing your firearm on an auction site. Once you have a buyer, you’ll need to find a local FFL dealer who will act for you, since a firearm can only be shipped from a dealer to a dealer. You’ll need to pay your local FFL dealer for shipping your firearm to the out-of-state FFL dealer who will act for the buyer. These costs add up, and you need to account for them to ensure that you get a good price at the end of the transaction.
- Prepare the firearm for sale: The firearm must look its best for the sale. Make sure you clean the firearm well until it looks as close to new as possible. Look for the original box, the paperwork that came with it, and make sure it has everything you got when you bought it (e.g. gun lock). You’ll get more money if the firearm mirrors what the buyer can get in the store.
- Pictures for the sale: Take several pictures of the firearm, making sure you take pictures of both sides. Take a picture with the firearm in its original box. If you are offering additional items to make the sale more appealing (e.g. extra magazines, holster), be sure to photograph those too. If the firearm has any imperfections or normal wear, take pictures of those areas as well. You want to present an objective view of the firearm to avoid any problems with the buyer. If you hide a problem or misrepresent it, remember that the buyer will inspect the firearm before accepting it. Any “surprise” can lead the buyer to refuse delivery. The firearm will then be shipped back, and you’ll be stuck with several bills to pay before you get your firearm back. Remember: honesty pays!
- Truth in selling: State the age of the firearm, whether you are the first owner or not, provide a rough well-round count and note any potential problem that the buyer may encounter. In other words, the obvious fact here is that the better the shape of the firearm, the better the price you’ll get, so be truthful and try to remedy any potential problem before it arises and document the rest.
- Sell or trade your firearm:
- Post the firearm for sale: Find an on-line way to advertise your firearm for sale. You can use an onsite auction site, such as Gun Broker , a forum listing, or even Facebook. I would highly recommend that your first sale be done with an established site such as Gun Broker. They will then walk you through the process safely and legally. Whichever tool you use, be sure to read their rules and regulations to ensure a smooth transaction. And only because I used them as an example, I’ll state that eBay isn’t an option because the site is run by anti-gun people.
- Trade your firearm: Several on-line gun stores will buy your gun or use it for a trade-in deal. An example for that is Bud’s Gun Shop that offers 24/7 buying service, where they show you the preferred firearms and the price you can get for them. This transaction has pros and cons. The biggest pro is simplicity. You can ship your firearm, via a dealer, to their FFL, which will inspect the gun, confirm the offer and you’ll be done. You’ll get a check or you can proceed with an on-line purchase. The con has to do with the price. On-line dealers will want to buy and then sell your firearm for a profit. They will, therefore, offer you a lower price than an individual buyer. I think there’s no harm in getting an Internet quote from an on-line dealer. You can send them good pictures and get an offer without leaving your home, and you can always say ‘No’. This valuation will also help you understand the lower end of possible offers. This way you have a full range of prices, where the dealer is the lowest and a new firearm is the highest.
- Locating a dealer: Gun Broker offers a great list that tracks current active dealers which you can located by zip code. To ensure that you don’t unknowingly commit a crime by breaking a local law (by shipping a restricted item), remember that there are numerous and very different local rules and regulations about firearms, and that some states (e.g. Texas) are far freer than others (e.g. California). I’d locate a dealer in the buyer’s zip code, give them a call and describe the item you want to sell to make sure it’s legal on the other side. This is an extra credit step, but one I’d take for peace of mind.
- Shipping your firearm: You can’t ship your gun to anyone who doesn’t hold an FFL. You must therefore get a name of an FFL dealer from the buyer. That’s where the firearm will be shipped to. You go to your local dealer and start the process of getting your firearm to the buyer’s dealer. Your dealer can ship the firearm with USPS Priority Mail, which helps reduce costs a bit since USPS is cheaper than UPS or Fedex, which require overnight shipping. However, the process may be different if you decide to sell a firearm to an on-line dealer such as Bud’s. In that case, work with them on the shipping process and call them up, or exchange emails, to verify the exact process of shipping the firearm to them. Make sure the weapon is clear of all ammunition. Make of point of checking at least twice.
- Buyer’s side process: On the other side, the buyer inspects the firearm and then the experience is just like buying a new gun at the store. The buyer’s local FFL dealer will fill paperwork, a background check will be run, and then the buyer will pay the dealer a transfer fee and possible sales tax (depending on state), after which he’ll leave happily with his new (used) firearm.
- Getting paid: This will depend on the method of sale. Make sure you make the terms clear and that you get paid before the firearm is shipped. This is where sites such as Gun Broker come in to simplify and streamline the on-line firearm selling process.
- Feedback: If you used an auction site such as Gun Broker, be sure to leave feedback for the buyer and ask if he’ll reciprocate and leave feedback for you; this helps build a network of trust that you can leverage in future. If you used a different method, send a courtesy e-mail to the buyer to make sure all is well and that they are content with the transaction.
Selling a firearm on-line isn’t rocket science but it requires care and attention to details. Be sure to follow all Federal, state and local laws and, if you aren’t sure about something, check with your local FFL or local law enforcement agency. And finally, good luck in selling your firearm for a great price.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert!
Dan S. Defense