gun show vendor tables displaying shotguns for sale

Gun Buying Guide: How to Buy at a Gun Show

Your local gun show is coming soon, and you need to know how to buy at a gun show if you want to find the best deals on a new or used firearm. Gun show deals are legendary, offering better prices, custom packages, and knowledgeable firearms experts to talk to you about the gun’s particulars. While you’ll find plenty of helpful people at the gun show, it’s important to remember that it ultimately falls to you to decide if any particular gun trade is right for you. At  MAC Shows, we work hard to create an environment where everyone can legally buy, sell, and trade guns, and we want to make it a positive experience for all involved.

  • Before the Show
    • Decide Why You’re Buying This Gun
    • Find What Makes a Gun Good for This Purpose
    • Research Specific Gun Models
  • The Day of the Show
    • Get There Early
    • Do a Full Circuit of the Show
    • Inspect The Guns You Like
    • Watch For Private Sellers
    • Narrow Down Your Options
  • Making the Deal
    • Be Polite
    • Be Flexible
    • Know Your Budget
    • Know When to Say No

Before You Buy, Do Your Research

Before your local gun show comes to town, start thinking about what kind of firearm you’re looking for. Are you planning on hunting, want to get your concealed carry permit, or do you just like the idea of pursuing a uniquely American hobby at your local gun range? While you can find guns of all types at your local gun show, not every type is best suited for every need. Not knowing what you’re looking for beforehand is how to buy at a gun show and feel buyer’s remorse later. 

Man holding a firearm in his hand as he examines it while shopping at a gun show

Once you know why you’re looking for a gun at the gun show, you can really dig into your research. Start by reading articles about what makes a gun well-suited for your needs. For example, you may learn that gun owners looking for a concealed carry weapon favor lightweight materials like polymer or titanium, and smaller-framed individuals find carrying slimmer single-stack pistols more comfortable. This gives you a starting point for looking at specific models.

Armed with the characteristics you’re looking for (and sometimes with model recommendations), browse manufacturer’s websites, online gun auction sites, and sporting goods store websites looking for the models that meet your needs, taking note of the standard prices found on new and used models. This research helps you find the best gun show deals while passing up firearms that may be outside the budget you set based on similar models.

Set Your Alarm on the Day of the Show

Getting there early is how to buy from the largest possible selection at the gun show. When you arrive at the show, you’ll pass through the gate, paying your admission fee. You’ll pass the security table where guns brought in for sale or trade are inspected and tied by staff to help keep the venue safe. Once you get inside, you’re ready to find the best gun show deals.

Start off by browsing the vendors on the sales floor. Take your time, but move purposefully as you do a complete circuit of the exhibition area, looking for the guns that best match your research. This is a great chance to start talking to vendors, check prices, and handle some of the firearms you’ve looked into with the vendor’s permission. 

In inspecting and checking the feel of these weapons, you may be able to narrow down your shopping list further. Look for obvious signs of damage or misuse on used guns. Examine the chamber, cycle the action to the extent security devices allow, and get a feel for it in your hand. The last thing you want to do is buy your gun just to find it in better condition or cheaper at another table a few aisles over, so don’t start negotiating prices yet. 

While browsing the tables, keep an eye out for “trade bait”. Gun shows give private citizens a chance to buy, sell, and trade guns as well, and in many jurisdictions, that includes selling or trading to other private citizens who reside in the same state. While some of these owners are only looking to trade the guns they bought toward the purchase of a specific gun they’re looking for, some of the best gun show deals are available from another gun owner who isn’t planning on trying to sell enough guns to justify reserving a table.

Once you’ve had a chance to see what the vendors and other attendees have to offer, checked their prices, and compared your findings to your research, you’re ready to find the right deal for you. Consider which two or three options will work best for your shooting needs and pocketbook. Having a top option and a few backups is how to buy at a gun show while avoiding the pressure of “have-to” deals that force you into making a deal you’ll regret later.

Buying Your New Gun

When you’ve identified the gun you want to buy, approach the table to talk to the vendor. Basic manners go a long way at the gun show, so don’t interrupt conversations or use rude language. Simply catch their eye and start a conversation about the gun you want to buy. Understand that for many vendors (and many buyers), the posted price is the price, but…

Remember that you are there to buy a gun while the vendor is there to sell a gun. That means some vendors can be flexible with you if you’re flexible with them. Popular negotiating tactics include asking about a cash discount (assuming your budget is on hand in cash), making an offer on the gun that is based on your research to ask them to accept a lower price, or see if they’ll add in accessories like spare magazines or holsters to sweeten the deal at a price they’re more comfortable with.

Firearms vendors sitting next to their table during a MAC Shows event

As you’re negotiating, keep your budget in mind. Along with the gun, you may need to buy secure storage, ammunition, optics, and other accessories. While these won’t be on the price tag when you buy at a gun show, they definitely factor into the cost of ownership for your weapon. A new gun you can’t afford to shoot is guaranteed to not meet your shooting needs. 

Finally, when making a deal, you have to know when it’s time to step away for further consideration or to take another look at your backup choices. There’s nothing wrong with telling the vendor you’ll think about it if you’re not ready to say yes or no, and there’s nothing wrong with telling them politely that you’ll pass. There are always other gun show deals to be had.

Get Ready to Find Your Next Gun

Now that you know how to buy at a gun show, your opportunity to put that knowledge to the test is coming to a community near you soon. Sign up for our emails to get the latest news and bulletins delivered to your inbox. Circle the date of an upcoming show and get ready to find the best deals at a MAC Shows Gun Show near you.

Like This Article?