I figured my first gun show would consist of a group of rednecks in camo buying rocket launchers. I was only half right. Guns shows can be a ton of fun, as I found out. You can see product demonstrations, handmade crafts (usually with a firearms theme), meet some really great people to network with, and find some really cool, rare guns. Ahhh, but can you get good deals?
It’s also very easy to get ripped off if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, this isn’t exclusive to gun shows, obviously. Go to any flea market without doing your homework and before you know it you’re leaving with an antique aluminum Christmas tree that cost you $3000. Don’t be that guy. A little bit of preparedness goes a very long way.
In my opinion, shopping at a gun show is a lot like shopping for a car. You can’t be too eager! Don’t jump on the first sweet flat dark earth ZEV Glock Z19 with a Trijicon RMR you see! Depending on the size of the gun show you attend, you can have upwards of 100 dealers. Exercise a little patience and before you know it, you’ll have two dealers fighting over your sale. You can absolutely haggle with these guys and gals, and it’s in your best interest to do so. You aren’t at a retail gun store, where haggling is a little more of a rarity (though, not unheard of). These guys bring a LOT of stock to gun shows and they’re hoping to unload all of it.
So, let’s go over a few tips that will help you get the best deal possible. First and foremost, as I stated above, do the homework. Learn what that flat dark earth ZEV Glock Z19 with a Trijicon RMR should cost you, and go from there.
(Side note: I realize my gun example, the ZEV Z19 w/Trijicon is completely absurd, but I’m just trying to illustrate a point)
Ok now you have a price in mind. Where do we go from here? Dealer A has it for $1350 with two factory magazines. STOP. Don’t buy it. Go to dealers B, C, and D. Dealer B has it for $1400 with two factory magazines and a pack of RMR batteries. Dealer C has it for $1200 with one magazine and says she’ll throw in two boxes of Black Talon 9mm. Dealer D has it for the cheapest at $800, which would tell me something isn’t right there, so screw them. So now that you’ve shopped around at a few dealers, you can start working them and see how far they’ll bend. This is entirely dependent on you though. If you’re unable to play the game, it’s not going to take you very far.
You can do the whole “Well Dealer B is going to throw in batteries”, or “Hey Dealer C is throwing in some rare ammo to go with it” routine, and for me, this works best. I don’t like to be dishonest and say “This guy has that Glock for XXX price”, because there is nothing stopping them from walking over and verifying that. That’s not to say you can’t tell Dealer A that you only brought $1250 with you. There is obviously no set methodology, and it really depends on your personality and how good a salesperson you are.
One step you can take to help you get better prices is to bring cash, and cash only. With credit cards, they might mark their prices up a bit to cover their transaction charge. Some may even forego the tax if you wave some cash around at them. As in most scenarios, cash is king, and this is one of the easiest ways you can ensure you get some great prices.
Another method you can use is to go late. I know that sounds a little ridiculous, and you’ll be looking at reduced stock, but towards the end of the show, these guys want to pack up and get out of Dodge. As I said, some of these folks bring a ton of stock, and their goal as merchants is to get rid of as much of it as possible. That being said, you’re more likely to get them to bend on price or throw-ins towards the end of the show.
One of my most successful trips to a gun show saw me looking for a Mossberg 590A1. I’m absolutely in love with that shotgun and had wanted one for a while. I saw the one I wanted and passed the dealer’s table a few times after handling it and asking him about it. The price was right, so I didn’t really need to haggle too much. Towards the end of the gun show, I went straight for his table and it was still there. I had to make my move.
Well, he struck first and asked how many more times I was going to look at the “damn scattergun”? We joked for a bit and I told him I was on the fence about it because I wanted to pick up some ammo, a sling and a flashlight for it as well, but didn’t bring enough cash. That was all it took. He said if I bought the shotgun, he’d throw the sling and flashlight in for half price and let me walk away with a box of Winchester PDX rounds. Score!
So, in closing, you can definitely get good deals at gun shows. If you approach it the right way, do your homework, and follow some basic principles, you’ll walk away with that flat dark earth ZEV Glock Z19 with the Trijicon RMR and your bank account won’t hate you. Too much.
Do you have any tips I didn’t cover? What’s the best deal you’ve gotten at a gun show? Leave a comment and share your experience!