Buyer Beware: Lessons from Online Gun Buying

I’d been looking for a certain shotgun for waterfowling for some time. Circumstances never seemed to line up to make it happen. Finally, I found the gun, the price and the geographic convenience that brought it all together. I contacted the seller and we arranged to meet so I could look over the merchandise. But in my mind, I was convinced this was the gun. We met and I immediately succumbed to the gun-buying equivalent of buck fever. Rational decision-making went out the window. I soon was driving home with my new baby.

When I got home and started ooh-ing and awe-ing over my new duck blind companion, I realized that the deal of the century was not quite what I had assumed.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to save a few dollars in your firearm purchases by searching the Internet and buying used guns online. The purchases I’ve made have been positive experiences except for the above recent buy. However, the lessons learned from that exchange are valuable and had me thinking about how to go about an Internet purchase with the best chances for a positive outcome.

There are different kinds of online/Internet purchase scenarios. Buying through an established retailer such as Cabela’s, Sportsmen’s Warehouse or Scheel’s is a straightforward affair. Pick the gun, pick features and click. You may have to pick up the gun in person and there is no flexibility in price, but you get the reputation, customer service and fulfilment system of a huge company. It’s similar with online presences like Brownells, Optics Planet, Midway USA,, GunsAmerica and others.

One of the disadvantages of the above options is that you don’t get to hold the gun in your hands before purchasing it, but when buying a new gun that is usually not an issue. Then you have online auction portals like You search for the firearm you’re interested in and enter a bid. But, as in the above scenarios, you are only looking at pictures and you are relying on the description and the honor of the seller.

Finally, you have sites that list guns available in your locale that create opportunities for face-to-face purchases—like the one I made. Being able to handle the actual gun makes a huge difference. I did some things right and some things wrong. Let’s look at the process and, hopefully, you won’t make the mistakes I did.

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