How to Sell a Gun Online
By The People
So you want to sell a gun online? Good call. Selling a gun online is easy and can get you the best price, while being a good way to save on the fees that you pay to get your gun sold. Gun stores owners typically charge between 15% and 25% for their services, and conventional consignment auction house typically charge as much at 35% in addition to a 10-15% Buyer’s Premium! An online auction or classified website typically charges from 2.5% to 5% to list your gun online. That’s a big difference in costs to you, which means more $$$ in your pocket. And while listing your gun for sale online takes a little bit of effort, it’s well worth it.
Classified VS. Auctions
There’s basically two ways to sell your gun online – on a classifieds website for a price you name, or via an online auction. Selling via a classified website has just one problem – you have to name a price. And if you choose a price too high, nobody will be interested. If you choose a price too low, your gun will certainly sell, but you may be unhappy because you basically gave it away. The one major advantage to a classified solution is that if you’re in a hurry, and you don’t care that you’re losing money, classifieds might work for you. If you’re like the rest of us and you want to keep your money, the solution is an online auction, where the market determines what the price of the gun will be.There’s something important you need to understand about auctions. Auctions are about momentum. With a classified listing, the buyer either purchases your gun or doesn’t. There’s an emotional hump to get over when someone decides to buy something outright. With an auction, the act of placing a bid commits the buyer to a course that includes the possibility of buying the item, but there’s less emotional commitment required because there’s the bidder’s hope (and possibility) that the bidder can get something cheaply. But there’s also the possibility that the bidder won’t have to buy the item, because someone could outbid them. A bidder has more control over what price they’re willing to pay, and so is more willing to jump in and bid in the first place. So, assuming that you start with a low price, have a good description, and have posted good pictures, it’s easier to get the ball rolling with an auction, than with any other method of selling. And once that ball is rolling and bids have been submitted, you’re basically guaranteed a sale. Momentum is your friend.
In order to sell your gun online, you’re going to need a few things. First, you’ll need a computer with an internet connection. We’re talking about ONLINE – as in “on the internet” or “on the web”. The computer doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest, but the faster your computer and connection to the internet are, the faster the listing process will go AND the more enjoyable the entire experience will be. You don’t NEED a high speed connection, but it makes it a lot nicer.Next, you’ll need a digital camera that connects to your computer. A description is important, but pictures sell the gun. There are plenty of good digital cameras out there that are more than adequate to take pictures of your gun. In fact, most cameras nowadays take pictures that are so big and detailed, most online sites will scale your picture down in order to fit it in your listing. Generally speaking, any camera better than 10 megapixels (a measure of how detailed a picture is) is a waste of money for pictures being posted online. There are even some cell phone cameras that are perfectly adequate to take pictures of your gun. But you don’t need to spend a ton of money on a camera that takes ridiculously detailed pictures. Computer screens just aren’t sophisticated enough to display anything more detailed.
The next thing you should do is some research about your gun. The more you know about your gun, the better your description will be, and the more likely someone will come along and buy it. I can’t tell you how many times people have called complaining that their items aren’t selling, and could I please take a look? I pull up their listings and discover that they have two sentences describing the gun, and one blurry picture. “Really?!?”, I ask them. “Would you pay money for something you know so little about?” You gotta sell it! That means putting some effort into understanding what you have.Thankfully, the internet is a godsend when it comes to research about guns. Just plug the make and model of your gun into a search engine and let’er rip. I prefer Google.com, but Yahoo/Bing will also work. You should get a lot of information back right away about your gun. Don’t rely on just one source of info! Make sure you look around, read a couple of different websites including Wikipedia, and any forums pertaining to the manufacturer of your gun. If you’re selling a Glock, Glocktalk.com is a great resource. If you’ve got a Winchester, there are a couple of Winchester collector clubs out there. Whatever the gun you’ve got, there’s bound to be a group of people out there that collect it. And worship it. And know more about it than you. They can help.
AuctionMyGun.com allows you to research guns by looking at closed auctions. This will give you an idea not only of what you have, but how much it will sell for. Some guns get better with age, while other will simply lose value. And just because a gun is old doesn’t mean it’s valuable. There were plenty of guns made through the years that were made by the millions. Looking to see what similar guns have sold for will give you a ballpark range for your gun.
Is it legal to sell my gun?
It’s legal to sell your gun online, regardless of the state that you live in. But the proper way to transfer ownership of your gun varies from state to state. Generally speaking, you can ship most guns to an FFL holder in another state. Your buyer will have to physically go in, do some paperwork and a background check, and then they can pick up the gun. In about half the states, there aren’t any requirements to use an FFL for private party transfers. But if you’re going to be selling your gun online, you’re likely going to have a buyer you don’t personally know, that doesn’t live nearby. As you’re shipping a gun, I highly recommend that you ship to an FFL at all times, to avoid any sticky situations.How do you know that you’re shipping to an FFL? The buyer should send you a signed copy of the FFL before you ship a gun. Make it a requirement that’s spelled out in your listing. The buyer should have an FFL holder (usually someone at a gun shop) lined up to receive shipment of the item. If they don’t, the buyer can find an FFL in our FFL Network. These are folks that have an FFL, that are willing to receive shipment of a gun bought online. Simple. As the seller, you can verify the FFL is valid by visiting the FFL EZ Check system online. Just plug the FFL number in and the system will let you know. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t ship a gun to someone who doesn’t have a valid FFL. Sorry, that’s the law. If you have any questions about shipping a gun in your state, visit your local gun shop. They’ll have all the answers.
How to Ship a Gun
Shipping a gun is easy. First off, you’ll need to use a private carrier like UPS or FedEx. Unless you personally have an FFL, you can’t ship a gun via the US Postal Service. That’s been against the law since 1968. But shipping via UPS or FedEx isn’t an issue. Make sure you properly pack the item up using a good box and lots of stuffing and such. Also make sure that there isn’t anything on the outside of the box that shows it’s a gun. I’m a big fan of brown wrapping paper – there’s no sense in tempting the help. Also, make sure you’ve insured the gun for it’s value, in the event something gets broken in shipment. Lastly, make sure you have a tracking number. After you’ve sent the gun off, you can send the tracking number to the buyer so there’s no question that the gun is on the way. Good communication with your buyer during the entire process is the key to getting good feedback after the sale is concluded.
Listing a Gun – Managing Expectations
The listing process of all websites is fairly straightforward and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that the more pictures you upload of your gun, the better. If there are any flaws (and there usually are) you should take close-ups of those flaws and describe them clearly. Anything you can do to give a potential bidder more information about your gun is a good thing. What you’re doing is managing expectations. If you lie about the condition of a gun, the buyer is going to know the moment the gun arrives, and the buyer WILL return the gun for a full refund – which is a waste of time and money. You’ll probably also get bad feedback which will trash your reputation online. My advice is simple: play it safe by describing everything and take pictures of everything. Honesty is the best policy.
Setting the Price of Your Gun
What price should you list your item at? We should talk about market value for a moment. Guns, especially those that have been in families for a long time, are assumed to acquire value over time. That isn’t necessarily true. Maybe there’s nice story attached to the gun, or someone famous once breathed on it. My point is this: Just because you feel something has value doesn’t mean the market agrees with you. The market is a ruthless machine that doesn’t care about your feelings. In the end, the market cares less about scarcity, condition, or age – than what someone is willing to pay you. Yes, things like scarcity, condition, age, and a good story have an impact on the price someone is willing to pay.I’ll give you a few examples. If I’m going on a hunting trip and I’m looking for a scoped bolt action rifle, and all I can find are Colt Single Action Armys, a box of Colt SAAs are going to look like a box of doorstops. I could try going hunting with a Colt Revolver, but it’s probably not going to work. If all I care about are WWII battle rifles, a new shop of hunting rifles and shotguns isn’t going to hold much appeal to me. The value I place on things I don’t want is much less than the value I place on things I do. A box of Saltines is worthless to a man dying of thirst. The value you place on something isn’t always the value that someone else will. Make sure you understand the distinction. Thankfully, online auction houses provide a large enough marketplace, that anything that gets listed will usually find a buyer in short order.
Again, auctions are about momentum. The more people you can get involved early on, the more likely your item is to sell at market value. You should start your auction at a price that will entice people to bid. The sellers that have the most success start their auctions at a penny. Yes, you heard right – $0.01. A Single Penny. Don’t worry – you’re going to get a good price for your gun. But, listing it at a penny signals to the buying public that you’re serious about selling it. And seriously, and who can pass up a gun selling for a penny?!? No one. We have the capability of fooling ourselves into thinking that we might actually get that gun for a penny, even though we know we won’t. It’s a curious quirk of human nature that even though the odds are long, and we know they’re long, we’ll still throw in and bid. And once someone commits to that first bid, the competitive nature of auctions compels them to keep bidding against others right up to the market value of the gun. Your gun will sell, start it at a penny.
Something else you need to think about before listing your item: How are you going to get paid, once you have a buyer? There are a couple of options available. Most importantly, don’t use PayPal! PayPal is anti-gun, to the point of disabling it’s user accounts if they find out you’re receiving payments for guns using PayPal. And disabling your account doesn’t just mean you won’t be able to use PayPal. It also means they’ll freeze any bank account associated with your PayPal account, until it’s sorted out to their satisfaction. How can they do that? It’s part of the Terms and Conditions you agreed to when you signed up. You can read up on for more information on PayPal’s gun policy. And I know there are some people out there that will write me back, stating that they use PayPal all the time for gun payments. You’ve gotten lucky, but it’s only a matter of time before PayPal catches on. I personally use PayPal all the time for eBay and Amazon purchases. But I don’t buy guns on eBay or Amazon. I buy beanie babies.Fortunately, there are other options for getting paid. If you have an FFL (Federal Firearms License), you’re in the business of selling guns, and should probably set up a Merchant Account. AuctionMyGun.com works closely with PAI to set gun merchants up with the ability to accept credit cards online. If you’re interested in that, please visit PAI for more details. If you’re in the gun business, I highly recommend being able to accept credit cards online, as paying by credit card for a buyer is usually the easiest way to go.
If you don’t have the ability to accept credit cards, or you aren’t in the business, there’s always the old timey standby of having your buyers mail the payment to you. Your buyer can mail a check or postal money order after the gun has sold, and once their payment has cleared, you can ship the gun. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t ship the gun until after the payment has cleared. It’s very difficult to retrieve your gun or payment after the fact. Make sure you’re paid before anything goes out.
While your gun is listed, potential buyers may have a question or two that comes your way. Try to answer those questions promptly and accurately. AuctionMyGun.com allows you to control what other people see when someone sends you a message. If the question that gets asked is something that you might have forgotten during the listing process, you can make the question and response public. That way, someone else who has the same question will see that it has been answered.
Any website worth it’s salt will have a feedback system that allows buyers and sellers to rate the transaction. You should leave feedback on your buyer after you’re certain the sale is completed. For the most part, you should be leaving positive feedback on someone. If you got paid in a timely fashion for your gun and the buyer didn’t return the gun, a Positive post from you is in order. It’s also not out of line for you to send a short note asking for a Positive yourself. If the buyer doesn’t respond, don’t have a fit or go on a stalking rampage. Negative feedback is only for the most egregious violations. In other words, if the buyer fails to pay you, that’s a Negative. If the buyer doesn’t write a paragraph of praise for you, that’s NOT a Negative. That’s not even something normal people complain about.
You’re selling a gun, which presumably means you want somebody to buy your gun. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and make sure you’re giving out the very best information, and very best pictures you can. Make sure everything you want AND everything you’re selling is clearly stated. And make sure that if someone asks a question, you respond. That’s just being polite. It’s not hard. If you do that, you’re going to make money. And you’re going to make the world a happier place.