103 Gun Show Tips by J.S.T. Andrews

Attending a gun show can be quite the experience even for veteran firearm enthusiasts. Whether you’re there to buy, sell or trade at gun & knife shows it’s always good to be prepared. If you’re not already planning a trip to the gun show, now is the time to start!

Gun Show & Knife Basics

  1. Call Ahead. It’s ALWAYS best practice to call ahead to verify dates, times and the location.
  2. Be Polite. It will go a long way to provide a great show experience for everyone involved.
  3. Safety. Make sure all firearms are unloaded and secure. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Top Ten Tips for Firearm Safety)
  4. Guns Aren’t Toys. Don’t treat them like ones.
  5. Respect. Return firearms, knives and merchandise the way you found it.
  6. Empty your magazine(s). Even if your carry is open and secured with a tie your magazine should be empty of ammo.
  7. Wire Ties. Many promoters require all firearms to be wire-tied through the action.
  8. Check in your firearm(s). Many times it’s required to check your firearm(s) in at the front door.
  9. Properly handle firearm(s). Nothing is worse than pointing a firearm (even if it’s unloaded and the action is open) at someone.
  10. Open the Action. Every time you handle a firearm check the action to ensure it’s unloaded.
  11. Don’t Sweep! Never point the barrel towards someone.
  12. It’s Sharp! Don’t ever touch the blade or edge of a knife.
  13. It’ll Snap! Never close a folding knife hard. Not only can you seriously injure yourself, but it can break the handle or backspring.
  14. One Blade. Only ever open a single blade at a time (including multi-bladed knives).
  15. Never Interfere. Don’t interfere in a deal between a buyer and seller. Do not comment on any interaction that is not your own.
  16. Know the State Laws. No Excuses.
  17. City and County Laws. Sometimes they are different. Check local ordinances before attending a show.
  18. Practice proper safety for firearms left in your vehicle. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Firearms Safety in Vehicles)


Gun Shows Tips for Attendees

  1. Show Up Early. Some of the best sales and deals will happen in the early hours of the show.
  2. Check Everything. Don’t stop at the first table you see. Check the entire show before making a purchase.
  3. On the Contrary, also show up the last few hours of the show. Many vendors will have last-minute specials. (The less they have to bring home the better.)
  4. Take Cash. Cash is king and sometimes it can help to get you a better deal
  5. Not all venues have an ATM readily available.
  6. Many vendors will not accept checks.
  7. Some vendors will charge a 3% to 4% fee on credit card purchases.
  8. Dress for the occasion. Is the gun show outside or inside? Make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes.
  9. Bring a small dolly. Ammo is heavy. If you plan on purchasing a lot of ammo make sure you have the means to transport it.
  10. Wear a backpack (when permitted). This helps keep your hands free while browsing.
  11. Drink Water. You can easily fit a few bottles of water in your backpack. It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated. Time flies when you’re at a good show.
  12. Find a Coupon. Sometimes gun show promoters will provide a coupon in a local newspaper or ad.
  13. Have identification readily available. 99% of the time you will be asked to provide a government-issued ID when purchasing a firearm.
  14. Bring your CCL. Depending on state laws and the type of firearm you purchase, this can allow you to walk out the same day with your new firearm.
  15. Ask. If there’s an item you’re looking for, ask the dealer. Sometimes they have it behind the table or you simply passed over it.
  16. Talk to the seller. Adding another firearm to your collection is always good! Make it even end better by getting to know the vendor. It’s possible you might even up to making a lasting relationship (and get good deals from it!).
  17. Don’t Touch! Often vendors will have a “Don’t Touch without permission” sign. Please respect it.
  18. Ask before handling. Even without the presence of a sign, it’s not always best practice to open the action on every gun you see a vendor selling. In many states, vendors are required to secure every firearm that’s on display (Thus all but negating Tip #4). Ask the vendor if it’s “okay” to handle the firearm.
  19. Don’t Grab. Unless an item is being handed to you, never take it from the dealer’s hand.
  20. Serious Inquiries Only. Don’t ask the dealer to cut the zip-tie if you have no intentions of buying the firearm.
  21. Don’t dry-fire. Sometimes this can damage the firing pin on a firearm. Ask the seller for permission and do a safety check.
  22. Haggle. Don’t be afraid to try and get a better deal. What’s the worst they will say, “No”?
  23. Sometimes it’s a game. This expands on the previous tip because some dealers really do love to haggle.
  24. Don’t Be Rude. If you throw out a ridiculous offer to a dealer, more than likely you’ll get laughed at.
  25. Bring a Calculator (or your phone). Don’t trust your math. Don’t trust the dealer’s math. Don’t trust your buddy’s math. Use. The. Calculator.
  26. Price Check. Use your phone; check other dealers for better deals.
  27. Internet Pricing. Keep in mind that prices on the internet are not always the “best”. Many times additional fees are added including shipping, handling, transfer fees, etc… Also, know that if you can’t pick up the gun in person it usually has to be shipped to a local FFL (more fees).
  28. Be Patient. If you’re in a rush you’ll most likely miss the best deals.
  29. Wholesale. Keep in mind when selling your firearm that the dealer buying it has to re-sell it.
  30. Be Reasonable. Remember that even though you may have paid $500 for your item last month, last year, or 10 years ago does not mean it still holds the same value.
  31. Rarity is King. Many collectors will go crazy over extremely rare firearms.
  32. Bulk Pricing. Often Dealers will offer bulk discounts on ammo.
  33. Buy Accessories. From working gun shows as a dealer, I know it’s not always possible to give a discount on a firearm. However, throwing in a holster, cleaning kit or accessory was usually applicable.
  34. Consider Storage.As a gun owner, you have plenty of options for proper firearm storage. Pick the one that’s right for you. (Resource: Project ChildSafe’s Gun Storage Infographic)
  35. Don’t Believe everything you hear. Dealers are salesmen and sometimes may tell you anything you wish to hear.
  36. Inform Yourself. Do research before you attend a show.
  37. Inspect Before You Buy. Be sure everything is in working order.
  38. No Refunds. In most cases, it’s all but impossible to get a refund. This mainly has to do with legal issues, among other reasons.
  39. Sell To Dealers. Do not try to sell your items to other attendees unless you have paid for a vending table. It’s acceptable to sell to dealers at the show, but if you find a private seller get their contact information and talk to them after the show.
  40. Parking. Some shows/venues have a parking fee.


Gun Shows Tips for Vendors/Dealers

  1. Show up on time. This may sound like a “no-brainer,” but I’ve attended gun shows where 20% of the dealers didn’t show up until noon.
  2. Be Knowledgeable. Know the items you’re selling. Nothing is worse than talking to a dealer who doesn’t know what type of action the firearm has.
  3. Be a Teacher. Many times you will get first-time gun owners at your table(s). Help teach them the right way of being a responsible gun owners .
  4. Deals aren’t always on your table. Keep an eye out for attendees looking to sell their items.
  5. Don’t Snatch! Unless an attendee is handing you an item, don’t snatch it from their hands.
  6. Have Accessories. Everyone needs ammo, a holster, safe, and cleaning supplies to go with their new firearm!
  7. Bulk Discounts. Sometimes you’ll get buyers looking to buy ammo (and sometimes firearms) in bulk. Accommodate them and get the sale.
  8. Shop around. Most shows will have early hours for vendors to set up. Use this time wisely to “scope out” your competition.
  9. Be presentable. First impressions are everything. If you don’t look the part, many sales will simply walk by without even glancing at your inventory.
  10. Tablecloths. While most shows provide the tables they are often not in the best shape. Purchase a few “nice” tablecloths to make your “shop” look better.
  11. Signs. There’s an endless array of signs to make and/or purchase for your table(s). At the very least, have one large sign to help buyers find you.
  12. Display the Price. I know, another “no-brainer,” but you would not believe the number of dealers that refuse to display prices. The majority of buyers won’t even ask about prices if they aren’t marked… no matter how badly they want the item. It is perceived as “shady” to many.
  13. Lighting. Some halls will be dark. It’s always great to bring extra lighting (if the show permits).
  14. Business Cards. It’s always good to have business cards handy. Even in the technology-driven world, we live in a good old business card that can go a long way.
  15. Wire-ties. Often gun shows require all vendors to wire-tie all firearms. Be sure to bring extra in case they break or you end up purchasing firearms.
  16. Accept Credit Cards. It’s so easy to accept a credit card payment these days. All you need is a Clover Flex to collect the charges.
  17. Bring Extra Cash. Sometimes you’ll have to break larger bills than anticipated, or you might find a few deals you can’t pass up. It’s always good to have a little extra cash.
  18. Negotiate. Everyone wants to feel special when they purchase an item. Help them purchase it by making them feel special with extras and/or a better price.
  19. Be Trustworthy. Not only will it help you with initiating sales, but with repeating sales as well.
  20. Have Specials. If it’s a multi-day show have a different special each day.
  21. Stay until the end. I can’t tell you how many times a dealer has missed a sale because they packed up early.
  22. Bring an Assistant. There will be times that you are extremely busy and need some extra help. It also helps for bathroom breaks and the accumulated knowledge.
  23. Bring a Friend. If you can’t bring/hire an assistant, bring a friend.
  24. Pack Food. If you don’t have someone assisting you to bring snacks and a lunch to help you throughout the day.
  25. Know Your Neighbor. You’ll be next to these people for the duration of the show. Get to know them.
  26. Book Early. It’s always good to secure your spot. Some promoters will even offer better placement for those who book early.
  27. Bring a Cart or Dolly. Not all venues will have a way to transport your merchandise inside the show. Buy a cart or dolly to help make your life easier.


Gun Show for Tips Promoters/Organizers

  1. List your Gun Show! This is free and it provides you with great exposure!
  2. Contact Information. Have multiple ways that both attendees and vendors can get in contact with you (also provide this information to the Gun Show Trader).
  3. List Show Hours. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a gun show that doesn’t list the times.
  4. Location. Location. Location. I can’t begin to tell you how many wonderful flyers I’ve seen that include everything… except where the show is held.
  5. Feature Your Gun Show! Tell us that you appreciate our hard work and reward yourself by becoming a featured event.
  6. Provide Coupons. Everyone loves a good deal.
  7. Give Stamps. Often times you’ll have repeat customers. Stamp the hands of attendees to allow them a return visit for free! (This will greatly benefit you at future shows)
  8. Children are Free! Not all attendees are able to leave their kids at home or get a sitter.
  9. Discounts. Provide discounts for Active Military, Retired Military, Law Enforcement Officers, NRA Recruiters, etc…
  10. Treat your attendees as your friends. If your attendees are happy they’ll bring their friends and make for happy vendors.
  11. Vendors are customers too. Nothing is worse than attending an empty gun show. Treat your vendors with respect and they’ll keep signing up for shows.
  12. Local Advertising. This is still a great way to promote your shows whether it’s through billboards or newspapers.
  13. Internet Advertising. There are great ways to get more attention for your gun shows via banner ads on credible website.
  14. Tweet About It. Tweet with us and we’ll retweet your shows!
  15. CCL Classes. Dealers love it. Attendees show up just for it. Not to mention it’s another source of revenue.
  16. Early Bird Hours. This helps get the dedicated enthusiasts in the show early.
  17. Update Your Information. If anything ever changes on your gun show be sure to inform us. We’ll be happy to make any changes to your listing(s).

Most Important Tip

  1. Don’t be a Jerk. No one wants to deal with a jerk.

All in all gun shows can be a great experience. This is just a general guideline. Let me know your thoughts on these tips and if you’d like to see more.

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