To Jews new to guns, there’s a misconception that walking into a gun shop is going to feel like stepping into a Catholic Church with your yarmulke
. That concern is misplaced. Most gun shops are very friendly and welcoming, especially to new shooters, and there is absolutely no reason to feel intimidated. Nowadays, with so many people buying their first gun lately, the salespeople are used to “first-timers.”
But remember, when you buy at a gun shop, you’re paying retail. Don’t be a schmuck! Very often gun shops, like pawn shops, might have a good deal on a used gun. But new guns, almost never. So let me explain to you how to save hundreds of dollars. They key is you must understand the concept of an “FFL transfer“.
Once you figure out which make and model of gun you want (gun shops and rental ranges are great for “test drives”), you can shop around on the Internet. I’ve had great success with sites like GunBroker.com, GunsAmerica.com, and GalleryOfGuns.com (try various local zip codes with their GunGenie…). These sites are basically like ebay or craigslist, but with guns!
When you find the gun you want at the best price online, the next step is to find a local FFL transfer agent. An FFL transfer agent is a federally licensed agent who can receive the firearm for you, run the necessary background checks and take care of other legal requirements, and then transfer the gun to you. The charge is usually somewhere between $25 and $50 per transfer, and most gun shops and pawn shops that sell guns will do it, shop around for the best transfer price. Your FFL will communicate with the seller and make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s get crossed. Yes, very often even after you pay shipping and FFL transfer fees you will probably save significantly over the retail price.
Sometimes, just by showing you’re a sophisticated buyer you can negotiate down the price more effectively with the gun shop. If you show them you know you can get the same gun for hundreds less via an FFL transfer from a wholesale Internet dealer, they are more likely to be willing to wheel and deal. Figure you’re break even if you pay a local shop the Internet price plus shipping and FFL fee, plus maybe a little for their trouble.
As for advice from the gun shop sales people, its hit and miss. There are a lot of uninformed jerks who just want to make a commission. A good test is to ask if the salesman is also a certified NRA instructor. However, by and large, I think you’re better off talking with experienced shooters on one of the many Internet forums, and don’t rely on gun shop sales people too much. There are exceptions, and usually its the case that the owner is the guy/gal you want to deal with.
The only real gun shop “etiquette” you need to know is to always ask permission before you dry fire a gun, and ask the safe direction to point it when you do. Also, when the salesman hands you a gun for examination, insist he show you that it is unloaded. Most salesmen will do this automatically, but you’d be surprised how many idiots don’t. Never, ever trust that someone is handing you an unloaded gun unless you’ve seen so yourself…no matter who it is.
Lastly, if you can, it always helps to bring along a knowledgeable chaver (friend)!
UPDATE: Scroll down for Stuart’s comments and advice…excellent insights! As he says, the Internet is the place for accessories like magazines and holsters. Check your local laws (especially in the Peoples’ Republik of Kalifornia) but usually it is perfectly legal to have any non-serialized (usually only one part on the gun bears the serial number) gun part shipped directly to you. The same goes for bulk ammunition purchases, you can save a bundle by ordering online. Several thousand rounds of your favorite ammunition will probably fit in a space no bigger than shoebox in your closet. Occasionally, you can find deals at local gun shows as well.