Gun Dealers: A Complete Guide to Selling Firearms Online

Posted by: Alyssa Serres on 31 Dec, 2019

Selling firearms online is a polarizing topic. It can be jarring to the uninformed public that weapons are available for sale on the internet. However, selling firearms online is a great way for manufacturers and dealers to provide their products to qualified citizens that would otherwise be unable to get access to them through their local gun dealer. But, it’s not as easy or simple as ordering toilet paper on Amazon. Manufacturers know that they must continue to follow strict laws and regulations while selling firearms on the digital frontier; however, 3rd party policies can make setting up your online firearm store difficult and can greatly affect your strategy and grow your business.  

If you’re not selling online because you don’t understand the process, are worried that the changing tides of digital dealings may be a risk to your business, or that adding this revenue stream could be cumbersome to your staff, it’s important to look at the business model as a whole and weigh your options. While adding an online store to your firearms manufacturing business is work, it can help you grow your business and allow you to take advantage of some unique opportunities.  

Why is Selling Your Firearms Online a Winning Strategy?

If you’re already working with a distributor, it can be a fine line to walk when deciding to sell your firearms direct-to-consumer. Obviously, you’re going to be making higher margins selling at retail than you are at wholesale, but you do need to take into account your distributor and dealer relationships before you wade into these waters. Selling directly to your customers is a great way to ensure the qualified citizens that want your firearms are able to buy them, but you do not want to compromise wholesale or retailer relationships to pick up a few low-volume, high-margin sales. Not all dealers sell, carry, or have access to every firearm you make, however by including local FFL’s in the logistics, a customer will be able to pick up their firearm locally and provide a sale to the dealer through ancillaries like ammo, cases, cleaning kits, etc. By setting up an online store for your firearms, you may increase your reach and open an untapped revenue stream.

Who can Sell Firearms on the Internet? 

Independent gun store owners and manufacturers can sell their firearms online. The process, for the customer, is hardly different than buying a firearm in a brick and mortar gun shop. The only real difference is where the transaction takes place. Internet firearm sales follow a highly regulated pipeline. 

  1. The firearm is bought directly from the seller’s eCommerce website by the customer. 
  2. The customer must provide the seller with a valid FFL, Federal Firearms Licensed dealer at the point of sale. 
  3. The seller will then ship the firearm to the licensed gun dealer. 
  4. Once the firearm arrives at the dealer’s shop, the customer must go to the gun store, perform a background check, and adhere to any mandatory wait periods that may exist. These wait periods are dependent on state laws and the type of firearm purchased. 
  5. Once approved, the customer may return to the gun store and take their newly purchased firearm home. 

If you are an independent gun store or manufacturer with an eCommerce store the process is identical to transferring a gun to another gun store. Understand that it is on the buyer to provide the FFL. Make it a required field in your checkout process. 

How can you tell you’re selling to a qualified citizen?

As an online seller, you will not know if the person buying your firearm is qualified to own one. The buyer’s qualification will be determined by the FFL dealer during the background check. If the buyer isn’t qualified to purchase a firearm as a result of their background check, a restocking fee is commonly charged to the buyer. 

Tips for Firearm eCommerce Website Setup 

Your website needs to be as intuitive and logical as possible to facilitate sales and grow your online retail business. Understand that your audience is in the consideration phase of their buyer’s journey and will be looking for as many facts as possible. Be sure to educate and draw them through your website to build trust and encourage the sale. 

Be Clear With The Process

Be extremely clear about the process of purchasing a firearm online. On-page disclaimers in the form of pop-ups or static page content is a great way to get your point across before the conversion. After the sale, an automated email sequence detailing the next steps, shipping information, and expectations upon arrival to the FFL dealer ensures you’ve provided excellent service and important details directly to your customers.  

New customers should understand that buying a firearm on the internet does not nullify a background check. Point out that they will be subjected to a standard background check for EVERY firearm purchase – just as they would have to if the firearm was purchased directly from their local FFL dealer.

Ensure that the FFL field is required 

You need this information to ship the firearm, making it a required field in the checkout process ensures that the customer will provide you with their preferred FFL. They will not receive their firearm otherwise. 

Create Clear Policies For Authorized and Unauthorized Returns 

In a situation where a gun is not sold, it’s up to you to make sure that you have a very clear return policy. If the buyer requests permission to return the firearm, the necessary paperwork can be easily completed and the firearm can be resold. Unauthorized returns cause extra legwork and should be priced accordingly. You will also need to determine who will incur return shipping costs. This information is best served on a “Support” page and can be a helpful detail to include in your after-sale email sequence. 

Choose the Right Technology

Firearms dealers and manufacturers understand better than most businesses that political tides can shift their industry. Everyone from banks, credit card processors and even eComm platforms can pull their programs, products, and support with little notice. Having first-hand experience with “controversial” eComm sites being removed from various platforms, we recommend building your firearms site with open source technology. This way you own your website, and you can rest assured that your digital property won’t be taken from you should some executive change their political views and company policy. 

Open Source eCommerce CMSs:
WooCommerce
X-Cart
ZenCart
OpenCart
Magento 

Scaling Up your Shipping and Receiving Department 

Selling direct-to-consumer may increase the workload of your shipping and receiving departments. Where your crew is used to sending large quantities to distributors, you will be doing the work of shipping single firearms directly to dealers. Which means you’ll need to train your staff on how this process works and what is required of them. Determine if this is a full-time position or if this is something your current team can handle by tracking the volume of firearms you’re selling directly. If you’re a large manufacturer and your products are widely distributed, it’s likely that you’ll be selling one-offs to underserved markets and your current set-up will suffice. If it impacts your distribution workflow, you should invest in additional support to keep every customer happy. 

Selling firearms is a highly regulated trade, selling them online is no different. Creating a website that is intuitive to use and sets clear expectations for new and existing customers can create a trustworthy source of information and quality firearms. To find success online, be open and clear with your process, and provide genuine customer support, and use open source technology to support your site, that way it can never be withheld or taken away as political tides ebb and flow. Make sure that your staff is aware of this change. Create clear processes to ensure your workflow is uninterrupted and be ready to increase your support staff as your online retail business takes off. 

If you are curious about how to best begin selling your firearms online, give us a call. Our unique experience in this industry positions us to help your business grow.