By Marvin Marroquin • Updated: 03/01/2023 • 8 min read
If you’re ready to buy your first gun, or maybe just looking to add to your collection, you might be able to score a great deal at a gun show. Gun prices can fluctuate over time so you may be asking yourself if they’re actually cheaper at a gun show.
Gun shows often offer great deals from either a private seller or licensed dealer. You’ll want to do your homework beforehand to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. The ability to negotiate can go a long away to finding a great deal. Just keep in mind, there is no set formula for pricing guns at gun shows.
Let’s look at some of factors that contribute to gun prices and where to look for deals. There will be many local Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealers and private sellers looking to sell and trade guns and ammunition. Make sure you do your due diligence so you don’t get ripped off and burned on something that you thought was a deal.
Cheaper isn’t always better
Let’s just get this out the way, if you’re looking to simply buy a cheap gun … just don’t. Save up the extra money for a great gun you can rely on. There are many guns on the market that are known for having issues. You want to know which ones to stay away from. Don’t be enticed by a gun that costs $200 without knowing exactly what to look for.
If there ever comes a time when you need to depend on a gun to defend yourself or a loved one, that is not the time to find out how reliable a cheap gun can be. You don’t want to have to wonder whether the gun will malfunction when you need it. Having that in the back of your mind can bring in fear and hesitation when you need it. You want to be confident that you’re carrying a solid and reliable weapon that you know will get the job done every time.
With that said, you can absolutely find a great gun that is cheaper than retail at a gun show. In fact, that is part of the reason for gun shows. It’s a great opportunity for a gun dealer to introduce themselves to the community. Having a sale on guns will attract buyers to a dealers’ booth. I remember my first time at a gun show that a friend invited me to. He introduced me to a dealer he frequented all the time and I was able to walk away with my very first gun, a Glock 23 with an IWB holster for $400. The retail on the gun alone was $470 at the time.
Market demands control prices
All new guns at an FFL dealer will have an MSRP tag, but there are times you may end up paying more. You have to consider the market demands at the time of purchase. Are politicians talking about passing new gun control legislation? Has there been more frequent mass shootings in the media? Is there are shortage on guns and ammunition? All these can contribute to higher gun prices.
As it always is with election season, politicians start ramping up the gun control talk. One candidate expresses many times that he will be pushing for stricter national gun control laws if elected. Also, there have been riots and looting in many cities across the country. All these things have caused a spike in gun purchases, so much that it has become very hard to get guns and ammunition at one point. With the increase in demand and a shortage in supply comes higher prices.
These factors will determine what would be considered a good deal on a particular gun. For example, if a new Glock 19 usually retails for $470, but is currently being marked up to $550, then finding one at $500 is considered a great deal at the time. Even though you’re paying more than MSRP, you’re actually paying less than the current market value. These are important factors to consider.
Cost of guns from a FFL dealer
Dealers have access to many guns. In addition to new guns, they also have a vast selection of used guns. Here, the cost of guns only vary slightly. There may be a few sales anywhere from 10-20% below MSRP. At times they may be looking to off load a particular gun model to make room for the updated model. When Smith & Wesson released the M&P M2.0, they stopped production on the M&P 9c, effectively causing them to go on sale to make room for the newer model.
FFL dealers aren’t exactly known for finding deals on new guns. However, used guns are a different story. Some used guns could be trade-ins from customers purchasing new guns. Others may even be on consignment from locals looking to sell, figuring they could get more eyes on it at a gun store. You’ll want to do your research to know what guns are solid and reliable regardless of the fact it’s used. Guns from manufacturers such as Glock, Smith & Wesson, and Kimber have a reputation for high quality reliability.
If you’re considering a rifle, and are comfortable enough to build one, it’s easier to source new parts at great deals. Seasonality, such as Black Friday deals, definitely helps with pricing. After the Sandy Hook Massacre, although gun prices sharply increased I was able to build an AR-15 for $500 while complete ones were being sold for at least $900. There are always deals to be had on new guns, no matter how small, the key is to be patient.
Finally, when it comes to FFL dealers, don’t always simply look at the price. I recently purchased a Glock 43X at MSRP, but the dealer included a free month membership to their gun range, a $50 gift card, 15% off 3 items at the store, and a 25 round box of Hornady Critical Defense ammo. That’s over $100 in goodies I didn’t have to pay for. Keep an eye out for deals in other ways, not simply the price.
Cost of guns from a private seller
Private gun sales are where the real deals can be found. There are many reasons why a private seller would heavily discount a gun. Private sales often allow buyers and sellers to avoid fees associated with FFL dealers. This will make the transaction cheaper for both parties involved, particularly for buyers who may not have the resources to purchase from a licensed dealer.
Private sales also allow both parties involved to maintain a degree of privacy that may not be possible with FFL dealers, because, well … they’re done in private. This benefits both parties who value their privacy and don’t want to have a record of their firearm purchase/sale. This is especially true for vintage or collector guns that is no longer in production which may be worth more on the private market due to its rarity.
Private sales can offer more flexibility than licensed dealers, especially when it comes to negotiating the price or the terms of the sale. A seller that is highly motivated to sell a gun quickly is likely to accept a much lower price than a seller who isn’t in a rush to sell. Prices may be also be higher in areas where there’s a high demand for particular guns, such as areas with a strong hunting culture or where there are fewer restrictions on gun ownership.
Should you buy a used gun?
Most of my gun purchases have actually been used guns. I find that it’s a lot easier to buy and sell/trade used guns than it is to do the same with a depreciated new gun. It’s a lot more cost effective since most used guns hold their value pretty well. For example, Glocks can be purchased used for around $400 consistently. They are great guns to try out, carry for a time, run them at the range for thousands of rounds, then resell them for the same exact price.
As I previously mentioned, there are some manufacturers that I wouldn’t think twice about buying used. Of course, you’ll want to inspect them for significant wear or damage if there have been tens of thousands of rounds through them. Some common parts of a gun that will naturally wear over time are recoil and magazine springs, firing pins, extractors, barrels, and sights. Any major wear or damage on these parts will significantly reduce the price when negotiating.
As you can see, there’s no clear cut answer as to whether guns are cheaper at gun shows. Discounted prices can absolutely be found, but there’s an array of factors that determine what’s considered a deal. With such an important purchase, it’s important to do your research and inspect the firearm carefully before making a purchase. If you’re considering a used gun, you should also be aware of any relevant laws and regulations governing the sale and ownership of guns in your area.