Business Partners
For “Pariah” Dealers


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Over the past month, we’ve published a series of articles from primarily home-based FFL dealers who have asked why some industry manufacturers and distributors have refused to do business with them — rendering them as “pariahs.”

One letter, in particular, provided an idea for this follow-up: Home-based dealer Ben White of BJW FFL in Tempe, Ariz., charged us with identifying who will do business with home-based FFLs.

“It seems odd to me the shooting industry is consumed with the FAIR legislation to be sure banks service FFLs but then seems oblivious to discrimination in their own industry,” he said. “If you really support all FFLs, then specifically call out those distributors who won’t sell to non-retail FFLs and praise those who do. Otherwise this is all a lot of talk and sympathy — but no action.”

Rather than using this space to call out those who won’t do business with home-based, we thought it would be more productive to take the opportunity to highlight those who do. (But, as you’ll note below, not everyone is comfortable publicly announcing which vendors give them business.)

The Best Offer The Best

A New Hampshire home-based dealer who requested to be identified by his initials, B.M., has 1,500 residents in his town and 2,000 in the neighboring area. He shared while other businesses have tried (and failed) to operate as brick-and-mortar stores in this rural area, his home-based “by appointment only” business has fared well — securing relationships with three prominent distributors.

“The other articles have dealers complaining most distributors won’t sell to them. That’s not true at all — most will, only a few won’t,” he stated. “The irony here: I have tried them all — including those who refuse to sell to home-base dealers — and the best distributors, with the best terms and prices, are also the three largest distributors who will sell to home-based FFLs: Davidson’s, Lipsey’s and, especially, Zanders.”

“I’m eternally grateful to Lipsey’s, Davidson’s, Chattanooga and Zanders as wholesalers and to Aero Precision and Ballistic,” added Gabe Herald, owner of GH Arms LLC. “They keep me in business and provide excellent products for my customers.”

Advantage Of Personalization

Jeff Wood, operations manager at Xcalibur Arms, also singled out Davidson’s and Zanders for praise.

“I commend places like Davidson’s and Zanders for being smart enough and friendly enough to realize there are a ton of us out there and they know how we work. Hats off to them,” he said.

Wood offered a rebuke to wholesalers who haven’t been as accommodating.

“I believe the wholesalers really just want to deal with places that have huge volume and not just a few guns a week or month or sporadic type sales. But what they don’t realize is, us small ‘mom and pop’ shops provide personal one-on-one service and most all of our customers are repeat customers. We provide a level of personalization the bigger shops don’t. On top of that, we don’t sell to just anyone. We’re more selective on who we sell to which, I believe, makes the transaction and industry more safe!”

He continued, “The arrogance of these wholesalers who think their volume sales is better than personalization and safety is going to bite them some day because they have built up their sales model on such volume that when some day that volume goes down, they will be hurting to the point that they will have to close, and us small guys wont be there to support them.”

“I commend places like Davidson’s and Zanders for being smart enough and friendly enough to realize there are a ton of us out there and they know how we work. Hats off to them.”

Jeff Wood, Xcalibur Arms Operations Manager

A Drawback Of Limited Partners

Taylor Cooper was a CCW instructor in Minnesota and elected to apply for an FFL license to offer greater flexibility to customers trying out prospective firearms on the range. He recently moved his home-based business, Midstate Armory, to rural Kentucky and highlighted Lipsey’s as a crucial partner — but it comes with a drawback.

“Lipsey’s is the only distributor that would even give me the time of day. The issue I have with this is I have no options when it comes to getting my customers the best price and the right firearm. If Lipsey’s is out of stock, so am I.”

Cooper also pointed out, with Lipsey’s being his only distributor, he’s unable to access exclusives or special edition firearms available from other wholesalers.

“What this leads to is, the big-box stores get specific models at a discounted price,” he observed. “They can essentially edge me out on pricing or I have to sell at MAP, which is often 5–10% over cost. There aren’t a lot of industries that can have sustainable businesses on a 5–10% margin, unless they’re selling large quantities.

“Not only is it difficult for us, as home-based FFLs, to adhere to the regulations of the ATF, but then we have to fight against our industry supply chain, too.”

Staying Afloat

Steve Golla, a home-based gunsmith and 07 manufacturer/dealer FFL holder, operates Twin Oaks Custom Gunsmithing in Tidioute, Pa. He contends being “locked out” by some of the major distributors and manufacturers has put his business at a disadvantage to the brick-and-mortar stores.

“Luckily some of our accounts are with companies like Aero Precision, Davidson’s and Lipsey’s that will deal with us to help keep us afloat,” he said.

Golla continued with a sentiment expressed by other home-based FFLs: “This industry is tough enough with all of the outside political pressure trying to shut us down and strip our rights. So when a distributor or manufacturer refuses to deal with us little guys it just shows me they’re more interested in dealing with high-volume, high-dollar sales than working together to drive the industry forward.”


Not everyone wants to publicize their relationships with industry partners: a dealer who requested to remain anonymous has been in business for 12 years “somewhere in Texas.” He said he’s been able to cultivate these relationships with vendors because they haven’t realized he’s a home-based operation.

“Shhhhhh! Some of us who have been with certain distributors and manufacturers for over a decade don’t want to advertise who we are and share who deals with home-based dealers because many of our reps haven’t shared with their companies we’re home-based and not brick-and-mortar. If they did, we would be dropped by the distributor or manufacturer and that wouldn’t be good for our reps. They have developed relationships with us over many years, and have been able to count on our reliable share of business they receive from us.”

He’s experienced firsthand when a vendor discovers his home-based business model.

“Many manufacturers have started requiring distributors to do their dirty work to weed out dealers who want to be able to represent their product. I cater to a lot of high-end clients who like high-price quality firearms systems and would buy $2,500-$6,000 optics from a renowned manufacturer. I sold tens of thousands of dollars of these scopes, but because I didn’t have a storefront like Walmart or Academy Sports with the cheaper traditional hunting scopes, they won’t allow me to buy their scopes or even have access to study the inventory of their scopes with distributors,” he said.

Readers, this topic continues to generate a significant amount of discussion — where should we take this topic next? If you would like to have your voice heard, send an email to