Getting More Out Of
Selling Guns Online

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Selling guns online isn’t new. Many retailers have their own websites where they list guns and gun parts, and GunBroker.com has been hosting firearms auctions for more than 20 years. With the onset of COVID, however, online sales of everything have skyrocketed, and firearms are not an exception.

Selling 24/7

Chris Mayhall, owner of Intrepid Shooting Sports in Fort Worth, Texas, said maintaining an online site allows him to sell firearms 24 hours a day, and reach customers much farther away than his local community.

“As a local gun store, you’re only going to have customers in about an 8-mile radius,” he noted. “So now, when we get really cool, interesting items, we can share them with the whole country. We can have clients and build relationship in other states. Selling online connects you with more people.”

Having an online presence has allowed Mayhall to take in more of a variety of firearms because he isn’t limited to local clientele.

“We can expand and experiment with different and interesting guns because we can sell nationwide,” he said. “For instance, turkey guns don’t do very well for us here, but they do in other parts of the country.”

Mayhall maintains a number of listings on GunBroker.com at all times. He uses GunBroker.com because he feels it gets the widest exposure of any of the online auction sites.

“GunBroker.com gets the most eyeballs,” he confirmed. “We’ve sold on some other websites, but it just seems like the interface with GunBroker.com is the most streamlined, and it gets the most traffic of all those websites.”

One downside to selling guns online, Mayhall declared, is the price point for new guns.

“When it’s the newest, hottest item — the most recent example being the Springfield SA-35 — right when it gets released, everybody wants them,” he said. “The MSRP on the SA-35 is $699, but you couldn’t find one on GunBroker.com for less than $1,000 at first — and it continues to be like that. When they’re new and hot, they’re really good. But fast-forward eight months to when hot SKUs are all over the place and everyone who wanted one has gotten one, then I have to compete with 500 other people who have the same gun at the same price.”

Mayhall believes GunBroker.com tends to get saturated with drop-shippers.

“Dealing with that is the biggest challenge for local gun stores,” he asserted. “They never physically possess the firearm, and they didn’t have to buy it until it’s sold. I don’t know how you compete against someone who doesn’t care about their profit margins.”

ADDED Volume Brings Added Revenue

Richard Sprague, owner of Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz., has been selling firearms on Guns.com since the middle of 2021. He shared the main reason for selling guns online is added volume.

“With added volume comes added revenue,” he said. “I think a lot of gun shops are going this way; it’s just the way commerce is evolving. And customers are coming to expect it — you need to be in this space. You need to have your in-store inventory online and you need to advertise in specialty areas.”

Sprague has taken a three-pronged approach to selling online. First, he has his own website (spragues.com). He also has an affiliation through Gearfire, so he has an online shop there.

“Our Gearfire shop contains our live inventory from the store, and also what’s available from us,” he said. “If you want to survive and thrive, you have to take a multidisciplinary approach like this.”

The third leg of Sprague’s internet-marketing stool is through Guns.com.

“They have a great marketing platform and a great domain name that’s pretty hard to beat,” he stated. “They offer a white-glove service to both the retailer and the consumer. They deal with brick-and-mortar stores only, and they take a lot of the headaches out of transfers.”

Guns.com has arrangements with many FFLs to handle transfers so customers don’t have to search for an FFL to handle a transfer for a firearm purchased online.

“Shipping also is not a concern,” Sprague added. “It’s all included in the sale. Guns.com is very efficient, reliable and easy to work with.”

Guns.com started in 2011 as a place where firearms enthusiasts could go for news, product reviews and information on issues affecting the gun community. It gradually evolved into an online marketplace based on ease of use and convenience to both the customer and the retailer.

“Jeff Tesch, their director of business development, has 20 years in the industry and knows it inside and out,” Sprague said. “Our association with them has worked out really well.”

Bottom Line Boost

Sprague shared adding an online segment to his business has improved his bottom line in several ways. One, it’s a good avenue by which to clear out excess inventory.

“Sometimes you realize you only need two of something — rather than the six you have on the shelf,” he informed. “Selling items like it online can add up to real money.”

Having an online presence also gives you broader exposure for unusual or hard-to-find items.

“ With added volume comes added revenue. I think a lot of gun shops are going this way; it’s just the way commerce is evolving. And customers are coming to expect it — you need to be in this space. You need to have your in-store inventory online and you need to advertise in specialty areas.”

Richard Sprague, Owner Sprague’s Sports, Yuma, Ariz.

“Selling online gives you more opportunity for it than your local market does,” Sprague observed. “All of this has the potential to add up fairly quickly to 10% or more of your gross revenues. But it depends on how much time and attention you pay to it. The broader an inventory selection you have, the better you’ll do.”

Retailers need to go into online sales with an understanding of the costs involved, Sprague advised.

“You need to know what’s needed to maintain your operation,” he counseled. “If you don’t like the price being offered or if it doesn’t fit your business model at the time — because it’s an average or an aggregate price of dealers who have guns for sale — then you don’t have to sell there. Just pass on the opportunity.”

Sprague expects online gun sales to remain a valuable constant in the store’s business model.

“Our customers seem to like it,” he said. “I’m really pleased with it so far. It accounts for up to 10% of our sales on a monthly basis. We’d like to increase it, but with realistic expectations as the market changes.”

A New Option

Gunspot (gunspot.com), owned by Midwest Tactical, is another auction site available to elevate the online segment of your business.

Mike Winkle, Midwest Tactical operations manager, said Midwest Tactical was selling on other auction sites, but the high fees and poor communication they experienced on those sites frustrated their staff. So, they purchased a website that included a page where users could list up to three firearms for sale and improved it, which started Gunspot.

“We’ve set up Gunspot so it’s more affordable, high-tech and secure than other sites, and has actual customer service,” Winkle noted. “All of this means more money in the seller’s pocket because our fees are lower than other sites’.”

Winkle shared Midwest Tactical has set up the website software to provide a service platform — meaning lower prices to buyers.

“Other sites are set up as marketplace facilitators, so they have to charge sales tax,” he said. “But, because we’re renting space to customers to market and sell their items, we’re a lot like Square and we don’t have to charge sales tax. We’re trying to be a Second Amendment-friendly website providing people with an interactive platform that allows them to buy and sell in this really competitive market and pay less for their guns. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

For more info, visit:
gearfire.com
gunbroker.com
guns.com
gunspot.com

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