Buying A Gun Today,
Recently I have been in the market for a compact revolver as a concealed carry piece. My wife and I both have semi-autos that we carry, but are looking to expand our inventory. Here are a few thoughts about the experiences.
One of the few things I have identified with making this new purchase is there are so many places to purchase a new gun and so many opinions it can be complicated, particularly for a new buyer. I have a gun closet full of guns and have bought everywhere from online, to gun shows, to pawn shops, and finally sporting goods and or discount stores.
So, my wife and I both know what we want. We want a small revolver in 38 special +P or 38 special. We want a light-weight frame, with a hammer. Basically we have narrowed the field down to a Charter Arms Undercover Lite, Smith and Wesson Airweight, or Taurus Model 85 Ultra Lite. All good weapons, and really now it all comes down to price for us. By price I don’t necessarily mean cheapest, but I mean most gun for the best value. For example the cheapest I have found the Smith is for $429 at a sporting goods store, but if I could find it for a little less I would probably buy it. My wife likes the feel of the Charter UC Lite, but at the same store it sells for $369. I’ve seen it online for $299. So in that case, all things considered, if I chose to spend my money at the sporting goods store, the Smith is the better deal.
So, with all those choices out there, here is what I would offer the newcomer.
The Discount Store. Thank God I live in Texas and Walmart still sells firearms (unfortunately only long guns). I bought a shotgun there and it was cheaper than anywhere else I could find for the same model. Although I’ve never tested it with a firearm, Walmart has a hell of a return’s policy also. However, I have noticed that the clerk usually has less knowledge of the firearm than I do. If you are new, it may serve you well to do some serious research before buying anything there or any other big discounter (remember when Sears and KMART sold guns).
The Sporting Goods Store. In Texas we have Academy, Dicks Sporting Goods, and if you are near a big city maybe even a Bass Pro Shops, Cabellas, or other huge outfitter. I would argue that the clerks knowledge ranks slightly higher at these stores on the products offered, and the price is usually as competitive. However, maybe it’s just location, but also maybe it is having to pay for the overhead of a huge building, with lots of stuffed animals and waterfalls; but, the same guns in Texas run 40-50 dollars more at the big outdoor outfitters than they do at the local Academy or Dicks. The selection is definitely more at the big catalog outfitter stores, but then again – if the same guns are available at both stores, why pay more.
The Pawn Shop. This is one of my personal favorites. I love Pawn Shopping. It is truly like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, as you never know what you will find in the display case each week. Anyone who prices guns knows that a Pawn Shop always marks a pistol at retail value, even if it is used. Why you ask, because some fool usually will go in and pay it. However, most if not all Pawn Shops will barter with you, having secured a Springfield XD9 for $300 I can attest to that fact. For example, the Smith we are interested in getting is $459 at one of my favorite Pawn Shops in like-new condition. As mentioned above the Sporting Goods store is offering it for $429. I already know, I can go bargain, and maybe get the Pawn Shop down to $400. If so, I’ll buy it. Cash also has a lot of weight at these places for some reason. The trick here is to figure out what would they give someone off the street for the same gun (probably $200 bucks). So they would be more than doubling their money, so negotiate from there. I guess I love these for the surprise and negotiation factor; however, you never can be sure on a used gun how good it was treated. So if you do not know a lot about guns, maybe take an expert with you to judge for wear, tear, and misuse.
Gun Shows. I like these also for similar reasons as the Pawn Shops. The struggle I have had recently is that some of these have been real let downs, while others have been gems. Also, you may have some used one’s that could have similar problems of wear and tear. One thing to factor in if you are traveling – cost of driving to the show, parking, and ticket cost. This could add up to over $20 so keep that in mind on your overall purchase pric
The Gun Store. These usually fall into two categories – strictly the gun store, and the tactical store. As far as product knowledge, wide assortment of product, and service after the sale it is probably hard to beat a gun store. However, most are overpriced. Case in point, the local gun store has the Smith for $479, a full $50 more than the local sporting goods store and twenty more than the full Pawn Shop price. All things considered why would I pay more? A fairly new competitor to this market is the tactical store, although probably not as wide a selection in firearms, the additional kit and gear available is a big draw. Our local Tactical Store is fairly competitively priced, but probably really makes their money on magazines, pants, holsters, knives and other cool gear that is just not available at other stores. One thing I really like about these types of stores is the customer service, knowledge, and the fact they remember you when you come back in. Also, the selection is a big sell. For example, I have found a steal online for a .327 Federal Mag 6 shot revolver. Problem: Walmart, Academy, or any of the Pawn Shops around here do not have this ammo. But the local gun store has it.
Online. Lastly, you can find some great deals online either by auction or a dedicated site that sells guns. Problem, you have to factor in shipping and any of the transfer fees. The Charter I mentioned above is selling for 299 on a gun site out of Texas. Problem, if I factor in tax, twenty bucks for shipping, and twenty bucks or more for a FFL transfer fee to one of the local shops, I may be better off just buying it outright at the store. If you know exactly what you want and can find free or low cost shipping I would consider this a good deal. Finally, you have to know a place that does a reasonable transfer fee. I know of a place in South Carolina that only charges $15 at his tactical store for his transfer fee. Fact is, he knows he cannot compete with the big discounters on guns, but the low transfer fee gets people in the door and then they buy up the tactical gear, ammo, and targets.
Finally, when shopping, you probably get a million opinions. My wife is a good shooter and knows a fair amount about firearms, but some of the advice you get from the so called experts is hilarious. She politely just shakes her head and says OK. The best advice I can give any new comers at the gun buying game is shop around, compare, and get what feels good to you. Best of luck.
GREAT POST CLINT!! thank you-
I live in a small “safe” town in central Texas, last Friday the alarm company called me informing that the alarm was going off. I was near by and got there 10 minutes after the call, the front door was wide open, and police were nowhere near in sight (last time it took them six hours to show up). I had to clear my own house, two floors and 9 rooms five closets and three bathrooms. The thing that was most difficult was not not knowing if someone was going to surprise me, but not being fully confident in my firearm.
I just got a new derringer, and did not spend any time with it on the range. I’ve read about what it could do, but had no idea what it would do in my hands. The alarm did its job and scared away the intruder, no one was in the house, but I will not be int he same situation again – I will be familiar with my gun, I will trust it, and I will trust myself with it.