The GRIM Future of Retail Firearm Sales in the U.S.A.

by Jim Shults

The GRIM Future of Retail Firearm Sales in the U.S.A.
The GRIM Future of Retail Firearm Sales in the U.S.A.

Ammoland Shooting SportsU.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- When reading through a recent copy of Forbes, I keyed in on an article about major brick and mortar retailers having problems (to say the least) with losses to internet sales. You see, my wife and I had just been in a Dillard's store in Scottsdale's Fashion Mall. This huge (I would guess 200,000 square feet per floor), multi-level store was packed with costly inventory, cost a lot to operate – and had just eight customers in it (including us). When I questioned employees, they said the Internet was killing the store.

I go into our local Cabela's during the week and wonder how they do it – or if they really are. In Phoenix, Dick's Sporting Goods big box store was so empty of customers we rattled around like BBs in a box car. This is not good!

Put yourself in a retailer's place. Typically, you may have several hundred to several thousand different SKUs (stock keeping units) in your store. This means you have a boatload of money tied up in inventory – and that leftover store inventory also gets taxed (inventory tax) at the end of the year in most states[10] (something few folks know).

Couple this world of retail competition with the costs of payroll, mortgage or rent, city and county property taxes, property insurance for fire, theft, and liability – and then add water, electric, heat, cooling, displays, upkeep, security, marketing/advertising, and theft (shrinkage), and you can see how a retailer's cost problems grow exponentially.

To keep it simple, let's look at payroll. For this example, we will set employee base pay at $15 per hour (it can be more or less but let's just go with this number–please do not pick on the author). Now add in the employer's silent share (payroll tax made up of FICA and Medicare), unemployment tax, workman's compensation, and other costs and fees in any particular state regarding an employee, and suddenly this “$15 per hour” employee becomes a per-hour cost to the employer of about $21 per employee – and that doesn't even count health insurance.

So what does just this extra “puny” $6 ($21 minus $15= $6 for those in Loma Linda) an hour represent in cost to the employer for a full-time employee – more than $12,000 annually! This figure also does not include any employer profit sharing, IRAs or simple 401Ks (if provided in today's high-cost world).

Now to cover that single “silent cost” of just $6 an hour or $12,000+ a retailer has to sell somewhere between $59,000 and $90,000 in guns at full MSRP to make up that one employee's “extra” cost from the profit. If it is a full line store, they can make it up a bit easier with lots of optics, cutlery, clothes and other ancillary sales that have a slightly higher margin – except that those are also the very items and sales that the Internet is syphoning off.

Gun profit margins are thin, yet guns are important to have in a full line store, and vital in a gun shop. On top of that, the cost of maintaining a gun inventory is not cheap! All these costs are one reason why so many brick and mortar retailers (of all types) are struggling to survive against internet sales.

Something to think about in just the gun industry. If we keep losing major retailers such as Gander Mountain, Sports Authority, and the failed parts and pieces of Sportsman's Warehouse (from a few years ago), the gun industry and its consumers are in trouble. Additionally, if you think the mom and pop gun shops across the country are making it, you are wrong; we just do not hear of them going under the way we do when big operations go down, and the generally older folks who own them are retiring and shutting down.

Gander Mountain For Sale
Gander Mountain For Sale

If these outdoor/hunting retailers continue to shrink or go out of business, how will the firearm industry survive? And, if big box gun retailers and full line independents keep going out of business, say goodbye to all the other stuff they carry, from shoes to camping gear, and boats to bullets.

Generally, (remember, we said generally) one cannot legally buy new firearms (and in many states even used guns) through anything other than a FFL licensee. So a legal transfer means an FFL licensee must usually process the sale. If we continue to shut down or kill off the firearms retailers, there is certainly no future for new firearm sales because Internet sales without FFLs being involved are, contrary to politically inspired left-wing media lies, illegal.

Now, you can say, “Well, private people can get an FFL” – and that was true years ago (for example, I had a special one as a military and gun magazine editor-in-chief in the 1980s and 1990s). But things are much tighter today, and more regulations by a hostile liberal government and/or ATF can literally tighten the legal FFL outlet stream to a tiny trickle almost overnight!

Internet sales of firearms without FFLs being involved are, contrary to politically inspired left-wing media lies, illegal.
Internet sales of firearms without FFLs being involved are, contrary to politically inspired left-wing media lies, illegal.

Currently, there are about 145,000 FFLs in the U.S. – but in the mid-1990s there were 450,000! A regulation change here or there can take that remaining 145,000 down big time. Also, of that 145,000, many are institutionally owned by manufacturers, retailers, importer/exporters, et al, and they often have several FFLs for various legal and business reasons. Cabela's has recently taken to selling guns online but, to finalize the sale, you still have to go to one of their stores to get the gun and fill out the federal and (usually) state clearance. Is this then the future of “gun sales?”

Firearms sales actually support a large part of our economy, to include many state game and fish operations. As Internet sales continue to rob retailers of their non-firearm, higher profit margin items, you may begin to see an interesting problem for the entire firearms manufacturing, hunting and outdoor industry develop.

The firearms industry (guns) is the base of many other industries and businesses dependent on hunting and shooting in general. Think of all the items dependent on gun ownership and the related shooting sports, to include even big ticket items like SUVs, RVs, etc. and the towns, and even states, that have hunting as part of their income base.

Retail locations are simply becoming showrooms for Internet sales. As a guy with a long history in retail sporting goods years ago, it all makes me seriously sad, and it bodes badly for the health of our currently free society when it comes to the Second Amendment and what that amendment really means for citizen freedom.

Go to most any shopping center nowadays and you will see closed stores of all types, courtesy of Amazon and other Internet warehouse outlets. Perhaps the Internet scenario is something the firearms industry and associations should begin to address, because it is coming at us at light speed – and when the retailers are gone, or retail gun access is gone or incredibly reduced, then where will you legally purchase a firearm and, if you can, what will be the cost and trouble to do so?

 

91 thoughts on “The GRIM Future of Retail Firearm Sales in the U.S.A.

  1. Higher prices IS what killed Gander Mountain, Dicks and Cabelas is in the same boat, gotta pay for the fancy buildings, displays and uniforms somehow. The money needed to pay for the EYECANDY store is placed on the merchandise that we are to buy there. The Gander Mountain in Greensburg Pa, once closed and reopened is going to be Campers World, a place dedicated to camping supplies only, no guns or ammo…. With that being said, it won’t last long, can you say BORING ? Kmart stopped selling guns/ammo, it CLOSED to. Stores and shops that cave to the liberal/Dem thinking (Walmart ban on the AR’s), stop selling firearms and ammo after doing it previously or charge more than fair prices won’t last long. And THAT is a fact……..

    1. You are absolutely correct regarding the sporting good and other large merchandise chains. I do respect all of the people who say we should patronize the local small gun store merchants, but do they do that with all merchants of all merchandise they buy? Should inefficient or expensive gun stores get special treatment from customers just because they are selling firearms? What about small local stores selling hardware items or anything else? No one is more pro-gun than I am, and I would hate to see the local gun shops go away, but I don’t know what the answer is for them, any more than I do for other shops carrying other merchandise. I do think that gun shops can pivot and make money on transfers, and hopefully parts and supplies related to those transferred weapons, if they simply treat the customers well in doing so.

    2. Kmart and other similar stores did not close because they stopped selling guns. The gun department requires personnel to complete the purchase. The rest of the store does not. The labor costs of a gun department makes that part of the store very expensive real estate. The margins on guns did not cover the cost. Plus, some states and localities added security requirements so the locking glass case was not enough if there was not going to always be somebody behind the counter.
      Retail is suffering because of so much online purchasing. With online, nobody stands around waiting for a customer. The orders come in and are filled at the next work shift. When all the orders are filled, the workers clock out. No stand around wages have to be paid. That worker may have a full time job and just fills orders from his wall of safes in the garage when he gets home from work. His overhead is very low and he can afford to sell at very low margins. He may even have a direct ship agreement with his wholesale distributor so he never even has to touch the gun or tie up money in inventory.
      How much customer service do you get from an online seller ? Some big online stores will answer phones to complete an order but they don’t spend time showing you various guns.
      These, ‘I’m hooked on buying guns online’ who complain about the stores closing are the biggest part of the problem.
      btw, The S&W I purchased at Cabelas for my wife was within $40 of the best prices I found anywhere. The Crimson Trace sight was not much higher either. Was it worth buying online to save $30 -$40 and having to stand at a stocking FFL counter doing the 4473 knowing I cheated him out of a sale ?
      $20 for a transfer that takes 1/2 an hour is chump change. It pays wages, not profits. Only a pawn shop is set up to make a profit at $20.

      1. The loss of gun sales were “A” large part of the reasons for many sportsmen, hunters, shoppers in this area (Pa) to just stop going to Kmart… The dropping of the gun sales was a big “part” of the loss of overall sales. Husbands or boyfriends stopped going with the “other half” to shop at Kmart, even if it was only for something to do. I was one of them, there was NOTHING for me to look at or buy after their decision. The store became a ghost store… Both ways of shopping have their good and bad… BUT, when EITHER place charges more than what a good box of ammo (or two) cost for the weapon I am buying, it gets to a tipping point. Good OR bad service can be had from a counter or a monitor. Anyone who uses either type of service can testify to that fact. You just have to pick the right place do deal with… I was ALWAY a “shop local” type person, till the libs/Dems whined enough to have big corporations change policy in many of their stores and the price gouging began with Obama in charge. Just sayin….. Walmart dropped the SCARY BLACK RIFLE due to politics, yet they still carry the Mini 14. NY residents have to change the looks of the SCARY BLACK RIFLE top appease the libtard and Dumbocrats… They use ANY reason including lies and cooked news (it’s already precooked before being shoved down our throats by the media) to get their way. The old saying “THE MAJORITY RULES”, has been sacrificed and liberalized….The tail now wags the dog, it’s time for the dog to stand solid.
        FFL transfer through local dealer $15.00, what did Gander Mountain charge ?

        1. As a stockholder in SearsHolding, the parent company of KMart, closing the gun department came after the stores were already having trouble. Many city stores never had gun departments or closed them decades earlier due to poor gun sales.
          If you went to KMart with the wife just because you could go look at the guns but did not usually buy any, is it any wonder why they stopped selling guns ? Lookie Loos are the death of retail. They occupy salespersons time without any sales.

          1. Being a stock holder also told you that I didn’t BUY any guns there ? They lied about that too then. I also own stocks in a few different area’s (utilities) and outlets. So, I am NOT one of your Lookie Loos. I almost ALWAYS, bought something in the department, a gun or most times ammo. Sears, which I already knew was the parent company of K-mart (and why Kmart sold Craftsman tools, now made in CHINA) is another company that is about ready to go belly up, might want to unload your stocks. Sears also dropped their gun sales department years ago, I did Buy a J.C. Higggins 12 ga. Montgomery Wards sold firearms also, I got the only S&W 29 they ever got in. J.C. Penny’s, same story…

          2. Not here to argue or be belittled, stating exactly what happened with the Kmart here. It turned ghost when the guns and ammo left, you can use your stockholdings in Sears as a pulpit, but stocks are an overview of ALL of the holdings, and YOU my friend weren’t HERE to see a longtime pillar of the area collapse. I watched Sears, Wards, Penny’s and many other stores go “PC” and suffer the consequences… Good luck with your Sears Holding stocks.

          3. Being a stockholder just gave me more access to and reason to understand the dynamics of the stores. Walmart Super Centers had a big impact. KMart tried adding groceries to keep the customers but could not keep up. Target Stores also kicked KMart’s butt. They both built up their stores at the same time that KMart started circling the drain.

    3. You are correct in a much larger way as well. The full line stores not only Charge way too much for the frill and fluff but an overwhelming part of the inventory of non-firearms sales are imports from CHINA. Over priced sweatshop crap under brand names. It hurts the entire economy and to no small part Sporting good and firearms sales. In an industry that see most American sportsmen forlking over BIG bucks for lessor quality and running up a continued Trade deficit the direction is clear. Online sales are sky roceting this particular issue by even further flooding the market with such inventory. Again this storms the remaining ramparts of a Mom and Pop business having a chance to make good. We as a sporting community need to look closely at these issues or find ourselves providing the left with all the tools needed to force our own demise.

  2. There is a lot of falsehoods in this story. Internet sales are NOT killing these stores. You still have to send all internet sales to a FFL holder and do the 4473. They charge between 10 and 35 bucks for EACH gun just to do that. The real reason is charging full MSRP and over that price when you can go to a local shop and get the exact same thing for 3/4 and a lot of times 1/2 the price. That is what kill Gougermountian. Basspro and Cabela’s are even worst than Gander was. Gander atleast had decent prices on ammo and some guns. Especially the used stuff.

  3. Mr. Duncan Johnson
    I see your point and understand your concern; but big stores like Gander Mountain are way over priced and are packed of common items. If you are looking for a magazine for your 9×18 Makarov or looking for 7.5×54 ammo you are not going to find it there. If you are looking to buy a hand gun or rifle you are paying huge prices same with ammunition. So the public will gravitate to where they can find better value on the items they are looking for.

    I own a gun business Operation Steel Rain and I am located in the communist state of New York. I am not a millionaire but I am doing very well. I offer the public FFL Transfers and guns a current prices, ammo at low price while making a profit. No I am not advertising I am just pointing out why big stores are failing while internet sales are growing. Women are joining our ranks in huge numbers and most of the big stores do not have what they are looking for, but they find it on the internet and small stores. Gun owners are growing exponentially even here in NY, but the laws of commerce will always prevail. Big stores with huge expenses have to sale at top prices internet stores do not and are able to make a profit by minimizing expenses. It might be time fore them to go the way of the Dodo, but the gun industry and sales will continue to grow.

    Now let me ask you, what is your opinion? How would you solve the issue if you could. what do you think is the middle ground on the issue??

  4. I have a close friend who has a home business FFL and SOT 3. He is not going to be the next Warren Buffet, but does well for himself. Here is how he doe it. Since not everyone in the U.S. owns 2-3 firearms, he believes there is a market for actually talking, face-to-face, with people about their needs. Why they want a gun, what are they planning on using it for, etc. People see the value in someone taking personal care of them. They often will buy from him because of that. He is also up front about pricing the firearm. How many people buy their first gun and nothing to care for or maintain it? Also, I should mention that over 60% of his business is female and over 75% are repeat buyers. We often talk about why we are both successful in our customer service oriented fields. We figure it’s due to a history of treating people with honesty and fairness. That still does count for a lot in the world.

    Most here seem like very experienced firearm buyers and my friend is very happy to do your FFL transfers. He charges a ridiculously low $10 per item. That’s to get the conversation started with you. I think the thing that stands out when people talk to him is that he is just a nice guy and he’d be honored to have your business. Most, if not all, bigger stores forget how to develop a relationship with their clients.

    How many of you have someone that you know by name and have a relationship with to buy your firearms?

  5. The first gun i bought was at an ACE hardware store back in the 70’s in the 80’s Dicks use to sell reloading equiptment , powder, primers and bullets but as NY goes it get more and more anti gun, the local walmart wont sell pistol ammo with out a permit. Even though there are long gun that use pistol ammo they don’t care. So I use the small gun stores and the internet. in my area there must be at least 15 FFL holder that do transfers . The local gun store will do a search for a person for a rifle or pistol that they don’t carry or in stock. I had a Browning A bolt that I didn’t like i traded it in for a T/C Venture it was world apart from the browning . For reloading supplies there a guy across the border that carries supplies and the pricing is decent. the good thing is that He makes cast bullets that the main part of his business.

  6. I disagree about the lack of retail being a bad thing for the Second Amendment. By the author’s own admission, the dramatic drop in the number of FFL’s in the U.S. happened way before the Internet upset the retail apple cart.

    Retail may be dying (and there are a lot of reasons why, such as failing to develop a fan base for their stores), but gun ownership is not.

    1. Yes, But sadly, if you purchase a firearm on-line, it needs to go to an FFL dealer in your state to do the transfer work. as more Brick and mortar stores go out of business, and if prices on-line are less than when an FFL dealer can sell guns for, he will most likely not renew his license as he won’t be making any money. How would you buy a gun on-line, if there are no FFL licensed folks in your area/state…. That is not a cheap license…Just my humble opinion..

  7. Retail is dying. Amazon, etc. and the internet is killing it. Gun shops will exist simply because of the laws controlling sales and most gun owners like to hold, touch, try an unknown firearm prior to purchase. That said, if you want a particular firearm, and have shot your friends gun, or even just a friendly strangers gun while at the range, is there reason to handle that model prior to purchase? Or does an internet sale now make much more sense? I always check with my local shop regarding availability and price, if they can match or come close, they get my business. Sometimes they tell me, Wow, that price is great! Buy it from them! I would guess gun shops will carry less inventory in the future, and handle more online transactions and ordering firearms directly. The world is changing, doesn’t mean we stop buying guns.

  8. for Vanns40: I do not know about Bud’s business structure specifically, but I do know that creating an umbrella company may have many advantages. Consumers see Bud’s sites and stores and they appear to be the same, but they may actually function as separate business entities. It is a very common practice.

    1. Lee: I know for a fact this is one in the same and if you want to prove it to yourself it’s very easy. Look up a gun on Bud’s guns website, get the price, then call the store in Severville, Tn and say “just saw this on your website, do you still have it in stock at this price?”. Bet you dinner they say yes. And the reason I’m so sure is because my buddy who lives in TN did exactly that when he bought his Sig 556. Sorry but you’re just wrong about Buds.

      1. Hi Vanns40: I have no idea what Bud’s does, and do not really care. I have purchased from them without difficulty. But… if you re-read what I wrote, you will read that I pleaded ignorance regarding Bud’s business structure before I wrote anything else. Anything else regarding business structures that does not look right? Did I make a mistake?

          1. No problem! I loved writing in school and one of the things I learned was how difficult it is to read something once and really understand what the author wrote, or write error-free without editing. Very normal. I know this is off subject, but do you or anyone else reading this have any experience with lacquered steel cases used in bolt actions?

          1. It would usually have been corrosive primers. The barrel just needs a swab with water to flush the corrosive residue. This was common with WW II and Korea surplus. I still have some.

          2. Only corrosive, I believe, if you get, I believe Greek ammo. Could be wrong. As for lacquered cases, only experience I have is in semi-auto and no problems. There was anecdotal that that the coatings would come off with heat but that was false. It was fouls to be other things that caused the problems not the lacquers.

  9. One off the biggest problems is the reluctance of manufacturers to move away from the antiquated wholesale/distributor model. Why should I have to deal with Davidson’s or AmChar or Jerry’s who almost universally never have what I want or have allocated it to someone else? The market has begged for disruption by vendors like Buds. My favorite LGS doesn’t have a showroom. I shop the website, pick it up in person for a great price. Yes, I pay sales tax, but I also have the benefit of a local presence and holding it in my hands before I pay. The arguments about regulation are a red herring, those will come like a wildfire with the next Democrat presidency regardless.

  10. I understand the concern about the fate of B&M firearms stores. The current Internet shopper has access to an inventory and bottom dollar price that that even the big box stores cannot come close to matching. I would compare this to the automobile dealerships. Savvy buyers now know the bottom line before ever stepping foot in the showroom. Dealerships unable or unwilling to change thier marketing tactics disappeared. B&M gun dealers have to use updated marketing to woo customers into the stores. The ability to “upsale” and the more lucrative used and accessories market is their advantage. Use the Internet to woo customers into the store and teach sales personal to ask the customer questions not give opinions. Gun buyers are a fickle bunch. Thet can spot BS and get turned off immediately. Adapt or die.

    On a side note. The author used examples of empty stores in Scottsdale and Phoenix. If he was visiting them at the time of writing the article there should be a footnote. I live in Mesa. The first week of July we saw record temps of 118+ for several days. That has a tendency even here to impact sales. You only go shopping for necessities.

  11. I once owned a small gun store, fully licensed and permitted and doing quite well. The city that it resided in decided that mine and a few other types were undesirable, in their words high risk to residents of the community. As a result my city business license jumped from $25.00 a year to $1,500.00, the following year to $2,500.00 and the year after that $5,000.00. The same year business license jumped the city also required high risk business, their words not mine, to carry liability insurance or be bonded for a minimum of 3 million the first year, 5M the next and thereafter. I absorbed the cost the first and second year, by the third year I called it quits. Twenty some odd years latter none of business called high risk to the community in that city exist today. Many of the surrounding cities followed the same formula to rid themselves of business they did not care for as well. Well firearms and related items are still being purchased every day by the residents of these cities free of gun stores via the internet or driving 50 miles to the next county if one needs the services of an FFL. Regulations are the biggest threat to your local brick and mortar store. There now trying to regulate internet sales as well by prohibiting importation into “their community”. Guess what I moved the **** out of “their community” along with may others.

  12. We can blame B&M for not having a forward thinking business model all day, but that isn’t the entire story. Gander, when the parents ran it, was a good place to get quality equipment. It may not have been as cheap a price as you could find if you worked at it, but the quality was right up there. The kids, in my opinion, were less savvy and when they sold the store the bottom fell out. The people who have run many stores into the ground are the venture capitalists who buy companies, try to squeeze out the utmost profit and cut the quality until they can’t sell anything else. Think about the groups that have been buying up businesses and the results of those buys. Couple that with staff that knows less about the merchandise than the customers and you have a toxic environment. This is true in hardware stores just as much as in gun stores. When was the last time you went to a REAL hardware store with staff that knew what they were talking about. Sure wasn’t orange or blue was it. YMMV.

    1. Don’t know about all the ganders but one thing that hurt the local one here was they severely curtailed the reloading department and went into clothing boats and atv’s . That caused the reloading trade to go other places.

  13. Gander Mtn failed because they were too late to the game.

    Yes they had strong website.

    Problem is their pricing was too high, want a firearm ordered, you have to pay $25 shipping fee.

    You can buy from Buds or KYGUNCO and have no shipping and no sales taxes, just your ffl fee.

  14. I don’t buy online as a rule. Between Palmetto State Armory and Academy Sports I can usually fiend a better price locally. Dick’s semi auto ban took them out off my list of people I do business with. Gander always had a great inventory but everything seemed to be priced above MSRP. There is quite a bit of mark up in firearms so the ability to make a profit and have a happy customer who thinks he got a real deal exists..

    1. “I don’t buy [alomst everything] online as a rule.”

      Guns: we go to a local gun shop and ‘feel-’em-out’. We are fortunate that our local shop has a range to also ‘feel n’ shoot’ before you buy, but then check the price of your FFL buddy working out of his basement (with lower overhead) and if he can beat there price by $40 – $50 or more than the brick n’ mortar w/the range and all looses the sale.

      ALL other shooting stuff: including ammo come from Midway or Ammo to Go, and we only buy ammo when the discount offer comes with FREE SHIPPING….;)

      BTW: Others have commented about the prices at Dick’s or now defunct Granders; but when was the last time you’ve been in a Cabela’s? EVRERYTHING they sell is 20-30% higher than we can buy online at Midway’s standard price, and we almost always wait for the item(s) to be on sale….;)

  15. How many of us go into the brick and mortar store to check out a gun and then buy it on the Internet? I justify it by saying I can get it for a few bucks less and pay no tax. I’m not sure I’d want to buy that gun sight unseen with only a gun writer’s opinion to go by. Maybe the author had the answer – the “gun” shop will carry all the peripherals and people will just pick up the guns they bought on the Internet and fill out the paperwork there. At least that will relieve the store owner from having to carry the high inventory cost of all those guns on display. Security might be easier with no guns on display to tempt the bad guys.

    1. Don: There’s also the problem that brick and mortar stores create for themselves. Dick’s Sporting Goods flately refuses to remove the trigger lock from any firearm until after you’ve purchased it and they escort you to the front door! Why would I ever want to buy a gun from them that I couldn’t check beforehand? If I buy, on the internet, from Bud’s, have it shipped to an FFL for the paperwork and something is wrong, Bud’s makes the return seamless — no hassles, no problems. Dick’s makes you go through the seven doors of hell.

      Deal with reputable folks who understand that service is everything and the internet, combined WITH brick and mortar is a winning combination. Businesses need to adapt or die.

  16. Don’t forget to add in the costs of an FFL and the tremendous amount of associated costs in dealing with all the paperwork. You would be shocked if you truly knew the amount of over-regulation and the toll it takes, financial, physical& emotional, on a small business. The BATFE as a whole is a parasitic menace upon a licensee and your freedoms.

    1. @Gunwrites, I agree. The GCA, NFA, and the BATFE are all just drags on commerce that we, as a nation, can no longer afford. Congress just passed this stuff to protect themselves, and not We the People.

    2. Don’t forget that one of the stated goals of the [email protected] administration was to put as many gun dealers out of business as possible.

  17. Gander Mountain put themselves out of business. Almost every time I went in there I left empty handed. Their prices were too high. I could go across the highway to a local sporting goods store and get the same thing cheaper. But I could still buy firearms online a lot cheaper after I fingered them in the brick and mortar stores. When I worked at Sports Authority I could anything in the store at cost plus 10%. 10% was the mark up on guns at the time(early ’90’s). I bought a model 70 for $330. Those were the days. Oh and Dick’s Sporting Goods suck. They are too high also.

  18. I wonder if the author buys guns off of the Internet. Not mentioned by the author is that gun stores make good money off of Internet guns, because, in most cases, they charge ridiculous prices for basically filling out one or two pieces of short government forms (which YOU yourself do a lot of the work to fill out) to hand you the gun that YOU bought with YOUR upfront money and had shipped to them so they could just hand it to you. They pay no money for the shipping of the gun from the seller or advancing money to purchase the gun, or even do the research to find the gun, and have zero time invested in ordering it. They take zero responsibility if there is any defect in the gun, if it has to be returned or repaired. They simply receive the gun in shipment, hand it to you, and wash their hands of it. In many cases, the fees they charge meet or exceed what they would have made on the gun had they sold it to you and had it in stock. Many gun dealers also become very greedy and start jacking up their transfer charges when you start to buy more guns that are transferred through them over time. Some even lecture you for not buying the guns from them. Who wants to listen to that? In addition, gun stores are required to charge sales tax on the guns, so it is cheaper to buy them on the Internet. It is the government that makes the retail stores so costly to operate, with all of its rules and regulations and taxes upon taxes. I wish there was a way to go to a simple gun transfer office that was limited by law in what it could charge for a transfer and not have to go to a gun store to do the transfers Normally, I would not want the government setting such fees, because it could also raise them to absurd levels, but gun dealers have gotten out of hand in some cases in what they charge. Some dealers will surprise you with new increased fee structures, after they already have your guns in hand and you had expected to pay the same fee which you had paid previously to them for identical transfers. At this point, they have your guns and you don’t, and it comes down to either paying the high costs and/or becoming super nice and asking them to pretty please not to overcharge you. In some cases with new-to-me dealers, I call first, get a fee quote, then when I arrive (after they have received my Internet gun or guns) the guy who gave me the fee quote is not working that day and no one knows what I’m talking about regarding the amount. In those cases, of course, the fee is higher than quoted. And then you are back to the pretty please experience and the dealer feels like he is giving you special treatment for being so nice as to charge you the fee you were told you were supposed to pay in the first place. Or he just charges the higher fee. Whatever the dealer feels like doing goes. After this experience, I won’t go back to those dealers, but the process starts all over again at the next dealer. Trust me. I’ve been through this cycle many times.

    1. I use a local pawn shop for transfers. David, the manager, gives me a business card with the price of the transfer quoted on the back ($10) to present in case he is not there when my transfer arrives. It helps that they also stock reloading supplies and AR parts and accessories that I buy as well. I also work for the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice which gets me a discount in the shop. Their normal transfer fee is $25. They do more than just complete a couple of transfer forms related to the transfer. They also have to log the weapon, receiver, suppressor, etc. into their bound book and log it out after the transfer. There is quite a bit more involved than just signing for the UPS delivery and calling the customer that takes time, and time is money.

      1. I currently use a pawn shop to do my transfers. After years and years of using gun shops for transfers, I will have to say that the pawn shop, at least the one I use, has the friendliest personnel and is not looking to constantly raise the price on subsequent transactions. They are professional and are used to dealing with a wide variety of people. They are not angry at you for buying guns on the internet, and do not really care if you buy a gun from them. Pawn shops are the closest thing to an independent transfer facility that I can find, that is not a gun store. Gun store owners, unfortunately, can be a very odd breed. Anyone buying guns for any period of time already know this. Crankiness and arrogance seem to be a job requirement. When I lived in Virginia, I did gun transfers at a well-known gun store in Manassas. If you bought multiple guns online, the owner charged $20 per gun to do the transfer, that is he charged $20 per gun to fill out simple forms. If you bought five guns, that was $100 to fill out the same forms that would be filled out for one gun. The dealer had no cap on the total amount that you could be charged. All of a sudden, the dealer decided that he needed now $30 per gun, which would be $150 for five guns, for example. Greed is rampant in gun dealing. At this point, I abandoned that dealer. Some dealers are very good, but many are not. I would suggest that, if you don’t want drama in your gun transfers, consider a pawn shop. Just be aware, as with gun stores, there can be unsavory pawn shops, as well. Oh, and for those who may feel it’s necessary to respond that I must be a jerk in dealing with these gun shops, I am absolutely not. I go in with my hat in hand, wearing a smile on my face, and saying the necessary pleasantries, with an eye toward just getting done with the transaction and getting out of there. It doesn’t seem to make any difference in the treatment I get, though. (If you ever watched the Seinfeld TV show segment on the Soup Nazi, you know what I am talking about.) I am certain that many others have similar experiences. I have experiences with many many transfers over many years.

  19. Government regulates the guns and the ammo.Government limits imports of guns. Government imposes the inventory tax, property tax, income tax, Social Security tax, workman’s comp. tax, unemployment insurance tax, sales tax, and taxes on power, water, and sewer.
    And the internet is to blame for the profit margin of brick and mortar stores?

  20. Well, GANDER MOUNTAIN was an internet retailer as well as a brick and mortar. Their employee pay and benefits were really lousy, far inferior to the demonized AMAZON. So, what was the problem? Could it have been amazingly incompetent management? YOU BET! The wrong products at the wrong price in a continuous epidemic. The focus of this outfit was to sell credit cards and overpriced extended warranties. They had no idea that they had to get their merchandise in line with other, similar retailers. Amazon didn’t cause the demise of Gander. This company was a casebook story of stupid management. Ask the CEO of CAMPING WORLD. Gander put themselves out of business. This is what is supposed to happen to enterprises that do not keep themselves competitive.

    1. Yes they were a very poor run company. Plus the states ruin it by raising sales tax at every time they need something.Bad Management and Government. You can’t win!!!

    2. I couldn’t agree more. Gander Mountain shouldn’t be used as an example. They got what they deserved! Management didn’t know what was happening at the customer counter because management didn’t CARE what was happening as long as they were getting paid. I shopped there because there is no Bass Pro Shop or Cabelas in West Palm Beach, and Dicks caters to the golf industry. It was rare to make a purchase at Gander without the clerk charging more than the marked price, or adding a “warranty” that I didn’t want.

  21. I’m hooked on Online Firearms purchases. Lately everything seems to be $550-1250. Add a 5.5% tax to that and it starts to add up. And there is just no product selections like GunBroker or GrabAGun . The last 6 firearms I had transferred they had never even seen before! They thought the Mossberg Shockwave was a SBR.

    1. @ Cary, online purchases of anything are more prone to fraud. At the gun store or gun show you can see, hold, inspect, and carry out what you buy. On the internet you risk getting something less than you intended to purchase or nothing at all.

      1. I agree with you regarding buying used guns on the Internet. You have to really hold your breath to do so, in my view, although I suspect that many people have had good experiences buying used guns on the Internet. I buy only new guns, because they have warranties, they are not questionable as to condition, and most likely they are not stolen. I have extensive experience buying guns on the Internet. I did have one new gun that was marketed as a factory weapon, when in fact it was assembled completely with factory parts by a dealer. The dealer purposely didn’t disclose that. What that meant was that the factory refused to honor the warranty. That was a new one for me! So, even with new guns you have to be careful and ask lots of questions, especially if you are buying from a small dealer and not a large company. And you have to hope that the dealer is not lying to you. But this can also happen if you are buying from the dealer in the shop . Small dealers may also claim they have new guns, when they actually are selling what they like to call “New In Box” (NIB) guns, which is the gun dealers’ used-car salesman-like misleading way to say pre-owned, but in really good condition. These guns should never be considered in any way “new” (any more than that shirt in your closet that you never wore for the last 10 years is new), as no factory warranty applies to them, except in the rare case that there was a lifetime warranty transferable to any owner. I recently counseled a young gun buyer that the NIB designation is a trick and not to be fooled by it. He thanked me immensely and did not proceed with a purchase labeled that way. Now, I suspect that in response to my NIB comment sellers using that description to market guns will howl, but, as they say, girl you know it’s true.

      2. Sounds like you don’t have a lot of experience purchasing firearms online. I’ve purchased dozens online over the last few years and I can’t recall ever being burned. I typically pay 20-50% less than the firearm would cost at a retail establishment if I could find the firearm at a local retailer at all.

        I try to spend money with the local shops and even give them the opportunity to price match. The problem is, I tell them what the gun is listed for online and they say, “that’s less than what we paid for it!”

        1. You are wrong, sir. I have way more experience than you buying guns online. You buy dozens, I buy way more than that for my private collection. I have extensive experience. You live in a bubble.

    2. Online firearm purchases have to be received at a registered FFL and transferred. That registered FFL also has a business license with the state and local governments. It will not be long before these state and local sales tax departments realize that they can force the local FFL to collect the sales tax on guns purchased on the internet and transferred through them. Additionally, licensed businesses get a portion of the sales taxes in payment for collecting them for the government, so there is little incentive to resist this if it applies to all gun stores. Just because you bought it on line, does not mean that it is not subject to your state’s sales tax. The tax is actually due on all internet purchases, but the state does not have any way to verify the purchase price and collect it.

      1. @JDL, There is a Congressional act that precludes states from applying sales tax to online purchases, unless the vender company has a brick and mortar outlet within that particular state. Congress has asserted its authority over commerce and has expressed its intent to preempt state law.

        1. Hey at you Wild Bill. I have bought guns in many ways all my life from friends, hardware stores and Other Band M but never off Internet. I say more power to ANY way as long as the playing field is level and then may the best capitalist win. I have had good and bad experiences buying cars, guns and other stuff. It’s life. I have some mom and pop gun shops that look at you like don’t touch my guns and some like Buds who say touch them, fire them and we will sell them at bst price. Thee are happy employees and sad employees everywhere. I would rather touch and talk but hey I am old school. You can’t just put it all in a neat little box either way. I will get a few things off Internet because my wife and I are on fixed income and may the best capitalist win. Sometimes I lose and sometimes I don’t.I say may th best capitalist rule the day and keep competition going so as to keep prices down within reason as long as the playing field is level. That is one job our govt supposed to do and not over reach as it always does such as 87 departments to rule us when will common sense honorable small govt who serves their boss, us come back. Thanks again for comments bro

  22. Unlike firearm sales, stores like Dilliard’s and Walmart or much more vulnerable from market forces. Firearm regulations will never go away; we have had them in one way or another since the beginning of organized political systems. regulations and ATF restrictions change the calculus on what will happen with the firearm market. Meaning: politics controls access to legal firearms. My advice to businesses involved in firearm sales: make a new plan everyday… just like all industries. My advice to firearm owners: stock up.

  23. I talked to a gun store/range owner in my town today about getting a particular rifle. The other way to get it was to order it through Cabela’s and pick it up at the store in OKC which about a 15 mile drive. He said that he could sell it for $15.00 more than Cabela’s price. I will be paying him a visit in the morning to order the rifle. I believe in doing business with locals when I can.

    1. Scheels will give you 6-months same as cash for a Scheels Visa Credit Card purchase of more than $500. This is a GREAT deal if you cannot afford to pay cash on the barrel head for a gun! No small independent gun store can do that so it’s NOT just the internet putting the hurt on small shops.

  24. It’s all a matter of convenience and price. There once was a time when the personal touch was very important … I remember those times. But now days, given the quality of most mass produced goods, it’s just simpler, faster, cheaper and makes more sense to buy online. If the local stores can’t compete with that, they won’t survive. As sad as that might be, it’s just that way. Part of the problem that made me an internet shopper was almost invariably I knew far more about the product I was thinking about buying than the salesperson. They’re basically just there to swipe your card and send you on your way. Many can’t even make change, must less explain what size battery/inverter combo I need to power my Resmed S9 Autoset CPAP in an emergency. Same goes for guns and ammunition. After all a 45 ACP bullet that strikes your thumb will knock you off your feet. I’ve recently been told that and not only do I not need it I refuse to support a system that’s incapable of having knowledgeable people on hand at all times. Sorry, but I know how to do research and I know how to buy based on value to me. And many times, that’s not locally. Considering my wife and I are both retired and on fixed incomes, we do the best for us and if that excludes local stores then so be it.

    1. I have to agree. I too remember when the personal touch was important. However, now its about saving money where you can. And when it comes to guns and ammo, this is very important. I want to be able to buy the guns I want and shoot as much as I want, and to do that means I have to look for the best price. The retail stores can’t touch the prices that Grab-A-Gun offers. I’m lucky that Grab-A-Gun is within driving distance so I don’t have to pay transfer fee. Also, have to agree that people behind the counter at places like Academy or Dick’s, will start spewing things that are just laughable, and sadly, a lot of the people they are talking to don’t know enough about guns or ammo to realize they are being told nonsense.
      Yes it’s sad that the personal touch is gone. But I still have to be frugal, and buying online provides the best bang for the buck.

  25. Pretty obvious to anyone you must be in the area to fill out the 7743 regardless (those are not mail order-the plug for Buds) and it has nothing to do with communists as mentioned by a reader who equates ISS with the ATF or whatever. The real world as this guy wrote in the article is accurate! The B&M base continues to shrink and that is a fact and those not in retail or having no base of retail working knowledge just won’t get it–until… and that applies to all types of stores. And employment numbers now existing in B&M will not in anyway whatsoever be made up by Internet employment opportunities.

    1. I’m sorry, I forgot that some can only see the “little picture.” Your ignorance of the world will not serve you well. Fortunately for you, you can change your condition if you choose to.

    2. @Jack, You mean writer. The only way to mention something here is to write. A reader’s action is to read. I hate to even mention the petty little mental error.

  26. Wholesale Distributors need to come together, as well as Brick and Mortar FFL’s. If Wholesale Distributors refused to sell to internet based FFL’s (without a storefront) and FFL holders with Brick and Mortar stores refused to do transfers from Internet dealers the problem would be solved. The internet is killing the brick and mortar retail stores, and it will not be a slow death.

    1. Well, aren’t you the little trade restrictionist of the gun industry. So, if someone gets a business license to do business out of their home, then gets an FFL you just come along with trade restraint and say NOBODY DO BUSINESS WITH HIM? How magnanimous of you! You certainly do want to encourage small business don’t you? Remember that’s how Harley-Davidson, Bill Gates and hundreds of thousands of others started. If it was up to you they never would have.

      Competition is the life blood that keeps this country running and keeps prices coming down on every single product we use. You either become competitive or you go out of business, period. If being competitive means downsizing so be it. If it means utilizing the internet so be it. Advance or fall by the wayside. If an industry (firearms wholesalers) refused to sell to licensed dealers who operate out of their homes and have the proper licenses, that is restraint of trade and they should be hauled into Federal Court and sued until they are bankrupt.

      You’d better take a long hard look at those who are whining and crying and ask why are they foundering and others, who have brick and mortar stores, are doing just fine. Look no further than their business models. Trade and business restraint is never the answer.

      1. Well said, Vanns40,

        “…either become competitive or you go out of business, period.”

        There is a small local gun store near our 4,000 member range where we went in a few months ago to buy a box of clay birds, which normally sell for $12-15 max! I handed the saleman a $20 and he said they cost $24.95 PLUS tax. Okay, I said, but this is the last time. Not only will I never come back into this store, but I will go out of my way to tell other members how you ripped me off on this little sale, why would anyone even consider buying an expensive item like a gun from you. Goodbye…

      2. Is the author Chicken Little or Don Quixote ?
        The sky is not falling and the windmill is not a dragon.
        Many companies have been grossly mismanaged. They are over-priced until they have a sale or they have poor quality or a combination of the two. The gun side of the store can be sunk by the rest of the store.
        Retail is hurting everywhere. If the stores do not know how to keep the customers coming, they deserve to struggle. Some expanded too fast with too much borrowing leaving huge debt burdens. Others have lousy web presence.
        Those commenters who say, Online allows me to save 5 or 6 % sales tax are law breakers. Shame on them. I am sure they claim to be law abiding gun owners. Every state that collects a sales tax also requires individuals to report their out of state purchases and make payment of a sales tax equivalent. Small incidental purchases are forgiven but a $500 rifle or handgun should be reported (the $ value, not the item) and the tax paid.
        Since online firearm sales must be transferred by an in-state FFL, it would be easy to require that transfer FFL to collect sales tax on the full purchase price and the transfer fee. FFL’s would love that because it allows them to compete on a level sales tax field.
        Manufacturers can restrict who is allowed to sell a product. Many already do, Stihl has fought this battle and won. Stiffening the requirements for authorized dealers could help. Enhanced warranties for authorized dealer purchases could be offered. It could be something as simple as requiring a hands on, face to face demonstration of the dry operation of the firearm.
        There are many ways to resolve the falling sky the author imagines.
        But, internet sales are no different that the gun show sales except for the sales tax cheats. There were plenty of gun show only FFL’s who sold with very low margins.
        Only 7 states have additional purchase requirements for all guns and 5 more for handguns only. So, there is no “Usually state clearance” as most states are ATF form 4473 only.
        It is annoying when authors write beyond they knowledge level.

        1. Idadho: You are factually wrong about a couple of things and ideologically wrong on so many others. However, I’m just not going to start on this all over again. Oh heck, maybe I will just touch on the tax portion of it. We are taxed to death on everything. In two States they thought it was just a great idea to tax rainwater! Here you come with “no loopholes for anyone”! I’m tired of my tax money being squandered. If there’s a way I can barter, private sell or internet purchase without paying taxes I’m going to and if you or anyone else is unhappy, tough. There used to be a refuge from taxes in a few things in life but people and politicians like you would close them all and extract every single cent you possibly could.

          I applaud cottage industries in this country. They made this country what it is today before income tax, sales tax, use tax, occupational tax, land tax and a thousand other taxes.

          “Require a hands on, face to face demonstration of firearms…”? Boy, the gun control people will just love you! How many other laws would you like to enact? You’re a Democrats dream come true. In this time of strict Constitutional Constructionists you’re swimming in the other direction.

          Congratulations, big government just nominated you for man of the year.

          1. I did not say the state would require a face to face hands on demonstration. The manufacturers could require it to cover the firearm with a premium warranty. Pure capitalism.
            I can buy a brand new, never opened laptop with a full service warranty or with a limited warranty. The limited warranty new product is labeled as ‘refurbished’ so the discount dealer is not competing directly with the authorized dealer. Many manufacturers have a dual channel of distribution like this. They use it to sell surplus inventory or to high volume discount sellers.
            Every state that charges a sales tax also requires residents to report the total amount of out of state, non-taxes purchased and pay a USE tax with their annual tax return. Some have a minimum amount of purchases before the use tax is due. Failure to report these sales is tax fraud.
            So, can a tax fraud be a law abiding gun owner ?
            And, yes, legal tax avoidance can be a virtue. But not reporting online purchases that are required to be reported is tax fraud.
            Idaho Form 40 has it on line 28.Line 47 on Corporate tax Form 41.
            If you don’t like how your taxes are collected and spent, that is something to address at the voting booth. Many move out of states due to taxes.

        2. @Idadho, You say, “Those commenters who say, Online allows me to save 5 or 6 % sales tax are law breakers.” The SCOTUS, nearly a hundred years ago, said that tax avoidance is perfectly legal. Only tax evasion is a crime. And I believe that it was the great Oliver Wendel Holmes , Jr who disagrees with you.
          Oh, and that report you mentioned, I believe that that only pertains to tobacco purchases. And that “forgiven” concept is just outrageous.

          1. @Idadho, Happy Sunday morning! None. I am saying that I think some of the states require a report at the end of the year regarding internet purchases of tobacco products, but not internet purchases of all products.

          2. Wild Bill,
            I have never seen such a reporting requirement. It must be a state tobacco law but it is not part of a state tax return that I have seen. From what I found quickly, the tobacco excise tax avoiders are a target of the tobacco authority. They can be vicious. Tobacco excise taxes would be reported separately from use taxes. But, online tobacco purchases have both taxes due, excise and use (sales). If it requires a tobacco tax stamp, excise taxes are due.
            I have seen the lines on state tax returns that require reporting of purchases made out of state without paying state sales tax. Every state has that according to the tax advice web sites I found.

        3. Idadho: The easiest, most Constitutionaly correct method, regarding firearms, would be to abolish all firearms laws and return to the way it was pre-1934. That would solve a myriad of problems and would also let us sit back with a beer and enjoy the spectacle of liberals running around with their hair on fire!

          Now, between this particular forum listing and all the Liberals parading as pseudo-Conservatives, I’m worn out! I think I may take a few days off (much to “Gil’s” delight I’m sure) and ignore the Internet. I leave it to the true Conservatives to keep the trolls in check.

          1. I am a conservative. I suggest using market forces to handle the issue. If not charging sales tax creates an advantage to online sellers that hurts local businesses and allows ‘law abiding gun owners’ to break the law, tighten up the process.
            Taxes suck but I’d rather pay a consumption tax than an income tax.
            And YES, the NFA should be repealed. Just read Dean Weingarten’s articles about guns in Australia. They even outlaw carrying knives now and are trying to tighten the screws.
            I would support a alcohol clearance standard before handling firearms. Pilots have an 8 hours, bottle to throttle, limit. That would work for me with firearms. Beer and bullets do not mix well.
            A big problem is. You can’t often fix ignorance.

  27. You have to be willing to adapt and change and many of these same stores have come to that conclusion too late or refuse to admit it. One that has understood it from the beginning appears to be Bud’s Guns shop. They have a brick and mortar store combined with a range and also adapted to take full advantage the internet. Mention best prices and Bud’s is invariably brought up as a place to check.

    1. If you are referring to the Buds Gun Shop in Tennessee, you are incorrect. I spoke to several employees there about a year ago and was clearly told that Buds does not own this store. It is a completely separate business. And they can charge whatever they want for the guns, which are clearly at different prices than Buds charges. They will not match the prices that Buds charges online. If you buy a gun at that store and have it shipped to your dealer, they will charge you a shipping charge, which is not charged if you order directly from the real Buds. I do not think it’s right that Buds tricks people into thinking that this is their store, but this is what they chose to do. You might as well be shopping at (make up any name) Gun Store, as it would have about as much to do with Buds as this one.

      1. Oh good grief, I don’t know who you were talking to but they didn’t know what they’re talking about. Go to Buds gun shop online, they have three stores, two in TN and one in KY. It’s all the same.

        1. Sorry. You are wrong. It is a franchise. Just as with McDonald’s they do what they want with price.

  28. So, he wrote that entire article and FAILED to mention the reason we have to fill out forms to buy a gun and why there are fewer FFLs. How hard would it have been to say that the reason for all that is the communist element of our society? And yes, I said communist. That is the tyranny the world has faced for a hundred and fifty years now. Not admitting it won’t make it go away. In the grand scheme of things ISIS is but a piker among the bad guys.

    1. The S. Ct said that the Gun Control Act is Congress’s legitimate control on commerce. The internet sales versus brick and mortar store sales issue is one more reason to repeal the GCA. The GCA is another one of the unnecessary regulations.

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