Monday, January 29, 2007

Where and How to Buy Guns?

Disclaimer: I fully expect that everyone will conduct all purchases of firearms in full compliance with Federal, State and local laws, ordinances and regulations. This post has nothing to do with avoiding such compliance but only with locating reasonably priced firearms for purchase.

I've bought at shops, from individuals, from folks on forums (3X without problems, thank you VERY much) and from Gunbroker and GunsAmerica. I have agonized over some deals, not because they weren't fair but because I didn't have enough money set aside but I made it happen. I've paid fair market value mostly but sometimes just a bit more and sometimes a bit less. Once or twice I got VERY good deals because the seller was in extremis and I could do no more.

I did buy a gun at a gun show. That was 22 years ago! Why? Because the guns I'm interested in ARE priced higher at the show than I can pay elsewhere EVEN with transfer fees in some cases. Yes, I do see the same guns show after show. I've asked a couple of fellows and their answer was I've got to get what I've got in it. "Well, how much is that?", I ask. Well darn, the guy bought it new 15 years ago but his cost was TODAY's NIB price. Hmmmmm. I don't think so. I always let him talk to some other folks. We used to see guns at shows that you never saw elsewhere. That is no longer so.

Nowadays there are really four good options.

1 - Buy from your local dealer. Hopefully he'll have gotten what you want for stock or, failing that (most likely), will be able to order what you want. He'll probably charge full MSRP or...
2 - You can go on-line to or Davidson's, find exactly what you want and have it shipped and transferred through your local dealer (provided they aren't going to rip you off).
3 - You can go to an on-line or national auction house and bid on the item. This happens to me a lot as I like odd stuff. Then it must still be transferred through the local.
4 - You can haunt the various gun forums for-sales and find, maybe, the odd-ball stuff that you just can't live without and, again/always, have it transferred through the local guy.

The thing is that some local guys aren't in touch with reality. They think they are still competing with the other store owners within a 50-mile radius of their shop (not of your home) and are ignoring the fact that lots of shops are thoroughly hooked on the internet and dealing all across the country. They think they are losing business by doing a transfer but ignore the business they lose by not doing the transfer. And, of course, we can't help but mention the arrogant, self-righteous, idiots that populate every sector of the small-business world. How some of these folks make enough to keep the lights on is impossible to fathom. Still, one can find a FFL holder to do the transfer for a reasonable price by looking at the Shotgun News, Auction Arms or GunBroker lists of such dealers. That person will likely treat you well, or at least, well enough.

No matter whether you are buying from an on-line auction, forum or retailer, from a correspondent or distant friend some things need to be said. Let me approach this as an ethical seller on auction sites. First, this applies to any collectible/high dollar item.

#1 photos of the object from all sides
#2 photo(s) of fault(s)
#3 photo(s) of all additional items if applicable.

These things document what EXACTLY is being sold. This is important because

#1 Not all sellers are familiar with all the correct jargon for a particular item
#2 Not all buyers are familiar with all the correct jargon for a particular item
#3 Everybody sometimes mis-speaks.

A complete description is important to the buyer (and thus for the seller) because it provides clues as to the true nature of the item. The complete description is important to the seller because every word (or combination of words)adds a search term or phrase for the buyer. Correct spelling is critical to sellers in order to ensure the maximum number of views of the item and to the buyer to ensure that the seller has at exercised at least some care in correctly describing the item. While one can fine jewels in mis-spelled descriptions and titles most often it shows that the seller is sloppy. Sloppy/poor spelling many times translates into sloppy description and perhaps sloppy ethics. Knowledgeable sellers watch their spelling for that reason.

However, verbosity is not good. It obscures the details and often is the basis for post-sale conflict.

E.g. ".38 Colt Police Pos, good condition." is an inadequate description. Sans good photos you haven't a clue what is really being sold. ".38 Special, Colt Police Positive Special, 4 inch barrel, blue finish, NRA Good condition, SN: D9001xx. Blue wear on muzzle and cylinder from holster/carry, stock checkering worn on right panel, no visible rust, no end-shake, locks up tight, bore clean, scratch on backstrap (see photo). Comes with box (see photo), holster, 2 HKS speedloaders, 4 Bianchi speed-strips." Which description would you prefer?

People who go on and on about their use of the item, unimportant history of the item ("my grandpa shoot a buncha squirrels wid it"), and such things are often trying to obscure the description either because they are ignorant or because they are hiding something.

Buyers need to ask questions BEFORE bidding. Non-communicative sellers might be a warning sign. Certainly an individual seller (as opposed to a dealer) is problematic. Sellers who can't support a sale shouldn't post an auction and individuals would seem to be more anxiously watching the in-box because they need the sale. Shops might only check the mail 3X a day IF they don't have a customer at the counter. Still, they should directly answer the questions.

Those questions should be pointed and saved with the answers until/if the transaction is completed (a benefit of e-mail vs phone conversations). E.g. "How deep is the scratch? Can your thumbnail catch on it?" with an answer such as, "my thumbnail can feel it but it doesn't really catch on it. Maybe .001" or less," or "no, thumbnail doesn't catch but you can feel the irregularity. Looks like a key was pushed against the backstrap at some point. Here's another photo from a slightly different angle..." You certainly don't want no response or something like, "the photo shows the scratch, what more do you want?"

If you want to correct a seller in his description such as with the cartridge or model cite the reference. This will let the seller KNOW you know. I've seen auctions taken down after a message but also left up and become a blocked bidder for that seller...

One could go on and on but in my experience these seem to be the major points. I know they should also be self-evident, but... how many times have you read a post such as "I just got this XXXXXX from gunbroker. How much is it worth?"

That last can be avoided by means of thorough research. You do have books, don't you? Otherwise you might be dependent on internet experts which may or may not be a good thing. You must know what you are getting and be able to properly assess the condition. Condition can be everything.

At any time that either buyer or seller detect something "wrong" they should back out. Politely is better but don't go through with a questionable transaction. Period. It costs far more to both parties to rectify a poorly handled transaction than is reasonable. As always, attention to detail is important. Take care of all the little things and the big things will take care of themselves is most often true.

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