Better Gun Shopping


If you’re in the market for guns right now, you probably already know how things have changed in the last two months. Supplies of guns and ammo are very, very tight, though some odd calibers of both firearms and ammunition are in fairly good supply. But whether you’re buying locally or online, you can make your experience less frustrating for you, your dealer, and other gun buyers by having your ducks in a row before you go shop. Here’s some advice:

#1: Know what you want. This is crucial because we’ve seen dealers setting up kiosks in their parking lots and hand-delivering guns to people in their cars, just like carryout grocery services are doing. Those are online sales, with only legal paperwork completed on site. In most cases, customers don’t get to go into the store. Why would a gun retailer expose his inventory to a bunch of people who might spread the virus inside the store? To narrow your choices, check your back issues of Gun Tests and look for the Value Guide rankings. Those will give you the grades for many guns by caliber, and then you can order online or call and go pick up your guns.

#2 Line up a local FFL. If you find a brick-and-mortar store that’s open, then you’ll fill out your 4473s as usual. If you’re shopping online, you need to have a receiving FFL already lined up to receive your firearm. Have a copy of the FFL available to email. If you don’t have this, a distant retailer who has the gun you want in stock — with ammo — may sell “your” gun because you didn’t have the FFL information ready to go at the time of the transaction.

#3 Have a current ID. Or better yet, have a state concealed-carry license. The latter is better because the government gun-check systems are slowing down because of record volumes, or in some cases state systems are being shut down, so no transactions are possible or they’re delayed. But CHLs in many or most states don’t have to have separate background checks made (check your local laws), so that makes everything go smoother. In either case, you will have to present your current ID or CHL at the time of pickup, and if you don’t have it on you, you are SOL. Don’t forget.

#4 Be patient. If you have a common last name and you have to clear a background check, be prepared to go back later to pick up your purchase.

#5: Ammo. Every wholesaler I’ve checked with has been out of ammo, so retail supplies will be sketchy. Keep looking.

Upside: Now you’ll know what it’s like when your wife is shopping for new shoes.


  1. Todd: I’ve been with yall for a long time. The oldest copy I found is the September 2001. I will not be renewing my subscription. Your magazine has become a magazine for the rich. Not your fault, just the way the industry is going. At least 95% of the guns you review I would have to win the lottery to afford. Most of the magazines, now all I read is Firing lone. I wish you well. People like me are left out in the cold, we are forgotten. Not just by your mag. ,but all gun magazines.
    Sorry, but time for me to go, Tom Rust

  2. Not much of a comment more of a question. I’m considering getting a black powder 1860 army colt in .44 cal. Question: What hoops does a person have to jump thru to purchase this firearm in Michigan. Restrictions of shipping?, purchase permits?, etc. ?
    Thank You


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