Six Tips for Negotiating the Best Deal on Firearms

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My Colt Detective Special. I negotiated a pretty good deal on this beauty.

When selling guns, remember, everything is negotiable!  We’ll get to that in a moment, but first some backstory.

When I was in college more than a decade ago, I was majoring in English.  Why English?  Well, that’s what everyone asked me at the time.  My parents, my friends, my coworkers would all grill me about my major, saying something along the lines of, “What the heck are you going to do with a degree in English?  Teach?  You want to be a teacher?”

“No, I don’t want to teach,” I’d respond.  I wanted to be a writer, but saying so only lead to further inquisition.  “Writer?  What are you going to write?  Like, books?  How are you going to make a living doing that?”

To be fair, the question wasn’t without merit.  In my blue-collar neighborhood, you either became a cop, a fireman, a construction worker or a bartender.  “Writer” just wasn’t an option.   

Knowing that my dream of becoming Norman Mailer was a long shot, I decided to hedge my bet.  So, in my junior year, I complemented my formal education with something more conventional.  I became a salesman.  A Realtor to be exact.

What I quickly learned is that everyone is a salesman, even if they don’t know it.  See, at the very least, you’re constantly selling yourself to those around you.  I mean, what do you think a job interview is?  It’s really just a sales pitch.  What’s the product?  You are.

Recognizing this is a game changer.  Because once you know that you are indeed a salesman, you realize the importance of knowing how to sell.  I’m not going to delve into the ins and outs of selling here, but I want to touch on one of the cornerstones: negotiation, more specifically the sales maxim that everything is negotiable!

SEE ALSO: Blannelberry Gets His Concealed Carry Permit: EP. 3: Buying The Gun On GunsAmerica

One of the sales managers at the real estate company I worked for was fond of telling us a story of how he walked into a McDonald’s for 38 straight days trying to negotiate the price of a cheeseburger.   Each day the manager of the McDonald’s responded to his request for a $0.69 cheeseburger by saying, “I’m sorry, sir, they’re $0.89.” Until finally, on the 38th day, he received his $0.69 cheeseburger.  The McDonalds employee relented and sold my sales manager the $0.69 cheeseburger.

The point he was making that even things that you don’t think aren’t negotiable are negotiable.  It may take more time and patience and persistence, but everything is negotiable.  Even a non-negotiable cheeseburger at McDonald’s.

Of course, the price of a firearm is negotiable.  A few weeks ago I wrote an article that pissed a lot of people off.  It wasn’t my intention to cause a ruckus.  All I wanted to say is that complaining about the MSRP of a firearm is a waste of time because at the end of the day the market determines the price and if you don’t like the market price, that’s a you problem — not a pricing problem with the gun itself.

Six Tips for Negotiating

But now I want to continue this talk and add that just because the market price is set doesn’t mean you can’t get the firearm for less.  Simply put, negotiate!  With that in mind, I wanted to give you some tips on how to negotiate the best deal possible for a firearm.

1. Don’t Insult the Seller

Don’t come in too low where you offend him or waste his time.  If the market value is $600 and you offer him $150, he is going to tell you to hit the bricks and rightfully so.  By the same token, unless it’s a really hot commodity, you don’t want to come in too high either.  If you offer $590 as your initial bid, what are the chances he’s going to sell it to you for $550?  Zero.

2. Look Up Comps! 

If you want to buy a Colt Detective Special, see what they’re selling for on GunsAmerica.  That’s what I did.  Once I had a good range of pricing, I knew what was realistic and what was at the higher end of the spectrum.  You can also talk to people who are familiar with gun sales to get an idea of what’s going for what.  When negotiating, pointing to convenient comps only bolsters your argument for a lower price point.  It tells the seller that (a) you’ve done your homework and (b) your request isn’t unreasonable given the marketplace.

3. Downplay desire

Even if you want it so badly you can taste it, don’t tip your hand.  Come in with a poker face.  Imply that you can either take it or leave it.  In fact, it’s even better if that’s how you actually feel.  The best deals I’ve ever scored have been the ones where I was in a position where my urgency for the product was low.  Experienced sellers can usually sense when someone is extremely interested and when someone is only mildly interested.  When they know you want it, they’re not going to be as flexible on the price.

4. Be Nice

Don’t be a jerk.  The idea that playing hardball while negotiating is nonsense.  It’s not a coincidence that everyone who meets president Trump comments about how he is so nice in person, and that he looks you in the eye and really listens to what you’re saying.  As that old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

5. Don’t Be Gun Shy  

If it is a good deal grab it before someone else does.  I remember showing houses to this young couple.  We found the perfect house for them.  It had everything they wanted.  During the negotiations we got stuck at a point where we were only negotiating over a tiny percentage of the final bid.  While we waited for the seller to respond to that final counter, someone swooped in and purchased the house at full listing price.  My buyers were crushed.  They had a good deal in their lap and they pushed a little too hard.  Thankfully guns are not like houses.  They’re much easier to sell.  On that note, I may not have gotten the best deal on my Colt, but I got a pretty good deal.   And I’m happy.

6. Shop Locally, Build Relationships 

Friendly local gun stores are the backbone of the firearms industry.  Do they always have the best prices?  No.  But more often than not, you’ll consistently get good deals if you make friends and frequent the establishment.  Competent store employees and owners know who the regulars are and will go the extra mile to make sure their customers are happy.  That may come in the form of special pricing, early looks at new products, discounts on ammo, quality advice, and exceptional customer service.  So, shop locally.  Plus I always feel better about giving my hard earned money to someone in my community as opposed to a chain store or corporation.  I also find it easier to negotiate with those I’ve done business with in the past.  The reason is obvious, the more you purchase from them, the more leverage you have in the negotiation.

Conclusion

These are my tips for negotiating the best deal.  Don’t insult the seller, do your homework on pricing, downplay desire, be friendly, be willing to pull the trigger when it’s time and shop locally when possible.  By doing all of this you greatly increase your chances of scoring a solid deal. Good luck and happy hunting!

Shop GunsAmerica for the best deals on firearms.  Don’t forget to negotiate!

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Jimbo March 26, 2017, 12:08 am

    We don’t have any “friendly” shops here. Not only do they try to rip you off, they refuse to order anything. So I domy business online.

    • Tom June 4, 2017, 5:57 pm

      Sounds to me like you need to get yourself an FFL and open a business. Trust me,.. if you’re a fair, knowledgeable and treat every customer according to their need,… you can sweep business from the other stores. Gun owners and first time seekers will flock to a good gun store.

  • Todd March 25, 2017, 12:20 am

    Another great tactic is bundling the purchase. We all know that margins on firearms can be tight for the seller and that wiggle room may be small. Often, just asking if there’s room to come down the dealer may shave a few dollars off. If that’s not enough, tell them that you’re on a budget and state your ceiling.

    If they cannot honor that price consider asking them to throw in a holster, magazines, ammo or case to name a few. You would be surprised at what you find. Dealers often have high mark ups on these accessories and they may be able to throw in these add-on items that you know you’ll end up buying anyways. Remember, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

    Lastly, always be respectful and kind. If you can’t come to a deal thank them for their time and consideration. There’s a strong chance that the two of you will cross paths again and with it, the opportunity to make a deal. Good luck!

  • Big Jim March 24, 2017, 5:51 pm

    I work at a gun counter in a medium-sized chain that is not a sporting goods store. These are good tips but seem to be geared a bit more to a smaller or more-local gun shop. The author all but says as much in his article. Big Box stores, smaller chain stores and stores for whom firearms or sporting goods is not their main focus do share some things in common with these smaller gun shops but most of these tips really cannot help.

    I am actually pretty limited on the sorts of discounts I can offer potential buyers. Firearm sales are watched disproportionately closely by my bosses given how little of the store’s actual income comes from firearms. This is partly because of record-keeping requirements placed on FFL holders and partly because of the considerably smaller profit margins associated with firearms compared to other departments in the store. Gross profit on firearms and ammunition tends to hover around 15% to 22%, whereas clothes, toys or jewelry could be as high as 300%. If I discount a firearm below sticker price, it appears on reports sent to bosses in three different states across two time zones so I want to be able to document why the firearm was discounted. These bosses are subject to shifts in moods and whims but lately and with sales declining, they are wanting to maximize profit per turn, rather than lower prices and turn more product with more labor costs for the same amount of profit.

    I don’t have the authority in the cash register to discount the guns so I have to call a manager to override the price. The managers don’t really have as good of a handle on the guns as I do, so they do ask for my advice when the situation occurs and I can recommend one way or the other but ultimately it is not my call.

    Generally speaking, the two most common discounts for firearms are price-matching and discounts for scratch-and-ding shelf models, and both of these scenarios have to meet certain criteria. To discount a scratch-and-ding floor model, it has to be the last one in stock and it has to be pretty dinged up. Small scratches and dings, and I mean ones that you have to find, won’t add up to a discount. Some guns to get a bit of shelf rash and if it is easily seen, then we can discount but most of the time it is only around 10% (see the profit margin argument) and I get guys fairly often requesting half off. We had a Benelli Super Black Eagle II, for example, with a loose front sight bead. A guy wanted to know what kind of discount we could take so I called my manager to stop what he was doing and come over to the other side of the store. While we waited, this potential customer bragged about how easy it would be to fix this front sight bead and how inexpensive it would be. My manager shows up and he asks for $400 off. We did not sell that gun that day and wasted my time, my co-workers time and this potential customer’s time.

    Price-matching is another acceptable discount. Don’t ask me to look up what a competitor charges for a gun and then ask me to price match. We are limited as to whom we will price match but will consider brick and mortar stores (but not pawn shops) within about 100 miles. We will not price match Bud’s or CheaperThanDirt or any other online retailer. If you want to go with them, we do offer FFL transfers, though. A guy bought a Crickett once and had it shipped to the store. He apologized for not ordering it through us, and I said that it was fine because the store probably made more charging him the FFL transfer fee than had he bought a new Crickett off the shelf (see the profit margin thing again). It has to be an identical item – a guy once asked if we could price match eight individual pounds of gunpowder to an 8-lb keg price he found in a magazine, before Hazmat charges (“Which magazine?” “I don’t remember.” – which reminds me, make sure you know who it is you want me to price match). I cannot price match our Sig 238 with night sights to an identical one without night sights. If the part numbers between ours and theirs is different, I may not be able to answer what the difference is, but they are not the same item. But, if it is a brick and mortar store selling an identical item, yes, we can and will price match.

    We will discount the price on aged inventory, but your definition of aged inventory and mine are probably pretty different. We have had very few guns make it long enough to qualify for this kind of discount, but usually it is more than 5 years old for us to consider it. One thing about a chain is that if something doesn’t sell here, we can ship it elsewhere and try to sell it there and that is probably what we would rather do than sell it at a discount. It takes money to make money and sometimes that may involve $15 in shipping charges to get that extra $50 three months later.

    Don’t spend the whole time asking me what we charge for something and then telling me it is cheaper somewhere else over and over and over again. I am pretty aware of the market locally and I know there are many things that we sell higher than other places and I know what we sell cheaper than them. Like you, I go out and look at the prices of guns and ammo while I am out and about because I, too, am a firearm enthusiast and member of the local community. It is okay to mention a couple of things but if you act like it is a 10- or 20-question test that I keep getting the answer wrong on every time you come in, I am not going to want to work with you this time or the next time you come in. There are a few people I know who come in and complain about prices like it is their job. One pair in particular, a father-son team, it seems like the son is trying to impress the father with his complaining about prices, once going so far as to tell me quite proudly that a gun shop some 400 miles away was $10 cheaper than we were on a Smith & Wesson Shield. I think that guy is autistic, but that is neither here nor there. Another guy was in a few weeks ago complaining about prices so much, he complained about the price of things other people were buying.

    There is a reason the first tip is no. 1. If you want us to work with you, don’t be a jerk. One guy told a joke to a female manager about how God hates women (while she is giving him a discount on a scratched gun) and then two months later he comes back in and wants another discount and says “after everything I bought here?”. His best strategy is probably not to try to remind us about the last time he bought a gun.

    I have one fellow gun salesman who refuses to dicker just because if you give someone a deal, they will immediately run out of the store and tell anyone with ears about how they did him dirty, and that person he told the story to will then come in and try to get the better of us too. A valid point, but I do balance that point of view with the exceptions for scratched guns and price-matching.

    Some guys just enjoy the fight, I know one guy that bought a gun after a discount of $3.30 before tax, just because they haggled.

    But the one discount I would not consider is the “just because” kind of discount. But, it’s not really up to me anyway. I just am the guy whose fault it is when the 4473 paperwork doesn’t add up right.

  • Dennis DiPentino March 24, 2017, 3:20 pm

    Guns unlike groceries etc are what we want, not what we really need, they are almost vanity items, or great for one’s ego, I have a huge gun safe and it’s full of guns, that I hardly hold, let alone fire…! If I want a gun, I make an offer, if someone needs the money, we are both happy, if they are trying to make a killing, they need to keep looking, because I was born at night, but not last night.. let them keep cleaning them…lol I have very expensive items other than guns and nobody is kicking my door down to even pay the appraised values, what I have them insured for.. who why should I feel like a heel? Best of luck, I love alot of bang for the buck, no pun intended! LOL

  • LL March 24, 2017, 10:57 am

    To me, tip #6 is the most important for both parties. After visting a few LGS’s and big chain stores, My LGS/range (5 star rated, 3 indoor ranges) is highly staffed and doesn’t offer the lowest prices that you can find on the internet BUT, they offer a fair price that includes a 3 month range membership that affords you as long as you want, anytime the store is open, no questions asked. A gun purchase also gives you 5% off any accessories and 10% off of any training courses available. They have an onsite gunsmith/armorer for both firearms and Bows. They actually want your business and don’t try to show you what THEY know, rather they try to educate you (if needed) in a very non-snobbish way. When you buy an accessory like lasers, sights, etc., they in most cases install them free of charge and on the spot. I feel I have a relationship with people who seem to have a good memory and have EARNED my repeat business. If I pay a few bucks more for a gun than the “LOWEST PRICE IN THE WORLD”, I’m assured that I received the best VALUE for my money and will continue to do so there!

  • Will Drider March 24, 2017, 10:47 am

    Under #1 above I would add that included in Market Value is its subset: Firearm Grading Criteria. The most common grading criteria is provide as a NRA Standard but there are others and sometimes businesses will create there own. Firearm condition drives price and if buyer and seller can’t agree on condition, the gap between asking and offer might be too wide to close. Buyers need to know what a BLEM is, what factory refurbished represents and which way value goes when modifications from origional condition are present.

  • Cam March 24, 2017, 10:25 am

    I hate negotiations, I’m not a gun dealer, so it’s not my buisiness, so when I set my sale price on guns it is usually middle of the road of comparable sales. I’ll find comparable on GunBroker and gunsAmerica and follow the auctions that sell. So I use Completed sales, not asking.
    My guns are almost always NRA 90 or better. When someone try’s to negotiate, I’m never selling because I have to, so I simply state that the price is not negotiable, if they continue to try and get me to lower it I end the conversation and will not sell to them even at the ask price.

  • Perlcat March 24, 2017, 10:06 am

    Good article; wish more people would read it and live by it.

  • Captain Dave March 24, 2017, 9:58 am

    How much are you really going to save with such tactics? Like the hamburger guy who saved twenty cents after wasting countless days, you might wind up a winner of $10. to $50. Meanwhile, calculate your wasted hours as though they have a dollar value and you may discover that it actually cost you $200. to save $20. “KISS”, just check the price in two or three local shops, maybe play one against the other, and go for the best price.

  • Marc March 24, 2017, 7:36 am

    Not with guns or cars. Is called depreciation. Is like a garage sells; cheaper is better.

  • Mark N. March 24, 2017, 1:49 am

    Doesn’t work too well on GunsAmerica where almost everything new is a set price and not an auction.

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