G&A Basics: How and When to Sell Guns Online
April 24, 2013
As a gun writer, I like to consider myself a little more well-informed than the average gun owner about most things that go "bang." Buying and selling guns, ammo and accessories online is no big deal, right? Well, thinking you're smart and well-informed, and being smart and well-informed are two different things. As of right now, my PayPal account is restricted until I fill out their, "I'm sorry I broke your rules," document, admitting I violated their Acceptable Use Policy. What did I do?
I had the temerity, the audacity, the cojones to sell an AR-15 magazine on GunBroker, and accept payment through PayPal. When Paypal found out, they restricted my account so that I can now deposit money into it — but not withdraw any — until I fill out and send in their Acceptable Use Policy affidavit.
EBay is well known to be hostile to gun owners, treating firearms, parts and ammunition like the plague, but I thought I was safe working through GunBroker, which specializes in hosting auctions of exactly those kind of products readers of Guns & Ammo would be interested in. Lesson learned. I guess that's why sellers on GunBroker don't have PayPal listed as a payment option, but instead take money orders, checks, credit cards, etc.
GunsAmerica has recently instituted a policy that states everything bought on their site has to be paid for with USPS Postal Service Money Orders. As GunsAmerica explains, "If you use USPS money orders and mail them USPS, you generate what they call a 'nexus' and if, God forbid, you are scammed online, they will respond to your complaint."
The USPS has Postal Service Inspectors, and they take fraud seriously.
"Credit cards are the safest way to pay for internet purchases, but only gun dealers are allowed to have a merchant account that can take payments for guns online." If somebody trying to sell you something online is saying something different, they're either wrong or somehow trying to scam you.
In doing research for this article, I also found this on GunsAmerica: "Paypal is not an option. Please do not attempt to use it to pay for or to get paid for GunsAmerica sales. Paypal is violently anti-gun and has suspended and frozen thousands of legitimate gun seller accounts over the years." Too bad I didn't know that earlier, but hopefully my pain can be your gain.
GunBroker and GunsAmerica are the two of largest Internet auction sites devoted to firearms and accessories, but not the only ones. There are also GunAuction.com, ArmchairGunShow.com and ArmsBid.com, just to name a few. If you've never used one of the online auction sites to buy or sell guns, ammo, or accessories, there are a few things I've learned over the years that will help you out.
To buy or sell anything through an online auction site, you'll have to set up an online user account. Sellers on these websites live and die by their reputation, which is referred to by various terms such as their "feedback" or "user level." GunBroker uses a grading system that should be familiar to anyone who went to school, A+ being the best. How many total votes they've received is also listed, so a seller who has a high grade with a huge number of sales is always the best bet. Sellers to look for on GunsAmerica have a user level that says they are "Trusted" or "Gold."
Online auction sites are so popular and useful, they are used by gun stores and professional sellers as much or more now than they are by private citizens. This isn't a bad thing. Selling stuff online requires very little investment and reaches a wide audience, so gun stores and FFL holders can often sell guns more cheaply online than stores who only do face-to-face business.
When you have something to sell and have an account set up, most of the auction sites have easy-to-use walkthroughs to show you how to set up your own auction. The fees they charge for putting up a listing can range from a few bucks to a few dozen, and the fees are usually only charged after the item has sold. Most of the time the fees are calculated as a percentage of the selling price — 1 to 2 percent on GunsAmerica based on your membership level, and 1.25 to 5 percent on GunBroker based on the price of the item sold.
One helpful hint: Always upload a photo of what you're selling. If you don't, not only will most potential buyers pass up your listing, anyone still interested will just email you asking for a photo.
GunBroker and its like aren't the only useful places to track down good deals online. Whatever type of firearm you fancy, chances are there is a forum devoted to it somewhere — such as ColtAutos.com, where collectors gather.
Perhaps the largest firearms forum is AR15.com. "Arfcom," as it is known, is a huge site that isn't just devoted to ARs, and gun companies know this. Manufacturers have a large presence on the site, not just through ads but through forum posts talking about new products, or talking their customers through problems they may be experiencing. Many companies frequently have special deals available only to members of Arfcom. Arfcom also has their Equipment Exchange, where members who want to buy, sell, trade or get involved in group buys send emails back and forth.
When dealing with individual sellers, the potential for being scammed is always higher. There's no way to completely eliminate fraud, so just use common sense — if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, if the seller only provides stock photos, wants you to mail your payment to a P.O. Box or maybe a different state even though they're selling one of their "personal" items, or does anything else that raises your red flags, you have only yourself to blame if you send your payment and never see anything in return.
When is the best time to buy and/or sell? Well, if you've got any sort of semi-auto, magazine-fed rifle you're looking to part with, now would be the time. The same goes for any ammunition or AR or AK magazines — they are all drawing premium prices. Legally, buyers are responsible for making sure the products they're purchasing are legal in their city/state, but as a seller, you should learn which states have banned certain items. That is why so many gun companies have stopped sales of ARs and standard capacity magazines to departments and even individual law enforcement officers in ban zones such as New York, because they don't want to run afoul of new and ever-changing gun laws.
When you post your listing, you want as many people as possible to have the chance to look at it, so don't have it run over a holiday weekend. Again, use common sense — Hawaiian shirts sell better in June than they do in January. If you live in a place which sees snow on the ground six months of the year and only want to sell your competition rifle to a local, February is not a good time to put it up for sale.