Starting my own gun store!


January 11, 2006, 08:45 PM
I have been entertaining the idea of starting my own gun store. I work in retail and enjoy it, but I have a love for firearms.

How feasable would it be for a 22 year old man with virtually no expendable income start his own gun store. Also, besides a bussiness liscense and ffl, is there much more i must do?

Also, for those of you who know the Athens, Alabama area, how would you feel about another gun store in the city? We have a decent sized one (Bradford's Pawn) in the city. Athens has an approx population of 19,000... and is a rural area. Do you think the city could support 2 stores?

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January 11, 2006, 09:08 PM
Simply alot more.

You'll need a building or need to rent space in a business building. You'll need to get an alarm system installed. Bars for any windows.

In other words, you'll need quite abit of money to start.

I recommend getting some schooling in gunsmithing instead. Alot of gunsmiths start right in their homes. I'm waiting for my loan at the Bank to increase to $10,000.00 so I can start my own mail order airsoft business.

January 11, 2006, 09:24 PM

My buddy in Alexander City, Alabama started his store with $150,000.00 in inventory. When I asked him about starting my own store in B'Ham, he said if he had to do it over again he would want $250,000.00 in inventory alone

Think like this, to become a Glock distributor you must buy like 6 glocks @ $400.00 each, just to qualify. Now imagine there are something like 4 sizes for each caliber and there are what 5 or 6 calibers...that's 24 @ $400.00 each or almost $10,000.00 and that 's just for Glocks...what about Sigs, Walthers and Springfield XDs.

Then there are revolvers and add to that .45s. You have any idea what wholesale prices are for a Wilson Combat .45?

Now you'll want sone long guns...imagine what 3 ARs will cost from each of the multiple manufacturers. Throw in a few Brownings, half a dozen Remingtons and maybe a Savage or two...

Now add to that some ammunition. How many manufacturers are there? How many would you like to carry?

Now that thats done you need a place, a business license, INSURANCE...whew, almost forgot, liability and theft and property.

Shall I go on?

I don't mean to be discouraging, it is just that I own a business and know the pitfalls of trying to start with no money. A better idea may be to start by working gunshows and work up from there.

Get a table at the next 6 gunshows in Alabama. If you come out ahead of the game after six gun shows do six more....if your still ahead do tweleve more. If you still make money...forget about owning a gun store and just go on the road oing gun shows. How cool would that be...22, single traveling everywhere one wants and only working on the weekends...

my $0.02

January 11, 2006, 09:24 PM
Always follow your dreams, and never, ever give up. going to a gunsmith school is good advise. get the basic formal training from the school. the NRA can find a good school for you. start there and work for a gun shop to learn the ins and outs of the business and SAVE your money. borrow as little as you have to because debt for start up costs will choke you. pay cash for as much as you can so you can laugh at the competition. if your only 22 you have the world by the balls. plan out you future, write it all down otherwise it will just be a dream, but if you write a plan down on paper with realistic goals, then before you know it you will achieve them. i am 41 years old and just changed my career 2 years ago from doing banking to owning my own landscaping business. i wanted to get out of the high stress corporate world and build something for my family. you can do it, but take the right steps so that with alot of hard work you can successfully achieve your goals. even if it takes you a few years, you'd be surprised how fast it will go by. i remember when i was 22. it seemed like yesterday to me. go get your dream!!!!!!

good luck my young friend :)

January 11, 2006, 09:28 PM
There are a couple of shops here that do only transfers and special orders, basically a kitchen table FFL with a small storefront.
I've only been in one of them and they have only a few used trade ins and some Hi-Points in stock
I know that the shop has been in existance for at least 20 years but i don't know if it's the same owner

Not very exciting but maybe a start

January 11, 2006, 09:44 PM
Go and get a job at a gun store. After a few years revisit the idea of owning one.

January 11, 2006, 09:50 PM
I entertained the gun store idea for awhile but let it go. It takes a lot of money and overhead and is an industry where the profit margin is fairly low. Instead I plan to start a furniture making buisness sometime in the next few years. Conventional things like bookshelves to help pay the bills but my main focus will be dungeon recreation/medieval furniture construction as it is something that has always been a personal hobby. Much better profit margin, a lot of things in that area can be built for a hundred bucks and sells for upwards of six..then agian it isn't exactly the hottist industry either. But as to guns it is a lot of overhead with low profit margins. I would say a better bet is to get your ffl and deal at gun shows and over sites like You got less overhead, insurence is little if anything, you don't need a store, etc. If you deal mostly at gun shows you probably don't even need a buisness license. It'll be cheaper, get your foot in the door, and help you learn more about the buisness aspect of things.

January 11, 2006, 09:53 PM
The problem with starting a gun shop is the price of inventory. Unlike housing and so many other items, the price of firearms and accessories does not vary by demographics. In other words, a $600 gun is a $600 gun, whether you live in Beverly hills or Shreveport. Obviously, in a lower income state/province, it is more difficult to come up with the capital to start said business. Im no expert, but last I checked th economy in most of Alabama isn't exactly booming.

Basically, figure on needing around $150,000 in inventory and then add the building rent, licensing fees, etc. If you own a home you might be able to pull an SBA, but from talking to the gun store owners I've known over the years, you need to be able to survive on pretty much zero income for a year or two until the business takes off. That's a tall order. MOst folks I know who have opened shops were either independently wealthy or had a spouse who could float all the bills single-handedly. Their shops were self-sustaining at best for the first couple years.

I don't mean to discourage, but reality is painful. Sorry.

January 11, 2006, 10:05 PM
agreed with the other posters.
Almost all business's fail from lack of cash/capital.
and 22 with nothing saved won't work. You need to start at something that needs low capital and the gunsmithing idea is a good one for a low cost startup business.
You never want to compete ina business where low price is the selling point, and that's what new guns are. The margin in new guns is less than 10%
that's gross, not net.
That's a lot of new guns to sell.
I would bet money that most gun stores make most of their profit on used guns, lot better markup. (just like buying a new car vs. a used car).

Also, i really like the idea of Palerider1, write it down. start your business plan now. Go into gun stores, write down what you like, what you don't like. what works, what doesn't work. get a hold of the numbers, and keep putting money away to get something open at some point.
You are 22, if you get your own business up in 3 years, that's awesome.
Also, sometimes people sell out, that's a much better way to get started. Lot lot lot easier to borrow money to buy an already existing business.
of course, the only way to make money at it is to find one that is mis-managed and make it work better (tough to do).

but save your energy, you'll need it. A friend told me once the best part of owning his own business was getting to set his own hours. He said you get to pick any 18 hours a day you want to work. ;)

January 12, 2006, 12:55 AM
Thank you all for your great information... I think I will take your advise and start out slow. I like the idea of getting my ffl and trying selling guns on gunbroker from my home. I can do that slow with low inventory while still working at Lowe's to pay the bills.

Do you know if i will need a bussiness liscense or just an ffl or what. How do I get started?

January 12, 2006, 01:37 AM
You will still need a Business License from the State(Tax number) and a License from the City and or County if required. If you hurry and apply for your FFL right now you could have it by late Spring. If you take another month the ATF will be busy checking fireworks for the 4th of July so you will have to wait.

I have been selling on Gunbroker since they put Gunhouse out of business back in 1999 or so. A little advise. You can sell new guns there but do not plan on making any real money. You do it mainly to have something in your log book. You have to move guns to keep your license.

If you profit 20.00 on a new gun sale you did pretty good. Often the only profit that you will make is from over charging on shipping if you use a fixed fee.

Credit Cards. If you choose to set up a Merchant Account it costs. On line Merchants pay a higher fee than store front merchants. The Processing companies do this because their risk is greater.You can build the cost into your prices like I do, but it hurts you because the other guys advertise the "cash" price. Very few folks will do the math to see if you are cheaper vs paying the 2 or 3% fee to the other guy.

Trade in guns. You can make good money or lose good money. Remember most guys that trade in guns want what they can sell it for. You can not give them that unless you want to work overtime at Lowe's to support you business.

The market is full of 1990's Police trade in guns right now.The last three used Glocks that I sold were for 40.00 each less than I paid for them. When I first got them they sold good. So I purchased more and the timing was bad. After sitting on them since early last Summer I took the loss so that I could buy other things that would sell.

Gunbroker is full of new guns that are being sold for less than you can buy them for. Do not worry about making many sales. The only real money that can be made is from local sales. You can sell it for 30-40.00 more to the locals.They know that it can be found cheaper online but after all the fees are done your is about the same cost. The fact that they can see it in person and take it home faster means a lot to most buyers

January 12, 2006, 02:52 AM
I'll second what most of the people here are saying. I'd strongly suggest gunsmithing and machinist training. I just dropped off a gun today with a gunsmith who had more work than he could handle. I'm going to have to wait over a week for a 2hr job! I know other gunsmiths that tell me 6-8 weeks for work! Not complaining, just observing that there is work out there for a competant machinist/gunsmith.
One other thing to bear in mind is that you must have a storefront that supports walk in business for the BATFE to take your application seriously. They will inspect your premesis prior to approval. There is a way around this, sort of. Work as a gunsmith for an existing gun store. If the two of you can reach an agreement, he can throw you business, and you can have your FFL out of his store, as long as you don't have any business conflicts. I know one gunstore that handles title I guns(the regular kind), while another guy with another FFL handles title II(machine guns, etc) out of the same store front. Another option is finding a small store and operating your FFL from part of it, paying for the space. It might fly. It worked for me for awhile, until the store closed, and so did I.
Personally, I'd do the gunsmithing for awhile without the FFL, it's much less paperwork. If you want some interesting work, try working for a small manufacturer of title II's or perhaps precision rifles. I can't say it's great money as I have no idea of the salary, but it would be interesting.

January 12, 2006, 08:56 AM
with starting 2 (non-gun) businesses,...

Sit down and figure out howmuch money you need to operate for 1 yr., assuming you're not gonna make any money 'til them...

Then TRIPLE IT, because of all the stuff you didn't think of, and all the unforseen stuff that's gonna crop up...

I started both businesses while working a full time job, and didn't quit it until they were making more money than I made otherwise...

Overhead is your enemy...figure out a way to do it with minimal costs...And retail spacein a good location is expensive...

I could go on for pages,but you get the idea...evenn the smallest/simplest business (and I wouldn't classify a gunshop in there)needs significent
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to start successfully

1 old 0311
January 12, 2006, 09:13 AM
Start TODAY buying USED GUNS AT GOOD PRICES. The profit on new guns is very small, usually about $35.00. You can do MUCH better with used guns. Also get involved with the different gun sales sites. I know a guy with a shop in a converted garage in a tiny town that does pretty well. He said most of his business online.
The gunsmith school is a great idea. I live in a city with a million people and good gunsmiths are very hard to find. I ended up going to Gander Mt. and that took 2 months. Good luck.


January 12, 2006, 09:44 AM
I do pretty much what Kevin says. Depending on your location, you may be allowed to work out of your house. My house already had surrounding fence and alarm, which the ATF deemed good enough security wise. I had to reinforce the door on my closet and add some locks, but other than that my initial cost wasn't much more than the cost of living in the house anyway.

The mark up on used guns is pretty decent. New guns not so much. It's good to have an idea what things sell for in differnt parts of the country. Academy sports puts new 870s on sale for about $200, but in some places up north they tend to go for closer to $280. In those places, people are going to pay a higher price for a used gun than down south, so I can go into a pawn shop, buy 10 870s (they's give you a pretty goood discount when you buy a bunch of guns) and then put them online and sell them to people up north.

I started with about 15,000 of my own cash. In my first year I've recouped all of my initial outlay and have a pretty good used gun inventory going.

Also, the cost per gun is cheaper if you are, but you can do without becoming a "master dealer." You can order from wholesalers like RSR and Jerry's. It's not perfect, but it saves you the trouble of having to outlay 10 grand to one manufacturer.

If you really want to have a store, you'll need a ton more cash than I started out with. The figures posted above are not unreasonable. Again, new guns have a very small mark up, so you make most of your money on ammo, cleaning supplies, etc.

January 12, 2006, 10:17 AM
Another good thing to do when you do have the money to open up would be to open a range/gun store. One more thing to bring in income and you will get more impulse purchesing from people who just came to shoot but saw something and fell in love with it.

January 12, 2006, 10:41 AM
Another good thing to do when you do have the money to open up would be to open a range/gun store. One more thing to bring in income and you will get more impulse purchesing from people who just came to shoot but saw something and fell in love with it.

yeah, but he just said he didnt' have any money. Indoor ranges START in the 500,000 range and I really doubt it could be done for that nowadays, figure really closer to a million.

On starting it, your state online somewhere has "how to open a business", in Colorado it's the Secretary of State, but your state is different.

You need to decide if you are going to be a sole proprietorship, a LLC or a corporation.
You need a business bank account, (unless sole), DO NOT MIX THE TWO MONIES, you need to have a working relationship with an accountant, get one and get a good one.

Keeping books is a PITA, but you have to do it. get something like quickbooks, or just start simple with paper.

Build a REALLY GOOD business plan before you do any of this, all the costs will fall into line.
Double the amount of money you think you need, 1/2 your revenue projections
if it still works on paper, you have a shot.
HTH, very exciting, keep us posted.

January 12, 2006, 11:03 AM
Didn't relize it was that expensive. I wonder about an outdoor range, with a small store also? Was a thought and I didn't know they were that expensive.

January 12, 2006, 11:54 AM
...diversify your income. Gun smithing, working part time in somebody else’s gunshop. Refuse to listen to negativity ! Become an instructor, write about guns and shooting sports, don't get discouraged !

The old adage "Do what you love and the money will follow." rings true, IF you prepare for it. Take classes in business management, marketing and creative writing. Develop a savings plan by living beneath your means. Refuse to listen to negativity ! Track what sells on gun broker and at your local shows. Watch current an emerging trends in the industry.

Consult an attorney to find out what is required to do business in your area. Visit the local chamber of commerce, they either can help you with a business plan of can point you towards someone who can. Refuse to listen to negativity ! Learn to sort good advice from the bad and do not to listen to people tell you that you will fail. Better to spend your life living on your terms than working for somebody else.

Great idea run with it !

January 12, 2006, 11:58 AM
You have received much good advice. Here is my 2 cents:

As my papa used to say there is more than one way to skin a cat. Folks here have given you several different ways.

I have owned and operated 2 businesses and sold the second one last summer. I have money in the bank and am looking for a new business. I am about ready to turn 60 and would like something to take me into the golden years.

I have not figured out a way to make a living in the firearms industry. I have been buying, selling, and collecting guns for the last 10 years. As an engineer, I understand the technical side; and as a former business owner I understand that side, but I can't make the numbers work out.

Here is what I have seen in my area: One guy I know is retired military and works a gunsmith shop out of his basement. He uses his FFL to do transfers for $25 and buys new guns for word of mouth customers at a very low mark up. It appears to me to be a cash generating hobby for him.

Another guy I know operates his FFL store in a small back room of his car repair shop. He has less than a dozen guns in stock, will order anything (by that I mean anything that he is authorized to order) you want for a reasonable price, does transfers for $10. He makes a living fixing cars.

Another guy I know operates a store front that is all firearms related. I don't know how long he has been in business, but I have been dealing with him for the last 10 years. He will order anything you want for a reasonable price, charges $25 for transfers, and has a pretty decent inventory of both handguns and long guns. Just from being in his shop numerous times, it appears to me that he makes a fair amount on the used gun trade.

My recommendations:
1. See if you can get a job at the pawn shop in town. Work there for at least a year and find out all you can.
2. Find out if there are any other FFL's in the area. Go to or other online sites and search for FFL's who do transfers. Buy an inexpensive gun online and do the transfer with them. When you pick up the gun, pump them for information.
3. Go to every gun show you can and see what the market is like. Do some buying and selling. Talk to all of the gun vendors, get their business cards, see if they have a store front, etc.
4. Find out where cops buy their guns. Talk to cops.
5. Join a gun club.

Except for me being almost 3 times your age, I too have worked in retail (sporting goods including firearms), and love firearms; but I have yet to figure out how to turn it into a living (can you say low margins?).

There has been a lot written about the myth of turning a hobby into a successful business. Not that it cannot be done, but it is very difficult. The advantage you have over me, is that you can go at this slowly and take 5-10 years to figure it out. Good luck. poppy

January 12, 2006, 01:21 PM
It takes a lot of money and overhead and is an industry where the profit margin is fairly low.

Indeed. Reason why I was throwing around some ideas of opening a HOOTERS (like)/GUN STORE (minus the alcohol).

Half dressed young college girls selling over priced guns to middle aged men with high limit credit cards.

Buy two or more guns or fifty dollars or more in accessories and get a free plate of HOT WINGS!

It might work?

January 12, 2006, 02:57 PM
Indeed. Reason why I was throwing around some ideas of opening a HOOTERS (like)/GUN STORE (minus the alcohol).

Half dressed young college girls selling over priced guns to middle aged men with high limit credit cards.

Buy two or more guns or fifty dollars or more in accessories and get a free plate of HOT WINGS!

It might work?

Babes and guns is a great combination! ;)

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