Thinking of becoming a gunshow vendor.....any advice?


August 30, 2004, 10:28 PM
Since I got my C&R I've noticed fantastic deals on accessories, ammo, black powder guns, air rifles and so on.

With some of the companies I've been buying from they specify that they only sell to FFL's (including C&R) or give special pricing to FFL holders.

I was thinking it might be worthwhile to rent a table at the next gunshow
and resell, ammo, spare parts, surplus, black powder guns, barrels, etc...

I know as long as I don't sell guns I'll be ok with the ATF. But I was concerned about reselling surplus ammo.

Anyone have any warnings or advice for someone starting out?

Thanks in advance.

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Kodiak AK
August 31, 2004, 12:10 AM
I think there is an ammo only FFL . I know you need one to sell reloads.

August 31, 2004, 05:08 AM
Learn everything you can about stun guns, Nazi memorabilia, and beef jerky.

Learn to say the most outrageous statements with a straight face.

Learn "gun show" math-why a worn out revolver is worth three times more from you than from a pawn shop.

Cool Hand Luke 22:36
August 31, 2004, 07:51 AM
Make sure your table has some actual firearms, components & accessories.

If you stay away from the Beenie Babies, Jewlery, Klingon Swords, Beef Jerkey, Nazi Uniforms, and Real Estate, you'll be way ahead of 2/3rds of the tables at the show

August 31, 2004, 08:28 AM
I think you'll find that it is a hard way to actually make any money. Give it a try though, if you want, just don't invest too much at first.

August 31, 2004, 08:28 AM
If you stay away from the Beenie Babies, Jewlery, Klingon Swords, Beef Jerkey, Nazi Uniforms, and Real Estate, you'll be way ahead of 2/3rds of the tables at the show

You will also make less money.

August 31, 2004, 08:36 AM
Figure out a way to get repeat customers...I know that whenever I get something from a vendor, I always go back to that same person when the show comes back in town.

Business cards might be helpful. Then people could contact you if they are near you.

August 31, 2004, 08:53 AM
make your beef jerky extra spicy and take a bath

August 31, 2004, 11:16 AM
All kidding aside, customer service can be a make-or-break thing.

I've seen too many dealers who equate "customer" with "moron," and that's a real deal-breaker for me. I don't care if 90% of the customers are morons, that doesn't make me one--and even if I were a moron, I sure wouldn't appreciate being treated like one.

Put another way, you've got to be a real extravert people-person. Are you?

August 31, 2004, 11:29 AM
take a bath



Jim K
August 31, 2004, 11:37 AM
One caution. You may be OK with BATFE, but once you engage in business (which is what you pland to do) watch out for other laws, federal, state and local, not just on selling guns, but on selling anything as a vendor. Many states require that you collect sales taxes and keep records, obtain a business license, maintain books, pay business taxes, etc. The feds may also hit you on business taxes, income taxes, and the excise tax on black powder guns and ammunition.

I know many gun show dealers who don't bother with that sort of thing, but I have known a few who got in deep trouble because they ignored the "minor details".


August 31, 2004, 12:28 PM
Kodiak - There is no "ammo only" FFL you need to sell ammo.

You *DO* need a federal license to manufacture reloads, but thats a general ammo manufacture license.

Being a gun show vendor works if you have several things going for you:

A lot of free weekends
A strong gastrointestinal tract
A LOT of stuff you want to sell - and are flexible with the price.
The patience of a saint.

You will get the most insulting offers - $350 for a NIB condition glock with night sights, $150 for anny K frame S&W, stuff like that.

August 31, 2004, 01:49 PM
Don't forget to price everything about $100 more than it can be got for locally. Guys selling New Glocks with standard sites for $525 and up!!

August 31, 2004, 02:43 PM
Ditto on the people skills. You'll meet some fantastic people and you'll also meet some crazies. I've had one guy that comes up to me at every show...and I can usually see him coming from 4 or 5 rows away...he'll engage me for no less than two hours (this has happened at multiple gunshows). His goal is to collect a piece of wood from every species in the world ( :rolleyes: ) so he always comes to look at my grip scales. He never buys a thing.

I'm always polite but if another person walks up I try to 'disengage'...

Take a good book or magazine to read for the slow times of the show and it's nice to make friends early with nearby vendors when you need somebody to cover your table for bathroom/food/smoke breaks. Better yet, take a buddy who has nothing else to do that weekend.

Also keep a wary eye on your table...things can and will 'disappear'

Good luck with it!

August 31, 2004, 02:44 PM
Luckily, I do take a bath once a month whether I need it or not :neener:

The free weekends are no problem and I am a good salesperson.

If I do my taxes correctly the gunshow sales will be a hobby and I won't
have to worry much.

Treating people with respect is one of my strong suits.

I was just wondering if there were specific items or selling techniques
that I should be thinking about and if having a gunshow table is even worth considering.

August 31, 2004, 03:10 PM
. . . Klingon Swords . . . Be sure you can tell the real ones from the fakes.


August 31, 2004, 04:08 PM
quote: . . . Klingon Swords . . .

Be sure you can tell the real ones from the fakes.

The real ones have "da Switch".

August 31, 2004, 04:21 PM
Oh, and have more than one person. You do need someone to cover the table and someone to talk to.

If you're feeling REALLY saucy, get a small workbench and set up your Dillon 550 and start loading behind the table.

At the end of the show you should have 1000 rounds easily, if not 2 or 3000.

Another way to make money is to take orders from other vendors and go over to a local sub shop or fast food joint to get something because gun show food is mostly mystery meat between bread. I've made a lot of friends who share a semi-sensitive gastrointestinal tract.

Wayne D
August 31, 2004, 09:08 PM
I would consider selling something small and light, think about how heavy and awkward ammo will be to carry to and from the shows. Tables with handgun grips and laser sights seem to popular at shows. Good knives draw a lot of people too. Scopes, red dot sights, air soft guns and tactical flashlights are ideas too. Oh Yeah, I almost forgot those wooden rubber band guns.:D

August 31, 2004, 09:25 PM
Wayne, all great ideas that are also ripe for being stolen.

You dont know HOW many knives are taken off a knife dealers table on the average weekend.

Do some fast math.

One surefire light walks away and you're in the hole a good amount of money. How many items do you have to sell to make up for the loss?


August 31, 2004, 09:30 PM
The first thing to consider is: do you have something to sell that is unique or at a price that would cause people to buy something from you rather than someone else.
I don't know what kind of discount you get with your C&R FFL so I can't comment on that. It just seems to me that I can buy everything at the gunshow other than guns and have it shipped right to my door. And, I don't have to pay sales tax on it, if I bought it from out of state. Yeah, I have to pay shipping, but so do you and I save the tax.

I could never do it, even if there was a lot of money to be made. I don't have the personality. I have spent a lot of time hanging out at my local gun store. And I have been to a lot of gunshows. IMO, for every dealer that is a jerk, there are 1000 customers who are worse. People will spend a lot of time doing everything to beat you out of a dime. And the amount of money they are spending is peanuts. I see people at my local dealer going through a 10 minute decision about buying ONE 50 round box of .22 ammo. One of my friends is an absolute jerk. I have actually been embarrased to be in a store with him. Yet, when you talk to him, the dealer is the jerk and he has an ever increasing number of dealer he won't go to because he says they are jerks. I tell him that maybe if he bought something once in awhile rather than pulling their chains and wasting their time, they might treat him better. One of my faviorite gun store experiences involved him. He walked in our local shop (I was there hanging out) and asked the dealer if he had any .45 Colt brass. The dealer said yes, it is $XX. He yelled WHAT ??? Midway has it for $XX. The dealer reached over on the counter for the Midway catalog he just got in the mail and said, no, Midway has it for more than I do. Friend then says, Oh, OK, I'll take it. Dealer said, F you. This is what you are in for, and that doesn't sound like much fun to me.

August 31, 2004, 09:33 PM
Take enough product. I got a table once when I had my ffl and tested the water with some exotic ammo. Sold out in an hour and had some thumb twiddlin to do...

ken w.
August 31, 2004, 10:05 PM
I have been a vendor for the past 8-10 years and I have had shows that paid to restock my intire inventory 10X over to shows that I've spent more on lunch than I took in in 2 days.The last show I did I rented 5 tables at $45.00 each,$45.00 hotel,$20.00 food,and all the stuff I had to pick up at the show $100.00 = $390.00.
I brought in just over $650.00,of witch $300.00 was going to be paid out on a consignment gun.That left me with $350.00,of witch I made about 30% profit = $105.00.
Was my time worth $105.00 to drive 3 hours,spend 2 days at a show,and come home with $105.00? I didn't think so.
I'm still going to do them because I enjoy going to the gun shows.But,to think that your going to make a ton of money at the shows,well,don't hold your breath.

And,Yeah take a dang shower and brush your stupid teeth.:banghead:
How can anyone go in public and be so smelly and dirty ? Whats wrong with these people.I'm going to rip off the maids cart one of these days and hand out hotel soap to these stinko's.:evil:

Wayne D
August 31, 2004, 11:34 PM

Sure, small items like knives can be palmed and easily stolen. Most knife vendors at the shows up here sell out of display cases so you have to ask to handle one.


I'm like you, I don't have the personality for it either. I learned that at my one and only yard sale. I was so pissed when it was over that I swore I would never have another. People would drive up in $30,000 conversion vans, pick up an item worth $20 that I had priced at $2, and offer me fifteen cents for it. I now take my old stuff to Goodwill or Salvation Army or give it to an individual. If I'm going to give stuff away, I'll give it to someone that needs it.

There is a vendor, that is at every gun show I've been to, who is pissed off the whole time. Every time I walk by his table he is complaining to his buddy because someone didn't fill out the papers right or is handling the guns too much or wasted too much time trying to talk down the price, it's always something. It looks like after ten or fifteen years he would either learn to accept it and calm down or quit coming. I've quit buying from them because of his attitude.

Sylvilagus Aquaticus
August 31, 2004, 11:38 PM
On one of the smaller circuits I used to go to I got to know a lot of the vendors not only as a customer but as a friend. Most were nice guys overall. They got to know me and what I liked, and they'd let me in on stuff like ...

'Hey, Ed Earl over 3 rows down has an old HiPower with those funny stamp marks like you are always after and if you tell him I sent ya, he'd take X for it' kinda deals.

Be nice to the folks who wander by. Engage them with a grin, get them talking...find out what's on their mind, what they've got, what they are looking for, what they want to trade. You don't need to be the Answer Man, but it doesn't hurt to give out good info and be nice while doing it, not that you're not a nice guy anyway, as we all know.

Oh, and if I see more than 3 non-gun related Beanie Babies on your table I won't offer to go get you lunch :D . Oddly enough, one of the most popular guys here at the Big Town show sells tons of repro cowboy duds and stuff. The guys who sell 'custom' knives don't seem to sell as much as the guys who load down their tables with the cheap import knives and blowguns, which doesn't make much sense to me, but the kids always want to 'git sum'pin' and Dad always loses that battle.

One guy I knew from Shreveport supplemented his income by selling mid-grade and high-end airguns, at a better than fair price. He was a real character and always had a crowd who had their money out.

Good luck. Let me know when you're making the loop through here and I'll buy your lunch...if you don't have any Beanie Babies.


September 1, 2004, 12:10 AM
Good luck. Let me know when you're making the loop through here and I'll buy your lunch...if you don't have any Beanie Babies.

Thanks. :)

I use beanie babies for target practice or let the dogs play tug of war with them. :evil: I've never seen a gun related Beanie though.....

September 1, 2004, 02:45 AM
OOOOOOOH!!! OOOOOOOOH!!!! I've got it!

The Beanbag Baby!!! The only round that fires a cute cuddly collectable filled with lead shot! Let the BG breaking into your house know that you're a warm human being, and you'd prefer not to blow his intestines all over your new carpeting.

Now available in four models, with more to come:

-Vinny Varmint, an adorable rodent who'll gnaw his way into your heart!
-Peter Pigeon, with feet (and body) of Clay, but a heart of Gold!
-Colleen Coyote, Who loves your chickens even more than you do! and
-Leonardo Lab Rat, who comes from the woods courtesy of PETA!

Act now, and we'll throw in the exclusive Hippie Hamster Henrietta, who comes with her very own "double-ought" love beads and pachouli oil!

Hurry, supplies are limited.

Reach out with your 12 gauge, and show someone just how much you care!

(Not for use with choked barrels)

September 1, 2004, 05:01 AM
One thing that seems to be more and more common at gunshows today is to "LEARN TO LIE WITH A SMILE". :D

September 1, 2004, 09:06 PM
Best advice I could give is to know your product.

I get really tired of hear'in a song an dance when it's obvious that some of these guys have no clue! Believe it or not a few of us actually know what you have and what it's worth and ya, as mentioned earlier, give us the straight story and we will probably be back next time look'in to buy again from you.

September 1, 2004, 10:06 PM
Whatever you're gonna sell you've got to make sure you buy it for the best price. Then, charge just a bit more and do some volume. Most of the people selling at shows think their stuff is worth too much, probably because they didn't shop around.

There's a guy at our local shows in Denver.
He sells Mosin Nagants for $90, Yugo SKS's for $169, ammo, etc. All of his prices are pretty good, and he's ALWAYS got a crowd around his booth and is actually making sales.

ken w.
September 2, 2004, 12:53 AM
I think that as a vendor,I sell the products that actually work,and not the gimicks.I always have the stuff that the other vendors don't have like .17 cal,.20 cal, & .22 cal bore brushes and bore mops.I have a large selection of rimfire ammo and sell per box,not bricks.Don't you ever want to try new ammo without buying a brick ?I feel that I have the most variety of any vendor at most shows.That is why I usually do good at the gun shows.
But,most of all,I'm not arrogent of nasty to anyone at my table(no matter how much of an a$$ he is or how stupid I think they are) and will help them out weather or not they buy something.If they don't buy this time,they will later.

Texian Pistolero
September 2, 2004, 06:57 PM
Convince yourself that you really look cool in fringed buckskin and coonskin cap,

or full Nazi regalia.

Also, have wife/girlfriend wear tight hot pants and haltertop, (no matter what heft or relative attractiveness.)

September 2, 2004, 07:29 PM
One of the last shows I went to had the biggest crowd selling camo clothing. Of course the girl modeling the camo bikini :what: did help a little by attracting attention. :D

Kodiak AK
September 2, 2004, 07:40 PM

Thanx . That was what i was talking about .:)

September 3, 2004, 09:57 AM
Ditto what WayneD said about the display cases and deal with one customer at a time so one doesn't walk off with your product while another distracts you by arguing about prices, etc.. :D

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