The Home Based Gun Dealer
This is commonly an early retiree who is looking to supplement his income with occasional transfers of firearms. In other not so uncommon cases, it will be an aspiring business man who uses the firearm trade as one of many home based businesses, at least some of which will be multilevel marketing. A savvy home based dealer takes full advantage of the low overhead of conducting the business and will take advantage of certain tax deductions that come from using the home as a springboard for business.
You meet home based dealers usually through advertisements in local phone books, newspaper, and at gun shows. Shotgun News also publishes a list of dealers who are willing to transfer guns for a small commission. Usually at least half of the dealers on the Shotgun News list are home based dealers.
The advantage to dealing with this type of dealer is that the savvy shopper can usually get low prices on special order guns and a level of personal service and discretion that will not be found at most retail establishments. The home based dealer is also much more likely to have flexible hours with regard to making appointments. A disadvantage is that there is little or no anonymity in dealing with the home based dealer and they usually will not have any impressive stock of used guns and almost no new guns. Thus, the age old activity of browsing and haggling with a gun dealer is cut short with the home based dealers. In fact, purely social or browsing visits to the home based dealer will often be considered a rude interruption of what is probably the leisure time of a busy person. In contrast, lonely retirees will often enjoy a visit. The same rule of small gun shops applies. It is generally a custom of courtesy to buy something when you visit if you spend time talking to the people. Most of the time this is just a token item like a bottle of gun lube or spare magazine.
Contrary to the bad reputation that many gun control groups have tried to heap on home based gun dealers, they are usually more compliant with the laws than larger storefront operations. They are also much less likely to conduct business with strangers of any sort, especially those who might appear to be criminals. Another fact to put bluntly, most of the home based gun dealers in the US are white, and will likely not seek to do business with nonwhites. This is by simple virtue of the fact that the home based dealer probably has more to lose than to gain if a transaction goes bad. Bottom line is that these people do business with someone they trust in their homes, as opposed to those who would only do business with someone from behind a counter during business hours and likely with a security system fully active. The home based dealers are usually not protected by a corporate business structure and most will have to trust customers enough to invite them to their home, and thus reveal the location of the home and approximate times they are or are not there. A common and justified fear of the home based dealer is being robbed and killed, or worse, their family put at risk, from predators who initially pose as customers. Other times, most people feel comfortable expressing any personal prejudices within their own home, and the home based dealers will probably be in their own home.
Personal security will often be the highest concern when dealing with a home based gun dealer, especially for the first few times. If you are dealing with these people in lower threat level scenarios, every effort must be taken to assure them that your intentions are not hostile. If you have been introduced to a home based dealer, try to make sure that the person who introduced you is present or at least available when you first meet. Do not go to this meeting armed unless you are invited to go armed, or it is fairly well understood that you are regularly armed for some reason. Do not take several people with you when you go to the dealer's house unless they are specifically invited and or will be spending money on their own. Gun trading may be a little bit entertaining to watch, but is is not a spectator sport. Also, do not invite anyone who you cannot fully trust to go with you. If anyone you take with you turns out to be a negative character, it will likely poison the relationship between all of you and the dealer.
Once a relationship is established with a home based dealer, the situation can improve dramatically. You may even reach a point of relative self-service with the transactions, the home based dealers will often let trusted associates place orders directly with suppliers and fill out the paperwork on their own. It is not particularly unusual for the rural home based dealer to designate a particular outbuilding or garage as the "business location". Trusted individuals can then be given keys or access codes to the location and have a level of self service. The relationship being built on honor and trust, the situation can work out to be a positive win-win among honorable people.
The home based dealer probably lives in a residential neighborhood and some care must be taken not to alarm any of his neighbors to the business, even if it is 100% legal and legit. Dress and act appropriately as if you are visiting someone's home because that is what you are doing. Avoid the use of profanity or political statements which might offend other people in the place. Also consider that if the dealer is under investigation, whether justified or not, the place may be watched and or bugged. Do not openly carry weapons to or from his house, always have them in boxes or cases. I also suggest not initially carrying any cased weapons to the door when you first go there. Instead, knock on the door, make sure the dealer is home, and then when you have indicated that you are going out to bring a gun in, make sure this is an appropriate time to do so and go get the gun. Give a cheerful greeting to any other people there, especially family members of the dealer. This is also a very sensitive issue since the dealer's business is probably not supported by all of the other family members.
The most traditional way people buy from home based dealers is to have the dealer order the items from a wholesaler at dealer cost (after shipping and any applicable fees) plus 10%. In some cases such as larger orders or certain high dollar items, this can be negotiable, with certain minimums and maximums coming into play. When I was a home based dealer, the least I would charge on a firearm order would be $40, with a maximum at around $200. I personally put a cap at $50 or keep shopping around. Note that this is if the buyer is aware of the wholesale prices and is more or less making the deal themselves. A home based dealer may still quote higher prices from exclusive distributors, custom shops or hard to get items which will require unique effort to obtain. The home based dealer is usually looking for a moderate number of "regular buyers" who will make up the bulk of his business. This means cultivating people who buy new guns frequently, and as such, the dealer will probably make accommodations on prices and payment terms as long as they are within reason.
The home based dealers are almost never set up to accept credit cards, but one way around this is to simply make the wholesale purchase on your own credit card, and then order extra stuff that becomes the dealers property when it arrives, or pay the dealer his commission in cash, usually at the time you are picking up your merchandise. This can help you on warranty issues since the items being bought on your credit card are easier to call in for warranty service than something you had the dealer order and then paid cash, while a year or to later the guy has moved or is out of business and you don't have a receipt.
It is also fairly common and relatively easy to partner up with a home based dealer to go to gun shows as a vendor and make better deals than you would on the "other" side of the table. Pitch in and make the investment in a number of guns or related show merchandise that you can get priced right through the FFL, and figure out an equitable split on the profit. This can be a set fee, a percentage, or a combination of the two. I find this to be a good solid way for people to work the gun show circuit as opposed to going it without a license because the transaction records keep all of the transactions with strangers above board. I personally will not pay a dealer more than $20 to handle the transfer of my own merchandise, but some places the price can be higher or lower - usually depending on legal requirements.
more to come later
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