FBI Firearm Transaction Record forms with ammunition and a pen placed on top

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Firearm

Buying a gun can be fun and exciting, but buying a firearm that isn’t right for you just wastes your money and leaves you with a weapon that just isn’t meeting your needs. There are plenty of guns for sale and trade at Pennsylvania’s Largest Gun Show, making it a unique opportunity to browse from one of the largest selections you’ll find anywhere. Just because you can find almost any gun you’d want, however, doesn’t mean every gun available makes sense for you. Whether you’re looking for your first firearm or have a nearly full safe with an empty space that needs filling, avoiding these mistakes when buying at a gun show can leave you happier with your purchase. 

Everything and Then Some

When we come to town, our gun show sets up shop in your neighborhood event center or exhibition space to create a comfortable, well-lit space for the whole family. Security is provided on-site, and local craftspeople, small businesses, and individuals can join in the fun of buying, selling, and trading guns, accessories, handicrafts, and just about anything you can imagine. This also brings in regional and national manufacturers, distributors, and retailers who want a chance to put their best products in front of you. It is a singular opportunity to find great deals and buy a gun from sellers on a variety of both new and used firearms.

Caveat Emptor

It’s important to understand that buying a firearm at a gun show is a deal between you and the seller, not the show itself. As a truly free market shopping event, the responsibility of ensuring you’re getting the right gun in the right condition at the right price falls largely on the buyer. While all our vendors are still subject to applicable federal and state laws–including the commercial laws that protect consumers–sales are largely as-is, where-is. To protect yourself from buying a bad gun for your shooting needs, make sure you watch out for these mistakes.

Not Knowing What You Want a Gun For

Start by asking yourself what your firearms goals are. Buying a gun, as with buying any tool, means understanding what you want it to do. You wouldn’t buy a hammer to turn a screw, so while there will be plenty of weapons that look cool or interesting, if they don’t meet your firearm-buying needs, it may be best to pass on them. If you’re a first-time gun buyer, narrowing down your options may seem almost impossible, but there is an easy way to make sure you’re looking for weapons that fit your needs.

Not Doing Your Research

Man holding a handgun at a gun shop

One of the quickest ways to turn buying a firearm into a catastrophe is to do know research and make it an impulse purchase. Before the gun show, start researching the weapons you want to look for. The gun you need can change depending on whether you’re looking for a home defense handgun, a weapon for tactical shooting drills at the range, or a hunting rifle capable of putting food on your family’s table. 

This will help you identify the type of weapon you need and give you a few starter suggestions for further research. It’s not uncommon for research to continue all the way to the floor of the gun show, where you’ll find buyers and sellers looking up special features and comparing prices on the guns they’re buying.

Not Choosing an Appropriate Caliber

When researching, you’ll also likely find some caliber recommendations. The weapon’s caliber plays a significant role in the gun’s utility. Small, lightweight rounds may be perfect for plinking at the range, teaching safe gun handling to your kids, or even varmint control on a rural property, but they won’t have the stopping power to make them well-suited to self-defense or hunting. Meanwhile, a hunting round might have far too much power to avoid over-shooting the target in a self-defense situation. With so many pistols and rifles on the market in a wide range of calibers for a wide range of purposes, it’s not enough to solely research the type of gun you want–you need to understand what calibers will work best for you.

Not Knowing Your Gun Laws

Being a gun owner comes with the responsibilities of owning, carrying, or potentially using a dangerous tool. Make sure you understand how to legally store, transport, and carry your gun–whether you’re only going to have it at home for self-defense, plan on taking it out-of-state for hunting, or intend to pursue a pistol license. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, especially when it comes to firearms, and knowing your rights and responsibilities can save you legal headaches, money, and time.

Not Examining the Gun Closely

Disassembled gun in the process of being cleaned

When buying a firearm–especially a used one–make sure you take the time to examine the gun. Look for any obvious signs of damage or careless handling. A little finish wear around the barrel or at points where the gun frequently contacted a holster is common, but deep gouges, a loud rattle, or overall “looseness” could signal a problem. Look down the barrel to ensure you don’t see rust spots or damage to the rifling (a barrel light is a good investment when buying a gun). Check inside the receiver for damage or signs that the weapon hasn’t been properly cleaned and maintained. These can all be red flags that the gun could be more trouble than it’s worth.

Not Shopping Around

You’ve done your research time and set aside the money you need for buying a gun at the show, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to buy the first one you see at the show. To find the best deal, be patient and make a full circuit of the event floor. Check out the guns available, their prices from individual retailers, and any additional deal opportunities that may be offered. Some merchants may throw in a top firearms accessory, offer an additional magazine, or be willing to offer discounts to sweeten the pot. 

Not Learning to Use Your Gun Correctly

If you want to get more from your purchase, commit to giving more time to your purchase. After buying a firearm, visit a range to get some practice rounds in or sign up for a class on gun usage and safety. You can also read your owner’s manual, watch tutorials online, or join your local gun club to get to know knowledgeable gun owners and make a few friends. Buying a gun is your entry point to the world of shooting sports and all the fun and camaraderie that can come with it. 

Book Your Gun Show Tickets Online

The easiest way to make sure you’re guaranteed entry to your local gun show is to book your tickets early. Your neighbors already have the date circled on the calendar, and they’ll be there, ready to buy a gun and have some fun, just like you. Get your tickets and get there early on the day of the show to make sure you have the widest selection to choose from. Order your tickets to your next Eagle Shows Gun Show online today.

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