Are you having trouble finding firearms or magazines, but especially ammunition in stock and at reasonable prices?
I have had a number of people tell me they can’t find ammunition. Since early February, I have bought and sold many rounds of ammunition and a number of firearms, magazines and other accessories over the Internet. I’ve also sold literally thousands of rounds of the ammunition I found to friends and coworkers. I shared with them how I do it, and now I share here as well.
I have been so busy in my “day job”, that I had not noticed there was already a panic underway until the Gun Show the first weekend of December 2012. There I learned that the ammunition vendors sold out their entire stock of .223 and 5.56 mm ammunition within two hours.
Then on December 14 a psychotic boy murdered his own mother and 20 six and seven year old kids, and six adults with his mother’s AR-15 at Sandy Hook Elementary school. In the aftermath began a firestorm of debate over whether to expand national gun control laws. Subsequent fears of a new ban on AR and AK type weapons and high capacity magazines fueled an epic buying frenzy.
Now in late-August, the panic of 2013 has subsided, somewhat. Firearms and ammunition are appearing on store shelves again, but gunpowder and some calibers of ammunition continue to be difficult to find or non-existent.
Here’s how to find the ammunition that is available and how to buy through eBay style auction web sites like Gun Broker, Gun Auction and Guns America, and find deals through online commercial vendors using search sites like Slickguns, Gun-deals and Ammo Seek.
Slickguns, Gun-deals and Ammo Seek users find sales, coupons and rebates and then post the details for others. There are search functions and search filters for Ammo only, California Legal Only, etc. They all work in a similar way, but their search results vary. Slickguns has its own forum on USACarry.com. Shipping cost can break a deal, and many commercial vendor sites provide a calculator to estimate shipping cost.
Know the Gun Control Laws Where You Live
You must determine whether the item you want is legal for you to buy and to ship to your residence or business. For example, California has a ten round magazine capacity limit and CA residents can buy only handguns that are specifically allowed.
All firearms must be shipped to a local FFL (Federal Firearms Licensed dealer). Commercial vendors will not ship items that they know are not legal in your area, but they can’t keep up with changes in state laws, let alone city ordinances.
Ammunition is classified a hazardous material, subject to Department of Transportation (DOT) Title 49 CFR regulations and can be shipped only within the 48 contiguous states (i.e., not accepted to or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Catalina Island). Firearms and ammunition must be shipped separately, and in some areas sellers can’t ship any ammunition to your residence. More on shipping ammunition below.
Gun-deals.com, the auction sites and many online vendors provide a way to find and select an FFL near you. Locate one and talk to him or her.
Ordering and Payment
Commercial vendors may take orders by phone, Fax and old-fashioned mail, in addition to online orders. In the process, find out what methods of payment they accept.
Also keep in mind the cost of payment. Some sellers will take a personal check or cashier’s check, but require a holding period until the check clears their bank. PayPal charges roughly a 3% fee. Most commercial vendors accept credit cards and today some private party users also, but they may charge a small fee. A Money Order also has a cost, plus postage with delivery verification.
When buying a firearm, you must provide the seller with your FFL’s information right away. Give your FFL notice that you have an order coming from XYZ vendor, the order number and a description. Politely ask the FFL what fees and taxes you must pay, and ask what methods of payment they accept. Make arrangements with them to call you when your order arrives. (Edit by Luke McCou: From my experience, I’ve noticed that some stores won’t call you when your firearm arrives so you may have to call them to check on it periodically.)
The FFL will know what additional requirements apply, such as the Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC) that California requires for a handgun purchase. You may have to buy a gun lock from the FFL or show proof that you own a gun safe, or both. Bring that documentation and the invoice when you pick up your order to help the FFL find your firearm and all related paperwork.
Civilian Marksmanship Program
I include the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), because it is another online source of inexpensive ammunition. I still see no 22LR on store shelves anywhere at any price, but in July I received a shipment to my door of 5,000 rounds of Aguila 22LR (the minimum order quantity), that I ordered in February from the CMP at just under $.07 per round, including shipping.
CMP was originally created by Congress in 1903 to promote firearms safety training and marksmanship for youth so that they would be skilled marksmen if called to serve in the military. It operates on private donations and proceeds from its sales of ammunition, accessories and donated surplus rifles such as the M1 Garand to qualified US citizens.
Buying Through Auction Sites
Probably the best known online auction site, eBay, doesn’t allow firearms or ammunition sales. Auction sites like Gun Broker, Gun Auction and Guns America bring users together who are looking to buy and sell firearms related items, including discontinued and vintage items. For brevity, I’ll focus on one, Gunbroker.com. There are help pages, FAQs and tutorials for buyers and sellers to help new users learn the process.
Searching for 7.62 x 25 Tokarev ammunition for example, use either the Browse Categories drop down menu or type in the search field.
On any page of Gun Broker, click Browse Categories > Ammunition > Pistol Ammunition. That search displayed 5,785 results. Then click to select a specific manufacturer or just click 7.62 x 25 on the left under “Narrow Your Search” to filter down to the 31 items posted at this time.
The same search on Guns America yielded 0 Results, but Guns America is more than just an auction site. There are classified ads, dealer services pages, blog pages, product reviews articles and a newsletter.
Check the item description against the photos. I don’t bid on listings without photos.
Read and understand all details about the item, especially its condition. Some questions you want to know the answers to are:
- Is it New In Box (NIB), or Used?
- Is it rusty or damaged somehow?
- Does it function?
- Does it require an FFL? Locate one and be certain they are willing to do the transfer before you bid.
- Is there a Reserve?
- What is the maximum you are willing to pay, including shipping cost?
- Did seller list the weight of the package and a Zip code to estimate shipping, or did they list a flat shipping fee?
- Click Ask Seller a question to ask any questions you have, but don’t use this to attempt to negotiate a lower price with the seller.
- Does the seller collect sales tax? (Commercial Vendors might).
- What payment methods does the seller accept?
- What is seller’s return policy? Private parties probably won’t accept returns unless the item is other than described or broken. Vendors usually accept returns but will require that you contact them for authorization, and may charge a fee. Some allow a short time for inspection purposes only.
The Buy It Now option makes it possible for buyers to pay a little more to avoid bidding and waiting while an auction times out, hoping that no one bids more. Some sellers offer free shipping if you select Buy It Now, so do the math.
Check the seller’s feedback. Look for a track record as buyer and seller. As a buyer do they pay quickly? As a seller, are their items of quality and as described? Do they ship quickly? Are there comments about the seller having excessive shipping charges? How is their communication with buyers and sellers? I met a local buyer in person at his FFL and he commented about that in feedback.
When you are comfortable with the item and the seller, then it’s time to bid. I have listed some things to watch out for, but bidding strategy is an art form, and is beyond the scope of this article.
Once you’ve won, get busy! Contact the seller and provide your shipping address. Ask for the final total amount due, including shipping cost. Verify seller’s payment terms and the mailing address where to send payment, and then pay right away. Always verify addresses in real time. Users may forget to update their “Verified” address listed in their online profile. Include a print-out of the listing and your name and shipping address for busy and forgetful people like me. I have made at least one exception and gave my phone number to help a new and nervous buyer.
When you receive your shipment, inspect it right away. Be sure it is exactly what was described and in the condition described. Don’t blame the seller if you misread the listing. In that case, the seller may accept a return, but will expect you to pay at least return shipping. A commercial vendor may demand a restocking fee as well.
If you buy a firearm, the process is similar to buying from online commercial vendors, except that a vendor is probably an FFL and can deal directly with your FFL. With an auction sale, provide the seller your FFL’s contact information so that both FFLs can communicate.