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What To Expect at a Gun Show

Etiquette and Information


What To Expect at a Gun Show
Photo © Michael Glasgow, Creative Commons License
Gun shows can be a great place to get a good deal on a gun or to check out different types of guns and accessories. If you haven’t been to a gun show before, though, you may be wondering what to expect when you go to one. What will be available for sale there? Who can legally purchase a gun from a show? What sort of etiquette is expected? The following information is all you need to know before visiting your first gun show.
  1. A gun show is not a trade show. -- A trade show will typically feature the latest from gun manufacturers and representatives will be on hand to answer questions and to show off their newest products. Such shows are generally limited to people who work directly in the gun industry.

    A gun show, on the other hand, is more like a gun-themed flea market. There will be vendors selling a huge variety of guns including old guns, new guns, and everything in between. There will also be vendors selling accessories like holsters, ammunition, cleaning supplies, and similar products. There may even be vendors selling completely unrelated products, much like what you would find at a flea market.

  2. You may be charged admission. -- It may seem unfair to have to pay to shop, but many gun shows charge an admission fee. Typically, this will be a nominal fee ($2 or $3) but some shows charge as much as $10 or more to get in.
  3. You could be prohibited from carrying your gun at the gun show. -- There are several factors to consider here. Some shows prohibit concealed or open carry. Likewise, some venues prohibit attendees from carrying weapons. Sometimes you can carry your gun if it is unloaded. Sometimes, though, you are free to carry concealed or out in the open. Just be sure to check the rules of the show before you go.
  4. Do your research. -- If you are looking for a specific gun or accessory at a gun show, do some research first to be sure you get the best deal you can get. If you know what an item is worth, it is much easier to haggle for a mutually agreeable sales price.
  5. Your legal ability to buy a gun may vary. -- First of all, each state has its own laws that pertain to the buying and selling of guns. There are further laws for non-residents within each state. Then there is the fact that while most vendors at a gun show are FFL dealers, there may be a few who are private individuals just trying to sell off their collections. When buying from a licensed dealer, all federal requirements still apply (age, background check, etc.). When buying from an individual, however, you may be able to purchase a gun without a background check and age requirements will be based on state laws instead of federal law.
  6. Always ask before touching a weapon. -- With guns lying all over tables and counters, it may seem as if vendors are inviting you to handle the guns freely. And while some vendors may be doing just that, it is good etiquette to ask permission before handling any weapon.
  7. Remember the most important rule of gun safety. -- Treat every gun as if it is loaded. Sometimes, the gun’s action will be secured open with a zip tie allowing you to see that the gun is unloaded. If this is not the case, the vendor will generally clear the gun before handing it to you. If not, ask permission to clear it yourself.
  8. Never point a gun at anyone and keep your finger off the trigger. -- Even once you have determined that the gun is clear and even if the action is open, you should never point a gun at anyone. And you should never put your finger on the trigger unless you have received permission to dry fire it (see below).
  9. Never dry fire a gun without permission. – Certain guns can potentially be damaged by dry firing so always ask the vendor before dry firing it. However, you should only ask to dry fire the weapon if you are seriously considering purchasing it. Once you receive permission, remember to point the gun in a safe direction before dry firing.

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