How to buy a gun online

How To Buy A Gun Online

Many people are hesitant to buy a gun online. This may be because they do not know the steps, or they don’t understand how quick it can make the process. We will cover how to purchase your firearm, as well as give you details on all the steps.

One thing to understand is that you still will have to fill out a ATF Form 4473 and pass the background check when you pick up your purchase at your local FFL dealer.

Buy Online or Local

There are generally two types of gun owners:

  1. Those who only purchase from their local gun stores
  2. Those who purchase online or their local dealers depending on what is in stock

For those who think buying a gun online is the best way to “cut corners” and being able to get around regulations and background checks, you will be sadly disappointed. 

Gun sales are highly regulated under the Marketplace Gun Control Act of 1968, so there are no short cuts here.  Our article outlines the process, pros and cons, and a few tips tucked here and there for buying guns online.

Steps to Buying a Gun Online

Steps to Buying a Gun Online

Here are the basics, the core steps, you need to know in order to purchase a gun online and what to expect.  

We weave nuances, pros, cons, and tips and tricks throughout the article while also providing the basic framework to buying a gun online.

1. Do Your Research

If you are going to buy a gun online and you haven’t had a chance to hold the gun, do as much research about what you are buying as possible.

Is this common sense?  Maybe, but it is important to stress the point. Make sure the research you do pertains to the way you will be using the firearm.

If you are looking to purchase a concealed carry gun, check out our article on the Best Concealed Carry Guns.

Many people won’t purchase a gun without doing one or more of the following:

  • Holding it
  • Holstering it
  • Actually shooting it

Traditionalists will never purchase a gun they haven’t felt, or “bonded with”.  It is completely dependent on how you plan on using the gun and how important holding your gun is before you buy the gun online.  

If you are interested in trying your gun out before buying online, you can definitely try one of the following:

  • Check with the multiple ranges that are in your area to see if you can practice with the gun or a similar gun you are interested in purchasing.
  • Call a local gun shop. Many are already members of multiple ranges or may have that gun in stock and will let you hold it/shoulder it to see how it feels.
  • You can join a local social media gun club. Many members are more than happy to take you to the range and give you pointers.

2. Choose Your Merchant

There are a few most commonly used and trusted websites used for online gun sales:

I recommend Palmetto State Armory as a great place to shop online. They are one of the sites I have had the best experiences with super fast shipping and great customer service.  All of the above are quality stores, so choose the one you like best.

Once you have decided on our online dealer and which gun you want, be sure to add the gun to your cart and you will check out with your own address.  The merchant will have a specific area to insert your FFL dealer that your gun will be shipped to, this is covered in the next step.

3. Find Your Local FFL Dealer

A Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer must receive the gun and hold it for the required period of time dictated by your resident state.  There is a FFL Registry that you can use to look up local licensed dealers, or you can call any local gun shop.

If you decide to call around to different gun shops, let them know you are buying a gun online and would like to have it shipped to their store and ask for the transfer fee.  All dealers are going to have different transfer fees, typically ranging between $25 and $75.

Please note that there are a lot of gun shops that do not like transferring guns from online sites, they lose out on the profit of you buying a gun from their store and buying locally. You may want to ask the online store that you are buying your gun from what FFL dealers they use in your area, this can reduce the risk of an uncomfortable transaction.

One place to look for an FFL that may not mind much about the online purchase is your local gun range.  Become a member and they may even have deals on transfers!

Tip: If you want to receive your gun as fast as possible, locate your FFL dealer before buying your gun online.  This will greatly speed up the process.

Easy to remember steps:
  1. Find your FFL, Use the registry, or Call around to local gun shops
  2. Find out the transfer fee
  3. Find out the holding period

Once you find your FLL you need to have the following information ready if you have already bought your gun online:

  • The merchant’s mailing address, email address, or fax number to give to your FFL so they can send proof of their dealer’s license. If the FFL has received merchandise from the retailer you used, the chances are they will already have their license information on file.
  • Contact the merchant you purchased from and provide the name and address to where the firearm will be shipped.

After this step is completed, the transaction becomes very much like purchasing a gun in person.

4. Picking Up Your Gun

When it is time to collect your gun you bought online, you will need to drive to the FFL dealer.  Before you can pick up your gun and pay the transfer fee, you will need to conduct a background check.

Depending on your state, your background check might take a few days.  It is best to discuss with your dealer about completing the background check during the waiting period so you don’t have to wait an additional amount of time.

If you are nervous about filling out the background check, here are the categories of individuals that are prohibited from owning firearms in the U.S.

Prohibited From Owning Firearms in the U.S.

  • Those who have been convicted of gun or gun-related offence
  • History of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • Juvenile offenses
  • Serious mental illness (been committed to a mental institution in the last five years)
  • Convicted of, or under indictment, for a crime that has a sentence of least one year or more (typically felony charges)
  • Fugitive
  • Underage
  • Dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Not a citizen or has renounced their citizenship
  • Has a current restraining order
  • Has been convicted of domestic violence (felony or misdemeanor)

Be sure to check your state laws regarding purchasing a firearm.  Each state is different and may have other requirements.  Depending on your state, this process may be slower or faster.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Gun Online

Pros and Cons of Buying a Gun Online

Before you decide to buy a gun online, there are a few considerations to take into account.  We have broken these down into “Pro and Con” lists to make sure you are fully informed and feel confident when buying a gun online:


  • Less expensive
  • Browse and order from the comfort of your own home
  • You already know exactly what you want, you can shop around to find the less expensive gun
  • Can find vintage and rare guns that you can’t find in gun shops
  • Typically a larger selection to choose from online


  • The gun is not delivered to you, so you still have to drive down to a gun shop to pick up your gun
  • In some states you have to pay transfer fees and sales tax on firearm transfers
  • If you don’t know the FFL dealer you are working with, then you risk your gun not being delivered or handled properly
  • You are not supporting a local business
  • If your gun breaks, there is not a physical place to take the gun to, you would have to take it to a gunsmith or ship it back to be repaired


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This article should give you a pretty good understanding of how to buy a gun online.  If you are of legal age and can pass the background check, you can purchase your firearm without much hassle. 

If you follow these steps, the process will be smooth, and stress free!  You now know exactly what to expect, and can confidently place your order.

If you are still deciding on the best concealed carry gun to purchase, be sure to check out our article Best Concealed Carry Guns and find one that works best for you and your needs.

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