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How to Sell Your Guns When the Market is Slow

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How to Sell Your Guns When the Market is Slow
September 24, 2017

 

This is an article that I have been tempted to write on several occasions now, but each time I questioned whether the timing was right or if the message would be welcomed and so I postponed.  Recently, however, there have been quite a few threads and individual comments made about the difficulties of selling firearms during a "slow market" so I think the time is right.

 

But First, Some History...

I do not want to dwell too much on this particular point, but I do believe that it is salient to pause for a moment and observe the current political climate as it has directly influenced the state of firearms sales across the nation.  Up until the last US Presidential Election in November of 2016, the firearms industry was booming because people were afraid of both who was then currently, and who might have been next, occupants of the White House.  Fear of scarcity or outright prohibition of a thing absolutely drives up demand for that thing, and subsequently the cost of that thing.  During the Obama Administration, we lived under the constant specter of another weapons ban and we saw supplies of certain firearms and ammunition all but dry up.  What was left to be found almost always had a high price tag assigned to it.

When Donald J. Trump was elected, gun owners and prospective gun owners all sighed an enormous collective sigh of relief and practically overnight the firearms industry was dumped on its head.  The fear was gone.  The incentive to buy was gone.  Warehouses of ammunition and firearms that had been rushed to production ahead of what could have been a Hillary Clinton White House were suddenly quiet and stagnant.  And so, the firearms industry did what any industry does in cases like this:  It suffered.  It cut costs.  I dumped products at prices that were unheard of a month before.  The fire sale began, and it persists to this day.

 

Why Should You Care About Any of That?

The reasons any of that is important to you are these:

  • That tactical rifle you bought a few years ago and paid nearly $2,000 for is probably being sold new today for less than half that price.
     
  • That handgun you bought last year is probably anywhere from $50-75 cheaper this year, brand new, and probably comes with twice as many extra magazines straight from the manufacturer.

 

Today, retailers are competing against you in your role as the Seller for the same sales you are trying to make.  They are able to offer brand new merchandise today for prices that would have been reasonable for you to ask for a gently used item this time last year.  To snare a buyer on the secondary market in this economy, you have to distinguish yourself and what you are selling in some way that makes it more appealing to the person debating between your gun and that brand new one in the store.

 

So, How Do You Sell in a Slow Market?

I have been paying very close attention to this for the past few months and these are my observations.  They are not the gospel, but they seem to be holding up under their own merit so far.  As with anything, there may be exceptions to any or all of these, and if that works in your favor then I am going to be very thrilled for you.

  • Do your research.  Check the retail pricing and availability of whatever you are trying to sell.  Mark your price accordingly.  Understand that if you are priced too close to retail for a new item, most folks will go buy the new item instead.  Also, check and see if a new version or model of whatever you are selling has just been or soon will be released.  Prices on old versions almost always go down when a new version is out or is imminent.
     
  • Eat The Extras.  Those expensive night sights that you put on your handgun?  Consider eating the cost of those.  Point that out as an incentive to buy your handgun rather than the one in the store that doesn't have them.  The same goes for tossing in a few extra magazines if you have them, or other small accessories.  Obviously, there is a limit to how much you should be willing to eat of the cost of an item, but even then be willing to discount whatever you are adding to the "package price" so that it is compelling to a shopper.
     
  • Break Up The Package.  If you don't want to eat the cost of too many extras, or if the price of your package offering seems to be turning shoppers away, consider breaking apart the package and offering the core item at a cheaper price and then liquidate the accessories separately.  This is expecially helpful if you have non-regulated accessories that could be sold on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) that do not allow gun sales but do not prohibit accessories. Bigger audiences can mean quicker sales on those types of things.
     
  • Understand The Impact of Modifications.   This is going to hurt some feelings, but it has to be said.  Modified guns are harder to sell.  Think twice before you take a soldering iron (or pay someone else) to your Glock's frame to stipple it.  The same goes for custom paint jobs or hydro-dipped graphics.  Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder (YOU) in those things, and other people may not care for them at all.  Don't be surprised if your stippled Glock with skulls and crossbones hydro dipped graphics doesn't sell quickly, or at all.
     
  • Take Good Pictures.  The addage that a picture is worth a thousand words is no more true than in advertising.  People tend to want to see what they are buying.  Take pictures of it and post them here or link to them elsewhere in your post.  Ads without photos tend to be overlooked.
     
  • Invest Some Time.  If you post an advertisement, come back to it once a week and bump it back to the top of the "new items" search by replying to the thread.  Reduce the price a little after a week or two, if you can.  Be willing to engage with prospective buyers and answer questions.  Entertain counter offers if you can.  It takes a little time but it keeps your advertisement in front of eyeballs and that's what matters.
     
  • Pull It Today and Sell It Later.  Real estate brokers know that if a house has been on the market for too long, it goes "cold" and people stop looking at it.  The buyers can see how long a house has been listed and assume something must be wrong with it if more than a reasonable amount of time has passed.  Take a cue from that and de-list your items after a while if they don't sell.  Come back later and list them again.
     

 

I hope this helps you all in some way.  The current environment is a buyer's market and biased against the seller, both at the retail level and on the used market.  Gun stores are going out of business and folding up left and right.  So are manufacturers.  The ones who are surviving are relying on things other than gun sales to keep money and buyers coming through the doors.

Now is the right time to buy firearms and ammo cheap and stack them deep.  The political climate is guaranteed to shift again and when it does we will all find it hard to believe that we had it this good (as buyers) in days past.

Above all, be patient.  If you can afford not to sell a firearm right now, you might want to sit on it for another three years and see what happens with the next Presidential election.  Trump has been GREAT for gun owners, but terrible for gun sellers.  We might not be so lucky in the years ahead.

 

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A couple of ancillary observations...

The post above should be fairly timeless and be relevant 3, 6, or even 15 years from now, but these comments are particular to the current time:

  • AK-47/74 pattern rifles seem to be an exception to the slump in pricing and sales, especially if they were manufactured in Russia.  These rifles are actually rising in cost.  The past few years have seen AK and AR-15 pattern rifles completely trade places in terms of marketability and cost.  Ten years ago, you would have been laughed out of town if you tried to sell an AK for more than a comparably equipped AR.  These days, you can buy an AR that you'd actually want to shoot for less than $600 and that sort of money only gets you into a decent AK.
     
  • Glock 19s tend to still do well on the secondary market because everyone needs one even if they don't really want one.  The advent of the Generation 5 Glock 19 doesn't seem to have softened the resale value of the previous generations too much as the Gen5 hasn't had a chance to prove itself and Glock is notorious for having to fix problems with the first few batches of any new generation.
     
    • The caveat to that, of course, is that modified Glocks don't always sell very quickly unless the seller prices them reasonably and in accordance to what has been done to them.  Stippling and custom finishes (like Cerakote) are very polarizing and might only suit the personal taste of the seller.

 

  • Revolvers, 1911s, and so-called "Brown Rifles" (hunting bolt actions, shotguns, etc.) seem to be fairly immune to the pricing slump since they were never really in the same level of demand as the tacti-cool stuff and consequently, the market was never flooded with a surplus of them.
     
  • Collector guns are almost always immune to market fluctuation, which is why they are collector guns.  When the rest of the firearms market is racing toward the bottom, there's an advantage to being priced at the top - especially if you can command it.  Don't expect to see collectibles selling at bargain prices unless someone is really hurting for money and doesn't have a savvy friend to save them from making a hasty mistake.

 

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