There are more gun stores in the United States than McDonald’s, Starbucks, and large grocery stores combined. Still, opening a gun store is a high-risk venture – demanding a high risk merchant account to operate, and posing a variety of other challenges for aspiring entrepreneurs and gun veterans alike.

In recent years, restrictive gun laws have made it more difficult for businesses to sell guns and ammunition. If you comply with the law, though, owning a gun shop can be extremely lucrative.

This guide will outline how to open a gun store in four key steps, so you can get your own enterprise up and running.

4 Key Steps

    1. Step 1: Research the Market
    2. Step 2: Understand State & Federal Laws
    3. Step 3: Create a Solid Business Plan
    4. Step 4: Find a Dependable Payment Processor
    5. Final Thoughts

Step 1: Research the Market

August 10 2017: Gunbroker.com website homepage. It is an auction website specializing in the sale of firearms and related items. Gunbroker logo visible.

Selling firearms online to FFL holders is legal all across the U.S.

Before you go any further, research the gun and ammunition market in the U.S. and check out the latest trends. For instance, were you aware that gun and ammunition stores generate $11 billion in annual revenue, and experienced a 3.8 percent annual growth between 2013 and 2018?

Legality

First, you’ll need to stay on top of the legal landscape, because it has a strong association with movements in the market. For instance, this year alone has already seen over 50 gun control laws passed by state governments, and these laws (and even the threat of them) have had a quantifiable impact on firearms sales.

For instance, recent legislative proposals – including plans to ban rapid-fire assault weapons – have fueled a spike in gun purchases. However, if those bans do become the law, they will hurt the industry. Future bills passed at every level of government have the ability to both boost or hinder firearms sales in America, so it’s crucial to pay attention as an entrepreneur.

Employment, market size

As of 2018, the gun and ammunition sales industry employs over 160,000 people across the U.S., and there are 60,000+ gun stores in America alone.

Furthermore, four in 10 Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, according to a 2017 study from Pew Research. Forty-eight percent of respondents say they grew up in a household with guns, 59 percent say at least some of their friends own guns, and 72 percent have shot a gun.

Gun control has been (and will remain) a controversial topic amongst Americans. Researching the latest attitudes toward gun ownership in your area will help you gauge the market for firearms in your town or city.

Step 2: Understand State & Federal Laws

Old retro gun on shelves store weapons on shop center.

Every state handles firearms in its own way – be sure to do your homework.

As a gun store owner, you can sell guns, ammunition, and accessories to adults in your local area. However, governmental regulations at both the federal and state level will restrict the type of products you sell and to whom. These laws regulate the trade of firearms in your jurisdiction, and specify the records you need to keep.

Before you open your gun store, you’ll need to procure a Federal Firearm’s License (FFL). This license applies to both corporations and individuals. There were more than 56,000 active FFL’s in the U.S. by the end of 2017.

Here are some of the other legal issues you will need to consider as a firearm’s dealer:

  • The federal government requires you to keep accurate records of your gun sales.
  • You will need to conduct background checks on customers who want to purchase firearms. The background checking process will differ depending on your state. Some states, such as Florida, let you conduct a background check on customers using an in-state database.
  • You will also need to apply for business permits, depending on your state. These documents might include zoning compliance permits. Other important records you might need include tax compliance and insurance policy documents.

Step 3. Create a Solid Business Plan

business report. cooling filter. market forecasting wealth pen number

Gun stores require significant organization to run effectively.

Like any business owner in the U.S., you will need a solid business plan — a strategic document that outlines your goals and objectives.

Be sure to take the following steps in yours:

  1. Describe the customers you plan to attract to your business. The average gun owner in the U.S. is a white male over the age of 50 living in a rural area, according to a study from Pew Research, but demographics will differ depending on where you live.
  2. Detail how you plan to make money. You might want to conduct a financial analysis of your business that predicts income and cash flow.
  3. Identify any problems that might occur in the future which could potentially impact your business. These problems might include changes in firearms legislation, and a decline in the demand for guns and accessories in your area.
  4. Plan how you will market your new business. You should invest in digital marketing solutions and brand building, plus explore social media marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). Doing so will help improve your visibility not just in your local area, but across the U.S. as well.
Tip
Remember to check state laws that regulate gun advertising, though. In California, for example, it is now illegal to advertise handguns at gun shops.

4. Find a Dependable Payment Processor

Hand using credit card payment machine. card machine terminal payment credit shop reader pay concept

The more payment channels you facilitate, the more sales you can make.

Taking credit card payments is crucial for a gun store owner, because many purchases will be big ticket items. Having a variety of payment processing options for your customers will provide both you and your patrons greater flexibility. Plus, it will also make it easier for you to compile firearms sales records.

Getting approved for payment processing as a firearms dealer can be difficult, as most banks will consider you a risky business in need of a high risk merchant account. However, there are numerous providers out there that specialize in tailored payment solutions for businesses deemed “high risk”, so do some homework and find out what kind of deals you can get before signing any contracts.

Final Thoughts

There are various laws and regulations to consider when setting up a new gun store, so don’t do so lightly. Not to mention, the market has been a bit volatile recently as political tensions surrounding guns have increased.

However, for industrious entrepreneurs, the firearms industry is a huge one with plenty of potential. By following the previous four steps outlined in this piece, you should be well on your way toward entering and succeeding in it.

About the Author

Geoff Scott is a Payments Consultant for Motile LLC, where he strives to connect users across the internet with processing solutions for their small businesses. He also loves Thai food, craft beer, and an exhilarating game of squash (when he's off the clock, of course).