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Properly displayed used guns can lead to more sales for the dealer.

Properly Displayed Used Guns Can Lead To More Sales For The Dealer

There are as many ways to display used guns as there are dealers to sell them. However, there seems to be a number of approaches that have consistently worked out well for many dealers that are successful in the used gun trade.

Displaying Long Guns

One of the most common ways to display used long guns is in floor racks where customers can pick them up and inspect them without the help from shop employees.

It is a simple fact that the buyer of a used gun needs a lot more inspection time than a buyer of a new gun. This is because he has to be concerned about such things as bore condition, stock condition, originality, etcetera, that a new gun buyer need not concern himself with. By giving the interested used gun buyer the opportunity to browse and inspect on his own, it saves the shop employees a great deal of time. Also, if the shop employee is not otherwise engaged he can still offer his services to the browser.

I firmly believe that such a display with easy access for the public is the best way to display most used guns; however, it does have its down side.

First, it is probably best to display particularly valuable or fragile guns in racks without direct customer access. In this case, it is important to try prevent handling damage to these particular guns. A few dings in a mint expensive highgrade gun can quickly have a negative effect on its resale value.

Fragile Guns

A fragile gun would be almost any muzzleloader and most older firearms for which parts are not readily available. Muzzleloaders are particularly vulnerable because an inexperienced person may snap a hammer on a bore nipple, or worse yet, snap a cock on a flintlock without a flint in place or with the frizzen forward. Invariably any of these will result in damage to the gun. In fact, dry firing nearly any older gun, particularly rimfires, will cause damage a high percentage of the time.

Use Signs To Make Your Point

This brings up the point that it is prudent to put up prominent signs on the gun racks stating that dry firing is prohibited. Some dealers like to use signs stating something like: "DRY FIRING ALLOWED AT $5.00 A WHACK!" This gets the point across with a little humor.

Something else that you should consider putting up signs for, is to keep food and drinks out of the display area. If you don't, as sure as hell, someone is going to balance a soft drink or coffee on the rack while trying to pick up and inspect a gun -- and accidentally knock it over. At a minimum it will make a sticky mess and at its worse, it will get down the barrel (or in an action of a gun), requiring disassembly and cleaning.

No Eating Or Drinking In

Display Area

My favorite people are the ones that munch on salty potato chips or pretzels while they are handling guns. The net result will be rusty finger prints almost in a matter of minutes. Rather than facing such headaches, it is far better just to keep food and drink out of the public display area. (That does not mean you can't have a small lounge area for such activities.)

No Smoking, Please

Also, I have seen enough cigarette ashes in and on guns as well as cigarette burns on racks and gunstocks, so that I would recommend prohibiting smoking in the display area as well.

Other Problems Still

There are several other problems with having guns displayed so customers can handle them without supervision.

First, there is the fool who will try some of his ammunition in a gun to see if it will fit. Worse is the disgruntled customer or lunatic that might come in and load guns in the rack and then leave.

I know of a couple of cases of this happening at gun shops and even more of it happening at gun shows. It is an infrequent occurrence, but it points out the fact that someone should keep a watchful eye on the people handling guns. (The absolute worse case is when a criminal comes in with a few rounds of 12-gauge ammunition in his pocket and loads a shotgun from your rack for the purpose of robbing you with it. Such a scenario is rare but not unheard of. There are, of course, inexpensive gunlocks available that would avoid such problems.) It pays to be careful. I would also recommend that shop employees that are suitably trained--and of the right temperament and good judgement -- be conspicuously armed.

Other Precautions

There are a few other points that you should take into consideration if you decide to have display racks with public access.

Most dealers find it necessary to remove detachable magazines and store them separately. Otherwise, they have a habit of disappearing. (One dealer I used to know would take everything off of a gun that was readily detachable, including even scopes and rifle bolts before putting it on display.)

Personally, I feel that is a bit extreme and will quite likely cause sales resistance. I remember one time while looking at some guns in that particular dealer's rack when I spotted a desirable Russian sniper rifle at an extremely low price. Since its scope and bolt was missing. I assumed that was the reason for the low price. I was about to pass it up when I remembered this particular dealer's habit of removing bolts. So, I asked him if he had the bolt for the gun. He said he did and produced it from under the counter. To my surprise its number even matched the gun. As a long shot, I asked if he had the scope, too. He said that he did and produced it as well. To my amazement, even the scope's number matched.

Needless to say, I bought the rifle and sold it for about a 500 percent profit. However, I would have likely passed the rifle up, if I did not know the dealer's quirk about removing bolts and such. If you do remove a magazine, bolt, scope, detachable sling swivels, or other accessories, be sure to annotate the price tag on that particular gun to that effect so that the customer knows what goes with the gun.

At the end of each business day, all guns in public display racks should be briefly inspected and wiped down with an oil cloth. If you don't, the fellow who had a large order of salty fries before he came in and handled some of the guns will leave you with some rusty calling cards on the guns he did handle. At the same time, all guns can be inspected to be sure they are unloaded and are not in the cocked position. For guns that cannot be taken out of the cocked position readily without dry firing, such as hammerless shotguns and the like, I recommend that they be left cocked rather than dry fired. They will suffer less damage in the long run that way.

New Arrivals

One dealer I know puts a bright orange sticker on "new arrival" guns to make them easier for regular customers to zero in on when they come into his shop. He dates the sticker and pulls it off after ten days or so. I think it's a great idea and a genuine service to regular customers. It also saves the proprietor a lot of time answering the question: "What's New?"

Price Code

Several savvy dealer friends of mine code their price tags with an entry that tells them readily how much they originally paid for the gun. Unless you have a photographic memory, such code tagging will save you a lot of time, looking your cost up when you are haggling over a price or a trade with a customer.

One dealer is even fluent in Hebrew and Chinese. He puts his purchase price and date of purchase right on the price tag, using a combination of these two languages. No one could break his code!

Another dealer just adds two random numbers before and two after the purchase price, and then puts the resulting series of numbers in the corner of the price tag. It looks like an inventory number. He also occasionally tells his code system to regular customers that he likes. Invariably, this show of trust will flatter these customers and make them appreciate better the good deals he gives them. This dealer has many loyal, repeat customers.

Clearly Mark: USED GUN

Whether a used gun is in a customer access rack, under glass, or in a rack, behind the counter, it is important that it be clearly marked: USED GUN. While most used guns are obviously used, really nice specimens can easily be mistaken for a new gun. It can cause you a lot of grief, if a potential customer thinks he is buying a new gun and then finds out he isn't.

Used Handguns

For security reasons, all used handguns should be displayed under glass, or at least on racks, behind the counter space, out of the reach of customers. I feel it is best to keep the used handguns separate from the new ones. The main reason for this is that many -- if not most -- used gun buyers will be collectors. Collectors will normally have no interest at all in new guns. By having the used guns separate from the new ones, collectors can more easily zero in on the guns that might interest them. (Obviously, the same would hold true for long guns, if you put new long guns in your floor racks.)

Easily Readable Tags

It is important that all handguns displayed under glass have a price tag that can be read easily by the customer, without taking the gun out. Probably the best way is to have the typical tag attached to the trigger guard and another price tag in the case, so that it can then be easily read. Such a system saves you from constantly pulling guns out so that the potential customer can read the price tag. It also makes it easy to know where to put the gun after it has been taken out.

Rack Guns By

Make And Model

Because many customers for used guns are collectors, it is also a good idea to rack the used guns by make and model. In this way a Winchester collector can find guns in his field without overlooking any. Similarly, a Savage 99 collector, a Colt Single Action collector, or other collector of a specific model, can easily see what you have of interest to him. Without such organization he may overlook something he would have purchased.


Properly displaying guns in a shop is extremely important to gun sales and the financial success of the shop. However, it is important to realize that the displaying of used guns has its own peculiarities and problems.

PHOTO : This shop has a fair number of antique pistols which are sensibly and attractively displayed in a large china cabinet. However, the price tags on these guns are difficult to read and could be positioned better.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Karwan, Dick
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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