Rifle and tactical gear available in an eCommerce store

The U.S. gun and ammunition manufacturing industry is worth over $21 billion — and is on track to grow by 2.4% by the end of 2023.

Brick-and-mortar gun sales are still profitable, but online gun purchases have also seen a noticeable uptick. Physical gun shops offer online experiences to their shoppers, but virtual-only storefronts are also popping up.

eCommerce gun stores allow small, independent gun shop owners to reach more customers, reduce costs, and better compete with industry giants.

The sticking point? Selling guns online is, understandably, a process mired in red tape and regulations. Selling guns online is legal in the United States, but you must meet all legal requirements to set up a bona fide operation. 

Selling a firearm isn't as easy as selling a t-shirt, but it's easy if you have the right systems in place. All you need is to understand the law and set up your website accordingly.

In this guide, we'll cover the seven steps to sell a gun online, plus show you how Spark Shipping simplifies the entire process.

How To Sell Firearms Online: Six Steps

Gun and ammunition available to buy from an online store

1.  Know The Rules

Every gun sale in the United States must play by a complex web of rules. If you want to sell guns online legally, your site must follow every dealing rule to the letter.

When in doubt, follow these four rules to establish a compliant online gun shop.

Rule 1: Ship to a local dealer with a valid Federal Firarms Licence (FFL), not the customer

Although it is legal for you to sell guns online, unlike other eCommerce products, you can’t ship guns and gun accessories straight to the customer. Instead, you must send the product to a local, licensed firearm dealer or other FFL holder.

This local firearm dealer will (typically for a small fee, at the customer's expense) provide the shipped product to the customer under all terms required by that state’s gun regulations.

The local gun shop conducts background checks, waiting periods, and other requirements before providing the gun to the customer.

To simplify this process, you can use automation software like Spark Shipping that integrates with WooCommerce and supports the leading Federal Firearms License (FFL) Finder Plugin for WooCommerce. 

This means you can provide FFL locations to your customers at checkout on your WooCommerce store. Spark Shipping can then automatically split firearms in the order and send them to the FFL location of your customer’s choice.

Rule 2: Follow the laws of the customer's state

When someone wants to buy guns, you're required to follow the gun laws in the customer's location.

Take note of local gun laws, which the ATF publishes on its website. These differ a lot from state to state but pay special attention to age requirements and what types of firearms you can or can't sell in other states.

Rule 3: Shipping with USPS is Difficult

USPS truck delivering an eCommerce order.

While you could ship guns through the U.S. Postal Service under certain conditions, it's very difficult and time-consuming. It's a lot easier to opt for private carriers, like FedEx or UPS, instead.

This can affect the back-end setup of your eCommerce store. For example, many pre-built shopping carts will default to the cheapest shipping option, which is usually USPS. If you decide to use a pre-built shopping cart solution, make sure the platform allows you to choose a private carrier.

Rule 4: Private carriers have rules, too

FedEx plane shipping orders from eCommerce firearm stores.

Private carriers have their own rules for shipping guns. Some companies might require signatures for express delivery, separate shipment of a firearm and its accessories, and shipping in a non-identifiable box.

There also could be separate rules if you're shipping a handgun versus a shotgun, for example.

These rules might seem cumbersome, but they deter theft and unauthorized access to firearms mid-shipment.

2. Pick a Name and Business Structure

Once you understand the rules of selling guns online, it's time to set up a proper company.

First, you'll need a name for your online gun shop that sets you apart from the competition. If you already own a physical business, you already have a name to use. If you don't have a business name, use the Shopify or Looka name generators to brainstorm one.

You also want to consider what business structure you want. You can register your online gun shop as a:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • LLC
  • S-Corp
  • C-Corp

Each structure has tax benefits, drawbacks, and legal implications, so choose the option that best fits your business model.

3. Create a Business Plan

A person creating a business plan on a laptop

Like any other business, you need a game plan to build a sustainable, long-lasting brand.

Ask yourself these questions to set up a solid business plan:

  • What do your finances look like?
  • Do you have budget limitations? How will they affect your operations?
  • Will you manufacture or resell?
  • Who will you source your guns from, and for how much?
  • Where and how will customers be able to access your products?
  • Who will you ship with? How fast will shipments be?
  • Which products will you sell?

Creating a business plan is more than just a best practice for you as an entrepreneur. It can also help you save time and hassle down the road, so take some time to create a vision for your store before you make any sales.

4. Fulfill Your Legal Requirements

Two people discussing the legal requirements of online gun sales.

As we mentioned earlier, every state has different gun laws. Some states have stringent bans on certain calibers and strict age limits for different types of firearms. Other states might require gun sales to go through licensed dealers only.

Always ensure you comply with all legal requirements for the states you sell in.

5. Look for a Gun-Friendly eCommerce Platform

A gun that is for sale in an online firearms store.

You're free to code your own eCommerce website, but if you aren't a programmer, it's best to set up a shop with an eCommerce platform.

In 2023, several eCommerce platforms are also gun-friendly. These platforms offer a more secure foundation for your online gun shop; it doesn't hurt that they also bake compliance into the platform. Gun-friendly eCommerce platforms also have integrations and features that make selling and buying guns more secure and convenient.

For example, BigCommerce and WooCommerce (which Spark Shipping also integrates with), and Gunbroker are reputable and firearm-friendly eCommerce platforms.

💎Have a look at our complete guide on how to sell on Gunbroker if you are interested in selling guns on their platform! 

6. Integrate With a Gun-Friendly Payment Processor

A person using a credit card to complete an eCommerce transaction.

Are you familiar with Paypal, Square, or Stripe? Unfortunately, you can't use these popular payment processors for any firearm transaction.

Most credit card processors prohibit gun sales, but the problem is that these policies are often spelled out in the fine print. Gun shops may receive approval from credit card processors and have their accounts suddenly frozen or terminated.

Unfortunately, online gun shops can’t rely on traditional payment processing services to process credit cards. Companies tend to view gun sales as high-risk, so your options are more limited. Without a payment processor, you're forced to take payments via direct deposit, which is time-consuming and less secure for your shoppers.

The good news is that there are gun-friendly payment processors.

Check out these gun-friendly payment processors to kick off your search:

Remember that you may have to pay higher fees or meet more stringent requirements to use these payment processors.

Once you have a method to process payments, you're finally ready to start listing products in your store and become a fully-fledged online gun shop.

Using Spark Shipping for Selling Guns Online

Spark Shipping logo

Gun regulations are in place to keep everyone safe, but they can make it complicated to sell guns online.

If you're trying to simplify your online gun store, go with Spark Shipping. We integrate with some of the most trusted gun distributors to streamline the eCommerce experience for firearm sales.

You don't have to lift a finger to stay compliant, either. Once a customer purchases from your store, Spark Shipping:

  • Works with FFL plugins 
  • Splits firearms in the order.
  • Sends the firearms to the FFL locations based on customer preferences.
  • Automates ordering, fulfillment, and tracking between your store and your vendors.
  • Sends tracking information to the customer automatically.

Spark Shipping can also help you with the following:

  • Partner with multiple vendors, thanks to our unique one-to-many mapping.
  • Update inventory in real time.
  • Synchronize different product catalogs from various dropshipping gun providers.
  • Automate state-specific regulatory requirements for nationwide sales (including CARB, EPA, and 49-State).

Ready to streamline your gun shop?

Check out Spark Shipping's integrations to simplify your store while giving shoppers a better experience.