Planning to attend a gun show? So you’ve seen the ads and your interest has peaked your curiosity. Gun shows allow local business owners and individuals to showcase their products and services to the general public. What does this mean for you, the consumer? It means you’re able to see a wide array of firearms related products and services in one location usually during a weekend. From guns to knives to accessories (oh the accessories!), to firearms instruction classes, – you name it, anything firearms related will be there. Before you go, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Gun shows versus trade shows

There is a difference between a gun show and a trade show. A gun show is a place where local vendors and individuals can sell their firearm related products and services. Since they are open to the public, gun shows provide a forum where people can purchase, sell and trade firearms and related products which I’ll talk about later. On the other hand, a trade show is usually closed to the public reserved only for industry related businesses and trade professionals. Trade shows allow companies to showcase their upcoming products, which have yet to be released to the public, to media professionals. Also, it gives the opportunity for trade professionals to interact and share ideas among themselves. An example of a trade show in the firearms industry is SHOT Show.

Security photo courtesy of contributor kconnors via
Security photo courtesy of contributor kconnors via

Fees and security 

Usually, you will be charged a fee to attend a gun show. This fee covers the costs to hold the event which can range from security, facility fees, liability insurance, etc. Despite the admission fee, gun shows can be an opportune place for new shooters as well as experienced shooters. Regarding security, through the years security has been tightened due to issues that have arisen from past gun shows. When in doubt, always be aware of your surroundings.  All firearms will be checked upon arrival as well as bags being searched which is just a precaution like any other firearms related event. If you are bringing a gun to sell or trade,  it may be “tagged” and safeguarded upon arrival  meaning security may place a plastic device which may block the trigger or keep the slide open. Again, most of this is standard safety procedure for any gun related event.

Image courtesy of contributor Irish_Eyes via
Image courtesy of contributor Irish_Eyes via


Before you attend a gun show, it’s best to determine their rules on carrying should you decide to carry at the event. Most times, rules are usually posted on the information website or  there will be a phone number to call for more information. Find out the rules on carrying before you attend the event so you’re not caught by surprise.

Photo courtesy of contributor taliesin via
Photo courtesy of contributor taliesin via

Handling Firearms

What I enjoy about gun shows is the ability to handle firearms without having to wait for someone behind the counter to unlock a display case. Most times, the guns will be displayed since all firearms are checked upon arrival. (Did I mention the heavy security?) Many times, you can just pick up a firearm (which usually has some kind of security mechanism attached to it which may be locked in place for safety reasons), and give it a good feel. Where else can you do this? Surely, not at a retail store since guns tend to be put away in display cases. When handling a firearm at a gun show (despite it being locked), always remember the 4 Rules of  Gun Safety. Furthermore, if you would like the opportunity to dry fire a gun, always be sure to ask permission.

Exploring the Accessories 

Gun shows are a great place not only to view firearms but to shop for accessories. The list of accessories can be endless for a variety of guns. Before you attend, it’s best to make a list of accessories you’re on the lookout for and do your research beforehand. If this is your first gun show, you may just want to take everything in and get a feel for the event. Yes, it may be tempting to go out and buy everything in sight. Just be aware of what you need versus what you want.

Trading and Selling

Gun shows also allow you the ability to trade or sell your gun to the merchants there. Most times for gun enthusiasts, a trade is much more in order. If you are planning to bring a gun to trade or sell, make sure you know the rules for bringing it to the event. As previously stated, be aware there may be some safety measures taken such as security tying your gun not allowing the trigger to be pulled and/or keeping the slide open.


Along the lines of trading and selling, a gun show is a great place to negotiate. The business and people there are there to do business. They want to do business with you. If you’re going to be trading or selling, be sure you’ve done your research and be prepared to negotiate a fair price. Most times, these merchants know their stuff and are knowledgeable about the values of firearms. After all, this is their business!

Image courtesy of contributor daisukerman via
Image courtesy of contributor daisukerman via

Gun Sales 

When buying from a Federal Firearms License (FFL) vendor at a gun show, all federal rules apply including the usual procedure of running background checks. Remember, FFL dealers need to abide by the laws of buying and selling guns even at gun shows. Due to past events, gun shows have obtained a negative stigma of being associated with illegal transactions. With the security and precautions made, this is rarely the case nowadays. These businesses are on the line and surely do not want to perform a criminal offense. If you’re buying from an individual, state laws usually apply. Depending on the area, sometimes you may be able to purchase or sell from an individual without a background check. Be sure to check the laws in your area beforehand.

Final Thoughts

Gun shows can be a great place to see firearms and related products on a local level all in one place. It also gives you the opportunity to meet local business owners who may be able to help with your supply needs in the future. Whether you are there to browse, buy or trade, gun shows can be an educational learning experience for everyone including beginner and experienced shooters alike.


Houston gun show photo at the George R. Brown Convention Center courtesy of Wikimedia Commons via contributor source