Complete Guide to Buying a Handgun from a Pawn Shop

Jesse MathewsonGeneral Topics5 Comments

buying your first firearm...

Expert tips on how to buy your first firearm…

buying your first firearm...

Before we begin it is essential to understand that this article is meant as an information piece and does not constitute all gun store owners or workers. Additionally, I believe in private business, which means that while I personally disagree with an approach taken, I firmly support the individual owner or business desire to express that regardless its potential for a personal affront to myself.

Additionally, it is important to understand that if a pawn shop owner messes up an application it can mean the loss of their license, prison and or loss of their life (monetarily which leads to more in some cases

There are 9 different types of firearms licenses with varying levels of fees applied, though all licensees are subject to the same in-depth background checks through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Here is a short list with an explanation attached:

  1. Type 01 Dealer in firearms other than destructive devices most guns stores hold this license, the cost is $200 every three years.
  2. Type 02 Pawnbroker in firearms, this license is held in conjunction with the Type 01 for anyone who also takes firearms in pawn, an additional $200 fee for three years is required. (there have been recent changes in rulings and the above may not apply in the same way as it did over a decade ago when I held a License.)
  3. Type 03 is the license to purchase collectible firearms without needing to purchase the firearm using a Type 01 license, this license does not allow for resale of firearms. The cost is $30 for three years.
  4. Type 06 is the manufacture of ammunition but not for explosives or destructive devices, anyone who manufactures for sale ammunition has to have one of these licenses. The cost is $30 for 3 years.
  5. Type 07 is a license for the manufacture of firearms other than destructive devices if you make firearms, lowers constitute a firearm. There are additional rules attached to this license. The cost is $150 for three years.
  6. Type 08 is for someone who imports firearms, Classic Firearms is a perfect example of a firearms importer. The cost for three years is $150. This license is not for destructive devices.
  7. Type 09 is a dealer in destructive devices, there are pages of information that apply to this license. The cost for three years is $3000.
  8. Type 10 is a manufacturer of destructive devices, the cost is $3000 for three years.
  9. Lastly, the Type 11 is for the importation of destructive devices and costs $3000 for three years.²

Most gun stores and pawn shops carry a Type 01. This license is actually quite simple and does not require extensive education, just an extensive background check. The reality for gun stores in the United States is that prior to 1993 most of them were long-term businesses set up specifically to generate income over the course of many years.

Family businesses were the way things were run. After 1993 there was a downturn in some firearms sales and then in 2007 when Obama was running for office there was a rush to buy firearms, specifically semi-automatic firearms.

The number of people employed in the industry almost doubled post-2008 as well.³ This has led to a far more active approach to selling firearms, to stay competitive gun stores run specials, and apply used car sales approaches.

This is why I say that your gun store owner/worker may be lying to you. Their lie would be seen as a “white lie”, which is still a lie. In recent years, I have become far more difficult a customer than I used to be. This can be attributed to two things, my reduced income and the increased amount of individuals who really do not know guns, ammunition or any real facts in this regards.

For instance, the single most popular holster found in gun stores is the Blackhawk Serpa or other Blackhawk versions. The reason for its popularity has nothing to do with its quality, or in this case lack thereof. Rather, it is popular because it can be sold rather inexpensively while netting a large profit for the store. Many larger stores buy other items including firearms with the same principle in mind. Obviously, profit is the goal of any successful business.

This is not a reason to lie to your customers, and some of the lies I have heard recently follow.

  • Women should use a revolver, it never jams and is best for the purse!
  • If it has plastic on it then the gun isn’t as reliable as this, 1911- revolver or muzzleloading handgun!
  • You cannot defend yourself with any caliber smaller than…
  • The only AR15s you should buy are, these expensive ones because if it costs less than…it will fail all the time and I know because…I am a gun store owner and taught a class once after my cousin who is a cop said that my brother who was special forces…
  • You do not have to aim with a shotgun, just point in the general direction.
  • If the army uses it, you know its the best.
  • ATF transfer forms cost money that’s why I am charging you $35-50 per transfer.
  • Lastly, I know because I have owned a gun store for 10 years!

Honestly, I held licenses and have volunteered and been paid to teach classes since 2006. I do not currently hold a license and in fact, my last one lapsed in 2012. The headaches were not worth it and retailing is not a way to get rich unless you have a gimmick or lie to your customers.

The good stores in Southern Arizona will never make their owners rich, they will, however, maintain loyal customer bases and this means long-term stable income.

Every single review I do takes weeks sometimes months and when it comes to firearms years of testing. I can definitively state that there are certain ammunition types that are more reliable than others and with defensive ammunition, some work and others do not.

Additionally, if self-defense is your goal I can suggest low-cost reliable alternatives and if pinpoint long range accuracy is your cup of tea, I can suggest firearms for that. Combat or defensive firearms are not generally going to be firearms that shoot under an inch groups of 5 rounds or more.

Rather, these firearms will shoot a 4” group and this is perfectly acceptable, in fact, it is within military specifications. I use Palmetto State Armory firearms for most of the things I do. Some of these rifles shoot very well, others shoot under 4” and that is perfectly acceptable.

All of the PSA firearms I currently own and use have several tens of thousands of rounds through them and have been proven to be reliable in multiple 2-4 days 1000 plus round count classes. All of these firearms can be had for under $750!

My intent is one of education, when it comes to firearms there are three criteria that they must meet to be worthy of my limited money. Reliable with all ammunition available, comfortable to use and carry and accurate within needed standards. To this end as a buyer when you are at a gun store, you need to know in advance what you are looking for in a firearm! Many of us here are not fans of buying using the internet.

Understand you will need to have the firearm your purchase transferred in through a local FFL (federal firearms license) holder. The process is no different than if you purchase one from them. This is why if your local dealer does not have what you want, you can and should shop elsewhere, with your defense and life never settle for less than you want, and do not let them push you into buying something that is not what you want.

Next test all firearms yourself, this means you may not always buy the ones you wanted originally! To test them you need to be able to shoot a box of ammunition through each one prior to purchase. Many areas have indoor gun ranges that rent firearms and will have the firearms you are looking to rent.

Other options include buying ammunition and going to your local ranges and simply asking to shoot others while there. Most gun owners even these days are nice people, we are eager to see new shooters in the sport and will gladly share that with you. However, you need to follow some simple courtesies.

  • Follow the safety rules!
  • Never be rude to the gun owner or range master
  • Always be willing to pay for ammunition or bring your own!
  • Follow the safety rules!
  • NEVER BE RUDE no one OWES you anything!
  • Ask questions and even if you know, DO NOT BE A KNOW IT ALL.
  • Follow the safety rules!

I will be writing an article with a list of firearms I can recommend based on my owning and testing of several of each. This upcoming article will be rather scientific because I keep records of what, how and how much I shoot from each firearm. Additionally, I will be able to offer a legitimate review of the firearms simply because I have owned or do own between 2 and 4 of each. I hope that this was somewhat helpful and if you have questions, ask!

Free the mind and the body will follow.

¹ McPhate, C. (2018). What I Learned About Family and Firearms When I Inherited a Gun Store. [online] Dallas Observer. Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2018].

Eger, C. (2018). Former Pittsburgh gun store owner gets 30 months on weapons charges. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2018]. (2018). McKeesport Gun Store and Owner Sentenced. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2018]

² (2018). Regulations for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2018].

³ (2018). [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jun. 2018].

5 Comments on “Complete Guide to Buying a Handgun from a Pawn Shop”

  1. Solid article
    Please check out
    Reese family Fast and furious scapegoat.
    Lots of potential traps for gel holders.

  2. I agree with you …mostly. First of all I do think that a revolver is the best choice for a woman that is not familiar with guns and has no desire to become a gun lover but needs it only for self defense. Certainly she has to be trained in it’s proper use and the laws and conditions under when and how to use it. It is super simple to operate. No safety to worry about and very reliable if it is a quality gun. Also I do believe if you go below .38 or .380, with some exceptions, you are less likely to stop an attack. I realize there are a million opinions on these situations but this is my $.02 worth. Fine article though. Thanks.

    1. Charles, you will find no disagreement from myself in regards to caliber. Accurate shot placement and a reliable handgun/or preferred rifle will work wonders.

      I would say, re., the revolver, that your argument applies to anyone who doesnt train at all. In which case yes, it would make sense.

      That said, train, because your life should be worth training. And sadly, most people I have known who do not like training also cannot run a fire extinguisher have no exfil plan for emergencies and definitely do not have meeting locations or other for family members. The lack of preparedness from Americans and Europeans *western* is despicable on levels I’ve not thought possible.

      Great comment thank you!

  3. Jesse, well written, thank you. Am a NRA RSO so I like the multiple Follow the safety rules. Rules always posted on site at ranges. Yes read and follow.
    Laughed at the typo-going to local ranges and asking to shoot others while there. Yep, with.
    I have a C&R (03) and one can interact with other collectors only. There is paperwork involved but yes the general public is a no-no.
    Thanks again for another knowledgeable article.

    1. OCB, same here watching some people struggle on the range…however, it taught me some valuable lessons and I love volunteering!

      Good catch, grr, typos! Hahaa

      And agreed eg , 03 – let mine lapse at the time it was more hassle than it was worth- may renew

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.