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How to Open a Gun Store

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Open a Gun Store

Fast Facts

Investment range

$44,600 - $77,500

Revenue potential

$520,000 - $780,000 p.a.

Time to build

3 – 6 months

Profit potential

$78,000 - $117,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Full-time

In spite of the movement for more gun regulations, or perhaps because of it, gun stores are thriving with the industry having grown 11% annually for the last five years. If you are a gun enthusiast, now could be a great time to open your own gun store.

But before you jump in, you’ll need to understand the business. Luckily, this step-by-step guide details all the business insights you need to start a successful gun store.

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Meet like-minded people
  • Booming market
  • Good profit potential

Cons

  • Federal and state licensing is an arduous process
  • Changing regulations could negatively impact the industry

Gun store industry trends

Industry size and growth

Gun Store industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends

  • The increase in violent crime has caused more people to buy guns for protection.
  • Ecommerce gun sales have increased dramatically.

Challenges

  • Constantly changing regulations force gun stores to continuously adapt.
  • Security is always a huge issue for gun stores, forcing them to spend money on security measures.
Gun Store Trends and Challenges

Demand hotspots

Gun Store demand hotspots

How much does it cost to start a gun store business?

Startup costs for a gun store range from $45,000 to $75,000. The largest expense Is inventory. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$100 - $500$300
Business licenses and permits$3,000 - $5,000$4,000
Insurance$2,500 - $5,000$3,750
Website$500 - $1,000$750
Inventory$30,000 - $50,000$40,000
Store space rental and preparation$5,000 - $10,000$7,500
Security features for the store$3,000 - $5,000$4,000
Sales and marketing budget$500 - $1,000$750
Total$44,600 - $77,500$61,050

How much can you earn from a gun store business?

Prices for guns will vary, but these calculations will assume that your average customer will spend $500 when they come into your store. Your profit margin should be about 15%.

In your first year or two, you might make 20 sales per week, bringing in $520,000 in revenue. This would mean $78,000 in profit, assuming that 15% margin. 

As you gain traction, sales could climb to 30 sales per week. With annual revenue of $780,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $117,000.

Gun Store earning forecast

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a gun store. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Meeting all licensing requirements
  • Funding the startup costs

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Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our Entrepreneur Spotlight Series, we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.

Discover Sandi Olson’s inspiring journey and gain valuable insights into concealed carry fashion and products by reading our interview with her today.

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a gun store, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research could give you the upper hand even if you’ve got the perfect product. Conducting robust market research is crucial, as it will help you better understand your customers, your competitors, and the broader business landscape.

Analyze your competitors 

Research gun stores in your area to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews.

  • Make a list of gun stores that offer similar products.  
  • Review your competitors’ products – their features, pricing, and quality – and marketing strategies
  • Check out their online reviews and ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to get an idea of what their customers like and dislike.
  • Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 

This should identify areas where you can strengthen your business and gain a competitive edge to make better business decisions.

Why? Identify an opportunity

You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a gun store that sells vintage guns, or one that offers gun safety lessons.

You might consider targeting a niche, such as hunting rifles.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine the firearm that you will sell

In addition to guns, of course you’ll want to sell ammunition, but you should also consider offering gun accessories, gun cases, and gun safes. You could also sell hunting licenses. 

How much should you charge for guns?

Your prices should be based on market prices in your area, but also on your costs to acquire the guns and other products.

Once you know your costs, use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

People of all demographics buy guns, so you should market in a variety of places including Instagram and Facebook. 

Where? Choose a gun store location

You’ll need to rent out a store space. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Gun Store idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Gun Store Name

Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “gun store” or “gun shop”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “ArsenalExpand Enterprises” and “OmniArmaments Outfittersover” over “PrecisionPew Armory” and “TacticalTrigger Boutique”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead and reserve your business name with your state, start the trademark registration process, and complete your domain registration and social media account creation. 

Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick a name, reserve it and start with the branding, it’s hard to switch to a new name. So be sure to carefully consider your choice before moving forward. 

Step 4: Create a Gun Store Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Summarize the key points of your gun store business plan, including its mission, market opportunity, and financial projections.
  • Business Overview: Provide an introduction to your gun store, outlining its location, size, target customer base, and the types of firearms and related products you offer.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of firearms, ammunition, and accessories you sell, as well as any additional services like firearm training or gunsmithing.
  • Market Analysis: Analyze the local and regional market for firearms, considering factors like gun ownership trends, regulations, and demand for specific types of firearms.
  • Competitive Analysis: Identify and assess your competitors in the gun retail industry, highlighting your unique offerings, pricing strategy, and any specialty services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Explain your strategies for acquiring customers and promoting your gun store, including advertising, online presence, and compliance with firearm regulations.
  • Management Team: Showcase the qualifications and expertise of your management team, emphasizing their knowledge of firearms and compliance with legal requirements.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the day-to-day operations of your gun store, covering areas like inventory management, security measures, and compliance with federal and state firearm laws.
  • Financial Plan: Present financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, operating expenses, and profitability estimates for your gun store.
  • Appendix: Include any supporting documents, such as firearm catalogs, safety procedures, compliance records, and certifications, to enhance your business plan’s credibility.
what to include in a business plan

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to gun stores. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your gun store will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts. Here’s how to form an LLC.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation. Read how to start a corporation here.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
types of business structures

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Form Your LLC

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a gun store business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.  

types of business financing

Step 8: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

If you’re considering opening a gun shop in the United States, several licenses and permits are typically required at the federal, state, and local levels. Requirements may vary based on your location and the specific nature of your business, but the following provides a general overview:

  1. Federal Firearms License (FFL):
    • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) requires anyone who wishes to become a gun dealer or operate a gun shop to obtain an FFL.
    • There are different types of FFLs, depending on the nature of the business (e.g., manufacturer, importer, dealer). Most gun shops will need a Type 1 license.
    • To get an FFL, you will need to fill out an application, undergo a background check, and have an in-person interview with an ATF agent.
  2. State License:
    • Many states also require a separate state license to sell firearms. The requirements for obtaining a state license can vary significantly from one state to another.
  3. Sales Tax Permit:
    • If your state has a sales tax, you’ll typically need to obtain a sales tax permit or a seller’s permit so you can collect tax from customers.
  4. Local Business License:
    • Your city or county may require a general business license.
  5. Special Use Permits:
    • Some local jurisdictions may require additional permits or zoning clearances, especially if your shop is near schools, residential areas, or other specific types of buildings.
  6. Compliance with State-specific Regulations:
    • Depending on your state, there might be specific regulations regarding waiting periods, background checks, and firearm registration. Ensure you’re well-versed in these to maintain compliance.
  7. NFA (National Firearms Act) Dealer License:
    • If you intend to deal with NFA items like suppressors, short-barreled rifles, or automatic weapons, you might need an additional license, such as a Type 3 SOT (Special Occupational Taxpayer).

Always consult with a local attorney or appropriate state agency to ensure you have covered all the necessary licenses and permits. We recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

Remember that laws and regulations can change over time, so always make sure you’re up to date with current requirements.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your gun store business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
types of business insurance

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.  

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Rapid Gun Systems, or Orchid, to manage your inventory, compliance, and sales. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Create a website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your customers are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. 

Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Buy Now” or “Order”. This can sharply increase purchases.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Educational Seminars: Host regular seminars on firearm safety, proper usage, and maintenance to engage the community and establish your store as a go-to resource for responsible gun ownership.
  2. Range Events and Competitions: Organize shooting events or competitions to create a sense of community among gun enthusiasts and showcase your store’s products and services.
  3. Partnerships with Local Instructors: Collaborate with certified firearms instructors to offer training courses at your store, enhancing your credibility and providing additional value to customers.
  4. Loyalty Programs: Implement a loyalty program offering discounts, exclusive access, or special promotions for repeat customers, encouraging customer retention.
  5. Social Media Campaigns: Leverage social media platforms to showcase new arrivals, share educational content, and engage with your audience, building a strong online presence.
  6. Community Involvement: Sponsor local events, sports teams, or community initiatives to demonstrate your commitment to the area and foster positive relationships.
  7. Themed Promotions: Run themed promotions tied to holidays, hunting seasons, or relevant national events to attract attention and drive sales during peak times.
  8. Referral Programs: Create a referral program where existing customers receive incentives for referring friends or family to your store, expanding your customer base through word of mouth.
  9. Customization Services: Highlight customization options for firearms, such as engraving or personalized accessories, to attract customers seeking unique and personalized products.
  10. Safety Awareness Campaigns: Launch safety awareness campaigns in collaboration with local law enforcement or community organizations, emphasizing the importance of responsible gun ownership.

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your gun store meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your gun store business could be: 

  • Unlock your shooting potential with our gun store’s extensive selection of high-quality firearms and accessories.
  • Experience exceptional customer service and expert guidance at our gun store, ensuring you make the perfect choice for your personal defense or recreational needs.
  • Find the firearm that perfectly matches your style and preferences at our gun store, where personalization meets unparalleled quality.
unique selling proposition

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a gun store business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in gun stores for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in gun stores. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

As your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for gun store business include:

  • Store Clerks – make sales, customer service
  • Marketing Lead – create and implement marketing strategies
  • General Manager – inventory management, scheduling, accounting

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Gun Store – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Gun stores are booming in spite of all the gun protests, so now could be the perfect time to start your own gun store. You’ll be serving a need in your community and making a nice profit in a $20 billion industry. You could even expand your store to new locations or add a shooting range to your store.

Now that you understand the business, you’re ready to fire up your successful gun store!

Gun Store Business FAQs

Is a gun store profitable?

Gun stores can be profitable businesses, with profitability depending on factors such as location, customer demand, product selection, pricing, competition, and effective management.

What happens during a typical day at a gun store?

A typical day at a gun store involves activities such as assisting customers with inquiries and purchases, conducting background checks, managing inventory, providing maintenance and repair services, offering training and education on firearm safety, and staying updated on firearm laws and regulations.

What is the growth potential of a gun store?

The growth potential of a gun store can vary based on factors such as local market demand, population demographics, competition, and industry trends. Growth opportunities can include expanding product offerings, targeting specific customer segments, establishing a strong online presence, offering specialized services or training, and staying current with market trends.

What type of business is a gun store?

A gun store is primarily a retail business specializing in the sale of firearms, ammunition, and related accessories. It operates within the firearms industry and serves individuals interested in purchasing firearms for personal protection, sport shooting, hunting, or collecting purposes. Gun stores must comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding firearm sales and distribution.

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How to Open a Gun Store