How to Buy a Gun Online

One of the great things about living in 2024 is that you can buy guns online. However, you can’t just order a gun on a website and have it delivered to your home. Here’s a step-by-step guide detailing how to do it.

Buying a Gun Online: Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Select an FFL

Once you’ve chosen your gun, you’ll need to find a federal firearms licensee (FFL) to receive it.

By law, only FFLs can receive firearms in the mail. That means if you want to buy a gun online, you’ll need to pick it up from your local gun store. This is called a “transfer.” You can transfer a firearm to a local mom and pop shop or a big-box store like Bass Pro Shop.

An easy way to find a local FFL is by going to Google and searching "(your city) FFL". Here at Southern Defense, we can work with and ship to any licensed FFL.

Step 2: Clear Your Transfer with the FFL

Reach out to your chosen FFL and make sure they accept firearm transfers. If they do, you can ship your new gun directly to them.

Most FFLs charge a modest fee per transfer – usually between $20 and $50. It's worth shopping around to find the lowest fee in your area, as the FFL transfer service is exactly the same regardless of who you pick.

Step 3: Order the Gun

After you clear the transfer with your FFL, you can buy the gun online. When you buy the gun, you’ll ship it to the FFL’s address, not your own. You will also need to pay for your gun before the seller will send it to your local FFL. Remember: you can’t order a gun delivered directly to your house!

Sometimes, a gun shop will need a day or two to process a transfer after receiving it. If your tracking info says that an FFL has received your gun but you haven't heard from the shop itself, give them a day or two to process your order. If they don’t contact you within 24 hours, it’s okay to give them a call to check on your order.

Step 4: Run the Background Check

Once the FFL confirms they have received your gun in the mail, they'll need to run a background check before you can take it home. In most states, you’ll need to submit information to the FBI to run a background check. This ensures you’re not a prohibited person – someone legally barred from owning firearms.

Running a background check is typically as simple as completing a Form 4473 at your FFL. Everyone needs to complete one of these forms to run their background check. Any FFL who provides transfer services will happily guide you through the process, which is fairly painless and only takes 15 minutes or so.

Step 5: Take Your Gun Home

Once your background check clears, you are now free to pick your new gun up from your FFL and take it home. That's it!

Further Background Check Information

To complete your background check, you’ll need to provide information like your name, current address, place of birth, and date of birth. You’ll also need to answer a few questions about your citizenship and criminal history (if any).

You’ll also need to submit some kind of proof of your identity. That can include a valid driver’s license or passport. If you use a driver’s license, make sure it lists your current home address.

The FBI can usually complete a background check in a few minutes to a few hours. Once your background check comes back clean, you can take your gun home.

However, some states have additional waiting periods. For example, Colorado requires you to wait for 3 days before taking a gun home.

Firearm Owner Disqualifications

Some people may not own firearms under federal law. According to the ATF, you cannot buy a gun if you:

  • Have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year;
  • Are a fugitive from justice;
  • Are an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  • Have been adjudicated as a mental defective or have been committed to a mental institution;
  • Are an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa;
  • Have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • Have renounced your citizenship (as a US citizen);
  • Are subject to a court order that restrains you from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner;
  • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

If you fall under any of these categories, do not try to buy a gun online or in person. If you do, you may be committing a felony. If you’re unsure whether you’re a prohibited person, consult a lawyer.

Gun Specific Regulations to Keep in Mind

Rules about acquiring certain types of firearms may change depending on your jurisdiction. Additionally, some guns are subject to extra regulations under the National Firearms Act (NFA).

If you want to own one of these special guns, you’ll need to register it with the ATF. You'll also need to pay $200 per year in taxes per NFA item. Breaking these laws can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and a decade in jail. So don’t do it.

  • Handguns - Many states have laws that directly cover buying handguns. In fact, they’re probably some of the most regulated guns in the world. We don’t have enough space to cover specifics here, so make sure to do your own legal research.
  • Rifles - Certain rifles are regulated by the NFA, too. You don't need to worry about this as long as your rifle has barrel length of more than 16 inches and a total length of 26 inches or more.
  • Shotguns - These are some of the most straightforward guns to buy online. Shotguns with a buttstock, barrel length longer than 18 inches, and overall length less than 28 inches are not restricted by the NFA.