by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Prepare for the show
- Tie your airguns
- Price all your guns
- Table coverings
- Packing the car
- Be careful
- Asking to “borrow” table space from a friend
- Watch what you say!
- Common stuff you always need
- Watch out!
- Loading in and out
This report was requested by reader Michael and elaborated on by reader Siraniko. At first I didn’t think I could write much that would be of interest, but Siraniko opened my eyes to what Michael was asking. I have been selling at gun shows for almost half a century and at airguns shows since 1994, so I have hardened to all those things that might puzzle someone new. It is a worthy topic, and if it gives just one person the courage to have a table at a show, it will have served its purpose.
Prepare for the show
It might seem obvious, but the first step is to get ready for the show. A major part of that is deciding which airguns you want to sell. Maybe there is one you aren’t sure of. You like it a lot, but it’s also something that will attract a lot of attention. I like to put those guns on my table, so I price them in such a way that if they sold I could live with it. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is attending the show. Maybe they are like you and would like to see a Sheridan Supergrade for sale. So price it at $1,800 and be prepared to sell it if a buyer comes along. These days a working Supergrade is worth $1,250-1,500, so pricing it like that assures that only a serious buyer will be interested. However, if it is a gun you truly love, like I love my Diana model 27, then either don’t take it or mark it not for sale.
Tie your airguns
I make everyone tie their airguns at my shows for safety. That’s electrical cable ties around the trigger or the cocking mechanism to prevent cocking and firing the gun. I have seen many people shoot themselves at airgun shows in the past. I don’t allow dry-firing at my shows. If there is a range where the public can try the gun, so much the better, but remember — no gun shows allow shooting. You take a chance when you buy a firearm at a gun show and an airgun show can be the same. Tie all your guns before packing them for the show, because when you set up you won’t have time.
Price all your guns
Put prices on all your guns, or attach labels that say they are not for sale. Some people think if they don’t price their guns people will be forced to talk to them. I feel they are being deceitful, and I almost never ask the price. It seems to me they want to size me up and price the gun accordingly. In my experience as many as 75 percent of the dealers with no prices on their guns are, in fact, deceitful.
Don’t forget to pack coverings for your tables. The tables are provided at every show I have attended, but the coverings are not. Years ago I bought four 100-percent wool Swiss military blankets for $10 apiece, They have now increased to $65-90 apiece, but I continue to use them. Being wool they protect the guns from damage when they are laid down hard, and they hide the stuff I have stashed under my tables.
Gun show tables range from 6 feet to 8 feet in length, and the length makes a big difference in the amount of stuff you can display. They are all uniformly 24 to 30 inches wide. Find out how long the tables you are renting will be (most shows tell you up front, in the table fee info) and plan accordingly. If I lay rifles on the table I can get about 12 on a 6-footer and 18 on an 8-footer. But I have racks that allow me to put 9-16 long guns, plus 12 handguns on one 8-foot table — if it will take the weight.
When you put the covers on the tables make sure they do not extend to the floor in front of your tables. If they do someone will step on them and pull them off your tables, along with everything on top of them!
Packing the car
Think through the loading-in process. The first thing you will need for your tables are the covers, so pack them last. If you use a wheeled dolly to transport your guns, put it on top of the load, so it’s the first thing out, after the table coverings.
One thing about laying rifles on tables is they almost always have to hang over the edge of the table on one side or another. My advice is to hang them over on your side — not the public’s side. When the show gets busy people don’t always watch where they are going and can knock your guns off the tables. They may bump them as they pass by, or a purse or backpack strap may catch a rifle barrel and pull it without the person being aware until it’s too late. You can be more careful on your side of the table.
Asking to “borrow” table space from a friend
You have three airguns to sell. You don’t want to rent a whole table for just that, so you ask a friend if you can put some of your stuff on his table. I am of two minds about this practice.
First, this is what kills airgun shows. The promoter has to rent to hall, the night guards and there may be additional expenses he incurs. I have seen whole airgun shows die when people do this, because it minimizes what the promoter earns. For that reason I am against it.
On the other hand, if all the tables in a show are sold out and there is no way to get one, and if the offer is made to put your guns on a table, I have no problem with it.
But I would never ask to put my guns on somebody’s table. I might prearrange to share the table rental fee with a partner, but the split would be done before the show. I would never impose at the show.
Rather than borrowing space on a table, why not carry your airguns with you through the show? This is a very common practice at gun shows. It actually gives your guns more exposure than laying on a table. I do this all the time at gun shows and have made some very good transactions as a result.
It does happen. At one show in ten I hear of some theft from a table. I have been lucky so far in over 100 shows, but it is always a possibility. Some firearm shows demand that all guns be attached to the tables by means of a cable that is locked. I carry such cables and locks in my show bag, but no airgun show has ever required it.
Watch what you say!
Almost every gun show will have at least one undercover agent from the ATF walking the show. If you know what to look for you can sometimes spot them — mid 30s to mid-40s, fit, close-cropped hair and often wearing a gun in an ankle holster. But if it turns out to be a middle-aged woman who looks like a bored housewife, don’t be surprised. Watch what you say in public, because you never know who might be listening.
Small stuff you always need
I carry a salesman’s sample case loaded with everything experience has taught me I will need:
tool kit with lots of Allen wrenches for scopes
cable tie cutter (diagonal cutter)
extra cable ties (all lengths)
plain 5X8-inch white cards to make signs
Hobo knife (knife, fork and spoon for eating lunch)
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