Gun Show Loophole – How to Buy a Gun without a Background Check

Disclaimer – This article is written for law abiding citizens. It is illegal for felons to purchase any firearm.

Why would a law abiding citizen want to buy a gun without a background check?

First of all, the best deals on any item (guns or otherwise) is to buy it second hand. I once paid $10 at a garage sale for a pair of golfing shoes that had originally retailed for nearly $200. And these shoes were still in excellent condition. If you buy a used gun from a gun store or a pawn shop, you’re likely to pay top dollar for that used gun. But if you can find some average guy or gal who owns a gun and wants to sell it, you can usually get a really good deal.

Second, although the law states that the government is not allowed to retain background check records, most law abiding gun owners are suspicious of the government’s honesty in this regard because there’s no means for citizens to verify that records on them are not, in fact, being kept by the government. For that reason, many law abiding citizens will seek to purchase firearms without background checks because they believe the federal government would remain unaware of the purchase, thus increasing the individual’s privacy concerning their firearm ownership.

How to get a gun without a background check:

Gun show loophole

Gun ShowThe phrase “Gun show loophole” is actually a misnomer. Vendors at gun shows are required to perform background checks during gun show purchases. However, what the phrase gun show loophole is actually referring to has less to do with the gun show and more to do with a sale between private citizens. A gun show, however, is a convenient venue for private citizens wanting to sell their personal firearms.

A person wanting to sell a gun at a gun show will first be required to have the gun inspected at the entrance of the show auditorium. They verify the gun is unloaded and they then make it inoperable using a zip-tie. The private citizen will often have a cardboard sign taped to a stick of some sort. The handwritten sign will describe the gun he or she is selling and how much they want to sell it for. They then enter the gun show and browse the show as everyone else is doing. Anyone walking past this individual will typically pause to read their sign. If they are interested, they’ll approach the individual and request to see the firearm being sold. The conversation is often very polite.

“Good afternoon, may I see the firearm you’re selling?”
“Certainly, I’d be happy to show it to you.”

If after seeing the gun, the prospective customer is not interested, he will normally compliment the firearm and thank the man or woman for allowing them to see it. Then the two part company. But if the buyer is interested in purchasing the gun, they will negotiate a price, show one another their state issued IDs, exchange money, shake hands and the gun is handed over. No questions asked.


However, finding a private citizen at the gun show with exactly the firearm you’re looking for is extremely rare. In most cases, when a private citizen enters a gun show in the hopes of selling his personal firearm, he’ll end up selling it to one of the vendors who will then be required to perform a background check when re-selling the same firearm. In truth, going to a gun show in the hopes of buying a firearm without a background check isn’t a good method because it’s unlikely you’ll find what you’re looking for and you’ll be extremely limited in your options.

For example, if I wanted to purchase a stainless steel 1911 with a 5 inch barrel, 3-dot sights and walnut grips at a gun show without a background check, the chances of a private citizen walking through the door with exactly that gun for sale is extremely remote. There will be plenty of vendors selling such firearms, but they will require background checks at the time of sale.

Gun clubs & Shooting ranges

Gun ClubA much better method for acquiring a gun without a background check is to join a gun club. I purchased a membership to my local gun club a few years ago and found there are three ways to buy and sell guns within the club without a background check. The first is the club’s bulletin board. This is a physical board on the property of the gun range where people post handwritten notes of what they are selling or wanting to buy. There is also a classified ads section on the club’s website. This serves the same function as the bulletin board and is accessible only to club members who log-in to the club website. The third and perhaps best method for buying guns at a gun club is their quarterly swap meet. Usually held on a month that has five Sundays (known as The Fifth Sunday Swap Meet), people will bring all manner of shooting related items they want to sell including guns of all kinds. Unlike a gun show, however, every “vendor” at the swap meet is merely a private citizen wanting to sell his or her personal firearms. So there may be dozens of guns to choose from, none of which will require a background check. Using this venue, you’ll be much more likely to find something similar to what you are looking for. And if you spread your search out over several swap meets, you might just find exactly what you’re looking for.

Online Gun Classifieds

There are numerous websites online that host classified ads for guns. The premiere of these is perhaps Armslist but there are many others such as Guns America, Gun listings dot Org, Shooter Swap and many more. On these sites, you’ll typically first click on the state in which you live and then be able to browse guns being offered in your area. Be careful though; often times pawn shops will advertise guns on these websites and they will require a background check. You want to make sure you’re dealing with a private citizen.

I purchased a rifle using Armslist. I searched it daily for about a week until I found someone an hour and a half away selling the exact rifle I wanted to buy. I contacted him by email and we arranged a day and time for me to drive over to his house. Keep in mind that someone is inviting you (a total stranger) into their home to buy guns. Don’t show up wearing dirty jeans and a hoody. Dress up a little. I’m not suggesting you show up dressed like Men in Black, but I am saying put on a nice shirt that’s been ironed and wear some nice pants and if possible, get a fresh haircut. You want the seller to feel comfortable bringing you into their house to see their guns. Come with cash and be polite. (oh….and don’t ever bring a gun into another man’s house. Leave your gun either in the car or at home). And bring something to carry his gun in. After you buy it, you don’t want to stroll down his driveway to your car carrying a “scary” rifle for all the neighbors to see. They’d call the cops before you could even get your seat belt fastened.


Modern muzzleloaders are legally not considered firearms and can therefore be purchased online without a background check from places like Midway USA, Bass Pro, Cabela’s or most any other sporting goods or shooting supply website. There’s no background check required and UPS or FedEx will deliver it right to your door without even asking for a signature. Modern muzzleloaders aren’t like the guns you see in civil war movies. Today’s muzzleloaders are just as powerful and accurate as any modern rifle. Yes, they still fire only one shot at a time, but can be reloaded quickly compared to their antique counterparts. They often come with camouflage paint jobs and a high powered rifle scope. Blackpowder pistols are also available from these same websites and again without the need for any background check.

If you’re a law abiding citizen in the market to buy a gun but want to avoid any government paperwork, try one of the methods mentioned above.

Photo credit: flickr Creative Commons, Gun Show by M&R Glasgow
Photo credit: flickr Creative Commons, Lucy at carbine class by Mesa Tactical

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