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Settling an Estate - Firearms - What you need to know

  • Posted on
  • By Barry Laws
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Settling an Estate - Firearms - What you need to know

Settling an Estate - Firearms - What you need to know

You’ve had a death in the family – the deceased had a gun collection? What should you know?


First: A probate, will or living trust needs a lawyer’s review for guidance on rules to follow and/or direction from the courts on how to handle the deceased’s possessions. If you want to inherit the firearms you need to know if you can personally own the firearms. Many collectors have NFA items (National Firearms Act controls ownership of machine guns, short barreled rifles, silencers etc) that can be transferred with the correct paperwork yet must be destroyed if there was never legal paperwork attached to the items. You could be committing a felony by selling or retaining these items incorrectly.


Second: If the collection is not going to be inherited, how do you liquidate firearms? Who can you turn to? What are they worth? Can you sell them yourself?


All great questions, so lets try to unpack this a bit.


Can you personally sell the firearms?


  • This is a question for a lawyer. The courts may have to decide who has the authority to sell and who gets the proceeds - it may not be as obvious as you think. You may have something in your past that prohibits you from taking possession of firearms, making the sale difficult at best and illegal at worst.


What are the firearms’ values?


  • This is possible to determine by cross-referencing gun auction sites, with Blue Book Values of Guns and some help from forums to find popularity of the guns. To a seasoned gun person this isn’t the most difficult journey, yet to a novice you will have a hard time being accurate. Accuracy is paramount if you decide to keep the firearm part of the estate as your property or if you are splitting the value with other family members. Remember, dealers will give you between 50% - 60% of the guns street value depending on their popularity. You have to take your ‘street’ valuation and divide in half for a realistic value if you have a dealer buy them.



I’ve got them valued, now what? You have a few choices:


  1. Sell them yourself privately.
    • Pros:
      • You’ll net the most money.
      • You are in control of the sale.
    • Cons:
      • Can take months to sell / get paid.  
      • You are responsible if the guns don’t work.
      • Can be dangerous to meet buyers.
      • You could be liable if you sell to a prohibited person.
      • Sketchy to advertise.
      • Have to be careful you get paid (is the cash, check, etc. counterfeit?).
      • You could be breaking the law. Some of your collection may need a special license to sell (silencers, auto fire, short barreled rifles).
      • If your guns are found at the scene of a crime in the future, you will have no proof of transfer provided by a licensed dealer for Law Enforcement’s review. This will lead to extensive interrogation by Law Enforcement.


  1. Consign them for sale.


  • Pros:
    • You’ll net around 30% less than selling yourself yet around 20% more than having a dealer sell them for you.
    • A dealer handles all legal paperwork with the buyer limiting your exposure.
    • Sale takes place at the dealer. You are not exposed to marginal buyers.
    • Dealers know the laws and will protect you from selling items that need special paperwork.
    • The dealer gives you paperwork proof that the guns are out of your possession in the event they are used in a crime at a future date.
  • Cons:
    • Can take months to sell / get paid.
    • You need to follow up with dealer to get paid as individual guns sell. A hassle with numerous guns.
    • You are responsible if the firearms don’t work.
    • You need to trust the dealer.
    • If items don’t sell you need to reduce your prices, sometimes less than if you sold outright to a dealer.
    • If you decide to take back a firearm you must pass a background check as if you were a buyer. If you can’t pass the background check you will not get the firearm back.
  1. Take collection to a dealer to sell.


  • Pros:
    • The fastest method to get paid immediately and be done with it.
    • The dealer is responsible if the firearms don’t work.
    • Once the firearms are transferred to the dealer your responsibility ends.
    • The dealer gives you paperwork proof that the guns are out of your possession in the event they are used in a crime at a future date.
    • Your energy output is minimal.
  • Cons:
    • You make the least money in any of the scenarios (20% to 50% less).
    • You must trust the dealer. There are bad eggs just like any profession.
    • The dealer must have enough money to purchase your collection.
    • If you have any NFA items (machine guns, silencers, short barreled rifles) you need a specialized dealer who has that special license.



  • Selling yourself can go smoothly yet it is often fraught with charlatans, sketchy circumstances and possible illegality.
  • Consignment through a licensed dealer is a better route with less money, you are on the hook for the condition of the gun and it may take many months to get the collection sold.
  • Selling to a dealer gives you the most freedom, the most protection yet the least money plus you need an honest dealer who knows the firearm business and has the capacity to buy your collection outright or the space and time to showcase and sell your collection.


Time is money so they say. Depends what yours is worth to do it yourself. And in this world of liability, what is the true value of saving a penny to find yourself liable for a firearm you sold or to wind up in court because of something you just didn’t know? If you want more info, feel free to email me.


Barry Laws

President, CEO Openrange, Inc

Estate Firearm Sales

[email protected]


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