How to Become a Firearms Wholesale Distributor

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

careertrend article image

To sell firearms, whether wholesale or retail, you must become a licensed firearms dealer. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issues federal firearms licenses to qualified individuals. Although the process of getting a firearms license is not particularly complex, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the firearms market at the retail level before moving up to becoming a firearms wholesaler. Nevertheless, the firearms industry is fairly lucrative in the United States. Below is a step-by-step action plan.

Determine whether you meet the standards necessary to be issued a federal firearms license. The law requires that you are at least 21 years old, have never violated the Gun Control Act, have never been convicted of a felony and are not legally prohibited from using firearms.

Find a suitable location to operate a retail firearms dealership. You must identify a location to receive your license. Your premises must include gun storage facilities and certain safety features. In some jurisdictions, it is acceptable to operate a retail firearms dealership out of your home.

Notify your local sheriff or chief of police by registered mail that you intend to apply for a federal firearms license and start a retail firearms dealership (this notification is also a precondition for receiving a license). Keep a copy of the letter and a registered mail receipt for your records.

Go to the ATF Distribution Center Order Form website and request ATF Form 7, Application for a Federal Firearms License. This form is not available online; it must be mailed to you. On receipt, fill it out, sign it and send it to the ATF office by registered mail along with any required documentation. This license will allow you to become a firearms dealer.

Research federal, state and local firearms regulations, and verify that you have complied with them within one month after your license is approved. Requirements will include obtaining toll-free access to the Triple I database from the FBI so that you can perform background checks on prospective firearms purchasers. Keep any documentary evidence of your compliance in case of a later ATF compliance investigation.

Build a loyal retail firearms customer base, a reputation for scrupulous adherence to federal, state and local firearms laws, and a good business credit rating over a period of several years.

Build a database and cultivate contacts with local and national retail firearms dealers to be your future customers. For example, join the National Rifle Association as well as local firearms trade associations. If your locality has no firearms trade association, consider starting one.

Build a database and cultivate contacts with domestic and even international firearms manufacturers.

Obtain a business loan to allow you to expand your premises, advertise nationwide and purchase inventory in wholesale quantities.

Open your wholesale firearms dealership.


After you establish a wholesale firearms dealership, you might want to move into exporting. This step is best taken only after several years as a wholesale firearms dealer, because the legal regime regulating the export of firearms is rather complex, and violation of these laws can carry severe penalties.


Remember that state and local firearms laws may vary not only by jurisdiction but also according to whether you are a retail or wholesale dealer. Just because you have complied with retail dealer laws does not necessarily mean you have complied with wholesale dealer laws. In particular, if you plan to deal firearms wholesale from the same location as your retail dealership, you will need to verify that zoning laws permit wholesale firearms sales from your location and that no new local licensing requirements apply specifically to wholesale firearms dealers.