FFL payment gateways 101: a complete guide

This page discusses how to set up an FFL payment gateway and a 2A friendly merchant account along with information on what type of FFL may be best for your online FFL business.

Below, you will learn how to integrate common shopping carts like Wix, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Shopify, and BigCommerce with 2A friendly processing.

We also detail which shopping carts and site builders generally work best for FFL dealers and which common 3rd party gateways like Authorize.Net or NMI are the best fit.

As a BBB accredited, A+ rated provider, Tasker Payment Gateways LLC offers FFL dealers stable payment gateways and credit card processing recommendations that work with all major shopping cart platforms.

The top site builders for online FFLs

Tasker Payment Gateways LLC opened in 2002. In that time, we’ve had experience with dozens of shopping carts and site builders, the most common being BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace and Wix.

You can read more about some of the most common FFL and high-risk solutions by clicking the links below.

Wait, there are 2A friendly Squarespace payment gateways?

Yes. But the “out of the box” payment processors that Squarespace offers do not allow FFL dealers, so many site owners mistakenly think they must switch site builders. That’s not the case.

Squarespace site owners can accept credit cards for FFL and tactical items without switching site builders? Yes, but you must swap out the default shopping cart. Also, terms and conditions change; make sure you read all your provider’s terms carefully and make sure you are not violating any T&C’s.

Want to learn more about becoming a web-based FFL dealer? 

Below we outline why entrepreneurs choose to apply for an FFL, what types of FFLs are commonly applied for, and we offer tips on making your online business successful.

FFL means “high-risk” to many banks and software companies

Online FFL e-commerce is considered a prohibited category by many software companies, payment gateways, and merchant account providers due to the higher degree of perceived risk or regulatory hassle entailed. The “out of the box” payment processing used on most website builders is designed for standard e-commerce and does not support FFL dealers, but we can help.

FFL dealers who provide the vital service of performing federal background checks face some inherent challenges. As a result, FFL to FFL online firearm sales is one of the most common high-risk industries we offer advice on.

If you are an FFL dealer with a website already in place and need to accept credit cards online, a 2nd amendment friendly Authorize.Net, ePN or NMI payment gateway and a properly set up FFL merchant account are all you need.

Tasker Payment Gateways LLC’s FFL payment gateway recommendations are set up correctly – with 2A friendly processing on the back-end. Without this vital step, firearms merchants risk shut down accounts. 

Why become an online FFL in the first place?

To make money, and to serve a community you care about, right? This is an industry where you must be diligent and attentive to the laws and credit card processing rules that govern firearm sales and distribution. An online Federal Firearm Licensee store can certainly be a profitable way to do business, but there is also a degree of risk involved.

Here are some of the top reasons folks we speak to choose to sell online:

Online FFLs have low overhead

Online businesses do not require the same fixed costs as brick and mortar shops. An FFL website generally requires fewer employees and can benefit from lower insurance and utility costs.

Online FFL dealers have more freedom

Selling online allows dealers to set their schedules, spend more time with family, and not be beholden to traditional retail hours.

Websites are easier to grow than retail

The ability to leverage the inventory of others by dropshipping, plus the benefit of being able to serve more customers by adding server space – not retail square footage – allows online dealers to maximize bust periods without the huge headache of expanding a physical location.

Additionally, e-commerce business owners can broaden their reach by more easily opening 2nd or 3rd sites with far less work than would be required to open a new storefront.

FFL sites can earn money 24-7

Websites generate revenue even when you are sleeping, even when there are no employees on the clock.

You can sell to a wider audience

Selling online allows businesses to expand beyond their local town or neighborhood.

Online firearms sales 101

Despite public perception, internet sales of firearms are very regulated. If you’re a first-time FFL merchant looking to accept payments and sell online, you’ll need to obtain legal counsel from an attorney familiar with the purchase and shipping laws and regulations both at a federal level and for every state or territory to which you ship, particularly the Gun Control Act of 1968.

This act effectively prohibits the shipment of firearms across state lines to anyone except a licensed FFL dealer who can then complete the background check and finish the transaction. What this means in practice is that you cannot sell and ship directly to consumers, but rather that you must complete the sale by shipping the gun to a licensed firearms dealer near your customer who will provide it under the terms required by that state, including background checks and any applicable waiting periods or fees.

The good news? You are not required to do everything yourself. The bad news? There are a few extra hoops to jump through to complete a 2A friendly and legal online sale.

A few essential things to know about online FFL sales:

NOTE: Do not rely on ANY website as alternatives to legal counsel, we are not lawyers. Get an attorney familiar with the laws that regulate firearms sales.

  • Please do feel free to contact us anytime for some free friendly advice on payment processing and FFL friendly gateway solutions
  • You must have an FFL license in order to commercially sell firearms and to process payments
  • You must abide by state and federal minimum age requirements when processing a sale
  • You can only ship to an FFL dealer – do not ship directly to the consumer
  • Your customer’s state and local laws apply when shipping firearms
  • Handguns cannot be shipped through the US Postal Service. Special shipping regulations apply
  • Firearms are at higher risk for theft during shipment – special precautions are advised, contact us for fraud prevention tips
  • Not all credit card processors will provide services for firearms dealers and of those that do, not all integrate with important partner websites
  • It’s imperative to find FFL-friendly partners
  • You will generally need a payment processing and payment gateway that uses a common gateway such as NMI, an FFL friendly Authorize.Net account or eProcessing Network

Although it sounds complicated, the process is quite manageable if it is set up properly. Read on for more details about each of these knowledge areas.

Federal Firearms Licenses- essential and required for e-commerce

Although non-licensed individuals can sell weapons depending on the jurisdiction, only FFL dealers can sell commercially or ship across state lines.

The distinction between a private seller and a federally licensed commercial dealer mostly has to do with the origin of the firearms. If the guns are from your private collection, you may be a private seller; if your “private collection” is regularly replenished from wholesalers, you are likely acting as a commercial dealer.

If you do not already have an FFL license, you will need to apply for one with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Carefully review the application instructions here, then fill out the Application for Federal Firearms License.

Note: You will need to be licensed before you can finalize a merchant account from any reputable credit card processor. Make sure you get your license well in advance of when you would like to start offering firearms for sale.

If you are “not ready yet” it is ok to get the ball rolling early, just be aware that your payment processing account will not be activated until the FFL is in place and on file.

Minimum age laws

Firearms are considered “adult” products and are regulated by federal and state minimum age laws. The federal minimum age for purchasing a long gun (e.g. shotguns and rifles) is 18. However, the minimum age to buy a handgun is 21.

State laws may also apply. For example, the following locations have more stringent laws than the federal guidelines require, making the legal age for purchasing a long gun also 21:

  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Washington D.C.

To prevent underage customers from purchasing a weapon (they would ultimately not be able to pick up from the receiving FFL) and to minimize your riskiness before potential credit card processors, you should implement age verification before making an FFL to FFL sale. This is usually done through software that will match the customer’s driver’s license number with a government database.

FFL-to-FFL

Dropshipping guns when such a shipment would cross state lines is generally prohibited by federal law. The practical effect of this law is that most FFL dealers do not ship any guns to anyone (in or out of state) directly. Instead, all sales must go through the FFL dealer of the customer’s choice.

In most cases, the checkout process for gun sales is similar to that for any other item. The customer makes his selection, puts it in the cart and pays for the purchase using a credit or debit card. However, before he completes the purchase, the customer must also choose an FFL dealer and provide the shipping address for that business.

The dealer receiving the shipment must then send his FFL license to you for verification (unless you allow your customer to choose from a list of pre-verified dealers).

An easy way to verify a dealer is to use ATF Online’s FFL EZ Check. This free service will verify all licenses except those for ammunition or antique weapons dealers.

State Laws

Although the dealer receiving the shipment is responsible for making sure the finer points of state and local law (including fees, waiting periods, background checks, etc) are performed, it’s both responsible and financially prudent for you, as the merchant, to put safeguards in place that will prohibit the sale of illegal firearms. Such firearms will be rejected by the customer’s dealer and you will have to refund the customer and pay for the return shipping for such items.

Illegal weapons vary by state, with 15 states having notably more stringent restrictions than the rest (as of the publication date of this post). These states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington DC.

Some common characteristics of a restricted firearm include a high-capacity magazine (over 10-15 rounds) or a combination of features that the state defines as constituting an “assault weapon,” such as a semi-automatic firing system, a pistol grip, and a detachable magazine.

Shipping Requirements and Suggestions

It’s important to note that the U.S. Postal service generally can legally transport long guns, but not handguns. To transport handguns, you will have to ship via a service such as UPS or FedEx. Always review your carrier’s firearm regulations before shipping and, as we’ve mentioned previously, seek legal counsel.

Most major carriers require firearms to be shipped express to the receiving FFL with signature confirmation (an adult signature). The firearm must be unloaded and shipped separately from all other items, especially ammunition. The box cannot bear any markings identifying the contents. Even your branding (if included) should be non-descriptive.

Part of the reason behind such restrictions is the increased risk of theft if the contents are identified; therefore some merchants also try to hide the product identity in other ways not required by their carrier, such as packing a small handgun in a disproportionally large box or using used boxes from an unrelated company. Particularly when shipping handguns, always try to make the box difficult to hide. Such boxes are less likely to be pilfered.

New to being an FFL and to e-commerce?

If you are just getting started, or are interested in getting involved with online FFL to FFL sales, take a look at the AFT’s official site. There you’ll find a lot of information regarding firearm sales and regulations. It’s important to know everything you can when you are involved in or plan to engage with, a delicate and highly regulated industry. If you’re new to this or just started entertaining the idea, let’s start with the basics.

On the one hand, there are the laws to know and abide by, on the other you need to stay knowledgeable and safe in today’s e-commerce world. As an FFL you are likely familiar with the laws and regulations of your industry. However, having an in-depth knowledge of the nuances of credit card processing and payment gateways might be new to you.

This is why we are happy to help you and your company with payment gateways, chargeback mitigation, data security, and credit card processing recommendations.

What type of FFL do you need?

The ATF has provided an excellent overview of what their different FFL license classifications are based on. More likely than not, you will be looking for an FFL type 01, 02, or maybe even a 09. The most common FFL type is 01, and this is probably the one you’re after. With this license, you can operate your business from your home. Also, as you will potentially have access to the same wholesale prices for your inventory as retail stores, but without the same high overhead costs, you should have a good profit margin per sale.

FFL payment gateways 101 - taskerpaymentgateways - infographic

Do you need an FFL to accept credit cards for ammunition online?

Laws change and they vary from state to state and municipality to municipality. You need to get qualified legal advice before selling ammunition. Period. The answers below are for general information purposes only and refer to accepting credit cards online.

Do you need an FFL to sell factory ammo online? No. If you sell standard ammunition, that is manufactured by a licensed factory you do not own, you will not need an FFL in order to set up a payment under most circumstances.

Do you need an FFL to manufacture and sell ammunition? Yes. If you manufacture ammunition you will need an FFL. Generally, the type of FFL required for the production of common ammunition is an FFL type 6. You can review the different types of manufacturer FFLs on the ATF’s “Types of Federal Firearms Licenses” resource center page.

How to make your online FFL business successful

While there is an ocean of tips and advice as to how to run a successful business of any kind,  there are certain things you must make sure to keep in mind. FFL is a high-risk, tightly regulated, market. As such, legal and economical topics can be complex and challenging. It is important to find sound legal advice to make sure that you don’t risk your business and revenue. You can always contact us anytime if you are looking for tips or an e-commerce attorney, as we have some great recommendations based on multiple customer reviews.

Vigilance and constant growth is always good advice to go by, especially so when you have a high profit/ low-cost business in a high-risk industry.

Make sure your FFL site and your payment processing are FFL friendly

It is very important to take your time when determining the best way to sell online. For example, what software should you use? Currently, there are a lot of viable options in this arena.

It is critical to be aware that most of the standardized, out of the box, processing options that come with site builders and shopping carts like Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, or WooCommerce are rarely FFL friendly. That is not to say you can’t use these site builders; you need to know the best payment gateway for each situation. That’s where we come in, you can read more about who we are and what we do here.

Contact us today to learn more about accepting credit cards for online FFL to FFL sales, or with any e-commerce questions you may have. We are always happy to help. 

Vetted payment gateways and processing for online FFLs

We will recommend a 2A-friendly solution that will help you process credit & debit cards on your legal, US-owned, FFL to FFL website. Contact us any time, and often we’ll get back to you within a few business hours, or sooner, with our advice.

While other card processors continue to walk away from law-abiding Federal Firearms Licensees who sell online, our recommended processors continue to embrace Internet-based gun dealers and appreciate your business. Our providers understand that your “see something say something” mindset and use of the federal background check system helps protect the second amendment rights of every American.

Our FFL payment advice comes at no direct cost to you

Tasker Payment Gateways LLC is paid by our network of providers in exchange for bringing them qualified FFL dealers looking to process online – therefore we provide custom recommendations at no additional cost to you. Contact us, and we will get to work right away.

Tasker holding a target

Our 2A friendly payment solutions offer the following:

  • ePN, NMI or Authorize.Net accounts for online gun sales based on what is the best fit (Authorize.Net must be set up correctly, contact us to learn more)
  • Dropship firearms, ammunition sales applications accepted
  • One on one set up, and personal support for as long as you are up and running
  • A real human to talk to. Get the help you need, when you need it

We appreciate the FFL community

As an FFL performing background checks, shipping only to other licensed dealers, and expanding Americans’ access to their 2nd amendment rights, you provide an essential service. Yet law-abiding dealers like you often have a hard time being treated fairly by vendors outside the gun community.

We work with a host of gun-friendly credit card processors to help Federal Firearms Licensees like you find the best payment gateway option for your business.

In an environment where some formerly firearms friendly processors and software solutions have taken a politically correct, risk-averse stance, our tested and vetted recommendations have hung tough and continue to offer seamless integration with FFL compatible payment gateways such as NMI, eProcessing Network/ePN, and Authorize.Net. We also offer easy auction site integration.

We help one on one with set-up and do so at no additional cost to you. We will go over all the paperwork and payment processor requirements for online FFL sales and work with you every step of the way.

Let us help your online FFL to FFL site accept credit cards

REMINDER: Don’t engage in any sort of regulated commerce without legal counsel, we are not lawyers. Get an attorney familiar with the laws that regulate firearms sales.