Gun Auction Winning: Easier Than You Think

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 By Joel Kolander

How to win at gun auction

The fact of the matter is, it’s a lot easier to win a gun auction than you think. Despite this, we hear the following with some frequency…

“I can’t afford to bid with Rock Island Auction Company.”
“I can’t win anything at Rock Island Auction.”
“I don’t understand enough to bid.”

These are legitimate concerns, and can represent very real barriers to people who would love to take advantage of the many conveniences that a gun auction can offer. Thankfully those assumptions are often quite far from what actually happens. Our most recent Regional sale was over 10,000 firearms and gives a pretty good sample size for some of the following data.  Did you know that:

  1. Hundreds of successful sealed bidders won a lot for less than their maximum bid. You may win a gun for less than you think.
  2. 98.5% of the 5007 lots and 10,000 firearms sold. The VAST majority of our guns do not have reserve prices.
  3. Thousands of absentee bidders had tie bids and hundreds of them tied the winning bid. You may already be bidding the correct amount!
  4. 60% of all lots in the auction sold to bidders who did not attend in person.

Long story short, not only are guns less expensive to win than people assume, so many people are already so close! That said, we’re going to give you some gun auction tips and tricks, as well as review some information, that can help you lose those “I’ll never win blues” and start adding the guns you want to your safe.


Pat Hogan’s Gun Auction Tips

Pat Hogan and Kevin Hogan


In case you didn’t know, CEO Pat Hogan founded Rock Island Auction Company in 1993. To say he’s picked up a few tips and strategies over the years would be a gross understatement. A while back we wrote about Mr. Hogan’s 5 Gun Auction Bidding Tips, and those still hold true today. We’ll include a brief summary here, but we recommend reading the full article (after finishing this one of course) to get a firm understanding of these strategies.

  1. Bid Early
  2. Use Bidder Notifications
  3. Bid Live
  4. Know Your Bid Increments
  5. Find Related Items

Following those simple tips will go a long way to winning more guns at auction, but there other things you can do too. Here are a few I recommend:


Place Those Lowball Bids

You never know what’s going to come through at auction. Through random chance and happenstance, it is inevitable that some guns go for a low price. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens in every auction. Deals are out there! You have absolutely nothing to lose by placing lowball bids. As we like to say around the auction house, “Bidding is free! It’s the winning that gets expensive.” Let’s say there’s a gun you know is worth $750, and you place a $500 bid on it. You’re in a position to get a pretty good discount.

  • • If you lose, so what? You’re only out the time it took to place the bid.
  • • If you win, you got a sweet deal on a gun you want.
  • • If you don’t bid, and someone ELSE wins at a lowball price, you will kick yourself for years.

There is no reason to avoid placing a lowball bid. In fact, you might place 40 low ball bids and win two guns; that’s a very successful day! Whatever you do, don’t miss out on a gun that will have you saying “woulda-coulda-shoulda” into the foreseeable future.

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
the saddest are these:
‘It might have been!'”


Use Conditional Bidding in Gun Auctions

Are there a couple items you have your eyes on, but you only want to win one of them?  Rock Island Auction Company can accommodate! We can set up what we call “conditional bids” for those bidding with sealed bids. For example:

  • • Say you want to win one of five M1 Garand rifles you have selected to be desirable. You can call us and let us know, “Hey, I want any one of the five following M1 Garands. If I win one, please cancel any remaining bids.” This insures you don’t win more guns than you should and gives you several opportunities to win.
  • • You may also set a fixed amount. “I have 20 bids placed.  Once I reach $2,000, please cancel all remaining bids.”

These are only a few examples of the flexibility we have that can help you win more guns. As of this writing, we do not offer conditional bidding on our website, so to place any conditional bids, please contact us via telephone (309-797-1500) and we’ll be happy to help.


Auction Phone Bidder Row

Shown here are RIAC phone bidders, taking bids on

Use Our Gun Auction Web Features

We have introduced several online tools to help make sure people don’t miss out on the guns they want. Simply getting beat is one thing, but losing a gun because of something you forgot is frustration on a new level and we have several web features available to try and prevent just that.

Bidder Notifications

First off, bidder notifications are only available for sealed bids (bids placed in advance of the gun auction).  Bidder notifications are sent via email and list all your sealed bids in the upcoming auction. Next to each bid in the list we will give that status of your bid: Outbid, Tied, or High. These let you know if you are losing, tied, or winning, and you can use that knowledge to 1) increase your bids, or 2) give up on that item and bid on a different item you can win. This is a supremely helpful tool and my personal #1 recommendation.

Text Message Alerts

Another helpful feature RIAC has introduced is Text Message Alerts, and they are primarily helpful if you are bidding live either via telephone or using RIAC Live, our streaming online bidding platform. If you have elected to receive a text message alert on an lot, on auction day we will text you 20 lots prior to your item to notify you that the item will be offered very soon.

This can be a helpful reminder to stay by your phone if you’re a live phone bidder, or to turn on your computer and log in if you’re using RIAC Live. It’s personally disappointing to us (and bad business) to not be able to reach a willing bidder, so we want to make sure we reach our clients. Text message alerts are yet another way to ensure you don’t miss a single gun.

Bid Live

Simply put, bidding live provides advantages that other bidding styles cannot offer. For items you want, it’s the only way to ensure you can make last second adjustments or decide to make that one extra bid to win an item. For unexpected bargains, it’s the only way to take advantage of them! Sure, you may place a low ball bid that defies the odds and wins, but bidding live is the only way you can positively snatch any bargains that happen to present themselves. It’s like our auctioneers say, “It pays to be here!” You can bid live in person at our facility, over the telephone, or by using RIAC Live.

Speaking of RIAC Live, this easy way to bid online in real time is rapidly becoming a crowd favorite – it already accounts for 15% of all winning bids. It’s easy, it’s growing, it’s fun, it interacts with several features of our website, and best of all, it’s cheaper than bidding online using Proxibid or other 3rd party sites. They charge 3% to use their platform and RIAC Live only charges 1%.

Finalize Your Bids

Here is one service we provide for ALL of our clientele, so there is no sign up required. Prior to auction we often make phone calls and send an email to remind people to finalize their bids. The closest analogy is to online shoppers who put items in their cart, but don’t check out.  Our reminder emails (and calls) act like a string tied around your finger, so you don’t forget to submit your bids on the guns you want.

RIA text message alert


Find Your Gun Auction Type

We hear from a lot of people that they can’t afford to bid in our gun auctions.  Poppycock. Yes, we are well known for selling 5, 6, and 7-figure firearms, but those are far from all we offer. Our Premier Auctions often feature world-class collectibles, but even our Premier Auctions, which house our most high value items, will also have numerous items affordable to many collectors: Colt Government Models, Lugers, Winchesters, 1911 pistols, Snake Guns, modern firearms, European military firearms, Japanese military guns, and sporting arms galore.

But if you still feel the Premier Auctions are not in your price range, we do offer Regional Firearms Auctions as well. These are auctions for the everyday collector, usually held in February and June. There are plenty of great collectibles to be found in a Regional Auction, just typically not in the pristine conditions one sees in a Premier. In addition to collectibles, there are also many modern, usable firearms for your deer stand, duck blind, concealed carry, trap house, shooting range, or nightstand. Regional auctions truly offer a wide variety of firearms at very attractive price points.

There are also our Online Only Auctions, which offer a variety all their own and an abundance of affordable arms, accessories, and militaria.

If you’re not winning in one type of gun auction, try another auction type and you may find yourself more competitive.

Click here to see our upcoming gun auctions.


Winning a Gun Auction is EASY

Friends, you’re closer than you know to winning your next gun. If you haven’t had much luck yet at a RIAC gun auction, I challenge you to try one or more of these tips and see if your luck doesn’t change.  Place a conditional bid, hop on to RIAC Live to find those bargains, and for the love of Pete place those low ball bids! Participating in a gun auction can be a fun, nerve-wracking, rewarding experience, but it’s always more rewarding when you win. Good luck on your bids everybody.


“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
-Benjamin Franklin



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