A Field Guide to Gun Shop Salesmen

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First and foremost, when you label someone a douchebag, in writing, on a YouTube video, you really ought to spell it correctly. Otherwise you might be accused of being a you-know-what. Anyway, I know some of you can’t watch a man in a New York Yankees cap rant about anything for religious reasons. As a public service, here’s a list of the gun store salesman stereotypes mooted by MrCollonNoire (another awesome opportunity for misspelling): the Fan Boy (brand fanatics), Douchbag (diss-missive brand snob), Old Fart (anti-polymer pants pisser), Newbie (know-nothing) and Commando (tactikoolaid purveyor). I wonder how gun store salesman categorize customers . . . [h/t Yodlepop]

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

57 Responses to A Field Guide to Gun Shop Salesmen

  1. avatarry_ry says:

    I seem to always get the Old Farts.

    “You don’t want that AR-15, it’s too fragile. You’d be much better suited with this 45/70 Lever Action.”

    “There’s only one pistol you should use, and that’s a 1911. Anything else is garbage. If you can’t hit what you’re aiming at with 7 rounds, then you don’t deserve to live.”

  2. avatarWildWest says:

    I’m in the “know just enough to admit I don’t know enough and get sent home to reconsider my purchase” type. It has happened 3 times in 3 shops now as the sales people poo pooed what I wanted to buy, put far far more expensive handguns in my hand and left me doubting what I knew I didn’t know enough about. Very frustrating for a novice handgun buyer.

  3. avatarcaffeinated says:

    Most articulate person I’ve ever heard with a flat-bill cap. I can’t agree with him more.

  4. There is no worse feeling when you are done editing a video to find out that you spelled Douchebag incorrectly. smh.

    • avatarBlinky Pete says:

      Looks like he fixed it. I prefer spelling it doosh with a varying number of o’s depending on who it’s it reference to.

      Example: Joe Biden may be a doosh, Rosie O’Donnell is a dooooooooosh!

  5. avatarDerek says:

    I would add the (Any Gun) Magazine/Unscrupulous Salesman guy. The one who doesn’t have a single bad thing to say about any gun. Any gun he thinks he can sell you is the best gun ever made. It bugs the crap out of me when I see someone getting sold on a Highpoint because the salesman knows the guy can’t afford the Glock/M&P/Sig/etc right next to it. Instead of telling the guy to save his pennies and come back for the better value (not to mention quality) item at a later time (or, heaven forbid, buy a used one), he just gets whatever money he can out of the guy.

    • avatarJohn says:

      From his point of view he has a business to run. It’s still sad though and I have, at times, offered my opinions and alternatives to those who really needed something to be said. Most of the time the buyers would still get what was offered by the dealer. Oh well.

    • avatarJwhite says:

      The way I look at it… A gun store is not an educational institution. Your asking people questions who’s answers are most likely skewed. Salesmen. Thats their job. Dont knock em. Old fart comes in, says ‘Hey guys I’m looking to buy a gun” and old fart would be perfect for an old fart, a young guy is great for a woman or younger gentleman. I dont know… As a buyer.. Its your job to know what your getting into, what your buying, and know your sh*t. I went to a Turners out here and I knew what I wanted. I had gone to the range, shot a bunch of guns, looked up MSRPs, used prices, upgrade costs, maintenance costs, assembly, the works. I knew I wanted a Springfield XD. The guy tried to sell me on a FN something for $200 more than I wanted to spend. Why? It’s called an up-sell. Its close to what you want, but it cost a little more. In the 2 minutes I had the gun in my hand I held it, checked the sights, checked the actions, and completed a field strip, maintained a safe and clear action and barrel, and the guy simply said “So, do you have an HSC?” I replied, “Nope” and he said, “let me go get you the paper work.” I came back a couple weeks later to pick it up. That was that. I knew what I wanted, it took me all of 30minutes to fill out paper work, dodge this guys up-sell, and take the HSC. Passed the safety test right there on the spot. I like going in to stores to listen to what the customers have to say. Its hilarious. You have the following…
      1) The Looky-Loo (Oh I’m just looking at this guys gun)
      2) The Gangsters Girlfriend(“Is that the one I wanted?”)
      2B) The Gangster Boyfriend(Usually has neck tattoos, saggy pants, crooked hat, LA Dodgers Jersey, and his buddies are usually looking at AKs and AR’s sweating the “yeah dog, yeah, thats my shit yo, right there, yeah, thats a choppa!” Did i mention he’s usually coaching his girlfriend? “Thats the one you wanted, na that one… yeah girl, thats it”)
      3) The Wife (Exhibits the ‘girl lean’ and seems ‘scared’ of the gun at first. Usually holding a revolver *facepalm*)
      4) The Husband (usually accompanying the wife. Knows little to nothing)
      5) The Tacti-Fool (You got one witha green laser?)
      6) The Glock-FanBoy (Oh man, nothing beats a glock)
      7) The Parrot (A friend of mine told me “______”)
      8) The Traveling Man (“So I need to take a flight tomorrow, I’m leaving for Africa” True story)
      9) The I Have No Clue Why I’m Here Guy (Uhh yeah hi, umm uh, I was looking, who can I speak to about buying a gun? Usually wastes a lot of time and more often than not, I’m stuck behind 3 of these guys asking endless streams of questions that google/calguns.net could have easily answered in seconds. Instead they make a 30min M&P purchase turn into 90 minutes of agonizing Q&A Sessions. Get the hell out of the store and google that sh*t dude. We dont have all day)
      10) The I know What I Want (We know what we want, you cant sell us on anything, we did our home work, and we are quietly judging the daylights out of every single person inside this store. We rush through Q&A, we ask for the paper work up front, we have an HSC, we think California Laws are stupid and make no sense, we read blogs and forums at work, and we go to the range to damn much. Our wives/girlfriends get pissed when we blow $400 on ammo instead of putting that away for a nice vacation, we’ve secretly been every single one of these stereotypes, but we have learned never to admit to it).

    • avatarCitizenClark says:

      I sold HiPoint pistols to lots of folks back when I worked in a gun store (about ten years ago). For $89 (what we were selling them for at the time), they were a steal, and they are still a good deal at today’s prices. Check out this Nutnfancy video demonstrating that HiPoint pistols–though ugly, heavy, and difficult to break down–are useful, functional firearms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkq7WdB-0LA

      • avatarJwhite says:

        Dude… Hi-Points suck. Theres nothing you can do about that. Save the cash and get something worth buying. Those guns IMO should be discontinued as they more often than not end up in the wrong hands… Case in point… http://chasthuglife.blogspot.com/

        Dont get me started on their “carbines” *eye roll*
        The only thing the guns are good for is if you absolutely need a gun and can not afford something better.

        • avatarJohnny G. says:

          I’m pretty sure the guy in the video described you perfectly. Perhaps you should consider a career in gun sales.

  6. avatarBlinky Pete says:

    I liked this video. Go Sox.

  7. avatarCharlie says:

    It’s a pretty good vid, and I’ve run into all of those guys. The Academy/Bass Pro/Dicks stores in particular are infested with Newbies. You better know damn well what you want before you darken their door.

    Charlie

  8. avatarvirtualjohn says:

    I kind of liked this. I was expecting this cat to be pretty arrogant, but I don’t think he came off that way. He seemed to nail some of the ‘types’ of people working in gun stores. There are parallels in other stores; appliances, cars, clothes, etc.
    The one he missed that we have now in the Denver area is the ‘Gun Show Star’. We have a shop in Wheat Ridge that I’ve never particularly liked that has become insufferable, Gunsmoke.
    If you go into that shop now you are supposed to be impressed with how cool they are because they’re ‘Stars’ now. The clientele has changed also, they seem to draw ‘Gun Groupies’.

    • avatarDale says:

      I was thinking about the same “types” I have encountered in a number of different retail (and a few service) settings as well. If you are into scuba diving, fly fishing, home theater/audio, or any number of other interests or hobbies, you encounter these same individuals in a variety of forms. Your probability of an encounter is directly proportional to the specialization of the store. The more focused it is on one product (guns, scuba gear, fly rods, etc…) the higher your chances of being treated like a fool.

      PS Thanks for linking to the video, RF. After getting over the hat (part of my lot in life for being a lousy Mariners fan), I found the commentary from outside the OFWG perspective to be refreshing.

  9. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    You forgot plain old asshole. There’s one (minimum) in every LGS around here.

  10. avatarAvid Reader says:

    Gunsmoke was insufferable before the TV show. TV just made it worse. In some ways it’s sad, because the guy that’s their resident expert on old guns knows his stuff.

  11. avatarAharon says:

    I have gained something from each gun sales interaction that I have had. Prior to going in to a gun store to inquire about a specific model, category of gun, or manufacturer I do extensive research on the Internet. Perhaps because my expectations are lower to find an informed salesperson (who can actually add something new to my gathered data) I don’t notice stereotypes as much. Overall, I have been mostly pleasantly surprised by some well-informed gun store sales help that has politely pointed out some incorrect facts and assumptions I have had while not disrespecting my preferences and goals as they sought to help me.

  12. avatarVan says:

    I would add “PoliticalMan”. This guy is usually the owner, and can’t hide his disdain for the current political establishment and has decorated the store with caricatures, i.e. Obama in a turban. He can be heard loudly discussing politics in front of customers, with complete indifference regarding how his political rantings might be found offensive. Thankfully this type of person is a dying breed with the diversification of people getting involved in shooting. His shop is usually on the downside of its life cycle, and will soon be bought out by someone who will modernize it and make it a viable business again.

  13. avatarJamie in ND says:

    Good video, he pretty much nailed it on everything he said.

  14. avatarBob's your uncle says:

    We have one really strange gun store in Portland OR that typifies the “fan-boy / Douchebag” dynamic in spades. This store’s owner and employees are hardcore 1911 fan-boys, and they especially love COLTs. According to them, a Colt 1911 is every bit as good as a Les Baer or an Ed Brown. (Honestly, I don’t have enough first hand knowledge of these high-end 1911s to make my own assessment – but I doubt Wilson, Baer, and Brown would sell many 2K – 3K pistols if a $1300 Colt was “as good.”). The same store will absolutely TRASH anything Glock. They keep a booklet of photographs printed off from the internet showing Glocks and Springfield XDs that have ka-boomed (yeah, you have all seen the same pics at one time or another). This store’s prices are usually 20% over MSRP, instead of 10-20% under MSRP like most gun stores in Portland. I’m not sure how they survive, but they have been there forever.

    I’ve run into a few gun-store commandos as well. One dude told me that he was in Special Forces, but could not remember what “group” he had been assigned to. In Coos Bay, a gun store guy told me that he was a former SEAL, but he could not remember what BUDs class he supposedly graduated from. It only takes a couple of well-placed questions to smoke out the bull-shitters from the real-deals. Another kid from a now-defunct store in Aloha was talking to a group of eager listeners about his decked-out AK being “his jungle gun,” so I asked him what “jungles” he had been in. He admitted to never having been in a jungle, or, for that matter, not having any plans to go to a jungle. That kid was nice enough, but they store was kinda shady: it always bothered me that they were trying to sell a chrome-plated AK for $3000.00. They would tell anybody that would listen that this thing was some sort of limited-edition, 1 of 100, high-end gun imported from somewhere in Europe, and that it was “for collectors that wanted the best, blah blah blah.”

  15. avatarAaron says:

    Spent some time with a new friend out in AZ a few days ago. She was sold her first pistol – an FNH 9mm… not a bad piece, but I’d hesitate to call it a good “beginners’ gun.”
    She sort of sheepishly told me that it seemed to be the gun they wanted to sell her, not what was best for her needs.
    They didn’t bother to show her that trivial stuff like proper grip (she was teacupping like 4pm in England), where the mag release was located, or what the decocker was for.
    “Decocker?” she asked me with a grin when I mentioned it to her. “Is that an inside joke, like ‘propwash’?”
    Gun Store Fail…. I corrected her as best I could during our impromptu range session out in the desert, and have been encouraging her to get some professional instruction – plenty of good ones around AZ.

    • avatarCitizenClark says:

      It is not a gun store employee’s job to teach customers about best practices in firearms handling.

      And there is nothing inherently wrong with the cup-and-saucer grip. I don’t prefer it, but let’s not get too dogmatic about there only being one “right way” to hold a pistol. People were skillfully shooting pistols a long time before Jack Weaver ever stepped to the firing line.

  16. avatar"Dr."Dave says:

    What about the “Die hard firearms fanatic who is polite, caring, and helpfull”?

    The fact that I know what i’m talking about and am generally freindly is why I sell more guns than the majority of other people in my company.

    Not all gun salesmen are assholes or incompetent.

    But 7/10 customers are.

    Dont come in and lecture me about why one gun is better than another. Dont come in and give horrible advise to other customers who dont know enough to realize you’re an idiot. Dont come in and waste hours of my time, with out intent to buy anything from me, ever, because I work on commission and have a mortgage.

    Dont come in and tell me you need a “Clip” but have no idea what type of handgun it is.

    Dont ask me about firearms from Call of Duty or video games.

    Dont ask me how to make your AR-15 fully automatic.

    Dont come in and yell at me because the Kimber Solo or Kel-tec KSG you ordered two weeks ago hasnt come in yet.

    Know why a lot of gun store people are stuck up, and sometimes less than helpful?

    Because we in general have to handle a lot of crap.

    Unless you’ve worked on the other side of the counter, you have NO idea what kind of crazy, stupid BS we have to deal with on a regular basis.

    Act like a professional, get treated like a professional. Act like an idiot, and I’ll bite my tongue best I can, but everyone has a limit.

    Working at a gun shop isn’t all roses and flowers and coolness.

    • avatarAK says:

      Agreed. Working retail blows.

      • avatarMichael B. says:

        Working retail blows, I know. I worked retail for minimum wage in a high traffic, high volume store after graduating into a terrible economy.

        But many a LGS has lost out on a sale because they ignore me. I look young, but I’ve got money to spend. I’m perfectly happy to give it to people who aren’t snobbish old farts. I have one shop I primarily buy stuff from now since they’re happy to have my business.

        Look, I know customers can be dicks because I’ve been chewed out and threatened by the worst of them.

        But a little bit of customer service can go a long way.

    • avatarJoe Grine says:

      I noticed that gun store salesmen get muzzle-swipped a lot by customers handling guns. That would drive me nuts.

      I wonder if the guys asking you to convert their AR to full-auto are ATF agents. Would not put it past them.

      • avatarMike2588 says:

        I had a customer point a gun at my chest and dry fire it one time. It took every thing I had not to scream at him. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he had done something wrong. all he said when I told him not to do that was “What? it’s not loaded.”

        • avatarDan A says:

          I like it when I hand a pistol to someone with the slide locked back and they try to release it by pointing the gun all around the store and pulling the trigger.

      • avatar"Dr."Dave says:

        No, the ATF agents are the one asking me if I told a customer how to do it.

        I get muzzle swept on average about 23,000,884 a day. I politley ask who ever does it not to. Some realize their mistake. Most say “Its unloaded.”. Some dont do it in the first place.

        After I hand some one a gun, I usually side step, so they dont. And I wear my Safariland level IIIA vest to work every single day.

        • avatarJoe Grine says:

          Hey Dr. Dave: I have a question for you. I had a gunstore salesman chew my ass for letting the slide on a kimber 1911 slam home on an empty chamber. I have been around guns all my life (40+ years) and yet I had never heard anybody tell me that this was a bad thing to do. In fact, we were always taught in the military to never ride a slide forward on any weapon (unless perhaps sound was an issue due to the tactical situation). Your thoughts?

        • avatar"Dr."Dave says:

          For one, I will NEVER chew a customers ass out. I dont care if they kill a $4000 1911 by doing something stupid. We can badger almost any manufacturer to take something in on warranty. And i’d rather lose a gun from a shop for a month or two than lose a customer for ever.

          That being said, hes an idiot. You’re exactally right. Drop that slide.

          Any pistol that wont hold up to having the slide dropped forwards on it, either by using the slide stop or not, isnt worth buying.

        • avatarJoe Grine says:

          Thanks, that was my sentiment as well.

        • avatarDan A says:

          Hope you’re not referring to me, I think we had a conversation about that at one point.

    • avatarDan A says:

      Agreed on all points. Further:

      Don’t ask me how much a particular gun weighs, how long, or how wide it is when you’re holding the damn thing.

      Don’t look at me like I’m an idiot when you make up your own terminology for things instead of calling them what they actually are. A revolver’s cylinder is not a “drum.” An AR’s collapsible buttstock is not called a “slider.”

      When I hand you a gun with the slide locked back don’t try to release it by pointing it in a decidedly unsafe direction and pulling the fucking trigger.

      • avatarMadDawg J says:

        “Don’t look at me like I’m an idiot when you make up your own terminology for things instead of calling them what they actually are.”

        AMEN!!!

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      I feel bad because I stopped by my preferred LGS the other day and didn’t buy anything. To be fair, I have purchased a gun there before and I was checking to see if they had the gun I want. If they did layaway I would have put a couple hundred dollars down right then.

      They’re nice guys there though. None of these stereotypes are in evidence. It’s a small shop that always has the best prices. Just a couple more paychecks and they’ll get some more of my money.

      There’s another gun store here attached to a local range that I have no idea how they survive. D-bags, all of them, and the guns are all over priced. Mind you, this store is about two miles away from the store with the nice guys with the great prices.

      • avatarMadDawg J says:

        Gun stores attached to a range are 99% of the time more expensive. It’s the convenience factor. You are going to go there to go to the range anyway, so there is a greater chance of you walking in seeing a gun you want and deciding to buy it and shoot it, rather than what you bought to shoot. They also have the advantage of taking the person not sure they want to buy it into the range and letting them shoot it, that will almost always get the sale done.

        Some make up for it by including range time with a purchase. One in the town I grew up in was exactly $200 more on any gun than anyone else in town, but they included one year of unlimited range time, free targets for that year a range bag, eyes and ears, and also 15% off all ammo and accessories for that year. The one year unlimited range membership was over $200 by itself. The trick was to buy only one gun a year from them, other guns from anywhere else.

  17. avatarAPBTFan says:

    Ran into a raging douche at a LGS I’d been going to for 25 years. The owner I knew and loved had for the most part retired and the new head of the shop ridiculed and belittled the shit out of me for a trade I was looking to make. There was an old timer in the back of the shop following what was going on and he was happy to strike a deal with me. Despite the cool old timer I haven’t been back since.

  18. avatar"Dr."Dave says:

    Oh, also don’t ask to buy a gun for less than cost. Throw in a box of shells? Maybe. Throw in a holster? If its a SIG or a nice 1911 or something that has a good makrup, sure, why not?

    Sell you a brand new GLOCK for $400? Get the f**ck out of my store.

    Believe it or not, guns are sold at grocerey store markups. If I knock $100 off my price, i’m losing money. You might as well ask me to open up my wallet and give you what ever cash I have in there.

    Do you go into the super market, grab a can of beans, and take it up to the cashier, and ask if they can throw some rice in to sweeten the deal, or otherwise haggle over price? Heck no.

    Its no different with a gun.

    If its a used firearm? Oh, yeah. We can haggle. But we’re not buying handguns for $200 and selling them for $800. Thats a fantasy.

    Again, I work on commission, and I have a damn mortgage to pay, and a 120 pound black lab to feed.

  19. avatarCharlie says:

    Every 3 or 4 months I take a day and run the local (tri-county) gun shop circuit. I’ve encountered every type ColionNoir discusses. He forgot one though: the owner’s spouse/friend who is keeping the shop open when he’s out. He/she can’t or won’t sell you a gun, but he/she will *definitely* write your number down.

    Most of the BS can be avoided by keeping quiet. If you’re polite and focused on what you’re after things run smoothly. I’m a gun snob. Sorry salesman, I want it chambered in that obscure caliber. Don’t attempt to force your preferences on me.

    The Iron Rule of retail: never return to a store where customers are considered cattle by the salesmen. Even if a friend finds your “dream gun” there for half retail price. Former cops usually run places like that.

  20. avatarJoel says:

    It’s so funny when you can walk into a gun store, and end up educating the clerk in the end.

  21. avatarGabba says:

    i just like to sit back and take in the bullshit.

  22. avatarRichard says:

    Only gun sales person you missed one that only sell what got in shop refuses want get you what he does have in his shop.

  23. avatarHal says:

    I have buddies who work in gun stores… and some of them fit these stereotypes like gloves… or are a hybrid. Hell… I’m a fanboy for LMT/HK/FN and I’ll be the first to admit it.

    That having been said, he lost me at the home defense part. In what universe would a person NOT want a hearing safe suppressor and trijicon sights (or RMR) for home defense? Just sayin…

    • avatarMike in NC says:

      I think he was trying to come up with mocking examples of tacticool for the handgun oriented audience and didn’t do much research ahead of recording. There are plenty of useless tacticool items out there worthy of derision. Personally, I would have started and ended a useless list with the rail-mounted 3in Pistol Bayonet.

  24. avatarTom says:

    Some of the sales people know their stuff and some spout BS.
    I have one gun shop that has an old guy who is very political and shoots the bull with his buddies. Has some nice collector guns.
    I have another gun shop that mostly pushes Glocks, and little else. Run by LEOs.
    I have another gun shop that mostly sells American branded long guns and mostly Glock pistols.
    Another gun shop sells a lot of Class III stuff and a lot of handguns. A lot of ammo. This shop is more aggressive of pushing the iron. Some of the people are knowledgeable, some not so much.
    I have a Bass Pro Shop that has a wide variety of guns. Hot and cold.
    I have had dealers push their version of guns. Of course, the 1911 fans belittle all else.

  25. avatartdiinva says:

    I qualify as an old fart. I am also a 1911 fanboy but I own and often carry a modern polymer framed piston (XDm compact 9). The guy behind the counter can be any of those stereotypes but what makes a good salesman is the ability to see what your customer wants and get him to buy it despite your own preferences.

  26. avatarDon says:

    This guy is spot on.

    -D

  27. avatarg says:

    Hahaha… pretty hilarious.

  28. avatarbontai Joe says:

    I was pleasantly surprised at the video. I’ve met all the types he described in more than just gun stores. I worked part time in a local hunting/fishing store back when I was in my early 20′s (definitely a newbee) and got some good education from some of the old timer customers that knew their weapons and what they wanted and why. I have also worked in retail in other venues and have met all the customer types described here as well. Dealing with the public really does suck after a while. It was really hard to remember that the customer “is always right” when they are cursing at you, shouting at you, trying to buy at less than half price, or trying to impress you into some other “professional” discount because their brother’s ex-girlfrind’s dad’s best friend was once a cop three states away 12 years ago. I was recently brousing in a big fancy new gun store that had literally hundreds of new and used weapons on display at very high prices and chatted a couple of minutes with the salesguy. He was a retired cop that was a combination sales guy, a fan boy, douchebag, AND old fart. Interesting mix for sure. I “learned” that HKs were the best because that was what his department used when he was “on the job” and that I obviously wouldn’t know that because I was a lowly civilian, and that I was possibly extra stupid because I asked to look at a Ruger 9mm that they were selling quite a bit over list price. Amazingly, Dick’s Sporting goods was discounting the Ruger about 20% under list that week, but I was polite enough to not mention that to this guy. All in all, I have been in gun shops as a customer almost 40 years, and as a sales guy for 1 1/2 years, and both sides of the counter can be very interesting, sometimes educational, and often fun. More so than some of the other retail settings I’ve experienced, like the evening shift at a grocery deli. That job sucked all night every night, all week long. But I digress.

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