Jeff Gonzales to Gun Stores: Here’s How to Sell a Customer a Gun

One of the Range at Austin's displays of firearms.

Hey gun stores!  I’ve talked to dozens of new gun owners or soon-to be-new gun owners about their first purchase. One thing’s clear: they didn’t like gun store employees telling them what to buy.

Thanks to the internet and the increasing professionalism of gun ranges, the average firearm consumer is far more educated than his or her pre-millennial predecessors. They’ve shot — or at the least investigated — a wide range of possibilities.

They know something about caliber, capacity, action type, frame size and branding. Many are aware of ergonomics and recoil profiles.

In short, customers are walking into their local or big box gun store with a fair to good idea of their needs and the gun(s) that meet them.

As a gun store you need to do something important to clinch the initial sale and make a lifelong customer: listen. Before you pull the “I’m a gun expert card,” ask them what they already know.

I know many customers don’t articulate their needs well. Gun store sales staff need to ask questions and listen carefully to confirm — or gently correct — the information the customer has gathered before walking through the door.

More than that, gun salesmen and women need to not do something important: to resist imposing their personal biases on the first-time gun buyer. The “trick” here: focus on the mission. Let the mission — home defense, carry, target practice, hunting, etc. — drive the gear selection.

Some cynics claim “what’s in the back room goes out the front door.” I believe most gun salesmen have favorite firearms — firearms they consider ideal for their customers. They steer first-time buyers to these guns out of the goodness of their heart.

In our beginner’s training classes here at The Range at Austin, students sometimes show up with the “wrong” gun. A gun they can’t shoot or administrate well. Sometimes it’s a fit issue. More often it’s a mission issue; they’ve chosen the wrong firearm for their needs.

A small .38 revolver for purse carry? An easy sell, perhaps, but a bad choice, given recoil and capacity issues. A shotgun for home defense. Another simple sale — of a gun that many buyers will practice shooting once. If that.

Speaking of practice, there’s another consideration that gun salespeople usually ignore: the fact that the first-time buyer is a beginner. They’re still learning. They may need a “starter gun”: a firearm that helps them develop confidence to safely operate and shoot (before they get all fancy).

For example, I had a student who bought a GLOCK 43 for self-defense who didn’t feel comfortable or confident running the gun. How is that possible, you ask? The 43 was simply too small and “fiddly.”

Like many beginning shooters, she would  have been better advised to buy a full-size handgun, especially one with a range of back straps to insure a comfortable fit. A larger framed pistol is more forgiving. It has a better (longer) sight radius, less perceived felt recoil and better ergonomics.

By the same token, salesmen working with beginners looking for a long gun might also want to recommend a lower-caliber, bolt-action rifle. So equipped, a beginner can master the fine art of getting a proper sight picture and making a smooth consistent trigger press — without worrying about recoil.

To spread the pro-gun culture and create more happy customers, gun stores need to satisfy the first-time or relative newbie customer’s needs, not the dealer’s bottom line or the sales staff’s personal prejudice.

As the Brits would say, both beginning shooters and sales staff need to start as they would finish: by recognizing that gun ownership is a process, not an end in and of itself.

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.

comments

  1. avatar Leighton Cavendish says:

    I know some people that have a gun for work, but no personal weapons.
    Not all people buying their first gun are beginners. They may have experience with firearms, but not own any of their own.
    I know…probably a minority of buyers fall into this class…but it does exist.

    1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

      In my experience, most people buying their first gun have shot others, often recently. Many first time gun owners are not complete novices, just as many long time gun owners may be incredibly ignorant.

      Regarding “what’s in the back room goes out the front door”… I’m sure this happens quite a bit. But does the average gun purchaser suffer from it? Does it matter much if they get a Glock 17, M&P 9, or XDm 4.5”? Does it matter much if they get a Winchester, Mossberg, or Remington pump? Many firearms are similar in features and price, so ordering for one that’s not in the shop may cause a delay and extra money spent.

      1. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

        It matters most of all. I was that customer Jeff talks about. I did my research. I picked up guns for over a year. I didn’t like the feel of a Glock, M&P, or Springfield and numerous other brands. I knew one thing for sure. It had to feel right otherwise I would never become proficient with it. Maybe as a lefty I spent a bit more time on the process I don’t know, but when I found something that seemed to be the ticket I tracked one down and drove over 100 miles to hold it. It fairly leaped into my hand like the adjacent piece in a jigsaw puzzle and I knew this was is it. I went to my LGS and ordered one brand new. And they didn’t try to talk me into anything else. Jeff is 100% right. Because unless I’ve been in your store 20-25 times you really don’t have any idea who I am or what I’ve been doing for research. If I walk in to the store with my wife and ask to see the Bersa Thunders, show me the Bersa Thunders and wait for further questions. You don’t know that for the last year we’ve been handling guns at shows and in stores and today might be the day you sell her the Bersa Thunder. Because that’s the one she finally said felt right in her hands.

    2. avatar Arc says:

      This… After I left the grunts, my first gun was a 50cal bought with a nice chunk of deployment money. Sounds stupid right? Well other guys burned through theirs with hookers and blow, and I still got mine. 🙂

  2. avatar Ralph says:

    Maybe all gun owners, new or experienced, would be better off if nobody wanted them to train like a Navy SEAL.

    We’re not trying to take Fallujah. We’re just trying to keep the bastard outside from breaking in. I know of grandmothers who have done that with the “wrong” gun. And no SEAL training.

    1. avatar PeterK says:

      Well I don’t think they are advocating a “right gun”, just suggesting that newbies may make rookie mistakes and buy too much (or too little I guess), gun for the job.

      The real problem is a lot of people think they know what they want, but wind up with something completely not what they want.

      My Aunt got an m&p .22 for home defense. I don’t really question the caliber if that’s what she needs to be comfortable/safe/proficient, but for reliability’s sake? Not the gun I’d choose. She needs something absolutely reliable, and few .22 semi autos are. Not sure where she ended up on that. Should probably check back in.

      1. avatar Texas Gun Gal says:

        Ruger sr 22lr with 10 round magazine
        Shoot what you shoot best

        Also have Dan Wesson model 15 357/38
        Red’s is only for those who don’t mind lead poisoning
        Gawd awful air circulation!

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          An old Hi-Standard revolver can have *9* rounds of .22lr in a highly reliable package…

    2. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Yeah, nobody needs SEAL training as guns are pretty simple when one has to deal with attackers: point, aim, and shoot.

      Some guns do that better than others for some people.

      1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

        That is the exact line of thinking that brings about the 50% or worse hit ratio that we (citizens) face in self defense shootings.

        There is a huge difference between the basics of marksmanship, “point shooting”, and everything in between that goes into fighting with a handgun.

        1. avatar clst1 says:

          On the average trained police officers won’t have a 50% hit ratio, under stress. Everyone should avail themselves with as much tactical training as possible, but point and shoot will suffice in most situations involving defensive use of a firearm.

      2. avatar Jeremy B. says:

        Simply owning a firearm does not make you an effective fighter with that weapon.

        Anyone who thinks they know what they are doing but hasn’t been to at least an 8 hour class or even a single USPSA/IDPA event is fooling themselfs.

        1. avatar Defens says:

          Hey! I just bought a new guitar – you mean I can’t pick it up and play like Jerry Garcia? Under pressure?

        2. avatar TruthTellers says:

          Simply owning a firearm makes you a deadlier fighter, period. When I’m at the range and I try and shoo the tightest group possible on paper at 15 yards, I end up sucking. When I’m shooting at 50 yards to hit steel plates, I look like the deadliest gunfighter in the West.

          Point is, hitting a torso at 5, 10, or 15 yards is not difficult with the proper firearms.

          Millions of people over the past 100 years haven’t gone through tactical courses and have stopped an attacker with a gun.

        3. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Yeah..cause that 8 hour class teaches you exactly what to do with 110 octane adrenaline and how to prevent tunnel vision….not.

          And a shooting competition is that ….a competition.

          It is much more important to have a history of firearms use and familiarity.

          I compete every couple of years in steel matches and while i rarely win, im usually in the top 5 or so. I also shoot a reload equivelent to my +p carry load. Not some squib comeptition load.

          People do fight and win with little or no training all the time. The armed citizen hit percentage seems to be better than LEO stats it just aint that difficult to understand what needs to be done.

          You dont even have to learn to throw your handgun on the ground.

    3. avatar Defens says:

      Having been an instructor, and taken a LOT of classes, from intermediate to advanced – including several from author Jeff – I’d say that very few beginning classes stray too far from just teaching the fundamentals of marksmanship and how to run a gun confidently.

      Sure – you can move on to advanced classes that teach more “operator like” curricula. And while most of us don’t “need” to learn house clearing, pieing corners, etc., it’s not wasted learning, it’s fun, and it keeps us moving and training.

      The average Joe (or Jane) who wants to continue training, but doesn’t want to operate operationally, would probably get greatest benefit from taking classes up to the intermediate level (drawing, shooting while moving, speed and tactical reloads, use of a flashlight, etc.) and practice that for a couple years, then repeat the very same class. It’s amazing what a refresher that can be, and you’ll pick up stuff you hadn’t ingrained on previous iterations.

      Regarding gun sales – I think we’ve all run into the ego-boosted dudes that just want customers to understand how cool they are. Best solution for them is a pink slip and get a more customer oriented salesperson in the store. Fake operators make lousy salesmen.

  3. avatar Steve says:

    My local gun store is a pretty big one and they seem to do an excellent job trying to get the customer the firearm that suits them and their need best. I have to say though a whole lot of newbies come in with some pretty crazy preconceived notions about firearms and read a lot of not so good info. When I hear someone brand new to pistols ask “which one has the shortest reset” I cringe.

    The best thing my LGS offers is low cost class with intro to handguns including safety and basics of shooting. That class has a lot of different pistols available to handle and try to help them decide what will work for them. IMO nothing beats some basic training and then trying a variety of pistols.

    https://www.gatguns.com/gat-guns-events/basic-classes/1688-adult-handgun-safety-11-03-copy-20

  4. avatar BLoving says:

    I’ve long since become numb to the new buyers who walk up to my counter and immediately start looking at the pocket .380s. It’s easy to understand why – I mean, who would ever be intimidated by such a tiny thing?
    Yes, a full sized gun is almost always the best choice… and it can be very tricky sometimes to explain that to a noob, but I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
    All that said, my usual go-to choice for a completely green beginner who might never shoot their new piece more than twice and really has little interest in guns as a hobby or lifestyle? Smith&Wesson SD9ve.
    You? 🤠

    1. avatar Bohucka says:

      +1

      That is a great gun for someone who is going to probably shoot a box or two of ammo before putting it on a bedside table or drawer. Inexpensive, easy to shoot, and reliable. We need more gun shop owners/employees like you.

    2. avatar Adub says:

      I’d sell them a Shield. Way more accurate with a better trigger, can easily be carried, similar price, etc.

      1. avatar Evey259 says:

        You lost me at better trigger. The trigger on the M&P shield is pretty atrocious. The one on the SD9VE ain’t good, but it ain’t Shield bad.

        1. avatar tmm says:

          I’ve owned an earlier Shield and a later version. In my experience, the trigger is better now than what it was before.

    3. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Because you ask so nicely BLoving, Taurus PT111 Millenium G2. If it’s only going to see 100 or 200 rds in its life with that particular owner, then longevity isn’t a concern. It’s also got a nice size grip, yet a shorter barrel for easier carrying or for an attacker to grab.

      But that’s if the customer is dead set on a semi-auto. If they’re open to a revolver, I would see if I have a S&W Model 10 somewhere and see what they think.

      I agree with you on the .380 pocket pistols. I have two LCP’s, a Gen 2 and a Custom, and the gen 2 is EXTREMELY difficult to shoot out to 10 yards. The Custom’s sights are great and it seems to have less recoil, but past 10 yards, it’s tough to get one shot on paper, let alone find a group.

  5. avatar Matt Matteson says:

    Preach it, brother!

  6. avatar Stephen M says:

    Most of the employees at the largish gun store near me I frequent know me a little too well.

    I get greeted by name, left alone when I’m just browsing, quickly attended when I’m planning on buying, etc.

    Granted, I should also just have my paycheck cashed there so that probably has something to do with that.

  7. avatar RCC says:

    Still amazes me when I can go into a gun store and look for something and can not find any staff! Or they sit in the corner talking to their friends until I leave.

    That aside if I’m not taking someone to the range myself with a selection of my firearms I point them at one of the shops with a range and hire guns.

  8. avatar MmmmKay says:

    Interesting article considering I never see anyone buying guns at the Range.

    The Range is targeted towards inexperienced shooters, not serious shooters. For example, no shooting reloads, which only serious shooters do.

    I’m a member and I’m seriously worried that the Range will be going out of business. Many other members have the same fear, despite reassurances from management. It’s usually pretty dead when Reds is busy.

    1. avatar JohnnyMac says:

      One reason for that is that the prices at The Range are too high relative to the market. I don’t think retail stores ought to compete with Internet outlets, but when your price for a SIG 1911 is $150 higher than every other gun store in Austin, you are pretty much making a statement that you are only interested in naive buyers.

      Guns are not Ferraris: you can get as many as you can sell. Set the price reasonably–no more than 5% above the best Internet price–and you can move them all day long. Check out the lines at GT Distributors on the weekends.

      1. avatar The Dude Abides says:

        5% above internet gives a small shop a 5-10% markup on a new gun. Hardly sustainable.

  9. avatar former water walker says:

    I have never acted on any recommendations by a gunstore employee- except AR’s. And even though I know a fair amount about ’em I am no expert. I do disagree about most folks being edumacated. Most seem quite clueless…

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      The only time I’ve ever been talked into or out of something at a gun store was when I was talking to the owner. One told me, “Don’t buy an NEF .32 Magnum, they suck.” and I’m glad I didn’t, because they were what I thought they were: the shitty .32 Magnum revolvers that were so weak, REAL .32 Magnum ammo would damage them.

      Then the last time was when I was doing paperwork for a transfer for a top break .32 H&R and the owner said he had always thought about getting a .38 top break, which I had seen online and thought were a waste of money and time and then a day later I decided .38 S&W would be a fun cartridge to reload and shoot in a top break as it’s pretty much the largest cartridge you can get in a top break outside of a Schofield or a .45 Webley.

      That owner basically sold me on a gun he didn’t have any to sell, lol.

  10. avatar Alan Esworthy says:

    Aside comment: That nice photo accompanying the article made me imagine the offspring from the marriage of a gun store and an old Horn & Hardart automat.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Great chicken pot pie, great baked beans and (be still my foolish heart) the ultimate mac and cheese.

      Finish up with fresh, delicious strawberry shortcake.

      H&H was insanely good.

  11. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    The first time I bought a gun (’91), it was for carry. I went in expecting to get a 226. The store owner did a real soft sell on a 6906. I ended up buying both. Turns out I did like the 6906 better and not just for carry. It was more comfortable and a better pointer for me. I gave it to a friend in in ’99 (a stupid drunken gesture) and have missed it ever since. But, having given my favorite gun away I ended up getting a P7 for carry and liked it even better, at least until it was stolen.

  12. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    You wanna sell more guns? Ok simple. Sell em like cars, computers, or other high end luxury goods. Ask the customer a few simple questions and make a few small suggestions. Always be courteous and remember this customer doesn’t NEED a gun he can just as easily walk out the door and buy an ADT system for his house, a bow to hunt with, or order an air rifle online to compete and plink with so always be kind and courteous.

    1. What kind of gun are you looking for? Rifle, pistol, shotgun?

    2. What is going to be this weapons main job?
    Home Defense, Competition, Hunting, or just plinking? This will help you get the customer in the right area of your store if your store is separated into zones for different types of shooting. for instance, a customer wanting a home defense gun will want either a full sized pistol, AR / AK, or shotgun there’s no reason to show him a dang bolt action.

    3. What kind of action would you like? Semi auto, bolt, pump, revolver, etc. etc.

    4. What kind of features would you like this gun to have?
    Night sights, back straps, beveled mag well, and so on. We’re just trying to narrow down where we want to park our customer and figure out which guns to put in their hot little hands when it comes time to start fondling hardware before we close the sale.

    5. What else are you looking to do with your new gun? We all know nobody ever uses their guns exclusively for the task we purchased them for. We tell the wife “Oh honey this is for zombie clown season!” but really we use it for everything else too.

    6. Do you want “X” feature? Not everyone wants the same features. I may like having external safeties but Ralph may think they should be purged from every gun ever made with all the burning fire and brimstone the Old Testament God could muster after a night of heavy drinking and be awakened by a roving band of ill tempered screaming toddlers with incontinent Chihuahuas chasing them through an air horn garden.

    7. Does a little extra weight bother you? Again this is one of those questions to narrow things down. it can make all the difference between a happy customer and one that will eventually want you drawn and quartered. This helps you narrow down those full size guns you can get a customer to agree to take home be it a polymer wonder gun or an all steel 1911.

    8. What brands have you considered? We know everyone has heard of certain brands *cough* Glock *cough cough* but what a lot of newbs may not know is that there are other brands of polymer framed handguns and Glock doesn’t make a pump action shotgun.

    Ok so we’ve gotten them to tell us what area of the store we need to be in and if we’ve done our job right we’ve narrowed it down to anywhere from 5-15 guns that will suit their purpose from various manufacturers. Now we start having them handle the UNLOADED gun. Here’s what we start asking next.

    9. How does that feel? Yep feelings are subjective and I know Glock may be the end all be all of pistols but here’s the thing, sometimes they just ain’t comfortable in the hand! Make sure your customer dry fires (live fires if possible) and actually uses the controls on the gun. A little extra time here can earn you a life time customer later. Here is where the customer figures out if they can hold the gun comfortably, they can reach the controls, and whether or not the trigger will rub a raw spot or pinch their trigger finger. Also have them break the gun down and put it back together.

    10. Would you like to try shooting it? OK by now we know they can operate it and we know it fits but will it be a match made in ballistic heaven or a sentence to recoil hell when they fire the gun?

    11. Is there anything else I can help you find for this? By now they’ve followed you around tried out every gun you put in their hands and shot at least a few of those. Now we get to help set them up for whatever it is they are actually doing with the gun. Holsters, spare mags, optics, optic mounts, ammo, and all that other fun stuff to make sure they are as prepared as possible when they get their new gun home.

    Hopefully this will help you get a few sales out the door and a few new gun owners out in the world.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      “Ralph may think they should be purged from every gun ever made with all the burning fire and brimstone the Old Testament God could muster after a night of heavy drinking and be awakened by a roving band of ill tempered screaming toddlers with incontinent Chihuahuas chasing them through an air horn garden.”

      When it comes to striker-fired pistols, you have understated my antipathy.

      1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

        well I was going to add “and should be raped with a flaming cactus wrapped in barbed wire and soaked in tobacco sauce.” but I figured that went a little far for any gun feature. I reserve that for communists and deserters.

  13. avatar Steve from NW MT says:

    Been working as an armorer and fill-in gun counter guy at a LGS for 9 years. I’ve distilled the process down into three questions I ask any potential gun-buyer:

    1.) What primary role will the firearm fill?
    2.) How will you be carrying/concealing/employing said firearm?
    3.) What is your budget?

    If the customer can answer those three questions, I can narrow down the options and go over the features of each of the guns that fits that criteria. It’s then up to the customer to figure out which fits their hand the best, their pocketbook and their intended function.

    Now, I do get quite a few customers asking the nebulous, “What’s the best ______?”

    To which I distance myself from the question and respond with one of my three questions like “Well for which function?”

    I hate absolutes in everything except liberty and math/physics.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Change 2 and 3 and you’ve got the process down. Most often price comes before carry considerations. If a certain gun can’t be carried a certain way, the customer will adapt to the way it can be best carried.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Yep…lots of friends (or friends of a friend) ask me which gun to buy. Usually a small 380.

      After asking similar questions i often find they afe looking for amgun to keep in the house or car.

      My go-to recommendation is usually the Walther PPX (or Creed) with the S&W SD9VE if money is an issue.

      I do also recommend the Glock 19 if they can shoot it well and dont mind the price.

  14. avatar Harold Bremer says:

    i’ve been a gun owner for 30 years and pre-Internet I absolutely HATED guns stores. I quite literally never had a good experience. At 18 I went in to buy my first shotgun with a fist full of cash and was completely ignored…so I went to Kmart instead and bought an 870. At 19 I went to another store to buy my first Black rifle….again, ignored and waited around forever. When i told the salesperson what I wanted(Daewoo Dr200) he all but laughed in my face like I was an idiot. Another time at another store I was waited on by some dude with a swasitka tatoo on his arm. Almost all my experiences involved arrogant rude know-it-alls trying to sell me grossly overpriced firearms. And in speaking with fellow gun guys over the years every single one has said the same thing.

    With the internet now gun stores are nothing but places I use to do my transfers for guns I buy online or places I go to actually hold a gun in person BEFORE I then buy online. Truth is there’s no advice or knowledge I can get from them that I can’t get in spades from the internet and youtube. Why take the review of one counter clerk when I can get hundreds of reviews off of youtube?

    Funny thing is 99% of the gun stores still don’t get it. They think they can mark a Glock up to $699 and people will still pay for it. Or treat newbies like idiots and give horrible customer service. They still act like it’s 1970 and they are the only game in town.

    So my advice for any newbies I talk to is skip the gun store. Find some friends or families who are “shooters” and go with them to the range to try some of their guns. Do a ton of research online, etc and then pick a firearm. Find the lowest price online and do the transfer at the cheapest local FFL you can.

    Fact is the gun store gives you nothing you can’t get somewhere else for much cheaper and really once you buy the gun you’ll never need the gun store anyway.

    Now before all you haters jump me I’d LOVE to buy my guns local…..but to do that gun stores will have to make it quick, efficient, have great people to deal with, and do it at the same price I can do it online. I’m not going to pay hundreds of dollars more of my hard earned money to subsidize a business that doesn’t serve my needs.

    1. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

      Sadly you are exactly right. Most of the local shops I’ve been to are more akin to a buy here pay here lot from the 1970s than a nice place to purchase guns. The sales staff are lazing about behind the counter or jaw jacking with some old fart that ain’t bought a gun in 30 years but still shows up to hang out all day everyday. The smith is nowhere to be found. The other customers are either super newbs, fudds, or wanna be tacticool operators operating operationally in full Wolverines regalia. it’s not a pleasant experience to buy there. The staff gives bad if not potentially lethal advice, they have little product knowledge beyond the brochure, and they tend to ignore you until you damn near jump the counter to do their job for them.
      Then we deal with the mark up on the gun itself. like you said 699 for a Glock you can find online for 499 or less if you get real lucky but still… After that, we still have to deal with getting the counter minion to grab the right box of ammo in the correct caliber and fill out all the forms correctly. It really is a pain in the ass.

      1. avatar TruthTellers says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever ran into a Fudd at the gun store, nor tacticool operators. Newbs, yes, but they had someone else with them helping decide which Glock to get. I just so happened to be looking at a Glock 27 I had bought and told them .40 Glocks are great because I can buy a 9mm barrel and have two guns in one.

        The old farts have nothing better to do. Leave ’em alone with their superior .45 1911’s that will stop charging elephants with one shot.

        The staff at the stores I go to are generally nice, pretty well informed. Only a blonde once said something that made no sense. I forgive her though, she was okay and had a nice store before she sold the business.

        There is one gun store I avoid at all costs. Literally I will never go there again. It’s not so much that they’ve ever treated me personally bad, but every time I go or call, they never have what I want or anything I’m interested in. I always feel like they don’t want me there or that they just hate their job. Unfriendly, not interested in chatting, just GTFO ASAP type attitude. Haven’t been there in so long, I can’t even remember if their prices are any good.

      2. avatar AKM Sarah says:

        +1 on the part about lethal advise. I was at a gun store not too long ago and heard the salesman talking to a woman about when she could legally shoot someone. “Can I shoot a guy as he is running out of my house with the TV?” She asked. “You could,” he said, “but that choice is up to you.” I interjected that if the person was fleeing with their arms around a TV, and the immediate threat had passed, it might look pretty ugly to the law if you shot them in the back as they were leaving your property, and that could bear with it life changing legal blowback for her. That salesman shot me a look of pure hatred I have never seen since.

      3. avatar Robert A says:

        I have to agree (with the exception of one quasi Pawn Shop I really like) in my new home town the gun stores I have been to seem to be grossly overpriced(except big boxes when they run sales) It seems they still have not figured out it’s not 2009 anymore. I find the ammo prices esp. shocking, even with shipping better prices are found online. I am also appalled at what I sometimes hear coming out of employees mouths regarding firearms. It’s like car shopping, most car salesman are “car guys” and don’t much about cars

        As much as I want to buy “local” with the one exception I order online and go through my gunsmith. He charges a few bucks more and its a hassle to get to his shop but he is good guy who doesn’t gouge on smithing work.

    2. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Or pay a sales tax to a state that makes you wait 8 days for a background check before you can take possession of it.

      Yeah, I feel exactly the same way. I bought my first 3 guns from an lgs. The first was an over/under 12 gauge that cost as much as a 590A1. I probably could have saved $100 bucks buying online and transferring it.

      The 2nd was a Sub 2000 that I got during a store’s 30th anniversary sale and was discounted. The last was a .22 bolt action I had the store get through their distributors and it took all of a month for it to get in.

      After that month long wait, I had enough of buying new guns from stores because it’s almost a guarantee when I buy online, I’ll have the gun in my hands the next week.

      Used guns, if it’s one I’m really interested in and determine is in good condition and is a fair price, I may buy from the store. Usually tho, my gun stores will price them the same as a brand new gun online. In fact, my closest lgs has a used Hi Point with $200 (plus tax) on the price tag. I can buy a new one of those online, pay shipping, and the FFL transfer for even less than that!

      Those gun stores and their prices are catering to one type of customer: a first time buyer/newbie who doesn’t know any better. Hey, they gotta find some way to stay in business.

      Yeah, I can only imagine gun stores in the 90’s full of elitists. I constantly have to wade through that on internet forums. That one forum, the “elevated road” is one of the worst.

      1. avatar Southern Cross says:

        Think yourself lucky. I put a deposit on a new rifle in mid September. Posted the permit to acquire which Firearms Registry received on September-22, and approved on September-29 which would have been posted just after. These PTAs cost $60 and are valid for 90 days.

        The PTA was lost in transit and I’ve had to fill out a Statutory Declaration, have the signature verified by a Justice of the Peace, scan the form, and email back to Registry. I did these events yesterday and I’m now waiting for the next step.

    3. avatar neiowa says:

      So you’re amazon prime (Walmart +25years) .

    4. avatar Mark N. says:

      I tend to agree with you. However, in some places, such as my little town, the little local gun stores ARE the only game in town, since I live over 100 miles from the nearest true city. And since they are the only game in town, they can charge whatever the market will bear, which is just about 10% below MSRP. And they can get away with it because they charge $75 plus the California mandated background check paperwork (DROS) of $25 for any gun they do not sell. So when you add $100 to the cost of a gun you buy on the internet, then add shipping of $25 to $35, you are right back up to what these guys charge. I mean, I understand their position, they have to support a brick and mortar business, so they are not going to cut $75- $100 out of their markup to compete with internet prices.

    5. avatar Stinkeye says:

      “They think they can mark a Glock up to $699 and people will still pay for it.”

      Apparently they can, or they’d be out of business.

    6. avatar Wedge259 says:

      Ive actually walked out of gun stores on a few occasions because of the “old farts”. Personally I call it “The Good Ol’ Boy” issue. One store in particular, I went in twice and had this issue. Older guy, in a ball cap and overalls just sitting at the counter, chewing the fat. Walked around the store for about 20 minutes, went up to the counter with an arm full of stuff, but was completely ignored by the owner, who never even made eye contact with me. He also charges $70 for transfers, as he admitted that he charges a high transfer price to get people to buy from him rather than transferring.

    7. avatar Cory C. says:

      You’re totally right, Harold.

      Unfortunately, this isn’t exclusive to gun stores. Basically any hobby related store is run by know-it-alls who live for the opportunity to piss on the “casuals.”

      But, man, is it ever a breath of fresh air to go to a gun store or range where they know how to treat their customers. I have one of each and they get all my business.

  15. avatar Tim says:

    “As the Brits would say,…”

    Brits don’t get a vote. They tore up their freedom card generations ago.

  16. avatar David Thompson says:

    Be polite.

    Be helpful, even and especially if the customer is new to guns.

    Don’t let fellow employees put a Laserlyte cartridge in a real gun and shoot customers with it. (True story.)

  17. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    I haven’t sold any guns (they tend to chill out in the safe) but if I did I’d encourage try before you buy. There’s a reason ranges do rentals, besides driving some profits they also give people an opportunity to see what guns they actually like and experience shooting them.

    I’ve only ever rented once, and I’ll say that shooting a 629 isn’t nearly as bad the experience I’d think it was. I also learned .44 Special kicks more than I’d think it would.

  18. avatar strych9 says:

    Generally my experiences with LGS’s have been pretty darn good. IME, it’s the larger retailers that tend to put morons behind the counter.

    That said I do understand why some people at an LGS have limited patience. Some of them deal with annoying non-buyers all day. I actually watched a guy at an LGS make a huge scene about a PS90 being made of plastic, being full auto and “only good for attacking an aircraft or something”. Then he tried to drag me into the conversation/rant. I knew the guy behind the counter, waited until the obnoxious guy left and then asked about him. I was told he usually came once or twice a times a week, pulled the same sort of thing about some item in the store, generally hung out for about two hours just jamming things up and being a moron and that he had been doing this for on the order of two years without ever buying a single thing.

    That’s gotta be really damn annoying.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Sounds like a good candidate for a “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason … but in your case it’s because you’re a jackass” downselect. Nothing wrong with telling someone they’re not welcome in your shop, especially if they are driving away other custom.

  19. avatar jstert says:

    in my humble experience most gun store employees are arrogant, ill-informed, puffed up, seal team six wannabees. they cannot afford to, or simply do not, shoot most of the overpriced firearms that they push with their armchair commando advice. pawn shop folks are much nicer but they dont pass themselves off as pistoleros. buying off the internet with an ffl transfer has been my best experience.

  20. avatar dwb says:

    The OP is all great advice. By the way, it also applies to teaching people to shoot.

    #1 thing I would say to “salespeople” is STFU and listen.
    #2 thing I would say is that learn to love diversity, in guns. Not all guns come in milspec black. I know one guy who runs an armorors course who berates people with nickel boron bolt carriers. Gotta be only Milspec – brand – Milspec Steel or its gonna fail after 20,000,0000 rounds or something. Whatever.

    #3 I thing is have a soft touch when talking someone out of something. People do get wide eyed on the internet and think that they want the James Bond gun. Or, the one from Call of Duty. Accept that people are going to buy things they regret. Best advice: Yes, I will certainly sell you that snappy little short barreled .380 but here is why you might not want it. Its snappy, hard to shoot accurately, and may hurt your wrist.

    #4 the ideal scenario is for people to rent before they buy. I am a firm believer in this. Guns fit everyone differently. Some people’s hands are built for revolvers, some people are built in Standard Size and fit everything. For some people, that snappy little .380 is really quite huge in their hands.

  21. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    I did at my shop seemed it was always the super hardcore deer hunter guy who couldn’t fathom using an AR 10 or any semi auto to take a white tail (too inaccurate dontcha know.) and who would swear up and down they didn’t need 20 rounds to kill a deer or the super tacticool guys who bought ARs or AKs by the arm load and then bought like 40 lbs of gear to hang off the rails while they do mag dumps at the local range.
    The old farts I was referring to weren’t even packing. the last gun they bought was probably a S&W model 29 in 44 magnum back when Dirty Harry first hit theaters but they’ve come to the shop ever since then to sit at the little table by the window and read Guns & Ammo all day.
    The saddest part of all this is that, before he sold it and it became a barber shop, it was in the family for 2 generations. The old man that had opened the store, and passed it on to his son before the dementia took control, was great! Very knowledgeable, priced things fairly, had a flexible layaway plan and would actually engage anyone coming through the door. The son was terrible though. He couldn’t fix most problems, would barely acknowledge your existence in his store and the pricing was insane when literally just up the street you could buy most of what he had for $100 – $300 less. Then he has the gall to wonder why his business dropped and wonder why he had to sell.

  22. avatar Darkstar says:

    I always try to answer questions I get at our store in a professional and understanding manner. But there are times when that is impossible. “What can I help you find Sir/Ma’am?”

    “I need a mega high capacity firearm, in a caliber that will kill Buicks, that weighs less than 8 ounces, that has no recoil, and is Mall Ninja certified. Oh yeah it has to be under $300”

  23. avatar Mike says:

    When I buy a gun, I’ve usually decided on exactly what I want—-and I have bought the majority of my guns at gun shows and on the internet. I know what I want, I seek out the vendor with the best price,and Bob’s your uncle.

    I’ve only actually “bought” a gun at a gun store once. I was looking for a compact 10 round capacity 9mm. I was leaning toward the H&K P30 SK. At the time, CDNN was selling them for $499 or just a bit less, but I decided to check my LGS to see what was in stock. I ended up with a G26 Gen 4 after speaking with the owner. His reasons for the Glock made sense to me, especially since I already own a G19. He didn’t push me in to making a decision, he didn’t denigrate the other gun I was considering(but kinda hard to trash talk an H&K), he just made a good argument. To be fair, the only other gun I was considering was the G26 but the price on the HK was too good to overlook.

  24. avatar Timothy V Noecker says:

    This Exact Thing Has Happened To Me Twice In The Last Month – I’m Currently In The Market for My Very First AR-15 Rifle, I Already Currently Own a Pistol (Springfield Armory XD(M) 3.8in 9mm Bi-Tone)…
    I Told Each Salesmen That I’m Interested In The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Performance Center 18″ That Sells For Around $1300 Street Price. As Soon As I Did That, Both Gun Salesmen From Both Stores Tried To “Sell” Me An AR-15 Rifle That They Had In Stock And Was Nowhere Near The Price Range/Quality Of AR I Was Interested In. Someone In The Market (Regardless Of What Item It Is) That Costs $1300, They Probably Aren’t Interested In A Similar Item That Only Costs $650-$800, Just Sayin’…

  25. avatar Kenneth says:

    “They know something about caliber, capacity, action type, frame size and branding. Many are aware of ergonomics and recoil profiles.”
    followed by;
    “A shotgun for home defense. Another simple sale — of a gun that many buyers will practice shooting once. If that.”
    Make up your mind Jeff! Do you believe that the millennials are better informed and more capable than the previous generation, or not?
    However, you are certainly correct about correcting any misconceptions a beginner might have, GENTLY. Whatever they might have already heard somewhere, is usually pretty firmly stuck in their heads by then. That goes for any and all other subjects as well, and not just firearms.

  26. avatar raz-0 says:

    Millennials are making jsut as bad buying decisions as those in the past. It doesn’t matter though. Just like the folks in days gone by, they come into the store knowing what they want to buy. They aren’t wrong, even if they are wrong, so sell them what they want and make the experience positive.

    If they chose wrong, you will probably get to sell them the right thing later if they had a good experience. Bonus.

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