planet-pawn-gun-store-berea-kentucky

By Marlon Knapp

Many gun buyers bemoan their local gun shop (LGS) without much knowledge of how they actually operate. Come with me for an inside look at some of the challenges faced by your LGS owner . . .

Laws and regulations
The scope and breadth of Federal firearms laws are intimidating to say the least. I could type a thousand word article on just the laws, regulations, and rules for firearms retailers and still only scratch the surface. A misstep can potentially expose the LGS owner to large fines (think $250,000 or more) and prison time of 10 or more years.

Getting licensed
Applying for your license means you are inviting the ATF to inspect every aspect of your life to ensure you are a person they will entrust with the responsibilities of procuring and selling firearms. The application includes the fee ($30 – $3000), several sets of your finger prints and a passport style photograph taken within the past 6 months. Once your application is received it is reviewed and your background check is conducted (currently takes about 2 months). Once you pass that you get a visit from ATF compliance agents who interview you to ensure you are going to actively engage in the business and are not simply looking to build your personal collection via dealer pricing from wholesalers. Those agents will explain how to conduct business and evaluate your facility and business plan.

Security
Supposing you did not build a new building, how are you planning to secure your investment? Which alarm system and monitoring companies’ will you use? Cameras and recording (on site hard drive or cloud storage) are another consideration. What about physical security for your employees? Will you allow/require employees to be trained and armed, or will you hire armed security or a combination of both? Hardening of the exterior to prevent or at least slow down a potential after-hours break-in. Will you store your firearms on the shelf or move them every night into safes or a vault? Side note, we suffered a break-in once, it took the burglars 59 minutes to pry the door open but only 62 seconds to smash our display cases and make off with 34 handguns and one stripped AR receiver. We now move our inventory into vaults at closing. However, the old adage “if you build a bigger can the thieves will bring a bigger can opener” is true.

Insurance
This is a big consideration for your LGS. Most American insurance companies do not want to insure gun shops so we mostly are required to purchase what are called “excess lines” insurance. My current policies are underwritten by Lloyd’s of London. You will need building, inventory, liability, and workers compensation insurance at the least. An average policy will have a $2,500 deductible and should you suffer a loss (like a robbery or burglary) your deductible will rise to $10,000 for at least one year after the event. As an aside, should you suffer a loss insurance will only pay (minus the deductible) your actual cost of goods and repairs, not their value. Other things that can raise your insurance requirements include, Gunsmithing, firearms instruction, buying/selling used merchandise, manufacturing and selling reloaded ammunition, and having a shooting range.

Employees
Fact: FFL’s (Federal Firearms Licensees) are only allowed to use the FBI NICS system to check the ability of a person to purchase a firearm at the time of purchase. We are not allowed to run a “pre-purchase check” and unbelievably, we are not allowed to use it to screen an employee prior to hiring them. You will have to purchase a background check from a willing local law enforcement agency or find another way of vetting your potential new hires.

Inventory
This one is BIG for every retailer but it seems like an even bigger mine field for those of us in the firearms industry. We all have a finite amount of space and (normally) a finite amount of capital to work with. Additionally we have to choose which wholesalers to work with, which manufacturer’s product lines to carry and which individual products to stock. Some manufacturers (Colt, Kimber…) require the retailer to maintain a minimum inventory to be allowed to use the term “stocking dealer” or even be allowed to carry those products at all. Kimber requires a “Master Dealer” to purchase a set dollar amount of product up front and a smaller amount each year. Colt requires the retailer to maintain a minimum of 20 of their firearms (no, you can’t just carry the cheap stuff) in stock at all times. This has caused many of the wholesalers to stop even offering their products, as the burden to most retailers (mom and pop shops) is too great. Want to carry reloading supplies? Good luck with that. Reloaders, (myself included) are notoriously picky about the components they use. You don’t have Winchester 231 powder? Fine, I’ll buy it and all my other components somewhere else. What about accessories? There are millions of choices depending on the market segment you want to attract.

Hours
What hours are you going to be open? What hours are your employee’s available? What hours will maximize your profit potential?

Feeling overwhelmed yet? I didn’t even touch on bookkeeping, record retention, pay scales/job roles, utilities, taxes, local ordinances, other licenses, additional government alphabet soup agencies, unions, dress codes, ethics, banking regulations, point of sale systems, janitorial, operating procedures, dealing with prohibited persons, belligerent customers, shady characters, local law enforcement, hang arounds, and a host of other considerations.

So the next time you walk into your LGS and want to tell them how they should run their business, may I politely suggest that if you think you have the answers, by all means open your own shop and show them how it’s done.

 

Marlon is owner of Knapp Weaponry in Wichita, Kansas. He discovered the shooting sports and firearms at the ripe old age of four, thanks in part to his Uncle Rich, a Nebraska State Highway Patrolman, and Nebraska Game Warden. Marlon is former military, and current NRA and Kansas certified firearms instructor.

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114 Responses to So You Think You Know How to Run Your Local Gun Store Better…

  1. It can’t be that tough to run a LGS, I’ve met some of the people that do run them and they aren’t any smarter than anyone else. My only problem with most stores is that one employee that thinks he knows what you want or need no matter what you tell them to the contrary.

  2. More gun shop owner/employee whining?

    What, is Firearm Concierge Man no longer available?

    We all have our problems. We just don’t all have to post our whines on the internets.

      • My thought, too.

        Look, it’s tough all over. Most of the things he mentioned apply directly to every business, or at least have their own counterpart. It may not be ATF, but everybody’s regulated by somebody, usually somebodies, at city, county, state, and federal levels.

        The main problem customers have with their LGS is basic customer service, which is completely within the owner’s control, as demonstrated by the world class customer service conducted by many companies, small and large, in retail or B2B every day.

        • +1 On this one. Having run businesses in multiple industries and even multiple locations internationally. There could be a unique combination of challenges. However, most businesses deal with 99% of the same challenges.

          Most Local Gun Stores lack a couple of things. Effective merchandise display and store environment. You want to a clean, organized, and convienent location. It is better to have employees that are great at customer service. Hire the smile and train the skill. It is easier to train someone on products than customer service. professional image is good since perception is reality. Looking the part inspires confidence. You could be the most knowledgeable person in the world, but if you look like Bubba, you’ll get treated like Bubba. And the public will perceive your business as being run by Bubba. Your brand is now Bubba. And other Bubba’s will be your customers. Now you have many of the problems described in the article.

          No business is easy to run. That is why those who do are compensated appropriately. Everyone would do it if it. were easy.

          The retail gun store has made the same mistake other niche businesses have. They have been complacent and not adapted
          to the changing marketplace. They have also failed, like most, to look at other industries and learn from their successes and failures.

          It is not anyone’s fault. Just reality, Human Nature, and the sudden explosive growth of a previously stagnant industry.

        • Try looking at Hospitality businesses. Hotels, etc… for ideas in branding and customer service.

          Look at trends in Retail to evolve into what would attract customers, locations and foot traffic, merchandise display, etc…

          High end food has the display aspect dialed in. Make things look attractive to the average consumer. Not to veterans and Fudds. LOL.

          Big box stores and others for store layouts that drive impulse buys to drive margins. Avoid looking like every other gun store with glass cases and rifles in racks behind the counter with a utilitarian feel.

          If the customer is comfortable, they’ll stay longer and buy more. If more people walk by, statistically, more will come in. More potential customers come in, the more become paying customers. Then, by treating them the way they want and having employees they relate to, they will come back.

          Take the best ideas from other businesses and make them your own. It will be an investment but if executed well and consistently, it will pay off.

        • Sheepdog6: next time take your time, make sure to breathe, and be sure of your sight picture before you take the shot…

  3. That’s a lot of crap to deal with. The guys selling guns out of the back of their sedans don’t have to go through any of that.

  4. Where I come from, customer input into our policies is considered incredibly valuable. A “let’s see you do it better” attitude is not helpful. It’s a great way to alienate your customers and kill any repeat business. Be careful, you might wind up the firearm equivalent of the crazy cat lady cake shop.

    A lot of firearms businesses could learn quite a bit from other customer-centric enterprises. (Restaurant, hotel, etc…) When you literally can’t compete on price or product, (as a retailer often can’t) you HAVE to compete on service.

      • My biggest annoyance at a gun store is standing around for a half hour waiting for someone to help me look at guns. There’s a reason I will now drive an hour out of my way or go to Cabellas when I want a specific gun. There is just no excuse for leaving a customer alone on the sales floor for half an hour.

      • And yet, you come here and whine like a child about how difficult your business is. I’ve owned businesses where the government gets to sniff your life on a whim. I never complained to my customers about it, nor did I expect them to give a good flyin’.

        Big boxes can have someone there, at the counter, to actually help you and not be stuck in a crowd of veterans talking about WWII, or Korea. It isn’t the VFW, it’s a frakkin’ business. Drop your conversation, and come take my money.

        (Nothing against vets pwrserge,,,)

        So wahh, wahh. Yup, you gotta do some forms, and follow some seriously screwed up rules, that can change at whim and caprice. OTOH, You can always sell your inventory for what you paid for it, it never goes bad, never goes out of style, never expires. Almost universally, if you get stuck with it, it will appreciate.

        Yes, we understand the business is complicated. Sorry old chap, many are. We, the customers, simply don’t care about such whining. It’s no excuse for the lousy service of most LGS’s, and why I only suffer them as a last resort or if they have something incredibly interesting – which most haven’t for 20 years.

        (To be fair I don’t count the plastic unversal shops in strip malls as LGSs. They’re always clean, polite, and helpful. Do transaction, thanks you, out the door. But aren’t my market.)

        So, if the gun business is too hard, feel free to open a restaurant or something.

        • No offense taken. There is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes you need to know how to politely end an irrelevant conversation with a wordy customer so that you can get back to doing your actual job.

          I currently run the tech support department for a company with almost 1/2 billion in annual sales. Customer service is both an art and an exact science. Customer facing operations that fail to acknowledge that will fail.

        • I think the issue in old-school gun shops is that lack of any understanding of what customer service even means, because they never used to need it. They used to be the only game in town – there was no Armslist, GunBroker, of Big Box stores. There were no kids who saved their money and opened a strip mall shop selling Glocks and ARs who knew they needed to serve every customer.

          The LGS has no legacy culture of customer service. Retail gun shops understand this and capitalize on it.

      • What’s the incentive though? doing things right costs the owner money and gun sales seems to be the one industry where the rules of logic, reason, civility, and basic economics are completely lost on the customer base. If he hires intelligent sales people and invests time and money training them, his costs are significantly higher than the guy who hires a couple high school dropouts to make sure the customers don’t walk out the door without paying. If he passes even a cent of that additional cost on to the end customer you have riots, and people wringing their hands, burning effigies of the owner, claiming he is price gouging as if he was in the same boat as some mega pharma company jacking up the price of a life saving cancer treatment.
        He has to deal with people who have the emotional IQ of a toddler who demand full retail price for their used Glock or rusty beat up generic Remington SPS, why? Because guns… that’s why,… apparently. He may have the only AR15 left in the entire county but if he has the audacity to try and make a profit off of this people treat him like he is rationing water and food staples after a major natural disaster.
        So yeah, I feel sorry for people who own a local gun store, I wouldn’t issue that as punishment to my worst enemy. This comments section is packed with proof of this.

        • The incentive is you stay in business rather than close your doors. With a plethora of options, I don’t have to put up with crappy customer service if I don’t want to. I have at least a dozen places within an hour’s driving distance that are more than happy to take my FFL transfer business. If you think that investing in good personnel should be passed on to the customer, you’re missing the point. The investment is there to get your MORE customers.

        • @pwrserge… Right but are you willing to pay more for that experience? If not then you are part of the problem.

        • If by “pay more” you mean actually buy things from a store that has better customer service over one that doesn’t? Yes. Not all costs have to be passed on directly to the customer. An increase in sales volume resulting from being more competitive should cover the cost nicely.

          My company didn’t jack up the pricing on our products when we increased sales / support staff. Instead we knew that investment in these areas would result in increasing sales.

        • Let me expand on that…

          Say we have two gun shops both moving 20 units per day.

          One shop (let’s call it shop A) improves customer service. If the market is (by some miracle) saturated, you will shift the volume from shop B to shop A.

          Now shop A moves 22 units per day and shop B moves 18 units per day. That means that the net cost of the service initiative can be the same as the net profit from those extra 2 units and your business is just as profitable as it was before. Any extra money gained from the net increase is just that, extra. No actual increase in cost need be passed on to the customer.

          Now take this example and game it out in real numbers. That’s what real customer-facing businesses do successfully every day. Just because you sell guns instead of vacuum cleaners does not make the model any less appropriate.

  5. I have no doubt running a gun store is challenging, running any business is a challenge. I really am not going to question their business practices that don’t relate to customer service. At a lot of gun shops around here the staff is hateful or indifferent to customers that are not regulars or friends. Loving guns and being knowledgeable, and having the financial means to establish some inventory is not a guarantee for success, if a new gun shop owner does not customer service experience it would benefit them to seek out training. The ones that practice good customer service will get my business.

  6. —FFL’s (Federal Firearms Licensees) are only allowed to use the FBI NICS system to check the ability of a person to purchase a firearm at the time of purchase. We are not allowed to run a “pre-purchase check” and unbelievably, we are not allowed to use it to screen an employee prior to hiring them. —

    Sell them a gun as part of the interview process.

    • If it was my employee with access to thousands of dollars in inventory… I’d want something more thorough than NICS.

      • Obviously I was making a sarcastic joke. I agree that a more comprehensive background check, including credit report would be reasonable.

        • I always suspected that, in addition to upholding an image, that’s why employees at some gun ranges and independent gun stores are required to OC while on duty and have a carry license. I figured the owner considered the ongoing monthly NICS checks the state runs on licensees keeps them covered.

      • “If it was my employee with access to thousands of dollars in inventory… I’d want something more thorough than NICS.”

        Word.

        An LGS or pawn shop who advertises in the local newspaper for ‘help wanted’ is asking to get stolen from.

        Of the shops I have been associated with, universally, new hires were well-known by the owner or a trusted employee, often for years.

        That’s how I managed to work the shops I did, from working the first shop, I got to be known by the other shops in the area when I would stop by on my days off looking for things to buy/sell…

  7. Yes. Yes I do. Because I’ve consulted with enough of them to help them out.
    I come in like Hells Kitchen for the Gun Shop. And if they LISTEN, they end up doing a lot better.

  8. Two things some gun stores (not all) can do is:

    1. Be nice. If I get a know-it-all arrogant ‘tude from the guy behind the counter, I leave and go somewhere else. You’d be amazed how often I get that. And I don’t live in gun-friendly country. The market here in the Northeast is limited to begin with.

    2. Get rid of the gun store “rats”. You know, the guys who hang out there and like to chime in on every conversation you initiate with the staff. I don’t like being made to feel like I’m not a member of their club and I don’t need 3-4 salesmen at a time.

    • The rats can be a problem at one of my local stores. I walk in (wearing a suit and tie and looking like I might have a few bucks to spend), only to be ignored while the proprietor or his employees continue their daily discussion of politics, gun industry news or whatever with the regular hang-arounds. I have actually walked out, ten minutes later, without so much as a “Can I help you?”

      I get it. Gun guys like to get together with other gun guys and talk about guns. But the rats are part of the reason I just call up my local basement FFL and ask him to order what I want.

      • “I just call up my local basement FFL and ask him to order what I want.”

        That, right there.

    • Agreed. On both of those.

      Vegas is full of those types of shops. “Gun store commandos” who are too important to be bothered by an actual customer, then they try to push the (often bad) opinions on buyers. Woman buyer? ‘Here’s a pink gun.’ Looking for an XD in 9mm? ‘Don’t buy 9mm, that will just piss off the bad gun, buy this hand cannon instead. Your penis will thank you.’

      Or you can visit the twin stores on either side of town who’s staff look like the white supremacist prison inmates were all hired on early release. That’s a great way to make anyone of ethnic backgrounds feel extremely uncomfortable at a minimum.

      Gun store rats are definitely a reason I’ve shifted my buying preferences to online and a small shop that caters to transfers and special orders. Either the ‘I’m smarter than you are’, ‘Cannot be bothered to help you because we are talking about #nevertrump’, or just plain Deliverance-looking shop bubba’s that like to add their colorful commentary to everything.

      You want to attract new buyers? Take care of those two items and you’ll stop scaring them away before then can make a purchase. Younger folks want clean, bright spaces, with helpful staff, and no scary people hanging about making them feel stupid or insecure. You want to cater to only OFWGs? Great. You want to both expand your business and promote a larger base of 2A supporters? Clean up your attitude, your creepy staff, and get rid of the pervvy entourage peanut gallery.

  9. To some extent, I can understand the author’s attitude. Those who have never operated a business, with employees, in a highly regulated industry have NO FREAKIN’ CLUE what’s required to do so successfully. But there’s never any shortage of know-it-alls, eager to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

    Still, this article could have been written with a better tone. There’s an air of condescension in it that could have been avoided.

    • This…. I manage a business selling specialty alcohol for a living in a state that is historically unfriendly to the industry. I know EXACTLY what working in a highly-regulated by the government industry is like.

      The issue these D-bags running the LGS’ fail to recognize is not that the consumer doesn’t know their business of choice is difficult, but that the consumer doesn’t really GAF. You want to make money? Show your customers that those hard-earned dollars in their pocket are important to you, and because of that, the customer is crucial to you continuing to feed your children.

      My industry, like the firearms industry, is bursting with self-righteous pricks (on both ends of a business transaction) who could probably find a better design for the wheel if it wasn’t beneath them but somehow the cream rises and those business owners who take a “customers first” approach develop a better reputation and a more secure business future.

      TLDR: we all know your job is hard, but we pay your bills and don’t care about your problems. A company that is pleasant to do business with will get better and more business.

      • I noticed that the author didn’t once mention customer interaction. Hey, who feeds your children dude?

  10. Does anybody carry Winchester 231 or HP-38 anymore? I’ve moved on to other powders by necessity.

  11. I don’t see this as any different than running any other business and may be no more difficult than running a liquor store which is also highly regulated.

    The complaints around the LGS as I see it is:

    1) Customer services or the lock there of
    2) Regarding the statement of building ones collection, I know of at least one shop where the owner and many of the employees work there for the purpose of building their collection to the point of getting in line ahead of customers for items they want — especially when it comes to Dan Wesson items where they will tell you that “if we get any Dan Wesson, it will go to Bob, Joe, or Tim before we will sell it to you or anyone else”
    3) We actually expect you to know the products you sell
    4) If you are going to sell at Full MSRP, yes I am going someplace else
    5) Rude or arrogance by employee also does not help.

    • “if we get any Dan Wesson, it will go to Bob, Joe, or Tim before we will sell it to you or anyone else”

      That’s a new low, even for an LGS.

        • Why, oh why, would you darken the doors of anyone with that attitude?

          Find a basement FFL, is there no Cabelas/Gander Mountain in LV?

          If I heard that my comeback would be “If I ever have any money to buy a gun, it’ll be at Gander, Cabelas, before I’ll ever spend it with you”.

        • Hey, have you tried Google Maps for you area? I see a couple of stores in you area with excellent reviews. Just remember to stay away from anything with less than 4 star reviews.

  12. “Some manufacturers (Colt, Kimber…) require the retailer to maintain a minimum inventory to be allowed to use the term “stocking dealer” or even be allowed to carry those products at all.”

    Well, we can see how much good that policy did for Colt.

      • I imagine so. A policy that limits the number of stocking dealers will also limit competition, allowing the dealers to maintain a better margin. The buyers of high end products like Kimber guns will be willing to drive a few extra miles and pay whatever it takes.

        Meanwhile, if you’re selling a commodity product (like Colt), if the buyer doesn’t see a Colt on the shelves they’ll just grab the Bushmaster or Ruger or DPMS or S&W. Colt’s brass haven’t figured this out, which is why they’re in Chapter 11.

      • Do you have as many Kimbers come back with problems as the internet would have us believe?

  13. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Personally, I would never consider getting into the ffl game. I enjoy firearms but not to the point of buying and selling for a living.

    I was just at an LGS last week. The employees were attentive but not pushy. If they were offended by the drool I left on the Sig Sauer P220 Elite 10mm, they gave no indication.

  14. I am not offended by the tone. It’s a tough business based on the conversations I’ve had with my local FFL. I am ok with a little venting here especially because we all are gun friendly and I’m sure have our own gun-related gripes. My gut tells me that he is one of the good ones because he was here in the first place.

    In my locality one of the gun store owners was lobbying to have a NICS checks on private transfers just so he can get the business. That is an FFL to avoid.

  15. I might not know how to run a gun store, but I know how to not be a condescending elitist cunt, which is something that 99.9% of gun store owners haven’t figured out and is the primary reason why brick and mortar gun stores are dying out.

    • While you may not be a condescending,elitist cunt, you certainly sound like a know-it-all prick.
      What do you do for a living?

    • I have got your back on this. Can’t remember the last time I bought something at LGS. Maybe 1 of my 25 last purchases. When I step into the store, I am typically ready to buy and looking for something very specific that I have done deep research on. Invariably I am either ignored or get a rubbish response from a mouth breathing idiot who knows not of what he speaks. Of course that won’t stop him from voicing his opinion. Know your fucking product, it is your job. My neighbor does ffl transfers for $10 and online is always cheaper anyways. Why bother dealing with assholes who act like they are doing me a favor for taking my money.

  16. I don’t know that many of us have any doubts as to all the intricacies of running an LGS (or any business for that matter). It seems to boil down to attitude and customer service. I’m lucky enough to live in an area of NC where there are plenty of LGS and a few BBS in the area. Some of the LGS are great with friendly, helpful staff who want to sale some guns and the others tend to behave as though they don’t even care if you’re there or not. My money goes to the customer-oriented LGS or the Big Box. I’ve even paid a few extra bucks to the “good” LGS when I know the “bad” LGS has what I want cheaper, just because I don’t like the “bad” LGS acting like they’re doing me a favor taking my money (rare though- usually the more nasty the attitude, the higher the prices).

    • I live in the triangle area, and am with you 100%. There are a few LGS who won’t even get a few bucks for an FFL transfer from me. There are also a couple who manage to get me to pay more than I would if I order online just because they run a good shop and I WANT to continue to support their business.

      • Exactly- a few LGS in this area don’t exactly have great selection and are up front and tell you “no way I can match the price of what you saw online”. They still talk to you about what you’re looking for, offer some advice and will gladly perform a transfer. A place here in town will do any transfer for $20 and they’re great people with a not great selection of guns. So when I’m ordering online, I have it shipped to them, give them the transfer business and maybe pick up a few boxes of ammo. Overall great gun culture around here…won’t say where I am in Eastern NC but Arrgh.

  17. Everything in/after the Hours section is something that every business has to deal with, not just gun stores. Also, I noticed no mention of customer service. I’ve never worked at a gun store, but I’ve worked plenty of retail jobs. Gun stores need customer service training. Nearly every gun store I’ve been to is staffed by surly clerks that never seem to want to answer my questions. Once I found a store that actually had helpful staff, I stopped spending any money at the other joints in the area.

  18. I won’t say no two gun stores are alike. I am sure there are plenty of identical ones. But so many of them are different. Different people like to shop at gun stores that suit their needs.
    Take my LGS for example. It is an old Army Navy surplus shop with a small range. It has an archery range to demo bows and excellent bow techs. The atmosphere is casual. Too casual for many peoples’ liking. Uptight “NRA instructors” refuse to use the range citing safety violations. I think they mean the rappers that come in to film hoochie mamas shooting the full auto Mac 10. They don’t have a rapid fire rule (or at least not enforced). They let me and my wife open the stall door and draw from concealment. At times, when there are a number of new shooters in there, management will ask me to act as the RO. “Keep an eye on them”.
    I have been going there since I decided to be a shooter just three years ago. It just happens to be on my way home and in the same town that my wife works. I am there enough to be considered a rat but I don’t behave like one. I just like being on a first name basis with over half of the staff and if we don’t come in to shoot for over a week, they greet us at the door and ask where we’ve been.
    It’s a family business and the heirs running the place seem to not be the sharpest folks. That’s okay. I put up with the lackadaisical customer service for perks such as unlimited range time for my wife and me for $150 each for a year. When my Mossberg 930 JM Pro that I bought used from them was having issues, they took it back and sent it to Mossberg no questions asked. Who else has that policy on a used gun? They dragged their feet sending it off and it took 5 weeks to get it back but beggars can’t be choosers. They let me use the gunsmith shop. I wanted to buy bowling pins for a pin shoot but they only had one on the floor. I asked if he had more and he said yeah, “how many do you want?”. I needed five. He said “screw that. They come in a box of ten.” I said I didn’t want to spend that much. He asked what the price for one was. I said it was marked $3.00. He said “go up into the attic and get a box of them and they are yours for three bucks”. Then he tried to refuse the money.
    Yeah they suck as a business but I’m at home there. Try being that personal at Adventure Outdoors.

  19. Poor baby. Running ANY business is tough. I know-I have one(such as it is). I’ll reserve my sympathy for folks like Chuck’s Gun Shop in Riverdale,IL. THEY get way more of their share of scrutiny and abuse. Yeah the good ole’ boy thing is offensive too. And not getting waited on. My next gun will most likely be an internet special…

  20. I do appreciate that it is tough to run a business, but gun stores are generally abysmal. The good ones are characterized by their people. Although they sell products that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars “retail” experience is usually on par with a thrift store.

    My personal belief is the gun store is the single biggest impediment to more people owning guns and participating in other firearm lifestyle activities (and advocating for more 2A rights).

      • Your store might be better than most, KMc. I’ve been to some gun stores that are very welcoming and accommodating of newbies, and I’ve probably been to even more that were very clubby, cliquish, and unfriendly. The kind of place where a first-time gun buyer isn’t offered helpful advice, but rather is treated to an aggressive dissertation on why the clerk’s personal choices in firearms are the only acceptable ones.

        It seems like a significant number of gun stores get started because somebody wants to buy guns at wholesale prices and have a clubhouse for their friends to hang out in. Selling anything to the public is a secondary concern.

      • I’m sure you do it better, but so most firearms stores that I’ve been in are not welcoming to people that don’t already know what they are looking for. A gun can be intimidating especially for new people and when I was new I felt like I was unwelcome. This is usually the first point of contact for someone who knows nothing about guns and it needs to be pleasant and educational. Because of the legislative climate gun stores need to be advocates for all things firearms. If my local shoe place can have a 6:30 3 mile run for people who are interested why can’t the local gun stores have “Gun 101” class every week/month?

        If I truly think about it is the worst experience I have spending money outside of cable TV. If I think about the welcoming and educational experience I get when I buy a sleeping bag, or some new hiking boots, or anything for that matter.

        The GAP spends more care selling a $20 cotton T shirt than any gun store I’ve been in spends selling a Sig Sauer handgun.

        • Wow, being unfavorably linked to Cable TV purchasing is a new one to me. Truly sorry you have to put up with an LGS who treats you so poorly. I expect to be called out by anyone who feels that way in our store.

        • KMc you are obviously doing better than my experience. Good on you, raise the level of the game and everyone wins.

        • kMc.

          Perhaps this would have gone over better if you had focused on how you work hard to serve your customers, work to develop new customers, grow market share.

          Why it’s important to have an organized, clean, well-lit retail operation. That kind of thing. What you do in your gun community to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Events you sponsor, tie-ins with local whatevers.

          We get that it’s slightly complex to do paperwork and follow rules. There’s millions of folks out there who have to deal with EPA or OSHA who have it much worse. I want to hear about that stuff, that’s important to your customers.

  21. I have run one and quite a number of other businesses. It’s not all that and a bag of chips pal. Petulant customers lined up behind bat shiat insane customers lined up behind ghetto trash to fondle things they don’t plan to buy. Complaints that X isn’t in stock. Complaints that it’s cheaper online, blah blah blah. If you can deal with the utter insanity and tendency to be a complete douche canoe of the average gun shop customer it’s one of the easier things to run. There’s a ton of paperwork and there’s always stuff that needs done but the regulation being so extreme helps regiment the operation. If you’re not lazy it’s one of the easier businesses to run.

    What amuses me is that the average gun shop customer sees the average gun shop operator as stereotypically an ass of the highest order and vice versa. They’re both right and few of them ever realize that. Nature of the beast I guess. When you invite the fringes, they tend to show up. I’m just happy our fringe inhabitants aren’t as actively malicious as the left’s fringe inhabitants. That’d be really scary because ours are armed.

    • That sounds terrible – maybe small business isn’t for you. You should think about closing up shop and going to work for someone else.

  22. Never seen more hate for a simple, “This is the kinda of crap a LGS has to do” article, than I have in these comments.

    I guess ya all like the BS a business owner is put through by government.

    Kinda Sad.

    • First World Problems. Us American’s have it better than 99.9% of the humans that have ever populated this earth. Stop whining. Maybe we each have enough of our own issues. Most of us quietly deal with these issues. We don’t need to listen to another person’s whinings.

      I own a small business. I would never go to a forum in my arena and whine.

    • Not wanting to listen to someone whine about how hard it is to do his job does not necessarily equate to support of the government’s regulation of his business.

      Pro tip: it’s a lot easier to get sympathy from people if you don’t come out of the gate with a “if you think it’s so easy, go start your own store” attitude.

  23. Okay, I get it. Regulations drive an FFL crazy and the ATF is tough to deal with. But I gotta tell ya, if you think the ATF is a royal PITA, try dealing with the EPA. Compared to the EPA, the ATF are just little fascist wannabees.

      • Beat me to it. I’ve worked for and owned a firearms manufacturer and retailer, and I’ve been on the board of a pharma manufacturer. That SOT, the DOJ and the BATF are absolutely nothing compared to the FDA, CDC, and EPA, and god help you when you go public.

        • One of the reasons I’m considering moving on from my industry is the sheer amount of Federal and international regulations that we have to jump through, spurred on by emotionally-driven folks that berate legislators until they pass another piece of feel good kleenex. My classmates from grad school that are actually working at front-end pharma companies earn every line on their faces and every dollar in their bankbooks with the regulatory standards they have to meet. My buddies in the beer and wine industry work just as hard, science just as much (to use a colloquialism), and have a lot more fun at work.

          As for the LGS conundrum, there are a lot of goober gun shops out there giving guns and gun folk a bad name. By the same token, I appreciate the folks who are determined to provide good service and good selection, as well as most importantly, education. I tell my friends, send my family when I do, because I want guns to be as an accepted positive part of society the way those 600 dollar, low wattage, RF transceivers are. I’d like to see a follow up piece by the author about what he does to set himself apart from the Gollums of the gun world, and mayhaps an amusing tale or two that relates back to those practices.

  24. So the justification is that it’s hard to be a LGS they are allowed to be dicks? (Because clearly this is the implication from the beginning of this writing.)

    • That being said, I have had better experiences with gun stores recently, compared to big box stores. A local store in particular (small but will ensure you get the gun you want), was particularly helpful and supportive to my wife’s first handgun purchase. I went for moral support (any gun choice was her choice), and the sales lady was patient and kind.

  25. My LGS is pretty solid, I can’t really complain. It gets so packed in there that a lot of times you won’t be asked if you need help, but that’s when the employees are legitimately tied up. They are typically friendly and accommodating, and I’ve come back time and time again. I get most new guns with the LEO/MIL discount, but because I’ve spent a decent amount of money in there when I buy a used gun they typically will knock a good chunk of change off when I ask what the lowest they can go is.

    On the other hand, there is another LGS next to the city line and I won’t go there anymore. The staff is friendly, and I’ve gotten some really good deals on a few things, but their average price is high. The main reason I won’t go is the clientele. a slot of sketchy people come in there and it’s been burglarized a few times.

  26. It’s usually not the store itself or management…. but just that one employee that acts like a sausage.

    • Over time that one dil-bag wrecks it for the whole operation. Not doing something about it is management condoning the behavior.

      Worse, that type of attitude can be infectious to other staff. Next thing you know, you have a whole bag of ass-hats and your clients not coming in anymore.

  27. Why doesn’t my local range/GS carry a good selection of ammunition? They have one box of a lot of different ammo, but I can never get what I actually need there. It goes against all I know own about normal retail.
    I’ve considered offering to go in with them on an order of ammunition but I don’t know how that would work out.

  28. Haha what a turd of an article this is. How are you gonna complain about the most basic aspects of owning a shop and not address the perception/fact that most gun stores are owned and staffed by huge jerks?

    • It must be your perception ’cause I’m not seeing many facts to back up your claim. Maybe you are one of those “Customers from Hell” we all love to work with?

      • Man, you are the trollmaster general aren’t you? Your every post confirms how insufferable you must be. You and firearms concierge aren’t related are you?

  29. And on top of the headaches of running a gun shop, then you have to worry about the normal headaches any business has to deal with, such as marketing.

    You clear all those hurdles with the ATF, the local governments and so on. Now finally you can open your business. Now comes the real fun, convincing people to do business with you, versus the 10 other gun shops in your area.

    Marketing for gun shops has it’s own set of headaches as well, especially nowadays since the major advertising networks (Facebook, Google) are proving to be firearms-unfriendly. Suddenly a few million potential customers have just become that much harder to reach. What do you do then?

    I don’t know precisely. If I did I’d be writing a column about it for TTAG.

  30. It’s an obsolete business model kept afloat by unconstitutional laws. The gun industry created our current FFL system with the 1968 GCA partly because they didn’t like the competition of mail order companies against their traditional brick and mortar stores. I prefer to not deal with gun stores. I get my guns through kitchen table FFL’s and private sales.

    I’m not saying that all gun stores are obsolete. If we could return to pre-68 gun laws, internet sales would take care of run of the mill guns. Gunbroker, Armslist, and the internet forums would be easier to use and would take care of selling off used guns. Your average gun shop would probably go out of business, as they would no longer be relevant, The remaining gun stores would be better off, as they would evolve to cater to niche markets, be custom shops, be ranges with gun shops, or be more focused on offering classes. Someone would still probably want to go a gun shop to buy their $10k+ shotgun, vintage collector gun, have their gun serviced, have a custom gun built, etc. An example is Amazon. You can buy your regular jeans and tshirt on Amazon, but you’d probably go to a tailor shop to get a bespoke suit made from scratch, or even to have an off the shelf one fitted.

  31. Not wanting to get into retail, but I had an answer for every one of the questions posed.
    Regarding the “hang arounds” and the janitorial service, tell them to take out the trash or clean the bathrooms as long as they are going to hang out there and not buy anything. That will at least knockout one problem.

    • Just don’t let ’em accumulate in the first place.

      It’s one thing to stop in and say ‘hey’ to one of the employees, it’s quite another to have them spend lengths of time there.

      It’s never been a problem in the shops I knew, but then again we knew that when a customer shows up, they get the immediate attention.

  32. I shop by price, and I’m willing to pay 5 % or so over the best internet price to see what I’m buying in advance and maybe get to hand select my own merchandise from 2, 3, or more samples. There are some local shops I choose to support and pay a little more to, and others (one in particular) that I go into all the time because I like the staff and selection, but have made it clear I won’t buy anything they have to offer at the marked price. I’m a good customer and expect a discount from they’re gouge-the-general-public prices. I’m not sure how any of that is relevant to the topic at hand but, well, there it is.
    I guess maybe my point is, to a lot of you LGSs, it’s a brave new world, and you’re not my only option, so you’ve got to have choice and price to compete. If you choose not to (and it generally is a choice to have your prices 10 – 15% higher than someone else’s best retail price) I don’t have any sympathy for you. Things are tough all over. Oh, and don’t bother telling me “You’re paying for more than just the gun.” No, I’m not, I’m paying your (inflated) price for the gun — unless every gun comes with an in-house extended warranty and free cleanings, maintenance, and sight installations.

    • I think what you are saying is relevant and I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t buy guns at the local shop, and I’m not limited to them like I was 15 or 20 years ago, where I just sucked it up and paid “catalog” price because the three closest LGSs has a little monopoly going. They made a lot of money off of me during that time, both buying and trading guns, so I have no problems searching out the best price locally and online today.

      When I try to make offer at the local shop, despite being in the store regularly, they say – EVERY time – that price is the price shown. And that price is list. Sorry, but if you can’t figure out I’m buying a known item in terms of quality, and I don’t need “tech support” or training or anything else you can “do” for me, then I’ll buy off the Internet, pay a “cash” discount price, and do the transaction with the kind old guy who has an FFL and lives around the corner from me for 1/3 the FFL fee that you charge. I get it. It’s hard to stay competitive when Bud’s Guns is selling product online for $20 or $30 bucks over cost and you need to hold list price to run your brick and mortar.

      But that’s capitalism. I don’t know why a lot of LGS still seem to think that the customer has to take it in the shorts and pay list just so they can stay in business. Find a way to stay competitive, or all you are is a place for me to go to handle a product I can buy elsewhere for 15 to 20% less than you and no tax. (And if you can’t stay in business, I can still do that at gun shows too.)

  33. It’s a terrible business on either end of the counter. No sane human being (that isn’t a masochist) would ever want to sell guns professionally.

  34. Open a transmission shop, get certified by GM, Toyota, and Nissan, buy the equipment and tools required to do the work and then complain about the cost and hassle of doing business.

  35. I could definitely help my favorite LGS run their operation more efficiently, increase their profits and grow the business. It only takes being in the store 15 minutes to see how to do that and a little common sense. First thing they need to do is force rank their customers. Determine in just a few seconds if they are a threat or if they are really there to spend money. Second, ditch the 4 brands of holsters that takes up half their floor space and maybe carry 2 brands. Three, be open for business when your prospective customers can be off work like nights and weekends. See that wasn’t hard.

    Any and all guns shops get mad props from me just for being willing to do business with the general public. Me, not for all the money in the world.

  36. Wa wa wa. Running a business is hard. Customers are mean. Wa wa wa. Just like any business.

  37. $30 fee is for a C&R FFL03 Curios and Relics. No photo. No fingerprints. No CLEO signoff. Only a signed copy of the form to the local CLEO.

  38. I’ve never had a problem with my LGS. Of course, being one of the top-rated gun stores/ranges in the nation might play into that equation.

  39. Maybe you should hire a sales manager to run the retail floor so that you dont have to have the burdern of listening to your customers’ suggestions about what they want and how you could improve.

    Could you imagine if any other business took this approach, and/or wrote an open letter to their customers basically saying shut-up, go open your own gun shop???

    Its ridiculous. And it just goes to show you that just because you know guns it doesn’t mean that you know the first thing about running a business… Somebody needs to go re-read Rule #1.

    This is why any successful restaurant hires a manager to run the restaurant and then they tell the chef to keep his pompous, loud mouthed ass in the kitchen… Shut up and cook, and let us deal with the customers.

    • Here, here! The KM/Chef runs the kitchen, the GM runs the whole effen restaurant – which includes the kitchen.

      Woe unto those who let a chef near the FOH…

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