Reader cuzwhat writes:
Recently, TTAG asked its loyal readership for their opinions about their favorite gun shops. While several shops are dank holes in the wall in sketchy parts of town full of regulars, other shops are add-on afterthoughts to sporting goods stores. Other shops attempt to broaden their audience, be it with location, amenities, or glamour. Some of those stores stand out, whether they are the gun shop on the back side of a sporting good store, or the range that offers the longest alleys and the coldest AC. Wilshire Gun in Oklahoma City is trying all of those things and more . . .
The Oklahoma City metro is home to several gun shops and ranges. The largest, by far, is one of the oldest, and is probably about as good of a baseline as you can create. Huge retail space, dozens of lanes, nice selection of handguns and long guns for rent and sale, safes in the back, hunting and archery stuff at one end, a decent looking pro shop, even a lunch counter. It also has all the drawbacks to a larger gun shop; few staffers, locked up gun cases, intimidating pros.
If you are a newish shooter, or you are trying to bring your brand new wife into the fold, it can be tough to talk the guy with the keys into letting you test fit a selection of guns. He’s got his opinions about what you should look at, he probably doesn’t like what you already own, and unless you are waving cash, he’s treating you like a car salesman treats tire-kickers. Our other shops and ranges trend toward the middle ground. Super-helpful, but limited selection. Friendly, but not really knowledgeable. Excellent gunsmithing reputation, but scornful to newcomers.
Wilshire Gun is hoping to be something new. When you walk in, there is an air of friendliness with a hint of party. Music is playing at just the right level, the door greeter welcomes you and asks if she can direct you somewhere specific. The uniformed police officer gives you the once over. Nothing intrusive, but certainly noticeable.
The first thing you notice is the wall of long guns behind the glass counter of knives, scopes, and accessories. The second thing you notice is the collection of high tables featuring five or six handguns each. Like the long guns, the handguns are grouped by caliber and basic frame size. This lets the customer get a real feel for different guns of the same class without having to bother a salesperson. The guns are tethered to the table like iPhones at the Apple Store, and all have had their firing pins and magazines removed.
Beyond the handgun tables lie the holsters, targets, cleaning supplies and all the other supporting stuff you would expect. The gun store space is probably 8000 square feet, not wide but fairly deep; large enough to house a decent selection, but not so large that you get lost in it.
They offer several different handgun and rifle shooting lanes (25yd, 35yd, and 101yd) and a nicely sized archery range. They will allow shotguns on their 35 yd. range, which is somewhat unique in this area. They also have a simulator room that will allow for realistic stationary scenarios with realistic weaponry. Not an action range, but certainly differently engaging than putting yet more holes in more paper.
Next to the sim room was the Class III room. It is, in a word, awesome. Between the for-sale goodies and the display of military hardware, it’s pure eye candy. The standard range and gun rental counter follows along that side of the retail space, which ends with two small ‘fitting’ rooms that can be used for private instruction or grip sizing.
The other side of the retail area opens into a huge classroom/conference space and the most newsworthy feature, the café. The menu is basic American grill stuff; burgers, fries, soups, and salads. The controversial portion is the full bar. It’s not a huge bar, but it looks relatively well-stocked and the guy manning it seemed like he knew what he was doing. The open upstairs has more café seating, a cozy, four person cigar room, and a very large clubroom with its own bar.
Oklahoma law allows for carry in restaurants that sell alcohol, but not bars that sell food (50% of revenue is the deciding factor). Technically, the café operates as a restaurant, but has decided to stick to the bar rules, so nobody should be carrying while eating. They are also using the same ID process at the bar as they use at the rental counter. You can rent a lane then buy a beer when you’re done, but if you buy the beer first, you can’t enter the lanes for the rest of that day.
While I was standing near one of the handgun tables texting a gun buddy who had moved away about his need to visit, one of the owners walked up to me, stuck out his hand and introduced himself. He ended up giving me the full tour, and we talked about what he was trying to do and how he had decided to do it. His had wife bought a gun from one of the local stores…and soon wished she hadn’t. It didn’t fit her, she didn’t like it, and she felt pressured into it by the store pro.
She decided that she could do a better job of selling guns to women by making the experience more like other forms of hands-on retail. The rest of the amenities fell into place after that. Does that mean it is a gun store for girls? I don’t think so. Sure, it sells T-shirts and jewelry made from spent brass, but it just feels like a decent place for anyone to shop. They’ve said their inspiration was the Apple Store, and I think they’ve developed a functional model. I hope they find success and that other gun stores follow suit. And, if the store has to offer a well-appointed ladies room to be approachable, it balances it out with the machine guns.