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TTAG reader Ripcord writes:

Riverdale, Illinois is a small village on Chicago’s south side in Cook County. With just over 15,000 people and 3.75 square miles of land, its not very big. It’s also 93% black according to the last census. If the name Riverdale tugs at your memory it might be because it’s home to Chuck’s Gun Shop, a store that has drawn an underserved rap from anti-gunners and the media friends. Chucks sits on a main thoroughfare next to a vacant lot and a sometimes-occupied tax business. You know, the kind where people dress up in costumes stand outside with placards and offer t-shirts to have them do your taxes . . .

The store has been there for decades. And Chuck’s is a family-run mom and pop gun store. You get buzzed inside, there are a half dozen cases with handguns in them and some rifles on the racks behind them. The total retail space may be 1000 square feet. Hardly a Cabela’s. In the back there is a small range with 6 or 8 bays. People can practice there and several instructors use it to train and qualify people for concealed carry.

It’s in a neighborhood that a lot of gun owners might not seek out. It’s out for the way for many others.

If you believed all the ad hominem attacks that have appeared in newspapers and anti-gunners’ press releases, you’d think not a background check was been done nor a 4473 filled out as guns left the store by the wheelbarrow load.

What’s actually been leaving the store, though, are NRA members, specifically new ones. A couple of months ago, at the fall NRA board meeting, the owners of Chuck’s were invited. The reason was simple; Chuck’s gun shop was the Top NRA recruiter in the nation in 2014. Stop for a minute and let that sink in. A gun store in a black neighborhood on Chicago’s south side was the NRA’s top recruiter. They sold more NRA memberships than any other store in the country.

They did it in a town for which the median household income was $38,321 and 16.6% of families and 18.4% of the population are below the poverty line.

The award didn’t go to some shop in Texas. Or Missouri, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Alabama. It went to one that is essentially behind enemy lines and fighting for survival every day they’re open. The City of Chicago under former Mayor Daley tried running sting operations. No one at Chuck’s was even charged.

Anti-gunners have tried suing them out of existence using the public nuisance theory and lost in our state supreme court. They tried passing more restrictive village ordinances under a hostile administration and they kept their doors open. They’ve been slandered and even had public death threats from a catholic priest. There are regular protests by anti-gunners, and yet Chuck’s is still there. Maybe that’s why anti-gunners filed a lawsuit against the village and a couple of others charging violations of Illinois’ civil rights act for not putting enough regulations on Chuck’s. A suit the village has vowed to fight.

For some time TTAG has written about how gun owners and the NRA need to expand our ranks. How we need to reach out to minorities and the younger crowd, to shirk the image of the OFWG in camo. The NRA, to their credit, has found some great spokesmen to reach out to new generations and Colion Noir does excellent work with his wit, charm and spot-on commentary.

If there is a light in the end of the tunnel for gun owners, though, it can be found at Chuck’s. And that light is also the train that could flatten anti-gunners.

What does it say when a gun shop located in a community that is 90%+ minority is the top NRA dealer recruiter for the year? And here’s another bit of trivia, it’s not the first time. They’ve done it at least two other times. In an age of big box and boutique gun stores you’d think that the Bass Pros and Dick’s and Academys of the world would be dominating NRA recruitment. You would think that with all their foot traffic customers doing their the latest Obama panic shopping, someone else would be king of that mountain.

But they aren’t. It was a little gun shop that has sat on a blighted street for the past 40 years, run by a guy who has been continually kicked in the nuts and always gets back up. Recently, the county passed a tax on all ammunition sold as another attempt to run them out of business.

Through it all, they keep selling NRA memberships. They keep getting people to support the largest 2A rights organization in the country. And they do it in an area and demographic most people think would belong to the other side.

If Chuck’s shows us what’s possible, it also casts a long shadow over others. We know that in a nation of more than 300 million guns and 100 million gun owners, the NRA has a membership of only five million. Certainly we haven’t recruited all the gun owners is Texas or Missouri. And we need too. For if one little gun store outside Chicago can sell over 2000 NRA memberships, what are all the rest doing?

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  1. I don’t care if the person next to me at the range is a martian, the more the merrier. I have actually been pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the shooting community. More is always better though.

    • I would definitely care if the person next to me at the range were a Martian. I’d want to call NASA or somebody and let them know we made the find of the century.

  2. I love my inner-city gun club. They don’t care who you are as long as you’re not a danger to yourself and others and follow the 4 golden rules. When the place is full you have an asian family all trying out dad’s new glock, several young couples on a date; 3 different languages can be heard in gunfire lulls. And so much free brass 🙂

  3. This is great but is there any way you can post your sources? I can verify median income and poverty line but does the nra post who sell the most memberships or is there a public link form the owner claiming the race breakdown from the shop?

  4. I’ve shopped at Chucks for many years and its a great little shop. The dem politicians in Chicago and Cook County will do via taxes what they cannot do legislatively.

    • I was wondering if they sell t-shirts or something, I can’t buy guns or ammo from them as I don’t have an unconstitutional FOID? Card.

    • I occasionally make a family-oriented trip to Chicago … fairly close to Cook Country. I might have found an excuse to be gone longer when I make a trip to Portillo’s.

      • My buddy(Zap Props) decorated all the Portillos Scott-I can’t think of any Portillos near Chuck’s. Oh-and if you have legal carry in your state it AIN”T legal in Illinois unless you do the state training/license BS. Haven’t been in Chuck’s since last year but they should let you in the door without a FOID card-SOME gunshops(like Megasports)bar you at the door(true azzwholes)…

  5. Anyway to get the typo in paragraph 4 corrected? It’s spelled “ad hominem”. That paragraph (and the entire article) makes an important point that I don’t want sullied by an innocent misspelling. Thanks.

  6. Could part of the explanation be that this store does not have much local competition (I don’t know what the fact is) and that the government has been so tyrannical about people’s rights there that they really feel it and are more motivated to do something about it?

    Not trying to diminish Chuck or his customers, just trying to be scientific.

    I’m just asking, please don’t think you can decide that I have ulterior motivations for asking it.

  7. “What does it say when a gun shop located in a community that is 90%+ minority is the top NRA dealer recruiter for the year?”

    Hmmm…..tells me that it’s adjacent to the nation’s 3rd largest city, which basically bans gun stores, so its gunowners are filtered through the nearest gun shop in a tiny nearby, low rent speck of a suburb?

    I’m seeing no evidence here that any of this eventuates in growth of black membership.

    • Most Chicagoans can jump on I-90 and head up to Cabela’s in Hoffman Estates. There are plenty of other gun shops in neighboring counties, closer than Riverdale for most Chicago residents.

      I haven’t been to Chuck’s myself. But all accounts that I have read indicate that it’s a neighborhood shop with a clientele that reflects the neighborhood.

      • Meh. Says you. If true, these results would run counter, and massively so, to the experience everywhere else in the entire country. Not….buying….it, no matter how dreamy the wishful thinking of the optics may be.

        Blacks have been forfeiting their freedoms en masse about as fast as they’ve been obtaining them for generations. Now in the heart if darkness, this town’s reversing the tide? Don’t think so.

        Now, whether that’s even true about the proximities of the two stores is in doubt. Let’s go to the map! Without getting into the population distribution of Chicago, instead just assuming city center as the reference point, Chuck’s is closer.

        Per Google maps, it’s only 27 minutes away, while the Cabela’s you mentioned is more like 45 minutes away. I know, I know, you’ve lived in Chicago your whole life. I’ve only visited there on business a few times and lived there for a summer in grad school. So you’re the expert. Except… maps is unbiased. Sooo…..looks like more Chicagoans are closer to Chuck’s than Cabela’s and they’re the ones pumping up his ridiculously and artificially high NRA memberships.

        • As one of the working poor out here in Houston who lives wherever I can afford to, I can say that a lot of Black people out here in Houston ( NOLO refugess not withstanding ) tend to be of a libertarian bent. It is just that voting doesn’t seem to do much of anything due to politicians getting corrupted along the way and changing their minds. I’d like to reference Ted Cruz who went from libertarian slanted to establishment republican. I’ve met a lot of trump supporters from the Black community due to his stance on removing illegals. Who, coincidentally, compete with the working poor for jobs and work for less.

  8. You can buy a membership at a store? I figured it had to be done online or mail or phone. Is there a benefit to doing it at the store?

    I missed that $300 life “accident” a week or two ago and $500 isn’t a great deal – I’m sure that will pop up on occasion and Black Fridays. If the NRA wants my dollars more than GOA, they need to sweeten the pot – frankly I’m underwhelmed by the amount they waste on mailers every couple of weeks. Also, the recent GCA quarterly was more informative then the last few issues of American Rifleman.

    • I filled out my NRA membership application at a gun store. I wouldn’t renew by paper but signing up wasn’t a problem.

  9. This brings up a good point about recruiting and gun shops. And race. I am a frequent (OK I may have a problem) visitor to the LGS – I am lucky to have 5 or so within a 10 mile radius. I cannot ever remember any of them asking if I was a member of the NRA or GOA etc. If that question was incorporated into the checkout process at every store, like a “do you want fries with that?”, I would think membership in the organizations who support our rights would grow rapidly. And please dispense with the argument that the NRA is no good. Please. I don’t agree with them all the time but enough already.

    The attitude and dynamic of the country on race is changing, and I think gun owners by and large reflect that change. I don’t give a damn what color you are. To me its all about content of character. Race we know is taught, and each generation I think pushes back more and more against racism by ofwg’s AND those within the various minority groups who benefit from race bating.

      • Flexing our numbers is something we CAN do. Why is there so much hype about the NRA with the dems right now? Because they have clout through their voting membership.

        That being said, I think I convinced a buddy of mine to get his CCW. I think we’re doing classes next year? How did I convince him to do that? By the simple fact that getting a CCW is a political statement especially in IL where it’s a fairly significant time and expense to do such.

  10. Chuck’s might be selling the most NRA memberships because they’re the only one doing it. I’ve been to dozens of gun stores, from tiny little mom-and-poppers that have four Tauruses, a used Remington 870, and ten boxes of ammo to the big chains like Cabela’s and Bass Pro. Not once have any of them asked if I was an NRA member or if I’d like to join. I didn’t even know this was an NRA recruiting method.

    • What Cabelas do you go to Stinkeye? In Hammond,IND they have NRA signup events several times a year-and I’ve seen lots of folks signing up. Making Chuck’s even more astounding…

      • The Buda, TX store, mostly. Now that you mention that, I do recall getting a flyer from them last year about an NRA weekend thing. But outside of a special event like that, they always seem way more interested in signing you up for a credit card than the NRA.

        Funny, I used to live in Hammond, but moved away not too long after that store opened. Small world!

  11. OK…I’ve been to Chuck’s many times,it’s in a horrible ghetto neighborhood, my BLACK wife got her FOID card there($20),I bought my first handgun there(used Taurus 85),shot at their range(cheap fees) and they were extremely strict (to the second) about the evil 3 day Illinois waiting period. Mom and pop is an understatement-I think they go to church on Sunday…I honestly don’t know why they put up with Jesse,Fadda phlegma and Brady BS. Lot’s of credit for the NRA thing. There are other Cook co. gun shops with not even a 10th of the scrutiny-Glenwood(not recommended),Pelchers and Posen gun ranges/shops aren’t far away. Their proximity to Chiraq and large numbers of “crime” guns bought(LEGALLY) certainly factor in. Kudos again to Chuck’s-BTW they limit handgun purchase to ONE/month by local ordinance…

  12. It is likely due to Elrond, Half-Elven’s great leadership and ability to reach out… oh wait.. Riverdale, got it.

  13. Was in a “Dick’s” yesterday, I asked the girl behind the gun counter if she had any .223 soft points. She said “I don’t know how to tell”. she won’t be selling any NRA memberships. I’m going to get up to Chucks next year and buy something from them, even though they are a little out of the way, just cause!

  14. Should we post a unanimous “Great Job, Chuck’s” here, and forward it to Chuck’s? Like a new posting with everyone commenting dittos?

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