We went around the virtual table this weekend at TTAG HQ as we discussed the works of Sartre, Dickinson and Emily Post over some brown spirits and cigars and one thing that came up that we thought would be a great article would be proper etiquette in a gun store.
Of course, every store is going to vary slightly but the human condition is the same in all 50 states and I’ve seen my fair share of great customers and not-so-great ones so there’s plenty of material to work with.
Let’s start with the basics. The NRA has three basic firearm rules, and you have to break two of them for something bad to happen. And if you follow #1, any damage you do by violating #2 or #3 would be minimized.
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Seems pretty simple, but the problem is some folks, especially those newer to the gun culture, seem intent on pointing a gun at the closest thing possible – which is usually the person behind the counter.
You may know that a gun is unloaded, but no one likes to me muzzled. Please be aware of where you’re pointing that pistol you’re holding…for everyone’s safety and comfort.
DO: Follow the NRA’s three rules and don’t point a gun at the help or anyone else in the store. Yes, we clear them before we hand them over to you, but still, it’s a bad habit.
DON’T: Wave the a gun around that you’re examining, lasering people around you in the gun store.
Depending on where you are, firearm thefts from gun stores can be a very real thing. For that reason, some retailers have a policy that only a single gun comes out of the case to be displayed at any one time to prevent thefts. This can make things a little difficult if you’re comparing things side-by-side, but it’s usually for the best.
Timing is supposed to be everything, and that means, during certain times of the year (Christmas, Hunting Season, Fathers Day, etc.) we get really busy. We really do want to give you as much attention as possible and a good experience. We don’t want you to have to wait for a half hour or more for service.
DO: Try to plan your purchases around the most hectic times and get them done well in advance or after they’re over.
DON’T: Show up in the middle of a holiday shopping frenzy expecting to get a gun and get out of the store in 15 minutes.
Also worthy of note: We know everyone wants to get home after work. Lots of customers want to pick up their guns between the hours of 5:30 and 6:00 PM, about the time many dealers close.
That presents a few issues, because if you’re in a state with a high regulatory burden, getting all the paperwork completed and closed out in 30 minutes might not be possible.
DO: Plan ahead, allow enough time, and take any mandatory waiting periods into account.
DON’T: Walk into a gun store five minutes before closing time and make your gun store employees work late. That’s not very nice.
On the topic of nice, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things regarding price and discounts when you’re navigating a brick and mortar store vs. the internet world. Price is a concern for everyone. You work hard for your money, so you should spend it wisely.
I’ve had some really great people ask for a discount and some really rude people ask for them, too. There are a few notable stories that I recall and this one is my favorite.
One day a woman walked in and wanted to get her husband a gun. It was going to be a present for their anniversary.
Now, we as licensees, have been asked by ATF to monitor diversionary tactics, straw purchases, etc. So when we’re satisfied that a gun is being purchased as a present and it’s lawful, we’re in the clear. When we’re thinking that a gun is being purchased by party B because party A can’t get past the Gun Control Act of 1968, that’s a different discussion.
This customer was on a budget and wanted to get him a gun, holster, some ammo and some range time. Her text messages back and forth from her husband dropping hints gave us enough to work with, but everything she wanted to buy came up to about $1150. Her budget was only about $1000.
I told her we could play with the ammo and the holster and try to save a few bucks, and if she could pay with cash or check that would save us the interchange fees from the merchant processor. This got us down to about $1065, but that was still a little more than she wanted to pay.
I did some calculations.
A: I don’t make money when I sell someone one gun. I make money when I sell someone a lifetime of guns.
B: The woman was buying her husband a gun as a present. The guy had won the wife lottery! Who am I to stand in the way of a beautiful thing?
C: If it feels good, it will be repeated. Adolescence taught us all that. Working with customers breeds loyalty.
Getting her on budget wouldn’t break my bottom line so I made a deal and got the transaction done. She was very satisfied about getting the package put together. A few weeks later, I got a very nice message on the machine from her husband and he was very happy that we treated her right and he enjoyed his new gun.
I’m not suggesting that you flirt with the gun dealer if you’re a woman, but we’re more inclined to discount if we know you’re looking to do something special for an important occasion. If we were on the other end, we’d like that sort of gesture, too!
DO: Be polite and clear about your goals/budget. If the store does you a favor, try to repay them in the future with referrals and future business. I’m happy to do things when I can if it’s workable and you make it easy.
DON’T: Be the guy that hikes up his pants and says, “I can get this from Optics Planet for $125 less, but they don’t have any in stock.” That’s when I will shoot right back with, “Well then, it sounds like you can’t get it from Optics Planet then, can you?”
Last but not least, make sure your life is together before you come in and want to buy a gun. If you have pending legal issues or suspect you might run into a background check approval problem, talk to your dealer before you fill out any paperwork so we can see what’s what.
If you fill out form 4473 and you make a false statement, we are required by law to retain that form – and the government has the option to use that against you.
DO: Be honest with the dealer and tell them what’s going on and what any potential issues are BEFORE putting pen to paper.
DON’T: Think you can fool the computer. I have had the local LE agency call me and tell me to stall for time because they were sending a unit over to arrest the person on the other side of the counter for being a convicted felon trying to buy a gun.
Being polite, reasonable and having a current photo ID can make our lives as regulated retailers a lot easier. Not only is it easier for us, but you’ll have a better experience if you’re in a pleasant mood, too.
One last thing – we opened the discussion talking about muzzle discipline and keeping firearms pointed in safe direction. Keep magazine discipline in mind too. Ejecting steel mags with steel base plates without regard to the direction that they’ll fly can mar the finish of some of the other guns on the counter.
DO: Be aware of the muzzle of the gun you’re holding and the path the magazines will take when you eject one. Please try to not let them hit the floor.
DON’T: Eject a steel magazine with a steel base pad directly onto the slide of that new Wilson Supergrade that’s in front of you, too.
Please. And thank you.