Gun Store Etiquette Tip: Don’t Draw Your Gun


By Marlon Knapp

Working in a gun shop, you get to interact with people at all levels of firearm experience. Most times the interaction is pleasant for all involved but other times…well, you get where I am going with this . . .

When we get upset or possibly bark at you for an infraction of our safety rules, it’s not because we are “power hungry safety nazis.” It’s because we may not know you and we certainly don’t know your intentions. One of the more sphincter-clenching moments for an employee of any gun shop is when a customer unexpectedly reaches for their concealed firearm to “show us” something or ask us a question.

Recently a customer attempted to pull his firearm from its holster to show it to me and see if I thought he got a good deal. As he was attempting to draw the firearm from the holster, I had to give him two sharp verbal warnings to STOP (read: I yelled at him). Once he realized I was mid-draw with my firearm and I was deadly serious, he allowed me to walk him through the proper steps.

Of course, if you know in advance you’re going to have the good folks at your local shop take a look at your firearm, do everyone a favor and bring it into the store unloaded in its case.

If you absolutely cannot bring it unloaded, do a couple of other things before reaching for that loaded gun. First, ask if they have one like yours. If it’s a modern, popular firearm, chances are good they’ll have one in stock and will probably prefer using it to find you a holster or check if a specific accessory will work. If you are bringing your gun in for repair, why are you carrying it loaded in the first place? Think, people, think!

If you still believe that unholstering your firearm is required, PLEASE STOP. Ask the nice (at this point) gun shop employee if they allow unholstering of loaded firearms (yes, it’s loaded until visually and physically verified by both the employee and you) and what the protocol is. We don’t care if you think the chamber is empty. I have an entire jar full of chambered rounds I have taken out of customers’ firearms that were “unloaded” and no, you don’t get that chambered round back. Consider it a tax for bringing me a loaded firearm.

We love what we do and the people with whom we get to interact. With your cooperation, we will be able to continue to enjoy our job and more importantly our lives.


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.


  1. avatar MoveableDO says:

    Some people desperately want to be accepted as a Cool Guy by the local gun store staff. And to get in the club, they may think that show and tell is a great ticket in. It ain’t!! We don’t want to see your gun. I’d rather you not even gesture toward it. Just start a conversation or question with, “So, I have this Taurus…” and go from there.

    1. avatar Vlad the Impeller says:

      And if you start out with “I have this Taurus” you will still be relegated to the dork table. Unless maybe it’s a Judge.

    2. avatar Missouri Mule says:

      “Don’t ask, don’t tell…”

  2. avatar wright says:

    Sounds like a VERY good idea.

  3. avatar Joe says:

    I’ll admit, I almost did this recently. I was carrying a SIG P320 subcompact and looking for something a little smaller for summer carry. I was checking out an XDS, and the questions crossed my mind “how does this feel compared to my SIG? Is it really much smaller?”.

    Luckily, almost immediately after I thought “let me take it out and see”, my brain screamed “BAD IDEA!”. My enthusiasm almost got me carried away.

    1. avatar Mikele says:

      Wow! Almost the same thing happened to me! Enthusiasm almost got me in an awkward situation.

      1. avatar pieslapper says:

        My enthusiasm got me carried away too, thankfully she turned out well and graduates next year.

  4. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    Sounds about right…I had a little tiny Spanglish boy whip out his 45(from his butt) and say”this is what you need” as I was at the counter in Cabelas(Hammond,IN)!

    1. avatar wright says:

      Was he carrying it in his tactical anal retention holster? Was he arrested for indecent exposure?

      1. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

        The old guy mopes at Cabelas can’t even identify a straw purchase. I’m sure no one noticed the little guy…rectum-killed ’em. Oh yeah at the same Cabelas(at Christmas time) a gal DROPPED a revolver retrieving change to throw in the kettle…

      2. avatar Swarf says:

        Anal retention holster.

        That deserves acknowledgement. Well played.

  5. avatar pwrserge says:

    One of the advantages of a IWB pancake holster. I generally just pull the entire holster if I absolutely need to get my gun out. It stays locked in with a little snap, so the trigger and hammer stay covered.

  6. avatar nw says:

    I once visited a shop where, after discussing my personal carry gun with an employee, said employee asked if she could see it.

    I informed her that I was carrying the gun now and that it was loaded, she said that was fine, I could draw it anyway.

    I did not return to that shop.

    1. avatar Pete Mc says:

      Wow, you really showed them. Why would you never return to a store because an employee wanted to see your piece? Assuming you kept it pointed in a safe direction until you cleared it, what’s the problem?

      1. avatar lance says:

        she laughed at “IT’S” size

  7. avatar eremeya says:

    I have pulled my loaded carry gun out in two different gun stores but only after asking the sales person and getting their ok.

    1. avatar Renner says:

      I’ve had two occasions where the clerk needed to have the gun to verify parts were compatible and asked me for it, The firearm I often carry is a variant of the standard and is not usually in stock. After making sure they understood I would be drawing it now, I keep it pointed at the floor and immediately remove the magazine, rack and remove the round, lock the slide back and verify clear. Then I hand it to the clerk with the slide still locked back. I usually follow up with a comment like, “Sorry, but I’m anal about gun safety.” Fortunately they know me well enough that they don’t seem to have any concerns with how I handle firearms.

      1. avatar passthebrass says:

        “Sorry, but I’m anal about gun safety.”

        Thats a silly thing to be sorry about.
        Whenever a gun has been checked to be empty right before my eyes, if it is then handed to me with the cylinder/bolt/slide closed the first thing I do is open it back up and check myself.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          Exactly. If you hold the door open for somebody, you are being polite and considerate, not anal about door safety.

        2. avatar styrgwillidar says:

          Yep. When introducing newbies to firearms I stress that even if God Himself were to hand you a weapon telling you its unloaded, you will check it yourself. It isn’t about trusting the other guy, its about a necessary safety habit pattern. Do it every time. When I take a weapon out of the safe, I check it, even if I know I put it there unloaded.

  8. avatar Gman says:

    3 of the 4 shops in my area have signs NO LOADED FIREARMS ALLOWED INSIDE. WTF? I have asked and they mean NONE. So they don’t support concealed carry and I don’t support them with my money. My philosophy about drawing my EDC in public is only when I am forced to use it to save a life. End conversation. Reminds me of some advice my Dad gave me once: Keep it in your pants son.

    1. avatar PeterW says:

      Yes. If they won’t let you carry a loaded firearm out of the store, why would they want you carrying one in?

  9. avatar LarryinTX says:

    Try this attitude. I very rarely draw my gun for any reason while my wife is in the room. Or anyone else. If I wish to show it to someone, I’ll go into another room and drop the mag, eject the pipe, lock the slide and then return.

  10. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    In south Florida, I have yet to see a free standing gun store which allows non PO’s from entering with a loaded firearm. That being said, my practice is remove magazine, clear chamber and insert chamber flag. This has caused smiles and thumbs up by staff as I enter store.

    1. avatar pod says:

      A fellow South Floridian!

      There’s an LGS here in Miami that observes “concealed is concealed”. The sign out front states that they are OK with you keeping your concealed firearm on you in a concealed fashion, but if a situation arises where you need to draw it, “judicious marksmanship is appreciated”, in other words, keep it under wraps unless the place gets tipped over while you are there.

      The big range up in Broward, Nexus, respects concealed carry, and you aren’t permitted to draw from a holster in the range itself unless the staff clears you to do so. But you can keep your gun on you as normal.

      Their procedure for guns requiring service is that you bring it in, encased and unloaded with the action open. You have to announce you are doing so upon entry. Small shop so it’s not a huge task.

      1. avatar FedUp says:

        There is another sign that details the reasons for drawing a gun in the store, including ‘you are robbing us’, ‘somebody else is robbing us’ and ‘you are an idiot’, and also details their response for drawing in those situations, including ‘we will shoot you’, ‘we will thank you’ and ‘we will eject you from the premises’. I really like this sign, but I couldn’t find an example to link here.

  11. avatar SelousX says:

    If unholstering my firearm is somehow deemed necessary or desired by the gun store clerk and I, it is discussed beforehand, and I have them walk me through it. It has allowed me to build a reputation for not being an @$$hat in my Friendly Local Gun Store.

  12. avatar gs650g says:

    Shops around me request you not carry loaded into the store. If a person can’t read they shouldn’t be carrying

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      A person shouldn’t be carrying for personal security unless they value shopkeepers’ whims above their own personal security?

  13. avatar NoNamesOnTheNet says:

    I’ve had to unholster a carry gun a few different times at various stores (once was because I made an immediate decision to trade it in.)

    Generally I’ve found most stores are fine with it AS LONG AS YOU ASK FIRST. Usually the procedure goes “May I unholster”, and the clerk will give me the ok. I don’t draw, I’ll grip it as if I’m disarming for a LEO, hand the weapon with my hands firmly around the slide, muzzle down, with the grip towards the employee, who will then clear the magazine and chambered round. No sudden moves, no threatening moves, and always with permission.

  14. avatar James Ivy says:

    It is surprising and not at the same time how those “UN-Loaded” Jars get filled in such a short time frame. If you see an infraction “SPEAK UP” it doesn’t matter if your on NOOB Status or a whatever, If I had a dollar for every time I was muzzle swept I’d own that new Comp Colt In that pretty Blue. Its when you get comfortable with guns and ignore the rules you will get hurt

  15. avatar JasonM says:

    So…I shouldn’t draw my gun and show you the chipping at the crown of the barrel unannounced?

  16. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    I’ve never seen a gun shop with a gun ban before. I’ve seen a couple with signs indicating that concealed, holstered sidearms must remain concealed and holstered. That makes sense from a safety standpoint. I don’t want jackwagons playing with guns next to me. Too easy to get shot by these supposedly unloaded firearms. If verbal commands go unheeded, then retreat, order others to clear out, then take cover.

    As for store staff drawing their own sidearm and preparing to KILL someone over a miscommunication, bullheadedness, or unfamiliarity with store rules or local customs? That’s just insane. (Firearms Concierge, is that you?)

    “Once he realized I was mid-draw with my firearm and I was deadly serious, he allowed me to walk him through the proper steps.”

    That should read: “Once he realized I was mid-draw with my firearm and I was deadly serious, he also realized I was a crazy man who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a gun, let alone behind a counter with a whole store full of guns. Then he got the hell out, never came back, and told everyone he knew what a paranoid lunatic I was.”

    1. avatar kmon says:

      Occasionally, you are right, but if someone walks in the front door, right to our cash register, and pulls a gun from concealment, at that point, the difference between thief and idiot is nil. I’m not always in a position to hear what they communicate verbally, and even if I am, “hey check this out” or “look what I have” can, in context, be threatening, particularly when paired with ILLEGALLY drawing a firearm. I cant tell if that gun is loaded, I cant read his mind to see what his intentions are. All I can do is respond to what I KNOW in that situation, and what I KNOW is that person just illegally drew a firearm from their holster, and I have one second to make the initial step of an appropriate response.

    2. avatar Peter says:

      You’re right. I can’t believe I had to scroll down this far to read a comment like yours. The article did not make it sound like the situation could have reasonably been confused for a robbery. It was a simple misunderstanding, but the clerk was “deadly serious” about shooting the customer. If that had been my employee, it would be his last day on the job. If I were a customer who saw that happen I would be permanently taking my business elsewhere.

    3. avatar BroBrojustBro says:

      Thank you for posting this. I’m also amazed at the number of people who think his behavior was appropriate. He even said that the customer was pulling his gun out to show him. Reading this boiled my blood.

  17. avatar Chrispy says:

    I’ve seen a local Sheriff’s deputy draw the firearm because the store owner asked which model Glock they carry. He couldn’t remember…

  18. avatar kmon says:

    As an LGS/range employee, I would say asking first generally makes it ok with me. I just direct you to the range, set you at a bench, let you make safe, then bring it out to the counter. I’ve almost drawn on customers a few times, and it generally follows a statement from them somewhat like “Hey, I got something to show you here.” play a stupid game long enough, eventually you’ll get a stupid prize.

  19. avatar mike says:

    Just ask politely first if it’s ok to (slowly) unholster your concealed gun. It’s either yes or no. Simple.

  20. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I’ve been asked by a few people to show off my carry piece, under the assumption that “if he’s a gunsmith, he must be carrying something ultra-kewl.”


    And no, I’m not drawing my gun without a Real Reason.

  21. avatar Bigfoot of borg says:

    On a humorous note when I was working at Academy Sports checking out a little old lady she was having trouble finding her checkbook in her purse so she started emptying it on my counter. She took out the stuff you expect like a pack of tissues, keys, coin purse, etc. then a pink .38 j-frame. My manager that was nearby was shocked. The lady realized what she did almost immediately and dropped back in her bag. she looked kind of embarrassed when she left.

  22. avatar Anon in CT says:

    My local store / range has a “no drawing” policy – you can carry what you like (and oddly, CT allows open – in theory anyway) but if you’re shooting it you better have brought it in in a bag or case). During a discussion with the range officer, he asked to see the Legion I was carrying – I obliged, slowly and carefully. Basically I did what I would do if unholstering and clearing in front of a cop. No problems.

    1. avatar Wilson says:

      A range with a “no drawing” policy won’t get a dime from me.

      If you actually need to use your gun in a defensive situation you’re going to have to draw, aim with your preferred method, shoot. Removing one of those things from your training is silly. Sure, you can practice drawing you unloaded or snap-cap equipped gun at home, and shooting on the range. Then you just have to hope that when you’re 2 seconds away from getting dead, you manage to put it all together correctly with no mistakes.

  23. avatar jm says:

    Been there. Customer asked me if we carried a spare magazine. Said probably. What for? Instead of telling me he pulls his 1911 out and points it across the counter. Then he got mad when I pulled his arm across the counter and my gun was about in inch from his eye. closest I have every come to shooting someone.

    1. avatar Andy says:

      Sounds like you probably should not work at a gunstore

      1. avatar Peter says:

        ^this. Seriously man. It sounds like you shouldn’t be carrying a gun at all, let alone working at a gun store.

        You drew your pistol and pointed it at the head of an ignorant customer? I hope you got fired.

      2. avatar Sprocket says:

        It sounds like a not unreasonable response to a dangerous moron pointing a gun at you.

        1. avatar Negaduck says:

          You sound like you could benefit from some use of force training. Or maybe just some basic common sense.

          The customer is in a gun store. He asks an employee about a specific part for a gun. The employee asks what type of gun it’s for. The customer proceeds to attempt to show him. The employee responds by nearly blowing the guy’s head off. Did I miss something?

    2. avatar mike says:

      So you yank on his arm, which could have led to him flinching and pulling the trigger on a potentially loaded weapon which would have led you you blowing his brains out over you being and idiot. Sound like some wanna be tier one operator crap to me.

  24. avatar Ralph says:

    My LGS has an unloading area for people who bring a loaded carry gun into the shop for upgrades or if there is an impulse trade. You leave the gun in your holster, go to the unloading area, unholster and unload while an employee watches to keep things safe, and then you can return to the retail part of the store to do your transaction.

    The shop is smart and safe, and the employees are extremely nice and know what they’re doing.

  25. avatar KenW says:

    Gun shop employees make mistakes too. I was at a local one and they were working on a ruger mini 14 ranch rifle. I heard him say something to the effect of there is a round stuck inside as he worked the bolt, with it aimed right towards me. So I made like a crab and quickly shuffled sideways then decided maybe this is not where I want to be as he holds it up then looks down the barrel. I wonder if they even realized why I left.

  26. avatar Dave says:

    Most of the time, customers will just ask before they take it out, at which time I tell them that it is fine and not to point it at either myself or anyone in the building in a threatening manner. So far *knock on wood* I haven’t had to issue a verbal warning or draw my own gun. So, when in doubt, ask.

    1. avatar Andy says:

      Sounds like you are a reasonable man, unlike a couple tards in here

  27. avatar Wilson says:

    There’s no shortage of idiots who own a gun. Half of them seem to work at gun stores or ranges.

    One example out of more than I can count: I put a scope on a brand new .234 Win and took it to a range. They asked if I’d shot it with this optic before and I said “No, I’m here to bore sight and then dial her in.” Well they apparently really wanted $20 so they told me if I hadn’t shot it they’d have to laser bore sight it for me for a fee.

    What do these jackwagons do? Well, they break my $800 scope. They put a laser bore sight in the barrel, point it at a wall 4′ in front of the barrel and try to adjust the scope so the reticle meets the dot, which ain’t gonna happen at that range. When the reticle will move no further, they take a pair of pliers out and try to force the elevation adjustment, thereby breaking the scope! Then, as if I didn’t watch them do this and protest the entire time they blame me for buying “[expletive] gear”! I never did get them to pay for what they did as they just blamed me for low quality gear.

    That day I figured out why they don’t let people carry in a holster on that range. Needless to say, I’ve never been back.

    1. avatar Negaduck says:

      That’s why they have small claims law suits. They should have bought you a new scope.

      1. avatar Wilson says:

        I didn’t care to bother. Around here that would take months and pull me out of work. It would end up costing me more than the scope was worth. In reality I’d be lucky to recoup half the value after all was said and done.

        I gave them a nasty review on Yelp! which they petitioned to have removed. Yelp! contacted me and that review remained. Since they tried to get it removed, that probably stings them more than having to pay for another scope.

        Also, I just noticed a typo. It was a .243 Win 🙂

  28. avatar Badwolf says:

    I did it once. But first I asked the gun shop employee for permission to draw and safety check. I didn’t plan on going to a gun shop, I just happened to pass by, saw the store sign, and remembered I wanted a new holster. The store had the same gun on display but it had a trigger lock, the manager was out, and the employee didn’t have the key. And the employee said “I think it fits” but wasn’t sure. It’s a good thing I tested the holster because it was expensive and it didn’t fit. Afterward, I left the store with the gun unloaded. Reloading it in the store would have been too much hahaha.

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