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(AP Photo/Russell Contreras)
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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 a gun store employee gets upset or possibly barks 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 me his new acquisition and to ask 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).

holster draw gun concealed carry

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, please do everyone a favor and bring it into the store unloaded and in its case. If you absolutely can’t bring it unloaded, do a couple of other things before reaching for that loaded pistol.

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 that one to find you the holster you’re looking for or to see a specific accessory you’re considering will work.

If you are bringing your gun in for repair, why are you carrying it loaded in the first place? We really appreciate when you think about these things before you get to the store.

If you still believe that unholstering your firearm is required, PLEASE STOP. Be sure to ask the nice (at this point) gun shop employee if they allow unholstering of loaded firearms (yes, it’s always loaded until visually and physically verified by both the employee and you) and what the approved protocol is for doing so.

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’ “unloaded” firearms. And no, they didn’t get that those chambered rounds 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 every day. With your cooperation, we will be able to continue to enjoy our job and more importantly our lives. Be careful out there.


Marlon Knapp (not pictured above) is the 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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  1. “*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.*”

    Wow, high drama indeed. Who needs cable?

    • Whenever a newbie makes a safety mistake while asking me a question, my first instinct is also to shoot him dead.

      • That’s not a “safety mistake”. Do you not realize that gun stores a a prime target for thieves? Someone unexpectedly and without warning drawing a weapon in a business that carries a lot of high value, easily fenced goods is absolutely cause for alarm, and such a reaction is entirely reasonable

        • “Unexpectedly and without warning,” is the not the same thing as “… to show me his new acquisition and to ask if I thought he got a good deal.”

          Context matters.

        • My LGS has expressly banned facemasks since the start of this scamdemic, on the grounds that the owner wants to clearly see the faces (and expressions) of any and all who enter.

          And guess what?…he said he’s never been bothered once by LE or Health Inspectors. Even during last year’s height of public anxiety. Nobody.

          Hmm. Imagine that. What’s that about an armed sheep amongst wolves discussing supper?

        • Like a thief is going to walk into the store during prime business hours, face uncovered for all the cameras, asking questions at the counter, just so he can rob place full of armed staff and customers… raiiiiit….

      • It is not a newbie just making a mistake; it is deadly serious. The gun store employee doesn’t know the customer from Adam, and he could be a criminal doing their “nice guy” act (very common) in order to rob and/or kill. Maybe his “homies” are right outside the door waiting to rush in to grab all the guns once the gun store employees are dead (reaction is much slower than action). Has happened before. Many criminals trying to get guns are crazed or stupid or desperate, especially when they are on drugs; and will walk right into a store to rob and kill even knowing there are cameras all over these days.

        Here’s another similar example. You may have read about the recent shooting in a gun store in Louisiana (“Jefferson Gun Outlet shooting”). Guy (thug moron) walks in to the store with an open carried loaded gun on his hip along with his brother and TWO CHILDREN. Thug says he wants to buy ammo. Armed gun store employees tell him loaded guns are not allowed inside the store itself, and ask him if his is loaded to secure the gun outside. Instead of doing what a normal person would do and just secure the gun in his car, the thug thinks he is being “dissed,” and starts shooting the place up, killing two customers (man and woman). The armed gun store employees draw their weapons and kill the thug. Thug’s brother later said he must have “flipped out” when they asked him to secure the gun outside (the “dis”).

        Moral of the story: If you want to walk into a gun a store with a loaded gun on their hip, FIRST look for their posted gun-carrying policy signs outside (many gun stores post them), or better yet secure your gun in the car and ASK first if and how you can bring your gun in (or just call in advance). IN ANY CASE DO NOT JUST DRAW A HOLSTERED GUN IN A GUN SHOP TO “SHOW IT” TO THEM. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If you walked into any OTHER type of store and moved to draw an openly carried weapon, employees or an armed guard would have every right to draw on you also.

  2. This is a good start for a lot of newbies to shooting.
    If you shoot long enough you’ll see it both ways.
    Many times I have asked to see a gun in the case.
    This happened literally twice. The employee takes it out and puts it on the top of the case.
    “Aren’t you check and make sure it’s clear”? No, It was in the case so it’s clear.
    At which point I ask if I can pick it up and rack the slide.
    With no magazine and the gun in slide lock I proclaim “Now it’s clear so what can you tell me about it”?
    It can be a two way street but more often then not it’s some customer acting the fool.
    “Could you point the muzzle in a different direction please”?

      • This! I taught the kids good muzzle discipline with their Nerf guns, as well as the rules of gun safety. Teach ‘Em properly when young, start them off on the right foot.

  3. Good article. Whenever I’ve visited my LGS with a firearm, I’ve always had it chamber flagged with a large neon green or orange zip tie before I entered. And I do not touch it, but allow the employee to take it from my holster or case.

    • “I’ve always had it chamber flagged with a large neon green or orange zip tie before I entered.”

      Cool. And in what other ways do you let the true gun enthusiasts know you’re a cowardly pud?

      Well, other than skipping out on Freedom Rallies like a coward. We all know about that!

      • A True Patriot – Gods, what an ass. Are you always his stupid or is this a special day?

      • Did you pass the sign on the door that states “Do not unholster a loaded weapon?”

        Their shop their rules, and for that matter, what about being courteous with handling firearms in someone else’s house?

        I’ve asked one – 1 – customer at the auto parts store I was working at what kind if pistol he was carrying, only to have him draw, muzzle the counter, then unload it leaving a round in the chamber, remember to double check, then remove the one in the pipe. Was he being unsafe or merely posturing to prove he wasn’t a coward? I’ve been around a lot of loaded guns on duty, but after that exercise, I never asked again. Even the most earnest gun carrier can have an ND – and handling a loaded gun out of the holster is the #1 way it happens.

        Of course, he had to go back thru loading it so proceed out into the cold cruel world, topping off with the extra round. I like the guy, buy it wasn’t a professional example of his expertise. Show and Tell with firearms in a public place is not smart. I’ve seen off duty cops get “the look” when people act up in a store, I don’t like the idea of being downrange when someone stupidly discharges their weapon unnecessarily.

        I’m also aware the FBI has troll accounts to make comments like this, in fact, in the last dozen events nationwide, the FBI was the CAUSE of violence. Fact. So, not today, agent.

  4. I can’t count how many times in my youth drinking at someone’s house and people want to pull all the guns out, while everyone is drunk, and I was the only one who unloaded them all. Often times people didn’t even know how to unload their own guns. I had to show them.

    • Yup.
      I was at one fellow gun guy’s house before everybody got too drinky and people wanted to see some of his collection. He started handing things to me first to distribute because he knew I’d make damn sure to clear everything. Minor breach in conduct offset by having the right person be the backup inspector. Everything was indeed unloaded when he handed it to me except for his “I keep this one outside the safe” shotgun. understood and promptly unloaded while he was still digging around the safe for the next thing to show.

  5. Walking into a gun store and drawing from concealed may be met by a lethal response, from my years behind the counter…

    • Likewise. I normally don’t think a gun store employee is likely to know more than I do about *my* gun.

    • Possum, you keep your gun inside a cow?
      How fast can you draw from concealed anus?
      I’m gonna try that, but I’m gonna do it from a raccoon.
      You, Possum, are a true innovator. I salute you.

        • I myself also prefer cowhide to the synthetic options, although I think that you might have gone a little overboard with your retention system.

  6. Yeah customers can be dumb sometimes. Its a good idea to always ask and/or announce what you want to do before you do it. That stated . . . some people behind the counter are power tripping safety nazis. It is why many people do not want to go to the range because the range boss is often a range troll. People are already intimidated by firearms and are often already nervous – so the bright idea is to start yelling w/ guns around? That is great way to get hurt, hurt someone else, or at the very least loose a customer. When I was in basic training one of the most “chill” days was range day. It was one day because it was the USAF 🙂 They knew getting a bunch of teenagers scared (more scared then they were already) is a great way to get someone hurt and to turn in crappy scores when it actually came time to shoot.

    “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’ “unloaded” firearms. And no, they didn’t get that those chambered rounds back. Consider it a tax for bringing me a loaded firearm.”

    The fact that this guy does this and so proudly announces it (complete w/ “that those”) means I would not want to shop where he works. I go to a gun store to buy things not to be stolen from.

    • I’ve seen the “jar of shame” at plenty of gun stores. I imagine if the customer demands he return the ammo from their “unloaded” gun he would provide it. but yeah, idiot tax is a real thing.
      I don’t even work at a gun store and i’ve dealt with a couple people and their “unloaded” guns.
      I bought a lever 30-30 from an older guy who insisted it was unloaded, after driving around with it in his trunk because he knew driving around with a loaded rifle was highly illegal. So I dropped the lever the first half and nothing popped out, but that sure was an interesting brassy color down deep at the mag tube. I pushed the lever ALL the way and the tube popped a live cartridge into loading position. “Oops” as his eyes went wide. Oops again. Oops yet again. Oops #4. And oops one final time. He just didn’t know his own rifle (soon to be my rifle) well enough to check it right. At least he didn’t accidentally flag me with it first…

  7. So here’s the value of early safety training such as the NRA Hunter Safety Course. Took it in my early teens. As an adult those lessons stayed with me. First time I took a firearm into a store, it was in a case, action open, no ammunition, an empty mag in the case too. Setting that on the counter top with the business end pointed to the side puts you a good, friendly starting point in a gun shop.

    If it’s a gun with no case, bring it in with the action open and displayed in hands so that open action is front and center for all to see. Bolts action, remove the bolt. Semi-auto, lock the bolt or slide back or put in a plastic chamber flag.

    It doesn’t take much to get a positive and friendly reaction when entering a gun shop with a gun in hand. On the flip side of that, takes very little to make a real bad first impression too. Just think thru what you are doing, keep it simple, plan ahead not to spoke the armed folks within.

    Really ain’t that complicated.

      • I have two operating theories on this. One is that enuf has its bad days, and its occasional ‘good day’. This might be its one ‘good day’ when it is not a gibbering loon and has ‘it’ together. The other is that there are TWO enufs, and only one is a gibbering loon. This may be the other one.

  8. Not sure a safety mistake should prompt an armed response, especially if you’re aware the intention is to show the firearm. A nice volley of 4 letter words and a safety lesson are more in line with the offense.

  9. Don’t know why this has to be explained. I’ve never even considered drawing my CCW….anywhere….without the permission of the Buisiness owner or homeowner. That’s just dumb.

  10. If I draw my firearm in a gun store it’s because I’ve already spoken, at length, to someone and there’s a specific reason it needed to see daylight. There’s no way the guy behind the counter will be caught off-guard. Just ‘whipping it out’ is a surprise everyone in there can do without.

    If I do draw it out though, you can bet your sweet bee-hind its loaded so the very first thing I do is drop the mag, lock the slide back and catch that +1 that’s been sleeping in the chamber, all the while pointed at the floor (my LGS is not conducive to safely pointing an any direction except down most of the time). One thing I don’t do ANYWHERE though is unload my firearm, rendering it completely useless, before entry. If I bring other guns in for range time or to trade in or whatever that’s one thing, but my EDC stays hot at all times.

    • I would also add, remove it from the holster with your non-firing hand. Maybe for some non-traditional carry positions it won’t make much difference since the LGS employee probably doesn’t know which hand is your dominant. But I know for a righty carrying at 3 o’clock, I’m a lot more sanguine about their intentions if it’s their left hand doing the unholstering.

  11. I admire the customer, who when admiring (fingering) a new gun, makes sure he sweeps everyone in the store. Happens all the time. My local GS has a deer head on the wall abover the counter with a bright red nose, they ask when handing you a firearm to take aim at “Rudolph”, keeps the customer from pointing the firearm and everyone else standing at the counter.

  12. Along with the normal safety stuff at the local outdoor range, there’s another rule: No unsupervised rapid fire.

    Because uncontrolled muzzle climb could send a round over the backstop and down on an innocent passerby.

    • No “unsupervised” rapid fire? Is “supervised” rapid fire allowed? Which eddy the eagle wannabe gets to supervise?

  13. “If it’s a modern, popular firearm, chances are good they’ll have one in stock”
    I call BS, unless this article is a reprint from years ago. Even big stores around here are down to used .22s, revolvers, and multi thousand dollar semi-custom 1911s.

    • I went to Cabelas today and they had tons of handguns in stock. No handgun ammo or salt waffles left though, and the only milsurp-ish things they had were a pair of Yugo M48 Sporters.

  14. It goes both ways: A couple of years ago, I was in Academy and wanted to look at a pistol. The employee behind the counter pulled it out and pointed it right at the center of my chest as he pulled the slide back. I got a “little excited” and started yelling at him. A manager came over and asked what the commotion was. I told him what happened and the gun counter employee denied it. I told the manager, that I see the camera up in the rafters and to look at the tape. He took my information. He called me the next day and told me to come to the store as he had some gift cards for me. $50 worth of gift cards he gave me. I never saw the gun counter employee again. The manager also told me that they would be reviewing the rules again with the counter employees.

  15. Sometimes I really really cringe at what people do with a firearm. It makes if difficult sometimes to defend the vast majority of those that are safe owners of firearms.

    And the blame for that lies mostly with our national aversion via the media to the idea that good people own and use firearms and that’s not a bad thing. Thus keeping a lot of education from being available to the public in the normal course of day to day living.

    That’s how it used to be. I knew by the time I was 3-4 not to touch any firearms found. (and I also didn’t find any because those around me took care that that didn’t happen) And that if I did find one that I’d better let someone know before I did anything else.

    Now we have a national split personality on firearms. We’re told firearms are bad and aren’t needed and anyone who owns one is sick or dangerous. Yet we see firearms in use for all sorts of good and bad reasons for entertainment. Also used by word parrots that will then tell you how bad firearms are after spending an entire show shooting it out with the bad guys.

    We really need to do something about the media in this country in particular. Altho we come to find out that other countries are subsidizing our media so as to shape our opinions and politics with lies and propaganda so maybe fixing the media is simply a matter of demanding they not be influenced, owned or controlled by foreign interests.

  16. Think you’ve seen weird shit working in a gun store, try working for 12 years on a public shooting range.

  17. Recently I was in a store picking up a new acquisition and another customer had brought in a couple of guns in cases. Sure as shoot, the employee racked the slide on one of his pistols and out popped a live round. My guess was that I was darned close to a AD if that employee was not well trained.

  18. I love the “empty chamber” jar. A good visual for inexperienced or first time gunbuyers to see how important the 4 rules really are. Remember all those times you misplaced your keys, or lost your cellphone, or swore that you put that report in your folder/briefcase? Check the damn chamber. Every. Time.

  19. If you don’t trust your customers, why let them bring guns into the shop in the first place? Just put a sign that says “we don’t trust you, now eff off.”

    Just one more reason to never go to Wichita, as if I needed one.

  20. Only time I’ve seen someone do show and tell with a CCW in a gun shop it was the guy behind the counter showing off all the ‘custom’ work he did on his Glock. He made the comment that he had it out a dozen or so times a day for that purpose…

  21. And yet most gun store employees seem only too glad to unholster their own loaded guns to show customers some feature. Two different salespersons did that today.
    I’m a beginner shooter still deciding on my first pistol purchase. Employee may ‘know’ all of the guns in the cases are unloaded. They should still check before handing them to me. That wasn’t the case today. I made sure to check each one to ensure it was unloaded. And I only pointed it at the floor when dry firing the trigger.

  22. You made a good point that a lot of safety measure are also important to keep in mind when going to a gun store. I’d like to buy my own gun soon because I want to focus a lot more on self-defense. Being able to have my own weapon will surely come in handy should dire situations arise.

  23. Reading this article seeing how important gun self-restraint is helped me quite a bit. I wouldn’t want to be that guy who ruins it for everyone when at the store, especially since I know that these are potentially lethal weapons. I’ll keep your tips in mind when I take my own firearm to a local gun store regularly.

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