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TTAG reader PS writes:

Several years ago my then seven-year-old daughter was staying at my parents’ home. She came wide-eyed down the stairs. There was a gun in her room! Seeing a teachable moment – as our President would say – and wondering what the heck my dad was doing, I asked my daughter to show me . . .

It was a .30-06. I made a mental note to have a word with my Dad. Meanwhile, I took the time to re-introduce my daughter to the four rules of gun safety. I showed her how to pull back the bolt and check if the gun was loaded. It wasn’t. I thanked her for instinctively knowing the first rule for a young child: don’t touch the gun, leave the area, tell an adult.

My daughter listened, but clearly she wasn’t comfortable with her first up-close-and-personal experience with a gun. How to change that? I decided it was time to slowly introduce her to guns, for her own safety and future enjoyment. And to explain the importance of our Second Amendment protected gun rights.

About six months later we were in New Hampshire. We visited SIG SAUER’s company store. It was paradise from my point of view but I didn’t know how my daughter would react. Trepidation was the answer. That changed as fast as a hunting dog seeing a squirrel. “PINK AND RAINBOW!” she exclaimed. We were suddenly off to see the P290s. Thank you SIG.

We talked about guns after. There was still discomfort but a few bright spots. Or should I say, colors. Over the next year or two, I repeated my gentle instruction in small doses- mostly at home. Which brings us to today . . .

My daughter and I had the day to ourselves. I was supposed to take her to the bookstore for her summer reading list. Neither of us were looking forward to that. I asked if she was okay with stopping at our local gun store (LGS). I received a nonchalant “OK.” Maybe it was stalling of the summer reading chore (I learned a while ago not to ask the females in my house why they said or did things).

We entered my LGS. For the first time there was no timidity. I looked around and she did, too. Separately. A minute or two later she came back and said she’d found “another pink one, but no rainbows.”

A salesmen brought a revolver over and asked her if she wanted to see it. He must have been 80. When he asked her if she wanted to see it, she said yes. He asked her if she was old enough, she looked at me. I nodded. Her highlight? Dry firing with the nice old man. Mine? Seeing a knowledgeable child that is no longer afraid.

You won’t get that level of service over the Internet. My LGS has a customer for life, maybe even two. I highly recommend regular visits.

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      • Yep. But I can understand a person buying online with an FFL if all of their local gun stores have terrible prices and staff.

      • FUDD gun shops are bad. More like an OFWG close knit hang out. Maybe someday, someone might be interrupted for the privilege of showing you a gun.

    • True, there are two of the best and worst I have been to within a couple miles of each other in the Manassas area. The best in terms of selection, customer service, and professionalism that I have been to so far is Virginia Arms Co. in Manassas, VA. They have the highest percentage of salesmen to customers of any store (not just gun store) I recall going to, and I have never had to ask for help going in there. They generally greet you with a smile coming in the door and always ask if there is anything I would like to see, etc. I have witnessed complete neophytes go in there and ask questions most people on this board would laugh at, but from what I have witnessed, they treat people respectfully and educate them without making them feel dumb. Their rifle wall would give some modern sporting rifle fans a serious boner. Everything from entry-level M&P Sports to Daniel Defense and ACRs. This is one view from inside the store, but it is more than twice the size of this, with an even larger gear and accessories area:

      A couple miles north of there on RT 28 is probably the least pleasant I have been to. I won’t name them, and haven’t been there in a couple years now, but it was where a couple of chain-smoking old guys presided over a limited selection of guns in a dusty, cramped store that had more cheap surplus type clothing and trinkets than quality gear. Whole store smelled like an ashtray.

      • I know what place you are talking about, Dominion Arms. Being a poor college student in the late-aught’s I would frequent that store. Apart from the ignorant comment of the AK and Vz-58 using the same mags they were a good store to deal with. Always told me the history of the items there but then again I was in to the surplus gear he had. They even offered to accept mags that I bought online since I lived on campus at the time and the only address I could use was my parent’s home in MD.

        Last time I was there they moved up the road to a new location.

    • Uh-oh. I don’t always pass that test. Although I’m not sure a friendly LGS would automatically qualify – they make money off sales and want happy customers.

    • Can you tell the difference between “can’t do anything for them” and “can’t do anything for themselves?”

      I’m accused of lacking this trait regularly, but it’s not true. I bend over backwards to help people that won’t be giving me a penny. But those who refuse to think for 2 seconds, can’t wipe their own ass to save their lives, completely damned useless people… I learned a long time ago that you can’t help people who refuse to help themselves.

      This false accusation usually comes from the useless idiots. I can’t fix stupid, and I’ve got other, useful things to do with my time. Such as; help someone who’s making an effort.

      I’ve allowed the use of my shop and tools to people building 80% ARs. Even bought tools for them when they couldn’t afford it. I’ve never built a single 80% AR for myself. I’m such an asshole.

  1. I’m 0 for 2 in El Paso. Ripped off on a Glock discount at the local distributor, half finished sight installation at another. LGS’s could do themselves a favor every now and then.

    • I frequented Academy and Big 5 when I was in El Paso. I wanted ammo for my mosin and one of the local gun stores Bliss wanted 20 bucks for a box of 7.62x54R. Totally ridiculous! This was back in 2006-2007. I have a ton of choices in my new location. They have some guns at excellent prices and other not so much. I’ve bought a few from the LGS when they had deals much better than the internet. I got a used SCAR 16s for a song and a dance compared to a new one.

      • Thanks. Academy always has ammo even if Wallyworld is out. Have yet to find a good place for repairs. A “gun smith” I paid to install sights left the rear, half way into the slot. And everybody says he’s the best! Stay happy, healthy and on target.

        • had the same experience with having a sight installed on a Browning Gold Hunter by “the best gunsmith in st. charles county, mo.” then changed the quoted price, then installed the wrong sight.
          lost my best 1911 mechanic when Ken Hallack died, and best smith revolver man when jimmy van quetren passed.

        • I never needed a smith when I was in El Paso. I did get a lot of work done on my cars. Luckily I had a few friends who knew people who were actually really good. Racing in El Paso is awesome, although that altitude and heat kills your times. Nothing like drag racing in December when most of the country is snowed in or rained out.

  2. Well, I don’t think this is a problem with LGS’s, but a more general problem with people doing jobs where they must sell without being able to deal with people.
    There are thousands of reasons for this “inability”, but mostly, I guess, it’s lack of proper education mixed with an even bigger lack of intelligence.
    No way to change that, other than never going back to such places. Sooner or later they’d have to change their ways or close down.

    • Yup. There are PLENTY of business owners and employees that are rude and prickly. This problem is not unique to gun shops.

      • Very true.

        In a one/two man store as many many LGS (and most every other small retailer) you can get only two (at most) – sales savvy, product savvy, or armorer savvy. Which two do you want?

  3. My LGS was my grandfather’s (then dad’s) hardware store. It wasn’t chock-full-of-guns; just 2 break-action shotguns next to the fishing poles.

    Nobody – not my dad (nor grand-dad) nor the justice-of-the-peace (my father’s employee) made anything special out of the guns. When I got old enough to climb up on a stool and take the guns down, nobody said anything. It just wasn’t remarkable.

    Nobody taught me any 4 rules or any rules at all. Dad mentioned a distant relative who was killed in a hunting accident when he crawled through a fence. Apart from that, it was assumed that it was obvious to a little kid that a shotgun with a bore of 1″ would blow a big hole in anything if somebody wasn’t careful.

    Shotgun shells were on a shelf – unlocked – 12 feet away.

    I spent many a pleasurable hour sitting on a stool next to the fishing poles fiddling with the unloaded shotguns.

    Oh, and, by the way. The cabinet behind me was the place the shelf-stock of 40 – 60 lbs of dynamite was kept. Nobody thought it was dangerous for me to sit 1′ away from that dynamite either.

    It’s amazing what some folks regard as dangerous vs. safe.

  4. I think some GS owners go into it because they like guns but have no personal skills. In humor let me say some GS are exactly like model train stores or comic book shops. Real enthusiasts with huge cases of shyness. Unable to speak until you mention Dr. Who or an original Illinois Central A/B set then they can’t stop talking. 🙂

    Others are so cool to talk to you. They assume they know it all and while they may no everything you the customer are the only reason they are in business.

    I have called one shop and asked if they had a Walther PPKs. They said come in and we’ll check for you. What? I had earlier asked them to do a transfer. When the sending shop called and said they couldn’t get a hold of the receiving store, the receiving store said I had to come in to give them the fax number of the sending FFL. (Which is available online)

    Suspicious? I took my business elsewhere.
    Then they gave me the excuse that someone had tried to send two pistols on one transfer. How does my appearance in person alert you to this? Perhaps when you open the shipment you’d know. Bogus excuse.
    Anyway a good way to lose business. We spend a lot of money in gear and gun smithing to go with our piece purchase.

  5. When i shop for a gun, I’m usually looking for something specific, and typically it isn’t in production. I check (because I live in Oklahoma) then Gunbroker and Armslist are my go to online sources.

  6. My “local” GS is run by a scum-sucking pig. I won’t go there without immediately taking a bath when I get home. My go-to GS is over an hour away and run by a prince. It’s worth the drive — great prices and service, and I don’t feel soiled afterwards.

  7. Even in the Peoples Republik of NJ I have I have two really good and one ok gun stores with a 30 min drive. That doesn’t count Wallyworld and Dicks.

    They all have decent ammo prices and a fair selection of firearms. Most have a good supply of ammo including .22.

  8. I have no use for my local GS. Grossly overpriced,no layaway,hyper-high Cook co.IL taxes and the 25 buck slush fund tax. Add in arrogant obnoxious counter guys(ex-cops) who don’t bother to acknowledge people. I have adopted a couple Indiana shops as “local”. Whatever-my next gun is coming from the internet-and I still won’t use the local shop for a transfer. Much cheaper in Will county(and they’re happy to be of service).

  9. Started my 5 sons on their 4th birthday. Lots of safety in my house. Now they are all Firefighters, which attaches them to Homeland Security. I’m proud of them all. almost 79 and carry in my wheelchair!

  10. Most of the local gun stores in my area are owned by the same guy, and it’s a pretty mixed bag. I’ve been to a few of his stores and the staff were more interested in talking to each other than helping me out. If I go to a certain location though, the staff are phenomenal. They are knowledgeable and helpful.

    Unfortunately, the one constant is that they have terrible ammo prices. Their prices on .45acp are about $17 higher than Walmart per box for the same ammo. I’d be willing to pay a premium of a dollar or 2 per box to support a local business, but not that much.

  11. Most of the gun shops in this area are over priced. They are funny about doing transfers. What I buy locally I get it from a guy who runs a kitchen table FFL. There is one decent LGS in the area and it is long ride to get there.

    • My go to guy is a home FFL but he runs a good business. He’s a little eccentric but his gun and ammo prices are fair, as is his transfer fee.

  12. Am I the only one who was shocked to read that she was 7 years old and never handled a firearm?

    I started my boys at 2 in the backyard shooting drink cans off a picnic table with a pellet pistol (safe backstop of course) and made them tell me the rules every time they got around a gun of any kind. I kept a 1911 beside the bed and we would “go look at the gun”—safety rules, clear the weapon, check it, safety rules, and then they could hold it. Both are engineers now and enjoy shooting. Never any trouble out of either one of them.

    • Ditto. Grandpa didn’t fail diddly squat. Daddy was the screwup. But apparently with time got his head out of his 4th point of contact.

  13. Amen to that. I throw business to several in my city because they’re good people making a living and providing a valuable service, even if their prices can be beaten online or at big box stores. One is my first stop when I want to handle something that I’ve only read about – and I tend to come back and make the actual purchase there. One I buy the occasional pound of slightly higher priced powder and .22 ammo. One is where I buy my AR components and the inevitable NFA item that they “force” me to buy (i.e. they show it to me and I can’t resist). And there’s one where I won’t buy anything because I’m apparently not high-class enough to wait on or something. I feel like a suspect rather than a customer. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, McBride’s.) The other three businesses are content to treat me like a valued customer.

  14. I love one of my LGSs. Good people with competitive prices. They may not always be the cheapest but they sure aren’t trying to take advantage of you.

    The other is a pawn shop that mostly sells bizarro magnum caliber used rifles and is primarily used for FFL transfers.

  15. Until my favorite gunsmith opened his own store, I always took noobs to one of two area pawn shops, where the owners would let a known customer handle anything and talk forever without buying. One friend turned to an avid shooter after he got used to handling guns just like he handled drills, video consoles, camp stoves, and anything else in the shop, until one day he wanted to try one like he got to try the drills. etc. I was happy to put his new purchase on my VISA when he couldn’t quite cover it.

    But that gunsmith had a “bedside manner” that put most doctors to shame: he listened patiently and attentively to everything a customer had to say, and was very good at getting people to narrow in on their real concern. I watched more people walk out with a new gun because he was superbly attentive to what they needed, not what he wanted to sell.
    Though I remember more than once going in and coming right back out when he got a partner, who was interested in selling, selling, selling — we just returned when “the man” was there.

    Now that he retired, I’m back to a different gunsmith.

  16. We have three dedicated gun stores in my area. One is geared toward LEO sales and tactical-style weaponry with a nice indoor range of which I am a member. Ammo’s fairly priced, but they are discriminating about what they stock and as such prices aren’t competitive. The sales personnel are competent but can be aloof. Another store is a good ol’ boy store with nice but not particularly knowledgeable staff. They stock everything under the sun to a certain point. Ammo’s high, and certain guns tend to be overpriced, but you can find good deals here. On the outskirts of town there’s a shop that was bought by a large pawn shop from a town up the highway…they literally give guns away with regularity (a cousin has won 2 10/22s from them already), and they have killer prices on certain new guns and good prices on everything else. But their stock can be pretty wonky sometimes, and their staff varies from great to meh.

    The trick in all cases is getting to know people on staff. I generally go to one or more a week just to keep up with what they’ve got and maintain familiarity. For instance, the only reason I got a CZ Scorpion as early as I did was because a staffer at one of these stores knew I was looking and texted me when it arrived.

  17. My first experience was with a LGS “JR’s” in Naperville, IL. I got a reasonable price. Later JR’s moved to Auroa, IL and opened a gun range! When I moved, then Gat Guns in Dundee, IL, another good well-stocked LGS with a range. There was another gun shop in Waukegan, old small not-nice range, small selection of arms, did not go back. … My one visit to the Aurora Sportsmen Club, a member talked to convince me to buy from a LGS.

    • “I know everything. You are wrong. If you don’t want to be my personal welfare system, get out!” – Every LGS that’s actually L to me…

  18. Strangely, I’ve only recently started frequenting a LGS. Of the now five different handguns I’ve owned, the first was purchased private party and we went to a Gander Mountain for the transfer, the second was an online order and (again) transfered at (the same) Gander Mountain, and the third was purchased at a pawn shop, and the fourth was purchased at (you guessed it) Gander Mountain.

    Ammo had always been ordered online or picked up at Walmart on the way to a range and the one store I went to. But that was in the 2009-2011 time frame. I sold all of them and haven’t owned a firearm since.

    About three weeks ago, I decided it was about time to get back into ownership and decided to buy a NIB M&P45 (also, my first NIB gun). So after looking around online for who would do a transfer (because I was going to order it online), I called a place near my job to see if they’d do a transfer. They told me they’d only do them for something they didn’t carry in stock, so I figured I was SOL (because the night before I’d just found a Police-Trade M&P40 at Buds for 300). So I asked if they had anything similar and the guy on the phone says “we have a few used M&Ps”. So I figured I’d stop in and atleast see what they had. — It was the day before Payday.

    So the next day, while at lunch, I decided to go on over and take a look in the store. From the outside, it’s rather small and I honestly figured they’d only have hunting rifles and a few common handgun types.

    Boy, was I wrong.

    I was greeted by a gentleman at the door who informed me he was the guy I’d spoken to on the phone (he actually remembered me! Wow!) and sent me to the handgun cases. I walked over and they showed me a few used M&PS in 9 and .40, and a used M&P45 Midsize. I was disappointed at this point, because I wanted a .45 Midsize and figured they’d have to order one (I didn’t expect to be taking anything home that day anyway). Suddenly, John (my salesman who was helping me) gave me a look as if a lightbulb went off in his head, told me to hang out a minute, and shot off to the back while I browsed the handguns. A few minutes later, he returns with a blue S&W pistol case and says “We just got it in.” He opens the case, and low and behold, it was a 45 Midsize without any of the safeties. Exactly what I wanted–and at a damn good price. I checked my bank account balance right on the spot, saw it was good, and gave him my card, did the paperwork, and left giddy as a school girl because I finally (after 4 years of wanting) had my M&P. I didn’t even look around because I thought to myself I could get the other accessories I wanted online and ammo from Walmart.

    I went to Walmart that night and after having some kid insist to me that a box of 9mm would work fine in my new .45 (and even then, them not carry and HP) I went home (with a box of .45 Ball. (I needed something in the interim…)) and checked to see the wait time on ordering Trijicons and a few other things (although ordering anything would have to wait a week because I kinda spent myself poor because of my spur of the moment purchase.)

    The following Tuesday, I was headed home from work and because of road construction in the area, wasn’t able to get on my onramp for the highway. As it so happens, it meant I’d have to drive directly past the same gunshop before I could turn around. And I was curious to see if I could get night sights a little sooner. So I stopped in (right around closing time). There was maybe one customer and two or threesalesmen

    • (This is what I get for trying to type a novel on my phone… Typos and it posting before I was ready)

      Anyway, there was maybe one customer (at least I don’t remember seeing any others) and two or three salesman still there, all congregated at the rear of the store (where I hadn’t been on Friday when I was there). I walk back and I ask if they had anything and they showed me a few types they had in stock, but no Trijicons. But instead of trying to twist my arm into getting what they had, they offered to order a set for me, and then do the install at an EXTREMELY fair (as in, I was honestly shocked when I heard it) price. When I asked the gunsmith if he was sure, his response made me decide on the spot that I’d be going to that store for anything firearm related from that point.

      Since they day I bought that M&P, I’ve spent a few HOURS either browsing or buying something or another there (4 trips in three weeks) and I’ve already started shopping for a number of other guns to build out my collection (With their layaway program, I’ve got a feeling that’s gonna happen pretty damn fast). I was literally just in there cross shopping an M&P Shield and a Glock 43.

        • I’ve got my eye on a PS90 on the wall (they have a massive tactical/black rifle selection), a Five-seveN to go with the PS90, an M&P15 and a M&P Shield in 9. Plus lights, magazines, optics…

          They’ll get a few grand out of my back pocket before the year is over. Hell, before the summer is over…

  19. Delia’s Gun Shop! Right next to Joe’s steaks (chinks) im glad we got a Philly guy in this article. Wow thats awesome. I prefer Locks gun shop nearby but this place is great too. Guy with beard in photo i think is the owner and alwalys been cool with me and gave good solid info. Only thing i didnt like about the store is the awkward gunstore gun club silence which might kill the vibe of a new and non-confident shooter. You guys might know what im talking about. You walk into a gun store and you prob are the only customer in the store thats actively shopping and the owner or clerk is talking to a guy or a group sitting in chairs and then they all stop talking when you walk in and wait till you leave. Thats only happened to me once in Delia’s and once in another store pistol people on state road. Every other time has been great.

  20. There are dang few guys that will not, grudgingly get drug a couple hours by a women for some BS thing she wants or another. So while doing so find a LGS that works. Its 2015 local doesn’t have to be 50ft from your front door.

    And when you decide you “need” ________ ask them to find/get you the _______. If that doesn’t work THEN perhaps go to the FFL transfer route. Why does the LGS have to survive on $25 chump change? Do you in your line of work? $75/hr mechanic, $5 latte el BS, $8 hamburger etc.

    Dicks is Obuma suck up black rifle Nazi (2minutes after Sandy Hook), local Flander Mountain is the most over priced/useless/unknowledgeable joint I’ve ever seen.

  21. The few local gun stores in my city and neighboring villes are terrible. From $12.99 boxes of Wolf .223 to $75 transfers and $749 Carbon 15s, I don’t earn enough money to not mind wasting it on them. The vast majority of my gun funds are spent online. As much as I enjoy supporting local businesses, I’m not going to be taken to the cleaners unless I need some dress pants pressed.

  22. Unfortunately in Northern Illinois it seems that good LGS are a myth. Especially Article II in Lombard. I wanted to give them a chance at my money before buying a Tavor. Asked them how much it would be to order one and was quoted $2200. No thank you, I think I’ll pick one up online for $1600.

  23. The only LGS worth a damn isn’t all that L… All the L ones are wildly overpriced dicks. I have to drive almost 70 miles to find a brick-and-mortar gun shop where I’d be willing to spend my money.


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