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Experiential marketing. That’s industry jargon for “try before you buy.” The thousands of people who bought tickets to the “shoot, shop, buy” Texas Firearms Festival provide proof of concept. As do the FIREARM BRAND days at various gun ranges throughout the country. Ruger’s climbing on the EM bandwagon, inviting enthusiasts to a free test drive of the new Ruger American Pistol this weekend. [Click on the image above to go to the “find a range” widget.] The first five rounds are on us! Ruger’s email blast proclaims. That’s a bit mean. But is the concept sound? Do you try before you buy a new gun?

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  1. Sometimes it’s difficult. I’ve sold a lot of guns, or traded them back in after shooting them.
    I know, sometimes taking a loss.
    I lucked out with the Ruger precision rifle. I was hoping for a great shooter, and I got one.

  2. Seems like a no-brainer… always try before you buy. Find a range that does rentals and do yourself a favor: test ’em out. Even if you’re certain you want X, it’s best to compare it to Y and Z so you can either reinforce your case for X or remove your blinders. I was all set on a Shield as a single stack carry option, ended up with a Kahr P9 after 100 rounds through each. The Sig P320 looks great on paper, doesn’t fit my paws well and made me realize I’m pretty much married to my G19. I also like shooting new products from not-for-me manufacturers (Sig, Beretta) just to confirm that they’re still not for me. Variety is the something of something.

    • “Seems like a no-brainer… always try before you buy.”

      That doesn’t work very well when the gun in question has been out of production for many moons.

  3. Sometimes a rental pistol is broken in so nicely that when you purchase the new model there can be a disappointment at first. This happened with the Beretta 92FS. I rented it and it was such a sweet shooter. When I eventually purchase mine, the trigger needed a break in period of at least 1000 rounds. I stuck with it hoping it would be like the rental. Turns out, I was not disappointed and it has become my regular range gun.

  4. I never used to until I went through a spat of bad purchases. Ever since then, I try my hardest to find a place that rents what I’m thinking of purchasing. So far, I’ve had success with this new approach.

    • Same here… I try before I buy now.

      I was a mess when I started buying pistols. I chased after what was right for me (and threw away a lot of money in the process) until I finally gave in and bought THE pistol I’d wanted all along but didn’t want to pay the money for. (AFTER a rental, of course!)

      Best choice I’ve made yet – over a year and still perfectly happy 🙂

  5. Would if I could but that’s generally not an option (exception: Glocks and M&Ps seem to be reliably rentable and numerous ranges).

    And unlike a car, even when you CAN test drive a gun, it’s rarely going to be the same gun that you end up taking home. So you’re still at the mercy of the manufacturer’s QC.

  6. Whenever possible, yes. I’m about to drop a fairly large amount of money on something. I want to see/feel it in action before I put down my hard-earned dollars.

  7. Yes and no.

    I often buy what I’ve tried (and like).

    And I buy without trying but employ the experiences and reviews of other trusted sources. So I am not an early adopter in the firearms world. Just every other world. Pays off too, getting the post-recalled, second-gen updated versions after the crash test dummies post their range time fails. Usually puts me a year out of pop culture.

  8. Yes until now; can’t find a CZ-75 of any format to rent, so “blind date” for CZ-75BSA.

    Line extensions however I’m usually fine going virgin to the marriage bed: Single Six Convertible and Bearcat after New Blackhawk.

  9. I will not bother trying HK or Glock. They work every time and ive shot enough of them for it not to matter. Same with ARs, AKs, SKSs, and Remington, savage, mosin-nagant, and mauser bolt guns.

    I look more for fit, finish and feel before I purchase, excluding the HKs they all will probably be modified.

  10. There are a few guns I had absolutely no interest in, and then tried them. I was hooked and eventually added them to my collection.

  11. We did for my wife’s glock 43. Ended up borrowing a G43 and a Sig P938 from 2 friends. The only range I could find that would rent a G43 was far away, had to buy a membership, then pay for rental and buy their ammo to shoot. Would have cost $60 just to try 50 rounds at a range I would never go to again.

  12. It’s kinda weird, really. I did the try before buy thing with all my wives and they turned out to be lemons. I didn’t do the try before buy thing with most of my guns and they all worked out fine.

    Go figure.

  13. To a certain extent, yes.

    But, do I absolutely have to shoot a certain brand, caliber, size, model etc. of the generic types (AK, AR, Glock) before buying, no.

  14. I’ve gotten to that point in collecting where I’m wanting weird or rare stuff.

    * P08’s
    * 9mm revolvers
    * Used bolt action shotguns FOR FUN
    * Lever action guns in super-popular calibers.

    I don’t know many places in rural WV where I could shoot, let alone see a S&W M929 without putting a down payment on it first.

  15. My wife and I rented several guns once. It was a lot of fun. Very informative for the both of us. I think the business model is changing for local gun sellers. The newest range in town has over 50 different hand guns to rent. Couples night, ladies only classes, monthly shooting competitions open to any firearm.
    Internet research is must. But a test drive when you have the chance as a new shooter is not to be turned down.

  16. Have gotten diamonds and gravel by buying w/o trying.
    But despite my enthusiasm and extensive research, plus 25 years with a flawless Gen 1 G19, I decided to try the G43 before buying. I was convinced after 50 rounds that this was indeed the subcompact 9mm I’d waited for, and bought it a week later.

  17. One of the reasons why I don’t buy many modern guns is that in classic firearms designs, I can change/adjust/refine what I don’t like about a gun.

    When most of your parameters are cast in cheez-whiz at the factory, well, you’d better rent before you buy.

  18. When ever possible but I couldn’t find the AR-15 to test in Columbia, MO so I got it anyway and it turned out fine. Of course, I did have an M-16 for a while about 50 years ago which may have been a factor. Not that I have that many guns, but so far, if they feel right when I hold them, they seem to shoot right when I try them.

  19. I mostly rely on internet research (TTAG and such). I have only test fired one, my S/W M28-2 that I purchased via gun show loop hole… erm.. I mean purchase. Everyone present, including the sellers father-in-law (his property) wanted a turn to shoot it.

  20. Renting before buying is not always an option, many ranges tend to have a limited selection. I’ve seen ranges that didn’t even have a 1911 to take for a spin. However, on a recent trip to South Carolina my wife took a shine to the Ruger LCR. It was such a departure from semi-automatics that I suggested we visit PSA and rent one. I’m glad we did because she did not care for the long trigger pull of the DA revolver.

    That said, I tend to stick to either Sig or Beretta DA/SA semi-autos so if you’ve shot one you’ve shot them all. I can trust that the M9A1 won’t be any different then the 92FS and that a P220 will handle much like a P229.

    If we’re buying something radically different we’ll test drive it first.

    • I migrated from a 92fs to Ruger GP100s and I have no affection for DA only guns. I haven’t tried the LCR but I’ve heard it’s a pretty good trigger, but DA is short range only for me. I’ve got so that I can hit on points on the mini silhouettes at 15 yards DA but passed that I’m thumb cocking the hammer. Especially if I’m in a hurry.

      Revolvers tend to have better DA trigger pulls, I assume because the hammers have a longer pivot and lighter springs. I installed a 17# hammer spring on my 92, I think stock was 20#, while my GPs went from 14# (stock) to 10#. The Beretta still isn’t even close to a stock GP100. The PX4s are a little better. Everyone always raves about how smooth the S&W DA triggers are but they’re usually two or three pounds heavier than Ruger.

      Anyway, you don’t need to rent one at a range to learn all that, you just need a LGS that will let you dry fire a couple.

  21. Tested the Sig P320 and HK VP9 at TIFF this year. Bought a P320 at the on-site gun store for the lowest price I have seen (to this day). Have been enjoying it ever since.

    Last year, tried out a PWS 300 BLK pistol and bought one on-site, too. Wife and I also shot the M&P9 and found it really comfortable. Ended up getting one of those eventually, too.

    I don’t want this to sound like an ad for TIFF, but it was a lot of fun and I got to shoot a lot of “what if” or “maybe” guns.

    I wish there was a rental range nearby, like when I lived in CA (gasp!). That range even had a Wilson Combat 1911 for rent.

  22. If possible, but certainly not a deal breaker if it does happen. I do tend to research the hell out of it.

  23. If I can, I will. Generally a lot of the guns that I’m interested in purchasing aren’t being rented out in most ranges around where I live unfortunately. I do try to at least handle the weapon I want to purchase before buying if I can. I buy from manufactures that I trust to make a great gun if I can’t test it out such as Glock, Beretta, Colt, CZ, etc.

  24. If the option is available I’ll do a test drive no questions asked, mainly for pistols regarding ergonomics, but not a requirement

  25. Not really. I too depend on reviews/internet buzz. Print media is the worst-lots of whores. I’m thinking TTAG was one of the few(unique) who stated the Remington R51 was a dog. Not that I ever wanted one. Since I’ve been around all this a mere 5 years I just approach it like everything else in my 60+ years-knowledge is power. I wish I DID have lots of dough to blow on renting lots of different guns…

    • Print media is the worst-lots of whores. Most gun magazines are sort of crap. Good maybe at explaining the gun, but quality and reliability evaluations, no way.

  26. Absolutely, always try to handle what I’m interested in buying. Unfortunately, most places near me are limited in what they offer. They all got Glock’s, they all have S&W M&P’s, they all have a 1911, but none of them have the little NAA’s, the Judge/Governor, a .327, or any carry sized .380 or 9mm. Whatever…

  27. Personally, I prefer to test-drive any vehicle or firearm before buying, but it’s not always possible. That doesn’t mean I won’t if I can’t.
    However, I know a couple guys who buy whatever strikes their fancy without prior testing or listening to advice, reviews, etc. Just recently one of them asked me my recommendation for a .380 or 9mm in the sub-$350 range. I pointed him towards the Bersa or Makarov, offered to set up some range time on each, and provided a heap of information on them.
    But instead he bought a Cobra because it was cheap and green. *sigh*

  28. I’d like too but there is no place to rent a gun for hundreds of miles around me so I’ve never actually had the chance.

    Zip code 59821, closest is a three hour drive…and all the others are at least twice that.

  29. Really do not have rental gun ranges around me that I know of so guns are a pig in a poke
    Some of the winners.
    Remington 870 Wingmaster.
    Remington 788.
    Remington Nylon 66.
    Ruger 10/22.
    Ithaca 37.
    Escort Pump
    Walther PP.
    Ruger SR9.
    Not so much.
    Marlin 39A
    Marlin 60.
    Ruger Mini 14.

  30. Getting old I wanted to test my reloading skills less. 1911s and N frame Smiths kinda force the issue.

    I have lots – a decade + of Glock trigger time – so please.

    Bought a CZ PCR unseen. If I had tried first I would not bought it. Mediocre sights and a longish trigger.

    A few boxes of training boxes down range – inherent accuracy apparent reliability and reflexive ergonomics – and I would not trade it.

    You don’t know it till you own it.

  31. I’ve dry fired a few at the LGS but never live fire. I’d note that when it comes to a carry handgun, shooting a box at the range isn’t necessarily going to tell you how it will handle on your belt all day. After you’ve gone through a couple you start getting a better idea of what you want.

  32. …I didn’t, but in retrospect I probably should have:
    – LC380 turned out to be too small for my hands, had to add a 3rd party grip
    – 870 Express had quality issues with shells jamming, still fighting that
    – American .308 had balance issues, had to add some weight to the stock

  33. No. The only range around here that rents is a massive rip off, around $50 to shoot 50 rounds through a rental gun. At that point, I am much better off just buying and taking the loss of selling something I don’t like in the used market.

  34. I always spend some time with them on the range first. I’ve shot guns well that I never thought I would have before I pulled the trigger, and had guns I thought would be great just not perform well for me.
    If I can’t find a way to try a firearm I’m interested in, I’m happy to wait until I can.

  35. I was about to say absolutely, but I have a Garand on order and haven’t ever fired one.

    When I picked up the G19, though, I wanted to look at the PPQ. Nobody had one for rent or to even look at, so my decision was made for me. Got a chance to handle one a couple weeks ago and have to admit that I do feel some regret.

  36. Well I’m from Israel and our choices limited to market and gun dealers..
    Glock, CZ, Smith, Taurus…. that will most of our options to have also good customer service


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