The Truth About Buying at Big Box Retailers and Local Gun Stores

local gun store LGS

Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Before I begin, the editorial staff here at TTAG has asked me to make sure it’s absolutely clear that I am biased towards small, local retailers. Because I am one. Still, there are a lot of things that big box retailers can do that small box stores can’t and it’s worth taking a look at both options.

The day started like any other. I had a walk-in customer with a problem that nobody over at Academy, Dick’s or Walmart seemed to be able to fix.

The gentleman walked in with an old top break revolver from Smith & Wesson. He wanted some ammo for it and he was having trouble finding any. He first went to Academy and they sold him a box of ammo. That wasn’t the right caliber.

Next, he went to Dick’s across the street. They sold him some ammo that was also wrong. Walmart admitted to not having anything other than the rifle ammo behind the counter. After a search of local gun stores near him, he came to me.

Big Box Store pros: They’re open, convenient locations, lots of selection.

Big Box Store con: They don’t employ the most helpful or knowledgeable staff.

I looked at his gun and although I didn’t have any .38 S&W short ammo, I pointed him to a few places online where he could buy some. He asked if he could return any of the ammo he bought and I told him that most big box stores don’t do returns on ammo.

For those who were wondering, the teenager working at Academy sold him a box of .32 ACP. The person working the counter that afternoon at Dick’s sold him a box of .38 Specials. Both are useful cartridges, but hardly interchangeable with .38 S&W short.

He seemed puzzled that someone who was working in the gun department didn’t know much about guns. I explained to him that the people behind the gun counter are typically not gun people, but warm bodies the store puts there to prevent theft.

I was on vacation recently and visiting some family and I got to witness the grand opening of a new Bass Pro Shop store. I had never been to one, so I walked in and did some browsing. While there, I overheard two employees chatting.

Employee A: You must know a lot about guns to work at the gun counter!

Employee B: Nope. I just showed up and they hired me and told me to stand here and they’d train me later.

That explains so much.

Granted, some smaller retailers – for some reason I can’t fathom, the majority of urban legends, myths, etc. seem to come from pawn shops – have pretty poor reputations as far as being knowledgeable and up to speed on current product lines, features and firearm laws.

I’ve heard both big and small box employees spout factually inaccurate things like it’s illegal to carry hollow point ammunition in Texas, or your gun only needs night sights if you plan on shooting at night. One told a customer that the color of your belt should match your holster…by law.

I’m not making those up. Those were actual conversations that made my head hurt.

Sportsmans Finest, Austin, Texas local gun store

Sportsman’s Finest, Austin, Texas (RF for TTAG)

Another case that tilts the advantage toward smaller retailers is specialized items. NFA regulated goods, the occasional Barrett MRAD or a Colt slabside. These are items that a Bass Pro, Academy, Cabelas, etc. have no training on and are frequently the source of poor, if any information about.

Big Box Store pros: They have lots of things that you might want to buy.

Big Box Store con: They are in many cases unable/unknowing/unwilling to sell you something exotic that you want because it’s not something they do regularly.

That’s where the smaller retailers can shine, because larger retailers don’t like selling “those kinds of guns.”

Customers browse in the gun library in the new Wheeling, W.Va., Cabela’s store. (AP Photo/Dale Sparks)

Where do big box retailers have an advantage?

Volume lets them bring prices down on a lot of items, and I’ve seen some absolutely smoking deals to be had around Black Friday/Christmas. You have to be a savvy consumer, but if you can spot deals, you can take advantage of their ability to buy en masse.

The downside is everyone else is usually able to spot big savings as well and you’ll be in line with a whole bunch of other folks who want to save a few bucks, too. If you’re patient and don’t mind waiting, your wallet will thank you.

Big Box Store pros: When they decide to make deals, they make some great deals and it’s worth braving the crowds and the mall parking lot for the savings.

Big Box Store con: Everyone else is in the same boat and you’re going to spend an hour in line waiting to get your stuff.

What I’ve always been proud of as a small retailer is the ability to have precision in operations. For example, if I have a customer doing some shopping for a birthday or an anniversary, the first question I like to ask is what’s the deadline?

If thunderstorms in Memphis back up Fedex or a flood hits Louisville, I need to know what’s going on so that special someone gets that special present.

Most big box retailers are able to order stuff, but it’s a giant question mark as to when it will arrive. They’re limited by what their computer and centralized buying group allows them to order. When they open the box, you’ll get a phone call.

Smaller, more agile retailers usually have a dozen vendors they can order from – and it’s almost down to a science where if someone walks in at noon on Wednesday, if my usual (or not so usual) vendors have the item in stock, I can have it here on Thursday at 1:45pm when the big brown or purple and orange truck rolls up.

Whereas a big box store is used to pulling things off the shelf, we’ve got ordering what we don’t have down to a science because we do it so often.

If a customer is under the gun and needs a present for the big party on Saturday or Sunday, we’ve got to use our skills that pay the bills to get a gun here by Friday, cleared of any waiting periods and 4473 complete, pray there are no NICS delays and acquire and apply the appropriate gift wrap and bow.

We have the ability to do that because we do that sort of thing almost daily.

Other folks are bound by what the computer allows them to do and the ordering/shipping process is at times that are not transparent to the employees of large corporations with complex ordering and supply systems.

If timing is a concern, a lot of big box stores stay open late and open up early, including Sundays and Mondays. Smaller retailers often close early on Saturday, entirely on Sunday and sometimes they take a Monday off since they work half or a whole Saturday.

As someone who has worked seven days a week during the busy season, I understand that everyone needs a break. And when your local small retailer isn’t able to fill your needs on a Sunday or Monday – the big box stores are there, able to pick up the slack.

In conclusion, there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides. For more specialty items, a smaller retailer can be more responsive to your needs and competitive on price with better service. And in the case of strange old firearms, they’re a resource that won’t sell you two boxes of the wrong caliber ammo that cannot be returned.

There’s always a balance, and for every customer who prefers a smaller environment with old fashioned service, there are other customers who have no problem braving the mall parking lot and crowds at the gun counter for a deal.

For service on a Sunday or during Christmas/Black Friday – your local big box might have some very big deals with specials that can’t be beat. Plus, you get to browse around and look for gun stuff while your better half is doing some shopping at Macy’s.

You can’t really beat that for convenience.

Don’t be afraid to shop around and find the retailer that suits your needs best.

comments

  1. avatar Timothy Toroian says:

    Many moons ago I walked into a Western Auto store to buy some .32 Auto ammo. They said they’d just sold the last bow to the guy standing beside me. I asked what kind of .32 he had. His gun was a revolver and they sold him auto ammo with a box of revolver ammo still sitting on the shelf. I got him straight, educated the clerk, and we all left happy. That was half a century ago in Marion, Iowa.

  2. avatar Randy Jones says:

    I stick with my local firearm shop when it comes to guns. Why? Because Ryan Feldman can build anything, restore anything, fix anything and knows about more stuff than I can think to ask. If I want to order something he can give me the pros and cons ahead of time, if he doesn’t know, he knows who to ask. While his selection of firearms is limited compared to a big box store and his prices may be just a smidge more, its worth the knowledge that come with the purchase. And he can order anything I am looking for.
    None of that happens at Walmart, little of that happens at most other big box stores.
    I am a firm believer in my local dealer.

    1. avatar ROBERT Powell says:

      ALLWAYS ,IF YOU CAN .buy local, the big-box stores do have lots of stuff some good some bad, but YOU ARE THE ONE THAT MUST KNOW THE DIFFERENCE, they do not ,nor do they care.. in seattle we have no “small shops” they all moved out because of the stupid city council and their ammo tax,inventory tax, and extreme hate for gun stores.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        I mainly buy from a local family owned gun store. I have picked up a few guns at BiMart, Big5, Walmart, Ace hardware, and a pawn shop. Our local Ace hardware pretty much is a gun store.

        One thing I love about my local dealer is his awesome selection of used and consignment firearms. Few box stores will have a CZ82, SKS, or Security Six sitting on the shelf. Also, he will sometimes give me a discount since I’m a regular.

        It’s nice to be on a first name basis with your merchant, when buying guns and ammo.

    2. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

      Same here. My local shop owner is a certified armorer in multiple platforms and knows more in his little finger than I’ll probably ever know in my lifetime…and I’ve been shooting and building for most of my life. I always learn something new when he speaks. I always round up on the bill and give him an extra $20 to $40, paying in cash. This keeps him happy to see me, and guarantees he’ll always take good care of anything I bring to him that might be beyond my own pay grade.

      The employees at Walmart usually don’t even know who currently has the key to the ammo cabinet. I’m not joking. It’s always a wait of up to 20 minutes as they try to locate whichever supervisor pulled the short straw that day and has the key in his/her pocket on the other end of the store.

      1. avatar Jerms says:

        Anyone who has ever tried to buy ammo at walmart knows youre gonna be waiting 20 minutes or more until you finally give up so i dont think anyone would argue with you. At least academy doesn’t lock their ammo up

      2. avatar PATRON49IFT says:

        Guesty–I’m with you on the extra $20; “for a cup of coffee”. Works wonders and they appreciate seeing you walk in.

      3. avatar Perry says:

        Re: Walmart ammo

        I bought there once. Then I bought a reloading press. Less wait.

  3. avatar Darkman says:

    If you are looking for a good example of a first time firearms purchasers experience attempting to buy a firearm from a big box retailer. Go to Business Insider and read the article by Hayley Petersen. On her experience attempting to purchase a firearm from a Walmart in Chesterfield Virginia. It is very enlightening for the curious and educational for the uninformed.

    1. avatar sparkyinWI says:

      Her experience shows us how phony the Walmart stop selling guns, we do not feel safe, etc. virtue signalling really is. If these folk are truly that stupid and gullible one has to wonder how they manage to actually survive in the real world. Walmart is anal in its methods and sells nothing but hunting style long guns. If these folks complaining want to be taken seriously they need to show at least a minimal level of critical thinking.

      1. avatar Jerms says:

        After reading it, even the LGS probably cant sell her a gun with a driver’s license with a previous address on it

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          It depends on the FFL’s policy and, in some regards, state law. Federal law doesn’t say the address has to be on your photo ID. To quote the ATF on the topic “A combination of government issued documents may be used to meet the requirements of an identification document.” (https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/what-form-identification-must-licensee-obtain-transferee-firearm)

          In Colorado it’s entirely legal to sell someone a gun if they have their previous address on their ID provided that 1) the picture on the ID matches that person and 2) the person can produce another form of government ID with their current address.

          Happily, you can update your voter registration card online in Colorado. So if you walk in with an ID from your previous house you show them that, tell them it’s an old address, pull out your phone and show them your up-to-date voter registration that matches the name on your ID and you’re good to go. I did this earlier this year.

          Some places won’t accept such a “combination” and will tell you it’s illegal. I just tell them that it is legal, show them the ATF’s own words on it to prove it and then, even if they change and say they will sell it to me, tell them that they obviously don’t want my money and I leave to go spend money somewhere that 1) knows the law and 2) doesn’t feel the need to hassle a paying customer.

    2. avatar B.D. says:

      lol no it’s not.

      It literally only covers the fact of what they can and cannot do. She has no idea what kind of “rifle” she wanted. They showed a $150 one… That article is not meant to be “educational”… it was written by someone with no understanding of purchasing firearms trying to see if they could obtain one easily. The only thing that article does is prove that A: Wal-mart sucks for buying guns and B: At least she got enlightened on some portions of the legality issues behind purchasing a firearm.

      1. avatar J Gibbons says:

        It’s that second point that lying liberal gun-grabbers need to read and learn. Despite what former president said, it is not, nor has it ever been, easier to buy a gun than a computer or a book. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/07/14/obamas-strange-claim-that-it-is-easier-for-teens-to-buy-a-glock-than-get-a-book/)

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    I DO go to my LGS’s and big box-namely Cabelas and Point Blank. Cabelas will let you return an item with pretty much no questions asked. My LGS namely Westforth in Calumet Township,IN will go out of their way to help me. Dude spent 1/2 hr. making sure my light would fit on my rifle. No charge. Blythes in Griffith,IN spent quite awhile unjamming my shotgun too. I could go on but suffice to say the Cabelas guy’s wouldn’t help much(there are a few old timer’s who know a bit). Never bought online-yet. Will Amazon help?!?

    1. avatar Jerms says:

      Never had a problem buying online from bud’s. Just find an FFL holder that has a pawn shop or operates out of their home. The gun store guys put you on the pay-no-mind list of you dont buy from them. I guess $35+ for 10 minutes of their time isnt profitable

      1. avatar How_Terrible says:

        My preferred local gun store has no issue doing transfers for me.. Though part of that might be because for every transfer I’ve done through them I’ve probably bought 3 – 4 guns directly from them.

  5. avatar Tom T says:

    My experiences are nearly opposite of stereotypes. One LGS in my city has hands down the lowest prices on the most popular firearms. Their Thanksgiving Day sales are legendary. For a single, privately owned store they do enormous volune because of this. Also in contrast to the norm: they are complete a**holes to customers. Don’t ask questions and don’t chit-chat. Just pay yoyr money and move along.

    The local “big box” store I use has the best prices on ammo and are the friendliest people in the business. Yes, some staff lack basic knowledge but buying & ordering is a MUCH better experience.

    1. avatar NHTransplant says:

      It just depends. I used to work at a LGS/range very part time (mainly to keep up with my knowledge on firearms). The staff were all nice (unless you were an idiot/walking safety violation on the range). But another store I used to go to was really bad. My wife, right in front of me, was treated like she was an idiot and as if she knew nothing of firearms. At the time, she owned MORE firearms than me and knew a lot about the firearm she wanted (I’ve since rectified that discrepancy…). Ultimately it depends. I hear the bad LGS has improved since a new, larger store popped up nearby (but I haven’t been back since they were insulting to my wife). But knowledge on firearms/laws by staff at LGS are hit or miss, depending depending on if they are gun-people, or just working due to it being the best job they could get. Was recently at a Bass Pro, and had to intervene in a conversation between staff and customers due to numerous factual inaccuracies in law given by the staff.

  6. avatar S R says:

    Why is it that some local stores don’t sell you a gun from the safe that hasn’t been on display? Big box stores have never denied me that. It’s happened a couple of times where I try to support a local store just to be told they only sell what’s on display, at which I say thank you, turn around and buy the one in the safe at the big box store.

    1. avatar Tom T says:

      That’s weird.

    2. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

      Most LGS don’t have a safe. They have security systems and steel shutters they pull down over the windows at night. What they have is on display. If they do have a safe they move the guns in and out of it daily. They don’t have boxes of guns in the back.

      Big box stores do the opposite. Have display guns, and a bunch of guns in boxes in the back.

  7. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    Just because they are a ‘Big Box’, is no assurance they are ignorant behind the counter.

    Expect them to not know anything, but be pleasantly surprised when they do know occasionally.

    TTAG’s own Ralph part-times at a Big Box, if memory serves…

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Yes, I do. Nobody can say that I don’t know my stuff, but one of my cohorts is a master angler who doesn’t know much about guns, and two are rookies who don’t know much about anything.

  8. avatar Bill B says:

    Agreed. This past weekend, I purchased a 1911 that I’d been wanting for some time from a sort of big box store. My wife was looking to update her carry gun. We started at a local store, got some extremely helpful information, went with me to the place I purchased my gun and did more looking. We wound up at a very small LGS we frequent and purchased her new carry gun after nearly an hour of questions and help from the owner.
    Both big and small have their place. We prefer small most of the time because, as the author noted, they’re only too eager to help.

    I’ve donned my flame retardant jacket for buying a 1911. Be gentle. BTW, hers was a Sig.

    1. avatar sparkyinWI says:

      Nothing wrong with a 1911 if that is what you like to carry. Carry on so to speak.

    2. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

      1911 for the win.

    3. avatar Gordon in MO says:

      My introduction to the M1911 was decades ago in the Marine Corps. Still my favorite. Carry an officer’s model.

      Semper Fi !

    4. avatar Timothy says:

      The way I see it, there are three basic rules for choosing the carry piece best for you.

      1, you’re comfortable carrying it so that you have it on you.

      2, you like to shoot it so that you’ll practice with it when the opportunity arises

      3, you trust that it will be sufficient to deter or stop an attacker.

      I don’t see any reason why a 1911 wouldn’t deter or stop an attacker and the other two are subjective, so if it’s what you like, then it’s the perfect gun for you.

    5. avatar JFrame says:

      1911, It’s like a GLOCK, but for men. 😉

  9. avatar Mark F says:

    I bought my first gun at a local sporting goods store(since closed), my second at Big 5, my third at Bass Pro, and my last 15+ at the same mom and pop FFL. They once searched all of their suppliers for half an hour to find something I wanted, have received guns they had to modify to make CA legal, and to top it off their everyday prices are what you’d get at a normal big box sale. The only thing you miss out on is big box door busters, and depending on local FFL size, being able to handle a variety of guns before buying. The Bass Pro buying process in general and specifically their policy of walking you to the exit before giving you the gun made me swear off big box gun purchases.

    1. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

      Never heard that policy before. Then again, never bought anything at Bass Pro. If it’s to avoid scaring other customers, they could simply pull a neon orange “flag” strip through the action so that anyone would see it’s not loaded, and ask you to remove it only after leaving the store. No need to babysit you on the way out.

      Similar reason as to why I stopped shopping at our local Best Buy store several years ago. They implemented a similar policy, and when I spoke up saying it was rather insulting (after having patronized that same store since it was first built years earlier), the guard shrugged and said I didn’t have to come back again if I didn’t want to.

      Never spent another dime there again.

      1. avatar Mark F says:

        My understanding is that they don’t want someone getting the gun at the counter and then walking over to the ammo section and loading it. Which is a moot point now in California (ammo must be out of customers’ reach) so they may have changed the policy. Being walked to the door was stupid, but honestly the worst part was actually getting to that point. Because of the waiting period, you’re not dealing with a sales person at pickup. You hit a buzzer at the gun counter and someone EVENTUALLY comes out from storage to get your info and then EVENTUALLY brings out your gun.

      2. avatar Rick the Bear says:

        Guesty: That happened to me at a Dick’s in Brockton, MA once. Walked to the exit. That was way before their virtue signalling BS.

    2. avatar Tom T says:

      Academy does the same thing and it has never bothered me (two purchases). Their process is overly thorough with the salesperson reading the rules (stawman purchases, etc) then a manager duplicating that. They walk you directly to the door and hand you the bag/box.

      Keep in mind that not one of them WANTS to. It is a company requirement. Imagine how many customers take out their anger & frustration on the unfortunate salesperson. At my local Academy they are extremely professional and friendly the whole time. As I said, I play the game and don’t mind one bit.

      1. avatar Nelson Thompson says:

        Academy does the same thing with bows and really freaked out one day when I brought mine in (installed in a hard case no less) and said that I had to give the bow to an employee to even bring it into the store. BTW, this same store has a small range where you can test bows and it is not supervised.

      2. avatar LazrBeam says:

        Same thing at PX’s. At least the ones I’ve purchased from.

    3. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      ” The Bass Pro buying process in general and specifically their policy of walking you to the exit before giving you the gun made me swear off big box gun purchases.”

      That was my experience at a WalMart in Florida about 15 years back, when buying a blued Mini-14 they were closing out on for 450 bucks. I snapped it up and was escorted to the front door. Just for fun (and with a *big*smile on my face) as he handed it to me, I asked him if they sold any ski masks. He kinda gave me an “I really don’t need this shit” look and and handed the Ruger over…

      (I swear, I *actually* did that. 😉 )

      (No, I would *not* do it again today!)

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        ” The Bass Pro buying process in general and specifically their policy of walking you to the exit before giving you the gun made me swear off big box gun purchases.”

        I bought a gun at Bass Pro earlier this year and they did no such thing. The associate gave me my new gun at the gun counter and I carried it to the cashier. Nobody batted an eye.

        1. avatar No One Special says:

          I think it really depends on what Bass Pro you are at. I’ve bought guns from a bass Pro locally and their world headquarters in Springfield MO and the process is simple, straightforward, and I walked out with the firearms I purchased. This has been awhile ago so maybe things have changed since. I don’t really know. Now I buy from LGS or order directly from the manufacturer and pay the LGS a transfer fee. Big box stores can’t touch the prices I get otherwise so I don’t bother. Sales prices at big box store would be great if they had what I wanted on sale.

        2. avatar LazrBeam says:

          Experienced the same at Cabela’s. The firearm was in a sealed, very securely taped up box. I was not to unseal and open it before I was outside.

    4. avatar Mark H says:

      It’s stupid. Cabelas does it too. I have a visible, loaded .45 auto on my belt (AZ being an open carry state) but they walk you to the door with your new .22 bolt-action rifle.

  10. avatar No One Special says:

    Moral of the story, educate yourself on the subject at hand and do your homework on where is best to go for what you already know you want or need. I’ve seen people behind the counter at small gun stores that really didn’t know their ass from their elbow when it came to guns. Big box stores are definitely worse. The worst part is they get pissy when you don’t take their ignorant illogical advice that more times than not you didn’t ask for.

  11. avatar GunnyGene says:

    A large part of the problem – besides the retailers (large or small) not knowing squat – is that the customers also often don’t know squat. In this day and age of easy access to information, there is no excuse for not knowing everything there is to know about guns, ammo, accessories, ballistics, and on and on.

    Idiots trying to educate other idiots is not a winning strategy. DO YOUR FRICKING HOMEWORK!!

  12. avatar Montesa_VR says:

    If my wife went into a sporting goods store and the person behind the counter sold her a box of .32 ACP or .38 special for a firearm that has .38 short engraved on the barrel, I would be sending photographs of the gun and the ammunition to the president of the company with a reminder that using the wrong ammunition can be lethal.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      I doubt anyone has ever seen ‘.38 S&W Short’ engraved on any firearm.

      In America the round is known as .38 S&W. In England it was .380 revolver.

  13. avatar Mad Max says:

    I once purchased a gun at Cabela’s.

    Most of my 50 or so guns came from FFLs/local dealers, gun broker, or private sales.

    I use an FFL that specializes in transfers and only has a few guns for sale himself. I frequently buy from Bud’s, AiM Surplus, Palmetto State Armory, and gun broker but most of my collection came from local gun shops.

  14. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “The Truth About Buying at Big Box Retailers and Local Gun Stores”

    Do your own homework, then buy where you want, generally it’s at the best price…IF availability is an issue, order/buy online and have it transferred to an LGS…

  15. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

    When I walk in to the LGS that I frequent the most they say Hi Ansel. No big box store has ever been able to do that. Could be 2 months or a week but they always know my name.

    1. avatar WI Patriot says:

      And you pay for that…in one way, or another…

  16. avatar Cknarf says:

    One of the last times I was at my LGS they had a run of the mill Izhevsk 91/30 priced at $350 lol.

    No thanks.

    I usually use them for transfers, only because I have to.

    Local pawn shop is pretty great when it comes to old guns priced well. Love that place.

  17. avatar Hank says:

    I want to know what gun store that is in the picture. Not a SA fan, but that back wall… RPK, G3, HK33… not stuff you often see in most gun stores anymore.

    1. Caption under the photo. Capitol City Arms in Springfield, Illinois.

  18. avatar Graybeard says:

    Something else to consider (and I don’t know enough to opine upon) is what happens if the new gun you bought turns out to be a lemon.

    This past June 19th I purchased a Walther PPK/S .22LR at a big box store that has a policy of no returns on firearms (or ammo). It turned out to be a lemon. As of yesterday I’ve sent it to the service department in Arkansas for the 4th time – so far. What would/could a local dealer have been able to do to help resolve my issues? I have been told by a store employee who has been helpful and seems somewhat knowledgeable that Corporate will intervene if need be. We’ll see.

    Our biggest local dealer is very friendly – if you have spent plenty of money in his store. He is a jerk to his employees and small customers. I avoid them whenever possible. I really don’t think he’d care if he sold me a lemon.

    FWIW, my experience with the Walther service department has been spotty. Some good, some insulting. Some actions have me scratching my head – such as replacing the entire slide to fix the rear sight.

    1. avatar Ansel Hazen says:

      My LGS would have made it right whatever it took.

      1. avatar Graybeard says:

        Ansel – I suspect any decent LGS would have that policy. The only two LGS’s in my area are the guy who kowtows to big bucks and sneers at small fry (like me) and a guy whose specialty is custom-built MSRs and holsters. If I have to call the Big Box Corporate I’ve been assured they will intervene with Walther on my behalf.

        If I have to – I’m trying to give them the chance to make it right.

  19. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    Darn it Hank…I looked down and saw that I am wearing a tan holster on a black belt today…which Agency do I call to turn myself in as a flagrant (or fragrant) violator of the Firearm Matching Acooterments Law?

    When I head over to Kalispell, there is a small LGS (Machine Guns Montana) that sells at the best prices around. They beat all the other local stores…large or small…in price, service and knowledge.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      The Fashion Police?

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        *harrumph, harrumph*

    2. avatar Hush says:

      Speaking of ignorance:
      What you are about to read is true. I wish it was fiction
      A 40+ year old female employee in a drug store told me the reason she did not have nor want a carry permit was because, if a bad guy came in to rob the store that the carry person(s) were obligated, by law, to tell the would be robber that they had a gun. I tried to properly advise her but she would not budge because a Leo friend of hers had told her what was required by law if she got a permit to carry. At that point I gave her a “good day to you” and exited the building.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        Holy cow, Batman…her LEO friend should turn in his / her badge and head back to their Academy for complete re-training.

        1. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

          I’m guessing he told her that she had inform LEOs she was armed during a LEO interaction and she got it mixed up. BTW you do NOT have to inform LEOs in PA and many other states but LEOs here will tell you that have to.

        2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

          Yeppers, in Montana there is no duty to inform LEO’s when you encounter one officially…that will most likely change as the State becomes increasingly Californicated, Washingtonated and LIBerated.

  20. I find that most small gun stores aren’t open on Sundays. If I need ammo on a Sunday, it’s big box or nothing most of the time. Other than that I tend to buy most everything at a small local shop.

  21. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    Buds Guns. That’s all you need to know for guns. The best selection of ammo is Smokey Mountain Knife Works and guess what, they have all the knives you can think of at a great price. Check them both out online or if you are close to Sevierville Tennessee, there is a Buds next door to the Knife Works and they also has an indoor range. As an additional bonus, Bass Pro Shop is just up the road.
    I actually do my gun shopping on line with Buds in Kentucky. I’ve never been able to find a better price on anything and have even quoted Buds price to get a better price at my local shop.

    1. avatar Hush says:

      I use: https://www.sgammo.com/
      They work great for my needs.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      I had a very bad experience with Bud’s. I was trying to buy a pocket 9 for a screaming hot price for my daughter, who lives in Ohio. I live in California. The gun was not on the California roster, and therefore not legal for me to buy here and then send to her. But the transaction was perfectly legal if the gun was sent directly to her ffl in Ohio. Unfortunately, because of the manner in which their ordering system is configured, I had to enter myself as the buyer and could not list my daughter as the recipient in Ohio. The computer automatically and irrevocably changed her address to my address. As a result, Bud’s cancelled the transaction, even though it admitted that what I wanted to do was legal. I was, as you might imagine, royally pissed. They lost the sale and an internet seller got a similar sale instead. I haven’t looked at a Bud’s ad since.

  22. avatar Greta van sustren says:

    Louisville was mentioned in this article…. Does anyone know where the authors store is located?
    I’m in Louisville and always looking for a new place to shop….

  23. avatar GS650G says:

    I get it with the LGS if you have a good one. I’ve got three near me and I’ve bought from all three but lately I’ve bought a few from cabellas because they had good prices and gave me 5 percent off for being a vet.

  24. avatar Sam I Am says:

    This is why capitalism (and entrepreneurship) is a terrible economic system; too many choices. It’s enough to make you run out the door screaming. Just give me a one-size-fits-all government solution, every time.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      We have what are known as ‘First World Problems’. It’s a heavy burden to bear, but bear it we must.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “We have what are known as ‘First World Problems’. It’s a heavy burden to bear, but bear it we must.”

        So many decisions. So many decisions. The horror. The horror.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “So many decisions. So many decisions.”

          In 2015, Bernie Sanders said – “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”

          It’s speaks *volumes* as to ‘Socialist’ plans for America :

          https://reason.com/2015/05/26/bernie-sanders-dont-need-23-choices-of-d/

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “It’s speaks *volumes* as to ‘Socialist’ plans for America :”

          If there is only one choice, you have more time for more things you enjoy. Who really enjoys looking at all the headache treatments on the shelf at the drug store? The fewer choices, the more freedom to do the things you like. Too many choices is a dysfunctional and ineffective way to order society.

          Cuba si, Yankee no.

          Or something

        3. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          It’s kinda scary how good you are doing that, Sam…

        4. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “It’s kinda scary how good you are doing that, Sam…”

          Yeah. Always gotta know who is doing what, and when/how to get back home. Don’t try this at home without a designated driver.

          (Glad you enjoy the entertainment)

  25. avatar Squiggy81 says:

    Big box stores are useful due to their ignorance sometimes. I was able to pick up a brand new Ruger Blackhawk 45 convertible for $332 last year. Somebody at some desk somewhere decided it, and several other guns, had been in inventory too long. I kicked myself later for not picking up a few of their other screaming deals. They also had a new 357 Redhawk on similar discount.
    I deal local when pricing is close, but I’m not above snatching up a steal online or at a box store. Fortunately my local FFL is happy to get transfers.

  26. avatar Mark N. says:

    In California now, ammo has to be in a locked cabinet or behind the counter. With the ammo background check having gone into effect, my Walmart stopped selling ammo. They stopped selling guns a decade ago.

    The Big Box stores have some great deals on some of the more popular and ubiquitous firearms, like pocket nines and rifles and shotguns up to about $1500, but they cannot order anything. On the other hand, all of the local LGSs want $75 to do a transfer of a firearm that purchased off the internet, even when they do not have and could not order that particular item, with sales tax and the $25 DROS on top of that. They really only want to sell you what they have in the case or what they can get from their own suppliers. But when they order a gun for you, you pay MSRP.

  27. avatar Bill says:

    The last gun I bought at a LGS, I had ordered. When it arrived and I examined it at home, I saw that it was a $900 piece of junk (Remington shotgun). I told the dealer that, and he said, “I could of told you that.” Thanks a lot.

  28. avatar Chuckers says:

    Most big box stores don’t carry upper level Wetherby rifles either.

  29. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

    Come on people! This is the 21st century. Just find what you want on the internet (like machine guns and bazookas) , pay for it and it’s on your front stoop the next morning.

    At least that’s how I hear it works from Salon and MSNBC.

    1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

      Klaus: auch du lieber! 😂

  30. avatar Username says:

    Big Box stores are there for when you need a commodity firearm or accessory ASAP. For anything else there is the LGS and online firearm retailers.

  31. avatar BlakeW5 says:

    Another reason to buy from local gun stores, they’re gun people. The owner likes guns and the people that work there are usually into them too. Versus a box store that’ll gladly take your money while the CEO donates to fund anti-2A legislation.

    It also keeps the money in the community as opposed to a large faceless corporation. There’s a thing on Facebook that makes the rounds on occasion, local businesses are the ones sponsoring your kids sports team, helping fun community projects, etc. etc.

  32. avatar LifeSavor says:

    We purchase groceries at a Mom and Pop health food store. Produce from local farmers when seasonal. Meat from a local farmer. Dairy from an Amish organic farm. They sell organic camels milk. It is the only milk my wife can tolerate without getting sick.
    I purchase firearms and ammo at a locally owned shop that also has a beautiful indoor range. All of this helps us feel rooted in our community. Yup, sometimes it costs more, but we find ways to economize. It is worth it.

  33. avatar B.D. says:

    Both the Sportsman and Cabela’s near me are very well staffed. That said, I’d never buy anything from Cabelas because their stuff is overpriced. Every last piece of merchandise in the store is overprices. The local Sportsman Is fairly expensive but not necessarily for everything. They sell brands like Kuhl and expensive hiking boots and such, but they offer tons of hiking equipment and stuff like kayaking equipment both in the low and high dollar range. I have bought 3 guns from them. All for cheaper than the local shop/range. BUT… when I do want to go and shoot the shit with some cool guys or get something tweaked on my firearm that I don’t have the tools for or want to ask a question about, then the local range/shop is where I go. They are called Northwest Shooters. I know there are some Montana’s out there reading this who will also share their experience with that range, and I am sure it will be positive. Also, the local Murdoch’s gives veterans discounts all the time, on everything, plus their random and holiday sales. I went browsing one day and they had a p365 for right around $500… which is cheap. Plus my military discount would put it right around $460… yea… that is pretty awesome. Murdoch’s near me also has a good staff behind the counter. One is a retired LEO and the others are all vets (of the shooter variant… not the chair force or navy).

    So it really just depends on where you live, and also as most of us know, your level of research before shopping and knowledge of what you are in the market for. For novices, they need to start at ranges… renting and taking classes. Not making impulse buys.

    1. avatar LifeSavor says:

      “For novices, they need to start at ranges… renting and taking classes. Not making impulse buys.”

      Wisdom.

    2. avatar B.D. says:

      Also… everything about my FN .300BLK came from the range, NW Shooter. Nobody else made me feel warm and cozy with their advice, also, the bigger stores didn’t really seem to have much interest in helping me with the supersonic/subsonic debate.

    3. avatar Mark H says:

      Cabela’s is rediculously overpriced. The exception being that on ocasion they have rediculously good sales on a few comodity guns. I bought my Ruger American Preditor there, during a decent sale, and used my Cabela’s points. But other then the ocasional Black Friday or Opening of Hunting season sale, your LGS is going to have much better prices.

      Reloading stuff is ok, Sportsmans Warehouse is better.

  34. avatar Walter Przybylski says:

    I hear you all on the local small shops I agree whole heartedly Rogers where I get my guns know me by my name I love that the nearest bass pro treated me like dirt.

  35. avatar Jeff peake says:

    The problem I see with the big box stores is cost.The heating and cooling of a million sq ft and a huge aquarium with half dead fish.A smaller retailer doesnt have all that.That being said I have bought guns every way to buy them except from an unlicensed person at a gun show

  36. avatar Anner says:

    Outstanding relationship with my LGS. Anytime I can buy from them, I can. A little bartering or haggling doesn’t phase them. On occasion, Academy has a coupon that drops the price below what even my LGS can offer. Ammo selection and price is also better at Academy, unless it’s part of a firearm sale at the LGS.

    95+% of my gun money purchases go to the LGS, even with the occasional great deal at Academy.

  37. avatar AndyinMA says:

    I’m in Mass so everything is different; having said that there is an LGS that has great every day prices and amazing sales. Great guys at the counter too. Would not consider anything else.

  38. avatar Chuck says:

    95 – 98% of everything I buy comes from the same little shop I bought my first pistol from nearly 40 years ago. I trust my local gun dealer, he’s never led me astray. He greets me by my first name and his employees are knowledgable in various other areas related to the shooting sports. I’ve bought a few things online and been to a couple of big box stores, but I still prefer the personal service, cameraderie and attention to detail you get supporting a locally owned business. In that 40 year period I’ve purchased almost 20 guns from Keith and crew. 12 I still have. Some were traded in and some I sold outright. Usually because I wasn’t satisfied with the gun. One that I recall easilly was one of the original Ruger P85’s. Rattled like a snake and even from a Ransom Rest, the accuracy was abysmal by my standards. Guns that rattle kind of give me the heebie jeebies. Traded it in towards a 5906, and was very pleased with the trade up. Because it was within a week or two of my purchase and Keith knew how I treat my guns, he gave me the full retail price I’d payed for the Ruger towards the S&W, I didn’t even ask for that, but he did it without batting an eye. You won’t get that kind of customer service over the Net or at any big box store I know of.
    I do have to speak a word of praise for Walmart Store #1001, but the reason why it’s a bit different from the average Walmart (at least it’s the best one of the three), and I’m kind of proud the young man who’s the Sporting Goods Manager for the last 8 years. Years ago, I was asked to provide mentoring for the local 4-H and FFA kids, at the range and teaching safe gun handling and basic marksmanship skills. That young man was one of the first group I worked with. Even after he was through with the 4-H program, he maintains contact with me. We would meet as often as we could at the range we used to run some ordinance. He has thanked me many times for nurturing a love for guns and shooting in him. Although Walmart usually has good prices on long guns and some accessories, they typically have very little selection in guns and accessories. When Bryan took the position when they offered it to him, within a couple of weeks, some major changes took place under his leadership. It’s the best well stocked Sporting Good section in a Wallmart I’ve ever seen. The Gun display cases are usually full most of the time, and empty slots are replenished with a few days of a sale. A wider variety of ammo is available, and is seldom sold out. It’s possible to buy a complete Reloading outfit, and purchase powder, primers and bullets (though corporate will only allow the store to carry RCBS in this district). The other two Walmarts in town don’t carry any Reloading supplies or equipment. You can’t help but feel a little bit of pride, because you took the time and effort to teach some children to be responsible gun owners and see the results in at least one young man or woman.
    Long story, but I agree that shopping local is a much better experience, and well worth the few dollars more.

  39. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I try to buy at my local store. It’s pretty good and they have a good selection and mostly decent prices.

    I try to encourage them to buy from several distributors but they stick with one for 90% of their orders. I see them get stuck with higher prices on certain guns that makes them stick to the shelves.

    One thing I will say is that of them5 or so guys that work there….most know very little about anything that isn’t an AR or Polymer. Their idea of a high end gun is one of those painted Caniks with all the bells and whistles. Different upbringing or introduction to guns. A couple know hunting rifles and scopes.

    Funny thing is imwas there when a guy came in with a 38 S&W revolver and was looking for ammo. Same thing…they tried to sell him 38 special ammo. I stepped in to tell them it wouldn’t work.

    I told him to go to our local Walmart. They usually have some 38 S&W. Kinda funny.

  40. avatar Sean G./The Rookie says:

    “Employee A: You must know a lot about guns to work at the gun counter!

    Employee B: Nope. I just showed up and they hired me and told me to stand here and they’d train me later.”

    This point is sadly true of a whole lot of staff positions in big box stores. I’ve yet to meet a staffer in a Home Depot that knew his stuff the way the folks at the local hardware store (often the owner-operator) around the corner did back in the day.

    Times change, and all that, of course. Just an observation.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      Oh man don’t get me started on Home Depot or Lowes. Half the time you have to flag someone down and force them to help you, and they are never happy about it. I hate going to those stores. The local hardware shops in my area are MUCH better and I will gladly pay an extra $2 for a light bulb because of it.

  41. avatar bb says:

    I use to work the gun counter at cabela’s. I knew enough, and what I didn’t I asked the other dudes who did. About half (at the time) of the staff were actually knowledgeable about guns in at least one aspect. This was even back when they separated the actual counter, library, and NICS. Slightly before bass pro took over, things started going down hill.

    The good counter manager found another job and was canned right when he gave notice. Bass pro fired about half of the middle managers. The counter was without a manager for about 3 or 4 months and people had to step up and lead, all while the hardline manager and the store manager scrambled to hire new people when the gun counter guys quit en masse when they were told they would have to start running back ground checks as both counter and NICS would role into a single firearm role. As a result, the two managers who hired anyone they can. Most have a cursory knowledge of guns, but there were a few who knew nothing and they even hired an anti gun person who would refuse to run background checks on ARs and AKs, and even told the wife of a customer one time to consider calling the cops on her husband if he continues to act weird and buy an AR (this was right after one of the shootings, I think Vegas)

    I left right when they started introducing trigger locks because someone committed suicide with a display gun. It’s been downhill since apparently. But hey, people are getting their employee discounts back. Apparently those were never suppose to go away, and whoever changed the discount policy did so without authorization. Bass pro still doesn’t allow employees to participate in incentive programs like the ruger 4h or the glock program though.

    I use to still go back to do transfers and such since they let me do it for free being an ex employee that helped everyone out. I eventually just started going to my local small shop instead since it’s just 20 bucks and I’m in and out in 15 minutes instead of having to wait 2 to 3 hours if it’s busy, or at least an hour if it’s not due to how many redundant checks cabela’s require to be done on a single form. I still occasionally go in and price match powder and primers with brownells or midwayusa pricing though.

  42. avatar Lee says:

    Isn’t this guy the same suck ass that said ordinary people were too dumb to have a FFL?

  43. avatar LineInTheSand says:

    LGS, Big Box- in the end, I’m just looking for the cheapest FFL transfer, because I sure as heck ain’t spending the extra to buy from them.

    Ammo is shipped to my door, in bulk. Online regular and blue label prices with free shipping and no tax can’t be beat.

    Best of all? I don’t have to deal with any boomers, fudds or the like that plague LGSs. Come in, fill out my form, pay the fee and go.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I imagine everyone is happier with this arrangement.

  44. avatar Hoyt Claggwell says:

    What works for me with purchasing a new firearm:
    1. Do all of my independent research I can via internet or advise from firearm savvy friends.
    2. Search for the best price and buy it, regardless if it’s from big box or small shop. Regarding price/availability/sales person knowledge, I seem to do well with Rural King.

    What works with me with purchasing ammo:
    1. Again, do my independent research.
    2. Large quantities of ammo are purchased online, when the vendor features free shipping and sale prices on what I need.
    3. Small quantities, mostly standard stuff (couple of boxes of hollow points or ammo I want to try out), usually the big box store. The only obsolete ammo I shoot is 38S&W, which I can only get online.

  45. well my experience is mostly good. but the guys at the smaller gun store are not always the best for info. I had to tell one that the 38 special and the 38 S&W (short) are 2 totally different rounds and they don’t interchange, he told someone that 38S&W can be fired in a 38 special. I had to tell him they won’t fit because they are from different origins. of course he did not believe me , until he got a 38 special revolver out and tried it himself. I had to tell one that the browning 25 auto someone had was indeed a browning and that it was the one made before the baby browning 25 auto. I once asked if they could order me some Glasers, and the guy gave me Blazers. so don’t always take there info as gospel truth because they don’t always know either. however I still go to them because they still know more than the big box places, and they also don’t suddenly decide to support selling my rights away like Dicks and Walmart, which I have stopped going to.

  46. avatar Gordon Bruce says:

    I recently bought a Dan Wesson Guardian .45 at a big box store. The salesman say it’s coming from their warehouse in one of the Carolina’s and should be here in 2 days. It took 10 days for me to get it and I don’t live in Kalifornia or New Jersey I live in Texas. I still had a 10 day waiting period! If the guy would have told me it was going to take 10 days I would have paid the additional $35.00 – $45.00 to have it sent next day.
    PS- The DW Guardian is best carry I’ve ever had. So much so I sold my MP9 and Kimber Compact .45. The Guardian is my go to piece unless deep cover is required and I’ll go with my Kahr PM9, I always feel a little under gunned carrying a 9 vs .45.

  47. avatar Hans says:

    How posts where censored in this thread??

    5; 10; or 15???

  48. avatar Dan says:

    You mention online gun stores but neglect to point out that some (but not most) will accept returns too. Ammunition Depot for example https://www.ammunitiondepot.com/content/9-shipping-and-returns

  49. avatar kenstar23 says:

    I went to buy a Walther PPQ -Q-5 at the local Cabelas store. I had my Concealed Carry Permit so I figured this would take maybe a half-hour or so to fill out paperwork, etc. I was there for two hours and I still hadn’t had the opportunity to go to the register to purchase the gun. There were two people in the queue ahead of me for checkout. There was a lot of activity by the store employees in terms of filling out paperwork, going into the back of the counter to check on whatever, and doing who knows what else. After two hours waiting I cancelled my order, and went to my LGS, paid a few dollars more and had my gun within a half an hour.

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