First Trip To A Gun Store - What Do I Do?
Are you contemplating purchasing a firearm, looking to learn more about firearms or interested in looking at certain guns, but perhaps have never entered a gun store? If so, read on. In this article we will walk you through the ins and outs of gun stores, what to look for, questions to ask and much more. Fear not, you will find most gun stores or outfitters who sell firearms to be a fun and exhilarating experience.
Here's what we will cover:
- Different types of gun stores and shops
- Doing a little prep work beforehand
- What will you find in a gun store
- What to do and where to go once you go inside
- Approaching the gun counter
- Questions you will be asked by employees
- What to look for and where to look
- How to ask to look at a gun
- The firearm purchase process
As with anything new, we know it can be somewhat intimidating to enter a new environment where you will run into so-called experts, while you are just beginning your knowledge and exposure. The same holds true for gun stores. But in reality, it's really no big deal. Gun stores have employees whose job it is to help you, answer your questions, educate you and guide you through the process of considering the purchase of a firearm.
Different Types of Gun Stores
There are basically three different types of guns stores:
- Big retailers that sell firearms - Bass Pro, Cabelas, Academy and so forth
- Regional chains - smaller retailers but usually with several localized locations
- Small business/sole proprietor gun shops
Let's start with the big retailers. If you have one of the big boys in your area, this is the place to start. Due to their large size and crowds, you can usually just blend in on your first trip and take it all in. Plus, with larger outfitters selling so many other things, it's not like you are just going to a gun store. More like you are going to the gun department.
Take Bass Pro for example, When you enter their locations, they are generally huge stores. The gun department is typically located near the back of the store. So, just walk in and meander back to this section. Before you get to the actual gun counter, you will be met with several aisles of accessories, ammunition, gun cases, firearm grips and much more. So take a minute and walk up and down these aisles. Just take it all in, and examine the types of products and gear that are related to firearms. Doing so will ease you into the process. Don't worry about not knowing about ammunition, or cases, or anything else. Just get a sense of it all.
Now, if you go into a large retailer on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, there will be a large crowd in front of the actual gun counter. If you go at night during the week, you might have the whole gun counter to yourself.
Weekends: if you go on the weekend, then just blend in to the crowd at the gun counter. You won't be the only one looking at guns. Most will be. You will see several employees helping people, showing guns, answering questions, etc. This is a fantastic way for you to learn. Typically you will see several people who are new to guns asking the same questions you have. So just hang close by and listen to both the questions and answers. This will help you later on when you talk to an employee.
Weeknights: on a weeknight visit, you may be only one of a couple people, if that, at the gun counter. So you will be asked quickly if you need help. So in this case, with no one around, you can actually relax and take your time talking to the employee. They are there to help you, not judge you!
Regional Gun Stores
In many parts of the country you will find smaller gun retailer chains that are privately owned. In this case, you might find the chain owns maybe 3-7 stores in a localized area.
Regional gun shops are nice because they are usually more established, carry more selections of guns, accessories and gear, and typically they might have a shooting range associated with the store location. Plus, you will find employees to be generally very friendly and helpful, as keeping customers happy and coming back is a top priority.
When you enter the smaller retail stores, you will definitely have less anonymity. Typically you might be greeted as soon as you walk in, and will be asked if you need help. Try to avoid saying 'just looking.' Be honest and say, "Yes, actually, I am new to shooting but interested in getting involved. Can you help me?" This type of response gets you the attention you want without any worry of being judged or embarrassed.
Sole Proprietor Gun Shops
These gun shops make up a large majority of gun retailers and might be the most accessible in your area. However, these are the least anonymous stores to go into, and often the most intimidating. They can be small in size, so you will be front and center when you walk in. Just be prepared to be engaged immediately in conversation, but again, be honest. Tell them you are new to shooting and need help understanding.
A Little Prep Goes A Long Way
A great way to begin educating yourself before heading into your nearest gun shop is to head over to YouTube and watch videos. You will find incredibly informative and educational videos on just about every firearm topic, and you are just about guaranteed to have any question you have answered. Just literally search your question in the YouTube search box. For example, "best beginner guns" or "best firearms for a beginner", or "different types of guns" is one of the best ways to get started.
Also, there are many excellent forums online - just Google those same phrases above into Google. It will be helpful if you have an idea of the type of gun you feel is best for you, or if you desire a particular brand of firearm.
So What Exactly Is Inside a Gun Shop?
While the quantity and selection of items will vary by type of gun shop, the product mix is usually quite similar. A well stocked shop or retailer will carry a wide selection of firearms (pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns), ammunition and carry bags and cases. And to a lesser extent, you will find gun safes, accessories such as scopes, sights, grips, cleaning supplies, apparel and more. Larger retailers will also combine their gun shop into a more hunting oriented area, so you might also see archery supplies, trapping supplies, game cams, etc.
What to Do and Where to Go Once You Go Inside
First, once you get inside, pause and just take a look around. Get a lay of the land. Someone near the door might ask you if you need help. It really is better if you say yes, I am interested in getting into shooting, or interested in a home defense gun, etc. In most every case, you will find a helpful employee who genuinely wants to share their knowledge. Otherwise, if you say just looking, you will probably end up just walking around aimlessly.
But in any case, work your way over to the appropriate section you are interested in. In this case, let's say handguns for home defense.
Approaching the Gun Counter
While it can a little intimidating at first to walk up to a counter full of guns, it's all pretty simple. Don't try to bluff your way into a conversation. If you are new to guns, just say so and tell the staff why you are there. Tell them you are new and that you may be interested in a gun for self defense, hunting or even target shooting.
Questions You Will Be Asked
One of the first questions you may be asked in the gun store is if the firearm is for you or someone else. Let's assume it is for you. Or, perhaps it is for your spouse or girlfriend who happens to be with you. Let them know who it's for and why. You almost certainly will be asked if you are familiar with guns or if you are new to it. By answering a few simple questions, the staff will be able to help you dial in pretty quickly the best options for you or your spouse.
Different Types of Guns Available
On your first trip to a gun store, you will see a dizzying array of firearms. Generally speaking, the handguns are in glass cases, while rifles and shotguns are typically displayed behind the counter on the wall. So depending on what you are looking for, just tell the staff what you are interested in. When it comes to handguns, some stores sort their guns by manufacturer. So you might see all the Glocks in one section, Rugers in another, etc. Additionally, revolvers are usually sorted together.
How To Look At a Gun at the Gun Store
As you are talking to the staff, many times they will show you a gun or guns based on what you have told them. So, if you say you are interested in a home self defense handgun, you will be guided toward any number of semiautomatic pistols or perhaps a revolver. Or, if you know you are definitely interested in Glocks, then let the staff know and they will show you examples.
So let's say you ask to see a particular gun. If you are new to guns, there are a few very important etiquette things you must know. And safety is paramount. Here's how examining a firearm in the store will proceed:
1) The staff will always safety check the firearm before handing it to you. This means removing the magazine and visually checking the chamber, if it is a semiautomatic handgun, or opening the cylinder on a revolver.
2) The staff may hand you the gun, or sit it on the counter for you to pick up.
3) As you pick up the gun, never, ever put your finger on, in or near the trigger. Extend your trigger finger alongside the barrel of the gun.
4) As you view the gun, never point it toward anyone. Find a safe area to point it, or, point it up or down.
5) If you don't know how to operate the gun, just say so. The staff will be happy to show you. It's much easier and less stressful to just be happy being new to guns and learning. Do not try to fake your way!
Look At Many Different Guns
Ok, so you made it to the gun store, you approach the counter, you told the staff you are new to guns and interested in learning more or even purchasing a firearm. Great! Now you can relax and take your time - review, touch and hold a variety of different firearms. Get a feel for the weight, how strong you need to be to pull the slide of a semiautomatic, or learning how to insert or eject a magazine. Check out the sites on the firearm. You will start to understand what feels best to you.
The Gun Store Purchase Process
Despite what you may have heard, the process of purchasing a firearm is a detailed one. Not hard, but detailed and strict. Gun stores have a very specific process they must follow or they can risk losing their license to purchase and sell firearms.
ATF Form 4473. This form is where you start. It is the Firearms Transaction Record form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In short, you will complete the form and answer several questions, including if you have felonies, etc.
Identification: As you are completing your 4473, the staff will ask you for your identification, if you are military/veteran, etc. They will begin to process your purchase.
Background check: To complete your firearm purchase, the store will run a background check on you to confirm you are allowed to purchase a firearm. Depending on how busy the gun store and Feds are, this can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.