My oldest child is a boy. When he was born my wife was nice enough to agree to let me buy a high-end 1911 that I could have fun with now and then pass on to him later. Six years later my gun collection (and my family) have grown, and while the 1911 still hangs in the safe, I've acquired some nice pieces that my two boys may prefer more than the 1911. But that 1911 will always be special to me because I remember why I bought it. Even if my boys grow up to say they'd rather have something different, I'll still cherish that 1911. On the other hand, my daughter may think the 1911 is nice enough and take it along with the body armor, suppressed 300AAC, SCAR17 and the RPG I've 3D printed for her to take when she moves out or starts dating...but I digress.
The point is, I love that 1911, and I learned a valuable lesson while shopping for it. I'm going to share that lesson with you, and by sharing I hope you learn how to spot a bad gun shop quicker than I did.
When it came time to shop for my 1911, I took enough cash out of the bank to cover the transaction. With the cash in my pocket I walked into a gun store "a stone's throw" from my house. I found the 1911 I wanted and asked to see it. I held it, asked a few questions and handed it back. The guy behind the counter could not have cared less if I bought the gun or not. In fact, when I asked to see it again he declined and said, "I mean, you're not really here to buy it, so there's no need to keep getting it out." I laughed and left the store but that turned out to be a good thing. With a little patience and after some consultation with trusted "gun guys" more knowledgeable than myself, I bought a better 1911 at a better price.
I've now spent many years working in the gun industry. I love the nature of the work, and I try to apply what I felt that day to how people get treated when I deal with them now, these six years later. I've had people in suits take hours deciding on a $300 Taurus, and I've had people in dirt-covered jeans walk up, point at a $1,000 Springfield 1911 and say, "I'll take it." It's not for me to decide how much money you are willing to spend on a gun. My only obligation is to get you the gun you want and do my best to answer any questions you may have. Everything else is one hundred percent inconsequential.
Finding the right gun store can be a challenge. Let's face it, this is an industry full of Alpha Males who are not accustomed to being wrong. Sometimes those personality-types end up behind the gun counter and get straight to work making the rest of us look like idiots. So here is my list of things to run from in a gun store. If anyone does any of these things to you while you're shopping for a gun, leave immediately and find somewhere else to shop.
1. Blind Loyalty to Brand or Caliber
It's easy for anyone to believe their way of doing any particular thing is the only way it should be done. That's why some people easily led to believing whatever gun they carry and whatever way they carry is the only gun and the only way anyone should carry. If someone tells you that Gun Brand A is the only brand worth owning and no other brand performs as well as it does, thank them kindly and then walk away. The truth is that most modern handguns are built to be dependable and durable, and that means there is a lot of healthy competition for your money. More competition means more pressure on the gun companies to build quality products that last. There are $3,000 1911's that I would love to own one day, but the gun I carry every single day costs about $500 brand new. The point here is that if a gun is built with quality materials and at a price that makes you comfortable, then don't let brand affinity or brand 'snobbery' get in the way of your decision. However, this is a tool that may potentially be asked to save your life. Don't skimp on a gun that will potentially be used to save a life. At the end of the day, if it's a matter of buying a $200 gun that fits your budget or no gun at all, I suggest you buy the $200 gun.
2. Plays the Gender Card
Believe it or not, one of the most irritating exchanges that takes place is when a shooter's gender becomes a determining factor in the gun shopping process. If every man had the same exact hand size and every single woman had the exact same hand size, this rationale for which gun to buy based on size may make sense. Thankfully, we are all uniquely and wonderfully made. No one gun fits a specific gender. If you disagree, take a look at Gabby Franco, Jessie Harrison, Lena Miculeck, Bailey Gallagher, Mia Faranelli or any other of the scores of pro-level female shooters who handle the same guns and gear as men do, and often finish in the top rankings! DO NOT let someone tell you that a woman needs a particular gun just because she's a woman. That's bad advice. Run from it.
Quick side note: Men, quit saying you only need something cheap because it's for your wife and she'll probably never use it. That's more insulting to her than you know, and it makes you look silly.
3. Offers You a Revolver Because You're a New Shooter
This is not to say revolvers do not fill a need. Or that a revolver is not the right gun for you. Revolvers are made for up-close and deadly encounters. They pack a powerful punch and will deliver when called upon. However, they may not be the best idea for a new shooter. And that's the entire point. Buying a gun is a personal decision. Maybe a revolver is the right choice for you. That's great! But it's not the right choice for you because you're a new shooter, it's the right choice for you because the design suits the specific need you have. Right above the "Gender Card" on the list of annoying things in gun stores is the notion that a revolver is the best option for a new shooter. This poor advice is usually based on one of two misconceptions: new shooters don't know how to load a gun and revolvers are easy to shoot. No and no. It's not quantum physics to learn to load a magazine, insert it and rack the slide, but there are some people working gun counters today who would have you believe the average person has no idea how to do it. Also, revolvers are a pain to shoot. They kick hard and high and they tend to be super loud. You know, everything that would poorly impact the senses of a new shooter. Put a revolver in a new shooter's hands and see how quick that shooter is to want to come try again. Do the same thing with an FN 509, Glock 17, Springfield XDM etc. and measure the difference. Full size firearms are more pleasurable to shoot, easier to use and have a larger capacity which means less work for the shooter during the practice sessions. And by the way, it will take half the strength to pull the trigger on any of the aforementioned guns than on a revolver.
Any other advice to add for how to spot a bad gun store? Let us know in the comments below.
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About Kris Vermillion
Kris Vermillion is a lifelong shooter who focuses his training on defensive shooting techniques and the shooter's mindset. Kris works for Palmetto State Armory, contributing to both Ecommerce and Marketing.