No one wants to be “that guy” at the gun store, but if you’ve never been, you might not know just how to act.
Pew Pew Tactical has your back, though.
We’ve gone through surviving the gun range, now I’ll walk you through some gun store etiquette rules to make your gun buying experience a breeze.
First of all, gun stores are just like any other stores—some are great, some are ok, and some suck.
One big difference is that almost all employees will be armed.
I remember my first experiences that were along the lines of my gun range experiences. I was so excited to see the guns I’ve researched in person, but also a little scared of doing something wrong.
Here are a couple of tips on having a pleasant time in the toy store for big kids.
Do Your Homework (And Be Polite)
I’m a big fan of the quote, “An armed society is a polite society.” I always try to be polite, but I find myself being a lot more polite in a gun store. Most employees have to deal with people who never read Gunception, so give them a break!
Politeness will get you far, but also be sure to check out your local Yelp reviews and ask your gun-owning friends for a recommendation. That way you’ll likely avoid the gun stores with rude or unsafe employees.
Some other pointers:
Try not to offer unsolicited advice to other patrons, they might as new as you, or they might have 20 years in SF behind them — you meet all kinds at the LGS.
Don’t joke/ask about things you know are illegal — it isn’t funny. Ever. Gun stores also have a legal responsibility to not sell to persons they believe might be intending to commit illegal acts. At best you’re looking at being kicked out of the store, at worse you might have an interesting conversation with the police.
If you’re bringing in a gun, have it in a case. A locked case is better and depending on the LGS might be required, but the bare minimum is it should be in a case and the case is clearly visible. Don’t tuck it in your coat.
Take off your motorcycle helmet and/or ski mask before entering. DO keep your Covid mask on. Many LGS won’t require you to wear it, but you should until the CDC says otherwise. If you happen on one of the few LGS that require you to remove it, find a different shop.
Confusing Laws in Confusing States
This mostly only applies to restricted states like California, New York, and New Jersey. But some states with odd or newly added laws like Washington, Virginia, and Maryland might also apply.
If you’re in a gun-friendly state like Texas or Utah, you likely won’t run into this.
Speaking as someone from California — state level gun laws can be weird and ever changing. Not all gun stores or gun store employees stay up-to-date. Some miss information, some don’t care, and some are on the ball.
A lot of firearm laws, both state and federal, are strictly written and unyielding. Some are open to interpretation, oddly. Honestly, it’s a confusing mess.
If you go to multiple gun stores and get multiple answers about a question, know that this isn’t super uncommon in these anti-gun states. Do your best to do research and find a store you’re comfortable with.
Another place to be extra aware of the 4 Firearm Safety Rules.
- All guns are always loaded
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy
- Keep your fingers off the trigger until your sights are on the target
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
After you (politely) ask to see a gun, the gun should be unloaded and most clerks will show you that it is clear, but I always chamber check it myself again. Here are three ways (although they are pretty much the same) to chamber check a pistol:
I also try my best to never accidentally “sweep” the clerk or another patron with the muzzle.
If there’s anything that makes you feel unsafe, just leave the store. There should be plenty of other local gun stores (LGS) around you.
Handling the Gun
If you don’t know how to operate the gun, just let the clerk know. And always ask for permission before you do any of the following:
- Dry firing the weapon (pulling the trigger with no ammo or snap cap inside). This can damage some guns, especially rimfire ones.
- Racking or releasing the slide lock. It won’t necessarily hurt the gun but does make it more and more “used.”
- Forcing the gun to operate. Sometimes things don’t work the way you think. Pressing or jamming it over and over again won’t help it work. Just ask for help!
Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be unsafe. Do be plenty polite and ask questions. It’s just that simple.
Have any tips for newbies planning their first trip to the gun store? Have any funny what-not-to-do stories? Tell us all about them in the comments below! Want to shop online? Here are the best places to buy guns online.