What I hate about going to gun stores

Hate is such an alienating word so let me just start by addressing those folks already offended by the title. I love guns. I love gun stores. I am extremely fond of many gun shop owners and their employees.  But like anybody who invest as much time, energy and emotion as I do into shooting, the tendency is to be highly sensitive to anything irksome

Here are a few things that really make me cringe when I am at gun shops.

Getting muzzled

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone that one of the most uncomfortable experiences in this life is finding oneself on the business end of a muzzle, no matter the circumstances. So, it understandably follows that perhaps the most dreaded feeling one can receive, especially for all those folks with a fresh interest in gun life, is to walk into a firearms store and have a stranger point a gun at them.

I especially see it with people handling handguns and especially, it seems to me, with folks who have the habit of talking with their hands.  I do realize that a lot of times people don’t even realize they’re doing it, but with muzzle awareness being a safety requirement for all shooters at all times, I consider this carelessness no matter if the person realizes it or not.  To this paying gun owner, this behavior is simply unacceptable in any venue selling firearms.

The worst is dudes tracking other customers around the store while checking out the sights on long guns. How is this ever acceptable? I hate it and I will probably say something if I see you doing it.

Not letting me verify the gun is clear

Here’s the scenario: I ask to see a gun inside the glass, a worker grabs the pistol, opens the slide briefly, maybe says something like, “See, it’s clear,” and then hands me the weapon.

Uh, no, I didn’t see that it was empty.  Sure, I expect all the guns on display at any gun shop I patronize to be empty, but I like to treat all guns as if they’re always loaded.  I thought that was the first rule of firearms safety, right?

Before handing me a firearm, I appreciate it if you perform a safety check, but you must realize that this check is really for my benefit so make sure I see what you’re doing and if you don’t, don’t be surprised if I check it myself to ensure it’s empty (I’ll also be keeping my finger off the trigger until I’m ready to test it… and I assume you will too).

Unsafe store employees

I don’t expect gun store employees to be safety Nazis.  I do have a reasonable expectation that gun shop employees model common sense safety in their conduct at work.  On top of selling a product that could potentially kill somebody, gun shop owners are ambassadors for the Second amendment, an expression of our natural right to self defense that is constantly under attack. That’s a lot of responsibility and this unique position (which I think all gun shop owners should take deep pride in) demands that all members of a gun shop staff hold themselves to a higher safety standard in front of customers.

Not too long ago, I watched a kid working behind a gun shop counter twirl a pistol around his finger.  Every so often he would stop, aim at people wandering around the store and pull the trigger (the gun was obviously not loaded… well I guess it was as I didn’t witness him perform anything close to a safety check!).  Suffice it to say, I haven’t gone back to that store.

This example may be just a case of “one bad apple” but I think the same collateral damage can result from casual safety breaches too.  I know that I’ve witnesses a couple of times when an employee has handed me the grip of a pistol with the muzzle pointing directly at his or her belly.

If you want to talk down to me than I know–we both know that the gun is empty–but it doesn’t change the fact that this is breaking number one of the four basic rules. And I definitely don’t think it sends the right message to other shoppers.

“Know-it-all” conversations

Alright, I’m not sure I can honestly say I “hate” this part of the gun shop experience because I do get a chuckle/enjoyment out of a lot of these dialogues and I always like talking about guns.  With that out of the way, we all know who and what I’m talking about.

The guys who have an answer before you’ve even thought up the question.  Guys talking about things that don’t make sense. People trading total myths, and telling others complete errors.  Guys bringing in newbie buddies or women they are interested in and trying to impress them with all their “knowledge”.

In all fairness, the last time I was in this situation , the guy I overheard “schooling” his date was actually pretty squared away.  He was safe and spoke intelligently, but that isn’t always the case.  And I’m pretty sure you know that too.

Slide etiquette

About 25 years ago I went into a gun store and asked a clerk to handle a pistol.  I slammed the slide home and I got a chewing out I will never forget.  Ever since, I have been ridiculously easy on any and all future handgun slides I was thinking about buying.

Well, after spending over a quarter century runnin’ and gunnin’, and handling firearms around the world, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only piece to be reasonably gentle with when handling a firearm is the trigger.  The rest can and should be handled roughly.  Really–quality guns like that. It’s how they are made.

Today, I still ride the slide forward if I’m handling a firearm at the store, but I probably shouldn’t.  Frankly, if I got chewed out for slamming a slide forward into battery today, I’d just avoid that store altogether.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.