Reviews > Retailer Review

Big Box Stores Vs. Gun Shops


I wonder if anyone has had the same experiences lately that I've been noticing, actually for years. It seems that neither the Big Box  or Independent Gun Shop have very knowledgeable people behind the counter. It seems I'm able to walk in with info gleaned from online source that out weights anything they may have to offer. I'm guessing these guys working in the shops are part-timers looking for a little extra and maybe some perks that working there may offer.

First off I have never bought a new firearm from a Big Box and when the local ones were selling used, the prices were out of line and they would not "deal". They would "mark down" if it hadn't sold in a certain period of time. Gander was one of these. I remember making an offer and them saying they didn't take offers I asked them to hold my name and offer and if when they went to mark it down they give me a ring. Again, "We don't do that."

Bass Pro sold my 73 y.o father his first handgun, his first gun since buying a Weatherby in '56! He truly knows nothing about guns and didn't want to ask his kids b/c we 'would worry about him". Living alone he figured he'd get something for home defense. He bought a S&W M&P (IIRC) and while "messing" around with it he got the slide part way on and couldn't get it all the way, then couldn't get it back off. He took it back to Bass Pro and they said he "Must have broken something, send it in to S&W" He called another "Shop" and they said stick a wooden dowel down the barrel and see if you can't "wiggle it free". Finally at my kids B-day party at my house he asks if I knew a good Gun Smith, I ask for what since some are better then others for certain tasks. He tells me the above story. I tell him to bring it over and I'll look at it. Now I'm no gun smith, they would call me "Bubba" but I've handled a bunch. Now I've never even handled a M&P before but it looked a lot like a friends Glock that I had taken down a time or two while we were at the range. (I now like Glocks) Anyway I couldn't get the slide to rack back and it wouldn't move off/forward. The mag was out, I saw the chamber was empty so I pulled the trigger, it released the slide and I then slid it rearward and all was good! I am surprised that they couldn't do that for him, or the other shop didn't say bring it by.

I was in a large independent store last weekend and over heard a guy going on and on about Glocks and their history, "This is a Gen 4, that's the fourth generation of this model, the third gen didn't have this and that, the second didn't,..." the guy went on for 10 minutes or so talking about all the differences. The customer asked if he had any Gen 3 or 2 that he could compare to the Gen 4, at which point the guy behind the counter said they don't makes those anymore this is all we or anyone has now. SO I'm thinking what was the point of the history lesson? It wasn't like he was comparing the Gen 4 to a Different Manufacturer of a similar gun? I was at the store looking for a Shotgun for my Brother, after handling one  I passed it back and thought to ask about the chokes? The guy didn't know and asked another guy that didn't know!

Same store, I saw that their used rack had top prices for most of what they had to offer. I realize that they have employees and over head and cannot compete with Internet Auction sites but some of the prices were what could be found for NEW!

Last one about independent shops. In Lyons there is a shop that has some of the worst employees I've ever dealt with. Its close to work so I will stop in from time to time b/c they do have some of the best prices around on Used guns, just don't try to sell them one! I was in one day and was buying my first Ruger Standard .22. While at the counter a customer has his gun in a case and there is a mag in its place in the case and it has cartridges in it, again the mag is out of the gun. They start to tell him that, how he has it, is a felony and he cannot keep a loaded mag with the gun. I say that's not exactly correct, yet the cops may hassle you, the gun is not loaded until has ammo "IN THE GUN". They asked if I was a lawyer I said no and they said I shouldn't be giving out advise. In my mind I thought "What the hell are you doing!" Anyway I pick up the Ruger, 72 hours later and ask the guy to show me how to take it down to clean it. He has be bending my year for 30 minutes finishing the paper work about how he has two and owned them for 30 years. He says he actually has never taken his apart b/c he heard they were a pain to put back too.

The store gives out a free range pass when you buy a gun, so I'd brought along my Hi Power. I walked their isles and picked up about $60-$70 worth of other stuff and went to enter the range. The guy wanted to see my ammo b/c its a lead free range. When I opened my bag and showed him what I had he told me I couldn't even go in the range with it. I asked if he'd watch it behind the counter which was answered "No I'm not a baby sitter". OK I went and put it in my car. When I came back he asked for my Police ID I asked why he needed that the range is open to he public, and he went on about a loaded mag was a loaded gun. I asked what law I was breaking and he said the "gun control act of 1963" when I said there wasn't a GCA in '63 he said there was b/c they past it when JFK got shot. It was at that point I left all the stuff I was going to buy on the counter and walked out. One of the funny things about it is they offer, for a hefty fee, classes on how to get different Concealed Carry permits for other states. Hell they don't even know the laws in their state and I'd let them teach me about those of other states!!

Good help is hard to find and when margins are thin b/c of competition from online and well as other retailers you may not be able to get the best and brightest. I don't know how much of a premium I'd pay for the knowledge behind the counter since I'm walking in armed with a great deal of it already. I just think that the majority of the shops customers are not like me and could use some quality help when making a decision about a purchase.         

That is the case just about everywhere these days.  Gun store counters have always been hit or miss for getting good information or total bunk, but it seems to be getting worse.  "Big Box Stores" = "forget about it!"  Most, if not all, of the people working at a regular big box store (like wal mart) are just there for the job and happen to be working in the guns and ammo section because that is where they were assigned to work.  "Big Box" sporting goods (dicks, bps) stores are not much better either.  Maybe the worker has a passing interest in guns but, even then more often than not they fall into the "everything I know about guns I learned from video games" crowd.

Gun shop commandos with "complete knowledge of all laws" (at least in their own minds) have been around for ever and most of what you hear at the counter should be taken with a grain of salt.  On the other hand, going to a gun store where they can not even answer a question about shotgun chokes, how to take apart a gun that they are experts with, and things like that are not acceptable in my book and I wouldn't give a shop like that any more business if I could help it.  I don't expect them to be an encylopedia of gun information but a little bit of basic knowledge would sure go a long way.

Maybe they expect all their customers that come in to have already gathered all the knowledge that they need from the forums, twitter, etc.   ;)

With all of the information available on the net, it makes the BS you see at the gun counter at least a little bit less damaging - people have the opportunity to get educated about the topic.  One problem, though, is that many people don't have access to that information for one reason or another (no internet, not knowing how to find the information, finding bad information, no motivation to find the information on their own, etc.) 

Couple that with the fact that many people walk into the gun shop (or gun department) and expect that the people there will be subject matter experts (or, at a minimum, won't give them outright lies).  Unfortunately, that is clearly not always the case.  Then, the problem escalates because the "audience" (be it customers, co-workers or whomever) takes the faulty information that the "subject matter expert" gives as gospel and repeats it as fact.

"Times, they are a-changin" - It's certainly a rare treat to find a good shop with a team of knowledgeable staff behind the counter.  They do still exist, though.

I figure as much at wally world and the Big Box but the independent? There was a shop near my house that I'd only go in when I was ready to buy. The owner or wife of said "we don't see you much?" I said "when you do I'm buying, I could sit at the counter and tell lies for hours a few days a week but that won't help pay your light bill." The place had great prices and that is why I bought from them, but they had stools for customers to pull up and BS with the workers. I guess I'm not much of a gun store groupie. One of the guys I'd gone to school with and we'd bs a bit when I went to buy and then a again when I would pick-up after the waiting period yet I never took up a stool. I guy who works for me now worked at one of those shops and said they had regulars that would buy the latest and greatest and then sell/trade it back sometimes without ever firing it. They'd sit around for hours he said.

The fact that misinformation is more the norm then good info.     


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