Gun Shop Etiquette for Shoppers


Written by Mack Culverhouse

Yes, the customer is always right. And yes, as your resident counter jockey, I’m here drawing my exorbitant salary, to try and take money from you. But that being said; there a few rules, that you, Mister Gun Buyer, should be aware of. These are for your safety, my safety, the safety of my other patrons, and to improve everyone else’s shopping experience as well.
BLUF: Don’t be a dick.
First off, if you are bringing in a gun for me to appraise, take in on trade, put a scope on, or stick into a couple of holster, make sure the damn thing is unloaded before you get in the store. Please and thank you. It wouldn’t do to have successfully gotten a DD-214 only to be offed by Cletus when he jerks the trigger on his Canik as he complains about lack of holsters.
As a corollary to the above, bring your goddamn guns in holstered or in a case. I get jumpy seeing somebody walk in with a gun that ain’t cased or holster. I’d hate to get shot by some guy attempting to relieve me of the store’s Hi Point and Taurus collection.
Also, if I have more customers than staff members, please don’t think I’m being rude or mean if I appear disinterested as you regale with tales of your Cold War service, guns you’ve sold that you miss, and deer that you have miss. Cletus, I love to talk guns. I really do. But if I got people stacked up; well, I really need to take their money.
Oh, yeah; another big one, Cletus, please pull your pants up and shower before you come to town to see me.
Okay, so let’s say I sold you a gun a while back, and you want some parts. Cool. Great. Glad to have your business. But buddy, I really can’t spend an hour talking about muzzle breaks with you only for you to leave and buy it off of Amazon because it’s nine dollars cheaper. That makes me angry. Irrationally so.
Okay, big one here; if I’m showing somebody a weapon that they’ve asked to see; please do not interject. Like at all. I might ask for you to chime in if you’re a good friend and I know you like the Glock 19; but if I’m showing Granny a EZ 380 and you yell out about how she needs a
Judge, I’m going to mentally wish all sorts of nasty things upon you.
It is 2019, we have moved on from a shotgun with bird-shot, a J-Frame with pink grips, or some sort of .22 LR pistol.
Also, if a customer is looking at something nice, like say a Nightforce scope, please don’t say how your Nikon Buckmaster is just as good. It makes you look stupid. It makes me feel bad. And well, yeah.
I’ve rambled quite enough. I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers. Nobody likes that guy.


  1. I have to confess I did jump in. Customer couldn’t decide between a tikka and 700. The counter guy was just showing them and not saying anything besides the tikka having a smooth bolt. So I interjected that if he likes to keep his guns stock go with the tikka but if he likes the idea of customizing it then go with the 700 since there’s a bigger aftermarket. I think they were priced pretty close. I know I should have kept my mouth shut but being in sales and watching him not try to close it was making me antsy haha.

    • That’s a very intelligent and useful bit of information for a gun buyer, especially a newbie. I’ve offered the same sort info on 700’s as well, but I also NB for some people that, if you pile enough money into aftermarket stuff on a 700, they might have been better off buying a 700-compatible semi-custom rifle with the upgraded components in the first place.

  2. Executive summary of “Gun shop etiquette for gunsmiths:”

    1. Remain silent.
    2. Keep a straight face.
    3. Don’t let on that you are a gunsmith, especially if you are on a tight schedule.

    • Is that why you guys are so hard to find? Hell finding a legit gunsmith these days is like finding a unicorn. At least around here.

      • All I can advise is to ask around. Especially ask people in the shooting discipline using the type of guns you need worked on. eg, I work on lots of shotguns – and people find me by talking to other shotgun shooters.

  3. I’ll agree to keep quiet at gun store when gun store clerks agree to stop handing out chestnuts like, “the .380 and the 9mm have the same diameter bullet, so after about 9 feet there really isn’t any difference between them ballistically.”

    Yes, I actually heard this at a gun store counter. And I did actually manage to keep silent.

    • I’ve heard that exact sort of nonsense, and much, much, oh so much more.

      You cannot believe the sort of stuff I’ve heard.

      One of my instructors at TSJC warned me of two things when I graduated from the program:

      1. “You’ll no longer want to talk about guns with most gun owners and shooters.” He was so very right about this. More and more, I don’t tell people that I’m a gunsmith. More and more, I don’t talk guns with people.

      Some of the only people with whom I talk about guns will be special forces vets (who mostly view all guns as tools – some are ratchets, some are crescent wrenches, some are big friggin’ hammers – most SF vets I’ve met really aren’t all that invested in one gun vs. another – they had a job to do, and their weapons were just tools – and many SF vets don’t talk guns at all, I’ve found), other gunsmiths (and then our arcane and obscure complaints/issues will usually leave the non-gunsmiths behind in a minute or so), and accomplished shooters (ie, guys/gals who are winning actual matches and competitions). The common factor in all these groups is that their focus is not on a brand/caliber/make/model/etc. All three groups have other points of focus..

      That’s sorta how I ended up on Hognose’s blog – he was one of those obvious SF vets who wouldn’t get invested in this “my favorite is better than yours” nonsense. Wish I could have bought him a beer or three. It would have been interesting to gain some perspective on “what really matters when it absolutely has to work” in small arms.

      2. That much of what I would read in the industry press would make me cancel subscriptions, quit reading gun magazines, quit reading most of the nonsense published for money around the gun market. I no longer subscribe to any gun magazines. I get my NRA publications electronically, where they can be safely ignored without cluttering up the house or the bathroom.

      He also promised me that I’d have a difficult time walking through a gun show, industry show like the Safari Club or SHOT show, and keeping a straight face. He was so right about that, too.

      • Ooof. Your head would explode if you ever stepped into a crossroads of the west. Hot garbage. It wasn’t too bad in the past (usual BS no biggie) but i doubt I would even go if it was free.
        And the advice I’ve seen given to women over the years makes me cringe. Especially the gullible ones like my mom. “Oh you need something for your home because you’ve lost hand strength as well as don’t want to use a minty series 70 gold cup for night stand work? Here’s a sub compact sig 9mm for $1000.” She almost bought the damn thing. Look nothing wrong with the gun but for her situation it was totally wrong. Typical small women should have small guns BS.
        Wish I could take all the ladies out there under my wing and give them a non macho introduction to shooting. Guess I got that from my pop’s. He would get livid when he saw guys give their GFs a .44 magnum or some such trying to show off.


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