Things are tough all over...


August 14, 2003, 07:11 PM
In the name of market research, I'm kinda curious: What'd get you to spend some money with that vanishing species, Localus Gunstoreus?


1) Don't try to go head-to-head with Wallyworld and the 'Net on guns & ammo. You ain't gonna outsell Wal Mart on bulkpack Winchester or Remington 700 BDL's, nor Ammoman on cases of South African .223. Stock stuff I want to buy in sub-case quantities right now: defense ammo, oddball military calibers, high-end ammo, and et cetera.

2) If anyone behind the counter shows a tendency to BS about their imaginary Vietnam experiences rather than trying to research a factual answer to a question, fire them. Immediately.

3) Hire a good gunsmith. Pay him right, proselytize about his services, and sell a kidney to keep him there, if that's what it takes.

4) Get involved in competitive shooting. These guys spend money; make sure your name is on every one of their lips. Sponsor matches, hand out cards, give away tee-shirts, whatever...

5) Stock accessories. Sure, that SureFire fore-end or Ed Brown mainspring housing might be two dollars cheaper someplace online, but being able to fondle it in the store and walk out with it on your gun that very day is worth a couple of bucks.

Y'all's thoughts on the matter?

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4v50 Gary
August 14, 2003, 07:19 PM
Service, variety and knowledge. Local gunshops should have that and if they don't have what you want, they should be willing to order it for you. Knowledge and expertise and enthusiasm in sharing it (or learning from a customer) helps develop a repoir based on trust and mutual respect. That keeps the client coming back - at least it did for the store I shopped it (and still buy stuff).

As far as selling a kidney, I haven't stooped low to steal body parts from other folks yet. Haven't reach the hubcap level either.

August 14, 2003, 07:34 PM
I don't usually get into these threads, but.........

I buy probably 95% of my guns from Harry Beckwith in Micanopy Fla. Harry is not the most inexpensive. Harry is not the most convienent. I live in Miami, and have to drive 350 miles to shop there. Harry is not into BS and hype.

What Harry is, though, is :
A. honest as the day is long
B. Knowledgable beyond belief
C. Stocked to the point that you can buy .22 Savage Hi Power off the shelf,
D. Displays some of the most wonderful Lugers, Parkers , and antique weapons you have ever seen.
E. A darn good friend. I have know Harry for 36 years
F. Willing to work with the comman man

and the list could go on and on. Those of you on the board that know Harry will back me up.

So Tamara, I spend a lot of money with my local gun dealer. Do I buy guns else where? Yes, a bargain is always a bargain. But my loyalty is not to Wally World, Bass pro Shop, or anyother place, than with Harry Beckwith.

Old Fuff
August 14, 2003, 07:43 PM
Used to work for a retailer who followed you're points. Started with next-to-nothing and ended up one of the biggest outfits in the area.

You're suggestions are dead on.

carp killer
August 14, 2003, 07:49 PM
In the name of market research, I'm kinda curious: What'd get you to spend some money with that vanishing species, Localus Gunstoreus?

Ok, If the local gun store would stock stuff that I look for at gun shows. Stuff like cases of cheap 7.62x39, 5.45x39, .308 and .223. Lots of AK's, AR's, FAL's, G3's and other "evil" black guns. All kinds of hi-cap magazines for "evil" black rifles. And military gun parts. Then I would spend money.

Lord Grey Boots
August 14, 2003, 07:52 PM
Have someone work the register, so that when I walk up to the counter with my hands full of stuff from the shelves, I can pay for it and leave immediately.

I DON'T like standing around waiting to give you money.

August 14, 2003, 08:05 PM
My favorite store (long since closed) had racks and racks of used rifles and shotguns that you could pick up and fondle. They carried many old milsurp's and typically sold them for under $100. There were only two employees and both could tell you just about anything, about any gun in their shop. They would and could do minor gunsmithing, and they would generally do it while you waited. If you bought a rifle and scope (regardless of price) they would mount and boresight it, right on the counter, right then. Somtimes they would charge you $5 for the service, other times they would negotiate it as part of the package. They loved to dicker, and they built in a few bucks in the starting price just for that reason. If something was not right with the gun, they would make it right. They always seemed to have odd parts and accessories in the back room. I always left there feeling good about what I bought, and usually left with a plan in mind to come back soon and buy another. They were honest and plain spoken (occasionally to the point of being painfull), but you always learned something. Unfortunately, they were located in the middle of nowhere, and one of them developed health problems, so they decided to call it quits.

To better address your question - I'd like to see a combo gunstore/snack bar/coffee shop. Give people more reasons to come -stay- and spend money.

August 14, 2003, 08:05 PM
I have access to 6 shops none of them are perfect but all have something
that keep me coming back.

Quality pawn and guns

Decent prices and a bunch of oddball guns will haggle.
Fairly knowledgeable staff that won't BS you.

Dons Guns
Has a great gunsmith and a small shop full of odds and ends but a box of 32acp is 17 bucks

Old fort trading post
Has a huge selection of thousands of guns, tons of old dies, holsters, cartridges No knowledge though and high prices.

has very helpful knowlegeable staff, decent prices and an extensive reloading and black powder accesories.

Has the competition shooting involvement and gunsmith who works on IDPA guns as well as regular everyday stuff. friendly and honest

A place to shoot. gunsmith that will let a gun sit for 6 months without getting to it. Ok selection of long guns but very good staff that will spend the time getting you what you need with reloading, trap, hunting, CCW
and self defense.

I sure wish there was a one size fits all shop like you describe but it looks like everyone has their niche and sticks to it.

Travis McGee
August 14, 2003, 08:21 PM

Good list. I would add that it also should work the other way, that is, we should always strive to support our local gunstore. A few extra bucks spent there is being spent on your future freedom. Wallyworld can have a corporate decision come down that puts them out of guns and ammo forever, at any time. If your local gun stores all went belly up in the meantime, where are you going to turn to?

We need our local gun stores, support them!


Standing Wolf
August 14, 2003, 08:49 PM
I'd much rather do business locally, but outright lies are over the line, and so are price and time estimates that bear no relation to reality.

August 14, 2003, 08:52 PM
I think some of it depends on who you're selling to -- the die hard hobbyists, or the newbies who just realized having a gun around is a good idea and the once-a-year hunters.

If the former -- what you said. Plus -- reasonably low rates on transfers. A lot of the diehards are gonna be ordering/trading online,reading trade papers,and the like, and will KNOW your dealer cost more or less. Better all of a $10-$15 fee than none of a $25 fee. Heck, ADVERTISE that fact if you have it by maybe putting a sign behind the counter. Or maybe throw a couple printouts/photocopies of the latest good SGN deals on the counter with the notice "find something you like? distributor cost + X" Might make it harder to sell $899 Bushmaster A2s sitting on your shelf, but again.. better a slimmer margin on a made sale than none at all to the guy who went elsewhere. AND... you effectively add to your inventory with no overhead. Just a thought...

Further, I'd be wary about stocking C&R stuff.. just 'cause I've not met many folks who want to pay an extra $100 for you to strip off the cosmoline for 'em. On the other hand... making sure the SAR-1s you just bought are all nice and squared up would be worth a little premium over the AIM+transfer fee route.

Also, a goodly supply of trade-in guns and parts. There's a lot to be said for a smith that will sell you bits out a used parts bin, especially when he's willing to offer commentary and help in the process.

All that for the regulars. For the walk-ins -- selling packages (weapon, ammo, holster, training) and hunting licenses/tags/hunter safety courses would be a good idea.

(out of curiosity -- what's the usual proportion of regulars to walkins? I've never been on that side of the counter)

- K

PS -- The one BIG no-no that one guy here apparently never learned.. do NOT, under ANY circumstances make a practice of bragging to RegularCustomer about how much you screwed CluelessWalkin out of on a trade in. Nor for that matter, do so in front of RegularCustomer. Does your rep quite a disservice... and then there go your regulars, and then there goes the black ink.

Navy joe
August 14, 2003, 10:26 PM
#4 especially. I buy from the 'net and from competitors that don't even have a store. They do stock what competitors buy in the back of their van though and they do have good prices. More importantly they are out at the matches and giving away freebies to get their name out. Not my local shops. Show up, talk yourself up at the match meeting, donate some freebies to the match awards. A 25 buck gift cert. or 5K primers is nothing you expect when you come to a weekly match. It gets folks in the store. Bonus if you shoot the match, people buy from folks like them.

Have a range. My local shop does this, and they are the only shop I've seen have decent ammo prices to encourage shooting. 10 bucks per 50 .45 PMC, 10% off the case, usta always have a partial case in the trunk. Bonus points, offer classes. If you don't have a range take classes on field trips to a local range. Be the guy who gets outside instructors in town.

August 14, 2003, 10:58 PM
One thing that drives me nuts at every store I go to is they spend all this money on glass showcases and then pile all kinds of junk on them so you can't see what they have. Takes all the fun out of browsing and lowers the possibility of something catching your eye.

August 14, 2003, 11:07 PM
Hey STOP EYEBALLING ME!! I walk into shops and they seem to like what they see. They watch every move I make. That bothers me. The next thing is to have C&R, Mil-Surp, police trade-ins and a A-OK used stock of firearms. I have walked in to buy a Colt Trooper MKIII from a shop. I left with the Trooper, a M1991A1, a 1903 and a Davis derringer. They were there and I had money. The thing that disturbs me is the sales people trying to push Glocks on newbies. I always try to suggest a J frame 38 or a K frame to novices. The shops try to force everybody into Glocks. They are OK, I still believe in small and simple, double action revolvers for beginners. I like vintage leather from Jay-Pee and other old-timers like Lawrence too.

August 14, 2003, 11:13 PM

August 14, 2003, 11:13 PM
Much is down IMO to the local guy being HONEST .... my fella is just that .. if he don't know jack about a particular gun he says ...... he even asks me ''my opinion'' now and again (good for my ego?? .. maybe he uses good psychology!!).

I prefer to pay a tad more and keep my local FFL in business .. he is fair and if something ain't right he'll do something about it .... plus ... cos i buy direct from him at times ... he is sweet as anything when it comes to a transfer from outa state.

I WANT the local guys to survive ........ it's in all our interests. I will tho still get my bricks of .22 from Wally World ....... that's inevitable.:p

August 14, 2003, 11:27 PM
Alll good points Tamara.

Something that one of the local shops does is to sponsor a manufacturer's "demo days". All the major manufacturers show up with their newest goodies. $3 buys a ticket to test drive virtually anything they've got and the money is donated to a local junior shooting program. Of course this requires an on-site range, which they have. Your $3 donation also puts your name in the hopper for several great door prizes at the end of it all.

At the last one Roy Jenks showed up for S&W and entertained with history of Smith & Wesson, reading several letters that had been sent by customers for the last 150 years or so. Highly informative.

But most importantly, this particular shop is the "go to" authority any time one of the local television or radio stations needs an "expert" on firearms related issues. And they do a great job, portraying the gun-owning community in an intelligent, positive manner.

They're not always the cheapest place in town (although they're plenty competitive), but the fact that they take their community role as a steward of our sport seriously, makes them worth patronizing in my opinion.


August 14, 2003, 11:36 PM
Tamara, I agree with just about all your points except #4.

"4) Get involved in competitive shooting. These guys spend money; make sure your name is on every one of their lips. Sponsor matches, hand out cards, give away tee-shirts, whatever..."

From talking with gunshop owners around here, the league shooters don't spend enough money in the shops to pay for the cost of ventilation of the range. They handload (so do I), buy their guns and accessories where they can get them the cheapest, and generally don't support the shop/range they're shooting at. Tell them they have to pay to shoot, and they'll converge on another range, promising the owners "big bucks." Doesn't happen.

However, that may just be a function of the "cheesehead" cheap mentality up here, so take my comments for what they're worth.

August 14, 2003, 11:40 PM
Along with the "I was a Special Forces Seal REEEcon!" types, fire the young know-it-alls.

Basic courtesy goes a long way. I don't appreciate first name familiarity from some 20-something kid. I was a sergeant at his age. A boy has to be pretty young for me to fail to call him "sir" - I expect the same from the kids.

Offer a LEO discount - I support them and I like to do business with those who do the same. (And yes, I'm a fierce enemy of any who get too big for their britches. That's not inconsistent at all.)

Carry quality, and price it fairly. I know you can't compete with Wally, but don't think I'm going to pay double, either.

Know your regulars. Treat them well. Treat them special. But don't let them take over the shop.

And don't sell every newbie a Glock or .44 magnum. I used to shop at a place that was not convenient to my home, because the first time I went in there I watched the proprietor talk a young lady out of buying a .45 for her first gun. He sent her to a larger store that had a range, with advice on getting lessons and some sensible guns to try. I like that.

Hey, it's no mystery. I'll support my local small gunshop as much as I can afford to, if they just show me decency and honesty.

August 14, 2003, 11:50 PM
A couple of ideas from local gun stores (some of which have already been mentioned above):

1. Have catalogs from the major distributors available for your customers to browse. Post a sign over the catalog rack saying something like "Anything you want, we'll order for cost + 5% + shipping". The 5% will really draw them, as most places charge 10% or more. You can also add a rider that if they want the gun cleaned/scoped/set up/etc., they pay for the service at regular gunsmithing prices.

2. Have a steady supply of hot coffee, free to clients. In my favorite local gunstore, there are always two or three regulars dropping in for coffee, and they buy guns if they walk in just after a decent trade-in has hit the shop. They also bring their friends for a cup of coffee, which leads to further sales.

3. Have premises that are as attractive as possible. Doesn't have to be super-spacious or super-clean, but well laid out, with a couple of bar stools at the counter, easy access to view guns, a well-thought-out display (i.e. black-powder stuff all together, ammo. together, LE supplies together - not everything scattered all over creation, so that finding what you want is a pain in the proverbial).

4. Offer a private sale referral list. If a guy comes in wanting to trade in a gun that you can only afford to give (say) $100 for, and you know that on a private sale he could make $150, why not say to him "Look, for a one-time charge of $10, we'll list you, your gun, and your contact details in the shop for 30 days. All of our customers can look at the list, and you'll likely make more for your gun that way than I can give you as a trade-in." People appreciate this sort of honesty, and while it costs some profit, it creates a whole lot more goodwill. Also means that he'll come back to you to buy a new gun, as he now knows you're honest...

5. Find out what sells in your market. This can be done by approaching the major manufacturers and distributors. They know what types/models of guns they ship to the various markets, and can tell you what's in demand, so that you know what to stock. I've seen guns linger for YEARS on gunstore shelves here because they're just not right for local shooting conditions (e.g. a .300 Win Mag is pretty much useless in the thick forest and brush of typical Louisiana deer hunting conditions, where a 100-yard shot is considered long range!).

6. Offer training courses. A local shop co-operates with the local PD in offering CCW courses. They furnish used guns as "loaners" for those who want to take the course, but haven't decided what they want yet (this also gives newbies a chance to try out several different types and models of gun, to see which they like). They sell ammo for the course at cost price, and are at the range to help with the instruction. As part of each course, one of the gunstore employees gives a short talk on what sort of pistol/revolver is most suitable for home defence/CCW/car use/etc. This brings many of the trainees back to the store to order a gun, once they've had a chance to try out different models on the course, and hear the talk.

7. Get involved with your local cops. A small gun shop here has a Captain from the local PD who "moonlights" there, and they always carry a small selection of duty gear, OC spray, police ammo, etc. They also offer a standard discount to LE personnel. Once word of this spreads to LE types, they appreciate it, and often will advise others (e.g. people at a crime scene who suddenly want to be able to defend themselves against future crimes) to come and visit you for a good deal. This sort of word-of-mouth recommendation is priceless.

8. Get involved with local shooting ranges. Offer them the opportunity to order stuff at cost + 5%, if they don't have ordering facilities of their own. Offer their members the catalog purchases mentioned in (1) above. Perhaps you could display some of your products (or pictures of them) on some sort of display stand or noticeboard at the range? People who come to ranges tend to shoot a lot, and they'll notice your efforts to help and inform them.

9. Have a newspaper article or two published. This can be done relatively inexpensively as a promotional item, and if it's in the right newspaper for your target market, it can produce good results.

That's it for now. HTH.

August 15, 2003, 12:03 AM
I'm working at a pretty successful small local gun shop this summer. Some of the things that I think really help keep them afloat are:

* Not just one gunsmith, but five. And excellent ones at that. The shop does any gunsmithing money can buy, up to and including building custom guns up from receivers.

* Personal service. We know most repeat clients by name, and give the really good clients discounts on most stuff.

* We cater to wealthy clients. The money from selling $5,000 custom 1911s and $7-$10,000 custom .50 BMGs allows the shop to stock items for small purchasers without relying on them to stay in business. Furthermore, the shop can distance itself from megastores like Walmart by stocking high-end gear that can't be found elsewhere. The cheapest scopes we have, for example, and Leupolds. Most of our scopes at the moment are Swarovskis and Nightforces.

* The owner has contacts in serious competitive circles and groups like Safari Club International. Through those, he can attract a good number of good customers.

* The shop also offers a number of shooting courses, taught by a one of Cooper's master instructors. These are another way to bring in money to support other aspects of the business.

* Treat every customer like they're going to buy your best item. We have broke-looking, grungy types come in,m browse around, and then pull out cash for a serious gun. Some of these people have become regulars. If they'd been treated like nuisances when they first came in, the shop would have lost good customers.

* Give customers what they want. Everyone at the shop carries a 1911, and literally half our pistol inventory is 1911s. If someone comes in looking for "a good pistol," we go right to the 1911s, and usually sell one. But if someone comes in specifically wanting a Glock or Beretta or something else, we'll sell them one. If they are set on buying some crummy gun, we'll get it for them without trying to push something we think is better.

* Have a neat shop! The place I work has pictures, C&R guns, holster rigs, African trophies, and other neat paraphanalia up on the walls. We've got a semi-auto 1919 on a tripod by the door (it may sell eventually, but it's mostly there for looks). Completed custom guns get set out on the couters for people to look at. It makes people much more interested in coming to the shop.

Something that I think the shop could improve on:

* Organization. If you order a part/gun/holster or two or three every day for different people, they add up really quickly. You must have a good system in place to keep track of orders, store them when they arrive, and notify customers to pick them up. Losing someone's part after a month-long wait hurts the business.

August 15, 2003, 04:18 AM
Tamara: You've just described three of my favorite gun stores...

Buffalo Sporting Goods, Buffalo TX
Burdett & Sons, College Station TX
Sportsman Guns, Madisonville TX

I would have included my fourth favorite (Praco Gun & Pawn, Waco TX), but they don't have an on-site gunsmith (although they can recommend a few good ones).

I'm with you on this one...:D

August 15, 2003, 04:28 AM
1. customer service.. ask if I want to see something, treat me with respect, be friendly.

2. special orders and catalogs. If you don't have it tell me you'll be happy to get it.

August 15, 2003, 04:37 AM
What we have lacked in my area for years (15+) is fair trade-in prices! Other than a local pawn shop (pretty fair) there has been a shortage of used firearms. Within the last year I went to one shop that had NO used guns at all. I asked the owner why not and he said " we get so few trade-ins that the staff buys them". Now we have a Cabela's being built, and the local gun shops are starting to sweat it out. They are spending their money on billboard space and claiming a large inventory of firearms for my purchasing pleasure (still no used firearms). It's too little too late! I'll visit Cabela's but stay with my local pawnshop, do to the nature of his business I doubt that he will be affected by Cabela's. All I ask of a gunshop is a fair trade-in price for the gun I purchased from them and a selection of good used guns, all the rest of Tamara's list I can live without. "See Honey, I'm easy to get along with".:D

August 15, 2003, 06:08 AM
Ian - where 'ya working?

I get almost everything from Tom & Joe's in Wheat Ridge, as Tom is friendly, knows what he's talking about, and will order anything for you. He treats everyone well, and loyal customers just a bit better. A tiny little store, but I just love to drop in and shoot the bull with him - and I often end up spending $500+ when I do.

August 15, 2003, 06:46 AM
Stellarpod, "Demo days". Cool idea, like a mini Shot Show in your own town :D

1, Support Gun Ownership

If the customers are members of Local/National gun rights group then the owner and staff should be too.

There is a local gun store I never use, because the owner remarked to me, that the nation's most vocal and effective gun rights organization was too "extreme" and "no body really needs one of those black semi auto's anyway".

Meanwhile, stacked behind the elderly owner was a collection of Browning BAR's, Mossberg 500's, Remington 870's, and Benelli riot guns. :rolleyes:

2, A little bit of separation.

I love rugby and fishing as much as the next guy, but try and keep the tackle and rugby balls in another room or partitioned off from the guns.

August 15, 2003, 10:54 AM
Morgan - I'm at Gunsmoke.

Felonious Monk
August 15, 2003, 11:54 AM
So, Tamara--

When are you opening your Top Notch East TN gunshop, and will you be able to lure Shannon as your head gunsmith? :D

Apply all of the pertinent suggestions in this thread and it'll be big-time in no-time.

Gonna provide specials to THR/TFL members?


August 15, 2003, 12:10 PM
When I lived near Clark Bros they had an "HK day" where an HK factory rep had all the toys displayed. You could shoot any of them if you bought the ammo. I shot a PSG-1. :D

August 15, 2003, 12:44 PM
I would spend at a store that would go out of their way to get what i hassle FFL transfers or ordering me a gun for a fair price
and no BSing!
i dont care if they are dirt cheap i wouldnt want to buy from them if all i got was BS from the staff
now i might buy from them becasue i am poor but eventually that may change
and cater to all kinds of shooters....hunters, mil-surp fiends, competition types, that would make me happy to pay a little more at a gunstore than i could find online

August 15, 2003, 12:46 PM
Don't give opinions on ANYTHING unless asked.
I was in my local gun store about a month ago, and the subject of varmint calling came up. Now I happen to enjoy varmint calling. I don't do a whole lot of it, but I have fun when I do. The two guys working in the store and one of the customers began a long discussion of how it isn't sporting, there is no reason to do it, etc. I am sure that there are lots of varmint hunters that buy stuff at that store. Why make them uncomfortable ? Why make them the object of your ridicule ? If you don't agree with it, fine, keep it to yourself as long as you are in the business. If I want to listen to anti-hunting speeches, I wouldn't normally go to a gun store to hear it.

Don't give advice unless asked/Give the customer what he wants.
This is a lesson I learned as a kid. My best friends dad decided that he wanted a .22 rifle for squirrel hunting. He researched what was available and went to a gun dealer to get it. The gun dealer said, you don't want that, what you want is is cheaper and is more accurate. So he bought one based on the dealers advice. And, he wasn't happy with it at all. To this day he blames that dealer for it. If the dealer would have kept his opinions to himself and got the guy what he wanted, the buyer would have no one to blame but himself.

Don't allow you own personal interests to dominate your business unless you have enough like minded shooters to support your business.
We used to have a nice gun shop here in town. He had a variety of stuff. You could sit in there and discuss pretty much anything. I went there all the time and spent a lot of money in there. A couple years ago, the dealer became interested in Cowboy Action Shooting. Now, the vast majority of stuff he has in the store is cowboy action gear. He has now alienated the vast majority of his customers because MOST of his customers have no interest in cowboy action shooting. There are maybe a dozen local guys into it. In additon, if you hang out in the store, all that is discussed is cowboy action shooting, so I don't go there anymore. I have purchased cast bullets from him for years. I have shot tens of thousands of cast bullets from him. I went in there the other day and asked him why he no longer had 158 grain SWC .357" bullets ? He said, the only people that buy cast bullets are cowboy shooters. Well that might be because you quit carrying anything but cowboy bullets. He sold tons of bullets before he ever heard of cowboy action shooting.

El Tejon
August 15, 2003, 12:50 PM
Treat it as a business, a way to make money, scads and scads of money, not your personal hobby.

August 15, 2003, 01:10 PM
Find a niche.

Wally World not carrying milsurp? Order a truckload of Enfields, Moisin Nagants, CZ 52's, Argy Brownings, etc; and the ammo to feed them.
How about milsurp ammo in standard calibers? You'll never see those "battle packs" of NATO surplus .308, 5.52, 9mm, etc, in Wally World.

And how about all those new models that come out every year? - Wally World won't be carrying them until some market analysis is done two years after the fact. So get some examples of those Valtro gubmints, 17 HMR's and (whatever) in to show people.

And how about all the established companies that the big boys don't carry? You'll never see a CZ firearm in Wally World - order some of their rifles and handguns. Order up some of those very nice (and inexpensive) Baikal shotguns. Thumb through any wholesalers catalog and you'll find dozens of other good firearms that the big boys won't carry.

Did I say "find a niche" - hell, create a niche! I'd break into a sweat if I walked into a gun store that carried firearms and ammo like I've named above!


Futo Inu
August 15, 2003, 02:01 PM
Agreed, Tam, on all counts.

And, just flat out have people available to answer questions (with an agreeable attitude, no less) and let me fondle (the guns, not them), instead of having to wait 10 minutes for a clerk to get free. Carry reloading equipment and milsurps, yep.

August 15, 2003, 02:20 PM
The only thing I buy from the big discount stores is shotgun ammo. I buy everything else from Little Crow Sports in Hutchinson MN or Franks Custom Guns in Winsted MN. Things I like:

You are encouraged to handle everything.
Good reloading supplies including once fired brass from other customers.
Willing to deal on purchase and trade.
Honest about being in business to make money.
The big sign that says "If you don't see it, and it exists, we can get it."
Smoking is permitted (I don't smoke).
Free calendars every January.

Lastly, most of the shoppers at the average gun shop are guys. These shops keep things on hand for their significant others. They always has little things around to give to new customers, or current customer's wives. The first time my wife (girlfriend) went there, they gave her a Leuopold lapel pin. She's bought two handguns and a shotgun just for her. They also encourage people to bring in the kids and keep some candy there for them.


August 15, 2003, 02:33 PM
1. Treat you customers like they are doing you a favor by patronizing your establishment, not like you are doing them a favor by selling them something.

2. Do transfers for cheap, meaning $20 or less. None of this "10% of the price of the firearm" bs. What does it cost you, 37 cents for a stamp and a nickel for the copy of your FFL? People who want you to do transfers usually buy guns and accessories on a regular basis, so that's an excellent way of getting people to come back for more.

August 15, 2003, 03:22 PM
Doesn't have to be super-spacious or super-clean,

Agreed, but it can't be a pig sty, either. Nobody is offended if the place is clean. "Cleanies" will appreciate it and "messies" won't notice.

But PLENTY of us would be offended if we got yelled at or even glared at for smudging the glass doors of a cabinet.

August 15, 2003, 03:29 PM
My favorite gun shop gives my kid a handful of candy to keep him occupied while I look at different rifles and pistols.

Very smart. The other gunshops give me dirty looks for bringing him.

August 15, 2003, 03:36 PM
1) Make the place comfortable, with knowledgeable, and well-rounded, staff. If I'm spending a few hundred bucks on stereo gear, I want to twiddle with the knobs first. And I want the salesman to be able to answer questions. Same with a gun.

2) Wide range of choices - impulse-purchase-level .22s up through match-grade stuff. Stuff for duck hunters, skeet shooters, and the 98 pound female critter who wants a shotgun cuz her ex won't let go.

3) Nice variety of ammo - whatever you need to buy to get good prices from the big guys, but also whatever surplus stuff you see...

4) A "back room" that's open for folks to clean stuff, tinker with stuff, whatever. Just so long as it won't cut into the...

5) On-site generalist gunsmith. GENERALIST. And don't be afraid to send stuff out to specialists.

6) Weed out sexists/racists/loonies from both your staff and your customers. Yeah - you might have to fire a few customers. You don't want some minority female in the place lookin' to buy some personal protection, and have Bubba wander up to her, tell her how she really needs a Homeboy special, if she, bein' a little lady and all, can handle it, and then regale her with the story of the time he fought off the space aliens who were tryin' ta probe him armed with nothing but a .44 magnum... (actually ran into a guy working a pro-gun politician's booth who after a minute or three switched into "and the time I got abducted by aliens..." mode...)

6a) Don't hire folks based only on their military/police service - that don't make 'em experts.

7) Gun games make people shoot a LOT of ammo. And folks always want the latest toys that the next guy has - and if you've got a world-class shooter, take care of him, because people will follow him.

8) You're not gonna make money on guns. Accept that. Let your customers know _all_ the prices on 'em - what you pay, how much you're gonna mark it up, etc. That'll impress 'em. You'll make some money on ammo, and a lot more on the accessories.

9) Stock reloading stuff - sure, those guys won't be buying the $20/package factory hunting rounds, but they'll likely be buying the $15/package boxes of bullets, the $18/pound powder, the $20/thousand primers, and all the brass they can scrounge... Yeah, you save money handloading... right...

10) On-site indoor range, preferably with near access to an outdoor range.

11) Classes - not just in the latest tacticality, but in fundamentals, in handloading, whatever...

12) Free location for RKBA activism meetings.

August 15, 2003, 03:38 PM
But PLENTY of us would be offended if we got yelled at or even glared at for smudging the glass doors of a cabinet.

ALWAYS windex all glass surfaces before going home every night. That way, if you get broken into, you'll be more likely to have usable fingerprints for the cops to go on.

Nando Aqui
August 15, 2003, 05:40 PM
Tamara - Agree with what you said, and with some of the others, but not all.

El Tejon alluded to treating the shop like a business, not as a hobby. This is right on and critical.

I don't know how many times I have gone into gun shops (other than my favorite; below) and other similar stores, such as 'specialized' hobby shops (R/C equipment) only to find several guys sitting on STOOLS drinking coffee and shooting the S__T with the attendants while I wait, and wait, and wait, to be helped.

Nothing wrong with establishing a nice raport with the clients; but keep the conversations brief, and by all means, don't allow personal stories and anecdotes to interfere with quick and efficient service to the other (real?) customers.

My favorite store is Mike's Guns, in St. Charles, MO. It is a small, clean and simple shop- yet he has an excellent selection of new and used firearms. Best of all - no B.S. of any kind, and he and those who work there know their business. His prices are always very fair if not down right low. Transfer fees? $20.

What don't I buy at Mike's? Some parts and accessories that are more difficult to get and surplus ammo that I buy by the 1000's.


August 15, 2003, 05:45 PM
Where's Mike's?

FWIW, I won't go to... dang, I don't even remember the name of the joint - they used to be down in the city, I think on Park, then moved out to St. Chuck/St. Pete, just off the highway. They run "book" tables at gun shows, and keep selling stuff like the Turner Diaries, etc... So I don't patronize 'em, and I told 'em why...

August 15, 2003, 08:40 PM
Allow CCW.

Sure enough, there's a store around here that I used to go to. Nice selection, helpful staff. Has one of the best ventilated indoor ranges around with a good selection of rental pieces. Prices are comparable to other local gun stores. They host a shooting league.

They even offer CCW courses.

But they do not allow non-LEO CCW in their store.

I can't stop in spur of the moment ... what would I do with whatever I'm carrying? I don't keep a spare case in my car.

And if I go there deliberately, I have to pass by 2 or 3 other local gun stores that respect my 2A rights. So I don't go there on purpose, either.

Sean Smith
August 15, 2003, 09:14 PM
1) Don't try to go head-to-head with Wallyworld and the 'Net on guns & ammo. You ain't gonna outsell Wal Mart on bulkpack Winchester or Remington 700 BDL's, nor Ammoman on cases of South African .223. Stock stuff I want to buy in sub-case quantities right now: defense ammo, oddball military calibers, high-end ammo, and et cetera.

While I wouldn't expect them to be able to keep up with internet cheapo deals, I WOULD expect them to not engage in cosmic-grade ripoffs like charging nearly double the going rate for 10mm Blazers...

2) If anyone behind the counter shows a tendency to BS about their imaginary Vietnam experiences rather than trying to research a factual answer to a question, fire them. Immediately.

Roger that. Nothing worse than an ersatz veteran or a know-it-all who is dumber than flat beer.

3) Hire a good gunsmith. Pay him right, proselytize about his services, and sell a kidney to keep him there, if that's what it takes.

Nice in theory, but the more I learn the more I suspect that many, if not most, gunsmiths are incompetent morons or outright frauds who can stay in business only because most of their customers are dumber than they are. And the good ones can just go into business on their own and get more work than they can stand. So I'm not convinced that this is too practical. Naturally, having a BAD 'smith on the premises will do you worlds of harm, the only upside being that if people want to kill him for breaking their guns, they won't work.

4) Get involved in competitive shooting. These guys spend money; make sure your name is on every one of their lips. Sponsor matches, hand out cards, give away tee-shirts, whatever...

Maybe... I honestly dunno one way or the other here.

5) Stock accessories. Sure, that SureFire fore-end or Ed Brown mainspring housing might be two dollars cheaper someplace online, but being able to fondle it in the store and walk out with it on your gun that very day is worth a couple of bucks.

I'd tend to agree here. It is very nice to be able to actually see the product, and as long as your mark-ups arent psychotic you could sell plenty of stuff. Stuff like stocks, holsters and gunbelts would be especially good.

Create a clean, professional environment that is friendly to EVERYBODY, not just bubba the sub-literate gun nut. Don't hire morons and/or a-holes. Charge prices that aren't psychopathic.

August 15, 2003, 10:06 PM
Stock accessories. Sure, that SureFire fore-end or Ed Brown mainspring housing might be two dollars cheaper someplace online, but being able to fondle it in the store and walk out with it on your gun that very day is worth a couple of bucks.

I completely agree on this one. I can usually get things a bit cheaper if I search around online, but I go to Brigade Quartermasters in Kennesaw anyway because I know I can play with it and see if I like it, the sales staff will offer helpful suggestions (usually), and I can take it home and have it in my hot little hands right then, instead of waiting a week. Plus, with shipping, things usually come out even anyway.

August 15, 2003, 10:22 PM
Not only that, but there is a concept called the inpuluse buy. My local dealer doesn't understand this at all. He keeps saying that he can get anything you want, if you order it. But he seems to have never walked into a store with a big overtime paycheck in his pocket looking for instant gratification. There are plenty of things that I kinda want, that I would probably buy on impluse if it was right there in front of me; But, I probably wouldn't order it. I sometimes go to another shop about 80 miles away that usually has a decent selection of stuff. I never go there and not spend money, and I have spent thousands on impulse buys because it is sitting right there. Given a day or two to think about it, I probably would either buy something I need worse or put the money in the bank. I was in a gun store in Arizona and spotted one of those super light weight S&W .44 mags. That is a prime example of something that I would probably never order, and probably never spend that kind of money on it, if I really thought about it. But when it was in my hands, I would have bought it in an instant, but luckily I was an out of state resident and could not legally buy it.
My local dealer is probably missing out on doubling his income by not keeping a good inventory.

August 15, 2003, 10:28 PM
You make a good point there 444 ...... I think my current order locally for a P3-AT is the FIRST actual order I have made in ....... well ........ too long to remember.

Other purchases were because ...... the gun was there .... it was on my list ... I could handle it .... and then go limp with total lack of self-discipline!!:D Walking out with purchase!!

Same thing with a less local store ... they have very good inventory ..... just so happened they had this 9 1./2 tube SRH ..... oh dear ... it was on the list ... and I had to add a red dot too .... damn .... that was costly but ..... I am still pleased.

I guess, in fairness ...... when you consider how much money can be tied up in inventory .... for a small dealer .... there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Awful difficult to have ''one of everything''!

August 15, 2003, 10:33 PM
Big_R: Can you give directions, snail mail, or phone number to those two gunshops? I live about 4 miles north of Howard Lake. I have not heard of those gunshops before and they sound like the kind of place I want to spend my $$$ at.

August 15, 2003, 10:43 PM
I certainly don't expect a gun shop to have one of everything, but there are certain basic items that I would think you would have. A wondernine, a 1911, 870 shotguns, .30-06 rifle, .308 rifle, .38 revolver................................. I think you would also be OK buying one of the latest thing out that is under $1000 for inventory.

Navy joe
August 15, 2003, 11:09 PM
Nice in theory, but the more I learn the more I suspect that many, if not most, gunsmiths are incompetent morons or outright frauds who can stay in business only because most of their customers are dumber than they are. And the good ones can just go into business on their own and get more work than they can stand.

Like any other artisans, there are many very good gunsmiths out there that could not maintain a book, self schedule, or deal with counterfront traffic to save their life. You just need to find the right one who understands their shortcomings and take care of him like he takes care of you. "You businessman, me gunplumber"

Monkeyleg, that shop owner was nuts. First off, most competitors have the gun jones bad. They buy lots of other guns that don't get competed with. Second, sell reloading supplies and competition accessories. In the great metropolis I'm in I can't walk in and buy a box of Montana Gold bullets or a CED timer if mine goes TU. Third, I'd guess that about half of club level pistol competitors buy factory ammo. All the rimfire guys buy factory, usually expensive stuff. Lots of it. 4th, competitors should be seen kinda like mid level crack dealers/Amway reps. They bring other newer folks into the store and matches. A healthy competition scene is vital to area shooters and store owners. Sounds like cheesehead just didn't like some competition shooters and adjusted his lack of business accordingly.

I'd add to this list of ideas to be seasonal. Nobody buys blackpowder in the spring or turkey chokes in August. If they are it better be because you put your overstock on sale to get more floor traffic.

-Sponsor a radio ad when the gunshow comes to town.

I like the coffee idea and the LEO discount, improves the atmosphere. If I had a shop I'd like a corner with chairs, gunrags, coffee, and a woodstove just because I remember how General stores used to be, there are a few left like that. Again, train your regulars not to tell war stories, scare away customers and such.

-Not sure the best way how, but reach out to non-traditional markets. Women and minorities often get a cold shoulder in too many shops. I've met a good few safe and enthusiastic gun owners who wore baggy pants. A good start would be to have counter staff that don't all look like Bubba or his cousin.

August 15, 2003, 11:41 PM
Another thought... There are usually battered women's shelters in most cities, where victims of spousal/BF abuse can find refuge. I think this would be a ready market for a sympathetic invitation to a CCW class! This would be even better if a woman could do the inviting and/or instructing, as the battered women might be a bit skittish about trusting an unknown male. Of course, if those who run the shelter are liberal cretins, they won't want the nasty word "guns" mentioned in the hearing of their guests: but in my experience, quite a few of them are angry enough with men that they'd probably welcome a "woman-empowering" approach! :D

August 16, 2003, 11:05 AM
mid level crack dealers/Amway reps.

August 16, 2003, 11:45 AM
One thing I'd like gunstores to do that is to provide at least one "aiming point" target (several would be better, especially if it's a larger store with lots of counter space) - just somewhere safe to point a firearm you are looking at. I don't think steel plate would work too well (riccochet's), but one of those shredded rubber blocks stuck on a shelf with a paper Bullseye target on it would make me feel a lot better about mounting a rifle on my shoulder or pointing a pistol at it. Yes - all firearms are supposed to be checked and empty, but I am not comfortable pointing even an empty firearm in a typical gunshop. And I get VERY uncomfortable with the actions of some other customers and where they are pointing firearms. A paper bullseye target makes it pretty obvious, and a polite hint from the counter staff to even the worst offender would make me a lot more comfortable in gun stores.

August 16, 2003, 11:59 AM
there are no interstates or majur highways nearby. No malls, etc. No Wally World; nearest is a 30 min. drive. There are two gunshops: the oldest is almost a hobby for the owner, and is open Th-F noon to 1600, Sat 10-5, Sun noon-1400. He's a good guy, but he's never open when I need something and can get to his shop, even though it's under half a mile from me. Has mostly commercial guns, antiques, and high-grade milsurp. He has reloading supplies in a limited selection. This would get me by OK if it were more convenient.

The newer one, open about a year, is heavy on the milsurp side but has gradually been expanding its spectrum and picking up some very nice top-end milsurp, e.g. match M1/M1A, and a good selection of used commercial stuff. Open regular hours, good prices, and that's where I do most of my buying. He knows his customers by name, and knows what they like, and will often call my office or stop by to let me know when something up my alley comes in. Whenever I buy something, he looks at the sticker and says "ah, just give me XX", always a few bucks off. I keep coming back. I only wish he had reloading supplies; then I'd go nowhere else. He does order bulk bullets for me though.

Either way, I do my best to get all my stuff from these two. Prices are higher than out of town, but I want to keep local gunshops in business.

So Tam, if it's a small shop you're talking about, I think the basics are: reliable hours, a small but representative selection of the basic categories (defense guns, target guns, milsurp, hunting, maybe collectibles), some basic reloading suplies (bullets, powder, primers, brass, tools, manuals) for the most common calibers (45ACP, 9mm, .30-'06, .38spl, .308, .270, maybe .44 mag, .40 S&W, .357), maybe some bulk ammo deals in common calibers (the new guy here always has some sort of milsurp M2 Ball and 7.62 NATO, .223, 9mm, .45ACP), cleaning stuff for common calibers. And a place to hang out; one place has an old church pew with a rough table and mags/catalogs, doesn't take up much space. Access-prompt access- to good gunsmithing. And get to know your customers well.

Things ARE tough; my disposable income is tight these days and I can't buy much in the way of new guns, but I always need ammo/reloading supplies/cleaning supplies. I think you have to have enough of the small, consumable stuff to keep 'em coming. Kinda like milk, bread, beer, eggs for a grocery.

August 16, 2003, 02:12 PM

All of this advice is good - a knowledgeable, orderly and polite gun shop is a desirable gun shop. Yet, when making large purchases most people are still going to let price be their guide.

An interesting case study could be made of the Wal-Mart showing up here on Kodiak Island several years ago. We're truly isolated - the nearest chain store is an hour away by plane and so there's fewer variables to debate cause and effect. Small businesses made a huge stink arguing that Wal-Mart would put them out of business, as they always do.

And some of them did go out of business, while others actually thrived and increased business after Wal-Mart showed up.

The ones that folded were stuck in a rut and tried to sell the same products they always had - the same products that Wal-Mart carried. They were relying on customer loyalty to see them through. Too bad, because when school starts and mom needs to buy her four kids clothes and supplies, she's going to Wal-Mart no matter many years she's bought stuff at the local shop. She can't afford not to.
And when mom says dad can buy that new hunting rifle, he's going to save that $50 and buy it from Wal-Mart. He already knows what he wants and he's going with the best price. He can't afford not to.

On the other hand, the businesses that thrived did so by finding a niche. One guy that formerly sold bicycles, went into high end BMX bicycles and then brought in a line of kayaks. He did fine since Wal-Mart doesn't carry that stuff. A sporting goods (gun) shop went into archery and fly-fishing gear and did fine.

Chain stores carry the low-end commercial stuff from the big manufacturers - for gun shops that means Ruger, Remington, Winchester, etc.
So, if you want to compete you need to carry what they don't. There's a whole world of milsurp stuff that nobody wants to carry - Mak's, Tok's, etc, and the ammo to feed them. There's an enormous amount of fine quality sporting arms from Europe, Russia, etc, that nobody wants to carry. Do you know how hard it is to find a selection of CZ rifles in a gun shop - and anybody comparing them to Ruger or Winchester (which are higher priced!) is likely to choose one.

Don't go head to head or you'll lose. Find a niche and exploit it.


Nando Aqui
August 18, 2003, 07:24 AM
Mike's at 1964 Old Hwy 94 South, which is sort of the service road that parallels 94 on the North side. From 70*, go SW on 94 (1st Capitol) to Praille Ln, turn right on Praille and right again on the 'service road'. There is a Domino's next to Mike's. It is sort of across from the Wehrenberg St. Chas 18 theater. Mike's is closed on Monday's.

* Another way to get to the service road when driving SW on 94 from 70 is to 'exit' 94 (turn right) about 1/8-mile after crossing Zumbehl/Friedens Rd. Then turn left on the service rod and you can't miss Mike's or Domino's on your left after about 1/2 mile or so.

:rolleyes: Better yet: do a Google search on 636-949-8764 and look at the Yahoo Map, although the Red Star is not always quite properly located.


St. Gunner
August 18, 2003, 09:37 AM

I pretty much shop at two stores here, Ho-Guns and Powderhorn.

Ho-Guns- friendly down to earth atmosphere, Wayne is a first class crack-up and is always willing to talk. He encourages folks to show up and chat and they in turn promote sorta a campfire mentality. He has a gunsmith who also works as a salesman, but often the regulars help Wayne out on sales, by pointing out various stuff about different guns. My little girl loves to go with me, to talk to Wayne, sit on the counter and eat candy or pastries and most of all play with "Zack" Waynes big ol Weimerainer. Scopes are mounted free of charge if you buy them from him. He offers consignment, for I think 10% of what you sell it for. He carries everything I have ever asked for.

"Wayne do you have any AK mags?"

"Do you want 10,20, 30, 40, or 75rd drums?" He then pulls out the proper box from under the counter and sets you up. Want something he doesn't have in stock, he'll order it for you.

He sponsors training and matches and shoots IPSC and IDPA himself. I busted a magazine late one Saturday night and wanted a new holster for an IDPA shoot on Sunday, I called him about 5 minutes to close and asked if he could bring them to the match on Sunday. Sunday I had them there, I tried to pay him for delivery, but he refused. To me that was service and it bought my loyal patronage.

Powderhorn- Gets most of my reloading business, Wayne doesn't carry massive amounts of reloading stuff the shop isn't big enough. They carry a massive amount of guns and seem to have pretty much one of everything I ever wanted to look at. They are friendly and easy to get along with. The upset me a few years ago when BATF was doing a check and I stared pretty hard at one agent because he was writing down names off of the yellow forms and what gun they had bought, every one was a semi-auto rifle. I sorta shook my head and was disgusted. I went home and wrote my Senator, I never mentioned a gunstore, just that it was a local shop. Well he contacted BATF and they sent a reply that it happened at Powderhorn and they remembered distinctly when it happened and they had asked the owner for my name, because of my reaction to what I had seen. Now I realize he is running a business, but "He is a new customer, I don't know his name" would have been the proper response, instead he told em who I was. I didn't like that, I didn't shop there for a few years afterwards. I still don't frequent the store because of that incident, but if I need some certain powder or bullets I go there. I think today David would handle it differently, but I am a stubborn hard headed cuss and I don't forgive to easily on some things.

Tamara, if you want loyalty from the customer, give them the same. If a regular calls and asks if you still have the "whatever" and they say they will be there to get it soon, pull it for them. To many shops leave it till you show up and will sell it before you get there. I had seen a Springfield 1911 I wanted at a local shop, I called the shop and told the owner I was coming to get it(I had bought a few guns there in a month period or so). I asked if he would hold it and he said sure no problem. I showed up and watched someone else walking out with it and his reply was, "Well he had the cash." I went and bought one from another store and have never done business there again. If you tell me you will do something do it.

Run the annoying racist KKK wanna be's out of the store, i'm White and the sobs offend me. If I hear the word "Ni*&$@" or another ethnic slang term I leave, I don't want my kid growing up exposed to that crap, i'd rather her hear cursing than that garbage that comes out of some skinheads trap.

Insist people check the guns to see if they are loaded, even if you already did, promote safe gun handling.

Offer a raffle for something special every now and again. One shop offers raffle tickets for a safe every so often, if he wants $600 for it, he offers 600 $1 chances. He brings in alot of other business this way. Sometimes he'll make the tickets $10 or $20 bucks to increase the odds of winning. He doesn't do it to make money on the safe or whatever but it does increase customer flow.

Offer your ammo cheap, most folks will make up for it on fairly priced guns. I can order at cost through my father who has held an FFL since the 1970's. I do 99% of my business through Wayne at Ho_guns just because I think he is the best at what he does.

My .02 cents

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