Gun Store Etiquette & Gun Differences (new shooter)

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by love4god, Jul 8, 2015.

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  1. love4god

    love4god Member

    Apr 23, 2007
    I've just started shooting and I'm looking to make my first gun purchase (I started another thread on here about that process). I've been looking in the gun shops and Cabelas and a couple of other sporting good/hunting stores and I've been a little reluctant to have the guy start pulling guns out of the cases. Honestly, I'm not sure what to do when he does.

    I didn't grow up around guns and this is all new to me. I know (and follow) the basic safety rules, watched a bunch of Youtube videos, went through a full day CCP class, and have gone shooting a few times now.

    First, what is the proper etiquette. I know I shouldn't point a gun at anything but is it ok to point a gun down at the floor to see how it feels in a shooting position? At the ceiling? Across the store where there isn't a person? Just not sure. Also, is it ok to cock it? Fire it without anything in it (after checking)? Take it apart if it's used (although I'll probably buy new because of my inexperience)?

    Also, what am I looking for? I know the feel of the grip in my hand but other than that, without firing a gun, what other distinguishing characteristics am I looking at from one gun to the next.

    When I am shooting different guns I've noticed differences in the feel of the gun in my hand, the recoil, how hard/easy it is to pull the trigger, it's weight. People mention sights a lot and right now I'm not seeing much difference. They look different but I don't know if I'm knowledgeable enough yet to see a real difference from one sight to the next when shooting.
  2. MEHavey

    MEHavey Member

    Jul 27, 2010
    Rule 1: Never point a weapon where "if it goes off," someone might be in the line of fire.
    Now this gets interesting in buildings where walls may be nothing but gypsum, so ASK
    the clerk.

    Rule 2: Never cock a weapon, or cycle the action, or dry fire it unless you first ASK the clerk.

    Rule 3: Tell the clerk this will be your first weapon, and ASK him(her) what your considerations
    should be. He/She/It(these days) should then ask you what you intend to use it for.
    (General plinking, home defense, concealed carry (eventually) are all reasonable answers.)

    Rule 4: If a weapon doesn't feel right/natural in your hands, it isn't right for you at that time.
    Now things may change over time, but at this current time, No.

    There are only two things (short of gross safety/handling violations) that irritate gun store staff.
    A. Those who know nothing, but act like they do...
    B. Those (in 'A' above) whose mind is nevertheless made up, and will not reasonably listen when counsel is given.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  3. wojownik

    wojownik Member

    May 15, 2009
    Always ask first before handling the firearm.

    Always be aware which way the muzzle is pointed when you are handling one.

    Never assume a firearm is unloaded even in the store.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  4. Plan2Live

    Plan2Live Member

    May 17, 2011
    Columbia, SC
    I would suggest you start by taking a NRA Basic Pistol class. The instructor will go over and explain the different mechanical actions and should explain the advantages and disadvantages of each type without prejudice. Start there and you should feel more at ease and more confident when shopping.
  5. Corpral_Agarn

    Corpral_Agarn Member

    Nov 14, 2012
    Northern CA
    ^^ MEHavey pretty much nailed it.

    I always check a piece after somebody hands it to me. Its a good way to stay safe.

    It is 100% OK to ask the clerk about dry firing.

    When I am handling a gun for purchase, I look for a few things:
    Natural point of aim - when I bring the gun to bare on a spot on the wall, do the sights line up?
    grip feel - it has to feel good to hold
    trigger reach - where does my finger naturally contact the trigger? is it too far in (the first knuckle crease is too far) or can I not reach it (the very tippy tip of my finger)
    Trigger pull - is it smooth, heavy, gritty, long etc. I also check the reset
    Sights - are they easy to see?
    Does the mag come out freely - press the button and have it drop into your hand.

    That's just me.
  6. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    Cool! That's exciting. :)

    I understand that feeling. Any time you're trying to enter a new hobby or field and you enter a store catering to that interest there's a learning curve and an intimidation factor. It's normal. Be yourself, be confident, but be honest and tell the clerk you're new. If you're lucky, you'll get a good one who won't botch the whole interaction.

    And look, if you leave the store feeling like the situation was a total muck-up and you weren't happy/satisfied, it was probably NOT your fault. You can read horror stories all day here about gun store clerks and how clueless, rude, arrogant, and downright unhelpful they can be. If you feel like someone you dealt with was a jerk ... he was. Don't let that dissuade you or put you off. It happens to every one of us.

    Good. Even if it feels exaggerated at first, ALWAYS follow the muzzle and finger safety protocols (and the others...). Always check a gun someone hands you to ensure you can see an empty chamber before you do any manipulations.

    Generally, yes. That doesn't mean wildly swing it around, but usually you're facing a counter and a wall when you're talking to the clerk, and once you've checked the weapon and know it's empty, you can carefully extend it and get a sight picture and feel for the firing grip, while pointing at the floor, rear wall, or up near the ceiling. I wouldn't turn around and point at the far wall or anywhere around other customers, but if you want to check out a scope, for instance, you might ask the clerk if it is ok if you sight at the moose head or clock on the far wall, or equivalent.

    Generally, sure, but it is always polite to ask first. Just standing there with it in your hand, without running it through manipulations like cocking, racking the slide, and probably dryfiring it won't tell you much. Do ask about dryfiring, though. A FEW guns shouldn't be dry fired. Most are perfectly fine with it. But make sure the clerk is ok with it.

    A bit touchier. I'd want to do that, but you HAVE to ask first, and you really better know what you're doing before you do that.
  7. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

    Sep 23, 2006
    I'd ride the slide on a pistol, cautiously align a revolver to avoid contact of cylinder stop.
    Don't try any TV shenanigans closing revolver or spinning cylinder.
    Ask permission to dryfire but I'd ad also to only do it when you are seriously considering the gun.
    Spend some time at gun counters just observing and learning.Even when you are intending to handle the merchandise watch what's going on for a few minuets to see how the staff and customers interact, where guns are pointed, how they are presented back and forth.
    Every store is different, some better some worse.
  8. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    Fit of the gun in your hand. Is it comfortable and can you quickly/surely reach all of the controls?
    Feel of the trigger when you dryfire. Is it fairly crisp and light enough for you to shoot comfortably without pushing the front sight off target?
    Operating the slide or cylinder. Smooth and easy or rough and stubborn?
    Overal quality -- generally, does the gun seem to be well put together. Most are, but even a novice can see some of the most glaring errors, scratches, dings, booger screw heads, rust, etc.

    All of that can be checked without firing, except for the recoil.

    Most sights work well enough. Some have very narrow target front posts which you might or might not like. Some have big fat fast-to-see combat sights with fiber optic dots in them. Most stock pistol sights are very similar though.
  9. eldon519

    eldon519 Member

    Jul 21, 2005
    The best way to pick out a gun is by renting that particular model first. Sometimes how it feels in your hand doesn't relate to how well you might shoot it. Also the gun that shoots best for you starting out might not be best for you after you've honed your skills.

    Renting guns can be expensive, so if you don't want to rent a bunch of guns I'd consider buying a used gun of a relatively common design like a Glock 9mm, S&W .38 Special, S&W M&P, etc. Assuming you got a decent price you could use it to hone your skill and find out more about what you like and don't like and then sell it for around what you paid for it. Also if you are already going to the range, a lot of the time it is actually pretty easy to strike up a conversation with someone who is shooting a gun you are interested in, and they might let you put a few rounds through it to try it out (of course offer to let them shoot yours in-kind). You really just gotta start somewhere and see where it takes you.
  10. love4god

    love4god Member

    Apr 23, 2007
    Thanks for all the great advice. Lots of my questions are being answered and I appreciate it.

    I just want to re-iterate that I'm very consistent with the safety rules. I think being a new shooter it's so drilled into your mind over and over and that those main 4 rules are a constant.

    Also, I'm pretty humble about this whole experience, I'm certainly not going to the store or range pretending I know what I'm doing. I've been asking the range guys lots of questions and they've been very helpful showing me how each of the guns works when I rent them. The first guy when my wife and I went shooting, before my class, took us down and spent 15 minutes with us going through safety, shooting stance and grip, how the gun worked, etc.. Really great.

    What does "sight picture" picture mean?

    I was supposed to go to a gun show in Asheville on Saturday but I'm travelling. I'll have to find another one somewhere nearby soon. Maybe I can get a look at a lot of different guns at once and get an idea of what a good price is for some of the ones I like.
  11. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    Welcome to the wonderful world of guns!

    Here's what I do in gun shops.

    Ask to see a gun. After I see a clerk safety check the gun and hand it to me, I immediately check the gun myself.

    Always obey all the safety rules, and particularly mind the muzzle direction and trigger.

    Working the action is ok, if you ask. Dry firing is usually ok, if you ask. Taking the gun apart may be ok, if you ask.

    When checking the sights or dry firing, point the gun at the floor, the celling, or at Cabella's, I like to aim at a high hung animal mount.

    When it comes to picking a gun, it obviously needs to be the size, cartridge, and material you prefer. It also needs to fit your hand properly. It should fill your hand if a full size gun, or at least be manageable if a carry gun.

    Make sure you get a gun with proper trigger reach for you to start with. when you pull the trigger in double action the tip of your trigger finger shouldn't be hitting your thumb or the magazine release, or anything really. I've found trigger reach to be vital in accurate shooting.

    Also, the clerk should listen to your needs and wants, and sell you what you need and want, not what they think is cool. If they try to push a product on you, ask to speak to someone else, or go to a different store.
  12. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator Emeritus

    Oct 22, 2007
    Central PA
    That simply means seeing the sights and a target together and (in the case of buying a new gun) verifying that your eyes pick up all the details comfortably. The rear sight slot is wide enough and the front sight narrow enough that you see a workable amount of light on either side of the front sight when properly aligned (not too much, not too little). If there are dots or other marks, you can pick them up visually without straining or having to concentrate on them.

    As you get more experience you'll have preferences for all those things, and preferences depending on whether this is a target pistol, fast/practical/combat pistol, etc.
  13. Ed Ames

    Ed Ames Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Tejas Norte
    Here's my take. Some may disagree but it is what I hope to see when in stores....

    If you are in a reputable store there is a ritual you should follow. The person behind the counter should visually check to make sure the gun is clear, and offer it to you. The VERY FIRST thing you should do is repeat that visual check for yourself. Every time. The person who handed you the gun will not be offended and will appreciate you cross-checking his/her work.

    So if you are handed a double action revolver, open the cylinder and look for cartridges. If it is a semi-auto pull the slide back. The store employee should have done exactly what you need to do so copy that.

    If the store employee doesn't check to see if the gun is clear, go to another store.

    That's not a bad thing to tell the store employee helping you.

    Some gun stores will have targets in safe places. Otherwise my personal rule of thumb is to point up towards a beam or junction of wall and ceiling. Something that looks like it has inches of wood behind it. If there are stuffed animal heads behind the counter they are fair game too.
    Yes to cocking. Dry firing...asking is best. My rule of thumb is that I don't ask on modern centerfire guns, but used guns and rimfires I ask first.

    Ask. Some shops will happily help you take a gun apart, others get touchy.

    What I look for:
    * Does the back of the gun contact my hand from web to heel? Many guns (e.g. 1911s with curved mainspring housings) create pockets where my hand isn't really pressing against the back. This can increase perceived recoil and cause reliability issues (e.g. 1911 grip safeties don't always depress fully with my hands and curved mainspring housings)

    * Does my trigger finger line up with the trigger (in both DA and SA, if relevant), how does the trigger feel

    * can I work the slide smoothly (some guns have very stiff springs or rough slides) and operate secondary controls (mag release, slide release, etc)?

    * if I bring the gun up to aim, are the sights roughly aligned or must I hunt around for them?

    * how comfortable is the gun to hold on target for extended periods e.g. some revolvers mash my fingers up into the pocket behind the trigger guard, which gets uncomfortable.

    * look for pinch and bite points

    Main thing with sights is that you are able to see them clearly and consistently. That will depend on your eyes, the lighting, and so on. My personal check is that if they are three dot sights, and the dots are aligned, the top of the front blade should be level with the top of the rear sight and the front should be centered in the notch. Often that isn't the case and it will mean the point of impact changes depending on lighting.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  14. old lady new shooter

    old lady new shooter Member

    Apr 26, 2015
    I've read the following advice about checking fit several places but don't see it in this thread, so:

    According to these sources (because I also am a newbie), first put the first crease of your trigger finger on the trigger, then wrap your hand around the grip up high so it is in the web between your thumb and index finger. Now hold your arm out as if to shoot one-handed and see whether the line of the gun and the line of your forearm are the same. If not, it is too big for your hand. Keep holding your arm straight out for a minute or so while continuing to grip, a tiny bit of wobble of your ARM is supposedly ok, but if the GUN is wobbly, it is too small for you.

    Now everybody can correct me. :)
  15. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

    May 1, 2013
    I'll be repeating some advice in my response but I think you have a pretty good idea for gun store etiquette so far.

    Ask which firearm(s) you want to see. Handle them. Point at the floor or at distant object on the wall to check handling, point of aim etc. Just make sure no one is in the way first and during.

    Some places will have a trigger lock on the firearm, some won't give you a magazine. Don't be afraid to ask questions. I have had clerks unlock a firearm for me so I could try it out. I have had clerks give me the magazine to see how it falls when ejected. The worst they say is NO. But they also know you CAN walk away.

    Ask before cycling or dry firing. Eventually after you visit enough local stores, you will learn which ones you can dry fire/cycle at, and which ones you can't. Again, the worst they can say is you can't dry fire.

    Don't play Hollywood with firearms. Don't try to spin it around the trigger guard on your finger or spin the cylinder around and close it with a wrist flick. This is considered bad form in many gun shops and you might not be allowed back.

    Let the clerk know you are new. They will probably already know anyway. Unless it is a busy day, most clerks will stick around and help you make a decision. I have found there are two types of gun store clerks 1) Ones who will do anything to make a sale and 2) Ones who will do anything to make the right sale. The former are like used car salesmen, they will tell you tall tales about firearms and rely on your inexperience to sell you. The latter is what you are looking for, clerks who will actually help you. I remember being in one store when a young man came in asking to buy a Smith and Wesson 629 V-comp. Instead of the clerk getting excited about selling an $800+ gun, he talked with the customer into something more comfortable for a new shooter.
  16. ku4hx

    ku4hx Member

    Nov 8, 2009
    Maybe take shooting lessons first? Maybe find a new shooters course at a local gun range or gun club?
  17. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    Both are excellent ideas. I'm self taught, but I burned up a lot of ammo learning proper technique, and I still have many years of practice for mastery and skill maintenance ahead of me.

    There are many aspects of shooting that require deliberate thought. It helps to have a gun to practice with first.

    Any idea if you want a revolver or semiauto, or what chambering? Maybe that's a topic for a different thread.
  18. cc-hangfire

    cc-hangfire Member

    Apr 28, 2014
  19. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Member

    Feb 25, 2008
    New York
    May I extend the OP's question a bit?

    It is reasonable to expect the clerk to remove any trigger or slide locking device before handling the gun? I've oftentimes wondered what prevents "bad guys" from bringing a loaded magazine into the store, slipping it into the gun, and robbing the store using the store's gun. Or in the case of a revolver, just bringing in a few loose rounds.
  20. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Apr 24, 2008
    Hot and Humid FL
    OP, after all of the advice about the safety aspect and upon selecting the gun - if you are not that familiar with it - have the clerk show you how to operate it, make it safe, make it ready to fire, field strip, etc. before you do so.
  21. RustyShackelford

    RustyShackelford member

    Apr 27, 2006
    Post, guns, content ....

    Something is not adding up here, :scrutiny: .
    The member's listing states they joined the forum in 2007 but are just now looking into buying a new gun?
    Also, if they really took classes or watched DVDs since 2007, wouldn't they learn safe gun handling or proper methods? By 2015?

    Some of these posts & content seem a bit fishy lately....
  22. golden

    golden Member

    Aug 28, 2007
    Try a rental first


    The easiest way to get along when you go into a gun store and do not know what you are doing is to admit IT. Just say you are new to firearms and ask for assistance.

    Before you buy, try the gun or something VERY similar. Some of the gun ranges will let you try a gun or have rentals of the same type that you can use. Do not be afraid to ask a range officer to show you how a gun operates and watch you shoot your first time. You can also hire a trainer.

    It will help if you know in advance what you intend to use the gun for and can explain that purpose.

    If you do not have anyone who can mentor you, then start simple.

    First the caliber.

    If you never want to do anything other than shoot paper targets, then try a .22rimfire semi automatic pistol.
    BROWNING, COLT, RUGER, HI STANDARD and S&W all make or have made full size .22 caliber pistols that are very easy to shoot, easy to clean and maintain and more accurate than the average person can shoot.
    They are not that expensive and will out live you if taken care of.

    If you want a gun that you can keep in your home, business or car for self defense, then a mid size, 4 inch barreled .38 Special double action revolver may be the best choice. This was the choice of police departments in the U.S. for nearly a century.
    A 4 inch barrel is usually easier to shoot because of the extra weight forward and longer distance between the front and rear sight.
    While tv shows always seem to show someone carrying a small snubnose ( a short barreled )revolver, these are usually small 5 shot guns that can be more difficult to shoot because of their small grips, lighter weight and short barrels which limits the sightline (the distance between front and rear sights).


    S&W (SMITH & WESSON) and RUGER both make .357 magnums which can also fire .38 Special, the are usually well made and very strong, but also heavy. That can give you extra options in how powerful a gun you want.
    The S&W revolvers are the L-frame sized 586 and 686, while the RUGER revolver is the GP-100. Again, they are heavy.

    The .357 magnum round is the same diameter as the .38 Special, but is longer and works at higher pressure to get a higher velocity. That is the good news about the .357, the bad news is the recoil is stronger, the noise much louder and the muzzle flash and muzzle blast are also stronger.
    Most of the .357 magnum revolvers are heavier than the mid size .38 Special revolvers like the old S&W model 10 that tens of thousand police officers carried, so you may want to skip the .357 magnum choice.

    You can start with ammo like the .38 Special WADCUTTER loads, these are designed for target shooting and have mild recoil in any gun. You can also buy inexpensive factory made ammo at stores like WALMART.
    For practice, the WINCHESTER or REMINGTON 130 grain full metal jacket ammo is great. It is also a mild load and very easy to shoot in any size gun.

    More powerful .38 Special like the +P loads using either 125 grain jacketed hollow points ( I like the REMINGTON 100 boxes for this at WALMART) or the 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow points ammo should be your choice for self defense. Both have been proven by many police gunfights!

    In the .38 Special, never used the old police standard, the 158 grain round nose lead. This round was not effective and caused a lot of controversy. It is fine for a practice round, but not a self defense round.

    Do not use a NON-EXPANDING round like the full metal jacket ammo or non hollow point ammo. They do not work well in self defense situations.

    The S&W model 10 or the model 15, which has adjustable, target style sights are great beginner revolvers. The grips are just the right size for most shooters, not to big or small. They can be improved greatly by replacing the wooden grips with rubber grips from PACHMAYR or HOGUE (my favorite). The rubber grips do not slip when wet from rain or sweat and cushion the recoil.

    RUGER used to make an excellent mid size revolver called the SECURITY SIX with a fixed sight version called the SERVICE SIX in both .38 Special (rarely seen) and .357 magnum. The RUGER'S are usually considered stronger than the S&W revolvers they competed against, the model 19 & 66.
    S&W also made a mid size .357 revolver, the model 19 and a stainless steel version, the model 66.
    TAURUS also made a gun in this size, very similar to the S&W.
    All the above .357 revolvers are mid size and weigh just over 2 pounds. They can fire the .38 Special in case you decide not to use .357 magnum and without being too heavy.
    COLT also made some great revolvers in this size, but they are usually priced higher and some due to the collectible nature are selling for several thousand dollars. Great guns, but expensive.

    I would avoid larger calibers like the .41, .44 or .45. They all have advantages for EXPERIENCED SHOOTERS, but increase recoil and usually come in a much bigger gun.
    The small 5 shot .44 caliber revolvers made by CHARTER ARMS and TAURUS are compact and can be very effective, but the recoil for new shooters can be a real shock. Avoid them until you have more experience.

    I recently bought a used S&W model 15, a 4 inch barreled, 6 shot revolver with adjust sights. It has been so pleasant to shoot, that it is what I take to the range most. Mine came with HOGUE soft rubber grips, so it was perfect from the start.

    If you want a gun primarily for concealed carry, you will probably want a smaller gun, like the S&W 5 shot revolvers, the RUGER LCR, TAURUS 5 shot models or those from CHARTER ARMS.
    I can recommend the S&W, TAURUS and CHARTER ARMS, since I own or have owned them and have used them.
    Also, CHARTER ARMS makes both a 5 shot revolver, the UNDERCOVER and a slightly larger 6 shot POLICE UNDERCOVER. I like both. If you are going to use a holster like a hip holster, you may want the slightly larger 6 shot model.
    The 5 shot revolvers are generally more concealable.

    Recoil is controlled by 3 things, the ammo, the size and weight of the gun and the grips.
    You want the ammo to be powerful enough to end a threat with the least number of shots. However, the more powerful a round, usually the more recoil.
    In .38 Special, you want to use +P ammo for the most effective ammo. +P just means that the ammo is loaded to a higher, but still safe pressure and usually will produce 100 to 200 feet per second higher velocity with the same bullet weight as a standard round.

    I found the 125 grain +P loads recoil noticeably less than the 158 grain +P hollow points and are just as effective. That is what I would use.

    I know that is a lot to digest, but I hope it answers some of you questions.

  23. Sol

    Sol Member

    Jul 29, 2011
    ^Wall-o-text up there

    OP, you have anyfriends or family familiar with firearms that you can bring with you?
    Probably make the trip less intimidating.
  24. blindhari

    blindhari Member

    Jan 11, 2009
    Hello Rusty,

    Original poster appears to have been living in New Jersey around 2007 perhaps getting discouraged. Next posts ask for help in 2014 for a different state in 2014. Finally asks for help in 2015 selecting first firearm for himself and wife, I think. Sounds normal to me.


    for the wife Look up "Cornered Cat"
  25. kBob

    kBob Member

    Jun 11, 2006
    North Central Florida
    The best advice here was to take the NRA basic Handgun Safety Course.

    Contact NRA Training for a list of Certified Instructors in your area.

    Contact an NRA Affiliate gun club in your area and ask them for a recommendation on instructors or ask if the club sponsors instruction.

    Whatever anyone feels about NRA's Politics there is little question that they are the folks to go to for decent initial training. For example the guy that originally sponsored Florida's first Assault weapons bill sent his wife and kids to my NRA Club's basic firearms safety class taught in the local Community Education System at a High School in the evening.....even though he knew we strongly opposed his bill.

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