Your First Visit to the Gun Store

Welcome to the world of guns. It’s a world that can be complicated, intimidating, and on occasion, frustrating. It’s also a world of self-reliance, confidence, and, well, fun. Guns are fun, but you have quite a few steps before you get to the fun part. Buying a gun isn’t just a one-click purchase as it should be and requires visiting a gun store or Federal Firearms Licensee holder. 

That in and of itself can be intimidating. Guns and gun stores are somewhat niche, and if you’re not lucky enough to be born into them, then you might have zero experience dealing with guns and gun stores. Today we are going to dive into the world of firearms and discuss what you can do to be ready for your first trip to the gun store. 

The Gun Store 101 – What To Know 

Before you head to the gun store, there is a fair bit of preparation you can do before you darken the door of local firearms dealer. One of the first things you should know about guns is that safety is always paramount. Even at the highest levels of shooting and training, safety always takes priority. In the world of firearms, we have a variety of safety rules, but I won’t hit you with all of them. 

The three you need to know before you go to the gun store are fairly simple and cover the basics of handling a firearm, even one you assume to be unloaded. Here are the three rules you need to follow before handling a firearm or going to a firearms dealer. 

1 – Never Point A Weapon At Anything You Are Not Willing to Destroy. 

That’s a tough one because a gun is always pointing at something, right? When I carry a gun from my safe to my holster, I do not want to destroy my floor by any means. However, I am willing to destroy my floor versus destroying anyone or any living thing. In the gun store, do not point the gun at anyone, be it a customer, friend, or worker. 

If you’re holding a gun and get anxious and unsure of how to put it down or hand it back to the gun store employee, just freeze and ask. “Hey, I want to hand this to you. What’s the safest way to do so.” 

2 – Treat Every Weapon As It Was Loaded 

All guns are always loaded all the time. Gun stores don’t keep guns on display loaded. In fact, the worker will likely show you the weapon is clear. Even so, treat the gun as if it is loaded. Treat it with respect and with care. 

Easy to reach switches


3 – Keep Your Finger Straight and Off The Trigger Until You Are Ready To Fire 

Keep your finger off the trigger as you handle the weapon. Where do you put your trigger finger when handling the gun? Simple, anywhere but the trigger! The second part says, “until you are ready to fire.” Are you going to fire in a gun store? No, but you can dry fire. Well, maybe, you need to ask first if you can dry fire and practice pulling the trigger. If so, you’ll aim in a safe direction, ensure the weapon is clear, and then pull the trigger. 

Research Federal, State, and Local Laws

Federal laws are fairly simple, and you won’t go into a gun store that allows you to violate the law. However, knowing these laws will help you find the right firearm for you. Some states and localities have specific laws that might snatch the Gen 5 Glock 19 from your hands. This can also help you learn what you need to know about the process involving purchasing a firearm. Knowing these laws will also help after you purchase a firearm. 

Establish a Budget

How much money can you spend on a firearm? We all have budgets, and with guns, it’s often a good idea to save a little more than shortchange yourself and your purchase. It’s fairly easy to research gun prices and establish a baseline of the cost of a specific firearm. Researching the price ensures you won’t get ripped off as well. 

Here is where I hurt your feelings. Your budget isn’t just about the firearm. You’ll need to factor in the amount of money to purchase ammunition, accessories like holsters or weapon lights, and also a safe way to store the firearm, like a gun safe. Don’t forget some basic firearm training, and you’ll need to get that safety training and range time as well. 

Research, Research, Research 

The first question you need to answer is what is the goal of your firearm? Is it for concealed carry? Home defense? A bit of both? Maybe you want to start hunting or just something simple to learn how to shoot firearms. Different purposes require different guns. Once you know your goal, you can group different firearms together and do even more research. 

Once you locate models you are interested in, look into reviews and real-world experience. One of the best ways to figure out if a gun has problems, and there are hardly any reviews, do an online search of that specific gun + on Reddit, and you can find all manner of information, good or bad.

Also, ensure you can find accessories like holsters for the gun, and make sure the ammo isn’t overly expensive. 458 SOCOM is really cool until it comes time to buy ammo. Most major companies will have a dealer finder that can put you in touch with a local dealer who sells that particular brand. 

At the Gun Store

When choosing a gun store, Yelp and Google reviews can be a lifesaver. If the reviews list it’s one grumpy old man who yells at customers, well, avoid that store. If possible, choose a gun store local to you because, with waiting periods, you’ll have to come back to pick the firearm up. Also, if a gun store has a rental range, that can give an opportunity to shoot and handle several different firearms. 

“Gun Shop Gary” a Meme for us all

Additionally, don’t be afraid to tell them you’re new to guns and looking for XYZ guns or good guns for concealed carry, home defense, etc. Try them on, so to speak, and handle them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to share information regarding your needs and what you’re looking for. The clerks and owners aren’t looking to harass you or judge you for your lack of knowledge. 

Finally, don’t tie up a gun store and employees for an hour and then purchase online to save ten bucks. That’s fairly rude, and the phrase transfer fee will be something you’ll learn about the hard way. 

Going Pow 

Buying a gun shouldn’t be a scary event. Guns should be respected and treated as such, but purchasing one isn’t a scary thing. Having a plan, budget and knowing a few safety rules will go a long way. Don’t let the first step in gun ownership stop you. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.