I have visited several large gun stores recently from Michigan to Florida–specifically the Florida Gun Exchange in Ormond Beach–and have been asking several questions, mostly for my own education. One of the things I asked was whether they’d seen a surge in business after President Obama, during the second presidential debate, stated he wanted to reintroduce the assault weapons ban. Surprisingly, the answer was no. The other question I asked was, “Got any good stories?”
If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know the customer is always right–even when they’re wrong, insane, dangerous, nice, mean or just plain stupid. The stories I’ve heard from gun store employees may be enough to turn your hair white.
My local gun store is not just large, but offers just about every service you might want, which means the variety of crazy stories they had to offer me was just as varied. Double Action Indoor Shooting Center in Madison Heights, Mich., not only sells guns, but has an indoor 25-yard pistol range, 50-yard rifle range, rental handguns and long guns, and does gunsmithing. While located in a suburb, they also get a lot of business from Detroit residents. You name it, they’ve seen it.
“Think about it,” Ken told me at DA one day. “You don’t go to the ski place, buy a pair of skis and then expect the salesman to teach you how to ski. Where else do you buy sporting equipment and expect the salesman to show you how to use it? But a lot of people who buy a gun just assume that you’ll tell them how to shoot it.”
“I can’t tell you how many times a day I’m swept by muzzles,” Brian told me. “At some point you just stop flinching.”
In the ranges, not only do the floors and walls downrange get shot a lot, but so do the lights and cables which run the targets back and forth. Even the walls between the stalls display bullet holes.
Michigan is a shall-issue state, and the store has no problems with customers carrying inside. Just don’t pull out your loaded gun, sweep the clerk and say, “I’m wondering if you can help me with this.”
All the store clerks are very knowledgeable and polite, but they’re also armed, and while in the store I’ve heard one of them tell a customer, “If you pull that gun out and point it at my head again, things are going to get pretty f***ing loud real quick.”
Open carry is legal in Michigan as well, and the clerks at DA love to tell the story of the guy who came in wearing an AR-15 pistol in a shoulder holster.
Al Allen, the owner of the store, told me he just scratched his head, looked the guy up and down, and asked him simply, “Why?”
He responded, “Because I can.”
The clerks behind the counter also aren’t big fans of the Internet, just because it is so rife with misleading or just plain wrong information. So many customers have to be re-educated when they come into the store that it’s become part of the job when selling a gun.
From customers wanting them to diagnose the problem with their gun over the phone, to BATF audits which take two weeks; as much as I love guns, I don’t know if I’d ever want to own a gun store after seeing what they have to put up with.
For years they used a magnet to make sure nobody was using steel-core ammo on the rifle range, but after a steady battering of their steel baffles downrange by armor-piercing ammunition (or its equivalent), they finally refused to allow any AKs or SKSs on the rifle range. After customers loaded the rental handguns with handloaded ammo or stuff they apparently salvaged off submerged U-boats, they require customers to use store-bought ammo in their rental guns.
I have a friend who insures several gun stores, and the horror stories he’s had to deal with are almost unbelievable. Sure, Walmart may have to deal with shoplifters, but have they ever had someone rent a gun, buy a box of ammo to go with it, then go into the bathroom and kill themselves? Have they ever had a widow bring in the live grenade she found in her recently deceased husband’s effects? Don’t think so.
So be kind to your local gun store clerks, and realize that not only do they have to deal with the same customers every retail store does, their customers are handling guns.