Your First Gun Store Visit – Intimidating? Maybe

So you’ve decided “I’m gonna make that purchase and I have some ideas of what I want to get”. You’ve googled some local gun stores and have one in mind. Nothing left to do now but get in the car and go. Your hesitating though, why? The thought of going in and seeing store clerks with pistols holstered and looks on their faces like you don’t belong here because you haven’t been through what they’ve been through. I get it.

It’s not like that these days. Being that this is a booming business (gun sales), the retail model is in scale. That means stores choose to have knowledgeable helpful staff, appealing showrooms and look to provide the best of customer experiences. This is just the first purchase of many in their minds. So you’re new with limited knowledge that’s ok. You’ll walk out more informed. If this doesn’t happen, find another store.

Here are some things to think about and take into the store with you.

Why are you buying?

This will probably be the first thing that the salesperson will establish with you. Home defense, self defense, range shooting or hunting perhaps, knowing will help the clerk with options. If you know the specific handgun, that will provide a great starting point and maybe some pointers from them. So plan ahead in this respect.

Be Honest, Confess

Ditch the pride and ego. Tell the sales associate if you don’t know anything about guns or shooting. Be honest. The more they know about your situation, the more help they can give. You’re buying a piece of equipment that could save your or your family’s life, so take advantage of what the salesperson can teach you. Good ones will not only help you learn the basics; they’ll be happy that you’re there. Being a new shooter, you’ll not only need a gun but accessories too like ammunition, cleaning supplies, targets, and more. That equates to more in sales for the store.

Expect Professionalism

If you aren’t acknowledged within a reasonable time of you walking in the store or up to the counter, think about moving on to another store. You would do this in any other retail store so do it here. Your primary reason to be there is to learn first and then buy if that process is acceptable, so expect to be treated professionally. If not feeling the love, find another store.

Handgun Store Etiquette

In demonstrating safety in gun handling procedures, first things first. The transfer of the gun from the salesperson to you to look at. Although all guns in the store being sold are empty, treat them as though they are loaded. This puts you in a state of mind of no accidents. Your mind is a strong asset for this and any situation involving guns like at a range.

An attentive salesperson will hand the firearm to you with the gun action open and the grip first. They will have inspected it to be sure it’s empty. If that doesn’t happen like that and the muzzle is pointed at you or your body, subtlety nudge the muzzle away from you while accepting the weapon. You probably won’t have to be concerned with this though.

open action example

When you take the gun, return the favor of safety. Be sure the muzzle is not pointed at the salesperson or anyone else. The floor is the most acceptable option.

Now it’s your turn, as you get the gun, open and inspect it (the magazine and the chamber). Validate their emptiness. This may seem silly because you just saw it being done but it demonstrates that you are aware of being safe with firearms. The salesperson shouldn’t be offended by this. They should appreciate your attention to safety and good gun handling practice.

Next is the crucial step, holding the gun in your hand. How does it feel? Is the size too big or too small? Keep your trigger finger straight alongside the frame of the gun while determining your answers. With modern handguns, it won’t do any harm to pull the trigger as a test. This is called a dry fire and should be verified that’s okay to do with the salesperson. If it’s ok, point at a safe point and pull. It’s recommend to take a safety/gun handling course beforehand and all this will be covered.


Take a look at these visuals recapping what you read above.


So there you are. Armed (pun intended 🙂 ) and ready for your purchase. Why are you buying? Home defense maybe. Cast your ego aside, be honest. Expect professional salesmanship from the store. Remember gun store etiquette. Leave comments of your experiences below. I’d love to read them.


  1. Great article.
    My dad was thinking of buying a gun do to the crime back home. I will agree that you need to be honest because even when you go to get a license they ask your family so many questions to make sure he was mentally fit.

    • Being sure is what the questions are all about. Forward this to him. I’m glad you got something out of the article. JS

  2. Great post for people who are unsure about buying a gun. I live in the UK so we don’t have gun shops like this but when I was over in the states two years ago, this was something I wanted to experience, shooting on a range but I didn’t get the chance. I can imagine for beginners its intimidating to walk in a gun shop so your advice on what you should do is spot on. Great read!

    • Hopefully you can come back to the US and have that experience. I aim to inform. Thanks. Also, you given me an idea for the future, applying these topics worldwide. JS

  3. We have gun departments in sporting good stores here in Finland but I haven’t really gone to one as you need permissions here to own a gun. You have to either be a hunter or in law enforcement to own a firearm. That said I was a bit of a gun nut as a kid and played airsoft and video games and read a ton about guns. They are fascinating pieces of technology and engineering. The only firearms I’ve ever fired are the Finnish army service rifle Valmet RK62 and a Soviet 12.7mm machine gun. Got plenty of practice with those in the service. That said I’m against all forms of violence so I don’t really accept their availability, but I think the tips you gave here are very good and applicable to any retail store.

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