Gun Store Etiquette and Tips

I’m big on etiquette and believe it’s something not taught in the home much anymore. Etiquette almost seems to have fallen by the wayside. Whether it involves dining out, visiting someone’s home or when handling a firearm, it’s something people should practice. I’ve written about etiquette on the range, while shooting clays and even while upland hunting. Now, because of some experiences over the last few years, it’s time for me to write about gun store etiquette. 

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I’ve had the opportunity to spend time on both sides of the gun counter. So, most of what I’m pointing out is a direct result of my experiences, both good and bad. As I mentioned above, I think it’s important to teach etiquette since many people don’t know what they don’t know. 

gun store

Always adhere to the Four Firearms Safety Rules:

1. Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded. 

2. Never point your firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot, injure or destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot your firearm. 

4. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond your target.

Checking for clear chamber
confirm an empty chamber both visually and manually

Gun Store Etiquette

When a sales associate brings a firearm out for you to see, he should always remove the magazine, confirm that it’s clear and lock the slide to the rear BEFORE handing it to you. Once it is in your hands, you should also confirm an empty chamber both visually and manually. 

safe direction
ask the clerk where a safe direction is to point the gun

First, ask the clerk where a safe direction is for you to point the muzzle of the gun. Then, find out the store’s policy on pressing the trigger. Make sure to abide by whatever you are told.

Here are some questions to ask yourself while handing the firearm:

  • With a proper grip, how does the gun feel in my hands? Does it feel ergonomically correct? Can I obtain a proper grip repeatedly? Are other size backstraps available for a better fit?
  • Ask if you are permitted to press the trigger (dry fire). How does it feel when doing so? Do you like the trigger’s pull weight for what you plan on using it for? Does it feel smooth or gritty? Is there a crisp break or is it “spongy?”
  • While aiming in the safe direction you were shown, obtain a proper grip as you look through the sights. Are they acceptable and easy to obtain? Will you want to change them as soon as you purchase the pistol? Does the store offer a selection of sights to suit this firearm?
gun store etiquette gun fit
feel the gun with different magazines when available

Once you narrow it down to a few choices, consider the following:

  • What is the price of the gun?
  • How much does an extra magazines cost? 
  • Are there holsters available for what I plan on using this firearm for?
  • Can I add a red-dot, laser or light?
  • How will I store this gun safely after I purchase it? (Do I need to buy a safe, too?) 

Finally, find out if there is a range for you to test-fire a few of your choices. If there isn’t, you may want to reach out to your friends and find out if anyone owns that particular gun. Or, find a range that has firearms you can rent and get some hands-on experience with your choices.

Gun store etiquette handgun
find out if the handgun is the right size for you while practicing a good grip

These are just a few ideas to help both you and the person behind the counter feel comfortable while obtaining information on a new firearm. Always treat everyone with respect and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the person you are working with doesn’t have the answer, ask if someone may be able to help. Take the time to do your research and find the pistol that fits your hands and is the right size for why you want it. 

  • About Michelle Cerino

    Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, first entered the firearms industry in 2011 as co-owner, president and trainer at a national training company. She immediately began competing in both 3-Gun and NRA Action Pistol, becoming a sponsored shooter. Michelle is currently a columnist and Managing Editor of Women’s Outdoor News, as well as owner of Pervenio LLC. She also manages social media for Vera Koo and GTM Original. Michelle encourages others to step out of the comforts of home and explore.


The Conversation

  • Dave LaPorte says: July 8, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Hello again Michelle,
    There are not as many choices for gun stores in CT as there are in The Free States of America. Both male and female newbies will get the eye roll at the counter when a commissioned salesman (I have never encountered a female, maybe that’s why?) gets told “I just got my permit and want to buy a gun. What should I get?” My retirement dream is to get my NRA R.S.O. and Safety Instructor certs, FFL, and open my own firearms business. My focus would be on a personalized experience, offer real sales assistance and training on things like reloading (most places will sell you the components and equipment but never teach how to use it), proper holsters and carry, and full range of try before you buy guns and accessories. I see a real need for such an establishment.

    • Michelle Cerino says: July 8, 2022 at 10:38 am

      Thanks for the comment Dave. There are actually some establishments that offer educational classes to their customers. However, that means the customer has to make the initiative to actually take the class.