Gun Store Etiquette 101: How to Safely Interact with Employees

Walking into a gun store is a lot different from walking into any other place.

You’re not there to get groceries or an anniversary card for your spouse. You’re probably there to purchase a firearm or accessories or to drop off or pick up a gun that needs fixing. Whatever your purpose, there will likely be firearms involved, which means there are certain rules that need to be followed. Some of these rules are for courtesy, but most of them are for safety.

Remember when you first started shooting all those years ago and learned the four fundamental rules of gun safety? They don’t only apply to the range. They apply every time you handle a firearm, no matter the setting.

We’re walking, we’re walking…

We’ll look at how the four rules apply in a minute, but let’s start with what to do when you arrive. When you walk into a gun store, be sure your firearm is put away in a holster or a container, such as a range bag or gun case. In general, people get very nervous when they see someone walking around anywhere with a gun in their hand, even at a store full of guns. Even though you have no ill intentions, carrying around an exposed gun can make people uneasy and could get you some dirty looks or worse. Bring the gun into the store in a container. Depending on your local laws, a holster may be fine, or you may need to put it in a case or bag. Either way, put it away.

Rule #1: Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

Even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your gun is unloaded, act like it has live rounds in it. At the gun store counter, this means that once you and the employee have established that one of you is going to remove the firearm from its container, treat the firearm as if it has ammunition in it. Chances are, the employee is going to check the gun to be sure it’s empty for his or her own safety. Don’t be offended by this. It’s not that they don’t trust you. The employee is just being cautious. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things a gun store employee sees.

Rule #2: Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to kill or destroy.

This one can be a little tough in a gun store because it’s a 360-degree environment with people and merchandise all around you. A “safe direction” in that setting typically means pointing the gun down toward the floor, which is often less than ideal, especially when looking at a rifle, but it’s important that you don’t muzzle or flag anyone. Ironically, a gun store is not a great place to look at guns, but there’s typically not any choice.

Rule #3: Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

What are you planning to shoot inside the gun store? Hopefully, nothing, so this one is easy: keep your finger off the trigger at all times. But what about if you want to test the pull weight of the trigger on the gun you’re considering? Then check the status of the firearm to be sure it’s clear and empty, let the employee know what you’re doing, point the gun toward the floor, and pull the trigger. That is the only reason for your to ever have your finger on the trigger inside the store.

Rule #4: Know your target and what’s beyond it.

In a gun store setting, this is really a continuation of Rule #2 to help you select a safe direction to point the firearm. If you point it toward a wall, what’s on the other side? Offices? Classrooms? More retail space? Those are all potential people places, so that’s no good. Even pointing toward the floor could be a problem, but in many gun stores, the floor is concrete. At the range where I work, the concrete showroom floor doubles as the ceiling for the range downstairs, so the chances of a stray round passing through is slim to nill. That’s why it was designed that way. A ton of rounds have struck the ceiling downstairs without a single one even coming close to penetrating, so a bullet going the other direction is just as unlikely. So the floor is usually a safe bet. If you’re not sure, ask the employee who is helping you. It’s not a dumb question. They’ll appreciate your concern for safety.

Cooperation is key

Everyone at the gun store wants you to have a good shopping experience. That includes keeping you and those around you safe. If they ask you to do something for safety reasons, do it. Don’t feel embarrassed. They aren’t trying to make you feel bad. The safer we all are, the better experience everybody will have.


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David Workman is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. As an NRA-certified instructor, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as possible. “Real-life shootouts don’t happen at a box range.”






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6 thoughts on “Gun Store Etiquette 101: How to Safely Interact with Employees”

  1. You mentioned how everyone at the gun store wants you to have a positive shopping experience, and I appreciate that. Safety for both you and those around you is part of that. Follow their instructions if they ask you to do something for safety. I’ll let my sister know about this since she’s considering getting a gun for protection. She desires legal gun possession, which would enable her to protect herself from criminals. When she visits a gun store, it will make sense for her to heed your advice.


    The rule needs to be emphatic, not dumb downed with “treat as if” Adding “treat as if” would be like making the rule “sometimes keep your finger off the trigger”

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