The Right Way to Bring a Gun to a Gun Shop

There's a few steps you should take to keep everyone safe when bringing a gun in for service or to ask a question about it, especially if it's your CCW firearm.

As more people in the U.S. are carrying concealed in more places, it seems there are a few points of gun shop etiquette that need some emphasizing.

No matter how many gun classes and self-defense courses you’ve taken, there’s not really a class that explains exactly how to behave in a gun shop so as to not give the folks who work there a heart attack.

Of course, following the four rules of gun safety is a big part of it—and it’s important to remember those rules and the rules of concealed carry don’t go out the window when you go through the gun shop doors.

The video above from Top Guns gets a few pet peeves that make gun shop workers’ eyes twitch at the corner a bit—namely, people walking into a gun shop with not only a loaded firearm, but with the gun in their hands.

The first “hapless customer” in the video comes in with a rifle, magazine in the mag well, walks up to the counter, and assures the clerk he just cleared the gun before handing it to her. Of course, in the staged incident, the woman behind the counter ejects a live round after he hands it to her, but this happens for real in gun shops way too often.

“An issue that’s kind of present in gun shops across the U.S. but it doesn’t get discussed quite enough. That’s the issue of people coming in with loaded weapons,” says Steve from Top Guns in the video.

This is something that just should not happen. If you are going to bring a long gun into a gun shop to ask a question about it, have a gunsmith look at something, test out an accessory, or to bring it in for service, it should be cleared and triple checked, and then placed in a gun case, soft or hard with the action open and a chamber flag of some kind inserted (you can make one in literally 2 seconds from a zip tie) into the chamber. If the magazine can be removed, keep it removed after you clear the gun.

When you get to the shop, put the gun case on the counter with the muzzle end pointing in a safe direction and open it, letting the clerk see the chamber before they pick it up to manually check and clear the firearm.

Why all this? Because, aside from basic safety, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get a competent clerk who will be sure to clear the gun you hand them if you haven’t, or you might be part of that 10 minutes the clerk zones out that day, and why take the chance? And also, do you really want to know what it feels like to be standing at the gun counter as the round you left in the chamber hits the floor?

This oft-watched video shows one of the worst things that can happen when someone is handed a gun that they don't know is loaded—and it can even happen to a police officers:

In the video from Top Guns, Steve says loaded weapons are too frequently passed across his counter.

“We’ve actually started a collection in the past two or three weeks,..rounds that have popped out of someone’s chamber,” he said, showing off a plastic container with about a dozen loose cartridges in it. “We wanted to bring it up and show people how important it is.”

The other two staged incidents from the video are particularly relevant to people who carry every day. They depict a concealed carrier saying he has a question about his gun, which he then proceeds to unholster to show the clerk as he steps up to the counter. One time, he muzzles her with his loaded gun (an orange plastic gun is standing in), and the other time, he hands the clerk a loaded pistol he pulls from his holster, which she then clears.

“It’s not that we would ever discourage anyone from carrying a loaded weapon, in fact we encourage anyone who is licensed and legal to carry and is responsible to carry their weapon,” Steve says. “However the issue becomes when they decide to pull it out and really not for a good reason. The only reason you should be pulling your weapon out, really anywhere, in particular a gun shop, is if you’re saving someone’s life.”

Again, if you’re planning to head to the shop to get something done to your regular carry gun, carry something else that day, and bring the triple-checked and cleared gun to the counter in a plastic or soft-sided pistol case with the magazine removed and the action locked open or a chamber flag in the barrel in the case of a revolver.

In the video, Jennifer, who has only been working at the store for about a year, says she’s seen people pull out their loaded carry firearm in the shop and even sweep her with their muzzle more than once a week.

“We would say this is a rule that applies to everyone across the board, because accidents happen, no matter how much training you’ve had,” Steve says.