Seems like every week there’s another store that’s pulling guns (or ammo, or magazines) off their shelves to appease anti-Second Amendment zealots who blame the ills of society on this nation’s responsible firearms owners. I don’t know how you feel, but I’m not particularly keen on handing over my money to an organization that distrusts or, in some cases, seems to downright despise gun owners. Not all major brands have turned their backs on gun owners and some companies firmly support the Second Amendment, but there are many benefits to shopping your local gun store.
My hometown firearms shop happens to be 68 Bait & Tackle, a family-run business headed-up by military veteran Jeff Steele. I drive right by a newer and bigger gun store to get to Jeff’s place. There’s probably a 68 Bait & Tackle (or whatever your local gun store happens to be called) near you, and there are several good reasons to shop there. Here are four.
1. Local Gun Shop Owners Know Guns:
This may seem obvious, but you can generally rely on the person who owns a gun store to know a thing or two about guns. In fact, they probably know a lot about guns—what new models are available, what guns people seem to like, which optics are the best for the money, and so forth. They can make intelligent (if not unbiased) arguments in a disagreement over caliber selection, and they’re probably not going to confuse a magazine and a clip. In short, they know about guns, they like guns, and they can provide you with info to help you make a smart buying decision. You sometimes get that from the person behind the gun counter at a major chain store, especially stores that specialize in outdoor and hunting gear, but in many big box stores you’re simply talking to whomever it is that happens to be standing behind the gun counter that day.
2. Local Gun Shops Offer Services Big Stores Don’t:
If I walk into Jeff Steele’s place and ask him to swap out a pair of sights on my Glock or Springfield pistol that task will be done quickly, correctly and affordably. Don’t expect that in some major chains, though (unless they’re gun-centric stores). Jeff has a background in gunsmithing, and that’s something you won’t get everywhere. Plus, local gun shops can generally order guns that you might not see on the shelves, and they also carry used guns. I’m a big fan of older bolt-action rifles and shotguns, and I’ve yet to see a Pre-’64 Model 70 or an old Ruger Red Label gracing the store shelves at most big chain stores. There are exceptions (Cabela’s Gun Library, which offers dozens of used guns, is one example), but many stores only sell new stuff. There’s nothing wrong with new stuff, but I like the classics, too.
3. You’re Supporting Local Businesses that Support Your Beliefs:
When you buy a gun from a large chain brand you aren’t sure where your money is going, but in a local gun store you’re helping support someone who lives in your community. And your local gun store owner almost certainly supports the Second Amendment. I prefer, when possible, to know that my money is going into the pockets of people who agree with my beliefs. That’s not to say that big companies don’t stand behind the rights of gun owners, but it’s nice to know that I’m supporting the same people who buy uniforms for the hometown youth basketball league and sponsor the local 4-H shooting sports team.
4. Local Gun Stores Are an American Tradition:
When I was young and still too short to see over the top of the local gun counter my grandfather would take me into the local gun store. That particular gun store—now closed after the owner passed away—was a hangout for many of the local people. It was a meeting place where hunters and shooters could talk about guns, pour over magazine articles, argue local politics, and discuss sports, the weather, or any other topic that arose. As I’ve grown older and worked in the firearms industry, I’ve learned that many of the people that I cross paths with had a similar experience at a similar small-town gun store. That’s one of the things I like about Jeff Steele’s gun shop today. There’s a pool table in the corner and people are sitting around passing the time. There’s honest discussion and insight about cartridges, firearms, holster options and every other facet of firearm ownership. Every day the local gun store becomes a live forum on some topic, usually related to firearms. In a world where so many of our conversations occur in a digital atmosphere, that’s a refreshing change of pace. Why not give it a try?
Image courtesy National Shooting Sports Foundation