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September 20, 2006

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The Dealer's Take: The Customer is Often Wrong

Fellow gun nuts: We hear from each other, from gun writers, and from manufacturers, but gun dealers give us a perspective that we don’t get elsewhere. Scott Moss, who is the third generation of that family (all of whom have taken lots of money from me) to sell firearms, has agreed to come on the blog from time to time and tell us what’s on his mind, good or bad, about the guns he handles. If you’re interested in buying from him or selling to him on consignment, you can call Forest & Field, Norwalk, CT 203-847-4008.—Dave Petzal

In my last blog I wrote about lousy customer service and how dealers/manufacturers need to be more attuned to the legitimate problems their customers may have. The flip side of this is that customers need to shut up and listen to people who have the knowledge and experience to help them.

Not too long ago, an older man came into my store looking for a shotgun for clay shooting. He walked with a cane so he had an obvious infirmity. I was informed by the customer that he was an expert marksman and had been a “gunner” in the military. He made it very clear that he was the expert and didn’t need any help. No problem. I figured he obviously knew more than I do and I gave him what he wanted: an over/under that he insisted he could shoot out of the box.

The next day, he came back with a friend and said the gun didn’t work correctly. He couldn’t get it apart, and he didn’t like the quality. I explained to him that the fore-end is difficult to get off and reseat on a new gun and he just needed to be more authoritative with it. His friend asked me if I would have recommended the O/U to him and I said “NFW,” which means “definitely not”.

What I did recommended was a soft-shooting semi-auto which is simple to use and generally doesn’t require as much finesse. His friend said, “See? I told you he never would have recommended the O/U!” I exchanged the shotguns and the ‘expert’ left with a firearm better suited to his abilities.


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Ralph the Rifleman

Yes...we get a large amount of "experts" in our store as well, but you apparently have a very customer friendly policy on gun exchanges. The chain store I work for states once you buy it, there is no returning it!In a similar situation, my customer had his mind made up on an O/U, but I at least convinced him to get it in a 20 gauge, and he thanked me later for it after his first time out shooting.


The number of self-proclaimed "experts" out there is amazing.

If anyone is interested in in being entertained for a while, spend a few minutes looking at some of the various reloading sites. I don't understand how some of these people keep from killing themselves.

JA Demko

True expertise is something I value. The problem is that, IME, the fact that somebody works in a gun store doesn't automatically indicate possession of expertise. In truth, some of the most wildly inaccurate things I've ever heard came out of the mouths of gun store clerks. How is a neophyte to know whether the guy behind the counter is truly an expert or not?

lynn adams

A knowledgeable gun dealer is as essential to ones health and happinesss as a trusted doctor.If you need help in the shooting sports, join a gun club and pick their collective brains for help in your choices of firearms. You will also find out who is and isn't a trustworthy, knowledgeable dealer jmpo.


So true about not knowing who is really knowledgeable. It takes time to get to know someone and also helps to get referrals. An expert set me up with my first bow but negated how I planned to use it. His said his setup would be just fine and I listened to him. I know a lot more about archery now and his setup cost time and money to make it right for me. I guess even the experts make mistakes, but that is one pompous ass that will never get a referral from me.

David Loeffler

Been there, done that, couldn't afford the T-shirt. The most common I've run into is the "expert" who comes in with a beginner and just wastes the beginners time and money recommending a something that might be just perfect for a special ops type with a build like Arnie and practice funds out the wazoo but is completely unsuitable for a young single mom in a bad neighborhood.

mike shickele

I know a lot about bolt action rifles, when I buy one, I think of my own needs and wants, and buy it.
i know somewhat less about other rifle actions, but I still probably know enough to make a conscious buying decision without the input of others; though I would accept the input from one who was very knowledgeable.
I've always longed for a nice double shotgun; I know little enough about shotguns that I would seek the input of a qualified expert. If pride stopped me from doing this, I would possibly make a poor decision on my purchase. You have to know what you are doing to fit a firearm properly, this comes with experience.

I think that one of the problems with dealing with retailers in this age is that most people assume that the average retailer has no knowledge of what they are selling, and in most cases they are right.


I’ve fortunately been served by five modest gun shops and a distributor in my career where the owner[s] and many of their staff had considerable range and field hunting experience to aim me in the right direction on guns, loads, reloading, gunsmithing, and ancillary equipment…and wrangling and packing!!!!!. These shops and personnel walked the walk. Unfortunately, these type of gun shops are rare and becoming more rare.

I’ve observed more recently “sales people” and the Chains. It doubtful how much shooting experience the sales people have. Hunting experience? They’re very limited. These types just aren’t the ones to invest any amount of time in the wilds or on the range for the skills. They and their chains aren’t really much past, “Survey says……”

Coming up against me who’s had time and experience to develop dangerous opinions these places either don’t have what I need to buy, or I ask a question or give a comment browsing making the “sales person” disappear in a puff of smoke.

Note: The small, aforementioned shops always stood behind their products and would make an exchange if a purchase wasn’t working out. Bless them and all their like.

craig j. curtis

yes mark thank heaven wall mart will be getting out of the firearm buisness at first i was distraught about losing another chain selling guns but these people were almost always clue less!! the mom and pop gun store here in lower michigan is a god send . ive spent more on reloading supplys and weapons their than ive spent on groceries from krogers . we now have a cabelas in dundee but the wait their for a sales person is lenghty and i like to keep my loney closer to home .fitting a shotgun should never be left to a weekend clerk unless you want dissapointment with a capitol dD .

craig j. curtis

should have said keep my money close to home sorry i need spell check here !

Jeff Olsen


I have a question that requires thought...(Tell Bill not to bother). I have a dodgy shoulder, courtesy of a very bad dislocation and arthritis that has taken up residence since healing. I purchased a very nice Savage bolt action 30-06 for deer hunting in Arkansas. It was butifully fit and finished and exquisitely checkered. It was also exceptionally light. I fired the gun a grand total of 8 times. I was bruised for days. Several friends who also use 30-06's fired it and our consensus was that it must have been too light. The recoil was the worst of any I have ever experienced. I took the gun back to the gun shop and explained that the recoil was way too much for my comfort. I was convinced by the proprietor that since I wanted a light recoiling deer rifle, I should check out a .243. I did just as instructed and purchased a Remington Model 700 ADL chambered for .243Win. I have taken several deer with it. Believe it or not, the wound from the .243 makes entry and exit wounds literally the size of golfballs. I understand that this could be due to the fact that the shots were taken inside 100 yards at southern whitetails that average 100 - 150 lbs. but regardless of the reason, it works, and well. Here is my dilema. With an empty chamber, the trigger pull is just over 3lbs. But once the rifle is loaded, the trigger pull jumps to a little over 9 lbs. What gives? I have taken it to every gunsmith in the area and I hear the same thing from all of them..."Send it back". I understand that this could have something to do with the trigger adjustment at the factory. (My rifle was manufactured after the recall.) I can't bring myself to believe that this is the case, since the trigger is so light when the chamber is empty. My personal belief is that it has something to do with head spacing and/or the lug lockup. If anyone can help shed some light on this matter, I would greatly appreciate it. I really like the gun, and I know my accuracy will improve drastically once the pull is softened a bit. I am hoping that Petzal or one of his esteemed followers can help.


Jeff Olsen
Paragould, Arkansas

Lonnie Williamson

Am I an expert, I do not consider myself so. I do instuct shooting sports to a 4 H group and have been doing so for about 5 years now.

I can say that I have instructed probably 75 students in that time in the accurate shooting of both shotgun and small bore rifles.

I will say this. Walmart should just sell ammunition and arrows.

While it is true that Walmart was a salvage to several gun makers. I think their sales persons are not qualified in much of anything except in the rare cases.

My reason for this assessment is a simple one, I cannot count the times I have been at the counter browsing their selection and seen the mother or young person coming into the store to purchase a shotgun and not have a clue about what they are purchasing. What is the first thing that should be decided in this case? It has nothing to do with the actual purchase and everything to do with the accuracy as the end result. The answer is Eye Dominance. Without that it is next to impossible to provide anything type of long gun properly.

As with Archery, I have never seen one sales person take down a drawlength bow and have a person draw it to see what their drawlength is. This is not only foolish but can be very dangerous.

I am all about going to the local gunsmith. I usually do my homework for weapons that I want to purchase. Like the man with the .243 I have run the gambut of "deer rifles" from .300 win mag to .223. I have settled on the .25-06 as a fine deer rifle. And it has not failed me yet.

I prefer bolt and singleshot to the multishot auto's and pumps. I also have a Marlin 336 in the venerable .30 30 So I would suggest that novice shooters talk to knowledgeable persons and use the internet for some of the basic homework and then find a good gun shop to assist them. And the same for archery.

Lonnie Williamson


A word on chain stores. The guncounters at chain stores are often run by people with just enough firearms knowledge to be dangerous. The reason being that a large chain store just wont pay enough to attrack someone with the kind of knowlege that it takes to be a good gun dealer. In my limmited experience the more a seller specializes the better the person behind the counter is. The best gun stores are the ones where the owner and the person behind the counter are one and the same person. Once you find that gun store with that dealer who's mind is an encyclopedia, go there as often as possible. Buy whatever you can from that store and help keep it open. The more money mom and pop make the more likely it is that jr. and sis will learn the business and be therre to answer questions for our kids when they go to buy their first gun.


THank G-d for the Rod and Gun Clubs on Fort Leavenworth! Everone connected with the place Hunt Deer,Pheasant,Ducks etc. The also shoot all of the Clay sports almost daily.I have bought.sold and traded many guns there over the years and have always been happy with the experience! The only complaint possible (More of a comment really) is I regret there is not rifle range available than a 25 yd "zero" range for small bores.

Ralph the Rifleman

I must admit knowledge and experience are the keys here, and I like chain store selling to keep the price down on products, including firearms. Most avid shooters have a reasonable amount of experience, and you really don't know how much knowledge someone has unless you take time to speak with them.By the way, Cabela's is a chain store as well, nicely stocked to the hilt, but still a chain store keeping prices down on factory produced weapons.I don't expect every person I meet, even in a Mom and Pop's gun store, to know everything it's just not realistic,even "experts" can be wrong at times.As defined an Expert is,"A person with a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject or field."Being pompous is one thing, having a genuine knowledge of something is quite different. So lets stop picking on the chain store guys,cause I'm one of them...I also load my own rifle shells,make my own bar-ba-cue sauce,and grow my own tomatoes...NOT as as an expert, but good enough for me!

Mark Spisak

This goes 2 ways.
There have been numerous times when I know what I wanted but the gun shop owner or salesperson just wanted to sell me what he had on the shelf. They also would state that what I wanted was junk or not worth the money.
I generally am not a gun trader. I take my time, try one from a friend at the range and almost never have a regret when I insist the gun shop order the gun I want.


Sadly, the "mom and pop" shops I've always done business with are now staffing with young and inexperienced counter help. I have to chuckle when a young pup offers advice (usually poor advice) with so much conviction and authority. I'm glad we have good periodicals and blogs to reference prior to purchasing.

Sadly, I'm getting old!

Ralph the Rifleman

A topic a little off the subject here, but have you done a blog on claiming a downed animal? When I was a young hunter, I roamed the woods with WWII vets, mostly my dad's friends, and the rule of thumb was the 1st shooter to draw blood kept the animal, and if another hunter "finished it off" you gave him a shell(or .50)as compensation. Sadly, I hear of too many near fatal confrontations on this issue. Any thoughts on it?

JA Demko

I'm not Dave, nor do I play him on TV, but I'll answer anyway. Where I grew up, the etiquette was basically that a deer isn't worth fighting over. The guy who put it down to stay was the guy who kept it. Claiming an already downed deer, or getting a reputation for doing such, just resulted in nobody being willing to hunt with you again. The few times I saw anger erupt was when an adult was perceived as trying to "take a deer off of" a kid.


I am not a gun expert and am about to buy a gun for my youngest son who is left handed.
I have been advised to purchase everything from a 22-250 or 220 swift to a 7mm-08. I am leaning towards the 7mm-08. Does anyone have any sound advice.

Also, my oldest son shoots a 243. I have not been impressed with its performance. Can any of you recommend a good bullet for deer in the 243.

Gerald Keller

While working as a Range Officer at our local club,I've seen some real horror stories because of the advice of the "expert" at the gun shop.One man insisted that it would be OK to shoot 300WSM ammo in the standard 300 Win.Mag.for practice,as it wouldn't kick as bad.He was most upset when we would not let him try it on our range.More funny than dangerous are the scopes mounted backwards and supposedly bore sighted ready for the 200 yard line.
This for Charles.The 7-08 is exellent choice for youth.Also good is the 260 Rem.,257 Roberts,
6.5X55,or the 7X57.all are mild recoiling,and adequate for most North American game with the right bullet.


I'm never wrong. You can ask my wife. Here, I'll do it for you.

She says I'm never wrong. See?

Charles, what is your son going to do with the rifle? Plink? Varmint hunt? Deer hunt? How big is he? How often will he be able to shoot? These all matter.


The local gun store was/is a favorite of mine. I like the fact that the people I'm dealing with are the owners (in many cases) or at least knowledgeable (in most cases). The chain stores have better pricing (usually) and people want that. I have overheard many times people in the local store asking questions and checking out guns only to run to Walmart or Dicks. I recently heard a guy tell his buddy after checking out a shotgun that he was going to buy it over the internet to save money. I understand buying to save alot of money, but I will spend a few dollars more to keep the locals around. When they are gone, there will be lousy service.

Mike Diehl

"Also, my oldest son shoots a 243. I have not been impressed with its performance. Can any of you recommend a good bullet for deer in the 243."

I have a Ruger 77 Mk1 International in .243. It has acceptable (1-2MOA)accuracy with Remington Core-Lokt but becomes a consistent 1MOA shooter with Federal premium 100 grain spitzer boattails.

mike shickele

Hello Jeff
I had a Savage 110 in 30-06 at one time, and yes they are on average, lighter than your average Remington or Winchester. This is due to the fact that Savage has always installed a barrel of slim contour. Mine was especially bad because I had a lightweight fiberglass stock installed as well.
In regards to your Remington, send it to the factory for repairs. Unfortunately you might have to pay for the repair due to the fact that it has been tampered with by someone other than Remington.
It might still be the sear; even a lot of gunsmiths don't know how to properly adjust a trigger.

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