Tuesday, August 25, 2009

They're not the "Four Suggestions".

I worked in gun stores for the better part of fifteen years. If I had a $10 bill for every time some yob pointed a heater at me, I'd buy my own gun store tomorrow.

Sure as God made little green apples, when you handed a customer a handgun from the showcase (action open, of course; that habit was so ingrained that I usually accidentally tried to jack the slides on the blue guns we used for light/laser demonstrators), two things would happen:
  1. Their booger hook would go straight to the bang switch as though drawn by a magnet.
  2. They'd point the muzzle right at my tummy.
Only once or twice in all that time did I give in to temptation and use the following dialog:

"Excuse me, would you please not point that at me?"

"It ain't loaded."

"Yes, well, this one is, and having guns pointed at me makes me very nervous."

28 comments:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Every time I am looking at a gun in store I am extremely careful about where I point it. I get the impression (based on attitude towards me vs. Others) that it is appreciated.

At least one person I shoot with has muzzle control issues. He's beginning to learn, but it gets old. Threatening to point mine at him when his 'unloaded' gun swings my way seems to help.

Jay G said...

That's the biggest reason I can't go to Kittery Trading Post in Maine any more. Every single time I've been in there, there's been at least a dozen people pointing shotguns at my head...

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I noticed that same phenom at my first purchase, but there is also the other issue... In a crowded gunstore there are people surrounding you, 360 degrees. I like the gunstores that put something up near the ceiling to point at. Like a surplus military helmet collection. Even the tyro likes to aim at those. But when you look at the action of a rifle or shotgun on the counter, you tend to have a barrel sweeping everyone else at the counter on one side. It's hard!

Aaron said...

Holy crap, I knew I was spoiled up here, but not the extent of it.

Since moving to Whidbey Island I have yet to see anyone muzzle sweep the poor guys behind the counter, or other customers.

When I was stationed in Bremerton, however, it was not so idyllic, but still not as bad you guys describe.

Lorimor said...

I usually work security at the front door of our club gun shows and that means checking in guns and unfortunately, many of them get pointed at me.

Tam said...

NJT,

"I noticed that same phenom at my first purchase, but there is also the other issue... In a crowded gunstore there are people surrounding you, 360 degrees. I like the gunstores that put something up near the ceiling to point at. Like a surplus military helmet collection. Even the tyro likes to aim at those. But when you look at the action of a rifle or shotgun on the counter, you tend to have a barrel sweeping everyone else at the counter on one side. It's hard!"

Long guns aim up, handguns aim down. A gun store is one place where the controversial "Position Sul" comes in handy.


Aaron,

I exaggerate for effect, but the ratio of customers who committed a violation of either Rule #2 or Rule #3 was certainly approaching 50%. If you've found a gun store where neither happens, it has a customer base of EXCEPTIONAL quality. I've been muzzled by SWAT cops, Army Rangers, USPSA A-class shooters...

milton f said...

Don't we all have a responsibility to *instruct* other gunowners (or potential gun owners) to behave safely? I have never had a problem telling someone, generally as I push the muzzle clear, that I prefer NOT to see the inside of their barrel. Although, telling a customer that would require a bit more, umm, delicacy.

I am certain that the readership here could develop a smooth, polite way to help improve this awful behavior.

(Grrrr! Farging Iceholes)

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I hate realizing that the 1911 the guy down the counter is looking at is unloaded because I can see the tip of the firing pin. It's just a bit disturbing.

"In a crowded gunstore there are people surrounding you, 360 degrees [...] But when you look at the action of a rifle or shotgun on the counter, you tend to have a barrel sweeping everyone else at the counter on one side. It's hard!"

It can still be done, you just have to pay attention. If you're handling it, point it at the floor or ceiling until you find a clear space.

Behind the counter usually has an area clear of people. Don't stand directly in front of the person behind the counter, stand a little to the side. That way you can keep it pointed at the shelves behind the counter while it's resting on the counter, and it's not pointing at the salesperson.

If the salesperson sets it on the counter with the barrel pointing at their stomach, they did it to themselves. But you should still point it somewhere else as soon as you pick it up.

You should still be paying as much attention in the store as you do at the range - handling a firearm is handling a firearm, period. Remember Rule 1!

Moriarty said...

A quick note...

Years ago, a friend of mine was in his favorite firearms emporium, looking over the cleaning supplies.

A local reporter was at the counter, interviewing the owner over the (then new) CCW law.

He passed her a revolver. After a few seconds' discussion, she turned, pointed the revolver at my friend's midsection, and dry snapped it.

The owner rolled his eyes. That was the extent of his response.

My friend, turned on his heel, walked out the door and has never been back. I've often wondered what the owner should have done in that situation.

shooter said...

I have two nasty scars (that are sadly starting to fade) on either side of my left arm. They are from the ricocheting jackets of a couple .45 rounds. The scars look like a through-and-through of a .22 or a bit larger. Working the counter, whenever someone told me "It ain't loaded!" I'd roll up my sleeve and say for everyone to hear, "I was shot with an unloaded handgun!" That statement and the fresh scars were enough to cure the customer right then and there of their stupidity.

og said...

My local guy, Westforths, is pretty good about reminding the most obvious offenders "You cannot see that Glock,or anything else in the case, unless you point it away from the counterperson AND other customers AND refrain from dryfiring.

They do OK. I like that they're strict that way.

Mossyrock said...

I've worked the other side of the counter in four different gunshops, and got very proficient in side-stepping and deflecting muzzles. In all the time I worked there, I had two loaded guns pointed at me. In one case, a little old lady came in, put her purse down on the counter, pulled out an old .32 Auto and said, "My husband died. Can you show me how to unload this?" As she said that, the muzzle was on my chest and her finger was on the trigger. I sidestepped, covered the pistol with my hand and politely said, "Sure! Here, let me have that..." The last time was an older gentleman with an old H&R breaktop .38 S&W revolver. He brought it in, complaining that it didn't work. When I did my patented sidestep, he said, "What's the matter? It ain't loaded!" He turned VERY pale when I cracked it and dumped the cartridges on the counter....

randy said...

When handed a handgun at a gun store I always check it for clear, even if the person behind the counter did so already. I figure it's good practice and any negative reaction by the store personnel is an indicator of whether they were worthy of my business.

The only time I've caught flack was during a physical test for a PD. One part involved picking up an (allegedly) unloaded S&W Model 66 and pulling the trigger 3 times right handed, then 3 left handed.

Given that the test was taking place on a school playground with a busy street as the backstop, I picked up the revolver, opened the cylinder, checked for clear, closed it and proceeded to to complete the test.

The training officer observing the station stated that I was wasting time and that she had already cleared it. My reply was "Yes, YOU have cleared it, I haven't, and I'm the one responsible while it's in my hands". She did not take too kindly to that. One of the reasons I didn't follow up on putting in a application with that department.

Lergnom said...

Many years ago, a group of us were shooting at a local indoor range, now out of business. Our usual routine was to fire off one box of ammo in whatever we had brought, then take a break in the main area before going back for another go-round. Early one Sunday morning, we were sitting in chairs against the wall, drinking coffee and chatting with another member. He was wearing a brag vest with, among other things, an NRA Life Member pin. I looked down and he was looking the other wy, talking to one of my friends, holding a PPK, pointed at my midsection, finger inside the triggerguard. I said, as reasonably as I could, 'I'd appreciate it very much if you'd point that in some other direction.'
Whereupon he assured me that it wasn't loaded, and besides, the safety was on.
The gal he was talking to, another PPK owner, observed that the safety was off, and asked him to eject the magazine.
It was full. \
He _finally_ pointed it in a safe direction and racked the slide.
A round ejected. I changed seats and kept an eye on him until he left.

RevolverRob said...

I wrote a post about this very subject just a couple of weeks ago.

http://glasscounter.blogspot.com/2009/08/there-are-only-four-rules.html

-Rob

Atom Smasher said...

Whenever I'm at a gun show/shop counter and ask to handle something I'm always a-jumble at first because I don't want to be a jerk either inadvertantly or by design. So for the first "handle" of the day I'm a semi-tense mass of "finger-off-the-trigger finger off-the-trigger finger-off-the-trigger" "check the chamber/mag/magwell" "background background background".

Because who wants to eff up?

Once I manage not to point at someone, etc., I relax and start paying attention to how the piece feels, etc.

So guys behind the counter - don't be surprised if I ask to see the one I handled first, again.

Mikael said...

I keep hearing these stories, and they've finally stoped amazing me...

Even when I was 15 and looking for a dream rifle in the local rifle-only gunshop, I'd naturally point them to the corner of the roof, with the trigger finger properly indexed. I didn't even know the four rules were the four rules(though I'd have them all taught to me as a matter of course when I'd been out shooting long guns with a 5 year older friend a number of times).

Laughingdog said...

I have actually run into the opposite problem quite frequently around my area. For some reason, the bulk of the sales people at one of the stores in this area seem to be incapable of handing me any of their firearms from the wallk behind them without sweeping me in the process. When I politely said "could you not sweep me with that please?", all I got was an attitude. Needless to say, I took my full wallet elsewhere and never went back.

To be fair, I don't know if the salespeople at the other stores are actually any better, or if they're just spared from showing thier ignorance by the fact that their handguns are under glass, so they don't have to turn while passing them to me.

Ride Fast said...

Tam, you're smooth. And probably good at sales.

My guy says "If you cover me with that muzzle again I may kill you."

Anonymous said...

I have to second Laughingdog's comment about the sales-critters. I've NEVER been handed an open firearm at the local Minneapolis gun shops. Invariably the clerks will pull it from the case and simply hand it over to me. A few of them occasionally have the plastic flag in the chamber, but mostly I'll have to clear it myself.

They don't usually have a finger on the trigger, but it's still disconcerting to have a pistol with the slide closed, or revolver with the cylinder closed handed to you. Some of the clerks have even rolled their eyes when the first thing I do is point it at an empty area of the floor and open the action.

On the other hand, the clerks at Cabela's are very consistent about keeping safe. Problem is that the Cabela's is a long drive away.

(WV = "gangle"...what I do in a gun store. Has blogger started using almost-words for WV?)

Tam said...

"Invariably the clerks will pull it from the case and simply hand it over to me. A few of them occasionally have the plastic flag in the chamber, but mostly I'll have to clear it myself."

That was damned near a firing offense at CCA. I've torn strips off sales clerks for that. Long, bloody strips.

Anonymous said...

I have been keenly aware of muzzles in gun stores ever since a sales clerk told me they once received a new piece from the manufacturer with the unspent test round in the chamber.

mikeb302000 said...

Tam, Thanks for that fascinating post and your personal experience with uneducated would-be gun owners.

Do you think someone eventually teaches them about the 4 Rules, or do those guys represent a significant proportion of the gun owners?

Will said...

What discouraged me from going to a local indoor range was their policy of requiring shooters to show their guns were unloaded prior to renting a firing lane. At the sales counter... Seems every time I was there, some idiot(s) would pull a handgun out of a box/case, point it the length of the counter, and proceed to remove ammo from it.

One day, a clerk tossed a 50rnd baggie of re-manufactured ammo onto the glass counter top as I was walking by. A round detonated. Someone screamed. My first thought: DAMN, is that a hole in the wall, or a customer? Nope, just brass shrapnel hitting people. Eye protection and body armor while shopping/browsing?

Tam said...

Will,

"What discouraged me from going to a local indoor range was their policy of requiring shooters to show their guns were unloaded prior to renting a firing lane."

That's a dumb policy, all right. The previous owners of the building CCA is now in had that policy until the predictable eventually happened: A gun that was being "inspected" at the check-in counter went bang and put a hole in the carpet.

Needless to say, they changed it after that. Fiddle-fucking with guns in the showroom when there's a safe backstop right through the range door has never made sense to me.

David said...

Our local gun shop is so small that even when there is only 4-5 people in there it is crowded. A few weeks ago I was checking out a 03-A3 that I was interested in, I stepped to the edge of the counter where I had a clear line of sight to the back wall of the store, brought the gun up to my shoulder just as the manager walked out of the back room - right in front of the muzzle of the rifle I was holding.

I snapped the muzzle up as fast as she ducked down. I blushed and sheepishly offered an apology, she blew it off.

The next day when I was the only customer in the store the manager knowing that I was standing in about the same place again, with the same rifle in my hands called from around the corner "Is it safe to come out yet?"

I hollered sure and she stepped around the corner right in front of the broom handle that I had pointed at her head. She ducked even quicker, then jerked the broom out of my hand and threatened to beat me with it. She told me I had two choices - Buy that damned 03-A3 or get the hell out of the store and don't come back for at least an hour.

Since I wasn't sure that I could convince my dear wife that I really needed a Remmington 03-A3 to match the Smith Corona I already have, I beat a hasty retreat.

I went back an hour later with a blended peanut butter mocha peace offering and all was forgiven.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I love Washington state is the following statute:

RCW 9.41.230
Aiming or discharging firearms, dangerous weapons.


(1) For conduct not amounting to a violation of chapter 9A.36 RCW, any person who:

(a) Aims any firearm, whether loaded or not, at or towards any human being;
...

although no injury results, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.


Although I've resisted the temptation to use "this one's not," I have pointed out to more than one person that they just broke the law, and that "it's not loaded" is no defense. It's fun to see their stunned little faces when they realize I'm serious.

Seth from Massachusetts said...

One gunshop I've been into is really clear on that. All guns are behind the counter. When you ask to see one he takes it off the rack, opens the action, looks into the ejection port, holds it so the port is tilted toward the customer, says "it is clear!", then hands it over.