Thursday, September 22, 2005

Boomsticks: The View From The Other Side Of The Counter.

A common staple of Errornet gun nut chatter is The Idiot Clerk At The Local Gun Shop. I often have to bite my lip to keep from replying "Have you looked around on your side of the counter recently?"

Some Honest-to-Wotan war stories from the last couple years (First in a Continuing Series):

Case 1:
Guy brings in his Remington 1100 (a semiautomatic shotgun), inquiring if we have a gunsmith. When answered in the affirmitive, he indicates the gun needs work. I pull out a gunsmithing ticket and proceed to start checking the gun in. Now, when filling in the "Work To Be Performed" field, I try to be fairly specific so that our gunsmith, Shannon, knows where to start, so I ask the guy what's wrong with his shootin' iron.
"It ain't workin'."
"Right, but what's it not doing? Failure to fire? Failure to feed? Failure to eject?"
"Somethin's tightened up inside."
"Tightened up inside where, sir? The action? The magazine?"
"Inside the gun. Somethin's tightened up inside." He then held up a mangled piece of metal and helpfully added "This piece fell out, too."
"Okay, but what's wrong with it? What's it not doing?"
"It ain't workin'. Somethin's tightened up inside."
I shrugged, wrote "Somethin's tightened up inside" on the ticket, taped the mysterious widget to the ticket, and sent it back to gunsmithing.

Case 2:
Guy brings in his DIY FAL (ie. a rifle built from a parts kit at home) and indicates that something ain't right with the gun. When asked if it's short-cycling, double-feeding, failing to extract, or what, he pretty much indicated that "All Of The Above" was the answer. I checked the gun in by writing "Make gun run" on the ticket. (When finished, Shannon wrote "Made gun run" at the top of the "Work Performed" field. Smartass.)

Case 3:
Couple comes in with four unruly tots and proceeds to start filling out yellow forms (aka. "The 4473," after the nomenclature) on a pair of Hi-Points (extremely lo-bujit pistols); a 9mm for him and a .380 for her. As they're both scribbling industriously on the paperwork, I go to assist another customer in the packed store. I turn away from the other customer to notice that two of their ankle-biters have snatched up the heaters in question and are attempting to play cops and robbers with the guns behind the counter, forcing me to request (loudly) "Can we please get the handguns away from the minors?"
About this time, the father looks up from his 4473 and asks "If I've been convicted of a felony, do I have to put 'yes' in this blank?"
"Uh, well, I reckon so..."
"It wasn't anything serious; I just kicked a cop. I'm off probation, now."
"Well, go ahead and put 'yes' in the blank and we'll see what Nashville says." I replied, trying to think of how to gracefully extricate myself from this situation.
Two minutes later, he and wifey-poo completed their forms and handed them, along with their driver's licenses, to me.

They seemed baffled that the fact that they were residents of Kentucky would preclude them from buying a handgun in Tennessee.

The guns went back in the showcase, the 4473's went in the trashcan, and I went to the bathroom for an Advil.

Case 4:
A pleasant gentleman is in the shop, picking up some repairs. We chat for a moment, and he asks "Hey, can you tell me what a gun's worth?"
"Sure. Do you have it with you?"
"Naw, it's at home."
"Well, without seeing it..."
"Oh, I don't need no appraisal letter or nothin', just a ballpark figure. Jus' curious, is all."
"What kind is it?"
"It's a Luger."
Great. Luger collecting is a hobby unto itself, with jillions of variations of the gun and weighty tomes dedicated to sorting them out... "Um," I mutter, trying to narrow things down "What kind of Luger?"
"A German one."
Great. They're almost all German. "Yes, but what kind of German Luger?"
"Nine millimeter."
As you can guess, they're almost all in 9mm. This guy had, in effect, just asked me what his car was worth. What kind of car? Oh, a Ford. With a V-8. As seriously and respectfully as I could, I told him "Somewhere between $250 and $35,000." No doubt he went home happy, having only heard the higher end of the price quote...

So that's the view from my side of the counter. But, hey, it beats flippin' burgers, even if the pay's about the same. All I ask is this: The next time you call the shop and ask the harried-sounding chick on the other end of the line how much your grandpa's Remington is worth, please be understanding if she cackles wildly and says "I can't see it too well from here; hold it closer to the phone."


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sure you get that a lot. But you don't expect your customers to know what they're talking about. As a customer, I do expect clerk's to know what they're talking about.

Like when I go in to a shop and they have a gloriously displayed AR-15 labeled 'pre-ban' for $1,400. I invariably look at them and say 'the ban's gone I can get that for about $600 now.' Their response is 'huh?'

Or the dealer that tried to sell a 'pre-ban' lower receiver for $250. It's pre-ban, he said, so you could make an assault weapon (this was pre expiration) so it was worth more. I said that unless it was a completed rifle before 1994, it couldn't be an assault weapon. Again: huh?

Or the dealers that I've seen at gun shows selling SBR AKs like they were regular AKs. Never said a word about that one.

Xavier said...

I recall my stint in the Navy repairing F-18's. After a sortie, the pilot would fill out a VIDS/MAF, or gripe sheet of any problems encountered during the flight. The gripe sheet would then go to one of us to inspect, correct, and sign off with an explanation of the corrective action.
One pilot was notorious for gripes like "Won't fly right", or "flies funny". On 70% of his gripe sheets the corrective action was documented as "Swap out pilot."

Addison said...

Ah, dealing with idiots.

One day, I shall find a way to avoid them.
So far, they've pursued me tirelessly. - Good friend of mine, and his new, self-employment fun.

My relevant comment: Called 3 gun stores yesterday, that are "Authorized H&K".
Me: Howdy. I've got a H&K USP I'd like to change the variant on, can you guys get the parts and swap 'em?
Gun store: Uh. USP? Who's that made by? Heckler and Caulk? Uh, you got the parts, I uh, don't, uh, maybe?
Me: Thanks, I think that answered my question. (If I *had* the parts, I'd put 'em in. Good idea or not, I tend to do my own gun smithing. (don't ask about my Model 29, please)

(other two denied knowing anything about being H&K authorized or nuthin)

Mulliga said...

I've seen and heard some pretty crazy stuff while shopping at the area gun stores.

You get the macho commando wannabes that know everything on the Errornet. In the market for a beater AK, I examine a WASR-10, and they snicker how they would never buy such a POS.

You also get the totally gun-ignorant, which is fine, except for the fact that when they sweep everyone standing at the counter with the Glock they're holding they look annoyed when someone corrects them.

Finally, there's what I like to call the hardcore haggler (I sold some of my personal collection at a gun show and experienced this personally). They lowball you to the tune of 50% of what the market value is and walk off when you politely decline. But they keep coming. And coming.

Firehand said...

It's not guns, but I've had someone with a PC problem call and start things with "Is it just me or is everybody down?" Along with the also-popular "Am I the only one?"

You got more of that Advil? Screw that, I need a drink...

Trebor said...

Hi Tamara,

I found your blog through Carnival of Cordite. I'd have shown up earlier if I'd known.

I sold guns at Gander Mountain for about a month last year. It was fun, but there were moments when I wanted to pull my hair out.

The most fun was when guys brought in stuff to sell. One guy had a nice Arisaka training rifle. One of the ones that wasn't actually designed to shoot. The tip off was that the follower was a solid piece with no access to the "magazine" below. Glad he brought it in before he tried to shoot it.

Take care,

Rob (Trebor from THR)

staghounds said...

Years ago when I sold guns in Knoxville, we sold a shotgun loader in 20 gauge to a man. He came back a few weeks later, "them loads aint got no power". So we swapped out for the next larger bushing sise. A few weeks passed, back with the same complaint, we gave him the max bushings. A couple weeks on, "them shells still aint got no power." So, the 12 ga bushings must have done the job.

I was also present when a man with a white cane and seeing eye dog bought a Browning auto 5 and 2 boxes of shells. "Are you blind" isn't on the 4473...

Ravenwood said...

Heh. Used to collect electronics for the repair department. We put explanations like "Brone Fruse" and "Smoke Escaped".

On the latter, the tech fixed it and sent it back marked "Refilled with smoke."