November 30 is “Small Business Saturday,” a day set aside to support local stores by shopping at brick and mortar locations. Gun shops should be included among other small businesses that will be getting extra patronage that day. In fact, like the local hardware store, these should be patronized year-round.

Back When I Was a Boy…

I remember the first local gun shop I ever frequented — Dallas Huddles Firearms Sales. It was located on the second floor of the Savings and Loan building in Granville, Ohio. Mr. Huddle allowed young people — I was in the eighth grade — into the shop, encouraging future generations to look at firearms (gasp!) and dream about one day owning one … or some. Visiting his gun shop as a boy ignited the passion for firearms that I have today. Unfortunately, Dallas Huddles Firearms Sales is no longer in existence.

In my young adult years, another small gun shop opened up in Newark. This one by a Newark Police Officer who had been a mentor to me at the Camp Falling Rock rifle range. Officer Jim Young nurtured my interest in shooting and police work, hiring me as range staff at age 14. It was great to continue the relationship with him at his business. Again, sadly, the shop closed just a few years after that purchase.

Local Gun Shops Are Small and Charming

I share these reminiscences with you to emphasize the sad truth of today’s shopping experiences. Smaller local gun shops are few and far between. Bigger box stores have become more prevalent. It has become increasingly difficult to open any business, let alone a firearms business.

Locally, we lost a classic gun store just last year in Lancaster, Ohio, after the owner passed. Barnes Guns had unique firearms that simply couldn’t be found anyplace else. Regulars would gather there to talk guns, hunting and shooting throughout the day. There’s something about the atmosphere of a small owner-operated store.

When I started my law enforcement career at the Licking County Sheriff’s Office, a fellow reserve deputy ran a small gun shop from the garage of his home. It was frequented by our deputies, as well as other law enforcement officers. The shop had the pleasant aroma of cherry pipe tobacco and Hoppe’s Gun Oil — not a detail you’d find in many big stores today.

The Big Guns

Now I’m not knocking stores like Cabela’s (although I will knock what is left of gun departments at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart or Field & Stream). Cabela’s certainly has its place, and I visit the Ann Arbor store every year during vacation. Online stores like Cheaper Than Dirt and Sportsman’s Guide are also important businesses. But the small family shops are something of a gem — a reminder of our shooting heritage, where shooters can meet new friends and swap stories.

Small gun shops tend to be staffed by owners and employees who can deliver a personal touch. The same people will wait on you each time you visit and get to know you personally as a customer and friend. The team tends to be very knowledgeable about the products. Staff at smaller local stores have likely used the products they’re selling. And owners tend to be more interested in a customer’s satisfaction than a 10-dollar-an-hour big-box clerk. They have invested a significant portion of their lives and money in the business.

Follow the Money

It’s true that certain goods may be higher priced in smaller gun shops. For example, a box of ammo may be more expensive on its face than the same ammo from an online shop … until you add in shipping. Additionally, guns may be more expensive in a small shop, as well, because they don’t move as much inventory. But have you considered gas money? If your local store is closer than a national chain, you could be saving not only gas money but also the wear and tear on your car.

Another factor to take into consideration is where that money is going. The owner and employees of local stores are more likely to put that money back into your community. They’re not just working there; they live there too. This will strengthen other nearby businesses and the tax base.

If there is a small shop in your area, consider patronizing it — not only on Small Business Saturday but whenever you need something gun-related. Local gun shops are worth supporting. Stop in some time and see. Chances are, it will be a shop you will continue to support.

About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.