Gun Shop Dicks (Detectives, That-Is …)


Dick Tracy

Being a counterman, proprietor, or purveyor of firearms is not for the squeamish. Cold blooded murder of blued steel, negligent homicide by horrendous, homemade handloads, or botched butcher jobs by do-it-yourselfer buffoons are just a few of the victims you will encounter.

To stomach the twisted tales told to you, a poker face, the critical analytical mind of a detective and the sense of humor of a stand up comedian will all come in handy.

Being behind the counter of a gun shop gives you a front row seat to the greatest show on earth, or at least the most interesting, conjured-up stories you’ll ever be tested with. With time, you’ll learn nothing surprises you anymore — and people will do anything to a gun.

You’ll be amazed at what the human brain (or lack there of) is capable of doing with the sinister, diabolical schemes some customers dream up, or stumble into. These outside-the-box thinkers are usually the ones bringing their disassembled prodigy of parts to you — in a box.

Brown Bag or Box Kit?

Some will blame it on the blasted brother-in-law, while others sheepishly admit to the incompetent inspection and investigation of their gun as they confess, “It came apart easy enough. You know how far that magazine spring for an 870 can launch itself? Neither do I — I never found it.”

Handing a box or bag to you, you simply nod your noggin empathetically, telling them, “It happens all the time.” A friendly smile eases their embarrassment.

Cartoon gun

Wide-eyed Wonder

So once, this fella unzips his gun case and pulls out what used to be a very nice looking Belgium Browning Auto-5 with gold inlay, gorgeous walnut stock and back-bored barrel with vector chokes. Only problem, it looks like a Pilgrim’s blunderbuss gun, complete with flared-muzzle barrel.

The blundering customer explains he tried some “new” factory loads, but you know the “real” story, as you notice mud still on the sides of the barrel. Mr. Tripper inadvertently shoots it with the bore plugged full of mud after stumbling crossing a barbed wire fence.
You put him at ease, telling him you can replace the barrel. Case solved.

Handloading Hombre

This next caper is a perplexing problem taking a little probing to deduce. A loyal customer and loiterer of the shop presents it to you. He seems pretty squared away, knowledgeable, and a nice guy too boot. He tells you he tried some new handloads, splitting his barrel halfway down the center of his rifle in the process.

He says he followed the load right from the book. You trust him, but can’t for the life of you figure out what happened. You ask if he has any of the handloads with him and he pulls one from the side pocket of the case.

Your competitive spirit is sparked, as you want to solve this case. “What powder did you use and how much?” He tells you, “Seventy grains of X999” — an extruded powder. You weigh it out and it’s exactly 70 grains.

Then it hits you! This powder isn’t extruded at all. It looks more ball-like in structure. “You sure you used X999?” He says, “Yep! I had to grind it in a mortar and pestle to get the full 70 grains in.” Therein lies your problem! Case solved! He changed the burn rate by grinding the powder into smaller particles.

cartoon gun guy

Gunsmith Guru

This guy is usually a blue-collared do-it-yourselfer with access to all kinds of power tools, fancying himself a natural gunsmith. He got his training watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” “Mad Max” and “Tool Time” with Tim Taylor.

Who needs fancy lathes and milling machines? “I got my contractor grade hand tools!” He chops and ports barrels, does action and trigger jobs, sometimes dabbles and dribbles in engraving and checkering with his Dremel tool too. What he lacks in common sense he more than makes up for with confidence and bravado!

No job is too small! “If I screw up, the boys in the shop can fix it up! Or I’ll just order another one!” This explains guru-guy’s huge collection of snubby sixguns and short-barreled carbines, along with his huge “parts box.”

Can You Handle It?

This is a small cross section of what you’ll be exposed to while working the “counter.” Despite their faults, we love these customers because they choose to patronize our shops on a regular basis.

You’ll need to balance your sympathy, empathy, sense of humor and knowledge — while being understanding — as you crack these cases, make suggestions and help your customer base.

Like anything in life worthwhile, it ain’t easy, but it’s rewarding. Besides, you’ll never be short on stories at trade shows, Christmas parties, or huntin’ camp, as you good-naturedly tell the tales of being a Gun Shop Dick.