Behind the Gun Counter: Trade Shows

The NRA held its annual meeting, NRAAM, this past weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although it exists primarily as a summit for the organization itself, NRAAM also hosts its own trade show, much in the same vein as SHOT. Anyone who keeps up on firearm news has probably spent the past few days reading and watching coverage of the show, including announcements for a slew of new guns and associated products. The question on everyone’s minds is, when will we be able to buy them?

First of all, that’s the wrong question to ask. What you should be asking after seeing a shiny new gun unveiled on your favorite blog or YouTube channel is whether the product is any good in the first place. Don’t get too excited just because the thing looks cool on the internet—for all you know, the first production run might have reliability issues that would force you to send yours back to the manufacturer if you bought one. Even the big-name manufacturers sometimes experience teething troubles with their new models; Smith & Wesson with the M&P 12, Springfield Armory with the SA-35, Desert Tech with the MDR, and SIG Sauer with—well, it would take too long to list them all. I can’t tell you how many customers I’ve had buy a new gun as soon as it became available, then come back to complain about it not working as it should. Don’t make that same mistake—if there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, let it be to always wait for independent reviews before you buy a new product.

Now, assuming you choose to ignore my advice, how can you get that hot new gun as soon as it comes out? Well, you can’t. Unlike books or computer components, they aren’t shipped out to stores ahead of the official release date, so you’ll have to wait for enough to trickle down through the distributors to your local shop. This process usually takes at least a week, longer for smaller stores who order less frequently and in smaller quantities. The “big box” players like Green Top and Cabela’s usually get first pick from the distributors, but you’ll have to be quick to beat the retired guys who pick the shelves clean within the first half-hour after a delivery.

Don’t despair, though—your local shop should get those new products in before too long so you can satisfy your consumerist urges, but for the sake of every gun store employee, please don’t call and ask! The guys and gals answering the phone are just sales associates; they typically don’t know what firearms have been ordered until they spend half a shift unpacking them. Furthermore, the day after a new product is announced, the people working the sales floor field an endless string of phone calls from eager customers asking if it’s in stock yet. It is more productive to email the store to ask about availability; that way, a manager can take the time to get you a good answer. Depending on the store’s policies, they might be able to put you on a waiting list so you can get the first crack at whatever it is you’re so eager to buy.

Last of all, don’t ask store employees about a new product before they can get their hands on it. They don’t receive any proprietary knowledge from the manufacturer in advance, so they’re working from the same body of information you can find online. On the other side of the coin, if you choose to buy a new firearm immediately after it releases, you can help those employees at your local gun shop do their jobs better. Give them your firsthand impressions on how it shoots and be prepared to answer their questions; better yet, if the store allows it, bring yours in and let the employees handle it. That way, you can give them the information they need to do their jobs better.


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