Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

Would you recommend a firearms purchasing consultation to a friend or family member interested in purchasing a gun?

Written By: Bob - Dec• 10•12

My darling wife pointed out last night that I have a fairly regular stream of family, friends, and acquaintances coming to me to ask me questions about purchasing guns. Indeed, that was part of the inspiration for my $0.99 Amazon.com eBook, So You Want to Own a Gun (which you should purchase now, for everyone you know).

A book is a good start and helps people start thinking the right way about a firearms purchase, but it isn’t a conversation. A book can’t ask you probing questions, search for nuance, or suss out pertinent details that you yourself might not know to ask.

So I ask you, my readers:

  • Would you pay for a firearms purchasing consultation?
  • Would you recommend that friends or family members engage with a consultant that has no direct monetary interest in the sale of a gun, to help them pick the firearm that would best suit their real needs, as opposed to the needs of a marketer or salesman?
  • If you would like to use or recommend such a service, what would be a fair market rate?

I view the job as a counselor’s role, and would treat it with the professionalism it deserves.

I’d have every client fill out a confidential and detailed questionnaire to get a basic feel for who they are and get a rough idea of what they are looking for, followed by a half-hour phone call I’d price at $(TBD) to dial things down more specifically before they go to their local gun stores to peruse the wares.  They could go ahead and make a more confident purchase at that point, or narrow their options down to 2-3 guns based upon the guidance given as a result of the initial consultation, and we could have a follow-up conversation at $(TBD) to discuss the pros and cons of the guns they are deciding between before they make their final purchase.

My gut instinct is that the initial questionnaire reading, research and initial call should be priced at $70 or so, with the post-gun store follow-up at $30, so that the whole experience wraps up neatly at $100.

Considering the number of people who go out and purchase their first gun and find it doesn’t really meet their needs, leading to a second or third purchase before they find something that comes close to suiting them, I think it is a great deal in terms of piece of mind and time saved.

So what do you think, folks?  Is this a winner, a turkey, or something in between that needs tweaking?

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41 Comments

  1. Bob, I think you are on to something. In your marketing materials, you should probably list a range of what a few weapon categories cost, to compare to your fees. For example, I’d probably not pay $100 for advice if I wanted to buy a .22 for squirrel hunting and going down to a range. I would if I was thinking something in the dessert eagle price range.

    If you were successful in this endeavor, do you think you could scale down the price for people of low incomes looking for a “saturday night special” for home protection? Maybe get an organization to pay for you to run a classroom of 10-30 folks for an hour. We need pro-gun urban outreach.

  2. Catseye says:

    Seems to be a trifle on the pricey side to me, but then I’m a swordslinger so what do I know. I’m going to be buying a crossbow come Spring for hunting. The problem for me is that once the supply chain breaks down getting new ammo for your gun is going to be a problem, unless you’ve got and know how to use the gear to load your own ammo.

  3. Robert Zaleski says:

    Anyone who asked me I’d probably just take them out myself and talk to them. Maybe if I didn’t trust them enough to hand them a loaded pistol at the range, I’d send them to you.

    The CCW courses here are good and I’d recommend that to anyone. Any course I’d recommend to a first-time purchaser would have to emphasize CCW, home defense, and include a good amount of range time. The CCW course for Ohio run about the same price here, so if it had a $30 first time owner class before hand, some shared CCW class time, and maybe some personal or small group range time I’d recommend that.

    • Bob says:

      My clientele would primarily be people who don’t have access to knowledgeable family and friends for advice.

      • Clayton Hackbarth says:

        Definitely a winner in the case of no friends. I’m pretty knowledgeable my self and am amazed what some of the clerks behind the gun counter pass out as advice. Bought my wife a .45 and had some pimply faced kid freak, “It will knock her on her ass!” like its some elephant gun. Recoil is harder to control hence need to shoot more to stay on target. Knock her down, kid thought he was an expert and dispenses bad advice to how many hundreds of potential gun buyers? So definitely a winner of an idea.

  4. Neo says:

    I have this nightmare of ATF and FBI agents pretending to be “firearms consultants.”

    There are probably more ways for the “firearms ignorant” to be caught in a felony than with anything but drugs.

    Be prepared to be asked to do something “lewd” to prove your not a cop.

    • Bob says:

      I’d be making recommendations that create a personalized buying guide for prospective purchasers that still have to follow the law to purchase their firearm.

      I don’t follow your thought process in the slightest.

  5. ali-gator says:

    Good idea as far as it goes. Hopefully you’ll steer the novice away from 44 magnums & toward more sensible guns.

    I was a novice 20 years ago but still pleased with choices I made then. The real trouble has been in choosing appropriate holsters. I believe what works for one person of a particular build will be all wrong for another. If you can offer good guidance concerning holsters it will be a real service & 1) ensure your clients get there money back 2) increase probability that a good person has a gun when a real emergency erupts.

    • ali-gator says:

      The proposed fee is reasonable for a serious person who’d like to get it right the 1st out. A friend & I plan an outting with his girl friend for the purpose of letting her try a variety of guns. We’ll spend more than that on ammo before the day is out.

  6. David S. says:

    I think you have, in general, a good idea; however, if there could be an encounter with firearms discharge I would be a lot happier about the entire ordeal.

    Maybe a combination of the consultation with the option of an actual range experience which would be extra $(TBD). The folks (a couple a year) that ask me to do what you have described (to some extent–I limit their real desire, household and overall tendencies. After several extended conversations–the next one is at a range. We have a nice pistol / shotgun range nearby as the majority of folks that ask me are either CCW or home defense folks.

    The very real kick of any particular weapon is something I believe they need before the gun shop. Not to scare them but make them realize. I take out everything from my smaller shotguns through my S&W .44 (wish I had an Eagle).

    Nevertheless, real experience will help more than classroom.

  7. PeteSF says:

    Yes. I want this service. My $100 is standing by.

  8. Elena says:

    I would pay for such a service – I say this as someone who has had no familial or institutional experience with guns, aside from one how-to class, so I’d appreciate a consultation before I buy a gun + an associate equipment. Honestly, $100 seems like a deal to me…

  9. ajacksonian says:

    A local NRA trainer has niche consulting beyond the standard pistol/rifle/shotgun training + range time. Other services include: working with families for home security/home defense, CCW familiarization and helping to get a suitable pistol/holster arrangement + range time, and an introduction to IPSEC course. Friendly, outgoing, multiple NRA certs, home setting for training, then range time (you either bring ear protection or rent at range).

    Generally trains on a .22lr platform for pistols for half the range time and then a Glock 10mm for the other half. Last I heard it was a Rem 700 for rifle training, and Rem 870 for shotgun training. More than willing to work with what you have, however.

    Fees vary from the standard training at $45 to about $125 for the home security to $150 for the CCW work to ~$200 for the IPSEC with training course time.

    That isn’t his full-time business as of yet, but a side-business. He gives discounts for FFL purchases and gets dealer specials, too. The numbers are 5 years out of date and as its in bubble-land in NOVa that also has to be taken into account. That NRA certified trainer business is a good one for steady intro customers.

  10. Ben says:

    I can see how this might be valuable to some people, but really it seems like this is what the gun shop salesman’s job is…

    • Stan says:

      Just like selling realtors the gun shop employee doesn’t work for you, they work for the store. I am also dismayed on how little some of them know. I have been buying guns for 30 years and working in the industry for almost 10. I keep seeing them doing thing like ignoring a woman at the counter who wants to buy and has the cash, but they are told to come back with their husband. Some of those woman know more then they do. I would go as far as ride along to the store to make sure her questions are answered.

  11. subrot0 says:

    In any business you have to consider your target market and tailor your services to that market.

    As a consultant are you just selling services or are you selling a suite of products that would make the gun owner’s experience easier.

    If you sell a service then the options are fairly limited. You are just making a recommendation based on a questionnaire. I would probably pay about $50.00 and hour for that and I would expect an hour of advice.

    If you sell a suite of services (gun advice, gun and bullet selection, holster and other product selection, gun ranges, help in filling out forms, training and range selection, you can definitely make a case for a valid business plan.

    If you make a list of what is required and make it as complete as possible then you can experiment with your pricing. The customer will tell you what they feel comfortable in paying.

  12. wizardpc says:

    I’m afraid that the overlap between people who know there is such a thing as “the right gun for your application” and people who don’t have close friends or family that are willing to provide this service for free is awfully small.

    It’s hard enough to get people to realize that training and practice are necessary!

    I wish you luck. I’d love to do this, too.

  13. David Pittelli says:

    I think your biggest competition is with people who are local and can take a person out shooting without having to buy a gun first. Many people know that one of their friends or coworkers is a gun guy, and they get that experience from him for free. Others would likely pay something to someone, especially if he’s also a safety and legal-related coach. I don’t see how a phone relationship can compete with either, but you can offer both and see where you get clients.

  14. Brad Miner says:

    Simple answer: Yes! However, what I’d very much like to have (and would pay more for than just a recommendation — after all I’d expect a consultant in firearms to be like other consultants and suggest to me what he suggests to others, i.e. what he likes) is a consultant who could h=take me step by step through the idiotic notarized forms requires here in Westchester County, NY.

    • ni says:

      There’s a guy in little neck in queens on northern blvd., I drive by all the time, helps obtain pistol licenses. Maybe he can help or refer. Pls LMK if he helps you, am in same fix.

  15. StephUF says:

    I went through a 38 air weight (too much kick), sold it, Ruger LC 9 (trigger pull too long), husband took it, ended up with a SW Shield 9, love it. So, yes, that service would have helped me. The gun shop salesmen have their faves, went through 2 guns highly recommended before I found mine. But…I agree with others that range time is a must when deciding. The idea has potential.

  16. As someone who lives in Westchester and just took an NRA approved course and still feels he knows little about guns, I would be very interested in such a service. Plus, what Brad Miner said…

  17. Charlie says:

    Interesting concept. There are a host of things to consider if you’re going to work in the firearms industry at any level. The first thing I would recommend is for you to look into what kind of liability insurance you’re going to need.

  18. Jeff says:

    Brad’s got the right idea re: notarized forms. A gun purchasing consultant should ideally be able to help me navigate and prepare for local and state gun laws, background checks, and other nonsense gun buyers are subject to.

  19. ameryx says:

    Seems like a good and valuable service. One thing iI would suggest would be to switch the fees. Or at least find some inexpensive entry price so that potential customers are not scared off.

  20. Dantheman says:

    You’re on to something. I’d be wondering about how to market it, and legal issues.

    Marketing being: how to find that slice of people don’t have a gun-wise friend….because they aren’t likely to have stumbled on to this site. And how can you prove to THEM that you know what you’re talking about? Maybe get some endorsements from ex-cops or gun dealers you might know?

    Legal issues:
    -If you recommend a gun, and then something bad happens, can you get sued for recommending the “wrong gun”? “He should have told my client to stay away from semi-automatics, as they are more complicated.”

    -Or if a criminal gets shot by a client, can he or his family sue you for recommending “an overly powerful gun”, or “super-deadly hollow points”?” (I’d call that a successful consultation, but can easily see our legal system disagreeing)

    I think you definitely need to get legal advice first, and some states might be safer than others to do business in.

  21. obladioblada says:

    I paid an instructor to give me initial instructions and advice on the purchase of a handgun on the first go round (I bought the 9 mm Springfield he recommended.) As part of my second instruction I requested advice on the purchase of a second handgun, which I’ve not yet purchased. I’m preparing to pay him for another instruction session, but the objective of this one is purely to fire the different guns that he owns to help determine which one is right for my next purchase.

    This process has taken place over the course of 2 years and the sessions are $80/half hour. Getting to the range and practicing is my responsibility. His role is to advise my purchase and give me the opportunity to fire different weapons. (Yes, I need to get out there for the tactics classes, too…) It is well worth my money. Hope this helps.

    • ni says:

      Would have said $125 for one hour of face time and analysis. $160 I assume buys someone who is very good.

      Having samples and being sale to trial them with client seems ideal. Really one should be a traveling firearms salesperson, prepared to sell from yr samples or carry those lines or place orders as requested. That would seem to be full service. To your door, or at the nearest range. Need a nice tight cargo van, an SUV is too easy to break into. I agree this is all what a good gunshop does. Let me speak for the tactical shop in Edwardsville PA, who in five more minutes would have sold me that Dan Wesson bobtail.

  22. Al Johnson says:

    Price strikes me as entirely reasonable– and I’m standing in line, too. Any time I buy an expensive piece of new-to-me technology, I spend hours researching before buying– and I still make the wrong choice about half the time, and end up having to get a different one. Pay a hundred bucks so as not to waste $3-600? In a minute! Tell me when you’re ready.

    An aside to Stan: selling Realtors have worked for the buyer for the past 10-20 years. If your buyer’s agent isn’t advocating for you, fire him and get a better one.

  23. Crystal says:

    I’m hesitant on your idea. I just don’t see how it can compare to an in-person consultation, and the experience of shooting several different firearms at the range to decide which gun is the right final choice. I only speak from my own limited experience. I live next to Camp Pendleton and the nearest gun store/range has mostly Marines as employees. I am a woman with a life-threatening ex-husband. I’m confident I received good advice and have made many good friends since the first time I walked in those doors.
    Of course, if someone has no one to talk to at all, you would be better than nothing, and I mean that in a better way than it sounds. :)

  24. Rob Hahn says:

    There is some merit here, and obviously, you’ve got some customers lined up already… but… I think something like this really requires an in-person consultation, along with assistance at the actual gun store.

    I’m somewhat new to gun ownership (2 yrs) and had zero, nada, no family/friends who were firearms-knowledgeable. So I spent hours upon hours on the Internet, and hundreds of dollars at the range firing rentals until I bought my first gun…. which now sits in my safe as a safe queen.

    Things like trigger pull, grip angle, disassembly and cleaning, build quality, carry vs. non-carry, etc. etc. are all things I really could have used an expert with me at the gun store to help cut through the sales pitches and the BS. Don’t think paper and a phone call could have done the job.

    Then you get to long guns, and it’s a whole other world. Not all AR-15′s are the same, I hear, but I don’t know what to look for. Having someone able to look at the BCG to check for proper staking, or really examine the fit and finish, or explain the pros/cons of various configurations would be invaluable.

    But that’s probably not a $100 thing; that seems like a far more expensive offering.

  25. Kirk Parker says:

    Turkey.

    What the people you are targeting really need is someone local who can help them with the hands-on stuff. All the prior-to-purchase customized phone consultation plus documentation is nothing compared to someone who can get them started with a little .22LR practice, then go to a rental range with them and help them actually try out a variety of handguns to see what will suit them in actual usage.

    Sorry.

  26. AuricTech says:

    I think it is a great deal in terms of piece of mind and time saved.

    Pun intended?

  27. PJ says:

    I don’t think I would pay unless it included a lesson but how about you getting a percentage from the store where the gun is purchased? Win-win.

  28. Pat Minicucci says:

    I think success hinges upon whether the questionnaire responses would hold up over time. Most new shooters start with the notion of home defense. For many, realization of the sport of shooting comes later.
    I’ve been shooting for only 8 months. And I now own 8 guns. I started with the idea that I should be able to defend myself and my home out of a sense of personal responsibility. I had no idea that I’d come to love the pure sport of shooting. I was smart enough to hire an instructor after I got my CCW permit to assure competence in gun handling but not smart enough to prevent buying two initial guns (a 9mm jack-of-all-trades pistol and a cheap .22) that were not suited to my needs.
    In my case, the answers I would have given on the questionnaire would have been “wrong”.

  29. Katherine says:

    Yes, I would use such a service. I think there are lots of people who are beginning to think about guns for self-defense, both at home and away, and don’t know the first thing about firearms.

    The other thing I would do is find training classes.

  30. Chad says:

    No way in the world would I use that service or suggest that service to someone. Its something that can be done by a GOOD gun store or a trusted friend. I wouldnt trust a stranger to suggest a gun to me who i met and really may have a bias toward a gun maker that might not work for me.

  31. wseinfeld says:

    This may also depend on your location. If you plan on doing this in the midwest, I don’t see a lot of business taking place. If I want to get gun advice, there are plenty of forums or odds are, my network of family/friends has the answer I’m looking for. Then because of my location i can also get the range time in and make an educated decision.

    I think this service could be best implemented on the east or west coast where the educated gun owners may be more scarce and have fewer resources at their disposal.

    • Bob says:

      Will, you’ve really struck at the core of what I’m hoping to accomplish.

      There are tons of great firearms resources out there, and a lot of knowledgeable shooters willing to share their opinions. The problem for soon-to-be shooters is that there is also a lot of bad and sometimes dangerous advice out there as well.

      The prevailing idea behind this consultancy idea will be to filter out the junk and guide new shooters towards making smart, and above all, safe decisions in purchasing and training with their first firearm(s).

      Part of it will be recommendations based upon the questions I’ve asked from behind the gun counter myself, Q&As I’ve done with the owners of several of the most successful gun shops in my area in North Carolina, LEOs, fellow shooting instructors (I’m active in the Appleseed Project, and have many NRA instructor friends as well), and a few manufacturers I know personally.

      I strongly suspect you are correct in your assertion that many of my clients will be from areas that do not have a very active “gun culture” at the present, or at least are unaware of individuals they trust. If we can reach out to these folks and establish a beachhead into these communities with a solid reputation for safety and good service, then the whole shooting community benefits. That is why I want to make certain that I want to make sure we get this polished before any official launch, and have the process, methodology, and feedback mechanisms nailed down from the very beginning.

  32. Tom RKBA says:

    Yes, it’s called a two day defensive pistol class. Most instructors have guns and gear available. Over the course of two days, the new shooter will discover what features he or she needs, wants, and does not need in a defensive firearm.