Gun / sporting goods counter of hardware store:
In many parts of the country, one can find large hardware stores and sporting goods stores that have a firearms counter. Most of these stores are located in rural and semi-rural areas. They usually have a selection of hunting guns in appropriate calibers for local game and possibly a few target guns of the type used in local target competitions. These stores usually sell hunting and fishing licenses and employees generally know of local places to hunt and target shoot. These stores also usually carry reloading supplies and equipment.
These stores may or may not sell handguns and rarely stock ‘assault weapons’, however one should always inquire as to how guns may be special ordered from wholesalers. Do not be surprised if more "interesting" guns are also available but not kept out for public display. Proprietors and managers of these establishments tend to be suspicious of strangers and superstitious about the law. When something is in doubt about the laws regarding a certain gun or type of transaction, they will commonly treat it as illegal. These people have generally populist leanings and can be swayed into dealing with most "questionable" but legal items. They are also a good source for leads to private sellers since they have frequent contact with the general public. One clue as to how "cool" the people might be is their stock of paintball guns. If they put paintball stuff out front, they will probably be cool about para-military guns even though they are not on display. On the other hand, if the store does not stock bulk or surplus ammo in military rifle calibers, that is a bad sign and it will probably be better to look elsewhere. Another word of caution: since these stores tend to act as local community centers and the employees tend to know a lot of people, your business there will probably not be kept a total secret.
Pricing is usually the responsibility of the owner or a senior manager at the store and will usually run about 5% below suggested retail for firearms and full retail for accessories and ammunition. Prices are not always negotiable unless you are dealing directly with the owner or a senior manager. Used guns are usually not available from these retail establishments and they rarely take trade-ins. About the only time you will be able to buy used guns from these types of stores is when the store gets them from a distributor, as in the case of imported surplus rifles. Product support and service from these stores is spotty, do not expect much more than a referral to the manufacturer if you have a problem with your purchase. Almost all of these stores accept a variety of credit cards and some may offer their own revolving credit plans. They also may occasionally take lay-away arrangements. Customers may sometimes negotiate prices with a manager if the merchandise has been damaged, accessories lost, or sometimes when a particular item has been sitting on the shelf for a long time.