Improving Customer Experience for Gun Shops and Websites

Why is gun shop customer service so bad?

THIS IS THE TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ VERSION OF THIS GUN SHOP CUSTOMER SERVICE ARTICLE

(Disclaimer: this is a very in-depth article and requires a full read to interpret main points)

It seems like there are a lot of customer service issues when dealing with local gun shops. Blame Yelp but learn from them. Angry customers rule the internet and it hurts legitimate businesses, when sometimes an open line of communication could have solved problems. There’s an elitist slant to many gun shop employees because of ego and experience. Don’t forget, just because you aren’t a fool in a gun shop doesn’t mean that other customers aren’t. How can we improve this customer interaction?

Blame Amazon but learn from them. Pay gun shop employees better by improving your business fundamentals and give incentive for building brand loyalty. Don’t be afraid to admit you need help to get better at customer service. The local gun shop isn’t dead just because of the internet, but it needs to improve to stay viable. Regulatory compliance will require that LGS never fully go out of business, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help to enact change in how we are treated in person when shopping for a firearm. Gun businesses have a lot of work to get to where they say they want to be, but it’s not an impossible dream.

EXAMINING AND IMPROVING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FOR GUN SHOPS ONLINE AND OFFLINE

Disclaimer: The author has owned a gun shop and toured with large gun shows to sell product for more than 20 years. You can see his commentary at the bottom of this page.

With more and more technological shift in the firearms industry, it’s easy to point to horrible gun shop customer service experiences and showcase how the process of buying locally has degraded significantly. This is an article for two audiences: the customer who wants to know why they are depressed after leaving a local gun shop; and the business management that wants to improve the customer experience to retain clientele and ultimately build a legacy brand in the gun industry.

The local gun shop customer service experience has been bad for a long time. The reason it took us this long to realize it, is that we still had outliers that could perform the way we as customers felt we needed them to perform. With the increase in gun sales and the pervasive gun culture in America, the problem seems to have become heightened in the last several years. But also: the internet. We seek to explain the situation about local gun shop customer service and help to remedy it from our little corner of the internet.

Can Yelp Culture Affect Gun Shop Customer Service?

Social review websites give customers an easy way out of voicing concerns; make the interaction between humans easier for those who aren’t extroverts and allow us all to reward good experiences and warn about bad experiences. It’s a scientific fact (borne out in hundreds of millions of interactions quantified by massive datasets) that customers overwhelmingly seek to share bad customer experiences at an exponential rate comparative to praising good customer experiences.

This is because it’s very easy to complain about an experience and facilitate social connections not patronizing the company. Comparatively, no one wakes up in the morning and says, “I really need to shout from the rooftops about my amazing experience in the local gun shop yesterday”. They’ll do it, but they need to know it matters and be asked (more about that later in this article).

When you complain about a bad experience, not only are you venting, which feels good; you are warning others and potentially helping people. It brings out the crusader/protector feelings that many individuals thrive on.

Unless you have a vested interest in proclaiming the virtues of a company, it is seemingly much less of a priority.

So, what can we learn from this type of behavior?

You can partially blame Yelp for your need as a gun shop owner/management to be excellent, nay, REMARKABLE.

When someone is remarkable it means that people are remarking about you. Seth Godin, a marketing God, talks about it extensively in his book PURPLE COW. A must read for any customer service facing company.

But instead of just blaming Yelp for helping to build the culture of avoiding bad reputation on the internet, you can use them to help you improve your customer service platform. There is a wealth of research that can be done by simply understanding why customers write what they do online about shopping experiences, and how you can improve.

Research your local area and be the best in your specialty. But not only research it, seek to understand what actions or inactions are catalysts or triggers for the type of consumer who will go out of their way to expose your bad customer service offering.

Bad Pay for local employees

Once, while browsing feeds for information about current trends in the industry, we noticed a job posting from a fairly reputable gun shop in the Midwest for a gunsmith position. We were intrigued. Sure, you don’t get Los Angeles, or NYC or London wages in Black Hills, South Dakota for a lot of reasons. The pay, however, was dismal. The company expected to pay $13/hour for a legitimate gunsmith, who could “…run a lathe and mill…”, “…modify firearms…” had “…significant customer service experience…” and “must have received a certificate from an accredited gunsmithing school”.

That is ludicrous. That’s what a janitor without experience gets paid at a fast food joint in the same region.

What leads a store owner to believe that they can pay such ridiculous wages, and expect that employee to provide good long-term customer service and get the main points of the job done well?

The pay is bad because the overhead is high, and the business owner often doesn’t understand how to make money in the industry. The margins in the gun business aren’t always amazing. The bad pay is a further management shortcoming.

When an employee gets paid peanuts, what kind of experience can you expect over the long-term? At some point they will hate their job and it will reflect on how they treat the customers.

“It’s all Amazon’s fault!”

Amazon makes it hard to compete on gun products. Admittedly they aren’t in the gun game fully (they don’t sell guns and ammunition), but they make it really easy to be undercut.

How easy is it for a gun shop owner or employee to hear 100 times a day that the customer can find a better deal on Amazon?

It wears on them, and eventually it’s going to cause a snap: “Fine! Go buy it on Amazon then!”. Guess what: that customer will not be back to patronize your store.

The better choice is it embrace it, offer a unique service proposition and exceptional value beyond the commodity price. Educate the customer and explain the benefits of buying locally.

Most employees aren’t trained to do that. Heck, most business owners aren’t prepared to do that. They’d rather complain about it. Now that Yelp concept holds some water, huh?

Once again, learn from market leaders. Amazon has it in stock, they have it with free shipping and they have it cheaper than you can sell it for. You cannot compete with them on those metrics. But you can still compete. You offer knowledge. You offer insight. You offer help in finding the right fit. You offer experience in how the product works over the long-term. Unless you don’t. Which causes customers to go somewhere else. Even to Amazon. So, learn how to offer something unique that compels buyers to work with you.

Secret Societies and Old Boy’s Clubs

Stop talking about how stupid that last customer was. It is heard by the customer lurking in your cleaning kit display area.

Stop acting like you know so much more than the person who asked a perfectly reasonable question. Eventually it leads to an ego that comes through in every sentence you speak to a client.

More and more, there are people becoming customers in the gun industry that have expendable income and have never bought a gun before. They need help and expertise to find what they need. They don’t need arrogance and bad attitude.

When you only talk with respect to those who are experts in the gun industry, or when you downplay the customer’s input, you’re building a wall between them and you. And that negatively impacts your bottom line.

The gun store is increasingly becoming a place where only experts can work or interact. If you are anything less than a lifetime shooter, you’re not able to get a seat at the table. Unfortunately for you: one of the biggest values of shopping at a local gun shop is the comradery and inclusion that comes from being invited to sit at the table with the local experts. When you alienate the client by making the conversation or the process of asking questions unapproachable, you lose them, FOREVER.

Furthermore, the gun culture in the local space is still operating on 1970’s social norms. You need to understand how the new generation of potential buyers likes to be treated.

Some women don’t like to be called “Little Darling” when they ask a well-researched question. Treat them as a customer, that is: be agenda agnostic when you interact with a potential client.  Build value by seeking to understand what they want.

Many times, buyers don’t buy. That doesn’t mean you need to waste time. You just need to be proactive in helping them pull the trigger on a purchase. Window shopping is a big pain point for the local gun store. Learn how to position yourself as an expert, but also as a fulfillment option. The ONLY fulfillment option. If they don’t need to buy online after touching it in person in your shop, they won’t. They will just buy it from you. Learn how to convert lookers into buyers. THERE ARE COURSES THAT CAN TEACH YOU THIS.

Anti-Social Tendencies

Stop hiring knowledgeable staff, just because they are knowledgeable. Unless they are also able to interact with people properly, or you are training them extensively early on, they may be more of a liability than a growth metric.

You need people who can connect with potential customers and put them at ease. You can teach people about guns. You cannot teach people (easily) how to be likable and magnetic.

It’s really simple: if you value knowledge, then put robust training procedures in place so that the knowledgeable sales person is also able to be a “people person”. The combination of the two will be a massive benefit to your bottom line.

“Get off my Lawn!”

You might think it’s funny, or cool to have adopted this grumpy old man attitude, but it’s not. Odd, inside jokes do not endear customers to you.

The problem with many local gun shops is that they have a grumpy old man on staff. Who is funny at first because customers think he’s joking around. Until it comes time for paperwork.  

Humor is one thing; bad attitude and indifference to customers is quite another.

If you have one of these on staff, help them to channel their anger into something productive and coerce them to work on customer service skills or show them the door. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

A changing world (the internet makes it different)

Yes, your customers can find better prices online. They can find free shipping, and coupon codes, and better bulk ammunition because the warehouse logistical scheme can make it easier to stock more SKU’s. But that doesn’t mean that you are obsolete.

The internet has made lives infinitely better from a lot of different perspectives, but it isn’t perfect. And if there is an industry more protected than the gun industry against the ravages of modern internet retail killing, we can’t identify it. There are huge hurdles in place for the internet of things to take over the gun industry, but it’s partially dependent on customer service.

The compliance issues; federal and state/local laws prevent the internet model from overtaking the industry like it has so many other retail footprint industries. But that doesn’t mean you will thrive just because there are some difficulties from a logistical perspective for internet shops. It’s rather a base of information that can help you to be a NEEDED commodity, instead of just a commodity provider.

Gun Industry Margins Suck – It can dramatically affect Gun Shop Customer Service

A 10-30% margin on firearms seems sustainable, until you factor in overhead and inventory costs. Not to mention the cost of regulatory compliance and adding value to the transaction. Factor in marketing and you are suddenly finding that sales of guns represent a large portion of your bottom line but not a large percentage of growth opportunity.

Guns should always be the baseline cornerstone of any strong gun business, but the ancillary sales have always been the icing on the cake. This is especially true as more regulations come into play and labor costs go up year by year.

Pressure by sales models that have lower overhead (warehouse/logistics businesses; marketplaces and single employee organizations) exasperates the problem.

What can you do to improve margins? Balance stock levels with big data insight; leverage internal proprietary information and build value for customers that turns you into their single source. Offering unique services and products that set you apart is also a key methodology.

This isn’t easy. Many gun business owners are people who had a “love of the game” and got into guns as a side hustle. Then something happened. Maybe it was the AR15 craze where customers got to build something that was easy to make and uniquely their own. Maybe it was Sandy Hook, or any number of legislation inspiring tragedies that causes runs on the gun industry (everyone we know in the gun industry continuously hopes that mass shootings go away forever – it is a truly ugly trend that is good for no one). Maybe it was improving ballistic technology. Whatever it was that happened, all of the sudden you find yourself as a legitimately high-volume seller of gun industry products and you might be a little bit out of your depth.

The problem with growth in customer facing hard good industries is that scaling up is exceptionally difficult. It is much harder when there is pricing pressure from everybody and their brother online. The margins are not amazing, so it becomes imperative that you circumvent the traditional thinking and learn how to scale creatively, without linear consequences.

Compliance isn’t easy

In California, you can be operating legally on Monday and be a felon on Friday in the gun industry. Laws change quickly.  When you have to pay someone $15 an hour to do paperwork it cuts into margins. When you mess up that paperwork, you can be sued, raided or challenged by legitimate federal authorities (BATF, DOJ, etc.)

Selling a suppressor or just being a Title 2 or Class 3 dealer/manufacturer makes compliance a nightmare for any kind of interstate sales.

More than the idea that compliance isn’t easy (because you can make it relatively straightforward and easy to handle), it isn’t cheap. Pair that with buyers who ask awkward questions because they are too lazy to research something before they go to buy it, and people who complain that it takes an hour or more to buy a gun and it makes for very uncomfortable interactions for significant portion of the employee’s day, and the resulting sale still only nets the owner a 10-15% margin.

Guess what? It still doesn’t mean that you should alienate customers because you’re frustrated. Everybody who owns a gun shop or works in a gun shop can make a career change. Just because you don’t like some of the aspects of that career, doesn’t mean you cannot lean into it and make it better, so you start getting the payoff that makes it more rewarding and enjoyable. And we are here to tell you that when you are making millions of dollars a year and your employees are well compensated for their knowledge and work ethic, things get infinitely better.

Pressure by regulatory agencies

This will only get worse. Even if gun laws were repealed, the pressure from regulatory agencies and legislative bodies will remain, because guns are controversial and they do have the potential to be used to kill people.

Here’s the thing though: it’s not the customer’s fault you don’t like regulatory agency pressure. It’s not their fault that some uninformed person is lobbying or protesting outside your shop. It’s not their fault that you hate having to do more for the same amount of money as other businesses on your block.

Stop treating the customer like they caused the problem or are the problem. Help them to become educated about why it takes an hour or two to buy a gun. Help them understand why there are additional fees to take a test, or why you cannot price guns the same way as the massive distributor online can. Make your customers advocates for you, and evangelists for your brand. Furthermore, engage in actually building your brand, instead of being a service provider who exchanges time for money.

Be the best in the industry because you help people understand the process and navigate it successfully. It will enhance your bottom line and it will create passionate brand ambassadors.

What can we do about improving service in the local gun shop?

With all that’s been discussed thus far, what are some actionable things business owners and management can do to improve the customer experience, and by extension, the revenue generated to the bottom line?

Establish Best practices

Think about everything that hurts you as a business owner and find a simple day-to-day solution to each of those problems. Even if it means having to increase pricing. Find everything that makes your business look bad and make an effort to select simple goals that can start to fix it and begin today to do the work to improve your image, build a brand and help increase profits.

Most importantly learn how to turn actionable items into a checklist. Break them down into well thought out sequences and get to work fulfilling tasks until you can gain momentum through accomplishment.

Look to a specialist to help you understand what the industry best practices are if you aren’t already in the know.

Start getting an education by researching other industries and other successful business owners. Most business best practices are not industry specific. What you can learn from guys like Jeff Bezos, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin (to name a few) is very important – more on that in a bit.

Don’t be afraid to ask your employees to contribute. Most importantly, get their buy-in and support as you change the model in order to be more successful. Employees that have a seat at the table, just like customers that have a seat at the table are far more likely to do things that are in the best interest of the company.

Focus on constantly addressing at least one issue, with a long-term time horizon as a base focal point. Don’t put out fires in your business – fireproof your business.

Technology platforms

Look to the technology improvements that are available on the market. Whether that be point of sale systems; accounting programs, inventory control solutions or simply website platforms and advertising channels.

On a whole, the technology of the gun industry is so lackluster compared to other industries with similar market caps, but not because the technology doesn’t exist. It’s because owners of gun industry businesses are either too ignorant of the technology or too cheap to implement it for the most part.

Small incremental technology investments can have an immediate, intermediate and long-term positive effect on your bottom line as a gun industry business. DO NOT be afraid to look into technology solutions that can help you run your business more efficiently.

Be careful however, to evaluate each potential solution form a ROI basis. Just because something only costs $199/month doesn’t mean it’s actually necessary or useful. But also, don’t be naïve about the technology that exists. Many of the best products are open source or free solutions that can have incredible impact on your success as a business in the firearms arena.  

Embrace the idea of technology. Not just for the sake of being modern or hip. Do it so you can build a legitimate competitive advantage over all of the other business owners who refuse to change with the times.

Sears just (for all intents and purposes) went out of business. And it wasn’t Amazon’s fault. It was Sears’ fault for not embracing technology; changing bad habits and focusing on core asset growth. They refused to act like a business that needs to be around for the next 100 years, and simply assumed that people would keep coming to them because of history.

They had core values that could have solidified their roadmap for years to come but they got complacent and sold off those core brands and refused to use technology to their advantage. They aren’t the only one.

Don’t be Sears. Be Amazon. Be Netflix. Be looking at how you can leverage cheap, available, off-the-shelf technologies to enhance customer interactions and go for engagement at every level to prove to your clients that you care about being here for the next 100 years. Adapt or perish. Winter is coming in the Gun industry.

Customer centric philosophies

Having customer centric philosophies is not a difficult task if you are committed to it. What you have to decide is how long you want to be a company. If you aren’t in it for the long haul, go ahead, keep putting customers second. Your bottom line will always be third.

We are advocates for the business owner. But by default, because we are advocates for the business owner, we are equal advocates for the consumer. No business builds long-term sustainable value by not being consumer centric.

Here are some people who you should be listening to if you want to be customer centric.

Do your homework:

Gary Vaynerchuk: Gary has made hundreds of millions of dollars by giving away free stuff. This philosophy of adding value without the expectation of money from the consumer helps to build credibility and loyalty. It positions you as the expert in the field. It’s just smart.

Jeff Bezos: Say what you will about Amazon, Jeff Bezos is clear about how he has become so successful. He routinely reiterates the following idea: “We know customers like low prices, we know customers like big selection and we know customers like fast delivery and those things are going to be true ten years from now, they’re going to be true twenty years from now, so we can count on those things; so we can put energy into them.” Amazon has almost single-handedly brought an end to retail as we knew it. They have forced change in behavior for business owners and consumers alike. Love him or hate him, there is value in his understanding of customers.

Seth Godin: Seth recognizes that you don’t need millions of followers, fans and customers to be successful, all you really need is to make the customer your focus and treat them well. Take care of your first 10 and then your first 10,000 customers, and then continually seek to make the experience about them, and you will be successful. Those first ten and first one hundred customers, will build your brand. This is a severe dumbing down of the information that Mr. Godin has, his daily blog has more than 7500 entries, and every single piece of commentary is thought provoking and valuable to the business owner.

The customer is always right is true. Even if it is an over-simplified concept backed by the fact that in a practical way, most of the time the customer isn’t right. The problem is: you need the customer. It costs far more to find new customers (about 3-5 times as much at least; and as much as 30 times as much) as it does to keep customers happy in the first place.

Are you engaging past customers with incentives to come patronize you again? Are you gathering data from your customers to help improve their situation?

Whole billion-dollar companies have been built off of collecting customer data. Look at Facebook, and Fair Isaacs. Look at Google. Get your customers information and then talk to them in the ways that they tell you they want to be talked to. Some people actually like being asked to buy something. Some people just like to know you remember their names or their birthdays, or how you first met.

Most importantly be passionate about your customers. Without them your life will be very tough. In this sense, the customer is always right.

Better understanding of the pricing landscape

Start looking at WHY something exists. Look at why marketplaces are selling more than your shop. Look at HOW “XYZ Gun Accessory Company” can sell it for half what you think it costs to make. Look at your competition and study them for their secrets. The market has a funny way of lifting the veil on successful models.

The information is there for any business owner to see. Learn why products are priced that way and learn how to price your products to upsell properly. Sell a cleaning kit as an upsell at the register or in the e-commerce cart and take a 35% margin on it instead of a 45% margin because you can build fans by doing so. Get smart about when to ask for a sale and why you don’t have to charge more for accessories because you feel like you need to make up for margins on the guns. That’s a myth.

You can charge less because you will make more, and you will move more product and it creates cash flow, and loyal customers and it simply makes sense.

If you can only make 5% on guns, push other items harder, so you can even out your revenue channels. You don’t have to stop selling guns, you just have to make sure you offset the labor and capital intensive items with items that aren’t as capital intensive.

FOR CUSTOMERS: do some research yourself. When was the last time you went to the car lot to learn about a car? Leverage internet resources like this website (netgunsmith.com) Most consumers spend hundreds of hours researching their next car purchase, years before they decide to go to the lot. Do your part to make the interaction at the point of sale in the gun industry, a better experience. Don’t ask stupid questions when you already know the answer. If you want better answers, ask better questions.

 

Inclusive behaviors

Women are shooters now. So are liberals. So are kids. Don’t be stupid and inadvertently turn away a customer because they don’t fit into an antiquated concept of what your ideal demographic is.

Learn what cowboy action shooting is, even if you’re idea of a gun shop is high end optics and modern military designed battle rifles.

Start getting customer feedback. Ask they what they want to see. Ask them what they would be willing to buy. Do things like group buys for a small discount to spur on interaction and harbor good will with your clientele. A single group buy of bulk ammunition, where you are offering it at 5% over true cost will go a long way to securing a relationship with your 50 best customers.

Ask them to pre-buy and give them a perk for doing so.

Ask them to audit your gun store layout; or your website menus. Give them a 10% coupon for doing it. You will gain valuable insight; you will improve customer affection towards your brand and you will be losing nothing for it. In fact, a coupon will help catalyze a purchase more often than it will go unused.  

Give value without expecting money in return. Invite customers into a dealer demonstration. Serve coffee on busy weekend mornings to keep customer happy. Auction off a safari trip or make it a raffle and watch customer engagement soar.

Better top down management

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now. Start today by changing how you manage people, assets, inventory, mindset and customer focused interactions.

The more you do today, the less you have to do tomorrow and the better the revenue you have to do it with, because you are improving your bottom line through improving engagement.

Stop blaming the system. Stop blaming the employees. Stop blaming your customers. Take responsibility for what you can control and do it better. Be more thoughtful about it. No, really: think about it more often. Be wondering how you can improve the process continually.

Stop being the bottleneck, that’s the big takeaway here. You are the only one who is standing in your way of making a better gun business. When you recognize there is room for improvement then you can start making more money and enjoying yourself more.

Elite athletes dream of a .25% (one quarter of one percent) improvement let alone a 1% improvement over the course of the season through optimization. These are athletes that are already well beyond best practices.

Most business owners aren’t even at the base level of best practices to begin with. That alone can improve the bottom line by more than 25%. Optimization is a concept where incremental improvement can lead to huge dividends. Start with coming into harmony with the best practices baseline, and then consistently look for optimization opportunities.

Building loyalty

Start thinking about the best customer experiences you have as a consumer. Why are they good? Why do you return to do business again and again?

Customers no longer have to engage with companies out of necessity. There are legion providers of SAAS (software as a service) and plenty of options. You can now choose to go with a vendor based on how they treat you, and customers frequently do. More importantly, the baseline of customer service is now heightened.

Think about Netflix. Think about Singapore airlines. Think about Trader Joe’s. You engage these brands because they offer something so unique in a customer experience that it is worth the money. Sure, you don’t take Singapore airlines every time because its expensive. But you take it on your honeymoon, or on a once yearly vacation because the experience is special.

You go to Trader Joe’s because they offer top quality at a fair price, but they talk to you at the register. They engage you in the aisles. They help you find something you will love because they have employees focused on finding hidden gems and showing customers about them.

If you have a problem with Netflix, they give you a free month of service simply for the inconvenience. They work on making you feel comfortable and they engage you on a human level, during a frustrating time (when customer service situations occur).

You remember the customer experience because it’s memorable. It’s “remarkable” – it makes you willing to remark.

How can you make a difference in your customer’s life? Maybe it is taking pictures of their gun as it goes through each step of the Cerakoting process. Maybe it’s by adding an after hours chat functionality to your website that is handled by an actual human that can solve order problems or flag concerns so they are dealt with properly.  

TO THE CUSTOMERS: Don’t be afraid to talk to the owner or a manager, or even that employee. You deserve better than to be treated poorly. Stand up for yourself and COMMUNICATE. You can nip the customer service issue in the bud by doing just that.

Being able to communicate more effectively; and actually communicating more effectively aren’t the same thing

You might feel perfectly confident in your ability to speak or your competency of your employees. But capacity to do something and impetus to do something are totally different things.

Not only do you have to be capable of meaningful communication, you must make communication a cultural baseline that is rewarded and championed. And you must remind yourself and your employees to do it, and improve it, and practice it at all times. 

If you don’t understand why a customer is communicating in a certain way, or what they are trying to communicate it is on you as the proprietor of the store to help them to communicate. You cannot expect your customers to know what you know. Not only can you not expect them to be experts like you are, but you must be able to help them communicate their needs so that you can deliver on them responsibly.

You want better answers? Ask better questions. You want better customers? Help them to figure out what they need, and turn their needs into the solutions you can offer.

How to thrive as a gun business online or off

There are thousands of new gun businesses being built every month. It’s a hot market. What used to be about 150 manufacturers of firearms globally just a couple decades ago, now translates to thousands of providers in each market niche. There are thousands of AR-15 component manufacturers in California alone.

The landscape is vast, and the commodity nature of what we do means two things. If you are average, you’ll get lost in the crowd. If you are excellent you will make up the top 1%.

You cannot be a local gun shop and not have a website. The economies of scale don’t allow for you to build lasting value under most circumstances. You need to be well integrated in the online world as well as the offline world. It is shocking how many gun shops or other gun businesses don’t have a website. It’s a losing position to be without one at this point. In fact, at best, you are very late to the game.

You cannot simply expect local revenue to allow you to grow. You need to tap into the global market (the macro market is a better term for the idea we are trying to express here, not necessarily the global geographical market). You must understand how to leverage both types of customers, and you must be shirting towards the trendlines that become sustained.

People no longer buy things the way they used to. The local gun shop is protected in the sense that federal and state regulations make them the go between for a manufacturer and a consumer of firearms (and sometimes, sadly) ammunition. This isn’t much of a benefit anymore. Many consumers opt to go with big online e-commerce companies to buy their guns for a variety or combination of reasons, including pricing ability; in-stock items; ease of dealing with a sale; streamlined processes; time savings, etc.

That is: they will PAY to NOT work with a local shop and simply to use the local shop as a hub to receive their goods. This is indicative of more than pricing pressure. It indicates that the buying experience is vastly easier online than it is in person, in most cases.

The net result is that they often pay more money to get a product through an online channel than they could by buying it in a local store. This is because there are compelled to do it out of fear or distaste for working with a human in person. Read into that statement however you want to.

The plain truth of it is this: Without improving the customer experience, there is no way you will not be relegated to a position of transactional handling, instead of selling products. In the same way that iron workers were wage slaves as Andrew Carnegie transitioned his iron and steel plants to automated processes, you will become a slave to handling paperwork – a glorified administrator, if you don’t recognize this trend and do what you need to do to fix it.  

Creating value is more than just having a website and recognizing that you don’t want to be a glorified administrator for the BATF and DOJ. Finding unique opportunities to get customers to realize what you can offer, and then continuously improving that offering is what you should be obsessed with.

Consolidation is coming to the gun industry in the next several years. Many companies will go bankrupt. We are already seeing some of that. The words of this article will be prophetic 5 years from now – we have no doubt. That doesn’t make us prophet’s, it proves our ability to analyze facts.

You need to look at the trends you see and get to par with them. You need to become analysts yourselves, and look at your proprietary data, you need to subscribe to the brain trust that exists online from business people and gun people. You need to work with great consultants and build in tolerance to risk in your business.

As the famous Apple computer advertising campaign (via the now famous Rob Sitanen quote) stated: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

You aren’t going to change the world unless you try to see things differently and react accordingly.

When it comes to being successful online and off, create multiple revenue streams that don’t rely on the old school methodology of the gun retail industry. That industry is dying. Create value by selling products and services, and ideas that look to the future of what is possible. Identify what is ideal, and work towards that ideal.

It was once impossible to run a 4-minute mile. Until someone did it. Before Roger Bannister ran a 3 minute 59 and four/tenths of a second mile in in May 1954, the improvement in running times had been at a standstill for decades. Once Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, it only took 46 days for someone to run a 3 minute and 58 second mile. About a year later, 3 runners ran sub four-minute mile times in the same sanctioned race.

What changed? Did humans suddenly change physiology? No. The new standard had been set. There was a hope that it could be reached. Since Roger Bannister, thousands of runners have broken the four-minute mile mark while running. Because the fact existed (e.g. that a 4 minute mile could be achieved), adaptation to meet that goal could be embraced.

The standard has been set with regards to the market and the customer service experience. You can now embrace the challenge. Be one of thousands who can beat the mark, not one of billions who cannot.

Embracing Technology to Organically Improve The Gun Shop Customer Experience

It’s easier now than ever to leverage technology to build legacy businesses that people go out of their way to work with.

WordPress can be used for free to make a website, so can Magento. They are the two most powerful platforms for the mainstream modern web, and they are open source, easy to learn, well supported and yes, FREE.

Google Sheets, Twitter, and countless other platforms are just waiting to be leveraged for brand growth.

And if there is a single takeaway from this lengthy discussion on customer experience in the gun industry it is that you must build a brand, instead of just sell products.  You can leverage free or inexpensive technologies to do this, but you have to lead the charge.

No one, and no one software or social media platform is going to do it for you.

You “…must be the change you wish to see in the world”. Interestingly, even Gandhi was a supporter of guns in some sense. He once famously stated: “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.”

The world is changing, without embracing that change you have no hope in enacting your own wishes. Utilizing the power of technology, however, when many of your competitors won’t or simply don’t, mean you are ahead of the curve when it comes to building a brand that can stand the test of time.

Stop being cheap

If you are not investing in your business, it will not return on investment. Stop avoiding change and education. You need to keep up with your competitors or you will become the Blockbuster to the Netflix’s of the gun industry. Just because people like guns and they are buying them, doesn’t mean your obsolete way of viewing appropriate investment in your business will sustain you in the long-term.

Proactive businesses in the gun industry are embracing technology; learning from peers and engaging competent consultants to help build out their businesses for long-term legacy success.

Yes, it costs money to do this, but without appropriate investment, you cannot expect trends to support growth.

Almost as important, is to work with companies that can help you recognize when something is simply that: a trend, and is not timeless, or evergreen. Working with consultants and adhering to best practices is cheap in the long-run if you stay in business and grow as the industry grows. Get with a good consultant and exponential growth is possible year after year. We believe we are pretty good consultants for the gun industry; many of our clients would also agree.

Being Human

One of the best litmus tests for both owners/employees and the customers that come into local gun stores as to where that experience can be a positive, memorable exchange, is that they remain human during their time together.

Empathy, communication, seeking to help each other; these are all things that will lead to improved relations.

Only one party to this equation has an absolute need to be human: that is the business. Though with a little bit of pre-work, and forethought, regular consumers can shift and change into ideal consumers. It only helps them in the long run, really.

Shop employees and management need to understand that anything less than human, leads to a direct hit to the bottom line for 99 out of 100 interactions, so don’t even for a moment let it be a thing, to consider being less than remarkable in the most positive way possible.

Conclusion

This discussion has clearly become more than the title leads on. Instead of a snarky finger pointing article about the fact that local gun shops have declined in value of late, we have shown how value created through consumer interaction can lead to massive profits and improved brand loyalty. We feel this is the most comprehensive post on the web about the subject and we have just scratched the surface.

8,000 more words could be written on the subject, and still, the idea would be lost on many.

We are dedicated to improving value for gun industry businesses, and that’s why sometimes we have a more comprehensive approach to content than others in our space. Call us wordy, call us long-winded. We would rather have given the options and stated the case, than having left our clients out in the cold.

What we believe is this: in order to leverage the best possible experience for customers and for yourself you need to be successful. Success in the gun industry is derived from different metrics than it used to be derived from, and that is the gist of this article. The customer service experience is a two-way street, but only one party’s livelihood depends on that experience being executed at the highest level. That means that gun industry businesses need to start taking this metric seriously and become obsessed about customers and driving value to those customers while they build brands that can withstand the continuous onslaught by the broader market, regulatory agencies, competitors and legislators.

In the end, your legacy will be extrapolated from your ability to have created value from your interactions with people, and your ability to continuously improve your offering.

THE AUTHOR’S PERSONAL COMMENTARY ABOUT THIS ITEM:

“The other day I had a problem when my wife asked a plumber to come to the house and give a free estimate on what it would cost to solve a problem.”

“He entered the house, said he was there to give a free estimate and then confirmed for me the exact problem I had just described to him before he walked in. It took him 35 seconds to confirm the problem. Then he told me I owed him $90.”

“I asked him what I owed him $90 for. Bear in mind he had not given me an estimate, had not told me if there were other concerns or anything. Simply told me that I needed to sign the receipt to be billed $90.”

“I again asked him why I owed $90, as I was under the impression, he was going to give me an estimate on the costs to replace/repair a fitting and determine if there was more extensive damage to be corrected. He came highly recommended, and we intended to work with his company to do the work.”

“Of course he then said that my $90 fee would be used to offset the cost of the repairs, which all of the sudden were now doubled in price, and could not be guaranteed by him until the work was finished.”

“I asked him to leave. We didn’t pay the money. He complained that I ‘…was just like every other customer.’ He said that I ‘…just wanted to know what it costs s I could do it myself or hire a cheaper competitor with leverage from his estimate.’ He threw in the obligatory: ‘You don’t understand how much it costs to run these trucks out to every jackass’ house to estimate repairs.’ And ‘It’s not cheap to run a company.’

My reply: “Not my problem.” “When you tell me that you are offering a free estimate, you give the estimate for free. You don’t bait and switch someone into engaging you out of ‘necessity’.” “You could have easily, based off of the complaint we had, told us a figure on the phone that it would cost, or disclosed that you charge a troubleshooting fee to come out – we would have been happy with either option.”

“Furthermore, the company would have had our business, had he not tried to act like I was responsible for his decision to “offer free estimates in person”. I am not responsible for his business decisions. I am also able to choose from thousands of local competitors.”

“The moral of the story: when someone comes to you for a solution to a problem, they are a captive audience. They already intend to work with you, after all, they sought you out. Don’t lose them by being bad at running your business. Don’t lose them by creating obstacles to working with you. Don’t lose them because you don’t like certain aspects of your business. Engage them like they are valuable, and you will build value in your business because you will have a loyal customer. Give them remarkable service.”

– Benjamin Worthen

If you click the toggle below you can view our PDF version of this article. You can also download the report by clicking the picture on the sidebar near the top of the page.

You can DOWNLOAD THE PDF VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.

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Californians Can Buy High Capacity Gun Magazines Now – Legally

What is in this Article:
BREAKING NEWS: California judge, born in Cuba has ruled a key piece of gun control legislation UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Read about the implications of the ruling, nuances and pieces of his opinion which was 80+ pages. Learn why it will still be challenged and may go up to the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS RULING HAS BEEN POSTPONED. IT IS NO LONGER LEGAL TO PURCHASE HIGH CAPACITY MAGS IN CALIFORNIA AS OF 5PM PST APRIL 5th 2019

Californians can now buy “high capacity” and standard capacity magazines without risking felony actions. Judge Roger T. Benitez has ruled California Penal Code subsection 32310 as Unconstitutional. Gun control advocates are beside themselves. Judge Benitez makes a strong argument for the Second Amendment in an 86-page court document including 80+ pages of opinion lodged into the Southern Districts system on March 29th 2018. BUY YOUR MAGS NOW WHILE YOU CAN UNCHALLENGED.

UPDATE: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN AMENDED TO REFLECT A CHANGE IN THIS RULING. IT IS NO LONGER LEGAL TO BUY HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES IN CALIFORNIA AS OF APRIL 5TH 2019 5PM PST.

NOTE: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TIME SENSITIVE, IT MAY NOT ACCURATELY REFLECT IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF THE MATERIAL COVERED, DEPENDING ON WHEN YOU VIEW IT. WE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO PUBLISH ONLY ACCURATE INFORMATION. THIS ARTICLE IS ACCURATE AS OF APRIL 2, 2018.

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Federal Judge Rules California’s Magazine Ban Unconstitutional – NOT AN APRIL FOOLS PRANK.

ACCURATE AS OF APRIL 5TH 2019 5PM PST – THIS ARTICLE IS NO LONGER ACCURATE. IT IS NO LONGER LEGAL TO BUY HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES IN CALIFORNIA. IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED.

 

ACCURATE AS OF APRIL 2ND 2019: Not an April Fools joke: Californians can now buy standard capacity magazines, otherwise known in most media outlets as “high capacity magazines”. But it may not last long, so BUY YOUR HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES ASAP IN CALIFORNIA!

A Cuban born U.S. Federal judge in Southern district of California has handed the biggest gun rights victory to Californians in years. Judge Roger T. Benitez declared the California Penal Code Subsection 32310 Unconstitutional as a result of his findings in the important Duncan vs. Becerra case. His findings and rulings are detailed in an 86-page court document with more than 80 pages of opinion that was entered into the court on March 29th 2018.

In what reads like a fairy tale for gun rights supporters, Benitez opens with “Individual Liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts.” followed by a Robert Kennedy quote, and ends with the statement “This decision is a freedom calculus decided long ago by Colonists who cherished individual freedom more than the subservient security of a British ruler.  The freedom they fought for was not free of cost then, and it is not free now.” He detailed three separate cases of assaults on law abiding citizens that highlighted his impetus for the ruling. He is seemingly, staunchly a second amendment advocate.

Benitez also cited the concept of the so-called “Heller Hardware Rule”. He highlighted the ridiculous Prop 63 that passed in 2016 as well, further stating:

“Constitutional rights stand through time holding fast through the ebb and flow of current controversy…” “Bad political ideas cannot be stopped by criminalizing bad political speech. Crime waves cannot be broken with warrantless searches and unreasonable seizures. Neither can the government response to a few mad men with guns and ammunition be a law that turns millions of responsible, law-abiding people trying to protect themselves into criminals. Yet this is the effect of California’s large-capacity magazine law.”

Judge Benitez also noted that mass shootings were “…exceedingly rare…”; and the numbers no doubt bear that synopsis out accurately, despite the difficulty in digesting increased occurrences of mass shootings in the world. As a side note: the numbers of total deaths caused by semi-automatic rifles is a miniscule fraction of total deaths in any society. His notations about mass shootings are not falling on deaf ears within the firearms community.

Implications of this ruling:

  • Californians will no doubt be under pressure by whatever new laws are pushed swiftly through the state legislature in the very near future. So, buy your high capacity magazines now.
  • Grandfathering protections has a rich history for most gun law implementations. It may not be the case going forward. This is a brazen stay of the anti-gun politician’s agenda. They will not be happy about it.
  • This is not only about AR-15’s and this is not just about defensive uses, though these areas benefit proportionally. You will want to secure your normal capacity magazines for your Glocks and Smith & Wesson’s and HK’s and Springfield Armory pistols.
  • Having magazine components on hand, purchased while they were legal is a very good protection against future difficulties in the state.
  • Both sides are likely to attempt to take this challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • A 9th circuit court of appeals ruling overturning this Benitez decision could make criminals out of law-abiding citizens, and while it historically is not very likely, could make current purchases of the magazines subject to surrender upon reenactment of the legislation.
  • That said, the 9th circuit will not be able to wholesale throw out the judge’s opinion like it has in the past, the opinion has strong precedence in Its DNA. It’s more likely that this appeal moves towards the SCOTUS than it simply gets kicked back immediately by the 9th circuit court. Notably, the Ninth circuit court upheld Benitez’s ruling to stay the law’s initial implementation to test for constitutionality already, leading to this decision.

Furthermore, the opinion rendered by Benitez is strongly rooted in practicality and has ties to timeless ideas presented in the Second amendment. It bodes well for the potential docket time it might see at the SCOTUS.

Without a hiccup, Gavin Newsom and Xavier Becerra both blasted the decision and noted their desire to push back.

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: there are some counties that enforce very strict laws about ammunition. California as a state has a very intrusive and strict policy on ammunition purchasing. If you buy online to get your high capacity magazines while this ruling exists unchallenged, make sure you understand the rules about ammunition purchases if you are bundling ammo and magazines. MOST HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINE VENDORS have delisted their bundled packages to keep delays to a minimum and avoid difficulty for purchasers in California who are trying to get magazines while they can. Vendors like Amazon.com may not be adhering to this ruling in a practical way, because of the extreme logistics of doing so in a large platform. Historically these are not items that are sold on the Amazon Platform anyway.

So, what is the longevity we can except of this ruling?

It’s anyone’s guess. No doubt California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is chomping at the bit to get back into court and get this thing disputed. There will be no shortage of money in the budget to fight for more gun control in California. It’s likely to be challenged in the next month or so, again.

Code Text

Penal Code – PEN

PART 6. CONTROL OF DEADLY WEAPONS [16000 – 34370]  ( Part 6 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

TITLE 4. FIREARMS [23500 – 34370]  ( Title 4 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

DIVISION 10. SPECIAL RULES RELATING TO PARTICULAR TYPES OF FIREARMS OR FIREARM EQUIPMENT [30210 – 33690]  ( Division 10 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

CHAPTER 5. Large-Capacity Magazine [32310 – 32450]  ( Chapter 5 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

ARTICLE 1. Rules Governing Large-Capacity Magazines [32310 – 32390]  ( Article 1 added by Stats. 2010, Ch. 711, Sec. 6. )

  1.  

(a) Except as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 32400) of this chapter and in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives, lends, buys, or receives any large-capacity magazine is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

(b) For purposes of this section, “manufacturing” includes both fabricating a magazine and assembling a magazine from a combination of parts, including, but not limited to, the body, spring, follower, and floor plate or end plate, to be a fully functioning large-capacity magazine.

(c) Except as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 32400) of this chapter and in Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 17700) of Division 2 of Title 2, commencing July 1, 2017, any person in this state who possesses any large-capacity magazine, regardless of the date the magazine was acquired, is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) per large-capacity magazine, or is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) per large-capacity magazine, by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(d) Any person who may not lawfully possess a large-capacity magazine commencing July 1, 2017 shall, prior to July 1, 2017:

(1) Remove the large-capacity magazine from the state;

(2) Sell the large-capacity magazine to a licensed firearms dealer; or

(3) Surrender the large-capacity magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction.

(Amended November 8, 2016, by initiative Proposition 63, Sec. 6.1.)

This legislation has been rendered unconstitutional. As a result, many online vendors of shooting accessories have opened up the channels for sales of previously restricted “high-capacity magazines” to Californians.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: This does not affect Subsection 30515 Materially. California Gun Owner’s should understand the laws that still apply to firearms that may be able to accept all these new “High Capacity Magazines” they intend to buy. The “California Assault Weapons Ban” as it is sometimes colloquially referred to, is actually California Penal code subsection 30515.

Assembly Bill No. 1135

CHAPTER 40

An act to amend Sections 30515 and 30900 of, and to add Section 30680 to, the Penal Code, relating to firearms.

[ Approved by Governor  July 01, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State  July 01, 2016. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1135, Levine. Firearms: assault weapons.

(1) Existing law generally prohibits the possession or transfer of assault weapons, except for the sale, purchase, importation, or possession of assault weapons by specified individuals, including law enforcement officers. Under existing law, “assault weapon” means, among other things, a semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and has any one of several specified attributes, including, for rifles, a thumbhole stock, and for pistols, a 2nd handgrip.

This bill would revise this definition of “assault weapon” to mean a semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of those specified attributes. The bill would also define “fixed magazine” to mean an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.

By expanding the definition of an existing crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

(2) Existing law requires that any person who, within this state, possesses an assault weapon, except as otherwise provided, be punished as a felony or for a period not to exceed one year in a county jail.

This bill would exempt from punishment under that provision a person who possessed an assault weapon prior to January 1, 2017, if specified requirements are met.

(3) Existing law requires that, with specified exceptions, any person who, prior to January 1, 2001, lawfully possessed an assault weapon prior to the date it was defined as an assault weapon, and which was not specified as an assault weapon at the time of lawful possession, register the firearm with the Department of Justice. Existing law permits the Department of Justice to charge a fee for registration of up to $20 per person but not to exceed the actual processing costs of the department. Existing law, after the department establishes fees sufficient to reimburse the department for processing costs, requires fees charged to increase at a rate not to exceed the legislatively approved annual cost-of-living adjustment for the department’s budget or as otherwise increased through the Budget Act. Existing law requires those fees to be deposited into the Dealers’ Record of Sale Special Account. Existing law, the Administrative Procedure Act, establishes the requirements for the adoption, publication, review, and implementation of regulations by state agencies.

This bill would require that any person who, from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2016, inclusive, lawfully possessed an assault weapon that does not have a fixed magazine, as defined, and including those weapons with an ammunition feeding device that can be removed readily from the firearm with the use of a tool, register the firearm with the Department of Justice before January 1, 2018, but not before the effective date of specified regulations. The bill would permit the department to increase the $20 registration fee as long as it does not exceed the reasonable processing costs of the department. The bill would also require registrations to be submitted electronically via the Internet utilizing a public-facing application made available by the department. The bill would require the registration to contain specified information, including, but not limited to, a description of the firearm that identifies it uniquely and specified information about the registrant. The bill would permit the department to charge a fee of up to $15 per person for registration through the Internet, not to exceed the reasonable processing costs of the department to be paid and deposited, as specified, for purposes of the registration program. The bill would require the department to adopt regulations for the purpose of implementing those provisions and would exempt those regulations from the Administrative Procedure Act. The bill would also make technical and conforming changes.

(4) The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.

This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

Digest Key

Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES 

Bill Text

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1. Section 30515 of the Penal Code is amended to read:

  1. (a) Notwithstanding Section 30510, “assault weapon” also means any of the following:

(1) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:

(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.

(B) A thumbhole stock.

(C) A folding or telescoping stock.

(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.

(E) A flash suppressor.

(F) A forward pistol grip.

(2) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

(3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

(4) A semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:

(A) A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer.

(B) A second handgrip.

(C) A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning the bearer’s hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.

(D) The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.

(5) A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

(6) A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:

(A) A folding or telescoping stock.

(B) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.

(7) A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

(8) Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

(b) For purposes of this section, “fixed magazine” means an ammunition feeding device contained in, or permanently attached to, a firearm in such a manner that the device cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.

(c) The Legislature finds a significant public purpose in exempting from the definition of “assault weapon” pistols that are designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events. Therefore, those pistols that are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and by USA Shooting, the national governing body for international shooting competition in the United States, and that were used for Olympic target shooting purposes as of January 1, 2001, and that would otherwise fall within the definition of “assault weapon” pursuant to this section are exempt, as provided in subdivision (d).

(d) “Assault weapon” does not include either of the following:

(1) Any antique firearm.

(2) Any of the following pistols, because they are consistent with the significant public purpose expressed in subdivision (c):

MANUFACTURER             MODEL CALIBER

BENELLI MP90    .22LR

BENELLI MP90    .32 S&W LONG

BENELLI MP95    .22LR

BENELLI MP95    .32 S&W LONG

HAMMERLI         280         .22LR

HAMMERLI         280         .32 S&W LONG

HAMMERLI         SP20      .22LR

HAMMERLI         SP20      .32 S&W LONG

PARDINI               GPO       .22 SHORT

PARDINI               GP-SCHUMANN .22 SHORT

PARDINI               HP          .32 S&W LONG

PARDINI               MP         .32 S&W LONG

PARDINI               SP           .22LR

PARDINI               SPE         .22LR

WALTHER            GSP        .22LR

WALTHER            GSP        .32 S&W LONG

WALTHER            OSP        .22 SHORT

WALTHER            OSP-2000             .22 SHORT

(3) The Department of Justice shall create a program that is consistent with the purposes stated in subdivision (c) to exempt new models of competitive pistols that would otherwise fall within the definition of “assault weapon” pursuant to this section from being classified as an assault weapon. The exempt competitive pistols may be based on recommendations by USA Shooting consistent with the regulations contained in the USA Shooting Official Rules or may be based on the recommendation or rules of any other organization that the department deems relevant.

SEC. 2. Section 30680 is added to the Penal Code, to read:

  1. Section 30605 does not apply to the possession of an assault weapon by a person who has possessed the assault weapon prior to January 1, 2017, if all of the following are applicable:

(a) Prior to January 1, 2017, the person would have been eligible to register that assault weapon pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 30900.

(b) The person lawfully possessed that assault weapon prior to January 1, 2017.

(c) The person registers the assault weapon by January 1, 2018, in accordance with subdivision (b) of Section 30900.

SEC. 3. Section 30900 of the Penal Code is amended to read:

  1. (a) (1) Any person who, prior to June 1, 1989, lawfully possessed an assault weapon, as defined in former Section 12276, as added by Section 3 of Chapter 19 of the Statutes of 1989, shall register the firearm by January 1, 1991, and any person who lawfully possessed an assault weapon prior to the date it was specified as an assault weapon pursuant to former Section 12276.5, as added by Section 3 of Chapter 19 of the Statutes of 1989 or as amended by Section 1 of Chapter 874 of the Statutes of 1990 or Section 3 of Chapter 954 of the Statutes of 1991, shall register the firearm within 90 days with the Department of Justice pursuant to those procedures that the department may establish.

(2) Except as provided in Section 30600, any person who lawfully possessed an assault weapon prior to the date it was defined as an assault weapon pursuant to former Section 12276.1, as it read in Section 7 of Chapter 129 of the Statutes of 1999, and which was not specified as an assault weapon under former Section 12276, as added by Section 3 of Chapter 19 of the Statutes of 1989 or as amended at any time before January 1, 2001, or former Section 12276.5, as added by Section 3 of Chapter 19 of the Statutes of 1989 or as amended at any time before January 1, 2001, shall register the firearm by January 1, 2001, with the department pursuant to those procedures that the department may establish.

(3) The registration shall contain a description of the firearm that identifies it uniquely, including all identification marks, the full name, address, date of birth, and thumbprint of the owner, and any other information that the department may deem appropriate.

(4) The department may charge a fee for registration of up to twenty dollars ($20) per person but not to exceed the reasonable processing costs of the department. After the department establishes fees sufficient to reimburse the department for processing costs, fees charged shall increase at a rate not to exceed the legislatively approved annual cost-of-living adjustment for the department’s budget or as otherwise increased through the Budget Act but not to exceed the reasonable costs of the department. The fees shall be deposited into the Dealers’ Record of Sale Special Account.

(b) (1) Any person who, from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2016, inclusive, lawfully possessed an assault weapon that does not have a fixed magazine, as defined in Section 30515, including those weapons with an ammunition feeding device that can be readily removed from the firearm with the use of a tool, shall register the firearm before January 1, 2018, but not before the effective date of the regulations adopted pursuant to paragraph (5), with the department pursuant to those procedures that the department may establish by regulation pursuant to paragraph (5).

(2) Registrations shall be submitted electronically via the Internet utilizing a public-facing application made available by the department.

(3) The registration shall contain a description of the firearm that identifies it uniquely, including all identification marks, the date the firearm was acquired, the name and address of the individual from whom, or business from which, the firearm was acquired, as well as the registrant’s full name, address, telephone number, date of birth, sex, height, weight, eye color, hair color, and California driver’s license number or California identification card number.

(4) The department may charge a fee in an amount of up to fifteen dollars ($15) per person but not to exceed the reasonable processing costs of the department. The fee shall be paid by debit or credit card at the time that the electronic registration is submitted to the department. The fee shall be deposited in the Dealers’ Record of Sale Special Account to be used for purposes of this section.

(5) The department shall adopt regulations for the purpose of implementing this subdivision. These regulations are exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code).

SEC. 4. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

The above citations are readily available online, and we leave the interpretation of these citations to the reader. We do not provide legal advice.

Conclusion:

Don’t fear purchasing standard and larger capacity magazines for now. But California based shooters should maintain situational awareness as new challenges are made to the striking down of this unconstitutional law. You’ll have a window of time, as the requirement of notification by Mr. Becerra’s office to law enforcement has been mandated as part of the ruling. But you can bet that this is not the last we have heard of it.

Chris Cox, Spokesperson for the NRA said the following: “Judge Benitez took the Second Amendment seriously and came to the conclusion required by the Constitution… The same should be true of any court analyzing a ban on a class of arms law-abiding Americans commonly possess for self-defense or other lawful purposes.” We agree with Mr. Cox’s assessment.

You can save some money while joining the NRA through this link.

You can join the Gun Owners of America through this link.

Both organizations are critical components in the solution to undo poor legislation regarding the Second Amendment. This was an NRA backed lawsuit in California.

Nothing included in this article should be misconstrued as legal advice. We do not serve in a capacity to offer competent legal advice, nor does our content provide a platform by which anyone should believe that statements made by authors or staff of this website are providing legal advice.

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Californians Can Buy High Capacity Gun Magazines Now – Legally

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THE AUTHOR’S PERSONAL COMMENTARY ABOUT THIS NEWS

“This is an obvious win for the California gun owner. It is the culmination of a comprehensive look at wat the Second Amendment protects juxtaposed upon what modern legal precedent has stated about the right to bear arms. It is simultaneously, as contemporary, and timeless a statement by a California judge as I have ever seen with regards to a controversial ruling.”

“The opinion is harmoniously in line with what I believe as a champion of gun rights, but we must not get this ruling confused with a new way forward in the fight to protect gun rights in California and overturning unconstitutional laws regarding ownership by law abiding citizens in the state. This is not over.”

“My favorite part aside from the actual opinion being so reality based, is the outcry from the usual suspects who would seek to legislate the Second Amendment into the ground. Genuinely slack jawed responses that showed their shock over the ruling, were issued by Gavin Newsom, Xavier Becerra and other outspoken politicians and talking heads on the others ide of the gun rights debate.”

“A staff attorney named Ari Freilich from the Gifford Law Center made a ridiculous statement about the opinion in his hasty reply showcasing emotion rather than factual material observations. He stated: (about Benitez) that the judge is “…so deeply out of touch that he believes mass shootings are a ‘very small’ problem in this country.” That is a very layered statement by Mr. Freilich.”

“Out of touch with what? Certainly not the statistics. Out of touch with your philosophical ideologies? Out of touch with overhyped media consensus? Out of touch with the ultra-aggressive gun control agenda? If we are to make news on what some zealot says, it certainly shouldn’t be based on emotions, but rather on facts. Mr. Freilich is so out of touch with the reality of the situation, that he thinks facts can be made out of emotions.”

“As an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, no one cringes more than I do, or is heartbroken as much as I am, every time I hear about a school shooting. But the facts are these: the number of people killed by semi-automatic rifles each year is minsicule compared to the amount killed by hammers, fists, knives, cars, medical accidents in the operating room, etc. Mass shootings are good for no one.”

“Furthermore, the numbers aren’t even close. There are a handful of deaths each year caused by firearms in mass shootings. Millions die yearly in the other above-mentioned scenarios. A life’s value is not predicated on the way they die. A death is a death, whether by cancer, or gang violence. To state that Judge Benitez is the one who is out of touch is patently ridiculous, when this man has determined that a death of a person in a mass shooting event is somehow worse than by a bomb or by a car or by a beheading. Buy your standard capacity and high capacity magazines as soon as you can, and brace yourself for a rise in the tempo and aggressiveness of the conversation and legislation of guns in America. There is more to come on this topic” – Benjamin Worthen

EDIT (04-07-2019): “I felt confident this would be a short-term solution, and it was, but all is not lost. Judge Benitez wrote an articulate and facts-based opinion on a law that is hard to enforce, shows no demonstrable benefit to public safety, and has given opportunity to the legal system to work. The 9th circuit as out of touch on Second Amendment cases as it has been in the past, will surely defer to some level to his ruling and show that his opinion has merit.” –  Benjamin Worthen

ORIGINAL RULING ON MARCH 29 2019

SUBSEQUENT RULING ON APRIL 4 2019

Smith & Wesson 686 Revolver

PRODUCT REVIEW:
SMITH & WESSON 686 PLUS 7-SHOT .357 MAGNUM REVOLVER STAINLESS STEEL

DOWNLOAD THE FREE 2-PAGE REPORT ABOUT THIS ITEM

THIS IS THE TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ VERSION OF THIS S&W 686 ARTICLE

The Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is the mainstream 7-shot .357 Magnum revolver that denotes there is still a high-quality product coming out of a commodity product manufacturer like Smith & Wesson, even it at comes at the expense of higher weight and more bulk.

You are getting a legacy revolver for a reasonable price and an intuitive tool that can be used to hunt, defend yourself or shoot at paper targets and minimizes maintenance. No active safeties and top-quality finishes and sights give you a great value for those who want a medium to large revolver for their shooting needs.

BULLET POINT REVIEW OF S&W 686 PLUS

  • History means something. This is a firearm that has roots more than 30 years old, and which has consistently gotten better.

  • Yes, some of the safety mechanisms have been changed on this model over the years. It is still a fantastic firearm.

  • 7 shots of .357 Magnum is a potent option from a stopping power perspective.

  • The value for the money is high because of the varied scenarios where this revolver can be used effectively. It is not a cheap handgun.

  • It’s a heavy, robustly designed firearm, but it is not immune to concerns at the yoke/cylinder area. It weighs more than most traditional carry guns and has not been adopted widely as a carry gun. It is still a very good carry gun, notwithstanding, for those who can conceal it.

  • While it does not have a terrible trigger straight out of the factory, it’s also not amazing. Consumers should understand that spring kits and trigger jobs can make this trigger one of the best double action triggers in the world.

  • Constructed with a very good grade of stainless steel that harmonizes ease of maintenance and aesthetics.

FULL REVIEW OF SMITH & WESSON 686 PLUS 7-SHOT REVOLVER

You can DOWNLOAD THE 2-PAGE REPORT on this item or you can view in in this webpage by toggling the toggle bar near the bottom of this page.

A primer on NETGUNSMITH.COM Reviews:

You can look at specifications if you’ve ever owned a firearm and get a general sense of how a gun stacks up. A real review of a firearm should be honest, and unbiased. It should highlight the practical conversation about the gun. Sure, it’d be cool to have a million different ballistic tests and paper targets to show the accuracy and individual load performance, but ultimately there are not enough hours in the day to do the review or to consume it.

We have designed some parameters that we think will help two types of users to understand if a product is usable for them personally by reading our reviews. We try to gloss over specifications and look at the nuance of the product instead. We try to avoid talking about accuracy and other semi-intangibles (because a user controls a lot of that), unless we are talking about purpose-built products that live in the realm of ultra-precision shooting. We try to answer the questions that most websites and most gun stores don’t.

Look to Netgunsmith.com to offer a unique insight to the way a gun works for a shooter. We also try to make things relative. How does the product shape up against peers in its field (see the “Comparative” section below)?

We try to answer some basic questions to help you understand what you will get with the product we are reviewing.

We also advocate for training and practice. Sure, we would like you to buy a gun on our links out to affiliates like Brownell’s, Amazon, etc. because it helps us create content moving forward. What is more important though, is that you know how to use the gun properly, safely and with control. We highly recommend that you get legitimate training to handle your gun, and that you even consider renting one or handling it in a physical store before buying if you need to.  

We want to answer 6 questions we feel can help you make a purchase decision on a shooting product.

Who would want the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus?

The handgun home defense advocate. This is the best-case scenario from a practical perspective for this revolver. The only other thing that makes more sense, is using it for the fun of it. This is a great gun to shoot at the range or in the desert or with friends. So, ultimately if you just enjoy shooting fun guns, the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is a great choice.

Additionally, the variants that are available make this gun a very good candidate for hunting, with the right barrel size and modifications. You might also find it a serious choice as a concealed carry, or a full-time open carry firearm if you are a bigger individual or prefer the revolver and want the extra shot capacity.

How is the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus better than the rest of the field?

It’s made out of 100% stainless steel for the frame, cylinder, barrel and associated core components. This makes it durable and rust resistant. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a work horse. The internal components are made out of a combination of high-quality steels that have a good retention capability, so the trigger maintains the feel; the lockup stays true and the performance doesn’t degrade over time really.

It’s got seven shots, in the same size platform as other guns that are only capable of shooting 5 or 6 shots of .357 Magnum.

It has history that proves the design is impeccable. 30+ years of proven reliability and solid accuracy has made this a very special revolver.

It can be modified heavily if you wish, which makes it a unicorn in the revolver segment. You can find aftermarket parts very easily for it, and some of it can be done by normal consumers with basic knowledge, without the need for a gunsmith (things like spring kits, etc.).

You are not going to have to worry about shooting it. It’s not a safe queen, but it has classic lines and great aesthetics anyways.

What are some of the things about the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus that underperform?

The trigger that used to be amazing from factory, isn’t as great as it once was (and admittedly, some model releases also changed the trigger feel from model to model). You will need to do some deburring and spring work to make it as smooth as you can get on a 1,000+ revolver.

It’s heavy, though it absolutely feels more balanced than most revolvers at this weight, so this may end up a draw across the board.

The grips are fairly pedestrian on some variants.

The sights are very good, but they are not specialty sights they are all-purpose sights.

Why do I care about the Company that makes this?

Smith & Wesson has legitimate history. They did start to cut some corners about a decade ago during some strategic shifts in the consolidating market, and they sometimes don’t champion some of the underlying second amendment concepts that some hardcore shooters do. From the perspective of the gun in this review, none of that matters, because they are still putting out a fantastic product in this model (the 686 Plus).

Smith & Wesson is also one of the only revolver makers that are producing factory full customs and they are legitimately the only company that has as deep a bench in the revolver field as they do. They are serious about wheel guns.

They make guns that last generations if you take them seriously. Smith & Wesson has produced a line of revolvers that is hard to beat in value for the price point. I don’t care what some hater might say about the brand, I challenge them to find a better value on the market that can consistently deliver in the .357 Magnum spectrum at this price point like the 686 Plus can. They will have a hard time finding ANY competitor, let alone a viable one.

What are the “X-Factors” for the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus, that I need to know about?

7 shots. Enough said. It’s the same size as your normal six shot revolvers, but it has seven.

It doesn’t have a problem with any ammunition. Lead, wadcutters, hollow points, different grain weights, it doesn’t care it digests it all and it does so accurately.

Durability is hard to match by any other revolver. Sure, you have tighter, more accurate high tolerance revolvers, but they cost twice as much. Sure, you have guns that can be replaced at half the cost, or serviced for a pittance, but you give up the durability. The 686 Plus can last lifetimes if cared for in the most basic ways.

With the volume of guns that S&W is pushing out of the factory, the instance of bad guns that come through the pipeline is miniscule. Yes, you might read a bad review here or there, but Smith & Wesson deals in millions of firearms per year. The relative issues with guns are only a handful of those. You cannot find that with most high-volume producers regardless of cost.

Is there any history about the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus that I need to understand?

There were some major changes that you will hear people grumbling about online. If you are new to revolvers, this is about as good as it gets as a first revolver in a Double action platform with proven history.

Most of what they grumble about has political roots and/or stems from the basic hammer bar/transfer bar safety that Smith & Wesson added in the middle round of model releases in the nineties and early 2000’s. There is also some issue with the MiM hammer and other core components. This is a complaint that doesn’t make sense. Yes, it’s a cost cutting measure, but it shouldn’t be a complaint because it doesn’t change the durability or the performance of the product. It simply doesn’t cause problems. It doesn’t force recalls. It is a non-issue.

The gun is more than 38 years old if you factor in all variants. There was a legitimate concern in the past while the company fixed a problem with guns made before about 1986-7, where there was a cylinder binding issue. None of the 686 Plus models have this problem. You will see some simple modifications that have changes as new iterations have been released, like the “bosses” inside the side plate, and the shim concept that has been around since the 1990’s regarding the yoke and cylinder float.

Our only legitimate gripe with the guns in this model range, is that the trigger has been historically inconsistent over the model releases generally, though it really isn’t that bad.

COMPARATIVE VALUES OF THIS ITEM (out of 10 possible points per metric):

Relative Value Offered for Price on Market: 8 out of 10 This item offers excellent value relative to peers. You can find guns that offer cool features for less money. You can find guns that cost more and deliver a better experience. It is hard to find a gun that shoots this caliber, and feels this solid, and has a reasonable price point like the 686 Plus.

Ease of Use: 10 out of 10 Netgunsmith.com feels this is an Intuitive choice; safe for any shooter with basic training. It’s a nearly perfect first defensive handgun, because it doesn’t require a ton of thought to use well. That is not an excuse to skimp on training, it’s a testament to the value of the simplicity of the sum of all the parts that make up this firearm and how well they work together.

Suitability for Hunting: 7 out of 10 It’s been used extensively by handgun hunters and is still viable. While a hunter may not take it on a large percentage of their hunts, it has value for those who desire to have a handgun that is field ready and offers enough stopping power for medium and small game animals between 35 and 275 pounds (within reason).

Suitability for Home Defense: 9 out of 10 A classic choice for those who prefer a handgun for home defense. Most people would be better served by a capable, shoulder fired gun for home defense, but there is something to be said for the potency and simplicity of the S&W 686 Plus. There may be some overpenetration concerns for the suburbs (but no more than with any suitable rifle), with the cartridge. Notwithstanding, it stops threats, it is easy to use, and it is safe to use, hence the great rating (9 out of 10).

Suitability for Concealed Carry: 7 out of 10 It is large, but some can justify the weight and bulk for carry. Smaller users aren’t going to be using this firearm for concealed carry. It has been a duty weapon for many law enforcement units world wide and has the duty chops to fit the bill, it is just a bit bulky to hide for most shooters. If you can conceal it, you will love it as an EDC gun.

Suitability for New Shooters: 10 out of 10 Can shoot .38 Special to train, and is easy to learn on. The ability to learn with .38 Special cartridges and move up to .357 Magnums, and the ease of use and safety of this handgun makes it something truly special for beginners.

History and Reputation of the Brand: 10 out of 10 Smith & Wesson has a great reputation. For a company that has cut a lot of corners over time, this is a firearm that is still every bit as good as it was when it was released more than 30 years ago. Yes, it’s different, yes there are some concessions for some shooters integrated in the design, but it is made well, and it is from a producer that has legitimate historical significance and reputation.

Cost of Ownership: 8 out of 10 This is a reliable, easy to clean and relatively cheap to shoot firearm. With the commodity rates on the market for .357 Magnum cartridges, and the durability of the materials and design of this revolver, it’s a nice, easy to shoot gun that won’t break the bank at a dollar a shot like some other guns that have a similar impact on the shooter.

Durability: 10 out of 10 The design has been proven to be very durable and reliable in operation. Very little needs to be said. With proper maintenance and normal use conditions, this gun will last a very long time; generations even. Shooting 10,000 rounds is a good start to “breaking this gun in”. Don’t swing/flip the cylinder up like you see in the movies and don’t impede the rotation of the cylinder forcefully, and you will never have a problem.

Resale Value: 9 out of 10 This firearm will hold its value quite well if no modifications are performed on it. It doesn’t have the same collector value that, say, a Colt Python does, but it will not lose value if it remains in good working condition. These things are very well built, and even with MiM hammers and hammer bars that some people hate, they will still sell out at most places.

Notes: This is a well-balanced but heavy firearm and may not be suitable for small shooters in some scenarios. You can buy a couple of different versions. None of them are particularly standout, compared to the others available in the model range – meaning they are all equally good on the base level. You can pay more for creature comforts, but the accuracy and the durability and the smoothness of the design are all inherent in the base model too.

Differentiating Factors: The Netgunsmith.com team feels that the legacy of this firearm puts it in the top few choices of any industry list. The balance of the firearm is game changing, as it allows ease of handling, while the weight mitigates some of the snappy recoil of the .357 Magnum cartridges. 7 shots in a substantially similar size format to other medium to large revolvers that only carry 6.

CONCLUSION

The Smith & Wesson 686 Plus Revolver is not a safe queen. It is not a newcomer, and it has a certain maturity that even legacy firearms don’t have. That presence and the longevity that the 686 has, provides the owner of the gun with a very interesting, and fun to own firearm that still delivers on all of its promises.

It’s not a perfect gun, and enthusiasts of the platform might find fault with the newest three model releases (at least), but there is not a person here that can name a viable contender for the market segment that this gun serves at the same price point. It overdelivers on every point it tries to compete on.

Consistency is the name of the game with this revolver and it’s hard to beat at that game. 30+ years of staying power, and it still sells out everywhere. That is because the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus is MUCH better than average.

ALTERNATE PHOTOS OF THE 686 REVOLVER:

THE AUTHOR’S PERSONAL COMMENTARY ABOUT THIS ITEM:

“This gun came out before I was in high school. It was around the time I started shooting. I was a gunsmith’s apprentice at 12 years old. This firearm predates that. From the moment it came out (among a sea of special guns like the Colt Python), it was the “daily driver”.”

“It wasn’t finicky or too highly polished so as to make it a safe queen. It didn’t have the smooth trigger of the Python, and it sure didn’t have that gorgeous deep purplish-blue finish. But it worked. It was accurate. It was solid. It was everything that the Smith & Wesson line had been crafting for decades, but it was also something new and innovative and it made a legitimate splash.”

“For years, even though I owned a Python; loved it as a young shooter and thought it was awesome, I coveted the Smith & Wesson 686 Revolver as something I wouldn’t feel guilty shooting. It wasn’t until I was graduating high school that I bought my first 686 (which was ironically the 686-5; a pistol that many purists weren’t enamored with). This was a favorite gun for me, and even though I sold it later to buy a different firearm, I still have fond memories of that first 686.”

“It’s ridiculously accurate, it feels good in the hand and it makes the shooter confident by just handling it. When you own one you trust it. If you don’t own one yet, then you covet it. When you feel it in your hand you can’t help but think about it long after you put it down. It’s just a gun that feels like an extension of your body, from the balance to the clean looks to the no-nonsense attributes. I’m not a fan of a lot of things that Smith & Wesson, and many mainstream manufacturers are doing, but I hold this gun in high regard because it delivers on promises and it leaves no shooter unfulfilled when they own it.” – Benjamin Worthen

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