In business and life there’s a relatively new saying, “Go big or go home.” Sometimes that is sound advice, but not all the time. In the gun and shooting business there are a number of what are known as “big-box” stores. We all know who they are, and they do provide a real service, often at a reduced price. I trade at them, as do most of you. But I’ll bet there are a gaggle of small, mom-and-pop gun stores in your area as well, and they provide a level of service that the big-box stores cannot.
One of the biggest reasons I keep in touch with local small shops is that you’ll never know when someone will come in with an old gun to trade. I am always in the market for an old Smith & Wesson, Colt or Ruger revolver. I also pine for old lever actions and the occasional bolt action or single shot. I’ve even had some of these shop keepers call me when something comes in that they think I may be interested in. It’s not impossible to find this kind of service in a big-box store, but it’s not likely either.
An old friend of mine from my Star Valley days, Lorell Woolley, partnered up with a couple of like-minded amigos and opened up Wyoming Minuteman Supply (307) 413-8675 in Thayne, WY. They started the store to compete with some other local dealers that were gouging the local shooters. “We had an older gentleman who let us know that he really liked to collect commemorative 1911s,” Lorell told me. “We happened to get one in and called him to let him know. He came right down and bought it. He got something which he had been searching for a long time. We pride ourselves on knowing our customers, who actually are our friends.”
Closer to me now, Linda Davis operates the Davis Trading Company (307) 250-2421 on the outskirts of Cody. Her shop is a small log cabin set off to the side of her home. Linda is very knowledgeable about firearms and scrupulously honest. During the recent reloading component shortage she was able to get me a couple pounds of Hodgdon CFE powder when Chris Hodgdon could not. She also was able to come up with a couple of boxes of .22 WMR ammo when I bought a first-year production S&W Model 48 and I was without a single round of it here.
The big-box stores serve a useful purpose, but so do the small-time, local operators. Personal service is just one reason why I like them, In fact, when I travel, if I see a small gun shop and have the time, I’ll drop in just to see what they may have. It’s sort of like panning for gold; you may have to winnow a lot of sand, but every once in a while a shiny nugget shows up.