The prevailing mantra to any New Jersey Second Amendment advocate in 2023 should be “support those who support you.” With that comes a spirited “buy local” mentality. Let’s face it, we absolutely need our brick-and-mortar gun shops and supporting them in a state like New Jersey is paramount. But at what point do we give the local gun shop the Jersey salute?
I was recently in the market for some self-defense ammunition. In New Jersey, that’s slightly complicated, as civilians are not allowed to have hollow point ammunition outside of a narrow group of exemptions. While this is not legal advice, I will say you can have it in your home, you can have it at the range, but you certainly can’t have it in your carry firearm for normal EDC. It does not make sense, but what does in the Garden State? Suffice it to say, there is suitable carry ammunition available, and I wanted to grab a couple of boxes of it.
Rather than jump online where I’d usually buy ammunition, I decided to pop into one the local gun shops and toss them some love. I wasn’t buying in bulk. I was in the area. It just made perfect sense. Two boxes, no big deal.
I asked the clerk behind the counter if they had any of the ammunition I was looking for. He said they did. Like many of the boxes of so-called self-defense ammunition one would buy, this ammunition comes in boxes of 25 rounds. Figured I’d snag two boxes to cover a few magazines for a few firearms. No big deal.
I got a bit of some sticker shock; I have to admit. The ammunition was selling for $44.95 a box. I sighed a bit, thinking to myself, “it is what it is,” and handed over my credit card. The total came to $94.43 for the fifty rounds, tax, and the New Jersey handgun Gestapo ammunition fee that gets tacked on.
I was all happy to embrace supporting my local shop. To be honest, it had been quite a long while since I bought ammunition from a gun shop, and further, this variety I’d only purchased online, so maybe I shouldn’t have had any shock over the price. Prices vary and things change.
Then I got home and decided to let my fingers do the walking through the online pages to query how much the ammunition I purchased usually goes for. From what I could find, other brick-and-mortar locations sell the ammunition for about 14 dollars less – at least that’s what I found online. What about an online retail price? From about the same price point of $30.00 to less than half the ask of the other location. The price of the ammunition is less than half the price my local shop is selling it for. Did I get duped as some Jersey Shore rube and get ripped off because of the location? The same ammunition sells from online retailers for $19.99.
So, at what point do we say get screwed? Paying more than double for a product is just stupid. It’s not even a matter of principle at that point. Even selling the ammunition at about a 30% higher rate than some of the big box sporting goods stores – yes, I know they get deals based on volume – is still highway robbery.
While I’m not going to say that I’d never shop at that location again, I will say they’re not going to be my first choice and I’ll buy online before I buy from them. They’ll be there for emergencies – if they don’t price themselves out of business (they won’t IMHO). Is it going to be worth it for me in the future to hit up one of the other three gun shops that I consider local to me? I don’t know. I suppose I could always check them out when I’m in the area to size them up. Or do I just toss up my hands and say to myself “ya know those J-O’s botched it for everyone, buy online.”
Collecting myself, I called over to my friends at Gun for Hire at the Woodland Park Range. They too offer the same ammunition for the standard price. I talked to Matt Dancsecs, one of the co-owners and Creative Director over there. I asked Dancsecs about the balance between keeping the lights on and keeping customers. He told me it’s not easy, and they do stay on top of price trends quite closely. Dancsecs said, “Keeping up with online pricing trends, providing exceptional customer service and making necessary adjustments is an everyday occurrence for us. Our customers deserve this type of attention. You can not simply turn away from online pricing, because a satisfied customer will return and recommend your business to others, ultimately driving growth.” Dancsecs is right, and while I personally might be inclined to find the best price online, a good price, with good service would make me just as inclined to visit my local brick and mortar location for the same product.
My message is simple here. If you have a gun shop, don’t give people excuses to not shop at your store. I get and understand that having an overhead – especially in this economy – is something that needs to be covered and is expensive, but maybe set limits on markups. Is it dramatic of me to say that paying more than double is total garbage? I don’t think so. Regardless, being the shop that does things like this is a blight on their record, and while I don’t think they care, because people keep coming back, they found a place of honor at the bottom of my list of places to support.