You may disagree. But this works for me.
Now, one thing that big box stores typically have in common with each other is that they — typically — have lower prices than their locally owned competitors…but the big wigs at Gander Mountain must not have gotten that Memo, because on the majority of their firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition, they’re quite a bit higher than anything else in town – including the local guys running little shops out of their houses. The one exception I’ve noticed is their “Gander Mountain” clothing line. I’ve picked up quite a few of their Polo’s and Fishing shirts at very good prices – and the quality is pretty good too.
Now, obviously, Gander has sales and, if you can catch the right sale, you can actually find some guns/ammo at reasonable prices — but it’s typically best to keep those dollars local. Now, to be fair, I will say that I admire Gander Mountain for turning away from Wall Street and once again becoming privately owned. A move I fully support. With 154 stores nationwide, they are a shining example of The American Dream and what great leadership can do for a company. They’ve earned themselves a name and the fact that they are, technically, a big box store, shouldn’t really tarnish that name. I, personally, just choose to utilize them for different needs.
But, all of that is fluff. This review is about the local Champaign store. I’ve visited other Gander Mountains in the midwest, but that’s few & far between — usually I’m already in those other areas for some sort of business, and just decide to stop by “just because”.
As I said earlier in this review, I was absolutely stoked when first seeing that big “Gander Mountain Coming Soon” banner on the old “Circuit City” building — a building that sat dormant for what seemed like an eternity. But, soon after their opening, I snapped back to reality and once again reminded myself why I support small businesses so zealously.
The problems with the Champaign location that I have run in to simply result from severely under trained and/or incapable staff. While I don’t 100% blame management for that (I run a business myself and know — full well — the difficulties of hiring even halfway competent help) I still expect more from a company that boasts “The Largest Selection of Guns in Illinois!” During my many trips to the gun counter I have, on several occasions, bore witness to some new guy, behind the gun counter, giving absolutely idiotic advice to some novice gun owner asking simple questions. I’ve heard flat out false information being delivered, I’ve heard DANGEROUS information being delivered, but I’ve only opened my mouth on two different occasions in an attempt to correct the situation. One such occasion ended rather civilly, with the Gander Employee acknowledging he was wrong and misinforming the customer. The other situation, however, didn’t end so well, and resulted with me walking out — pipping hot mad.
The situation was simple: As a gun counter employee, I absolutely expect you to set the example for everyone around you and see you safety check every weapon, every time, regardless of how sure you are that it’s empty. This know-it-all’s excuse for his actions were simply that he had shown the pistol to someone else “not even 20 minutes ago” and “how could it have possibly armed its self?”. I argued with him a good 5 minutes on “setting an example” until finally accepting that this idiot will never realize the point of my interruption, I simply decided to leave, listening to him laugh at me the entire time I was walking out.
And I’m sure he believes, in his heart and soul, he’s worth a higher hourly wage.
I’ve had other situations with employees who simply don’t know what it is you’re talking about when you as for a “scope rings” or other employees who suggest that I purchase a 30-round “clip” to go with the Rifle I am holding in my hands. (Side note, before I get flamed, I don’t care that magazine/clip are, basically, interchangeable with the common audience. I accept that Hollywood will never catch on and that politicians are incapable of recognizing the difference. i accept that newbie gun owners will mistakenly identify a magazine as a clip, and that we should not shun them, but correct them politely. What I do not accept, however, are professionals in a professional environment, misusing common nomenclature. But, I digress) but nearly every single encounter came from the result that the person who is paid to help me simply didn’t take enough pride in their job to try.
While not every employee there exhibited this less-than-acceptable display of common sense (and, in fact, there are a few guys there who really know their stuff), these occurrences still happened more often than not…and they’re still not results typical from Gander’s small, more locally owned competitors.
But, if you’re in the mood to browse and see some high-end firearms & hold them in your hands — or — if you’re after some comfortable, affording clothing for a weekend excursion with the guys (or gals!…) then Gander Mountain is the place for you. But, in this man’s less-than-humble opinion, it’s best to save the big purchases for your LGS. Keep them in business, less you want Gander Mountain prices to become the norm.