Guns: The Big Box and You
Wal-Mart sells guns and ammo, but they do so grudgingly. They only sell certain types of rifles and shotguns, and the firearms are invariably locked behind the sporting goods counter (which is only occasionally manned by an employee). There are other big box stores that take a different tack, such as Academy, Bass Pro, and Gander Mountain. These stores don't mind selling handguns and other firearms that are more suited to self-defense than anything else.
A new Gander Mountain location opened up in Ocala this past weekend, and the grand opening sales meant packed parking lots and choked aisles. It's a dedicated outdoors store, but more than that, they stock almost every type of gun you can think of. S&W J-Frames, Bushmaster AR-15s, surplus Mosin-Nagants, used Mossberg 500s - like many shoppers, I was astounded at what was essentially a full gun store inside a warehouse store. The place even sold reloading equipment, and they have their own gunsmiths on the premises to conduct repairs and inspect used guns.
I still think the local gun range is the best way for a new shooter to purchase something appropriate for his or her needs. I'd be lying, though, if I said the low prices and the huge selection at the big boys didn't have some appeal. It was also interesting to watch excited fathers bring their children into the firearms section of the store; that's something you probably won't see anywhere else in the world.