Bourjaily: A Good Gun Salesman is Hard To Find

Knowledgeable gun salesmen are kind of rare. I know several, but it seems like bozos outnumber the good guys.

For instance, recently I found a nice Valmet O/U in the used gun aisle of a large retailer. It was a 12 gauge, and its 26-inch barrels ruled it out for me, but Valmets are neat guns, made in Finland and with the same sliding top latch action as a Krieghoff. I've heard them called "the poor man's K-80" and as I am relatively poor and need a K-80, I was intrigued.

I checked the hang tag and the breech, but I couldn't find the chamber length noted anywhere. Probably it was stamped somewhere under the forearm, but before I could take it off to see, the salesman found me. He was a big guy, with the aggressively friendly manner of a used car salesman.

"Looking to buy your first shotgun?" he asked.

I stared at him like: you're kidding, right?

Now, I don't expect to be recognized in public, but what kind of question is that to ask anyone looking at a gun? I ran through the snappy comebacks in my mind but settled on a simple" "No, I own a few already," in part to see what he would say next. He didn't disappoint me.

"Thinking of upgrading to an over/under?" he asked.

Keeping a straight face I said: "I have a couple over/unders. I was trying to figure out if this gun has 2 3/ 4 or 3-inch chambers."

He took the Valmet, winked at me and said, "I can find out," then walked away with the gun and came back a few minutes later. "It's a 3-inch," he said, leaning close to confide as he handed me the gun. "I tried a 3-inch shell in the chamber. It fit."

Even a 3 1/ 2 shell will fit in a 2 3/ 4 inch chamber until it's fired and the crimp unfolds. Putting a 3-inch shell into the gun did nothing but prove either that the salesman was an idiot, or that he took me for one. I checked to make sure he hadn't left the gun loaded, then set it back in the rack and left.