After working for 30 years as a chemical engineer at 3M, arms enthusiast Bill Penney drew up plans for a state-of-the-art gun shop to be built just a few minutes away from downtown Minneapolis. His blueprints included an impenetrable security system, roomy aisles, high ceilings, ample counter space for display, underground parking, and a range featuring 22 shooting lanes. Since opening its doors in 1989, Bill's Gun Shop--built to spec--has become the largest dealer of guns and shooting supplies not only in Minnesota, but in the Upper Midwest. According to Bill's son and co-worker, Tom Penney, if hunters, hobbyists, and handgun enthusiasts don't find what they want in stock--which, given Bill's supply of Colts, Rugers, and Glocks, is unlikely--the sales staff will scour the countryside until the product is found. Before making a purchase, shoppers can test-drive their weapons downstairs on the shooting range, where sportsters can rent different models, participate in leagues, and practice for competitive events. More important, first-time buyers are encouraged to take one of the shop's assorted safety classes, taught by instructors certified by either the National Rifle Association or the Department of Natural Resources.


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