The coming of fall heralds crisp air carries the scent of wood smoke and frost-tipped grass crunching underfoot. It’s the trigger for every hunter that the long awaited hunting seasons are at last rolling in on a whirlwind of colorful leaves. Mountaineer Guns on Main Street, downtown White Sulphur Springs, is on hand to help their customers prepare for the harvest.

Owned and operated by Ryan Ellis and his partner, Mary Holmes, this local sporting goods store caters from hunters, to sporting clay enthusiasts, to soda can plinkers, and those seeking methods of personal defense, whether it be handguns or mace. They sell vintage flint lock to fully automatic weapons, as well as crossbows. “We try to find what our customers want because this store is for them,” says Mr. Ellis, who, with Ms. Holmes, took over the preexisting business in December 2015.

Mountaineer Guns was first founded in the seventies by Marvin Snedegar, a local and national musician with a love for guns. Marvin was a modern day pioneer of early American firearm sports. After his death in 2015, the store was sold to the current owners. “I’m always up for an adventure and learning experience and running a gun shop has been one,” says Mr. Ellis. He goes on to tell us, “It wasn’t the plan to get into the firearms business, but  life offers some unexpected opportunities. Marvin Snedegar left some big shoes to fill. We’ve learned a lot over the past 23 months and much of it from our customers. The local community has been very supportive.”

Ms. Holmes has family ties to Greenbrier County and welcomed the chance to live and work here after the two returned from military service overseas. “I’ve never met such a large community of sportsmen,” says Ms. Holmes. “Our customers are largely hunters who fill their freezer with wildsourced meat. It’s a way of life. Those who only get their food from grocery stores that don’t hunt or raise gardens can sometimes forget to appreciate another way of living that is sustainable.”

While she points out that the majority of customers are men, there are a few sportswomen that frequent the shop. Ms. Holmes tells us, “I’ve met a 9 year old girl who has harvested numerous deer for her family and a woman who rides her bicycle into the woods, gets a deer, packs it onto her bicycle and rides home with dinner. How awesome is that?”

In light of last month’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, outcries for stricter gun control have been thriving. Mountaineer Guns points out that those rare individuals who turn to gun violence are poor representations of what they feel are the majority of gun owners – outdoor enthusiasts who are responsible, law-abiding citizens.

“I believe there is a mental health crisis, drug crisis, and responsibility crisis well ahead of a firearms crisis,” says Mr. Ellis regarding the misuse of guns. He points out that most of the mass shootings are committed by unstable individuals on mind or behavior-altering pharmaceuticals.

Federal regulations exist to attempt to prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands and Federal Firearm Licenses, like Mountaineer Guns, are required to follow these regulations. When a firearm is purchased, an ATF Form 4473 is completed, as well as an FBI background check, to determine eligibility. If the individual fails the check, the gun is not sold. This also goes for online sales, where a gun purchased on the Internet is delivered to the customers local FFL dealer, not the customer themselves. However, private sales do not require these controls. “Know who you’re selling to and do a bill of sale,” Ms. Holmes recommends to all private sellers and has even offered to run the same background checks for private transactions as they do for commercial sales at their store, if the parties want.

Both business owners see the benefit of gun ownership not only as a sporting tool but as a deterrent to crime. They believe that everyone needs to know its proper use and the law when it comes to that use. They also feel that responsible weapons handling is critical to everyone’s safety and encourage firearms training with every sale.

As hunters and target shooters themselves, the owners of Mountaineer Guns encourages their fellows to represent American outdoor enthusiasts well. Mr. Ellis says, “It’s the responsibility of all firearm owners to be good stewards of their gun sport to show the nation that the illegal or violent acts of others are a minuscule representation of the community.”

In addition to sporting good supplies, Mountaineer Guns sells West Virginia Division of Natural Resources hunting and fishing licenses and provides game tags and game checking. For more details on the hunting seasons and rules and regulations, see the WVDNR website at

In the coming weeks, expect to see some in store specials in preparation for the holidays. They also do special orders. You can find Mountaineer Guns online at and on Facebook @MountaineerGunsWV.

– HashtagWV #95. November 2017.

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