Top 10 Tips for Buying Your First Gun, Part 1

Top 10 Tips for Buying Your First Gun, Part 1


Today’s post is in response to a question from my brother-in-law (sister’s husband) who is considering the purchase of his first firearm for self and home defense.  I’ve taken my brother-in-law shooting at the farm and he’s a great shot with a rifle… and has demonstrated an understanding of basic firearms safety.  Unfortunately, he and my sister live several states away and his firearms experience is primarily limited to structured rifle ranges from summer camps he attended and worked for…so I’m limited to providing him advice instead of stepping through the process with him.  Reviewing the advice I provide my brother-in-law may help you develop your own steps to responsible defensive firearms ownership.

Top 10 Tips for Buying Your First Gun

  1. Before purchasing a firearm for self defense you must determine for yourself whether you are capable of using it to protect yourself and your loved ones.  In the parlance of Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Dave Grossman in his essay On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs…you should only arm yourself if you are willing to become a ‘sheepdog.’  According to Grossman ‘sheepdogs’ and ‘wolves’ are both capable of violence but the ‘sheepdog’ uses violence only to protect the ‘sheep’ and his/her fellow ‘sheepdogs.’  If you are not willing to use violence to protect yourself and your family then your firearms are nothing but an opportunity waiting for the right ‘wolf’ to come along and turn them against you and your neighbor.  If, after careful reflection you are willing to become a ‘sheepdog’ then proceed to Step 2.
  2. Decide in a general sense, what type of firearm is right for your situation.  Are you planning to become licensed to Carry a Concealed Weapon (CCW)…if so you’ll want something concealable.  If you live on a farm or ranch you may need something with more range because you’re dealing with predators (the four legged kind) as well.  You must also consider the amount of training and practice you are willing to undertake.  Additionally, consider your proximity to your neighbors…do you live in an apartment or have those neighbors just 50 feet away…how many sheets of drywall will your round travel through before it expends its energy…be a good neighbor…don’t accidentally shoot yours.  Your (general) firearms options include (make sure it’s legal in your area):
    • Handgun –  more concealable, easier to secure, but much more training and practice required to safely and effectively employ.  More penetration than a shotgun, but less than most rifles (depending on the calibers involved).
    • Rifle – less concealable, harder to secure than a handgun and requires less training than a pistol (but more than a shotgun).  Most penetration (again depending on caliber).  Best choice if you need ranges over thirty feet.
    • Shotgun – least training required as it fires multiple projectiles (if you buy shot, not slugs) in a ‘pattern’ so its easier to hit your target.  Less penetration then a handgun or rifle so it’s safer for your neighbors.  Deadly easy to hit your target at short ranges.
    • Hybrid (Shotgun Pistol) – a relatively new choice that’s been out for a couple of years now is the shotgun pistol.  With names like the Taurus Judge and the Smith & Wesson Governor these hybrids are really too big for CCW and I originally viewed these as gimmick guns…but after firing my cousin’s I’ve decided that they do have a place as a bedside firearm combining the ready access of a handgun with the shot pattern of a shotgun.  Be aware though, these things kick like a mule and will not be suitable for small framed shooters.
  3. Learn the rules of gun safety (The National Rifle Association uses 3 Rules but I like these better):
    1. Always treat the Gun as if it’s loaded 
    2. Never point the gun at anything that you are not prepared to destroy
    3. Always be sure of your target and what is behind it (you could miss or the round could pass through your target…make sure there’s a safe backdrop behind your target)
    4. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you’re ready to shoot
  4. Now that you’ve decided which firearm is appropriate for your situation and learned the rules of gun safety your next step is to find a class or individual instructor specifically for that type of firearm.  I’m not talking about a CCW class (in some states you don’t even have to fire a weapon to become CCW licensed).  Find a class where you will spend many hours putting rounds downrange with individual attention from an instructor.  Hopefully your class will also afford you the opportunity to shoot a variety of types (for instance if you chose handgun training you should shoot both automatic pistols and revolvers) and calibers of firearms to discover which you’re most comfortable with.  By the end of your class or classes you should be focusing on the make, model and caliber of firearm you intend to purchase and start building the muscle memory to safely employ that particular weapon.
  5. The next decision you must make is how you will safely store your firearm and carry it if you intend to become CCW licensed.  This is where you make holster, gunsafe and those types of decisions.  Be careful of trigger locks…most are junk.  You should consider a number of factors in these decisions not the least of which is the age of any children in the home, frequency of child visitors, types of crime in your neighborhood, best option (pocket, inside the waistband, ankle or a shoulder holster if you watched too much Miami Vice as a kid) for carry if CCW, etc.  Make sure and discuss your thoughts with your firearms instructor to get his/her ideas.

Link to Part 2 of the Top 10 Tips for Buying Your First Gun…don’t worry, in Part 2 we’ll get to the actual gun buying part…

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One Response to “Top 10 Tips for Buying Your First Gun, Part 1”

  1. admin says:

    An example of picking the right gun for your situation…he had a rifle:

    A Montana rancher shot and killed a black bear that scaled a tall fence and broke into his house to rummage for food this week along the Rocky Mountain Front.

    via Montana rancher shoots black bear that broke into home | Fox News.

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