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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

What You Should Consider for First Gun Purchase

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

You are thinking about buying a gun for self-defense, but you don't know how to start.

Long lines at gun store.
First-time gun owners are causing long lines at gun stores. (Photo: USAF)

You're not alone, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports more than 2.5 million first-time gun owners during the first half of 2020.

"The early part of 2020 has been unlike any other year for firearm purchases — particularly by first-time buyers — as new NSSF® research reveals millions of people chose to purchase their first gun during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jim Curcuruto, shooting foundation's director of research and market development, said in a statement. “Not surprisingly, retailers reported an increased number of first-time gun buyers, estimating that 40 percent of their sales were to this group.”

It's an unprecedented number which was clearly driven by the fear of the #Coronavirus and the implications for citizens' #security and #safety.

There can be a lot to consider before making your first purchase of a self-defense firearm:

  • What are the threats you are facing now -- as well as the threats you think you might face?

  • Who is going to be using the firearm(s)?

  • How much #training does the operator have?

  • Do you need a #handgun for outside the home?

  • Are you just concerned with home defense?

  • Do you have children in the house?

  • Are you willing to take the responsibility of learning the use-of-force statutes for your state?

  • Are you willing to take the responsibility of seeking training from a knowledgable person to guide you in the proper handling and deployment of your new gun?

You can get a lot of information on this decision-making process with the two posts on the couple who were looking at what firearms they needed:

When you read through the two stories, you'll see there are a lot of factors in play for choosing the right firearms for defense.

As you start down this road, I would urge you to consider the personal abilities and the potential of the operator. Here's my starting point:

Your firearm is your sword. Yours, not someone else’s. It’s a personal fit. You must have enough experience to make it work reliably under duress and have confidence in your ability to wield it.

Unfortunately, that might mean you and your wife might have to opt for different swords. She might need one that is shorter and lighter than you do. Or not. It could also mean you might want to include more options than strictly handguns.

Here’s why I bring this up. There can be a real dichotomy when it comes to handguns. You need a cartridge that can impart enough energy to stop an adversary, but needs to be in a platform that:

1. Is convenient to carry

2. Is manageable to shoot

This is just the starting point for the type of contrarian advice you are going to get, for example, you should "get the most powerful cartridge you can manage". The conflicting point is that bullet placement counts for more than the power of the cartridge.

You'll also find your training introduces you to the modern isosceles stance with a two-handed grip. Yet, the dirty secret is that most real-life shootings are so dynamic and chaotic that a standard two-handed grip is not always possible.

Your First Steps to Gun Ownership

Now that you are aware of the steep learning curve you can expect, let's start here:

  1. Determine the threats you are most likely to face. This will be important in selecting the right platform -- the mission dictates the weapon.

  2. Ask someone whom you deem knowledgeable and trustworthy. Then ask two more people. You'll be surprised at how different their advice might be. Then visit a minimum of three gun stores to get advice on preparing for your threats and to be able to look at -- and feel -- options for your choice. Resist the temptation to panic buy. Seriously, that's how people end up regretting their purchase before they have more experience.

  3. Go to a gun store or range which allows you to rent firearms to test. Tell them you are a new shooter. They will rent you hearing and eye protection and sell you the correct cartridges you need for those particular firearms (don't be surprised if the ammo is more than the gun rental). They will most likely have you sit through a preliminary safety briefing then make you sign a liability waiver. They will be happy to assign a range officer to help you safely load, unload, and shoot for your initial time. I would be surprised if they didn't, but if they don't, I would suggest you go elsewhere that is more safety oriented.

  4. If you are serious and can afford the time and expense, I would counsel you to take an introductory session for new shooters. It will really help your confidence and can stop you from building bad habits from the beginning.

  5. Finally, you are ready to make your purchase. You will need two types of identification for the paperwork which goes in for your background check. Give yourself some time for this -- the paperwork will be time consuming. In some states you will not be able to take your purchase home once you complete the transaction, pending your #background check and a possible mandatory waiting period. Some new gun purchasers have found out that buying a gun is not as easy as reported by many media outlets.

  6. Buy the correct #ammunition for your #firearm. If you are in doubt, ask. I've seen new owners buy the wrong-sized bullets for their firearm or, in one case, the incorrect firearm for the cartridge. In this latter case the new owner was bringing back his new handgun because it didn't fit the ammunition he already chose. He had 9mm ammunition and wanted a handgun for that ammo. Turns out the gun he bought was actually a .38 Special revolver.

  7. Get hearing protection and eye protection.

  8. Have a #holster, box, or scabbard in which you can transport your new firearm.

  9. Find a safe place to practice and have fun!

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