Beginner’s Guide to Buying Your First Gun
Your first gun purchase, whether it be in a brick and mortar shop or online gun store is an intimidating experience. You are indecisive about which type of firearm to buy due to fear of making a mistake or worse yet, fear of looking like a newbie in front of firearm professionals. Don’t let this fear stop you from entering the world of gun ownership because even professionals were once beginners. Another point to keep in mind; firearm enthusiasts come from many backgrounds. Some were born and raised with a home arsenal that could outfit an army, and some have only admired guns on TV shows or in movies. You don’t have to have any previous experience with firearms to enjoy the sport, just a little knowledge to push aside fear and get you on your way to buying your first gun.
One of the first things to do is figure out what purpose your new gun will serve. Will it be used for concealed carry or home defense? Are you planning to hunt with it and if so will your pursuits be big game, waterfowl, upland bird or varmints? Figuring out your basic needs will narrow down the choices and make researching options easier. Accomplish your firearm education goals by reading books or magazines on the subject or consulting reputable online sources such as the National Rifle Association or dealer sites like Omaha Outdoors. Ask others who regularly engage in shooting sports for their advice. However, take opinions with a grain of salt because in the firearm world, much like debates between Ford and Chevy owners, people carry a stance based on particular preference over one manufacturer versus another. Personal preference is critical in your choice because you’ll want the gun you buy to fit your needs, and not just be someone else’s favorite. That said, let’s take a peek at different types of weapons appropriate for various shooting purposes.
Self-defense guns must be small enough to be concealed comfortably and yet have knockdown power to stop an assailant. Weapons in this category are either pistols or revolvers, but both are considered handguns. Revolvers, often called “wheel guns,” consist of a revolving cylinder that usually holds six bullets. A pistol is a handgun that does not have a revolving cylinder. Revolvers tend to be easy to use and experience fewer malfunctions than a pistol, but you are limited to the amount of ammunition you can load at one time. Examples of a revolver for concealed carry would be the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38 or the Ruger LCR. On the other hand, pistols are capable of holding a lot more ammo, especially if you purchase extra magazines. They are slim and lightweight and used most often by law enforcement or military personnel. Examples of pistols include the GLOCK 43 and Sig Sauer P365.
Home defense- The sky is the limit when it comes to a home defense weapon. Some people rely on a shotgun to take care of business, but most gun owners have a handgun in their arsenal to protect the home front. Here’s where a pistol or revolver with bigger caliber comes in handy. Larger handguns are known to be more accurate with less felt recoil than a smaller gun. Glock 17 pistol fits the home defense category with plenty of power to protect everyone who resides under your roof.
Waterfowl or upland bird hunting- Bird hunting is where shotguns come into play. It loads with shot shells, which are cartridges filled with many BB’s that widen the scope of impact to accommodate such a small, fast moving target. There are four basic loading/spent shell ejection actions in shotguns. These are bolt-action, pump action, semi-automatic action or break action. Bolt-action, combined with a slug-type load is useful in deer hunting scenarios but not as much for other applications. Pump action is easy to use and most often chosen by first-time buyers. A semi-auto shotgun fires with each trigger pull until the magazine is empty and is suitable for skeet competition or bird hunting. However, despite recent improvements, semi-autos are known for experiencing malfunctions. The simplicity of a break-action shotgun makes it an excellent choice for novice buyers, but for heavy use, one of the other options might be a better fit.
Shotgun gauges are a mystery to first-time buyers, but the line-up is quite simple to explain. The heaviest gauge, or the one with the most knock-down power, is 10-gauge. From there it’s 12, 16, 20, 28 and finally the .410-gauge. Most hunters find a 12-gauge like the Mossberg pump action shotgun to be the most versatile field weapon, but after a day of shooting, it’s heavily felt recoil or “kick” can do a number on your shoulder. Young hunters or individuals of smaller stature do well with 20-gauge. The .410 is excellent for short-range varmint eradication and very useful as a youth upland bird gun.
Here’s where serious long rifle accuracy is crucial. A rifle fires rounds that travel long distances and are usually outfitted with optical accessories for viewing a target hundreds of yards away. These powerful long guns have similar actions of a shotgun like bolt, pump, semi-auto, break and lever. The caliber rifle needed varies for whatever game you intend to pursue but in general, a .22 caliber, like the Ruger Precision Rimfire 22 LR, is most popular for beginners. However, its power is only handy for target shooting and small game. You can get the job done predator hunting with .223 and most popular calibers for deer, elk, sheep and black bear are .270, .308 and 30.06. Seriously big game like moose, grizzly and brown bear require heavy hitting .338 WIN MAG or .375 H&H.
Get trained- On item that should be written right under “buy gun” on your shopping list should be training. Most states require a permit for concealed carry, and you must go through a training class to get it. Some states no longer insist upon range time to get your license, but it’s important to seek out one that does, so you have hands-on experience with your new weapon. Hunters safety certification is another training requirement in most states to obtain a hunting license and is a great way to learn the critical rules of gun operation and safety. For instruction on specific firearm genres such as tactical shooting, home defense strategy or even gunsmithing, video tutorials exist online or in hard copy DVD form that allows you to learn at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home.
Your first gun purchase opens the door to an exciting world of firearm ownership. Armed with knowledge, you can now push aside your fears and tell the gun shop clerk “I’ll take it,” or click the “buy now” icon on the gun dealers web page. Just remember, most likely your first firearm purchase will not be your last, as guns are like potato chips. You can never have just one.
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