You did your research, you rented plenty of guns at your local range, saved your money and finally made your first handgun purchase. Now that you have it home, you might feel slightly lost as what to do next. The first thing you must do as a gun owner is learn and follow the four basic rules of gun safety—not only at the gun range, but in your home, as well.
- Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
- Do not point the muzzle (barrel) at anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Know your target and what is behind it.
After memorizing and following these rules at all times, it is now time to learn the ins and outs of your new gun. All new guns come with a manual. Typically, the gun’s manual has the schematics of the gun, safety precautions, ammo suggestions, operation instructions, instructions on how to disassemble and reassemble, and instructions on how to clean it. For example, the manual included with a Smith & Wesson M&P pistol says to clean the gun before firing it. Most experts agree.
Most guns arrive from the factory coated with preservative oil. During transportation to and from the factory to a retail store and while sitting in a gun case at the store, this oil can collect dust and particles in the gun’s barrel. A dirty gun can cause your gun to malfunction, affect accuracy and reliability. Before shooting your new gun, it is best to clean all the oil off. Using your gun’s manual, dissemble the new gun and give it a basic cleaning. Remove the oil and then apply a fine layer of lubrication. To read a more in-depth article on gun cleaning, read Professionally Cleaning Your Firearm.
Some guns, especially those with tight tolerances, will seem a little stiff. If you purchased a semi-automatic handgun, you can work the slide back and forth a few times to loosen things up a bit. The trigger might be stiff, too. To get used to how your gun fires, buy some snap caps in the same caliber as your gun and practice shooting at home. Remember rule number two and rule number four: do not point the barrel at anything you are not willing to destroy and know your target and what is behind it—even in the privacy of your own home.
After cleaning your new gun, now comes the fun part—shooting it! With a few boxes of full metal jacket and at least one box of high-quality self-defense ammunition, you should put at least 200 to 500 rounds through your new pistol for a function test. Your new gun should function reliably; however, a malfunction might occur. This could be for a number of reasons—shooter error, ammunition error or a defect in the gun. Read more about clearing malfunctions in the post Stay Calm and Keep Shooting: Clearing Malfunctions. If your gun refuses to work, call the manufacturer’s customer service line for instructions on what to do next. If malfunctions are not a consistent issue, your new gun might just need a “break-in period.”
It is not necessary, but many people prefer to clean their gun after every range visit. Keeping your gun in good condition is imperative to it functioning reliably. Further, the metal parts on your gun may be prone to rust, so treating the finish will keep it looking nice.
Depending on the reason why you purchased a new gun and the laws in your state, there are different ways to store your gun. Certainly if you have children in your home, safety is your first concern. There are many different types of safes and racks that keep your gun secured. If you live alone without children, or feel comfortable no unauthorized person will have access to your gun—in many states— it is perfectly okay to leave your gun loaded where ever you please. To read more in-depth on where to store your new gun, read Where to Keep Your New Gun.
Are you a brand new gun owner and still have questions? Ask me in the comment section.
Introduced to shooting at young age by her older brother, Suzanne Wiley took to the shooting sports and developed a deep love for it over the years. Today, she enjoys plinking with her S&W M&P 15-22, loves revolvers, the 1911, short-barreled AR-15s, and shooting full auto when she gets the chance. Suzanne specializes in writing for the female shooter, beginner shooter, and the modern-day prepper. Suzanne is a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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