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On the Fence About Buying Your First Gun?

Gun choices

Are you a first-time gun buyer? Do you have questions about gun safety and storage? Our resident expert, CTD Rob, will answer these questions and more in this article.

Taking that first step into purchasing a firearm is a big decision. Once you commit to owning one, you are changing the dynamics of your entire household. Whether you are on the fence or you have decided to make that leap into being a gun owner, there are probably quite a few questions on the table. Knowing what kind of gun to buy is only part of the answer. There are also laws that limit where and how you can carry your weapon, as well as endless choices of ammo to sort through. We thought we would take some of the guesswork out of buying your first gun and highlight some easy answers to tough questions.

Safety Concerns

The largest concern most people have with owning guns is safety. This is completely understandable. If you get a little nervous the first time you hold a firearm, that’s perfectly normal. My father taught me to respect these things for the powerful tools they are, and you should too. There are some simple safety precautions that you should always follow when dealing with firearms. I should emphasize that these precautions are not some suggested guidelines—these are rules you must follow.

  • All guns are always loaded, even when they are not. A large number of accidents with guns happen when the handler thinks the gun is not loaded. Treating a gun as if it were loaded at all times is the safest way to handle a firearm.
  • Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This is the primary rule of gun safety. Pointing is a safe direction is paramount. A safe direction means that you are pointing the gun so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel points at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances. Falling bullets can kill, so straight up in the air is not always the best option!
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger. I hate it when I see pictures of people holding their guns inside their homes with their finger on the darn trigger. This makes me believe they know nothing about guns or gun safety.
  • Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it. This seems obvious, but don’t shoot at a paper target in front of something you don’t want to put a hole in.

Storing your Firearms

This is a matter of personal choice and much debate. I personally store my home defense gun loaded with the safety on. There are no children in my home; I choose not to have to load my firearm after someone has already broken in. I keep my other firearms unloaded in a gun safe, which bolts to the frame of my home. If you have small children, or you want things more secure, there are great options in high tech quick-release safes you can bolt to the wall next to your bed. GunVault makes safes that have a biometric interface. In English, this means your fingerprint can open the safe in a flash. If you are willing to fork over the dough, this is a very good option for keeping small hands off your gun.

What to Buy

Guns are tools. Like any other tool they do some jobs good, and some jobs bad. You wouldn’t use an electric drill to hammer nails into wood, so why would you use the wrong gun for whatever job you are trying to perform. Since we are discussing personal and home defense, I’ll stick with the guns that work best for that application.

Revolver

The revolver cemented itself in the gun industry a long time ago. They are inexpensive and do the job of concealable personal protection very well. The designs might look a bit dated, but they can still handle their own. The trigger on most defensive revolvers tends to be long and heavy, meaning you will have to squeeze hard to fire the gun. Like any gun, it will take a fair amount of practice to become proficient at delivering accurate rounds quickly. Revolvers are reliable, easy to conceal, and many are inexpensive. They do however have an Achilles’ heel. Many defensive revolvers only hold five rounds, and reloading can be cumbersome.

Semiautomatic Handgun

Semiautomatic handguns have been around for over a century, and they make excellent weapons. A high-quality defensive handgun won’t cost you a fortune, and most are easy to shoot. The concealable models hold more ammunition than a comparable sized revolver, and they usually weigh less due to polymer construction. The full-sized models for home defense and duty hold a lot more ammo and the trigger on a semiautomatic is usually lighter than a revolver. A semi-automatic handgun is currently the most popular choice for personal protection.

Pump Action Shotgun

While not exactly practical for concealed carry, a shotgun makes an outstanding home defense weapon. Shotguns deliver a devastating amount of firepower at close range. If you hit your target at distances equal to the size of your bedroom, you will stop the attack. Keep in mind that shotguns that are loaded with defensive ammo fire a wad of lead or steel balls out of the barrel, and the wad does not open instantly—so you still have to aim. Furthermore, many home defense shotguns only hold five to six rounds, so you could be empty before you know it.

AR-15

The AR-15 is the civilian version of the U.S. military standard issue service rifle. Like the shotgun, it isn’t exactly practical for concealment, but it makes one heck of a home defense platform. Standard AR-15s use either 20- or 30-round detachable magazines. This means you can fire 30 rounds without having to reload. Compared to a shotgun, that makes a huge difference. However, as great as a properly maintained AR-15 can be, they are not cheap. An entry-level AR-15 runs about $700, while a nice one can be well over $1000. When compared to a $200 home defense shotgun—that makes a huge difference.

I should stress that any gun is better than no gun at all. Decide what you are using it for, and practice with it often. If you are first time gun owner, I recommend taking a class and becoming proficient with your firearm. Taking it to the range once and stuffing it in a drawer is not going to cut it. I hope that we answered some of the questions you may have regarding your initial purchase of a gun. Taking advantage of your Second Amendment right is an important part of not only your personal safety, but also who we are as Americans. A gun in the right hands is a powerful tool for good, and we owe ourselves to know how to use one.

Do you have any tips for first-time gun buyers? Do you have a gun buying question for our experts? Share your tips and ask your questions in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (6)

  1. After purchasing first semi-automatic, 22LR, to be used as training weapon, I bought several magazines worth of ‘Blank’ rounds , color coded as such to be used to simulate live round handling, round ejection/ clearing, disassembling, loading, etc.

    This eliminated some anxiety as a first time gun owner.

  2. Learning how to use a firearm safely is so important. You need to learn how to handle one with care and teach those around you to handle one with care. So many accidents happen because they do not follow the proper precautions when handling a firearm. Take a gun safety course!! These are great for all gun owners and their families to take. Purchasing a firearm is a good investment, but make sure you understand the necessary safety precautions.

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