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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Buying My First Gun

AR-15 and Handgun on range bench

Everyone has an opinion on guns, and they often conflict. Even so, there are more than a few things we can agree on.

One is that any purchase worth making is only worth making when you’re fully informed.

So, what do most gun owners wish they knew before they bought their first gun?

Here are five questions I wish I’d asked before I made my first purchase all those years ago.

1. Can You Pull the Trigger?

The biggest challenge that any first-time gun owner will face is something you hope you never have to experience.

You need to know whether or not you’re capable of using it.

The goal, ultimately, depends on the type of gun you purchase and what you’re planning to use it for, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

But you need to know whether or not you’re capable of pulling the trigger.

A good rule of thumb is to never point your gun at something you don’t want to destroy.

If you’re faced with the prospect of having to defend yourself, can you do it?

If you reach a point where you’re looking to purchase a gun, you need the answer to that question.

handgun with hand on bench first gun

2. What Are You Using It For?

Next, you need to take a closer look at the kind of gun you want and what you’re planning to use it for.

Handguns are generally considered the best choice for self-defense and everyday carrying, but they aren’t the sort of thing you’re going to take on a hunting trip.

Shotguns toe the line between home defense and hunting, and rifles are primarily used for hunting.

Beyond that, you start getting into semi-automatic rifles.

Some people use them for hunting, but there are some states where it is illegal to hunt with semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, so make sure you double-check with state and local fish and wildlife officials before you invest in a  semi-auto rifle for your next hunting trip.

3. What Do You Need vs. What Can You Buy

Searching the internet for information on what to look for in your first gun can be overwhelming.

There are so many options out there, and every website or seller you look at will tell you that you absolutely need “this” gun or “that” accessory to be a smart and savvy gun owner.

It’s easy to empty your bank account trying to keep up with everything they say you “need.”

Start by answering the first two questions.

Figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a gun and buy only what you need — the gun itself, your ammunition, and the cost of any classes or permits necessary to own a firearm in your state.

If you decide you want to turn a single firearm into a collection in the future, that’s entirely up to you.

But instead of emptying your wallet at the beginning, start with one option and work your way up.

rifle with scope on soft case

4. Can You Test It First?

Buying the perfect gun isn’t as easy as walking into a department store and trying on a pair of jeans.

Depending on where you purchase your first gun, you may have the option to “try before you buy” to find the best option.

This is usually only an option for retailers attached to a shooting range, but it is often available in these settings, so make sure you’re asking what your options are.

If you aren’t buying at a shooting range, consider talking to your friends who already own guns.

They may be willing to let you try out their guns, as long as you’re willing to supply your own ammo.

5. Can You Keep It Safe?

Finally, before you bring home your first firearm, you need to be able to keep it safe.

That can mean anything from investing in a locked gun safe to buying trigger locks and storing the guns away from the ammunition.

The exact requirements will vary from state to state, so make sure you’re reading up on local regulations regarding gun storage.

This isn’t just important to keep you compliant with regulations.

It can also be a literal lifesaver if you have kids or anyone in the household doesn’t know how to use a firearm safely.

Don’t leave your guns unattended. Make sure they’re secure when not in use.

1911 muzzle

Conclusion: Buying Your First Gun

Buying your first gun can be the start of an entertaining, if expensive, hobby. But it’s not something we suggest approaching lightly.

Instead of jumping feet-first into the deep end, do your research and be sure you’re purchasing the right firearm and for the right reasons.

You don’t need a semi-automatic rifle for everyday carry and you don’t need a .50-caliber handgun to protect your home.

Be smart about your purchases and make sure you’re storing them safely.

What questions do you wish you asked before buying your first gun? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Oscar Collins

Oscar Collins is the managing editor at Modded where he writes about gear, the outdoors, survivalism and more. Whether you're interested in ice fishing, building a rooftop tent or the best hiking trails, Oscar has you covered. Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates!
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 (8)

  1. Are you physically able to operate the controls?
    If you can’t pull back the slide, then you can’t load the magazine…look for guns like the EZ line from Ruger that are designed for people with less body/hand strength to operate or go with a revolver.

  2. Great article but you left out one HUGE item; most shooting ranges have guns you can rent. That is what I tell people that are new to guns and ask “what should I get?” By renting they can determine what works best for them; revolver, semi-auto, 38, 44, 9mm, 45, etc. Also, most ranges offer safety and handling training sometimes for free.
    In response to BS FLAGG’s comment, I agree, a locked up unloaded gun is useless for home defense. There are many quick access lock boxes on the market that meet most gun lock-up regulations.

  3. I wish I’d known that 30 years later I’d have 3 dozen guns and $1000’s tied up in reloading equipment. Not that it would have made any difference…

  4. I wish I knew how much recoil there was in that little .380 Auto pocket pistol.
    The best part of owning it was that other at the range would let my try theirs.
    Who would have thought that a 1911 .45 or a Taurus Judge would be easier on the arthritis than a little 380 Auto pocket pistol?
    I sold that little .380 Auto pocket pistol.

  5. If your buying a gun for home defense it ill be of no value locked in a safe or with a trigger lock on it. If that’s your plan, I would suggest you don’t buy the gun in the first place. Not having a gun for self defense is the same thing as having one but keeping it locked up. Save the money and buy a scary looking mask.

  6. I’m going to quibble with point 5. While you may have state or local regulations to contend with, if your gun is for home defense, keeping locked up will NOT help you in time of crises. When your front door crashes open or you awake to see a shadowy figure flitting through your room, you will NOT be able to quickly or easily get to a locked storage, much less have the presence of mind to quickly open it.

    To be of use for home defense you gun has to be readily at hand. If you need concealment, there are a variety of products on the market such as fake books, clocks with a drop front, etc. for this. And of course the bedside table and under the bed work pretty well too. But only if they’re loaded. Guns generally make poor clubs.

    As for children or others who might be curious, education is the means to safety, not secrecy. I began teaching my kids by the time they were school age about guns. It’s easy to talk and teach when you’re cleaning up after the range. They’re naturally curious and want to know what you’re doing. They knew about checking the chamber and not pointing at what they don’t what to harm very quickly. And knew how strip and clean too!

    None of this is to say that you shouldn’t take precautions to prevent theft should they come when you’re not home. A good safe, preferably concealed, is a worthwhile investment. And those conceal in plain site methods? They work too, burglars aren’t known to steal books.

  7. what will the firearm cycle,does it[physically]fit you,can you use it’s existing sights,are extra parts/ammo/holsters readily available?,how weather proof is it?

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