Consumer Information

First-Time Gun Buyer Questions

Man and owner choosing rifle and handgun in gun shop. Euqipment for hunters in weapon store, hunting and sport shooting hobby, security and selfdefence

So you’re going to exercise your Second Amendment rights? Good for you!

You’re joining a huge list of Americans who choose to empower themselves with the best tools available.

However, one problem you might be having right now is trying to decide which gun to buy.

There are literally millions of different types of firearms available.

You may feel like it would take a lifetime of study to understand all the intricacies of the firearms industry, which would make an informed buying decision almost impossible.

Lucky for you, it really isn’t that hard to narrow your search.

We’ll try to clear up a few pitfalls and highlight some of the questions you should ask yourself before buying any firearm.

What Is the Gun for?

This is by far the most important question you can ask. This will help define what caliber the gun will be, as well as the size and construction.

If you just say home defense, it may not narrow the field as much as you think.

You can use just about any firearm for home defense, although some work better than others.

Pump-action 12-gauge shotguns are a popular choice. They’re effective, easy to operate and inexpensive.

However, don’t believe the myths that you don’t have to aim. Shotguns don’t pattern as wide as most people think — especially at close range.

A large-caliber handgun, such as a .40 S&W is also a perfectly valid choice.

They’re easy to maneuver down narrow hallways and they get the job done.

A semi-automatic carbine is also a solid choice. They’re light, easy to operate and hold a large amount of ammo while firing powerful projectiles.

Unfortunately, some of them can be very expensive and there are magazine restrictions in some states.

For home defense, stay away from bolt-actions, single-shots or double-barreled shotguns. The rate of fire and capacity is usually too low.

As with any gun, make sure you know what you’re shooting at, as well as what’s behind your target.

Even small-caliber firearms can shoot straight through several layers of sheetrock.

Do I Have a Place to Store It?

Always store your firearms in a safe place — ideally, in a gun safe. I keep all my firearms in a quality safe I inherited.

It’s bolted to the frame of the house and it isn’t going anywhere.

Given enough time and effort, crooks can move anything, but I like to make it as hard as possible.

Next to the bed, I have a quick-release safe that opens to a simple code.

Make sure punching in that code is second nature. Your dexterity will be non-existent in a high-stress situation.

The quick-release safe won’t stop a determined burglar, but it will keep tiny unwanted hands away, which is far more important to me than having it stolen.

gun safe with guns inside

What Is My Budget?

Unfortunately, guns are not free or inexpensive. A basic handgun starts around $400 and goes way up from there.

You have the option to buy used, and it usually isn’t a bad choice.

However, buying a used gun is like buying anything else second-hand, you never know how the previous owner treated it.

Quality guns tend to hold their value. A used GLOCK or Smith & Wesson M&P will fetch a price fairly close to the MSRP.

You may get lucky and find a seller who is trying to pay his rent. In cases like these, you can get amazing deals on some real gems.

However, you’re a first-time gun buyer I highly recommend buying a new-in-the-box name-brand gun.

There are plenty of junky, unreliable firearms floating around the used market and you don’t want to waste your money.

Extra Gun Buyer Info

You didn’t think you were just going to buy a gun and throw it in storage did you? Practice makes perfect, and you should practice often.

In doing so, your new fancy gun is going to get filthy. Get a basic cleaning kit.

A gummed-up firearm could jam when you need it most, and that isn’t going to do anybody any good.

While you at it, grab some eye and ear protection. Gun ranges won’t allow you to shoot without them, so you’re going to need them anyway.

Trust me, you’ll thank yourself after the first time you hear a handgun at an indoor range.

I hope we’ve taken away some of the mystery of gun shopping. However, do yourself a favor and do your own research.

There are tons of amazing firearms out there. Hopefully, you’ll be the proud owner of more than one of them.

Want to learn more about finding the right gun for you? Read these related articles for the first-time gun buyer:

Do you have any first-time gun buyer questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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 (10)

  1. If you are purchasing a gun for the first time it is good to understand the purpose of the firearm. Whether it is hunting or protection your home, know why you are buying one and follow the proper safety precautions with that firearm. Having a safe place to store your firearm is very important. This can keep everyone safe and you know where your firearm is at all times. I like to make sure that I lock mine away and I am the only one that can get to it.

  2. One of my 1st questions for new buyers is their purpose, it’s a necessity! But, more than that, if they decide on a pistol, my biggest piece of advice is: shoot as many different kinds of pistols as you can! Semi-auto, revolver, high caliber, low caliber… Every person has their own feel for a given firearm. Some people are more recoil sensitive than others. Others have small/ odd shaped hands (I love 1911 in .45, but most don’t fit my hands comfortably enough for me to invest in one) that may not like the popular pistols out there! Everything depends on the individual and they need as much exposure and experience as they can get to help make the right investment for them.

  3. I agree completely with Thom. My sister-in-law recently completed her CCW course and was asking what gun she should buy. I advised her to go to a local gun range that offered rental services and try several different makes and caliber’s. She said there were a few guns she knew by “feel” that they would not work for her. Others, she had to shoot first. She finally decided on a Walther .380 for her purchase and conceal carry gun. I know what I like and what I prefer but that’s not going to work for somebody else, they have to try it first.

  4. There are several more considerations when buying your first firearm. Of course, what is your budget, rural or urban, who is potentially the threat, and your ‘area of influence’ are all questions that need answers. I help walk you through in more detail in ‘The best gun for self defense’ on YouTube here:

  5. The best advice I can offer for anyone considering purchasing their first handgun is to talk with an experienced firearms instructor. They are almost always willing to assist someone in this position with good, sound advice. Also, if there is a range that offers handgun rentals, once you have narrowed the choice down to your top three, see if you can rent those handguns and shoot them. This will really help you decide which one is right for you. Guns have a very personal “feel” to them and most people will recognize a good “feel” when they grip the gun and are able to fire it well. I also highly recommend taking a firearms course from a cetified firearms instructor. Any range should have a list of instructors that you could contact for such a course.

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