Consumer Information

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of First-Time Gun Buyers

close-up photo of men using and inspecting gun in store. salesman explain how to use it, customer hold it in hands

Gun sales have been on the rise for the past year with no signs of slowing down. The uncertainty left behind by the pandemic is one of the main reasons for the surge, with buyers not only hoarding food and essential items but also placing protection as their number one priority. According to FBI data, first-time gun buyers made up more than one-fifth of Americans, and background checks in March 2020 represented a 41% increase compared to the previous year. In sum, the industry experienced over 8.4 million first-time gun buyers by the end of the year.

Almost half of the first-time gun buyers were women and minorities — challenging the stereotype of the white male gun owner. With ownership largely spreading across urban and suburban areas, this new demographic adds to the popularity of gun and firearm use for recreation and self-defense. These numbers help the industry grow, and while gun owners are still considered a minority, its increasing popularity protects our Second Amendment, our right to bear arms. 

However, being a first-time gun owner comes with an undeniably large responsibility and, therefore, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s take a look at what this represents and how — if you’re a law-abiding citizen — you’ll contribute to responsible gun ownership. 

An assortment of pistols on a table

The Good

All new gun owners are experiencing the joy that current gun owners have known and felt the whole time, even before the civil unrest and protesting that the country has experienced. 

There’s a collective mentality of the “good guy with a gun” in any situation where people take personal safety into their own hands. Now, while opposing sides have tried to discredit the idea of this theoretical heroic figure, studies have been inconclusive and instead driven by personal beliefs without enough evidence that concealed carry is indeed linked to an increase in violent crimes.

Law-abiding citizens are responsible gun owners. As this number increases, organized crimes are limited and often reduced. This is due to the fact that groups inciting violence and crimes are threatened by the lack of safety and the guarantee that their operations will proceed unchallenged and unhindered by the populace. 

With more responsible gun owners with diverse backgrounds, the industry is paving the path towards safer and more acceptable recreational and personal safety practices. 

Man helping woman choose new gun

The Bad

Covid-19 brought the inevitable wave of fear — of the virus itself, food shortages, riots, and aggravated feelings of anxiety and uneasiness. With it, guns and ammo blew off the shelves, showing a significant spike in demand which produced many supply-chain issues. This shortage grew the general sense of frustration from new and existing gun customers.

There have been multiple conspiracy theories circulating addressing this shortage. However, they all fail to acknowledge the real problem at hand. On such an unprecedented scale, the massive increase in demand for firearms and ammo has forced companies and manufacturers to produce more handguns and supplies at a faster pace. This task requires a specific set of skills that not every staff is particularly trained in and therefore requires extra time to fully cover the market’s needs.

This shortage, however, represents both a challenge and opportunity for the industry, since it means that more citizens are showing interest in protecting the Second Amendment. With more responsible gun ownership, society is slowly taking away the taboo of owning a gun, which can be a polarizing and sensitive subject for many. 

Instructor assisting men aiming hand guns at firing range

The Ugly 

The responsibility of owning and handling a firearm lies in the training that comes with the purchase; it’s a package deal. A clear example of this is when people buy a motorcycle. They don’t do this without first knowing how to ride it or previously getting the proper training. Now the same happens when purchasing a firearm — you simply need to own up to the responsibility and get properly trained. A gun is a tool for defense or recreation that requires precaution. The training should also be shared with those around you who have access to it and can potentially handle it. Without this step, things can get ugly.

Citizens that are going out to purchase firearms are doing so as informed consumers. The new demographic shows mothers are looking to protect themselves and their families, and therefore are researching before the purchase. This is an opportunity to encourage even greater training, which at the end of the day, is part of being a responsible gun owner. 

Every new firearm owner adds another vote to help protect the Second Amendment. What was once a larger group of indecisive buyers now realizes that it is time to own a gun and ensure personal safety and protection.

Do you have any recommendations for new gun buyers? Let us know in the comment section.

Ryan Donahue is the Director of Brand Management at American Outdoor Brands. Having turned his passion for anything firearms-related and his pursuit for 3 Gun competition glory into a role with American Outdoor Brands, Ryan Donahue is the model for the old saying, “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.” He oversees many brands including CaldwellFrankford Arsenal, and Smith & Wesson accessories as the Director of Brand Management. Previously, he worked for over a decade in the Motion Picture Industry as a Director of Production. Ryan holds several patents for digital movie technology and is proud to have worked on alternate presentations for major Hollywood films such as: The Matrix Reloaded 2003, Casino Royale 2006, and Iron Man 2008.

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 (14)

  1. I’ll echo the advice of many others namely: new gun owners must take lessons from a reputable certified trainer,take available courses on line from reputable associations like NRA, practice at least monthly preferably with another experienced shooter. I also recommend joining a club that conducts regular events and competitions. The best training I have had is with a local affiliate of Practical Shooters. which hole local and national competitions. All are supervised with certified Range Officers focused on handling a gun safely in a variety of dynamic situations!!

  2. Many comments on getting training are to the point. The vast majority of new gun owners get little to no training before or after buying a gun. I am talking about ‘training’ not practice. A new gun owner, particularly with a concealed carry permit, without training by a true professional firearms instructor put themselves and those around them at greater risk than going unarmed. Even if you’ve been around guns all your life if handguns are new to you, you need a good instructor. I don’t want you anywhere around me if you’re not competent with your firearm. You’re no less dead if shot by an incompetent good guy than if shot by a bad guy. Don’t be a statistic for the anti-gunners.

  3. The best news is that I have personally witnessed countless times, new gun owners become “aware” of the freedoms they have and the loss if they aren’t “aware”.

    As such the owning of a gun leads a person to value their freedoms greater than they did before. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.

    I myself didn’t think about the Constitution to any severe degree 25 yrs ago. The owning of firearms however set me on the path of being aware and appreciative of my freedoms. All of them, not just the 2nd. It has made me a patriot and a lover of the USA and the constructs of this country.

    I am not alone. Many can tell the same story. As free Americans, the more people that are personally involved in protecting freedom, the better.

    So many have given and suffered for us to be free. We owe it to them and ourselves to maintain the greatest country that ever was and ever will be.

    God bless America.

  4. Just ask yourself if anyones life is worth the price of a bullet, $1.00. Then think about it, if someone stole your wallet, perhaps it would be fair to take theirs, but is it fair to kill them over it? Why shoot at a vital spot anyway? Realize a gun is a pound or more and carrying that around is going to get a bit heavier than you like. Realize you have to protect your gun and your territory, which is a bit of responsibility, and by simply taking this protective response, you drastically lower your potential victimization status, because most attackers seek the week, because they are weak inside themselves. What are you going to do if they have a gun too? Realize the government allows scammers to exist, and there are many online gun stores that will offer a super cheap deal, and then give you an excuse why they are no longer taking credit cards, and will use Zelle or some such payment method, and you will never get your gun, and Zelle and the others, except PayPal, have zero guarantees. They only guarantee your money will go away instantly. So when buying online do a WhoIs.com lookup and see if the company is registered in the USA or someplace like Panama. Do another search for Scam (company), and you will find out pretty fast what the story is. Scam companies pull up on the top of the search list when you want to search for Discount + Guns. Big retailers like Cheaper Than Dirt are never going to cheat you and still have a good price compared to walking into a store, plus they accept credit cards online, so your card will protect you ultimately. Take an NRA safety class, such as gun safety, where you don’t shoot any guns, however you get to unload dummy cartridges out of 15 types of guns, so you can make a gun safe. Bond Arms makes their guns in America and are some of the safest guns out there, I love mine.

  5. As an CRSO and instructor for various groups, I have to agree and disagree on some prior comments.

    A “snubnose revolver” is absolutely the worst advice, as most gun shops will sell you a J-Frame S&W likely a “Ladysmith” with horrible trigger pull and impossibly small grips. IF the advice was for a 4 inch K-frame (or similarly sized from another maker) I might say OK.

    Right now, the three hottest firearms in our Women’s Classes are the S&W M&P Shield .380 EZ, the SIG P365, and a tie between the Glock 42/43 and Ruger LC9/SR9C.
    If not first-time shooters, these women fit the profile of: “I bought* this, shot it once with my *** and haven’t touched it since.”

    Grump 49 nailed it.
    “Mandatory training” in certain very restrictive states is firearm safety only. The NRA’s “Home Firearm Responsibility” with zero rounds fired.

    Some states have a mandatory range time, occasionally it is incredibly inconsequential – and yet – students leave with a certificate and believe it’s a one-and-done. “I fired FIVE SHOTS! Hit the paper twice. The gun shop guy said I’m a natural.”

    Any and all offers of more training is met with “why” or “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!!!”

    Hey, I’m here to Well Regulate you in the 1792 sense, not the 1992 sense. Trained to arms, not the confiscation of arms.

    * or were given

  6. My best suggestion for a first-time gun buyer is to get training BEFORE the purchase, ideally at a location with rental / training weapons available. At a minimum, this makes the individual a more intelligent consumer. At a maximum, they may have had the opportunity during training to familiarize themselves with various options and approach the purchase with knowledge of what works for them.

  7. I recommend, whenever possible, renting a gun you think you might like at your gun range, travel for this if possible. It everyone can handle all guns/calibers. Best to know before you buy. Then the obvious training, which can normally be obtained at the same gun range.
    Lastly, practice, practice, practice. Once a year at a absolute bare minimum, monthly preferred. Also, don’t forget cleaning supplies and safety gear (eyes, ears, lock/safe). You don’t want your firearm to fail because you didn’t clean it properly.
    Welcome to a exclusive club, the legal gun owner club.

  8. For new firearm owners, who want to focus on self-defense situations rather than competition or more advanced training, IMHO a simple revolver is the best start for self defense.

    A solid 4″ .357 is a great option. It’s simple, easy to use, reliable, easy to maintain and one can shoot lighter .38 loads (or .38 +P, if desired). A wheel gun doesn’t have the capacity nor the ability to reload like a semi-auto. However, for simplicity and reliability and minimal training requirements, it’s what I recommend to my friends who are solely focused on their home’s self-defense. Colt, Ruger, S&W and others make excellent, no fuss revolvers.

    Just my opinion.

  9. I am retired from law enforcement. When someone stated that they were thinking about buying a gun and wanted my opinion of which one they should buy. I would first ask them “Are you prepared to take someone’s life to protect yourself or your family?” If they said no, I would tell them not to buy a gun just get some pepper spray. If the attacker sees that you are afraid to shoot, they will just take you gun from you and use it on you or worse.

    If they said yes, I would suggest that they start out with a snubnosed revolver. It is the most foolproof weapon around. Pistols can and will fail to cycle if not held firmly, revolvers will fire when the trigger is pulled no matter how you hold it. After they have had enough practice shooting at a range then they could transition to a pistol if they choose.

    From my experience, most first-time gun buyers do not practice enough or at all.

  10. I think it’s great that more people are getting into firearms. Safe handling and storage isn’t hard It becomes second nature after a while
    As a gun owner for more than 40 years
    Im always willing to help a new gun owner if they ask
    if you’re a long time gun owner it’s also in your own self interest to not have more gun accidents because anti gun organizations will use that against the 2 amendment

  11. I’m an RSO at a local range while safety for all is job one.
    Part of our job is guiding new shooter’s with some proper basic technique then recommending obtaining training.
    Alot of well meaning boyfriends and friends provide improper advice to new shooter’s.
    Bottom line proper training maters, new shooter’s should get it. Experienced shooter’s should revisit it periodically.

  12. So, I have a question. If the government is not supposed to keep records of background checks, how do they know how many checks indicate first time buyers?

  13. Too many first time gun owners either don’t know about or don’t want to get training. Years ago, even the Boy Scouts and the FFA had gun safety programs, Now, too folks get their “safety training” from watching video games or TV. Add the push of closing gun ranges in many areas, we are on the verge of numerous gun accidents that will be a plus for the gun banners. Gun stores should be pushing for first time gun owners to get proper training.

  14. I would not be surprised if firearms accidents increase significantly with so many new owners. It’s unlikely that many will seek significant training or practice enough to become truly proficient. Unfortunately, that puts them and others around them in danger.

    Gun clubs should think seriously about an outreach to new owners. Good for club membership, good for the populace as a whole.

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