How-To

Guns for Beginners: Choosing a Firearm

Gun choices

In light of recent global events, more people than ever are considering arming themselves for self-defense. From 2011 to 2013, the CDC reports that 3,380 Americans died from terrorists attacks on U.S. soil. That number is obviously higher today.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has the numbers to prove it…

On Friday, November 27, 2015, NICS processed nearly 200,000 background checks—the highest number on record for a single day. This does not tell us how many previous or new firearms owners purchased guns, but it is a sign that more guns are in the hands of Americans—some of them have to be first. Firearm retailers and dealers are also seeing an increase in firearms sales as well as a rush in ammo purchases.

For those who are considering their first firearm, the Shooter’s Log has plenty of articles geared to help you make the first move—choosing to become a gun owner. From picking the right gun to training, safety, gear, shooting for the first time and even the basics in concealed carry, there are plenty of articles to guide you through the process.

This new series titled “Guns for Beginners,” will answer all of your questions and then some as a new shooter and for those considering becoming a gun owner for the first time.

We’ll start with how to choose the right firearm for you:

First-Time Gun Buyer Questions

Gun choices
There are so many different types of firearms. How do you narrow it down?

The first step: This article asks the initial questions you should consider before purchasing a firearm. It will help narrow your search between pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns, as well as addressing budget concerns and storage.

On the Fence About Buying Your First Gun?

This article goes into more detail about the types of firearms available, what they are best used for, safety and storage concerns. After reading these first two basic articles, you should be well on you way to making an informed decision.

I Want a Gun – Where Do I Start

So, you have it narrowed down to which type of firearm you want to buy. The next step is deciding caliber. This article is a great introduction to the different self-defense calibers in handguns.

Choosing a Handgun Caliber

After the basics of handgun calibers, learn more about the ones that sound appealing to you. This article discusses finding the most comfortable and affordable gun in the caliber that suits you best.

Armscor Family of Ammo
Some calibers are better than others for self-defense. Learn the difference to ensure you are making the right choice for your needs and skill set.

Handguns for First Time Gun Buyers

You now should have a basic understanding of the types of firearms and calibers available. That’s all well and great. However, even after narrowing that down, there is a wide variety—we’re talking hundreds if not thousands—of choices in certain calibers. This article discusses some tried and true firearms that have proven themselves reliable for years.

Gun Store Etiquette

Just like the Golden Rules of safe handling for firearm, there are a few unspoken “golden rules” when shopping for a gun in a gun store. Take this advice from real gun store clerks, workers and owners before heading out to your local gun shop to try out the guns that interest you. The ultimate goal for you and the shop is safety and a happy customer!

How to Shop for a Gun

Written by a woman for women, this article helps you narrow down the field before setting out for the gun store or Cheaper Than Dirt! To speed up the process, make it less intimidating and confusing, this article helps you decide where to concentrate your efforts—be it a handgun, shotgun, or rifle.

Buying a Gun: The Process

This article tells you what to expect after finding the gun you want to buy when you are purchasing from a Federal Firearms License dealer (FFL). Further, some states require an application, waiting period and even a license to purchase. Review the laws in your state in this article.

The Best Gun for a New Shooter: Semiautomatics vs. Revolvers

Many who have never fired a gun or only shot grandpa’s 12-gauge shotgun when they were younger are drawn to the revolver—especially women. The revolver is classic, ultra-reliable and easy to use. However, there are drawbacks to many of the smaller, lightweight revolvers. Before deciding a firearm based on aesthetics or something you think might be ‘easier,’ read the pros and cons of both a semiautomatic handgun and revolver in this post.

The Best of the Best: AR-15 for Beginners

Picture shows a woman holding a black AR-15 chambered for .458 SOCOM in front of steel target.
Don’t rule out the AR-15 if you are a beginner.

Most of the articles on this list are geared toward handgun ownership, however there is one gun that is more popular than most—the semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. This article highlights 10 of the best AR-15 articles written for the beginner to the AR platform, from functionality and maintenance to shooting it well.

New Year, New Gun: Handgun Owner Basics

Now that you have your gun, you will need to take care of it, clean it and shoot it. This article tells you what to do once you have taken your new gun home.

Come back to the Shooter’s Log every week to read more articles for the beginner shooter. Next week, we will talk about visiting the gun range and shooting your new gun for the first time. We will discuss your first time at the shooting range—including what to expect and what gear you’ll need to take with you.

Are you a new shooter? What questions do you have about picking out, cleaning, storing, and shooting a gun? Leave them 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 (28)

  1. It did catch my attention when you said that revolvers are easy to use and ultra-reliable, so women are drawn in using it. My daughter said that she wanted to buy a firearm and learn to use it. It’s her first time owning a gun, so it’s important for her to find a gun that’s user-friendly. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I agree, with the increasing violence in America, I think more and more people are wanting to learn how to protect themselves, including me. My wife and I are looking to get a fire are but are not sure where to start.

  3. I have submitted my application for a permit, I don’t know what I wanna get for my 1st Handgun.

    Smith & Wesson M&P 9MM (full sized), Glock 17/19, or HK VP9

    1. What do you want to hunt? Different calibers or configurations are more suitable for particular game. For instance, a .22 lr or .410 would be great for rabbits, but not for deer or bear. A .30-06 would be a great choice for just about any North American big game animal, but far too much gun for small game such as rabbits.

  4. Glad to hear some views about California.
    Would you know if it would be legal to drive to Arizona to purchase a Ruger SR-9 in .22 ? Not legal here in Cali.

  5. Checked the list this morning and they are not on the approved list. Also went to the Ruger and the only handguns they list as CA approved are all revolvers. Gun shops have told me they can not get them because they are not approved. The only ones permitted are those already in the state.

    If you can cite something official which contradicts this, I would appreciate you passing it along.

  6. Unfortunately, Rugers, like the Mark series, which is what I wanted, are banned in California. In the end, I settled for a .22 cal conversion for my .45 (and for my AR).

    1. You need to move, Dude. Get out of there before they throw you in jail for simply wanting to be able to defend yourself form all the welfare gang bangers they support.

  7. That also depends on how well you know your dealer. Most of my business is with one main gun shop. I can talk to them, tell them my intent, and they can point me in the right direction. It helps that they are well versed in the rules and regulations of BATF and my state (and considering I live in the Progressive Peoples Republik of California, it’s a marvel).

    1. As I said . . . move out of there. Otherwise you will always be at the mercy of the Liberal slime that runs that place.

    1. Agree completely. Ruger 22s are among the very best guns out there for training a new shooter. We own both a Ruger target .22 and a 10-22. My wife always warms up with at least four nags through our Ruger 22 pistol before getting her Beretta out.

  8. When I’m teaching a new shooter I start out with a 6-9 shot double/single action,exposed hammer 22lr revolver.
    I load the pistol with live and fired cases randomly placed. This shows me and them a lot about jerking,follow through,safe gun handling,failure to fire action,reloading firearm, dominant eye/hand aiming. Surprising how many people are really dominant hand/eye other than the one they were razed as!
    Wife was raised right handed. Se shot ok, a little better than average – but when I started teaching how to really shoot-come to find out watching her aim I realized she was LEFT HANDED! Kinda sorry I did that-she shoots better than me-very humbling(expert class shooter). If I had the money she’d be on the circuit. Thankfully this only pertains to hand guns,any caliber-she prefers her Sig 239 40 S&W very short barrel; some rifles(300aac blk & 338Lapua mag) and NO shot guns-yet! Will start her with 410-20-12 same random loading. This is very important with shot guns- pump to start then autos.
    Then to larger calibers same type of gun- as revolver SA/DA-exposed hammer(too many accidental discharges-look up what the cops are having) same random loading and other drills-cycle,drop mag reload. I try to find their comfort range in larger calibers and pistol size.
    I seldom get into magnum calibers. Simple reason- if they are afraid of it they won’t shoot it, even in life threatening situations. Two people I know both ex military med/lg persons bought 357 S&W Air weight Titanium. After shooting 2 times both said they would throw it at the bad gun,run like hell. It hurt so much and the second shot was off so far that they figured they’d be way down range and the bad guy would NOT fire it a second time!
    Been doing this for 50+ years.
    Once taught a best friend how to shoot and drink beer in HS(preachers kid), well he started teaching town cops how to shoot. Opened gun store(with another friend whom I bestowed same knowledge of before mentioned of life’s 2 necessities) ,sold ammo & guns and teaching other town cops. Went on to become one of AZ’s top cops! Not even a case of beer or thank you so much!
    John

  9. With respect I disagree. I fully agree with Dave W. Hats off to his grandpa. Starting a kid off with a low power pellet gun and teaching him the 10 commandments, gun safety and marksmanship is how I started off and how our kids off. Moving up to a .22 rifle when the time right, and than up to handguns much later on when the kid ready if that is what the parents decide. My kids have also done the same with their kids (my grandkids). again no criticism or disrespect here just a different opinion.

  10. As a long time FFL and smith, I suggest the buyer be careful when at a dealer saying you are “buying the firearm for someone else”. I hear it all the time. The article suggests this is legal. As long as the someone else is filling out that 4473, he or she is fine, doesn’t matter who pays. But if you say you are buying it for your son or spouse or someone else, but you are the one filling out the 4473, some FFL’s may or may not sell the weapon to you. This is why. One of the first questions on the 4473 is ‘are you buying the firearm for yourself’. If you check YES you are fine. If you check off NO, you might get flagged. I’ll give you an example. Female friend of the columbine shooters buys one of them a shotgun because he is under age. She even told the dealer what she was doing but he sold her the shotgun anyway. He lost his FFL and got fined and could have gone to jail. In court she testified she said that, but he denied hearing it. He was real lucky. Just read the questions on the 4473 and you will realize why that first question is so important. If you are buying that .22 for your son this Xmas who is 12, fine, just don’t say so. If you say, “well I might let him shoot it one day which is why he is checking it out”, you are good to go. Just a word to the wise.

    1. This is excellent advice. You cannot legally buy a gun for someone else. If you say you are you will get flagged.

  11. I find myself as a Connecticut resident compelled to apply for and in fact have now obtained a State of Connecticut permit to carry simply to buy ammunition for any firearm as a resident of my state. I am sure this compulsion is present in the general shooting population and wonder how many like myself would never consider carrying a hand gun except for this compulsion. Interestingly I find myself and I am sure others with me nudged even pushed toward that end. With the testing event during the shooting phase of the exam for the permi It dawned on me that with the fact of carrying there is a sure and definite responsibility of proficiency and competence. This leads me to a first hand gun choice not just for me but for my children that have asked to be introduced to the shooting sports as well as my fiancee. None of them possess the physical power to handle higher caliber handguns that would be my choice.

    The 22LR 45auto combo with the interchangeable action caught my eye. Does anyone out there have real experience with this firearm and what do the more experienced shooters out there think of the choice?

    Just as a statement of gun rights in my state had the CT legislature asked for gun owners and company’s at the time of Sandy Hook to contribute to stronger security arrangements at schools the wallets of almost all gun owners would have flew open without blinking at the cost. It being an honor to contribute toward that safety in these times. I am ashamed of the condescending approach of the members of the CT legislature towards all of us who would be so willing to make that contribution and who are now left with the sense of a boot on our face with tears in our eyes shared by the rest of our residents. The respect quotient in our state and federal government towards individuals must change or real liberty will die the death of a thousand cuts and what honor will anyone be left in possession of to share.

    1. As long as people refuse to see the real reason for their plight and continue to re-elect the same “progressive” liberal idiots time after time then in my mind they forfeit their right to bitch and moan every time another anti-gun law is passed. Are there any firearm related manufacturers left in Ct? Do they still h?old elections there

    2. Liberal here and I love to shoot. I hate when any person takes a group of people and says they are for or against guns based solely on their political leaning. There are so many other issues that determine that.

      Jason

  12. You said 3,380 Americans died from terrorist attacks between 2011 and 2013. That number seems a wee bit high to me. Maybe between 2001 and 2013…..

  13. I was 10 when my grandfather started me out with a BB rifle and a lot of safety training. When he figured I was ready, he moved me up to a Benjamin pump pellet rifle. Later it was on to .22 cal rifles. Next came the change to handguns beginning with a Colt .38 cal revolver. The last one was a .357 cal Blackhawk.

    Then I was off to the military where I met many who had never handled a firearm. Safety was not automatic with them even with initial training. Nor was target acquisition. Some of them were immediately turned off by the sound and recoil.

    For someone new to firearms, I would suggest beginning with a .22 cal rifle or pistol, and move up from there.

  14. IF one is recommending a caliber for a beginning shooter of ANY age, it is sheer nonsense to recommend anything other than 22LR! Even with the “shortage” of 22 ammo, it is still a better first choice. Has been since 1887, not likely to EVER change!

    1. @AL L

      Agree completely.

      In fact, every time we go to the range (which is several times a month) the first thing my wife shoots is our Ruger .22 pistol, just to warm up. And she is an experienced shooter. And there really is no shortage of .22. Yeah, the price is a bit up there, but we have plenty to shoot. You just have to shop around.

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