Concealed Carry

Helping Someone Buy Their First Gun

Man helping woman choose new gun

Most of us have friends who are not nearly as gun savvy as we are. Some of them have friends who (perish the thought) don’t even own a gun.

How can we as the subject matter expert, help these people come into the fold and buy an appropriate choice for their needs?

The simple answer is be quiet and listen to their needs/desire for their first gun.

Ask pertinent questions regarding how they came to recognize the desire/need for themselves, and what factored into them deciding to join the gun community.

By starting the conversation by listening, you will learn a lot. You may learn they have false ideas.

They may have done great research. But you will certainly learn a lot more about their motivation, which is likely significantly different than yours.

Once you know the why, then next thing is to explore the options they have considered.

I will look at two common reasons for buying a first gun: buying for concealed carry and buying for home defense.

Buying for Concealed Carry

Many people are looking at the world around them and figuring out that with defund the police, stand-down orders and antifa violence, they are the only ones they can really count on in an emergency.

It is quite common for people with this new revelation to want a concealed-carry gun.

That is far from a bad choice, but how can we help them find the correct option?

The worst thing we can do is take out our carry gun and justify our purchase by telling them to buy what we have.

The next worst thing would be saying, most police use a GLOCK 17 or 22, so that is what you need too.

Some people are revolver people. Others like semi-autos.

Neither camp is right or wrong, it is a matter of personal preference and using different keys to open the same lock. 

I have 20 years of concealed carry experience and I routinely carry a full-sized M&P 9mm pistol, two spare magazines and a backup gun.

I carried a GLOCK 17 for years and it worked well, but I figure out the blocky nature of the GLOCK grip caused me to reposition my hands between shots.

The rounded ergonomics of the M&P eliminated that.

For the new shooter, it will be much simpler having someone explain some of the why’s of comfort and recoil control as they sample various platforms.

They can let their hands tell them what might work for them and more importantly what doesn’t.

A really good choice would be to learn about their shooting experience.

Find out how they want to carry the concealed gun, then help them to figure out what works for their experience, strength, hand size and recoil tolerance.

The simplest way to do this is to take them to a gun store to test hand fit as well as form-factor for concealment.

Once this first step is done, help them to test-fire the options that seem to work well at the gun store.

Sending three to five rounds downrange will quickly eliminate the poor ergonomic choices and can help determine their effective accuracy with that gun.

handgun in hand in holster

Buying for Home Defense

For many people, the carry choice also works as their home-defense gun.

But, for those who do not plan on carrying, it opens up lots of additional possibilities.

A GLOCK 43-sized gun might be the carry choice due to ease of concealment. That isn’t a concern with a bedside or nightstand gun.

A Smith and Wesson Longslide is just as comfortable sitting in a drawer as a GLOCK 43.

In addition, some people choose an AR or a shotgun as their home-defense option. There are pros and cons of any choice. 

My personal opinion is the deafening sound of an AR being discharged inside the house is not worth the gain and there is also a huge overpenetration issue to consider.

That being said, I have a suppressed AR pistol (subsonic .300 Blackout) as a bedside gun.

For me, an AR in a pistol caliber or some of the subsonic options (.300 Blackout or .458 SOCOM) makes more sense than 5.56 NATO.

It is also partly a function of if you live in a high-rise condo or in a two-story single-family home on 200 acres.

The condo is much less AR (5.56) friendly, in that thin walls may put neighbors at risk.

The other side is, almost anyone stronger than a six-year-old girl can successfully handle an AR.

The shotgun option is much more complicated. I would strongly suggest a tactical (+/- 18”) barrel as they are much less cumbersome.

Then, the decision of caliber needs to be decided.

If the gun is to be used by all members of the family, 12-gauge might not be the best choice, especially a pump gun.

In my opinion, 16-gauge and 28-gauge are completely out. Load selection is poor and tends to be very expensive compared to 12-gauge or 20-gauge.

The 20-gauge is a very useful choice when people of varied sizes and skills may need to use it.

The hitting power is still quite strong and in non-youth models, the weight of the shotgun greatly offsets recoil.

The barrel also needs to be on the shorter end here, as a 24” barrel makes for difficult use in the tight confines of a home.

But the biggest issue with any choice in shotguns will be making sure all users can handle the ergonomics of the gun and recoil of the shells.

There are .410 Bore choices as well. If that is all the recoil someone can handle, it can be a useful choice.

That being said, it has a lot less hitting power than 20-gauge. It has all the size disadvantages of the larger choices with fairly anemic stopping power.

I would almost suggest that a .410 revolver (Taurus or Smith and Wesson) might be the better choice if .410 is the chosen load.

With these, you get a smaller platform to wield and very similar hitting power compared to the longer barreled options.

You also have the flexibility of choosing .45 Colt loads as well. 

woman looking at new handgun at counter

My First Gun

My first gun purchase was a GLOCK 17. I bought it because I was not planning to carry (I was not able to due to age).

It was a home-defense and target-shooting option. Considering those desires, it was a fair choice.

If I had been planning on using it for carry purposes, it would have been poor for me at the time.

Later, as I became involved in the daily carry of a gun, I chose much smaller choices.

As I matured and decided I would work to make a large gun practical, I came to realize (for me) carrying a full-sized pistol was not difficult or awkward.

That evolution took several years and several gun choices before I stepped up to full-sized carry.

The good news is, the smaller options work very well as my BUG.

What was your first gun? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
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. After first discussing the pros and cons of different types of guns, one bit of advice I always give a person is for them to go to a commercial range that rents guns, and try several before you buy anything. Try different calibers and different actions (revolver, single action semi-auto, striker fired semi-auto, SA/DA semi-auto) to make sure you are comfortable with it.

  2. It’s always important to guide the conversation to what the main goal of this particular gun purchase. A big role is to educate people and guide them properly. The person’s shooting experience matters greatly. I have found it difficult for most first time shooters to learn on compact/subcompact handguns. In some cases it might be best for those people to buy a full size or get proficient with shooting fundamentals before purchasing in the compact/subcompact family. There’s no point I buying a weapon that the person ends up having no confidence in their ability to use effectively.

  3. Being a 45 guy my first pistol was a Glock 21 to carry on patrol. Carried the Glock 21 while in uniform and a 1911 in plainclothes assignments. Fast forward 20+ years, I became a firearms instructor and after really learning about ballistics, the evolution of modern ammo, and tactical shooting, I recently downsized to the Glock 17 for patrol and 43X for off duty carry. Greater capacity, lower recoil, and same performance with well placed shots. I get asked about “first guns” alot and this article is spot on. I always try and get enough information about the why and the need before making a recommendation.

  4. Italian made Beretta M9 with an 18 round Mec-Gar magazine. It is combat proven, reliable, carries sufficient ammo in one magazine, breaks down and cleans easily, and can be customized if that’s what your in to. And yes, it is a larger frame handgun for an EDC. However, even if it doesn’t work for others, it’s a perfect choice for me. To each his own.

  5. A “first handgun” in “normal” times would be a nice .22LR. It is important that IF you are to help someone, that you make sure that that handgun “fits” the new shooter. As a senior citizen, know that “racking” most full power pistols, and even many .380s, (blow back action), can be too hard. Likewise, a large male trying to shoot a “J” frame S&W with the smaller factory grips is a nightmare in the making.

    Don’t forget that the first time buyer also needs a cleaning kit! This can be as important as what gun they buy.

  6. My first gun was a Smith and Wesson model 59. Nowadays i like the M&P and I own every size from shield up to the full size with a 5″ barrel. I tell people 2 main pieces of advice on choosing a pistol. See how well it fits and feels comfortable in the hand, and how naturally it points. I like ranges that let you rent first but they rarely have as large of a rental selection as the do for sale. Then I say you must practice. It is a perishable skill.

  7. Well as an instructor, I always listen to what the person taking my class is looking for. After an NRA basic pistol course I usually let them shoot several of my guns. Someone invariably always ask me what my favorite gun is. I tell them it depends mainly on task. One noted I don’t own any striker fire pistols. I told him “I” don’t like them as being older it was not what became second nature to me growing up on 1911 style guns and could never get use to having something without a hammer. I tell them you don’t have that bias and there are several excellent pistols that I think will fit what you are looking for. Walther makes an excellent pistol, the PPQ M2. Nice trigger pull with good ergonomics and different back straps to improve that feel.
    Worse case was older couple whose wife was not strong enough to operate slide. Man wanted pistol and had to kind of show where a revolver would make more sense since it would be an at home gun for them both.
    Shot 45 1911 first and first one I bought S&W 586.

  8. After nearly 30 years of daily concealed carry, the ongoing quest to find the “perfect” carry gun, and the purchase of numerous firearms, I have come to the following conclusions: 1) there is no perfect carry gun (but the quest is entertaining); 2) the MOST IMPORTANT form factor is fit of gun to hand. This can be adjusted somewhat by changing grips/stocks. 3) The second most important factor is the weight of the gun, especially for concealed carry. Using excellent equipment, holsters, belts, etc. can help with this. And finally, the BEAR ARMS approach, as in Papa, Momma and Baby (note the clever 2A pun!). Simply put, I need at least two different sizes/weights of gun to meet all of my concealed carry needs. Three is even better.

  9. I would also add, if you have several different caliber and brands of guns, take the new person to the range and let them try the different guns. In an article a while back an author stated that finding a gun that fits the hand is not really important. That a person can learn to shoot it well. I partially disagree with that. Yes, with practice, they can learn to shoot well (lot’s of practice actually). But if they gun feels comfortable in they’re hands, that learning curve is a lot less. It also reduces some of the felt recoil, making possible to handle a larger caliber.

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