Gun Care

New Year, New Gun: Handgun Owner Basics

Black pistols behind the glass of a weapon store counter. Unusual view. Firearms, black pistols.

You did your research, rented plenty of guns at your local range, saved your money and finally made your first handgun purchase.

Now that you have it home, you might feel slightly lost as to what to do next.

There are several handgun owner basics that we will cover in this article.

The first thing you must do as a gun owner is to learn and follow the four basic rules of gun safety — not only at the gun range, but in your home, as well.

  1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  2. Do not point the muzzle (barrel) at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  4. Know your target and what is behind it.

After memorizing and following these rules at all times, it is now time to learn the ins and outs of your new gun and some handgun owner basics.

All new guns come with a manual.

Typically, the gun’s manual has the schematics of the gun, safety precautions, ammo suggestions, operation instructions, instructions on how to disassemble and reassemble, and instructions on how to clean it.

For example, the manual included with a Smith & Wesson M&P pistol says to clean the gun before firing it. Most experts agree.

two handgun and Ammunition which contain full bullet on old wood background


Most guns arrive from the factory coated with preservative oil.

During transportation to and from the factory to a retail store and while sitting in a gun case at the store, this oil can collect dust and particles in the gun’s barrel.

A dirty gun can cause your gun to malfunction, affect accuracy and reliability. Before shooting your new gun, it is best to clean all the oil off.

Using your gun’s manual, disassemble the new gun and give it a basic cleaning. Remove the oil and then apply a fine layer of lubrication.

To read a more in-depth article on gun cleaning, read Professionally Cleaning Your Firearm.

Some guns, especially those with tight tolerances, will seem a little stiff.

If you purchased a semi-automatic handgun, you can work the slide back and forth a few times to loosen things up a bit.

The trigger might be stiff, too. To get used to how your gun fires, buy some snap caps in the same caliber as your gun and practice shooting at home.

Remember rule number two and rule number four: do not point the barrel at anything you are not willing to destroy and know your target and what is behind it — even in the privacy of your own home.

Gunsmith cleaning gun rifle and pistol assemble dismantle maintenance with brush clean handgun owner basics

Function Test

After cleaning your new gun, now comes the fun part — shooting it!

With a few boxes of full metal jacket and at least one box of high-quality self-defense ammunition, you should put at least 200 to 500 rounds through your new pistol for a function test.

Your new gun should function reliably, however, a malfunction might occur.

This could be for a number of reasons — shooter error, ammunition error or a defect in the gun.

If your gun refuses to work, call the manufacturer’s customer service line for instructions on what to do next.

If malfunctions are not a consistent issue, your new gun might just need a “break-in period.”

It is not necessary, but many people prefer to clean their gun after every range visit.

Keeping your gun in good condition is imperative to it functioning reliably.

Further, the metal parts on your gun may be prone to rust, so treating the finish will keep it looking nice.

Woman shooting handgun at range


Depending on the reason why you purchased a new gun and the laws in your state, there are different ways to store your gun.

Certainly, if you have children in your home, safety is your first concern.

There are many different types of safes, locks and racks that keep your gun secured.

If you live alone without children or feel comfortable no unauthorized person will have access to your gun, — in many states — it is perfectly okay to leave your gun loaded wherever you please.

To read more in-depth on where to store your new gun, read Where to Keep Your New Gun.

Do you have know any more handgun owner basics? Let us know in the comments section 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 (5)

  1. A great exercise for shooters is to hold a sheet of newspaper by the corner; a sheet in each hand, by the corner, dangling towards the floor. Then, starting with that corner, crumble up the newspaper from a sheet to a ball. It is important to crumble two sheets; one in each hand to develop bilateral muscle balance. A few weeks of this and your grip and recoil resistance, ability to hold a heavy weapon, and resistance to trembling will be dramatically improved. Save them for firestarters.

  2. Aside from the healthy respect for a gun’s lethality, you don’t need to be afraid of the gun as a piece of machinery. They don’t break very easily, if you can’t figure-out how to put it back together, the shop where you bought it should have no objections to helping you at no charge, and they should be happy to answer questions about proper care, ammo, accessories, replacement parts, etc. The only “dumb” question, is the one you don’t ask, because not asking, can get you hurt, or worse. And there is no substitute for practice (with, or without ammo) and dis-assembly/reassembly for cleaning. Remember, if you bought this gun because you believe it might save your life, then, you need to be very familiar with it, duress does not aid clarity of thought.

  3. Excellent post, thanks. Cleaning a newly purchased gun is easy to overlook but should be done. Snap caps are great training.

  4. Snap Caps are an excellent idea and tool on several levels. Familiarizing yourself by reflex memory, enhancing physical strength and dexterity. In manipulating gun controls, it strengthens muscles you otherwise take for granted. Just like playing a guitar, or riding a bike for an hour, you’ll find muscles, (and pains and weakness) you didn’t realize. You wouldn’t want to have to mentally think every motor skill when the time may come to have to use your weapon for it’s intended purpose, and you certainly wouldn’t want to consciously have to deal with hands and fingers cramping up when it counts.

    From a weapon’s health standpoint, a little Jeweler’s Rouge, or Moly Graphite Engine Assembly Lube, and a few Snap Caps will certainly slick up the gun’s action while slicking up yours. For a lot of the guys complaining about the Chinese Tactical Shotguns failing to cycle and eject properly, I believe could solve that problem by this method. Thanks Suzanne for this thread, which with a little elbow grease and some Snap Caps should help bring new owners and their guns closer together. Happy New Year!

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