Tips for Buying your First Gun

For many first time firearm buyers, buying a gun can be an overwhelming experience – one that can often cause people to make the wrong decision.

looking at handguns during the SHOT Show

I receive a lot of emails from readers asking different questions about firearms. The questions I’m asked most often are:

  • What’s the best gun I can buy?
  • What caliber should I buy?
  • What’s the best gun for survival?
  • What’s the best gun for self-defense?

The simple answer to those questions is there is no best gun or best caliber. Anyone who tries to tell you something different is likely just trying to make a sale.

Why are you buying the gun?

Sounds like a silly question, right? You might be thinking to yourself, “the same reason everyone buys a gun”, or “does it really matter?” Yes it matters, and there are hundreds of reasons why someone might buy one.

The most important consideration when buying a gun is knowing why you’re buying it. It may sound simple, but this is actually an important consideration.

  • Are you buying it for self defense? If so, is it for home defense or something you’re going to carry everywhere? And then that brings up the question of conceal carry, or open carry.
  • Is the gun for hunting? If it is, what are you hunting?
  • Is it for target shooting? If it is, what kind of targets will you be shooting?

Do your own research.

When it comes to buying a firearm you really need to do some research. The decision should never be taken lightly; the more you know the better off you’ll be in the long run from a safety and accuracy perspective.

  • Take time to learn about firearms, their parts, and how they work.
  • Take a class. Many guns stores or gun ranges offer training classes; this is something you should take before buying your first gun.
  • Find a gun store that has a range. A lot of gun stores now have gun ranges where you can fire different firearms to see which one feels right to you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There is no dumb question when it comes to buying a firearm; reason being, is your purchasing something that might be used to protect your life; and if you don’t know how to use it correctly, it can also take your life. If you don’t understand how something works or have questions about a specific feature, ask!

  • Make sure you know which ammo works best in your firearm. All ammo is not created equal. For example, a small conceal carry 9mm firearm may not except a high grain round, and putting one in your gun can cause big problems. Ask about ammo!
  • If you’re not comfortable with the store, or the sales associates are not willing to take the time to answer your questions, find another store.
  • If a gun store recommends a certain firearm, your first question should be why. Why are they recommending that specific firearm, and why do they believe that gun is right for you?

Be wary of online reviews.

You need to be careful about reviews that you find online; even reviews that you find at this site. Listen, just because I like a gun, doesn’t mean it will be the right one for you. While reviews can be helpful – especially in helping you keep away from bad products – the truth is I’ve shot guns that people I really trust love; but in my hands that same gun that they loved just felt wrong.

Don’t be cheap.

I love saving money just as much as the next guy, but when it comes to the firearms industry you really do get what you pay for. It’s fine to have a budget, and once you’ve found the right gun, by all means search around for deals. But don’t ever go into a gun store asking, “what’s the cheapest gun you have”, because I can almost guarantee you’re going to walk out with something that isn’t right for you.

Learn the ins and outs or firearm safety.

Correctly inspecting a firearm

I highly suggest you take the time to read our article on firearm safety. As firearms owners, we bear a responsibility that needs to be taken seriously; it’s literally a matter of life and death.

If you decide to skip our article on gun safety at least remember this one rule, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS AN UNLOADED GUN: Drill that saying into your head, because it’s probably the most important safety advice that you’ll ever receive. Every firearm you touch should always be considered a loaded weapon; therefore, it needs to be given the respect due a loaded gun.

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15 Comments

  1. PJ
    March 3, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Step 1: Watch as many Magpul and Haley videos as possible.

    Step 2: Buy gun based on that.

    Step 3: Affix as much crap as you can to said gun.

    Step 4: Operator.

    • right
      March 4, 2015 at 7:57 am

      HAHA, I think Breach Bang Clear classified that as, “TACTICOOL”. Don’t forget to ADD vest with plates and 80lbs of molle gear, and make sure all necessary gear is on the back of vest where you cant reach it.
      Great Article O.G., safety, safety, safety

    • Bill
      March 5, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Hilarious, thanks for the laugh!

    • Can be a very complicated decision… however… I try to simplify it as best I can, and… as relates to a concealed carry weapon… as a 70 year old collector, shooter, hunter, licensed bail bondsman and PI and firearms advocate, I am asked often, the same questions… and I think your advice is right on the money. I have to give a little talk in April, at a conference for a group of bondsmen, PI’s, recovery agents and others in this profession. One of the lines I use in my presentation is… “the worst gun to own, is the one you left at home”. I think some of the most important things to remember about a concealed carry weapon is, one… ask a lot of questions… two… to choose the one that feels right and you can shoot accurately… regardless of the brand or caliber… three… spend time in the company of someone you trust and who is knowledgeable with firearms… and four… probably the most important after your purchase… practice, practice, practice… often… and at a good range and with a knowledgeable instructor.

  2. Pumpkin Escobar
    March 3, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    One of my first time purchase regrets was no knowing the process of disassembly of the firearm. It was a pain! i did not keep that gun for long.Even if you are not using it maintenance is important.

    • petedivine
      March 5, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Ditto that sentiment. Gun maintenance and upgrades are very important.

  3. Victor Fox
    March 4, 2015 at 3:54 am

    just for un-fun, in brazil you have not muh optons and when you buy a gun is much like a marriage, if the choice was poor, you’ll suffer a long time because to sell said gun is great PITA and buy anoth is another great PITA. as for calibers’ there’s restriction on caliber and whats available. most things can’t be bought even if alllowed.

    • Anonymous
      March 7, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      Sounds like your living under a tyranny

  4. Moman
    March 4, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I would also take things into consideration on caliber, like for instance, if something does happen and officers are being shot, what caliber do they carry? if military becomes present and riots break out leading to a small civil war, what caliber do they carry? I say this because you can scrounge things off the dead. 9MM and .40 seem to be the most common calibers with law enforcement and military, with .45 a close second.

    I would also say the common civilian rounds are 9MM and 357/38 special as well as 40 and 45. so basically, anything smaller then a 9 is probably either lacking in stopping power, or will be extremely hard to find ammo for in a SHTF or TEOTWAKI scenario.

    because of this, I bought a 9mm sidearm, and constructed a 5.56 rifle. my next rifle purchase will also be 5.56 and will be the Tavor, I just love that damn gun due to the ergonomics and how it feels. I will also probably buy a cheap 308 WIN rifle in bolt action, as the military is getting their 7.62 M14’s and M1A’s out of storage.

  5. I recognize those SHOT show trigger locks anywhere! ;-)

    still kinda bummed I didn’t make it down… great reminders.

    • Off Grid Survival
      March 5, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Good eye! It was a good show this year.

  6. Pumpkin Escobar
    March 5, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Not that I don’t own any common calibers, during the ammo shortage the only thing left on the shelf with some consistency was 10mm hand gun, that makes me re think a few of my future purchases.

  7. paul
    November 8, 2015 at 11:39 am

    You can’t go wrong with military surplus weapons. They have been proven reliable in combat. Are designed to be idiot proof as far as stripping them down for cleaning. The are remarkably accurate and easy to learn how to use. Finally they are also relatively cheap to purchase with lots of cheap surplus ammo and spare parts available.

  8. Dave H
    January 9, 2017 at 11:55 am

    For the complete novice for home defense you cannot beat a 12 ga shotgun. For a novice handgun, a 4 in 38/357 revolver in any good manufacturer is the best bet. The manual of arms for either choice is simple and reliability is paramount. No need to worry about handgun jams, bad magazines etc., just squeeze the trigger and it goes bang!

  9. Chris Winters
    March 16, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Robert, I like the idea to consider home defense and concealed carry when buying a gun. I’ve been wanting to find gun that we could use to keep our home safe. I definitely think that we should consider finding a gun that is easy to use with a lot of safety features.

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