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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  1. 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.

    • 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

    • 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  6. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  10. My wife was telling me that she really wants her own pistol, but we weren’t sure how to find the right one. I really like that you say to look online and find reviews about the guns. It would be nice to learn as much as we can about the gun before we get it for her, especially if it will affect how she uses the gun.

  11. Thanks for the tip to make sure you know which ammo works best for a firearm. I’ve been thinking of getting a gun for self-defense in my home because last week our neighbor was robbed at gunpoint in his own home. Taking a class and doing some research before visiting a gun store sounds like a smart idea.

  12. I’m glad you talked about how deciding to buy a firearm shouldn’t be taken lightly. My best friend wants to find some local firearm sales so he can buy a self-defense gun. I think I will talk to him about doing the proper research and making sure he’s thought of all the reasons for purchasing one.

  13. My brother has been showing interest in buying guns for a while and since his birthday is coming up he has been looking seriously. I really liked what you said about not being cheap and getting something that is top quality. This is great advice for him that he should certainly follow to get the best firearm.

  14. You make a good point that you should ask a lot of questions. Recently, I went shooting with my boyfriend’s family, and I found that I really liked it. It seems like finding a gun shop to go to and ask any questions about firearms would be a good way to get one for me.

  15. I really like what you said about making an effort to actually learn to shoot firearms, and about how they work. My dad is looking for a hobby to distract him during his time at retirement. I think he intends to start his own collection, so I will be sure to advise him to take part in gun shooting and safety classes even if he doesn’t intend to use the firearms all that much. That way, he can troubleshoot simple problems should one of his guns jam for some reason.

  16. I appreciate the advice about making sure you know which ammo is best for your firearm. Locating a reliable gun dealer is an important part of the gun-buying process. My friend is thinking about getting a 22 rifle, so I’ll be sure to share this information with him to make sure he finds the best firearm for him.

  17. You really do need to ask questions when you’re buying a firearm and I like that the article agrees. For example, you will definitely want to make sure that you know what kind of ammo works best for the gun as is suggested. That way you can make sure that you are buying the right kind.

  18. Thanks for the suggestion to take a class before buying a gun. My husband and I recently moved to an area that is known for high crime rates, and we want to be sure we can protect our home and family in the case of an emergency. We’ll have to look for great classes in our area, and hopefully we can also find a great firearm.

  19. I liked that you mentioned you need to be clear about why you need to buy a gun to find the right one for you. My husband is thinking about going on a hunting trip with his best friend, and we are looking for advice to buy the perfect gun for him. I will let him know about your recommendations to help her find the right gun for his hunting trip.

  20. My husband loves spending time in nature, and his dad recently talked about going on a hunting trip together in the mountains next month. My husband doesn’t have a gun yet, so he is thinking about purchasing one. Thanks for the advice you give that he should not go with the cheapest gun because he will get what he pays for, and I know he wants something very high quality.

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