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11 Tips for Buying Your First Handgun

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Editor’s Note: This post has been generously contributed by Andrew H.


Sometimes, having such a wide array of gun choices can be more of a curse than a blessing. Of course, it’s great that gun technology and manufacturing have evolved to such a point, but if you’re a beginner you simply don’t know which way to go with your first handgun purchase. But it might not be the best choice to turn to just anyone who carries, because all of their responses will be personal ones; just like your choice of a handgun should be. You will need to decide for yourself what is best for your needs. So here are some major tips for buying your first handgun you should consider and answer for yourself before heading out to make a purchase.

#1. Consider the purpose of the gun

This is a simple question – why are you buying this handgun? Do you simply want to have some fun shooting at the range? Will you use it for personal defense at home or personal defense in general, and will need to carry it around with you all the time? Answering these questions now and establishing a clear purpose for your gun will help you determine later which type it will be, because its size, caliber and barrel will be a factor.

Picture_1_handgun

Glock 32 is .357 version of the very popular brand well-known for reliable service.

 #2. Revolver or semi-automatic

Learn the difference between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol because it will help you choose. They differ greatly when it comes to the firearm’s size, its cartridge capacity, its reliability, how capable you are of reloading a gun under stress, its grip strength, and the list could go on.

#3. Don’t think of your first gun as your last one

Many first time shooters and/or buyers make the mistake of getting way too attached to their first gun. However, most experienced gun owners will tell you that you quickly outgrow it, for various reasons. There’s no way anybody can convince you of that, of course, so you just need to take their word for it. Don’t look at it like it’s going to be under your belt forever.

#4. Start with a low-caliber

A low caliber means a .22. And this is a piece of advice you will receive from both experienced shooters and professional shooting instructors. The main reason is that it will help you learn better, but it’s also because it has less recoil. So it will be a lot more fun to start with that, not to mention it’s going to be cheaper as well. Cheap is important when it comes to your first gun. Why? See point #3 again.

Read More: What is the best gun for home defense?

#5. Find a gun with a good grip

This is not an easy task to accomplish at all, because no two people or two shooters for that matter have the same hands, obviously. You’ll need to test as many guns as you can, until your find the one that feels most comfortable in your hand. You need to be able to move your hands and fingers across and around it with as much ease as possible, and not awkwardly and clumsily.

#6. Research is key

If you’re reading this article, you’re on the right path, but it won’t be enough. Read as many as you can. Then after you’ve decided on a few guns, read all you can about those as well. Find out their technical properties, what they can do and what purpose they serve. Do the same not just for your gun per se, but also for all the accessories you’re planning on buying for it. For instance, if you’re looking to purchase a rifle scope you’ll need to read reviews on what the best one is to suit your needs.

Reading reviews is a great way to find out which way to go.

#7. Practice, practice, practice

This particular piece of advice goes hand in hand with not hurrying into buying. So, after you’ve gone through all the previous steps and finally decided on a small list of guns you would like to own, it’s time to go down to the shop. You don’t have to buy right away, but you can examine the guns and ask all the questions you want. Another good thing about this is the fact that, while you inspect your selected guns, the salesperson might suggest some other guns they have, similar to your choices. That’s a good thing, and you should certainly take advantage of the help.

Read More: How to Select the Best Handgun for Home Defense

#8. Ethics

Think about the ethics involved in owning a gun, especially if you’re buying it for personal or home defense. Owning a gun is a big step in anyone’s life and most shooters say it has changed them. Apart from that, reflect on what it will actually mean to shoot someone. Granted, it will be in self-defense and you will be protecting yourself or your family, but it is not for the faint of heart and it will have serious repercussions on you and your life. Consider these things well before proceeding down this path.

#9. Go to the range

You may not find all the guns on your list to try out before the purchase, but you’ll find some of them. It’s important to visit your closest firing range and shoot your guns a few times to get a feel for it. Ideally, we should be able to test the merchandise we buy, especially something as important as your first handgun, and you actually have the chance to do it. One thing you need to know though, is that when going shooting at a range you will have to buy your own ammunition. This can be quite expensive. But remember, it’s better to spend some money on testing than on buying impulsively and then regretting your purchase.

Head to the range often to keep your skills sharp and develop muscle memory.

Head to the range often to keep your skills sharp and develop muscle memory.

 

#10. Price

Never buy a gun just because it’s cheap. Guns are not an area where you want to skimp. A cheap gun might mean it’s poorly manufactured or that it has some problems the seller won’t tell you about. You should know from the start that guns aren’t cheap. So if you’re in this for the long haul, you should be prepared to spend on them, their ammunition and their accessories. The best solution is to buy from trusted and famous brands.

#11. Buying the gun

It’s always advisable to buy your guns at professional and reputable shops. They are more trustworthy and you will feel better and safer when it comes to your purchase. This will also show that you are serious shooter. And that, though you are a beginner, you’ve already invested time, money, energy and research into starting this new sport. Congratulations!

After you become a well-trained and experienced shooter and another beginner asks for advice about buying his or her first gun, remember all the pointers above. Or, better yet, reference them back to this guide.

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  • Thomas Paine in the butt

    Step 7A or 9A: Consider taking a basic handgun course by a reputable instructor.

    • BobW

      I can’t emphasize this enough. Learn to shoot. Put the ego in your back pocket, and let a highly competent firearms instructor guide you.

  • Patrick Flynn

    Very good points! The choice of handguns depends on what suits you and the situation at hand. personally, I prefer wheel guns of large caliber while out of doors because the fewer mechanisms ( moving parts ) insure better reliability in a crappy situation like a bear attack.

    However, here at my home I prefer a semi auto Baretta 9mm or one of my 1911’s. These weapons visit the range once or twice a month and get well cleaned and maintained afterwards but I rely on my trusted Smith and Wesson or Ruger wheel guns when I’m outside.

    Just a personal preference.

    And I do despise the Austrian Glock handguns. They are supposed to the most reliable auto’s ever designed but they are the most ugly, boxy handguns EVAH! But then again, it’s a personal preference.

    Best!

    Snake Plisken

    • I know what you mean about appearances snake. For sheer looks alone I think Beretta wins for me. A Kimber 1911 is a close second but I prefer those ugly old Glocks. They have never let me down and are much more economically priced.

  • NRP

    Good article, I would add a couple of things if I may.
    If you’re purchasing the firearm for defense;
    1. You had best have the mindset of killing someone if needed. If not in that mindset make sure you NEVER put bullets it, because a perp WILL take it away from you and KILL you and/or your family with it. An empty gun is a very expensive hammer.
    2. Get training and more training as Andrew H. has said and PRACTICE!!!!
    3. Remember that if you do kill someone, even if it’s 1000% reasonable, you will go to jail (even if only overnight), you will be sued but family of the dead and it will cost you every dime you may have.
    4. Buy the biggest ugliest firearm you can, 45ACP or 44Mag. Do NOT worry about the “kick” if you’re in a situation of defending yourself, you will not feel the kick at all, the adrenalin will be pumping.
    5. Lastly, if your firearm is 1 foot out of reach when you need it, don’t even spend the $$$ on one, for it’s worthless if it’s not accessible.
    6. “Being judged by 12 is better than being carried by 6”. Just remember you also have to live with whatever you have to do.

    If buying for “sport”;
    1. Get something that looks “cool”
    2. Get something that’s a fun shoot and does not kick, like a 22, 9mm, or 38. That way you can shoot a thousand rounds and still hold that beer afterwards.
    3. Think cheap ammo, again 22 (if you can find it) or 38/9mm
    4. Get into reloading, it’s part of the “game”.
    5. Have fun, make it a family event, join a few shooting teams for competition.

    Do NOT buy a firearm just because it’s the thing to do now-days, the $$$ you spend should be well spent, don’t think that just because you own a firearm your safe from dangers.

    One last thing, remember the “sights” are on the TOP of the gun, not on the side.

    NRP
    PS; Buy a Safe. A BIG safe, once into shooting you WILL be buying more firearms HAHAHA

  • Patrick Flynn

    I reckon I should clarify some things on my earlier post.

    To me, a handgun is a tool and to each tool you use it should be properly suited to the job at hand. I’m not going try and use a phillips head screwdriver on a flat head screw.

    Having said that, I have trained both my girlfriend and brother in gun safety and handling large bore hand guns comfortably.It is quite amusing to see first time shooters and the looks on their face is priceless. This is serious business though.

    Both people are 140 pounds or less soaking wet and can now handle a .45 or .44 Magnum with accuracy and determination.

    I’m proud to have assisted them in learning how to handle large caliber handguns safely because I have had four friends die needlessly in accidents in the last 40 years due to mishandling of fire arms and I am a big time advocate of gun safety.

    In the end though, selection of a firearm is a personal choice. Just because I like the recoil and big bang of a handgun doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

    Snake

  • Arcangel911

    Train and shoot…. but make sure the gun feels good to you when you do shoot.

  • Loog Moog

    One thing to consider- ammo. I bought a nice small revolver for a fair price, then found out that .22 Magnum ammo was almost impossible to find. Fortunately, I did find about 100 rounds for it, but ammo availability is a big consideration.

    • BobW

      Honestly, I don’t think you are looking very hard. .22Mag isn’t a bad round, and isn’t terribly hard to locate. Shoot, the local Walmart stocks it, and I’ve never seen it out of stock. No, they don’t stock a ton of it, but some is always available. Many online sources for good .22Mag ammo as well.

      Tips: avoid tiny gun shops. Its not a commonly used ammo anymore, and won’t sell well enough to make it worth their time to stock it. Ask them if they can get you a brick/case/etc of the stuff. They might not stock it, but can special order it. Get the price quote first, and use that as a comparative tool for sourcing.

  • Bruce Fleming

    I have to say I have never heard of CCW training to a twelve foot seven inch distance on the range. I have heard of the Tueller drill that uses a 21 foot distance. Can you say more about the 12’7″ training?