Setting out to buy your first firearm from a gun shop can be an intimidating task if you have little experience with shooting and don’t have anyone to give you advice through the process.
The cases in gun shops are full of a variety of guns that can overwhelm someone who knows little about calibers and kickback and how to select a firearm.
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Here are six tips for beginners to keep in mind as they take steps to purchase their first firearm:
• Determine what your purpose is in buying a firearm. Are you looking for a weapon for defense or are you interested in learning to shoot competitively? Forbes contributor Larry Bell wrote about his decision to purchase a firearm
to protect his family and said he had to first consider whether he would be willing to take someone’s life if his loved ones were in danger. The answer was yes.
• Take a firearms training course. No matter whether you’re planning to keep the gun in your home for defense situations or want to learn to hunt, safety is critical, and that’s just one of the things you’ll learn in a course, Bell said.
“The practical firearms handling and marksmanship aspect of the training won’t make you an expert, but will instill basic safety protocols and a beginning level of proficiency,” he wrote. “If you haven’t fired a handgun before, you are likely to find the experience to be a whole lot less frightening than you may have previously imagined.”
In addition, taking a training course at a gun range will allow you the opportunity to try different guns and get the advice of the experts who work there.
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• Consider your stature and size when choosing a gun.
“The size of the gun should be a factor in your decision. A gun that is too big or too small will be uncomfortable and difficult for you to hold and operate properly,” wrote Michael Zimmers of ScopedIn
. "Two factors determine a handgun’s size: the frame, and the barrel. (Strictly speaking, the grips can affect a gun’s size, too, but we’ll ignore this minor factor for now.) ... Many gun manufacturers have a few sizes of frames (S&W actually has five for their revolvers), and each will provide a different feel and shooting experience. You’ll want to try several sizes before settling on one."
• If you’re buying a handgun, consider whether you want a semi-automatic or a revolver, Zimmers said. He called revolvers simpler and less error-prone, as well as easier to load, although they have a slightly higher risk of malfunctioning.
"A big factor in your selection is whether you’re willing to keep the gun loaded at all times," he wrote. "Loading a revolver takes precious time, time that you may not have during an emergency. If you’re comfortable with keeping a loaded gun in your home (and if prevailing laws permit it), the revolver may be the way to go. If not, an auto-loader is probably the better choice, but ... be sure to include quickly loading the gun as part of your training and range time."
• "Never, ever buy a gun because it’s cheap. Pick something with a well-known trusted brand," Bell said. "You can save some money buying a good condition used name-brand gun, but have a competent gunsmith check it over before you shoot it to be sure it’s safe. However, as first-time gun owner without experience knowing what to look for, it’s probably a better idea to get something new.”
• Plan to practice frequently to become an expert in handling whichever gun you choose.
“Pick a reliable first gun that you can expect to enjoy frequently practicing with so that you learn to react quickly and effectively under stress,” Bell said. “Small, lightweight, short-barrel guns, even those of modest caliber, often have unpleasant recoil. They also lack sufficient accuracy to encourage repeated use. Many new guns require a break-in period before they can be counted upon to be totally dependable. Some are finicky about the brand of ammunition they function with most reliably.”
Talk to experts at gun shops and ranges, as well as friends who are firearms enthusiasts, to get their advice.
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