You didn’t think owning a gun would be easy, did you? Every new gun owner faces a set of problems.
Some of these problems are minor, some are major. Most of them come from a set of misunderstandings either perpetuated by Hollywood, reinforced by people who don't know, or over-exaggerated by the media.
The first things first, gun safety is an absolute must.
Remember your first time in a gun shop? There are about 650 billion types, makes, and models. (This estimate could be a bit high, but it the actual number is overwhelming to the first-time buyer.)
First time out, get something basic so you can find out what you like and what you don't like and only pay for the features that you will use. Buying a gun always entails a set of compromises; I’m still looking for the PERFECT gun… and I’ve tried a bunch.
If possible, TRY BEFORE YOU BUY.
Sure, that expertly blued, custom shop .454 Casull looks amazing, but it’s no good for you if your first shot reveals a $1300 underestimation of what it means to have “too much gun.”
You probably have a specific goal you hope to accomplish with the purchase of your first gun. It could be hunting, it might be defense, (this is statistically the most likely) or it may be target shooting and the simple enjoyment of improving your skills with a firearm.
It doesn't really matter.
Money may not equal quality, but it often helps. For most firearms, the entry-level cost will be $300- $700. You don't need to drive a Ferrari for your first car and you don't need to own the most tactical, whiz-bang, “Wait until my buddies see this!” matte black, rail covered, (insert your favorite gun type here) for your first home defense weapon.
You may like blondes over brunettes. Or a Chevy over Ford. Or Swedish black metal instead of Country. These are just preferences and most the time, when you ask somebody about a specific brand of gun what you get is opinion, not fact.
There are great resources out there that do independent testing on different makes and models. If you're looking for facts, find facts. If you trust someone's opinion, get an opinion. There's no accounting for taste and the gun culture is as bad (or worse) than any other for personal favoritism.
Beauty magazines and gun magazines have one thing in common (other than all the eye candy)... they are almost entirely supported by advertisements.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But if the article that you're reading extols the benefits of the same gun advertised on a giant glossy print just one page back, it might not be that all of its virtues are completely unbiased.
Be aware of creative product placement in any information piece.
Uncle Jim probably doesn't know as much about guns as you think he does (or as much as HE thinks he does).
There are several vague myths that can never really be cited that permeate gun culture and owners. One of my favorites is: “If you shoot him below the waist you can't be charged with (fill in the blank here) “
In my state, if you shoot someone with a firearm in the legs they call it attempted murder, or at least wanton endangerment.
If you don't know how the law reads, or something doesn't sound right... do your research! Call your local law enforcement and ask!
Guns can be fun. But they are also a serious responsibility. This is not the time for your ego to get in the way. Ignorance is one thing, but if you're reading this now (you are obviously on the Internet) and you have the entirety of human knowledge at your fingertips… there's no longer an excuse.
With the ammunition in a separate room, the gun checked and double-checked to be sure it’s empty, and following all of the safety rules, play with your gun. (Yes, I know how that sounds.)
A training course is the fastest way to make the weapon an object and remove the mystery. However, simply becoming familiar with controls, safety features, what it does, what it doesn't do, the basics of operation, and even how it should feel when you hold it properly, will do more to make you comfortable than anything else.
If you have had your firearm for some time and you are entirely comfortable…
You are the most likely individual to do something careless.
Just because you know or just because it hasn't ever happened before, doesn't mean the safety rules no longer apply. I've witnessed 30-year gun owners fall into the trap of complacency, which can turn dangerous fast.
Sure, there are going to be several manufacturers who say that they're gun will run for a hundred million thousand rounds without cleaning.
This may well be... but let’s just assume that yours will not.
Proper cleaning with a very basic gun cleaning kit used with a cleaning solvent, lubricant and rust preventive plus a little care is better longevity and safe operations insurance than any manufacturer’s claim.
You Don't Know How To Shoot. I know, it hurts. But it’s better to rip this Band-Aid® off now.
If you're a new gun owner, even if you grew up around guns, and even if you are/were in the armed forces -- you probably don't know how to shoot.
Shooting is a skill, it's not a talent. There has been more than one occasion when I thought I knew what I was doing, only to embarrassingly be corrected by someone who knew better. A little ding to the ego is worth the improvement from a trained professional. Trust me.
My best recommendation is to take a class and learn. There are many reputable shooting schools, self-defense schools, and 101 style classes all across the country.
Think of training as the toolbox. Practice is using those tools to accomplish the goal of getting better at shooting.
If you don't have the tools to use, all your practice will (most likely) be is an extremely efficient way to turn money into noise.
Owning your first firearm is an adventure. Yes it's fun, but it's also work and requires a great deal of responsibility. Select carefully, get comfortable with the weapon, observe basic safety guidelines, get some professional training and then practice! But don’t get too comfortable, even when you become an “old hand” at using a weapon.
It is still a tool that can be dangerous and it will always need and deserve careful handling and a healthy dose of respect.