Best First Gun: A Guide for New Gun Owners
Embarking on your journey as a responsible gun owner begins with making an informed decision about the best weapon for you. Whether you’re a beginner or interested in acquiring your first firearm, this guide runs you through several models and calibers suitable for varied needs, preferences, and experience levels. Choosing the right firearm can be daunting, but we’ll make it simpler.
- 1. Glock 19
- 2. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
- 3. Ruger 10/22
- 4. Mossberg 500
- 5. SIG Sauer P320
- 6. CZ 75
- Types of Firearms Available
- Total Beginner’s AR-15 Rifle Kit
- Total Beginner’s 22 LR Pistol Kit
- What to Look For
- Trying Before Buying
- Do You Need More Than One Gun?
- Young? Old? Disabled? Weak? Jumpy? Think About Physically Holding and Firing a Weapon
- Know the Law
- Concealed Carry
- Choosing the Right Handgun for You
- Other Considerations
- New Gun Owner Checklist: Everything You’ll Need
- Correct Ammo
- Lubrication, Disassembly and Cleaning
- Other Gear Checklist
Acquiring your first firearm can be daunting due to abundant options and firearm terminologies. We recommend considering certain factors and avoiding common mistakes for an informed decision. This guide also includes product recommendations for various situations, factoring in emergency preparedness.
While understanding terms like “caliber” and “magazine” is important, beginners need not worry as experts have provided a guide specifically designed for newcomers to the world of firearms. This guide covers the basics and explains why common calibers such as 9mm and .223 are widely recommended.
The Key Bits:
- Cost: The average price range for a first gun is around $400-$800.
- Recommended Firearms: For most individuals, it is advisable to buy either a 9mm pistol or a .223 AR-15 rifle. If we had to choose one firearm for a generic beginner, the AR-15 would be the preferred option due to its popularity and versatility for prepping purposes.
- Shotgun Myth: While some believe shotguns are always the best choice, the notion that the sound of racking a shotgun can scare away threats is more myth than reality. Pistols and rifles generally outperform shotguns in most situations.
- Pistols vs. Rifles: Pistols are typically more affordable and easier to carry or conceal, while rifles offer greater accuracy and the ability to shoot longer distances. Pistols are effective up to 25 yards, whereas rifles can reach distances of 600 yards or more.
- Recommended Calibers: Stick with these calibers: 9mm, .223/5.56, .308/7.62, 12 gauge, 20 gauge, and .22 LR.
- Magazine-Fed Semi-automatics: Opt for magazine-fed semi-automatics for both pistols and rifles, avoiding revolver pistols and bolt-action rifles.
- Understanding Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with firearm laws in your state and city. Google search terms like “(your state) gun laws” and “(your city) gun laws” to ensure compliance.
- Complexity of the Market: The firearm market can become intricate, with various legal considerations such as firearms with braces or short-barreled rifles. As a beginner, it is advisable to stick to the basics and avoid potentially complicated legal gray areas.
- Training and Storage: Proper training is essential to becoming a responsible gun owner. Simply purchasing a gun without proper training and storing it haphazardly is unwise. Seek training and ensure you have appropriate storage solutions to prioritize safety.
1. Glock 19
The Glock 19 is a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and one of the most popular firearms worldwide. Known for its reliability, durability, and ease of use, the Glock 19 is an excellent choice for new gun owners. Its compact size makes it suitable for both concealed carry and home defense, while the 9mm caliber offers manageable recoil and affordable ammunition.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P Shield
The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield is a compact, single-stack 9mm pistol designed for concealed carry. With its slim profile, lightweight design, and ease of use, the M&P Shield is an excellent choice for those looking for a concealable firearm without sacrificing performance. Its reliability and manageable recoil make it an ideal choice for a first-time gun owner.
3. Ruger 10/22
For those interested in starting with a rifle, the Ruger 10/22 is a .22 Long Rifle (LR) semi-automatic rifle, perfect for beginners. The Ruger 10/22 is an affordable, reliable, and easy-to-shoot rifle, ideal for learning the basics of marksmanship and firearm safety. Its low recoil and inexpensive ammunition make it an excellent choice for recreational shooting and small game hunting.
4. Mossberg 500
The adaptable and dependable Mossberg 500 shotgun is a good start for anyone keen on home defense, hunting, or sport shooting. Available in different configurations and perfect for either 12 or 20-gauge shotgun shells, it comes with easy-to-manipulate pump-action design and manageable recoil fitting for novices.
5. SIG Sauer P320
The SIG Sauer P320 is a modular, striker-fired 9mm pistol that offers customization options for grip size, caliber, and slide length. Its reputation for accuracy, reliability, and ease of use makes it an attractive option for new gun owners. The P320 is also the official sidearm of the United States military, known as the M17, adding to its credibility.
6. CZ 75
The CZ 75 semi-automatic pistol is an excellent choice for anyone in search of a full-size handgun combining agility and performance. Made with a sturdy steel construction and equipped with a double-action/single-action trigger system for various shooting conditions, this reliable and accurate 9mm pistol makes the learning process easier.
Types of Firearms Available
Knowing your intended use for a firearm is a crucial starting point when visiting a gun store. This information allows the staff to guide you effectively by suggesting firearms that are specifically recommended for your desired purposes. Some common categories of firearms based on their recommended uses include:
Handguns/Pistols: These compact firearms feature shorter barrels and are renowned for their accuracy, thanks to the rifling within the thick barrel. They are designed to withstand high pressure. Due to their smaller size, handguns are easily portable and can be fired with one hand if necessary. They are highly suitable for self-defense, personal protection, and target shooting at the range.
Shotguns: With their long barrels and smooth bores (lacking rifling), shotguns are primarily used for activities such as skeet shooting and bird hunting. The shotgun’s thinner barrel is designed to handle lower pressures compared to handguns. Shotguns excel in delivering a spread of shot or a single slug over a wider area, making them effective for various hunting and sporting purposes.
Rifles are ideal for long-range hunting thanks to their long rifled barrels capable of withstanding high pressures. More accurate and able to cover long distances compared to shotguns, rifles are perfect for hunting games and sport shooting.
Semi-Automatic Rifles: Semi-automatic rifles are a type of rifle that automatically cycles a new round after each shot, offering self-loading and repeating capabilities. It is important to note that, unlike fully automatic firearms, semi-automatic rifles require the manual release of the trigger, resetting of the sear and hammer, before each subsequent shot can be fired.
Total Beginner’s AR-15 Rifle Kit
When it comes to survival and preparedness, we highly recommend acquiring a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle chambered in 5.56/223 Remington. The AR-15 platform offers exceptional versatility, reliability, and ease of maintenance, making it an ideal choice for these purposes. With the right tools and fixtures, you can perform all armorer level maintenance on your rifle, ensuring its optimal performance. Additionally, the availability of AR-15 parts is abundant, providing easy access to replacements or upgrades if needed.
While there are numerous reputable companies manufacturing AR-15 rifles, for this specific kit, we have selected a rifle from Bravo Company Manufacturing. Their rifles are known for their quality and reliability, and this kit provides everything you need to get started on your survival and preparedness journey.
Bravo Company Manufacturing RECCE-16 KMR-A CARBINE
1 count | 97.6 oz | $ 1500.00
Blackhound 1-6 Riflescope
1 count | 19.7 oz | $ 370.00
Magpul P-Mag Magazine
1 unit | $ 13.00
Streamlight PROTAC® RAIL MOUNT HL-X LONG GUN LIGHT
1 unit | 6.4 oz | $ 125.00
Howard Leight Impact Sport
1 count | 12.0 oz | $ 60.00
Howard Leight Eye Protection
1 count | 3.2 oz | $ 16.00
S2 Delta Rifle Sling
1 unit | $ 50.00
XM193 55 grain
1000 count | $ 0.56 each
Bulldog Cases AR-15 Discreet Ultra Compact Sporting Rifle Case
1 count | $ 61.00
BROWNELLS – AR-15/M16/ 308 AR M-PRO 7® CLEANING KIT
1 count | $ 58.00
Those on a limited budget, have limited physical strength, or hesitant about firearms can consider pistols or rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammunition. Despite its minimal power in comparison to larger calibers, .22 LR ammunition can effectively neutralize a close-range threat and is also suitable for small game hunting.
.22 LR Pistols:
- Glock 44
- Ruger SR22
- Smith and Wesson M&P22
- Taurus TX22
- Walther PPQ M22
.22 LR rifles:
- Ruger 10/22 BACK-PACKER
- Smith and Wesson 22 M&P 15-22
Total Beginner’s 22 LR Pistol Kit
If you are on a limited budget, have limited physical strength or mobility, or are hesitant about firearms, opting for a pistol chambered in the beginner-friendly .22 Long Rifle (LR) ammunition can be a suitable choice. While .22 LR ammunition may lack power compared to larger calibers, it can still be effective in stopping a close-range threat with accurate shot placement and is also suitable for small game hunting. We recommend the Glock 44 for a .22 LR pistol. The Glock 44 shares many parts with other Glock models, making it easy to maintain and work on. This kit provides everything you need to get started.
1 count | 12.6 oz | $ 359.00
Streamlight TLR 7 Flashlight
1 unit | 2.4 oz | $ 153.00
Howard Leight Impact Sport
1 count | 12.0 oz | $ 60.00
Uncle Mikes Open Top Holster
1 unit | $ 33.00
Howard Leight Eye Protection
1 count | 3.2 oz | $ 16.00
Lone Wolf Dist. Ultimate Armorer Tool for Glock
1 unit | $ 23.00
BROWNING – PERFORMANCE RIMFIRE 22 LR Ammunition
BROWNING – BPR PERFORMANCE RIMFIRE 22 LR 40GR LEAD HOLLOW POINT
100 units | $ 0.15 per unit
Hoppe’s No. 9 Cleaning Kit with Aluminum Rod, Universal .22-.225 Caliber Rifle/Pistol
1 unit | $ 13.00
If you reside in an area with heavy restrictions or bans on pistols and rifles, alternative firearm options to consider are shotguns, lever-action rifles, bolt-action rifles, or air rifles. Shotguns are legal throughout the United States, although some states like New Jersey and Rhode Island only permit firearm hunting with shotguns.
It’s important to note that the notion of shotguns having a wide spread like in movies is a misconception. In reality, while shotgun pellets do spread out within a limited cone, they still require accurate aiming. Shotguns are well-suited for hunting small game due to the cone of smaller pellets, making it easier to hit flying birds, for example. Alternatively, using shotgun slugs, which are larger single projectiles, can enhance a shotgun’s effectiveness for taking down larger game such as deer.
In regions like California that allow modified or compliant versions of AR-15 rifles, it’s more beneficial to stick to a compliant AR-15 rather than not owning a rifle at all. Consult your nearby gun shop for help in acquiring a California-compliant AR-15.
- Benelli Supernova
- Beretta A300 Outlander
- Mossberg 590 A1
- Remington 870 Express
- Winchester SXP Black Shadow
Used primarily for hunting and precision shooting, bolt-action rifles are legal across the US states. They are also a decent choice for those facing legal constraints or not willing to own a shotgun.
- Bergara B14 HMR
- Browning AB3
- Remington 700 SPS Tactical
- Ruger American Rifle
- Tikka T3X CTR
These rifles are known for their reliability and accuracy, making them suitable choices for hunting or engaging in precision shooting activities.
What to Look For
When choosing a firearm for general use and preparedness, there are several criteria to consider:
Price and Performance: Balance affordability and performance when choosing a firearm. Typically, rifles should be within $500-$1,000, pistols between $400-$600, and shotguns ranging between $300-$600.
Versatility: Opt for a versatile firearm usable in various situations.
Common Ammunition: Choose firearms using common ammunition types for easy access in emergencies. Popular calibers include 9mm, .223, .308, 12 gauge, 20 gauge, and .22 LR.
Common Parts: Consider the availability of replacement parts. In case your firearm needs repair during an emergency, having easily accessible and commonly found parts is crucial.
Repairability: The simpler the design, the easier the firearm is to repair. Avoid complex and niche designs.
Dependability: Opt for a firearm with a proven track record of reliability and durability.
Known Track Record: Rely on firearms with a proven track record. In emergency situations, it’s not the time to experiment with untested brands or models. Stick with established options that have proven reliability.
Ease of Learning: Opt for a firearm or firearm style that is widely used and popular. This increases the availability of free training resources on the internet and qualified local instructors, making it easier for beginners to learn and improve their skills.
Beginner-Friendly: Certain models are more beginner-friendly, offering easy usage and are recommended by experienced instructors.
Value for Money: While it’s tempting to opt for a cheap “beater” gun, investing a bit more can lead to a firearm that is suitable for prepping. However, it’s not necessary to go for the most expensive models, as the additional cost may not significantly impact your shooting ability until you gain more training and practice.
High-end firearms are not necessary for enhancing shooting abilities, particularly for beginners. Skill development, rather than equipment quality, is the key to enhanced accuracy. For example, an extra $1,000 on your starting rifle won’t necessarily make you more accurate.
Prepping requires versatile firearms capable of performing in various scenarios, such as targeting from different distances, mobile operation, or defending a fixed position. While shotguns are suitable for home defense within confined spaces, they might not be ideal for outside threats.
Trying Before Buying
Individual experience with firearms can greatly vary. Beginners need to explore, shoot, and try different models to determine personal preferences.
To cater to a wide range of users, experts considered the models that are more universally accepted when selecting the recommended guns in this guide. You can feel confident purchasing any of the models discussed here online, even without having the opportunity to physically hold them beforehand.
It’s beneficial to handle the firearm first before purchasing, especially for people with unusually small or large hands. Visit a nearby gun shop to evaluate how the firearm fits and feels in your hand. While most shops will have common models like the Glock 19 or basic-pattern AR-15, calling before the visit is advised to confirm availability.
Testing the firearm by firing before buying can be slightly complex unless you have a friend owning one. Look for shooting ranges near your area offering firearm rentals, and try different guns on your visit to understand your preferences. It’s an investment worth making.
Tips for Beginners: Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or inform the staff if you are a first-time shooter. Some ranges with rental services offer beginner lessons for an added cost, giving a dual benefit of instruction and firearm trial.
Do You Need More Than One Gun?
Owning only one firearm is fine, but having a collection that includes both pistol and rifle is advantageous. Having a diverse collection offers versatility, mitigates legality risk, and ensures that you have options for various needs.
If you’re considering a third firearm, especially in the context of preparedness, a shotgun would be a valuable addition. A shotgun completes the tripod of firearms, further expanding your capabilities and providing additional options for self-defense, hunting, and other purposes.
Young? Old? Disabled? Weak? Jumpy? Think About Physically Holding and Firing a Weapon
New shooters may encounter difficulties when handling and firing certain types of firearms. The size and weight of the weapon can pose challenges, such as managing a large and heavy rifle compared to a more compact one. Additionally, the recoil and impact of specific calibers can affect control and make the shooting experience more challenging to manage.
- .22 LR (“twenty-two long rifle”): Weakest and easiest to shoot, with minimal jolt, recoil, and sound. Suitable for teaching minors and individuals who may be skittish or new to firearms. Can be used in both pistols and rifles.
- 9mm: Common pistol ammunition that strikes a balance between ease of use and power. Chosen by organizations like the FBI due to its effectiveness and suitability for individuals with varying levels of strength and training.
- .223/5.56: Easier to shoot compared to .308/7.62 rifle ammunition, as it packs less recoil and impact. With .223/5.56, you can shoot several hundred rounds before experiencing discomfort or bruising, whereas .308/7.62 can cause discomfort after just a magazine’s worth.
- 20 gauge: A shotgun ammunition option that is easier to shoot than the larger 12 gauge. In pistols and rifles, larger caliber numbers signify larger ammunition, but shotguns follow the opposite convention.
- Pistols: Generally the easiest firearms to handle, with a typical weight of around two pounds compared to rifles, which can weigh around eight pounds.
The choice of firearm itself also plays a role in ease of use. Pistols are generally considered easier to handle due to their lighter weight, typically around two pounds, compared to rifles, which can weigh around eight pounds.
Although the weight difference may not seem significant at first, try holding a few pounds in your extended arm parallel to the floor, and you’ll quickly notice the strain. For individuals on patrol, scouting, or bugging out on foot, those extra pounds can make a difference, especially for those with less strength.
While pistols are generally more suitable for individuals concerned about physical ability, there are exceptions. One notable example is that pistols only offer two points of contact, with both hands holding the firearm away from the body.
Usually, rifles and shotguns offer a third point of contact through the buttstock against the shoulder, assisting with accuracy control, and facilitates handling heavier weapons.
There are accessories and built-in features available that can improve the ergonomics and ease of holding firearms. Unfortunately, certain US states, such as California, have banned some of these features due to misconceptions and misunderstandings about how firearms work. These restrictions, driven by politicians who may lack understanding of firearms, can hinder the ability of individuals, particularly women and those with less strength, to effectively and safely use their firearms. For instance, vertical foregrips provide added support for the off-hand, assisting in barrel control.
Good news for individuals with one functional arm – the invention of “braces” influenced by amputated veterans aids in the effective single-arm operation of pistols and some rifles. These devices have been legalized for universal use, offering increased usage easability and accessibility.
Know the Law
If you reside in the United States, it is essential to familiarize yourself with and abide by federal, state, and county firearm laws. In situations where conflicting laws exist between jurisdictions, it is important to adhere to the stricter regulations.
Fulfilling the primary step of responsible handgun ownership involves a thorough understanding of firearm laws. Begin with internet research, verify collected data from multiple reliable sources, and consult your local police or sheriff’s office for updated information, guidance, and reference materials.
Federal laws applicable to all gun owners nationwide dictate that legal handgun purchases must:
- Not have a criminal record, with a few limited exceptions.
- Successfully pass a rigorous background check when buying from a licensed firearm dealer. Private sellers are not required by federal law to conduct background checks, but many choose to do so.
- Not suffer from certain mental illnesses that may impair judgment.
- Not have undergone recent treatment for drug or alcohol addiction within the last five years.
- Be a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant.
- Be at least 18 years old when purchasing from a private seller or 21 years old when purchasing from a licensed dealer. It’s important to note that while the minimum age for handgun ownership may vary, in most states, the minimum age to carry a handgun in public is 21. Federal age restrictions for rifle or shotgun ownership do not exist.
Federal firearm laws carry no particular licensing or training mandate; however, several state laws do. A few states necessitate licensing or training explicitly for handgun ownership, most requiring license or permit for public carry. State laws might differentiate between open and concealed carry, possibly varying licensing requirements between the two.
Certain states such as New York and California might issue permits to publicly carry handguns only with credible life or property threat proof. For most people in such locations, it’s effectively banned although technically legal in limited circumstances.
Ensure that you acquire any necessary licenses or permits before shopping for your first handgun. Understanding and complying with these requirements will contribute to responsible firearm ownership.
Those considering handgun purchase for concealed carry should be aware of varying state laws regarding concealed carry. Laws outlining restrictions, requirements, and procedures for public concealed carry vary.
Each state has its own set of laws and regulations pertaining to concealed carry, including the issuance of permits or licenses, eligibility criteria, application processes, and restrictions on where concealed firearms can be carried. Some states may have reciprocity agreements that recognize permits from other states, allowing non-residents to carry concealed firearms within their borders.
Constitutional Carry (or Unrestricted)
Under the Constitutional Carry paradigm, individuals who are legally allowed to own a handgun can carry it concealed in public without the need for a license or permit. However, it’s important to note that obtaining a license may provide additional privileges in certain situations. For example, in Arizona, carrying without a permit is allowed in most places except bars or restaurants serving alcohol. Acquiring a Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) license would grant permission to carry in those establishments with the owner’s consent. It’s essential to understand that while a CCW permit allows for concealed carry, property owners still retain the right to prohibit weapons on their premises.
In “Shall-issue” jurisdictions, authorities like sheriff or related agency are mandated to issue CCW permits to eligible applicants meeting basic qualifications.
In May-Issue states, the decision to issue a CCW permit is at the discretion of the government agency on a case-by-case basis. These jurisdictions may or may not apply objective criteria in their evaluation process.
The most restrictive states fall under the No-Issue category, where carrying firearms for civilians is severely limited. While some local sheriffs may issue a small number of permits, often to personal connections, it is generally not accessible to the average citizen.
Choosing the Right Handgun for You
Revolvers are often recommended for new shooters due to their simplicity and reliability. They have fewer moving parts, which makes them less prone to malfunctions and easier to focus on safety and basic shooting fundamentals. Revolvers can be a good choice if you’re not yet confident in your ability to handle a handgun safely. They also tend to be less expensive, which can be beneficial if you’re on a tight budget.
On the flip side, revolvers have certain drawbacks. They typically offer slower reload times and lower ammunition capacity compared to semi-automatic handguns. Customization choices for revolvers are also limited. While they’re great as backup weapons for those carrying a semi-automatic for primary defense, if you plan to carry a revolver as your primary or only defense firearm, consistent and intensive training is a must to address its tactical weaknesses.
Semi-automatic handguns have certain distinct advantages. They offer better ergonomics, faster reloads, higher ammunition capacities and have a wider range of caliber choices. A plethora of custom parts and accessories are available for semi-automatics, making them the top choice for self and home defense.
High-quality semi-automatic pistols usually cost more than good-grade revolvers. While chances of malfunctioning exist, especially with cheaper models, modern semi-automatic designs from reputable manufacturers have considerably upped the game in terms of reliability. Brands like Glock and Heckler & Koch are famous for their top-notch standards and exceptional reliability.
The ultimate choice between a semi-automatic handgun and a revolver boils down to personal preferences, budget, intended use, and shooting skills. Ideally, you should handle and test-fire different firearms to figure out what feels comfortable and fulfills your needs efficiently. Consulting knowledgeable firearms professionals or instructors can also provide valuable information to aid in decision making.
When it comes to handguns, the bullets are measured by their caliber, which can be indicated in millimeters or inches. If a caliber doesn’t include the “mm” designation, it’s typically measured in inches. You can refer to our ammo 101 guide for more detailed information on calibers.
Handgun calibers are generally categorized as small, medium, or large. Here are some of the popular calibers:
- Small: .32 ACP, .380, .22 LR
- Medium: 9mm, .40, .38
- Large: 10mm, .45 ACP, .357 or .44 Magnum
Larger-caliber bullets with a higher velocity and impact force result in larger firearms. However, the trend leans towards compact models with reduced capacity. Beginners often assume that small-frame, small-caliber guns are easy to handle, but that’s not always the case.
A full-sized 9mm handgun is easier to handle than a compact .32 model despite a 9mm bullet generating more recoil. This is due to the larger 9mm handgun frame absorbing much of the recoil force, leading to less experienced recoil. Thus, for new shooters concerned about comfortably controlling their first handgun, it’s recommended to choose a full-sized, medium-caliber model, even if it seems counterintuitive. Larger calibers aren’t always recommended for beginners since recoil increases beyond a certain point, surpassing the frame’s capability to absorb it, making the firearm harder to handle.
Handguns can have various safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidental firing, while others rely solely on the user’s training and discipline. For experienced shooters, these safeties may be deemed unnecessary or even potentially hazardous. However, as a new gun owner, having safety mechanisms can provide an added level of reassurance.
The size and weight of a handgun are crucial factors to consider, not only for managing recoil but also for concealment purposes. If you plan to carry the firearm concealed, opting for a compact or subcompact model will make it easier to hide on your person.
Stopping Power and Capacity
Stopping power, or the firearm’s ability to incapacitate an attacker (not exclusively lethal), generally correlates with the firearm’s caliber, inversely affecting capacity. As larger bullets take more space in the cylinder or magazine, fewer rounds can be loaded at once.
New Gun Owner Checklist: Everything You’ll Need
Required licenses, permits, or paperwork: Understanding and adhering to local firearm ownership laws are key before advancing. This process may involve obtaining weapon carry permits or separate firearm purchase licenses. It’s critical to have all necessary paperwork in order.
Well-fitted holster or sling: While it may be tempting to opt for a cheap and universal holster, investing in a high-quality holster specifically designed for your firearm will provide better durability and security. Similarly, a sturdy sling is essential for shotguns and rifles.
Durable belt: If planning to carry your handgun on your waist, it’s important to have a sturdy belt—a basic leather belt will suffice if a tactical or duty belt is not necessary.
Lockable carrying case: If you frequently travel with your firearm, investing in a lockable carrying case is advisable. Additionally, most ranges require firearms to be in a case or holster until you reach the firing line, making a case necessary for range use as well.
TSA-approved lock (if applicable): If you require a separate firearm case lock for travel, ensure it meets Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirements. You can find specifics on TSA-approved lock types on the official TSA website.
Dummy ammo: To become familiar and comfortable with your new firearm, using training rounds or dummy ammo is a safe and effective method. These inert plastic bullets allow for practice in handling, cycling, and operating the firearm.
Defense ammo: It’s important to research and select high-quality personal defense rounds suitable for your needs. While defense rounds can be expensive, firing a few boxes at the range can help you get accustomed to their performance.
Spare magazines: For semi-automatic firearms, having three magazines in total is a good starting point. It is advisable to purchase official magazines from the same manufacturer as your firearm, as aftermarket magazines may be of lower quality and more prone to failure.
Tactical light: A high-quality tactical light, either standalone or attachable, is an essential accessory for most shooters. Particularly for home or personal defense purposes, having the ability to illuminate dark areas is crucial.
Light batteries: Always keep spare batteries for your tactical light. As some lights may require specific battery types, it’s recommended to keep a spare available.
Multi-tool: A basic multi-tool can be incredibly useful for making minor adjustments, sight adjustments, clearing jams, or performing other necessary tweaks and repairs on your firearm. Having a space-efficient multi-tool is convenient for addressing various firearm-related tasks.
D-Lead soap or wipes: To effectively remove harmful substances like lead and gunpowder residue from your hands and face, consider using specialized D-Lead soap or wipes specifically designed for this purpose.
Bore brushes or Boresnake: Cleaning firearms maintain its condition. Caliber-specific bore brushes can effectively remove the initial layer of debris from the barrel. Alternatively, Boresnakes merge bore brush and cord for effortless cleaning.
Extension rods: These extendable metal rods reach inside the barrel and other tough-to-access areas for cleaning. Connect cleaning patches to the rods for a comprehensive clean.
Stiff and soft brushes: Utilize stiff, gold or copper-colored wire brushes for the initial cleaning stages, effectively removing dirt and grime. For more delicate cleaning tasks, soft nylon brushes are ideal to ensure gentle yet effective cleaning.
Cleaning patches: Small cotton patches, when used with a cleaning agent, effectively remove grease and gunpowder residue from varied firearm surfaces.
Cleaning agent: Solvents and degreasers are essential for tackling stubborn grit, grease, and carbon buildup, restoring your firearm to its original condition.
Lubricant: Applying a thin coat of lubricant on surfaces moving against each other ensures smooth functioning and amplifies the distinct safety and reliability of your firearm.
Protectant: While not always necessary, using a protectant can be beneficial, particularly in humid climates where rust protection is crucial. It helps safeguard your firearm from potential rust and corrosion.
Range Day Essentials
Practice ammo: Once ready, pay a visit to your local range for practice sessions using affordable ammunition balancing cost and quality. Avoid using steel-case ammunition as it may scratch your firearm and lead to malfunctions—brass ammunition is generally recommended for all shooters and firearms.
Hearing protection: Whether mandated by the range or not, investing in reliable hearing protection is essential. Ensure you have a good pair of earplugs and/or earmuffs to shield your ears from potentially damaging noise. Even a single gunshot can cause permanent hearing damage, so it’s crucial to prioritize proper protection.
Batteries (if applicable): If you’re using electronic earmuffs offering noise reduction and amplification features, it’s crucial to keep spare batteries. The earmuffs typically run on standard AA batteries and offer hours of usage before needing replacement.
Eye protection: While eye protection is not as critical as hearing protection, it still plays a significant role in ensuring safety at the range. Shielding your eyes from flying brass and providing a barrier in the rare event of a catastrophic malfunction is important. Make sure to bring along a pair of shooting glasses for adequate eye protection.
Range bag: A regular gym tote could suffice for basic range day, but a dedicated range bag provides distinct compartments and pockets designed to keep your firearm, ammunition, and accessories safe and organized during transport.
Shooting gloves: Extended range sessions may cause blisters and cuts on hands, even for experienced shooters. Shooting gloves provide protection without compromising dexterity. See our guide on choosing shooting gloves to find the perfect pair.
Magazine loader (for semi-automatics): Simplify and expedite the process of loading magazines with a convenient mag loader. This handy tool allows for faster and more comfortable magazine loading, particularly beneficial for individuals who find the task challenging or painful.
Speed loaders (for revolvers): Reloading revolvers swiftly requires a specific skill set. Speed strips and moon clips offer novice shooters the ability to reload their wheelguns more efficiently compared to the traditional method of loading rounds individually.
Gun safe: While a gun safe may be considered a luxury for some, it becomes a necessity if you have children or irresponsible individuals in your household. Ensuring the safety and security of your firearms is paramount, and investing in a well-made safe eliminates any potential unauthorized access.
Squib rod: For the rare event of a squib where a bullet becomes stuck in the barrel, a squib rod is an essential tool for safely removing the bullet. Although ranges generally provide squib rods, owning one adds to the preparedness level.
Ammo cans: If you possess only a few boxes of ammunition, storing them in their original cardboard containers is generally acceptable. However, for larger quantities, safeguard your rounds from environmental factors by utilizing a sturdy steel ammo can. Including a desiccant packet helps further protect against moisture.
Laser training cartridge: Laser training cartridges, shaped like bullets, enhance dry-fire training sessions. These cartridges are inserted into the firearm’s chamber and emit a laser upon trigger activation, providing visual feedback on the point of impact.
Laser batteries: Laser training cartridges typically require specific batteries, which are reasonably priced and offer an extended lifespan of several months under regular use. Be sure to have spare batteries available for uninterrupted training sessions.
In today’s scenario of ammunition shortage and high prices, it’s important to be conscious of ammunition usage without compromising on range practice. Instead of firing 200 rounds, consider a modest approach of around 100 rounds to ensure weapon reliability.
Opt for good-quality ammunition such as full metal jacketed loads or lead round-nose loads for revolvers. Hollow-points are not necessary at this stage. Reputable brands like Black Hills, Federal, Fiocchi, Hornady, Remington, Speer, and Winchester offer affordable options that are well-suited for practice and initial testing.
When purchasing ammunition, double-check and ensure that you select the correct caliber for your specific firearm. The caliber information is typically marked on the frame, slide, or barrel. It’s crucial to avoid ending up with ammunition that is incompatible with your gun. Keep in mind that once you’ve made the purchase, most shops have restrictions on trading or returning ammunition due to safety and insurance concerns.
Lubrication, Disassembly and Cleaning
Proper lubrication is crucial before firing a pistol. This usually involves applying lubricant on the long bearing surfaces where the slide rails meet the frame. Additionally, the barrel hood and cocking block need a drop of lubricant. As different pistol designs may need varying lubricant amounts, it’s better to follow the manufacturer’s specific guidance.
Learning to field-strip your pistol is essential for regular maintenance. This process involves removing the slide, barrel, and recoil spring for cleaning purposes. It’s important to note that field-stripping does not involve detailed disassembly of the trigger action. Each handgun has its own unique procedure for field-stripping, so familiarize yourself with the specific steps outlined by the manufacturer.
Cleaning the pistol after a range session is a straightforward process. Start by removing powder residue from the bore, breech face, and chamber. Use a copper brush to scrub the bore and then run a cotton patch through it until the patch emerges clean. It is recommended to spray the trigger action to dislodge any trapped powder residue. Investing in an appropriate cleaning kit tailored to your specific handgun is a worthwhile and affordable investment to ensure effective cleaning and maintenance.
Other Gear Checklist
Eye and Ear Protection: Protecting your eyes and ears is crucial during range activities, so it’s essential to invest in high-quality eye and ear protection. Avoid opting for overly inexpensive options and instead choose the best ones you can afford. You’ll appreciate the superior quality and performance they offer.
Spare Magazines: It’s essential to have spare magazines for efficient shooting. Keep a minimum of three magazines readily available—one in the pistol, one on your belt, and one in reserve. When planning your budget, consider the number of magazines included with the pistol you choose. Some models may come with multiple magazines, while others may only include one.
Quality Holster: A quality holster is a necessity. Avoid buying cheap fabric holsters that lack sufficient retention and support. A sturdy strong-side belt holster is a good choice for range work. If planning to carry concealed, pick a high-quality inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster ensuring both comfort and secure retention. Investing in a quality holster ensures safe and convenient firearm access.
Choosing the best first gun is a personal decision that depends on your intended use, budget, and personal preferences. The firearms listed in this article are excellent options for beginners, offering a balance of reliability, ease of use, and affordability. Regardless of your choice, always remember to prioritize safety, proper training, and practice to become a responsible and skilled gun owner.