While reading over some gun posts on Reddit I came across one where the person was asking for advice on buying their first gun. They had a link to the gun they were considering buying because a buddy told them about a good deal from one of the big chain sporting goods retailers. The first timer also said they had experience with M-16s and M-4s, implying some type of military background, but that was about all they said. The comments yesterday morning for the most part addressed the pros & cons of the gun in question. Such as the right caliber to buy, the attached scope, etc. But a couple of the comments asked for more info before making any recommendations. One even asked what they were going to use the gun for?

My comment to them went like this: “A gun is just like any other tool. You have to know what you are going to use it for before you buy it, in order to make sure you get the right tool for the job”.

As a NRA firearms instructor and just your friendly neighborhood gun guy, I have been asked many times “what gun should I buy first”.  And I am sure every other instructor in the country has been asked the same question. The root answer is, in fact, the question above: “What are you planning on using it for?”  But in reality, the question needs to go beyond just that most basic level. You really need to explore each person’s requirements for the gun (tool), so that the physical specifications of the gun and its intended purpose will meet the needs of the buyer. At least until they want more then it was designed to provide.

The question then becomes a series of questions, each interrelated to the other:

  1. What is the intended primary purpose of the firearm from the buyer’s perspective? Such as target practice, hunting or self-defense. Each of which has many sub-sets with varying physical requirements for the firearm to meet so that it can fulfil that sole purpose.
  2. Does it have an intended secondary purpose?
  3. If so, how often would it be used for that secondary purpose?
  4. Is the secondary purpose really compatible with the primary purpose? For example a target pistol is normally too large and has too many sharp edges to work well as a concealed carry self-defense gun.
  5. Are the shooter and the gun compatible with each other? Or, in other words, does the gun fit the shooter? A good example is an elderly person or someone with arthritis trying to work the slide on a full size 1911 or being able to hold down a 357 Magnum 3 inch barreled lightweight revolver. Or even the opposite situation! One where you have a big man, say  6’ 4” or more with long arms, trying to shoot a carbine with only a 12 inch length of pull. In this case the gun is just too small for them. So the gun must not only meet the intended purpose but also the shooter’s physical requirements as well.
  6. At this point the shooter needs to ask themselves (or the sales person should ask) what firearms training has the shooter had?  Or are they one of the many new shooters who go out and buy the gun first and then think about learning how to use it? Their existing knowledge of firearms, and the safe handling of them, should also be an important consideration before the buyer puts cash on the table. Because a new shooter can easily become so discouraged that they just give up. If they don’t get the right gun to fit them, and their needs, and the training to go with it.
  7. Now is when the normal questions should come into the equation.
  8. How much does it cost? Please note: this is usually the very first question that is asked ;-(
  9. What type of gun do I want?
  10. What caliber do I want?
  11. What color or finish does it come in?
  12. What type of stock or grips do I want?
  13. What comes with it?

 Hopefully, after all this, the new buyer will get their very first gun of their own . . .  and it will actually do what they want it to do.

In reality all of us should be asking these fundamental questions every time we are considering our next purchase (or even thinking about buying our next firearm). In addition, we should be helping out our family and friends with their purchases by asking them these questions. Because it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of purchasing that bright, shiny (black, camo or whatever) new gun! It’s great to be excited just be smart about it. Then head for the range and enjoy it.

Just today’s food for thought 😉