how to buy a gun

What to Think About Before, During and After Buying Your First Handgun

There's a lot of information to unpack when buying a handgun, let alone the first gun in a collection, especially when the first-time buyer isn't sure how and where to start.

Walking into a gun shop for the first time and purchasing a handgun immediately on the recommendation of one salesperson isn't exactly recommended.

When looking to buy your first handgun, there are several considerations before, during and after the purchase.

Before Buying Your First Handgun

how to purchase a gun

Before anything else in the process of buying your first handgun, think about the intended application of the weapon.

What are you going to use it for? That question will break up the hundreds of immediate options.

Home defense handguns can be bulkier and come in a heavier caliber, depending. Concealed carry handguns tend to be compact options (to varying degrees) that make carrying the handgun a bearable process throughout the day.

Target shooting handguns can start with a low recoil .22 caliber plinking model and level up to heavier and snappier models, with more range time. Some people simply purchase a handgun as backup security while hunting.

The thing is, there are even more categories and they're extremely diverse.

There are niche categories of handguns, so identifying the need for a handgun will help determine which type will best serve the individual, so they may choose what's best for them and the characteristics of how and why they carry.

Recommendations are great, especially from folks at a gun shop or range that take the time to know the ins and outs of their respectively used firearms, but take caution because as with any field, firearms owners may have heavy bias, depending on the source.

No one single source of information, online or in person, will present all the necessary information, so research, research, research a brand and model of handgun for its specific characteristics and reliability.

The physical characteristics of the handgun owner matter, too, of course. Often this is redirected to a discussion on gender, but the focus should be directed less toward men and women and more on general body size, strength (specifically hand strength), weaknesses and idiosyncrasies.

This will factor into how a first-time, lawful gun owner and shooter handles semi-automatics or revolvers and their calibers. Among other things, the mass of a gun will contribute to mitigating recoil — the sharp backward kick of a gun when firing ammunition, just as smaller caliber, lighter guns will have less felt recoil. The interplay between firearm and caliber is a sliding scale of various factors.

Before deciding on either a semi-automatic or revolver, try out both on a range. Certain locations allow visitors to rent equipment and purchase ammunition (be wary of pricing). Test out a Glock, put some time in with a Smith & Wesson revolver, try a Colt. Find what works for you and take into consideration, with a grain of salt, what others think and then question someone else.

It's a community. Everyone is there to support one another.

Hand strength was mentioned above because trigger weight and type will factor into how easily one can pull it. There are a few common types of triggers: single action, double action, double action single action and other variants. Some prefer one over another, and some types will be marginally easier than others to squeeze.

Also take into account laws. It sounds like a no-brainer, but there are various laws at the federal, state and local level. These laws will dictate when, where, who, how, why, what and to what extent one may carry, possess and purchase handguns. This varying level of control governing bodies have on firearms is a core component in the political debate on gun rights, and why it's often something those who have never even touched a firearm will first bring up.

When buying that first gun, try to separate the debate from the laws that are in place and learn objectively what those laws are and how they might impact the purchase and possession of that first gun. That's not to say debate isn't important or necessary, and it should be understood, but don't let it distract from a lawful purchase.

After Buying Your First Handgun

buying a gun

There will be responsibilities and regrets when buying that first gun. It may be inevitable for some, because their carry style changes, shooting style adjusts or other reasons.

When purchasing a handgun, whether it's a pistol or revolver or whether it's a 9mm or .22 (or anything in between or beyond), think about how it's going to be carried and why.

There are several places on and off the body a handgun can be carried, depending on preference and situation. Inside the waistband is a great place for concealment, either at the 5 o'clock position, appendix or anywhere in between.

Outside the waistband may be achieved with a paddle, clip or belt slide. Some prefer ankle carry. Others like a shoulder holster that hangs to the side of the chest. Some holster systems can be stowed safely in a bag.

Each will have its own strengths and weaknesses and will depend on body type, materials and whether it completely covers and secures the trigger guard and other applicable portions of the handgun.

Another heavily recommended and echoed sentiment after purchasing a handgun is to take a handgun safety and operation course. They have varying fees, but they teach the basics on many introductory topics of how/why firearms act the way they do, tried and true gun safety practices and firearms laws.

Not to mention, if one would like to carry their respective pistol or revolver outside the home or range, there will be varying state laws on open and concealed carry depending on where one is from, with some requiring one of those courses. Some states require a general handgun license that covers both open and concealed carry. Other states simply have concealed carry permits.

There are states that have less restrictions on firearms ownership and do not require a permit — they're commonly referred to these days as Constitutional Carry states, but have been known in the past as Vermont Carry states (for a long time it was the only state that had a general constitutional carry outlook).

A gun safe or safe storage system is an important consideration. The handgun won't always be on the gun owner, and negligent discharge can happen if they leave it out in the open and accessible to irresponsible parties.

When purchasing from a federal firearms license dealer, there will be a background check. When purchasing from private parties, this may have some variability, depending on where and from whom the individual is purchasing.

After the handgun is purchased, consistent range time, drills and practice are a necessity in order to understand the nuances of the firearm, how to effectively use it and whether or not it's still a good fit.

Furthermore, it's good to consider proper handgun maintenance, cleaning and lubricating practices for various firearms after their purchase. Many clean and maintain their firearm after every visit to the range.

These are just a few considerations when purchasing a firearm. Bottom line: research and think about how you, the buyer, will effectively use, maintain and rely on a firearm based on individual body, situational and firearm characteristics.

It's an amazing lifestyle, but a big responsibility. Good luck, and know that others are here for you throughout the process.

Jake Smith  

About The Author

Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the Pacific Northwest who enjoys shooting pictures and ammunition outdoors.

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