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The Top Five Mistakes New Gun Owners Make

It may seem like a daunting task to get through the pre-work in buying a first gun; it can feel like an overwhelming process.  But there is a way to keep the task at hand to a pleasurable experience so you understand what you’re getting and manage to avoid excess work in the process. Ideally, you will want to look at a few variables:

  • What is the purpose for the gun?
  • What will it take to keep it running?
  • How will you store it?
  • What will it take to become proficient with the firearm?

With those questions on the table, the below information should serve as a basic reference for a first time gun purchase. Definitely don’t hesitate to get some additional research in. The more you know and the better the variety of sources the better off you’ll be in the end.

Here are five mistakes new gun owners often make:

1. Picking the wrong caliber

What is the catalyst for the purchase and what will you want to be using the firearm for after the purchase? Are you sure you have enough of a gun for the primary purpose? Are you sure you haven’t overbought for the plans you have?  The problem most first time gun buyers run into is that they look for too little or too much gun, when just a bit more understanding will yield them an appropriate result.

A self-defense choice may be better suited to a larger caliber than, say, a person looking for cheap family shooting. You might consider a 9mm or a .45 for home defense, whereas those cartridges are significantly more expensive and difficult to keep shooting all day long when out with the kids. For that, you might consider a .22 LR. Trying to pack some major heat in a concealed carry weapon as a first purchase, like a very large framed weapon (say a K-frame Smith and Wesson .44 with a 6”+ barrel or a desert Eagle or Wildey) is obvious overkill for all but the largest, more experienced shooters.

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It’s important to know what the reasonable norms are with a given class of firearms and adjust for personal preference after that.  When hunting small deer, it’s not necessary to be looking for a .338 Lapua. Perhaps a better round might be the .270 or maybe as high as a .308 if you’re willing to adjust the loads down. A small shotgun may be too weak for 25 lb. turkeys; you will want to see what others are using, those who are doing the things you want to do.

2. Paying too much

gun shop buying first gun

image credit foxbus

Often times new gun owners get fooled into believing that if they don’t buy the highest ticket item in a specific class, that they will somehow be failing in the gun game, or won’t have the item they need as a result.  Often times, great bargains can be found when you know what your minimum requirements are, and can adjust up or down based on what you are seeing in the process. It’s not in the salesman’s best interest to be down-selling you, the customer, on a lesser priced weapon.  It’s not always the situation, but it’s not the exception either: look for something that you need, not something someone wants to see you purchase.

There is a premium to be paid for the name brand weapons, when they aren’t necessarily the only firearms that can produce the required results.  That said: it’s important to find a high quality firearm, and make a relative comparison to see where you want to end up.

Luckily, there have been so many excellent improvements in the materials and manufacturing processes over the last decade that even the inexpensive guns, which some might call Saturday night specials (or throw-aways), are actually fairly reliable compared to their counterparts from years back.

Looking for a value isn’t as difficult as it once was, as the major makers compete for consumer dollars and as the retail shops are willing to clear inventory for fresh product. It doesn’t take thousands of dollars to find a quality defensive weapon, and it shouldn’t costs thousands to properly outfit yourself with a hunting firearm.

3. Not getting trained

Training is an incredibly important component of the process. Don’t be that new gun owner who thinks it’s ok to load a gun and store it away and then doesn’t know what to do with it when something happens that requires it’s retrieval from the place they’ve stored it.

It’s important that we have the right to own firearms, and it’s okey by me to see guns go into the safe and not get touched, but we have a certain level of responsibility to other citizens and to the protectors of our freedoms to learn the proper usage techniques and know how to handle them in a wide range of situations. The point of training is to prevent accidents and to understand the importance of proper handling, storage, and mindset.  But it doesn’t hurt to learn what the professionals have to teach. It’s worth the extra expenditure to get some specific and high quality training.

4. Choosing the wrong ammo

Knowing how to feed your new family member is important too: it’s all about understanding what you are getting with the different varieties of ammunition and how to use them in the proper scenarios.

gun_cleaning2FMJ ammunition is excellent for target shooting and learning the gun, but you may be able to get better results in terminal ballistics with hollow-points of defense specific loads. You will also want to assess your situation for ammunition suitability. Slugs might be good for shotgun hunting, but they could cause over-penetration in a home defense setting. The same is true for buckshot loads depending on your home’s construction and what sleeps in the bed behind the bedroom walls.

There is a lot of discussion between different shooters about what makes sense for defensive shotgun loads, or which types of ammunition are better than others.  Some may say 8 shot will bounce off of attackers, while others may over-penetrate.  Ask a few questions, and determine what level of concern you have for over- or under-penetration, and make a choice based on your specific situation.

Hollow-point ammunition is an excellent fit for a defensive weapon.  FMJ will work, but it’s not a matter of minimums, but rather what is important to accomplish: stopping a threat, comes to mind.

Make sure you aren’t putting the wrong ammunition in the weapon, and try to match the age and condition of the gun to the proper loads to avoid over-pressure issues. A 10-gauge antique shotgun made with thin-walled barrels is probably not the best choice to feed high-end magnum shells. Maybe it’s best to hang it over the mantle.

5. Not maintaning the gun

Cleaning a firearm is essential to the best performance.  They are finely tuned machines; they do require cleaning, but it isn’t something you have to be crazy about.  Every time you shoot a few hundred rounds through a gun, you should detail clean the internals that you can reasonably reach, and each time you shoot, you should be cleaning the barrel and chamber, and removing powder residue and fouling from the basic components that are visible with field stripping.

Use good quality ammunition, and don’t over-oil.  Don’t be afraid to clean, but don’t feel like the new firearm is finicky if you don’t baby it.  The modern firearm is built to function, so use it.

A final note:

Learn what you can from the resources you have available, but remember, you must always gauge for yourself what will make sense for you.  Just because someone is knowledgeable or the Internet copy sounds great, doesn’t mean it’s a magic bullet for you to trust your life with.  Get your hands dirty: handle guns, see things in person, and take some shots before you make a final decision.  The best thing you can do: ask why.  Not the generic version of the question, rather the real hard-to-answer questions. If someone tells you the only gun for you is a 1911, then find out why. And try to understand why not.

Combine the aforementioned information with your willingness to find a winner, and you will.

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