Whether you’re completely new to the shooting sports, or an ardent enthusiast finally ready to make a purchase, buying your first gun can be overwhelming. With the wide array of choices, we, as consumers, sometimes do not know where to begin in the gun selection process. With a little bit of preparation and research, however, you can have the information you need to choose the right gun for you. Here are a few tips, in no particular order, to help you along your journey to buy your first gun, with a focus on choosing a handgun.

Disclaimer: This beginner’s guide is only a recommendation—a starting point for your research. The Arms Guide heartily recommends personal research, first hand experience, and, if possible, professional training as you learn more about your firearms and the shooting sports world. This how-to is meant to be a guide to help you get started, not a set-in-stone rule book. As with all new endeavors into the gun world, you’ll have to find what works best for you, but, hopefully this will get you pointed in the right direction.

Know your gun’s purpose. 

Before taking a trip to your local gun store, make sure you know for what purpose you will be using your first gun. If you’ve never fired a gun and are just starting out, you may want to look into a range gun. A range gun generally will have a longer barrel than a smaller, conceal carry gun. Usually, range guns are quite comfortable to shoot. In general, they are larger and heavier than their smaller, concealed carry, counterparts which results in less perceived recoil. At the very least, a range gun will help you to learn the basics of shooting, enabling you to become more comfortable handling firearms. As the name suggests, it’s ideal to use it at the range for target practice.

Ruger SR22 Photo courtesy of www.ruger.com.
RugerSR22 Photo courtesy of www.ruger.com.

Many new shooters make the mistake of buying a small, conceal carry handgun as their first gun. Their plan is often to use the same gun for carry as well as for plinking at the range. Unfortunately, smaller guns are less comfortable to shoot and tend to have much more recoil than larger ones due to their weight and size. Beginner shooters who start with these guns often quickly find themselves frustrated when trying to shoot them, partly due to intense recoil, which results in an unenjoyable shooting experience. My recommendation for first time shooters is to learn the basics with a larger, more comfortable gun with less recoil before moving on to a smaller one. Learning how to use a small gun can take some adjusting. It helps if you’ve already had some experience.

My first gun was a Ruger SR22. As a range gun, it’s comfortably large with a long enough barrel to use for target practice. As a beginner, I found it very enjoyable and comfortable to shoot. It felt good in my hands and with it, I began to learn the basics of shooting and handling firearms.

Start With A Low Caliber

.22LR Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons www.commons.wikimedia.org.
.22LR Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons www.commons.wikimedia.org.

If you are a beginner, it’s widely recommended by professional shooting instructors, and seasoned shooting enthusiasts alike to start with a low caliber (such as a .22) to help you learn the fundamentals of shooting. Usually, lower calibers will have less recoil than larger ones. Less recoil often results in a more pleasant and fun shooting experience. With less “bang,” it’s easier to have fun (instead of being intimidated, as some new shooters are) and focus on fundamentals. There’s a practical component to starting small, too: it’s generally cheaper. And, any lessons you absorb while learning to shoot with a lower caliber can easily be applied to shooting a larger caliber, once you’re ready.

Revolver or Semi-Auto? What Suits YOU?

Both revolvers and semi-automatics use a different manual of arms for firing and loading a gun. During your selection process, it’s best to choose a first gun with a system you feel comfortable using and handling.