Question of the Day: How Do You Research A New Gun Purchase?

The Truth About Guns tells the truth about guns. Although we accept ads from any gunmaker who wants to hawk their wares to our 650k-plus monthly readers, there’s an impregnable barrier between editorial and advertising. If a gun sucks we’ll say so. No punches pulled. This is so not the case elsewhere, where all the handguns are strong, all the shotguns are good looking, and all rifles are above average (for example, check out americanrifleman.org‘s review of Windham Weaponry’s SRC AR-15 Carbine). So, other than and/or including us, how do you decide whether a gun is worth your hard-earned money? Testimonials from gun BFFs, forums, rental trigger time, gun dealer say-so a combination of all of the above? What?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

48 Responses to Question of the Day: How Do You Research A New Gun Purchase?

  1. avatarBrandon says:

    I find one that meets my requirements and feels good in my hands and I buy it. If I like it I keep it. If I grow to hate it I sell it. To be honest gun reviews are worthless to me to a point….guns are too subjective.

  2. avatarMatt in FL says:

    I start with “what do I want to do with it/what do I want it for?” Once that’s established, then it’s lots of internet research, forums, etc., as well as input from anyone I can find who has one. Even if you can’t find a review on “your gun,” reading writeups on any other gun in the same class can often give you “things to look for.” After all that, there’s no substitute for trigger time.

    I’m shopping for a smaller (than my XD(M) 3.8) carry weapon right now. I had just about settled on the S&W Bodyguard .380, until I shot it one day with several other .380′s. Turns out, I hated it. I’d like to have something that I can enjoy shooting, at least to gain proficiency, and that sexy little black gun tore the web of my hand up. (Not slide bite, just blunt trauma.) A couple others were much more comfortable, but had other characteristics I disliked. So, back to the drawing board. I’ve resettled on a P238 now, I think, but I’ve yet to get trigger time on one to cement the deal. Springfield has muddied the waters with the introduction of their XDs single stack line. Having the same manual of arms on both my carry guns is very attractive. I don’t want a XDs .45, so now the question is, “Do I pop on the P238, or wait on the (as yet undated) release of the XDs .40 or 9mm?”

    • avatarRon says:

      Matt,
      If you are satisfied with your XD (M) have you considered a XDSC 3.0?
      I have carried one in .40 in my front pocket EDC for over nine (9) years and have no desire to replace it in the foreseeable future.
      My wife has carried either a 9mm XDSC or Kahr K9 Elite depending on cover garment for the same nine (9) year period.

      • avatarMatt in FL says:

        I remember looking at those way back when. The thing I dislike about the XDSC is that it’s still a double stack, and I’d like something thinner as we get into the hot months here in Florida. The thing makes the XDs potentially so attractive to me is that it’s a super slim single stack that looks, feels, and operates just like my XD(M). Thanks for the tip, though.

        Here’s GunsAmerica’s writeup on it.

        • avatarpastubbs says:

          Yeah that XDs does look nice I haven’t seen one on the shelf yet but after reading a few reviews comparing its size to other guns its looking like its going to be a pretty sweet handgun ruffly the size of a Walther PPS but in .45 ACP

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          Matt in FL: I don’t know if you’ll agree once you try them, but small single-stack .45ACP’s for me are more pleasant to shoot than 9mm +P or any .40 cal. Less crack, different muzzle flash. Just less bad. Very compact and light. I carry G36′s, but I would guess the XDs is equally pleasant. The G36 is easy to pocket carry and not painful in recoil. Agree with pastubbs. You owe it to yourself to at least try these at the range.

  3. avatarAharon says:

    A gun is a bullet delivery system. Big Q: What are the results or benefits that xyz gun will deliver? Will the gun help me achieve my goals and/or solve my (gun related) problems?

    Think computers: think how it will be used, then think what bullets (software) will work best for you, then which gun (hardware) will best work with those bullets. Ideally, I think it should go in that direction.

    I seek out all the professional site reviews and smaller private blogs that I can find (knowing some are BS) and I look for common denominators or concepts among those reviews. I go to the gun owner driven/consumer forums and read those comments and maybe ask some questions. I also go to youtube and watch any video reviews reading some of the comments and leaving some questions of my own. I go to a local gun store or two, and the monthly gun show and discuss the model with more sales reps. It’s a long process yet it helps me from making (big) mistakes. I am never in a hurry to buy a gun. Along the way I learn some good insights from among the initial gun choices I may have had.

  4. avatarMilVetAndconcernedCivy says:

    for the .40 i strongly recommend the FNX-40 i hate the way most the competitors feel as far as grips and this fit great, not to mention it is slightly lighter than the competitors too and the sight system is awesome without mods

  5. avatarAaronvan says:

    1) Go find one and ask myself does it feel in my hands?
    2) TTAG
    3) MFG website
    4) Google reviews
    Yup sums up the mini14 purchase… haven’t bought a gun since that in oh 4 years?
    Also related 4 months in and finally got my NJ FID change of address…. ridiculous…

  6. avatarRalph says:

    I talk to people who I trust and read reviews written by people I trust, like Nick, Chris, Tyler and the other writers right here on TTAG. They are opinion-makers because they call it like they see it, and they are not for sale. Even when I disagree with their conclusions, I know that they don’t make sh!t up and they’re not kissing a$$.

    I ignore every mainstream publication and especially one very enjoyable online publication (which I read regularly) where every gun is “a joy to shoot,” because they’re all paid flacks.

    I ignore “word of mouth,” unless I can personally verify it. I have called the gun culture a “suburban Middle School rumor mill,” and so it is. 10% of the time, it’s correct. 90% of the time, it’s outdated or complete bullsh!t.

    I handle the gun, shoot the gun if I can, dry fire if I can’t, and consider whether the gun truly meets my needs. If everything is a go, I then ask myself the ultimate question: does the gun look cool?

    Life is too short to shoot ugly guns.

    • avatarTwinkie says:

      “I ignore every mainstream publication and especially one very enjoyable online publication (which I read regularly) where every gun is “a joy to shoot,” because they’re all paid flacks. ”

      This might be the same site where all guns are “dandy weapons.”

  7. avatarJason says:

    1. Manufacturer’s reputation and area of expertise. If it’s made in the European country with the highest rate of alcoholism, I avoid it. If it’s made in Florida, I avoid it.
    2. Design philosophy. Did you put a firing pin block or an external extractor on a 1911? Did you add an extra part to serve as a loaded chamber indicator? Do you add a magazine disconnect? A designer who insults me or John Browning right from the get go probably fails to wash his hands after using the toilet, and other unsavory practices.
    3. Finally, a test of the trigger. If it has sights and a trigger, I can shoot it. It’s nice to have a good trigger.

    • avatarTTACer says:

      It’s funny cuz it’s true. German/Austrian or American, with apologies to the good people of Florida, for these purposes they don’t count.

    • avatarGS650G says:

      So all the workers in Florida gun factories are alcoholic fools?
      Nice.

    • avatarMatt says:

      A serious question for you: is the “external extractor on a 1911″ an issue from a aesthetics/purity of design perspective or is it from a performance perspective? I ask because I’m considering a Sig as my first 1911 and only read good things about it.

      • avatarJason says:

        It’s messing with something that’s not broken, and making it harder to find spare parts. I don’t agree with that decision, and if I don’t agree with that, it’s likely the designer did something else I don’t agree with either. It’s not a guarantee that the gun will suck, but it has saved me trouble in the past (Kimber’s external extractor 1911s are notorious, and I avoided buying one of those, while my internal extractor Kimber is one of my favorites.) so I continue using that rule of thumb.

        More recently, I was looking at a S&W, even rented it, but rejected it because of the external extractor and series 80 nonsense. It was fun to shoot though, so I tried to rent it for a friend a few weeks later. Turns out, it had broken, and they were having problems getting it serviced. Bullet dodged.

        There are enough standard 1911s out there, I don’t feel the need to reward those who mess with a proven design for no clear benefit.

  8. avatarpastubbs says:

    For me it realy comes down to which one feels the best in my hand and I shoot better unfortunately no review of a firearm can tell me that. So it starts off with a lot of trips to gun stores and trade shows. Then once I find one that fits my hands good I watch a lot of Youtube videos and read the reviews to see how well they actually do in the real world. For yrs I just bought Glocks and left it at that until one day my brother got a M&P40 and I was like man this feels good in the hand then I shot it a few times and I switched over.

    That being said I tend not to buy a lot of firearms I usually keep a few for certain purposes IE 2 range guns (M&P9 pro and a Walther P22) 2 carry gun (M&P40c and a G29), 1 long gun (AR variety). Although I am looking to add a shotgun to my collection I’m not really big on shotguns so I’m not really sure where to start. So I guess a good well rounded overview comparing the different types and action would be more of a help then a one by one review of different models.

    On that note whats a good shotgun for someone that’s in the market for one mostly recreational shooting not really for home defense or hunting just a good range gun. I was thinking semi-auto but after talking to my brother he suggested a pump action seeing as how his Mossberg 930 wont cycle with target rounds. Any help would be nice.

    • avatarMark N. says:

      Remington wingmaster pump. Utterly reliable, solid piece, and usually good deals on used ones abound.

    • avatarbrigo05 says:

      hey tubbs,
      I have a buddy who has a Mossberg 930SPX and has the same target load issue, we also found it wouldnt cycle properly if fired from the hip.
      My advice is that the 930 is ammo picky, go to Dicks sporting goods and buy a 100 round box of pheasant loads for about $30.
      Target loads, cheap loads, never cycled in his either.

    • avatarBuuurr says:

      My mossy cycles anything I put in it (low recoil buck, slugs, plate and buck, quail loads, target loads, everything). I have shot over a 1000 rounds of target load at clays this past summer and haven’t had a hitch even though I cleaned it once. Some of the shots were from the hip. Some just off the shoulder while walking and all over the place surprised to see a bird.

      There maybe a slug spring in your mossy. Says in the manual that if you intend to fire slugs primarily you should have a certain spring or something in there. Maybe the one in question has it in there straight from the manu for whatever reason.

  9. avatarMides says:

    FIRST, I encounter it somewhere, the net, the range, it speaks to me. I am attracted to it. I look it up, esthetically first. Every angle, protrusion, lever and hammer. I like it even more so now I am willing to find out more. The more I read the spec and the more respect, the more I am convinced. Now I hear and see the rumors and innuendo, only to find out the real truth about the gun. So I try then cannot wait to buy, but alas, sometimes it completely dies.

  10. avatarg says:

    Looks like everyone has a pretty similar process. Being a frugal family man, my process, after sorting out the eternal NEED vs WANT issues:

    1) Experiences of friends. Luckily, I have a few LE and military buddies that get their hands on lots of gear, and share with me what they’ve learned.

    2) First-hand / hands-on impression. How does the gun work when I’m holding it? Does it feel comfortable, safe, and natural to shoot? This usually requires visit to a gun store / range, of course.

    3) Internetz. Blogs, YouTube, articles… tons of info out there. Just got take the time to sift through and find nice sites like TTAG. :)

  11. avatarPhilthegardener says:

    Talk to a lot of my gunny friends. Read gun reviews. Watch youtube videos. Fondle and if possible shoot for the final results… Long process that takes 4 or 6 months at the shortest – I’m not exactly flush with cash

  12. avatarBuuurr says:

    I look at my current needs and weigh what needs to come first and foremost. First off is adequate all day protection. Something I can carry everywhere. A handgun. Then I look at what sizes and weights I have to select from and the performance of those rounds. I then look at pricing of the rounds. Then I go back to looking at some reputable manufacturers and what they have to offer. I make a long list of handguns and read some reviews. I make a short list. I check the prices of those handguns. I select my caliber and then visit my local gun broker. I ask his advice on the gun and what he has heard. He gives me an even shorter list. I evaluate the prices/performance and stocking fees for the caliber and availability of the caliber. I try the gun and see how it feels. If I like it. I buy it. I now have a nice gun for home carry/conceal carry.

    I move on to what I need next. I need a standoff gun. What are the best guns for that? Do I want the reliable/powerful shotgun? Do I want a rifle? Do I want it in semi or pump? What are the prices and the reliability of the brand? Rinse and repeat a lot of the same as above and we have a shotgun for home defense.

    So… I have gotten into the prepping thing. Maybe need a gun that can do it all and be light and have a fairly common caliber. Rifle or carbine? Rifles are long and not really my thing. Very pricey too. A carbine is nice and light and has terrific punch at 100-150 yards and are real cheap. I do some reviews. Look for quality testing. Rinse and repeat above. Carbine on order.

  13. avatarAPBTFan says:

    My research consists of anything and everything I can find about a particular firearm on the net. I read forum reviews/opinions, blog reviews, official reviews and even research opinions of similar firearms from the same maker. For instance if I wanted a Ruger GP-100 I’d also get a general feel for the SP-101 and Redhawk.

    Read enough material from folks that have actually used the thing and it’s fairly easy to spot the folks that have never had meaningful trigger time with one or have some sort of chip on their shoulder against the specific firearm or manufacturer in general. For me it’s read, read, read and I’ve never been disappointed.

    • avatarChaz says:

      Read, read – me too. There are writers and www sites that have nothing bad to say about anything they review. However reading between the lines may detect “damned by faint praise” or curious omissions.

  14. avatarRopingdown says:

    I buy guns the same way I buy houses: I decide basically what I want (skeet gun, pistol, elk rifle, whatever). I scour the market for what is available new or used. I eliminate any item that has a flaw. Even a trivial “personal taste” flaw. (Unlike many, I prefer external extractors on 1911′s, laugh.) When the barrel quality, action type, details of manufacture, have rejected most…then I pick the pretty one, the ‘feels good in my hands’ one, and buy it. “When I find one I can’t reject, I buy it.” I have to stop, soon. Really. No more! Laugh. I prefer NiB bolt carrier groups in AR types. I prefer “Melonite” or “Tennifer” on stainless steel for pistols. Everyone has their own tastes. Don’t ignore yours. “If it doesn’t feel sweet, you must delete.”

  15. avatarNCG says:

    I research guns exhaustively. Then I don’t buy them, because I’m flat broke. I have mouths to feed and bills to pay. I think my first carry pistol will be a surplus CZ-82. I’m amazed when so many TTAGers say “Why not just get the so-and-so” that costs $1500.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      Ain’t a damn thing wrong and a lotta things right with a CZ-82.

    • avatarcz82mak says:

      Yes, the CZ82 is a great gun, hence my moniker.
      In researching it, I don’t recall any bad reviews. Finally held one and I had to have it. If you get one and find the recoil too snappy, try some new recoil springs. Wolff Springs has them for short money.

      The latest batch on the market appears to be really nice from what the internet is saying.

      Get one! or Two!

    • avatarcz82mak says:

      I might also suggest getting a C&R license. It’s $30, will pay for itself when you ship that 1st gun right to your door and skip the FFL transfer fee.

    • avatarNCG says:

      Thanks for the reinforcement. As I said, I do my research, and the CZ-82 looks damn good for the money. I’d rather get a P-01, so maybe that’s the second pistol.

      I have yet to see a -82 in the flesh, but I’m willing to roll the dice.

  16. avatarAPBTFan says:

    “If it doesn’t feel sweet, you must delete.”

    Been my policy for gals, guns and cars.

  17. avatarGS650G says:

    Most of mine were spur of the moment decisions. I’ve not regretted many. I’ve sold guns I ended up not liking. I don’t research can positively guarantee you’ll be happy with your choice, you have to grow accustomed to the tool and either love it or leave it.

  18. avatarMike in NC says:

    Way back in the early 90′s I didn’t do much research before making a purchase and magazines would have been my primary source in those pre-internet years. I have been happy with both purchases made in that era even though one was made through the pure use of “the force”. I have only one regret from that impulse buy of a S&W 908: Now I want to buy MORE of the discontinued third generation S&Ws (3913 and 4040PD compacts are at the top of my list).

    Contrast this with my relatively recent entry into the AR world. I spent so much time researching and studying that rifles and even parts were beginning to get in short supply by the time I was ready to purchase. Checking the marketplace now for assembling another AR, it seems that most AR parts makers have switched from using aircraft aluminum to using highly refined unobtanium (first used on SR-71 plans, I think).

  19. avatarbrigo05 says:

    I have some guy call me or text me every damn day (knowing that ive owned 25-30 pistols) “Im thinking about getting this, I want this, what do you think about this, will this be good for plinking?? will this take down a bear??”
    I tried being nice, I tried telling him to go to a large firearms outlet like Bass Pro or Gander Mtn and see what feels best. But it is a daily pest in my ear so…
    I finally ended up telling him this:
    Buy It.
    Try It.
    Dont like it?
    Sell it.
    He always buys the highest end guns, turns around and sells them for something else, even after I’ve mentioned to him about things he didnt like about mine in the past(like my G23 and now wants a Glock). Right now he is looking at a Glock34 (because it has a cutout in the barrel omg! omg!) and a S&W 626PC (because it has two extra rounds in the cylinder omg! omg!).

  20. avatarbontai Joe says:

    Most of my firearms were purchased in the 1970′s thru the 1980′s (pre internet) so at that time I had to rely on magazines and books like Gun Digest. right now I learned of a rifle from reading this site http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/06/chris-dumm/not-a-scout-rifle-the-mossberg-mvp/ , made by Mossberg, it’s a bolt action in 5.56 mm that uses AR magazines. I like the concept VERY much, but Mossberg is not famous for making bolt action rifles and there is very little out there about them. I’ve been to 3 large stores to see if they have one in stock that I can at least look at, but no luck so far. My needs for this rifle are pretty simple, I am looking for a centerfire rifle in an easy to get caliber, easy to get magazines, with decent 250 yard accuracy (if I can put 5 rounds in under 6″ at 250 yards. I’ll be happy), can mount a scope and a sling on it and not cost me a month’s pay to buy. So periodically I’m searching for reviews on the ‘net just in case it turns out that this rifle has problems, and stopping by the big gun shops in the area in hopes that eventually I will get one in my hands to see if it “feels” right in my hands.

  21. avatarTim says:

    I don’t always research a gun first. Some guns are just impulse buys, but I always shoot them first. I think that’s more important than reading about a gun. If I’m looking for a gun to fill a particular need, I do my homework and get a genaral idea of what I want, but I don’t buy anything until I’ve held it in my hands and fired it. Reviews are only as honest as the person writing them and can only tell you so much. I’ve read reviews praising a weapons trigger, then shot the gun and hated it. What other people think is a good gun might be way diffent that what I think one is.

  22. avatarAccur81 says:

    Shooters may lie, but targets don’t. Shooting is believing, and I want to fire a model before I buy it. If that isn’t possible, I’ll pore over reviews, and combine that with common sense design assessment.

    I’ve helped several folks through their first AR-15 purchase, and will be helping several more. I’ve had multiple shooters try my piston and DI AR’s, so they can see for themselves what they like, and which components make sense.

  23. avatarCharlie says:

    Step 1: Thunder strikes. Impulse desire peaks.
    Step 2: Read as much as possible. Forum reviews, history of the gun, etc.
    Step 3: Are parts/ammo cheap, expensive, impossible to find?
    Step 4: Which variant is right for me?
    Step 5: Cool-off period. Wait a month or two to see if the desire sticks.
    Step 6: Go hunting.

  24. Am way beyond buying for needs and am a modern collector – but expecting full functionality and use out of my purchases.
    1. I read everything looking for reliability issues, ammunition issues, customer service, and accuracy.
    2. I watch many of the videos to see how easy or bad the take down and clean-up is, along with the ergonomics.
    3. Give certain names full credit and others less. Anything from FNH, Springfield, H&K, Glock is buy on sight for me with little research needed. Anything from S&W or Walther must be carefully researched for issues.
    4. I almost never shoot a gun before I buy it because most of the ones I want are either hard to find, or expensive and not out for loan.
    5. Have seen to many of our gun options disappear – Cetme G3′s are harder to find, Norinco SKS’s way up in price, AK’s harder, the Saiga 12 had a moon shot in price, anything from Kel-tec almost, now Rugers, some Sig’s, lots of FNH long guns are hard to find – so I buy it when I find it and can always sell it – but almost never do.

    We are in a once in a life time market. Somebody expects lots of action for some reason and there appears to not be an end it sight for the gun buying spree.
    Rather than curse the market, I am welcoming all the new shooters while being thankful for all of the purchases I have made over the years.

    All of us look very smart for spending those paychecks on things that go boom.

  25. avatarShannon T Baker says:

    So…Is there an issue with the Windham AR? Hope not since it just became my first AR.

    I do check out the online reviews, I know most are less than accurate but sometimes you can “read between the lines.” TTAG seems less biased than most so if there is a review here it is a must read. Online forums are a good source of good and bad information about the guns. Lots of fixes on a particular forum can mean lots of issues.

    If it is an expensive purchase I will try and rent one before buying.

    -sbaker

  26. G’Day! Robert,
    This question may be a little off-topic, No rude comments about nerf guns please
    i was wondering… i can make nerf guns connect to eachother like a maverick can connect to a dart tag gun. what are other combinations and what do you call the connection so i can research how to connect them on teh intranet. i connected 3 guns to one gun so it obviously is made to fit together like that. Any help is great thanks!
    Cheers
    To win 200% bet game

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