The basic question when choosing your first long gun: what do you want to do with it? Hunting, plinking (fun), skeet, trap, target shooting or self-defense? Never mind trying to choose action type, caliber, barrel length, manufacturer, price or any of the dozens of other variable facing a first-time long gun buyer. It’s bewildering. The trick is to . . .
Try before you buy. I’m not talking about the gun. I mean the various type of shooting options. Go shoot someone else’s gun(s) and explore all the shooting possibilities: skeet, trap, hunting, target, plinking and self-defense. Once you know what you like, you can begin to educate yourself on the technology and narrow down your purchase options.
There are plenty of ranges which provide inexpensive training for beginners in all areas of interest (including hunting). And most people who know and love firearms are happy to share their long guns with newbies. Warning! There’s a tendency to fall in love with the first long gun you put in your hands. That works! I want that one! Resist the urge to choose the known over the unknown – at least until you know more.
It may seem like a piercing glimpse into the obvious, but specialized guns are better for particular pursuits. A self-defense shotgun makes a lousy trap gun and it’s not the best choice for plinking; if nothing else it can beat up your shoulder (depending on caliber) and the targets don’t last very long. By the same token, ANY long gun can be used for self-defense. But some are better suited to the job than others.
Confused? Stay with me . . .
You can easily spend thousand of dollars on a gun (and accessories) that does one thing very, very well. If you’re not entirely sure what floats your boat ballistically speaking or money’s too tight to mention, you can buy a long gun that fills more than one role. The semi-automatic AR-15 is America’s favorite long gun because of its versatility. Plinking, target, hunting and self-defense? Check. Skeet, trap or duck hunting? That would be a long-barreled shotgun. By the same token, a lever gun can do everything an AR does – with style!
Think of it this way . . .
A long gun is a tool. Discover what you want to do with that tool before choosing one. Keep in mind that your favored shooting pursuit should be convenient and affordable. You may LOVE your initial go at skeet or long-range rifle shooting, but if it’s inconvenient or too expensive, you’ll end-up wasting your money on a purpose-driven long gun.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do with your long gun, and thus what kind of long gun you want, hit the ‘net. Read gun reviews (especially ours). Gun stores employees are generally good at steering customers to appropriate firearms but the old maxim “what’s in the back room goes out the front door” applies. Think of your initial visits to a gun store as fact-finding missions. Bring your phone. Google an interesting long gun right then and there.
Bottom line: your first long gun is an introduction to the shooting sports/long gun-based self-defense. If you choose well and like your first long gun, you’re highly likely to want another long gun that can do something that your first gun can’t. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Start saving now.