Congratulations! You own a handgun. Before you do anything with it, learn the four rules of gun safetyFAST. Teach your children and significant other those rules. Lock-up that bad boy (the gun not your children) when you’re not taking it somewhere. Those aren’t tips. They’re requirements. So . . . now what?

1. Start with an instructor

Shooting a handgun is deceptively difficult. The basics couldn’t be more basic: load the gun (bullets face forwards), point the gun at target, pull the trigger. Mastering marksmanship is a bitch. It requires proper stance, grip, trigger control, firearms manipulation (loading and unloading) and breathing.

If you develop bad shooting habits — improper stance, grip, trigger control and breathing — each bad habit will require around a thousand rounds to “reprogram” (i.e. fix). That’s expensive, time consuming and unnecessary.

As the Brits say, “start as you mean to finish.” Or, as the gun gurus say, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Get an instructor to teach you how to do it right, right from the start. There will always be room for improvement, but you only need one lesson to head down the path to perfect perforation — provided it’s the first lesson.

So don’t shoot your gun before getting one lesson from a proper instructor. Not your friend who owns more guns than the Maui Police Department (a low bar, but there you go). A professional instructor.

2. Home Carry

At this point, you may not have the slightest desire to carry a firearm on your person. Get over it. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to carry the best self-defense tool money can buy.

Carrying a handgun is a daunting proposition. I mean, it’s a gun. The best way to get over that barrier (and start a practice you should continue for the rest of your life): home carry.

Buy a proper, comfortable holster — either exposed or concealed. Put your unloaded firearm in the holster (to start) and get on with your life. Get used to carrying.

When you’re ready, carry your handgun loaded. Do not be distracted when loading or unloading your firearm. Make sure your handgun is unloaded both before and after you home carry. Do it in a quiet place when you’re able to focus.

Do NOT unholster your handgun to show it to anyone. Not now. Not yet.

3. Practice drawing your handgun

The most important part of having a gun for self-defense: bringing your gun to bear on the bad guy.

If you can draw your weapon smoothly and efficiently, the chances are excellent that the bad guy will cease and desist. And if they don’t, a smooth draw raises the odds that you’ll survive a violent encounter.

You can’t practice drawing your gun enough — unless you’re stupid enough to do it at home with a loaded handgun. I repeat: practice with an unloaded handgun. Make damn sure it is.

Practice a proper draw, and do it slowly. Speed is a result of proper technique, not the other way around What’s a proper draw? YouTube is your friend. But this much is true . . .

Wear your holster as you would in “real life,” dressed in your normal clothes. Whenever you draw, move! Even if it’s just one step left and right. Do not practice drawing and standing still. That would be a bad thing.

Other than that, click here or at the top of the TTAG home page for our Guns for Beginners series. Be safe and have fun. In that order.

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41 Responses to Three Tips for the First Time Handgun Buyer: Guns for Beginners

        • hey, i got a screaming deal old ruger P89, the alloy and stainless steel ones built for service duty. its not pretty, has a hogue grip, goes bang everytime you pull the trigger. Our very own JWM mailed me some of his old 10rd cali mags, work great, and since then I added the ruger PC9 carbine to compliment the setup. mags fit pistol or rifle and 9mm is cheap and plentiful. My go to guns to ween a new shooter off my 10/22.

        • I had a P89 back in the day. Picked up a P95 this summer on Gun Broker for $255 that was advertised as 99% but was actually unfired. Still had grease in it and the mags were super stiff at first. Wasn’t the cheapest you’ll find those, but shipped and transferred for $300 ain’t to bad. Good guns, wish Ru ger would bring them back, but then I’m no longer in the market now.

        • I got my P95 as basically New Old-Stock last year. Still in the original shipping baggie and thick grease.

          I love the Ruger P series, for some… weird reason.

  1. One tip for the first time fruit and vegetable buyer: don’t store your onions and apples in the same bowl, unless you enjoy onion-flavored apples.

  2. Important part of finding an instructor is finding a good one. Local friend of a friend instructor guy might be good, or he might be full of crap. At least save the money for a good instructor first so you can filter the bs that may be coming from a cheap local instructor. Yes I know a two or three day class with pace performance, sage dynamics, sentinel concepts, or mdfi is expensive but so is unlearning bad habits from someone who was teaching irrelevant or even dangerous information. By deciding to own or carry a gun, you are taking it upon yourself to defend the lives of your loved ones. Not only buying and carrying quality gear but also taking as many quality classes as you can afford in a variety of different disciplines shows that you take that responsibility seriously.

    • What if you pay your money and your ‘good instructor’ turns out to be full of crap? Or inversely, what if you spend your money and like the vast majority of Americans you never end up finding yourself in a gunfight?

      Training’s great, and you should definitely put the time and money in at the range to become proficient with your fire arm, but it’s not a prerequisite for exercising a civil right that ‘shall not be infringed’.

      • There are a number of well known instructors I intentionally left off the list for precisely that reason (I’m looking at you pincus) There are also an untold number of excellent instructors I simply forgot or do not know of. Frank with Way of the gun falls into the unintentionally forgotten category. Every one should do they’re research on instructors by talking to former students and watch their youtube videos to get an idea as to how they work.

        An ideal world would be one where nobody would find themself in a fight for their life but the reality is that never has existed and never will. Therefore, prudent men (and women) take precautions on the slim but definite possibility that they will be one of those unfortunate individuals. If you are such a person then you will do whatever is physically, financially, and reasonably possible to raise the likelyhood of winning such an encounter. Of course everyone’s definition of physically, financially and reasonably possible will vary wildly, but so long as they are honest and sober in their assessment you won’t hear me complain about whatever they decide to do.

        I do not mean to cause offense but did you understand the article? The very first words are “Congratulations! You own a handgun.” From my previous comments on this site would you assume me to be so ill informed as to the meaning of the second amendment that I would believe training should be a prerequisite for exercising a NATURAL right? Did you fail to read my comment in it’s entirety? Or were you simply ascribing motives to my words for your own amusement?

        • So I should listen to pace performance, sage dynamics, sentinel concepts, or mdfi, but Pincus is “full of crap”?

          Funny, he has more credibility with me than you, an anonymous poster on a forum. Does it bother you that he teaches his students they should practice shooting without using their sights, since in a real gun fight that’s what will happen anyway?

        • From my research that is what I choose to do. Those are the guys that I trust to teach the most up to date, logical, efficient curriculum and are not at all reluctant to do things better if an appreciably better way exists. I noted that I certainly missed many great instructors due to simply being ignorant of their existence. I also said that pincus is either spot on or full of crap. I think the fact that he teaches people to shoot without necessarily acquiring a perfect (or any) sight picture is an excellent example of him being spot on. It makes perfect sense and is backed up by reality. Him continuing to teach outdated and dangerous tactics for maneuvering a firearm in a vehicle is where he is dangerously full of crap. In my opinion he is typically one or the other and won’t admit to being the other by updating his curriculum. Instructors with sacred cows annoy me to no end. It proves a horrendous lack of self awareness and a level of arrogance that in my estimation are incredibly detrimental if the goal is producing competent problem solvers.

        • Just yanking your chain, bud. But advanced training has diminishing returns (for civilians). The more you do the less likely you’ll ever find yourself in a situation that requires it. The first bit is highly beneficial and includes the important factors like safe handling of your weapon. Beyond that it becomes less and less likely that you’ll ever need it. If you enjoy the training do it for entertainment purposes, but if you’re doing it for insurance in the case of a violent assault you might want to reassess the likelihood of getting struck by lightning or contracting multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

        • I totally agree about the diminishing returns, and I hope I never have to use any of it. I think there is some level of training that every gun owner should go through (voluntarily of course) a basic carry/home defense class. Then they should practice those skills as often as they can and take a refresher every so often to ensure they have current information. After that everyone will have different ideas of what is necessary and what isn’t. Personally, I have the goal of taking a rotation of 2 day handgun, rifle, vehicle, medical, low light, and force on force classes every 3-4 years to keep sharp. For my own personal practice, I focus on most to least likely as far as what I devote time to. For me it is a hobby with the side benefit of learning some things that I hope I never need but will be really glad I have should such a time arise.
          With my luck man, who knows.

        • Now medical training could come in handy in a lot of different situations.

          If you enjoy the training, more power to you. There’s just a lot of stuff that could happen to you that’s probably more likely. I carry a gun because a) it’s my right and b) you never know, I might need one someday and if I do I won’t have time to run home and get it. In that order. I don’t have very good mobility due to a motorcycle accident a couple decades ago. If the SHTF and the government troops come after me my only hope is to hide in the bushes with my bolt action .308, not to charge the ranks with my AR. I carry a revolver because it’s more reliable, more powerful and with an improvised rest I can take out a jihadi out to 100 yards. Like much of the training, the need for a 7th round is much less likely than getting hit by lightning, but I keep a speed strip on me just in case. Everyone’s responsible for assessing their own risks. A septuagenarian grandmother doesn’t need force on force training, but she probably needs a fire arm more than a healthy 24 year old man. I don’t think that new gun owners should be made to feel that they need extensive training. That just feeds into the false narrative that only agents of the state have the proper training to competently handle fire arms.

        • I agree gov. Part of the reason I value medical is that my job involves working in and around dangerous equipment. My emphasis on vehicle is due to my driving a lot for work. I carry a handgun daily and keep a rifle for home defense so I want to be as effective with them as possible. Low light classes are important to me because it gets dark everyday and nobody talks about the dreaded ‘bump in the day’. The force on force is for validation of my training and practice as well as a level of stress innoculation not attainble on a square range. I have different reasons for what I do than you do and different thought processes as well. The important part is that we think, and unfortunately that is an increasingly rare attribute.

  3. Don’t completely dismiss DVD’s or Youtube vids if money and/or social anxiety are barriers to a quality class.
    The work of Magpul, Thunder Ranch, Pincus and Suarez are all over the internet legitimately free of cost.
    At the very least it will give some idea of what to expect in a class setting.

    But like any other skill without proper hands on instruction at least occasionally you will eventually stunt your path to success.

    • I agree about watching videos for a training supplement. I have watched instructors videos on a particular class prior to attending to mitigate the ‘drinking from a firehouse’ effect. Add Aaron Cowan of SageDynamics to your youtube watch list. Highest quality firearms information on YouTube by far in my opinion. The primary & secondary and practically tactical guys have good stuff if a podcast format is your thing.
      The magpul stuff is still pretty good despite some of it being out of date. Pincus is either spot on or full of it, nothing in between. Can’t speak on the other guys due to no experience with their content but I’ll give them a look.

  4. Dry firing with target or mirror. It is amazing how many people flinch and never unlearn the habit.

    Two former Olympic shooters I know used to dry fire up to a 1000 times per day!

    • I use a LaserLyte for dry fire.
      If SIRT made a CZ style, I’d buy one. Maybe if the P-10 takes off, they’ll make a SIRT version of it.

    • The exterior of the box is the same for both the P series pistols and the GP 100s. Probably a few others as well.

  5. Why would you suggest someone load and unload a gun before and after carrying it? That just adds two extra steps where somebody can make a mistake and cause an ND. It also puts unnecessary stress on that first round (assuming you’re constantly chambering the same round), which can cause it to seat deeper.
    I store my carry guns still loaded and holstered in the safe. Unless I’m shooting a carry gun in IDPA (which I do from time to time), the only way I unload them is out the barrel.

    • Smart cars, Volts, and Leafs (Leaves?) are not hybrids. Most Smarts are gasoline powered, some are diesel, some are electric. Volts and Leafs are electric.
      And what’s wrong with hybrids? That new Ford plant that they announced today will produce hybrid F-150 trucks, with a buttload of low end torque. The Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and the Ferrari “The Ferrari” are all hybrids. Hybrids and electrics are the future and have the potential for much better performance while producing much less pollution.

      • SmartCar, Volt, Leaf, Prius or any other Hybrid.

        /fixed Mr. Stickler for the technicalities of green tech.

        “And what’s wrong with hybrids?”

        Other than their AC?

        The comment was 95% a joke. Which I would think would be obvious since I’m talking about walking outside and shooting your neighbor’s car…

        If you want to remove the joke, just shoot the Leafs and the Volts, you’re doing the owner a favor.

        “The Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and the Ferrari “The Ferrari” are all hybrids.”

        Who cares? The 918 had a whopping 12 miles of electrical range which, IIRC is the better of them. Neither of those cars is under $800K either and “The Ferrari” is also a six-figure car.

      • ANY electric/”hybrid” – me too toy for people with more money than sense. Electrics really haven’t advanced since Edison was farting around with them a century. Rename the segment – obumers

        Yes the children now running Ford have really gone off the road sucking up to the greenies/demtards. Apparently today announced a “hybrid” MUSTANG. A MUSTANG. Delusional marxist morons.

  6. Just an observation….I grew up in a household where there were ALWAYS loaded guns UNLOCKED (my father was a l.e.o.) I don’t see this as a NEED to owning a gun. I do however see the NEED to properly educate whatever children are in the house as to the proper handling of said firearm. I can’t remember there NOT being a loaded revolver in my dad’s closet on a shelf and a loaded barely legal 10 ga. Behind the back door. Not once did I feel the need to play with them because I was taught practically from the time I could comprehend speech that they were NOT TOYS. I have to wonder why this is such a hard concept for some children and parents to grasp? I grew up surrounded by weapons and never once felt the need to bring one to school or point one at a person or even touch one without express permission. Too many lazy stupid parents raising special snowflakes.

    • Yeah. Not a hard concept. Even at the age of like 4 or 5 I knew what guns did because of television and such. It’s pretty hard to not know what a gun is and what it does, to be honest. If you’re old enough to understand the concept of death then you’re old enough to understand what a gun is and why it’s dangerous. My parents let me use their .22 revolver at a very young age, under close supervision of course, and not for too long. But in short, I also grew up around guns, and I respected them all through my childhood. Children can use guns safely, but then again not all children are the same. There are some children whom I, frankly would not trust to handle a gun even under close supervision.

  7. Home carry probably is a good idea. As a new concealed carrier, one of my problems was I would go out into the world with a gun on my hip and then be constantly paranoid that someone would see it, which lead to some awkward behavior in stores. I’m a pretty timid already person and that just made it worse. I swear one guy probably suspected me of shop lifting because of my body language. That’s actually very good advice. Get used to carrying a gun before you go out with it.

    • And learn how to pee and poop with your holstered hand gun before you have to do it in public.

      • LOL. And you can get lots of advice on Youtube and by searching this site. It’s a science. Also an argument for ankle carry.

  8. “Do NOT unholster your handgun to show it to anyone. Not now. Not yet.”

    Not ever. (with VERY rare exception under specific conditions, unless, of course, you intend to use it to defend your life or that of others.) And while we are at it, if you are carrying concealed, concealed means concealed. I have almost never even pulled up my shirt to show someone my holstered hand gun. I know it is there, and my family knows it is there, but none of us talk about it with others.

    Last thing I want is to be in a situation where I might need to USE my concealed gun and have a friend or family member say out loud, “You have a gun, shoot him!”

  9. Right off the bat I have a bone to pick with your opening sentence… “Congratulations! You own a handgun. Before you do anything with it, learn the four rules of gun safety. FAST.” How about learn the safety rules *before* you buy that handgun?

    I’ve helped several family members and friends buy their first handgun and the very first thing we do is go over thee safety rules. I give them a toy gun and let them handle it practicing muzzle and trigger discipline.

    Next, never buy your first gun based on what a sales person steers you into… or based on looks… or how it feels in your hand – although that is a good place to start.

    The first time gun buyer should really shoot a couple of handguns (many if possible) before making a decision. My daughter chose a gun that I would never have bought for myself but it felt good in her hand and she shot it well right off the bat so that’s what she went home with. My best friend thought he wanted something small so I took him to the range and he rented the sub compact he thought he wanted and then I let him try my Glock 19… which when he held it, he thought it was too big and blocky. Turns out the snap of the sub compact was a turn off but he really like the way the G19 shot… and he was more accurate with it.

    So find a range that rents handguns and try several. Find a friend who has a couple you can try but don’t walk up to the counter, pick up a gun and say ‘that’s the one’ because you won’t know until you shoot it.

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  11. I like that you point out to have an instructor that will teach you how to shoot the handgun right. I think that perfect practice also makes consistent. If you can practice shooting perfectly every time then you will consistently shoot well. I have found that envisioning doing something also can help do well.

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