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I suppose you could say that I’ve been a member of the gun culture my entire life. When I was in elementary school all I ever wanted to do was be outside “playing Army” with my toy guns. At age eleven I was introduced to a Daisy BB gun by my maternal grandfather and the die was cast. That’s how it’s almost always been. A father, uncle, or grandfather introduces a young person to firearms and they either get the bug or they don’t. We’ve had a “gun culture” a lot longer than I’ve been alive, folks who passed their love of firearms down to their family members . . .

As an industry, Firearms and Ammunition manufacturers have gotten very good at marketing to the choir.  They’ve essentially be servicing the same kind of customers for the last hundred years.  We know how to market to each other but what about the new or first-time gun buyers?

First Time Gun Buyers

After every crisis; riot, hurricane, earthquake, terrorist attack, etc., we see a spike in gun sales. These spikes normally abate quickly and it’s back to business as usual. That situation has changed.  Today, a situation that was once considered a spike has become an undeniable trend.

Since the end of 2008, the numbers of first-time gun buyers, particularly in the handgun market, have risen dramatically. Thousands upon thousands of men and women are purchasing or considering purchasing their first gun. The sales figures from Ruger and Smith&Wesson will bear me out on this.

First-time gun buyers aren’t necessarily “gun people” or a part of the traditional gun culture. They are men and women from all walks of life who have come to the personal decision that now is a good time to own a firearm. These folks are on the outside of the gun tent peeking in.

But being a first-time gun buyer is tough. Mention in public that you are considering buying a gun and you are hit from both sides. On one side you have the pop culture pacifists trying to talk you out of such a vile and dangerous decision. On the other side you have the well-meaning, but often abrasive, “gun guys” who bombard you with stories of their favorite blaster and why it’s the only one to buy.

Money for Training

If I were to give direct advice to a first time gun buyer, I’d tell them to save some money for training. Rather than spend $750 on a pistol with nothing left over, they’re better served with a $400 pistol and $350 for practice ammunition and training.

Far too often, Americans will try to buy their way around training, but can’t be done. A $1000 pistol in the hands of an untrained shooter is no different than a $500 pistol in the same hands.  No amount of custom accessories will make up for poor gun handling skills.

When it comes time to secure training, do your research. Check around and ask folks who have actually taken the courses, not just read about them. Keep in mind that some of the most worthwhile training might require travel if there’s not a school nearby. Make it an adventure. Think of the time and monetary commitment as an investment in yourself.             

A New Resource is an online resource specifically designed to aid and assist the recent gun buyer or someone who is about to make that decision. Easy to digest articles, photographs, and educational videos will provide the potential or first-time gun buyer with a solid foundation free of bias or hype. My First Gun was set up to help translate some of those foreign gun terms, help you ask the right questions, and ultimately make the decision that’s best for you.

Paul Markel, host of Student of the Gun television and professional firearms instructor, will provide numerous written and videotaped educational pieces. Topics will include foundational material such as choosing the correct gun for the task, understanding handgun actions, ammunition choices, seeking professional training and practice.

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  1. Not that I am some kind of super guru, but one tip id like to offer to the newcomers is that accessories should be considered when making a purchasing decision. A firearm which shoots great and feels good is useless for carry if holsters, magazines, and parts are unavailable or hideously expensive.

  2. Find a range where you can rent guns. Find what works for you. It’s just like buying a car, you have to test drive. I’m helping my aunt find out what she’s going to get for her first gun. Based on her needs I suggested she try a 9mm Glock 26. Found out really fast A) she hates polymer framed guns, B) hates small guns. Now she’s in love with the .45ACP Sig P220.

  3. WOW. Great idea. I’m a newbie; I purchased my first handgun and first carbine this year. I had a friend who I turned to named Leo, (not an acronymn…that’s his name), who took my sons and I to his shooting range after I requested help in learning. He was awesome. He patiently explained safety rules and answered all our questions without condescension. There IS a lot to learn out there, so use the internet. I will check out this site as well. Well done and good luck on the site.

    • Congratulations and welcome to the world of shooters! There is indeed much to learn and it’s vastly different for self-defense, target shooters, hunters and various competitive venues. That’s a lot of what makes is interesting; how many uses are there for golf clubs and how do you play with only one or two clubs?

      • Interesting that is the exact metaphor (golfing) he used. It all depends what you are trying to do. Use the correct tool.

  4. What I tell those looking to buy their first firearm is generally something like this:

    Get a notebook.
    Go to the gun store.
    Put every example of the type of firearm you are interested in
    (Rifle, pistol or shotgun) In your hand.
    Point it in a safe direction.
    If it feels good in your hand, write it’s name in your notebook, along with it’s price.
    Note which ones feel best, use stars or something.
    Go to the next gunstore.

    Repeat until you run out of gun stores.

    Look at your notes. Weigh cost V.S. feel, try to choose five or so you like.
    Come back and we’ll discuss your choices over coffee

  5. As a relative newbie (I bought my first gun a few months ago), looks quite promising. I didn’t have a gun-savvy friend to guide me through the process of selecting, purchasing, and building basic safety habits and competency, so I had to rely mostly on the internet and a few books, spending countless hours weeding out the mountains of B.S. along the way. This site appears to be a refreshing take on the fundamentals. I’m looking forward to seeing more content.

  6. I got into guns about five years ago because a colleague of mine was sharing his Reconstruction era Tennessee stories to our writers’ group. The first gun I bought? A black powder cap and ball revolver. Shooting it was just plain fun, and the time that it took to reload made me pay attention to my shooting technique. After that, like a good college professor, I read a lot about guns, ignored the nonsense, and absorbed the good information.

    Others will approach things differently, but there are many good roads into gun ownership. Websites like this one with thoughtful authors who aren’t mainly impressed with their own (lack of) impressiveness help a lot.

  7. I’ve been around guns all my life and I just purchased my first gun about 3 or 4 months ago. I love shooting and would love to get more into it. I could really use some info on training and beginner competitions and things of that sort. Thanks for posting these sites they’ve been really helpful.

  8. I’m a handgun newbie also, and it looks like I inadvertently followed most of these suggestions without knowing it!

    About a month or so ago, I purchased my first handgun: a Ruger 22/45 pistol. I didn’t purchase it for personal protection (though I guess it could be used for that) but to hone and improve my gun handling and shooting skills. I had a lot of .22 rifle experience in the Boy Scouts some 25-30 years ago earning several NRA awards at Scout Camp, but I never handled a handgun.

    After I bought my 22/45, I shot with some friends a couple times, then decided to take a CWP class. I really don’t know if I will ever carry, but I want to understand more about gun safety, and the gun laws in South Carolina. The class ended up being very informative and educational, the written test was a snap, and I did better on the shooting test than I ever expected (considering my lack of handgun skills.) I guess my rifle experience of breathing control, trigger control, and proper sight picture carried over to handgun shooting nicely.

    Finally, just last week, my wife and I visited a local shooting range, and with very little discussion, we both joined.

    So now I have a decent handgun to improve my proficiency, I have the opportunity to shoot locally, and my wife has shown interest to join me in shooting. (That last being the best part!)

  9. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. I have a fun and relatively inexpensive way to train. I take a bunch of targets (paper plates are great), string, and ammo to a secluded spot in a state or national forest. Once there, I can set up targets on sticks or tree branches and then practice any way that I desire. Practice could involve simple marksmanship with targets at close or long range for either handguns or long guns. It could also focus on self-defense — shooting from unusual positions, shooting while moving, shooting from behind cover (trees, camp chair, etc.), drawing and shooting, rapid fire, and anything else you can think of.

    For many people, that could be a day trip. For others, more like a weekend trip. So make an adventure out of it. Go camping. Bring your family along.

    Of course make sure that safety is top priority. The ideal location has a hill for a backstop. And if you bring a friend or your family, make sure everyone is in a safe location and stays in the safe location when you start shooting. Maybe I’ll take some pictures of my next camping trip, er, training session and see if TruthAboutGuns wants to share them with everyone.

  10. i do train new shooters from time to time. while i am not a certified instructor i am a very good teacher. and it at some point does come to what should i buy. the best advice i give it try some. i have a nice selection so i let people try them at a local range. and most ranges will rent with qualified shooters with you.

    the best thing i have found to ask is what is the use of it. if all you want to do is make small holes in paper and are not interested in using it for defense get a .22lr. dirt cheap and i own a bunch of them. and you can have lots of fun for not much. and if you like it you can always expand your arsenal. i started with a smith m+p 15-22. still have it and have at least 6000 rounds down the pipe.

    if you plan to use it for defense i tell them that i can not tell you what to get. it is a very personal decision. i share my knowledge of shooting and the power it possesses. i pry some information from them and point them in a direction but i really try to be objective. which is hard. again suggesting to try them and decided for yourself.

    i stress training. dry fire, live fire, simulating situations etc. i stress that if you make it muscle memory it will always be there with you.

  11. After retiring from the military in 2007 my home was broken into while I was away. Any way I always wanted to purchase a handgun and did, not one but three. Well since that time I had a stroke so my strength has diminished a great deal. With that said What would be a good gun to purchase? I have a Kel Teh 9m lots of kick, Taurus 22m and Bersa 380, and rifle. What I have found out though Since I was so use to the M16 military weapon I am most comfortable with it or one like it. Any suggestions? Since I only know military weapons only. I gave my guns to the kids except one.

    • Since you said you’re comfortable with “military weapons”, I’d suggest any AR you could get your hands on. Load up with varmint ammunition from a reputable munitions factory (Hornady V-MAX or something similar). Should work good against 2-legged predators without penetrating 7 walls.


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