I Just Bought a New Pistol…What Should I Do Before I Shoot It?

Dan Z for TTAG

Are you a first-time gun owner? A new shooter? Did you just buy a new (or new to you) handgun? Here’s some helpful information for anyone who just bought new firearm. What I will cover can be applied to handguns, rifles, and shotguns.

Whether the gun is intended for self-defense, home defense, concealed carry, or a shooting range, here are some good initial steps to take.

The first thing you should do when you buy a new gun is read the owner’s manual. There are three primary things you should be looking for:

  • First, how to operate the firearm.  Learn about how your new gun works and where the key components are like the safeties, the takedown lever/button, slide stop, etc.
  • Second, learn how to field strip it. Field stripping is (usually) basic tool-less disassembly, such as separating the slide from the frame and removing the barrel and recoil spring on a GLOCK, Smith & Wesson or other similar semi-automatic pistol.
  • Third, recommended maintenance and lubrication (both type and location).

YouTube can be helpful here, too.

The next thing you should do is clean your gun. This isn’t critical in my opinion…I’m honestly not sure if I’ve cleaned any of my guns straight from the box. Most come already clean and lubricated, but that’s not always the case. Check yours to make sure.

On that note, none of mine have come with excessive or even noticeable amounts of packing grease, but some new (and some used) guns do. A good cleaning and a fresh coat of a good gun oil will made them run smoothly.

Packing grease/oil is there to prevent corrosion, not facilitate smooth operation, so if you do notice grease on your gun, clean it off.  This packing grease or storage oil can impede the proper function of a new gun causing malfunctions.

Matt Sandy for TTAG

Cleaning it off is a good way to ensure it isn’t the culprit if something goes wrong. This DEFINITELY applies to older guns that can come caked in cosmoline. Clean that off. Cleaning your new gun also increases your familiarity with the new firearm and perfectly sets up the next and most important step.

Then apply some oil. Make sure you apply some good gun lube. This applies primarily to semi-automatic firearms although any gun with moving parts can benefit from proper lubrication.

Courtesy Amazon

Lubrication is the key to making any semi-auto gun run smoothly and some guns come from the factory under-lubricated.

A dry gun is the number one culprit for most malfunctions. Don’t shoot a semi-auto gun dry. Manually operated firearms like bolt action rifles or pump shotguns will feel smoother and be easier to operate with proper lubrication.

Another great thing to do if you are a new shooter is to take a class. Unfortunately, there are some hacks out there, so do a little research and find a good one.

teacher carry

Courtesy Guns Save Life

A good introductory firearms class is definitely worth the money.  A good course for new shooters SHOULD cover everything I addressed above plus some shooting instruction and range time.

The last thing I recommend doing with a new gun is practice. You can do a lot of that without even going to a shooting range.

Buy some snap caps or dummy ammo, then practice manipulating and handling the firearm and dry firing. You should get comfortable with your gun before you take it to the range and put live ammo through it.

I want to emphasize proper safety here. If you do anything with dummy ammo, make sure there is ZERO live ammo anywhere near you. Ideally, remove it from the entire room. This creates a safe space and eliminates any possibility of you making a mistake.

The Four Rules of Gun Safety

This is a good spot to bring up the four firearm safety rules: 1 – Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.  2 – Never point a gun at something you aren’t willing to destroy.  3 – Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.  4 – Know your target and what is beyond it.

The wording may change slightly here and there, but those are the four pillars of gun safety. Know them and follow them.

There is plenty more to do and learn from here, but that’s mostly on you and where you want to take your shooting.

 

comments

  1. avatar billboy says:

    “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.”

    If I treat it as if it’s loaded, how can I clean it? How can I dry fire it? How can I strip it?

    1. avatar tmm says:

      Check it before field stripping it. Drop magazine, check chamber. Most field strip instructions should include that part. Check for loaded status on any gun before field stripping it, especially ones that require something crazy like a trigger pull before stripping down.

      Check it before dry firing. Some say never have live ammo in the same room as you and your gun when practicing with dry fire. Check you gun for live ammo and remove all live ammo from the area while practicing dry fire. Use snap caps as deemed necessary.

      When dry firing, never point at anything you can’t lose if the ammo were live (I know that’s more rule 2, but still something you should do when practicing dry fire).

      Check your gun everytime you pick it up and plan on doing something with it. I prefer to remember that even if I “know” it’s not loaded, to always treat my gun as if it were.

      You probably know these things, but in case someone were genuinely curious…

    2. avatar Packing Mama says:

      What? Are you NEW to COMMON SENSE??

      You CHECK the weapon for its condition when you PICK IT UP!!

      You TREAT is as LOADED BEFORE you pick it up and WHILE FIRST HANDLING it!

      THEN, you newbie, THEN you take care of stripping it, handling it, firing it.

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        If its a glock, best return it, or risk glock-leg or worse you could end up “(c)gl’ock-less”.

        Best carry without one in the chamber.

        1. avatar D says:

          B.D,

          “Best carry without one in the chamber.”

          Please stop giving bad advice. A newbie might be ignorant enough to believe this.

        2. avatar THE REAL B.D. says:

          I did not make that comment. Someone trolling under my initials. Sad.

          I own two Glocks.

        3. avatar B.D. aka Threeper aka Not some e-thug stealing screenames says:

          AA

          Stick to your original screen name.

        4. avatar Nickel Plated says:

          Probably our good friend Vlad fuckin around. He seems to have a hair up his ass about the whole “Glocks have no safeties” thing.

          And an apparent tendency to change screen names.

        5. avatar B.D. says:

          No, it’s one of the tools who got their ass handed to them on the “carry with a round in the chamber” debate. Seems like I won that battle, if this is the result. It’s actually funny, but I am worried about their mental health when people result to doing that kind of stuff. They have the ability to remain anonymous and say whatever they want, but still result to trolling like this. Speaks volumes for their IQ level.

    3. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

      Heh, heh, serious smart-ass… I bet you were a laugh in school. 🙂

      1. avatar GySgt. Lew says:

        Richard Steven Hack – You are the serious STUPID SMART ASS. I wouldn’t trust you a dull stick.. You always consider a weapon to be armed when you first pick it up – then you disarm it. Your best bet ids a water pistol….

    4. avatar Paul says:

      Maybe you should just get a stick … not too sharp ….don’t hurt yourself.

    5. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah. It’s worded poorly and people just parrot it as if it’s not. To make more sense it should read “Treat any firearm as if it is loaded until you personally check that it is fully unloaded.”

      1. avatar NM says:

        Agreed. I teach the cardinal safety rules worded like this:

        Always be aware of your muzzle, ensuring that you keep it pointed in the relative safest direction.

        Always keep your finger off the trigger and the gun on safe until you are on target and have an acceptable sight picture.

        Always be certain of your target, and its surroundings, ensuring the foreground and background remain clear.

        Always know the state of your gun, treating it as loaded every time you pick it up.

        1. avatar Mack The Knife says:

          Just teach it as written in the NRA Basic Pistol/ Rifle course books. If you don’t have one, find an NRA certified instructor and take a course.
          I swear, everyone to this point in the comment section and probably beyond sounds ignorant. I am becoming more suspicious and wary of those that carry than criminals.

      2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        It’s not poorly worded, it’s intentionally simplified. Noobs have a lot to learn so compressing the signal is a must.

    6. avatar L&N nut Jon says:

      RULE 1
      ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
      The only exception to this occurs when one has a weapon in his hands and he has personally unloaded it for checking. As soon as he puts it down, Rule 1 applies again.
      RULE 2
      NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO DESTROY
      You may not wish to destroy it, but you must be clear in your mind that you are quite ready to if you let that muzzle cover the target. To allow a firearm to point at another human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.
      RULE 3
      KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER TIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
      This we call the Golden Rule because its violation is responsible for about 80 percent of the firearms disasters we read about.
      RULE 4
      BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET
      You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.

      http://www.tincher.to/flyer.pdf

    7. avatar frank speak says:

      I suspect most will just load it …toss it in a drawer…and hope it works….

  2. avatar Greg says:

    Read the manual, punch the tube, shoot a case of ammo through it.

  3. avatar Mitchell says:

    I tell everyone field strip it clean off factory oil re-lube assemble rack the slide 15-20 times and repeat 4 times to break down burs in the slide as well as any factory crap getting knocked free. The next step is shooting it while heavily lubed for the first time to keep the action smoother than anything else. Teaches gun owners how to clean a gun and then how the gun should run smoothly.

  4. avatar Johnny Go Lightly says:

    The VERY FIRST thing to do on any firearm is assure that it is unloaded ! PERIOD. FULL STOP. Remember a year or so ago when Henry shipped a bunch of new guns out that had an unfired round in the chamber. It can happen. So make checking the chamber a reflex action on EVERY gun you handle. EVERY TIME.

  5. avatar will says:

    better lubes — Shooters Choice FP10 best for the money. I tested it against Remoil

    NRA – MTM TB25 2500 and 3000 nano tech very advanced

    best grease no question Archoil High pressure nano tech its clear too. There 4400 oil is great too but its black MTM is white.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    Well with the “lower” end pistola’s I’ve bought(Taurus) I make sure they run well. Rack the slide 100’s of times,clean the crap out of it, lube judiciously(I’ve been using Ballistol now)and work the trigger 100’s of times with snapcaps. And they run like a champ. Like the Keltec fluff and buff(but my PF9 sucked).

    1. avatar will says:

      amazing how dirty a new gun is. But its normal all steel is porous and dirty. car engines and trans housing sma. I clean till the white lube no longer lifts dirt. My Tanfoglio all stainless took awhile. Alloy slides have less of course. These new nano tech lubes are fantastic.

  7. avatar jwm says:

    First time I’ve ever done this. I took my new in the box g19 and ran it through a range session without cleaning it. Worked like it was supposed to.

    Prior to this every gun I’ve ever bought, new or used, got a cleaning before its first use.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      I also did that with my Glock 22. Put it through the ringer right out of the box – easily 300 rounds the first day. I did add CLP before shooting. Took it home, cleaned it, then shot about 1,000 rounds that first week with it. (that’s what happens when christmas gifts come in the form of ammunition) It is 100% my favorite one and just feels amazingly perfect every time I shoot it. So easy to keep on target. I struggle A LOT with my g43 though, but confident enough to carry it. My S&W m2.0 3.6″ (about g19 size) also shoots well, but I cleaned it before I shot it. Questioning the cleaning before you shoot method lol. Next time I am going to just add clp, put some rounds down range, and clean it later. Break em in raw dog.

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        B.D. says; Break em in raw dog.

        LOL, and that says it all.

        Welcome out!

        1. avatar B.D. actual says:

          Your dad liked it too.

  8. avatar ramon cabezas says:

    the first 4 rules list above is a good way to do it.period…why do we have to complain all the time, let it be,those rules are good solid rules.

  9. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    Probably not hard to remember to clean excess grease off it – who wants that stuff all over your hands and clothes? If you can feel it, clean it.

  10. avatar RCC says:

    I always clean / check barrel before I load any firearm I haven’t used before. Have seen lots of obstructions in supposedly clean guns stored in various government armouries. Mostly overuse of grease type lubricant.

  11. avatar Gunwrites says:

    1.) Clear the firearm, always making sure!
    2.) Throw that stupid cable lock in the bone pile for other uses.
    3.) Peruse the Owner’s Manual for firearm specific info about disassembly/reassembly.
    4.) Strip, clean, properly lube without over-lubing, and reassemble.
    5.) Field strip and reassemble multiple time until you become so familiar you can pretty much do it with your eyes closed.
    6.) Record the serial number for your records.
    7.) Dry fire the heck out of it until you feel comfortable with the sight picture, functioning, and safety if one is present.
    8.) Take it to your favorite shooting spot and enjoy it.
    9.) Assuming you purchased a quality American-made firearm, do not buy into the idea it has to be fired hundreds of times to be deemed reliable. It is highly unlikely you will have any issues beyond some guns having certain ammo style failures-to-feed which can be corrected by using proper ammo.
    10.) Join the NRA and vote accordingly to preserve your God-given, Constitutionally-reaffirmed Rights and other freedoms.

    Any questions ask another knowledgeable gun owner. We are a generally very friendly and helpful community and would gladly help out another firearms enthusiast.

    1. avatar KenaSaw says:

      You were good up to number 10.

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        Agreed.

  12. avatar LL says:

    If it’s a Glock, it comes with some copper break in grease in a few places. It’s a factory one time application. The owner’s manual says to NOT remove it.

  13. avatar grumpster says:

    Good article!

    I would add a comment about training for new pistol shooters in that try to find a class by a qualified instructor for some one on one training to learn the basics in stance, grip, sight acquisition, and trigger control. That usually will help one shoot a whole lot better. The instructor should demonstrate proper technique and then observe and correct the student. Of course safe handling should be included. Many ranges offer such for little investment. I know my range offers 3 hours with an instructor for $99. It can be very frustrating and fruitless for a novice shooter to figure out by himself why he is shooting poorly.

  14. avatar Imayeti says:

    Is there a convenience store nearby, just so you can get a feel for the weapon.

    1. avatar edward kenway's ghost says:

      LMAO No way…
      You didn’t just say that.

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        trolls are in full swing today. A liberal caught wind of the democratic debate threads here and now they are doing what they do best… annoying patriots.

  15. avatar The SGM says:

    I have more than a few pistols and after taking my first one apart and seeing how dirty is was I always clean and lightly oil the same day of purchase. A number of my weapons have come from the manufacturer with a target indicating the accuracy of the weapon; those weapons have been the dirtiest even though they only shoot a few rounds. Not cleaning first and then going to the range and shooting 50-200 rounds is only asking for a cleaning mess especially if you use cheap dirty powder ammo. I have found SIG ammo to be my best

    1. avatar edward kenway's ghost says:

      Cheap dirty powder ammo.
      Winchester Olin FTW

  16. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    Something is wrong with comment section. My previous post does not appear.

    1. avatar manse jolly says:

      different browsers, cache cleared ect

      Will not let me post a reply

  17. avatar Bubba says:

    Drink some scotch first.
    It totally helps to loosen up your nerves.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      I do this before, during and after work, driving, school, and pretty much everything else.

      Works every time. Just toobk won. Phel bettr alredy.}

  18. avatar Alfonso Alfredo Rodriguez says:

    If you are just another idiot buying a weapon without prior training, just go and shoot yourself in the big toe.

    1. avatar B.D. says:

      Great advice from a “responsible” person. Good job buddy. Maybe get some life coaching yourself.

      1. avatar B.D. says:

        In second thought Alfonso, buy a Glock, it will do the work for you!

        1. avatar THE REAL B.D. says:

          Fuck off. Are you such a troll you can’t use your own screen name? Mad cuz you can’t prove me wrong somewhere, now you think you are cute. Sad.

          Good advice though. Glocks are good guns.

      2. avatar THE REAL B.D says:

        Yes I’m sure you love them glocks.

        1. avatar B.D. Actual says:

          Pretty sure you own…. zero guns.

      3. avatar Alfonso Alfredo Rodriguez says:

        For you, how about a knee cap or a femoral artery (you have two of each)? Bye boy scout.

  19. avatar possum says:

    Well If You Bought A 9mn, throw it in the trash and go get you a .45, ,. Hee hee,,

    1. avatar kahlil says:

      Along that line of thought I was going to say…if it was that Glock in the photo to trade it in for a CZ 75, good wheel gun, or Beretta.

      1. avatar possum says:

        Man I’ve shot shit with both of them , gimme that 230gr bb anytime.

  20. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    What a timely article! I just purchased two handguns today. A Kel-Tec p32 and a Ruger charger takedown model.

    Thank you to Sean G. Your review of the p32 was very helpful. I spent about a year researching a replacement for my Beretta 21a. It was time to get a center fire pocket gun. The 21a is a great gun. I love the tip up barrel. But it’s a rim fire gun.

    The ruger charger take down model will be my first “project gun”. I’ve got plans for that one!

    1. avatar Broke_It says:

      That Charger is a rad little plinker. My 5 year old absolutely loves shooting it suppressed and with the tiny bipod on a table it’s about the only gun that fits well enough to aim.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      do not put that short barrel on your 10/ 22 takedown because… uh. something.

  21. avatar UpInArms says:

    The way that chick in the photo is aiming that gun, watcha wanna bet she misses the target?

  22. avatar Chuck says:

    Personally, I’ve always felt that rule #4 is really a further breakdown of rule #2. Never pointing a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy, means knowing your target and what’s beyond it. Restating the same principle in a different way is just redundency.

    1. avatar ‘liljoe says:

      I think the point is bullets can travel through things, especially paper targets. Knowing what’s behind means knowing what else the bullet can hit after it destroys what you aimed at (assuming you hit it in the first place).

      A f’rinstance: I’ve seen people trick shooting flying clays with pistols or rifles… they don’t seem to grasp the concept of trajectory and that the fmj projectile they just launched will land somewhere at velocity. That’s when the 4th rule would have been helpful.

  23. avatar thefatefullightning says:

    I must have missed the part about an NRA Hunter Safety course, as a first thing to do. Investing time and words about lubricant arcana indicates to me the author’s ignorance of basic safety princiles.

    Go write a cook book.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      some will follow your advice…but a lot could care less….would hope they would at least read the manual…and actually shoot it a bit…..

  24. avatar billy-bob says:

    You bes get you some good boolits brah, don try and shoot that sh!t Ray-Ray give you when you boughts the the gun, dey might not be the right calibers.

    1. avatar possum says:

      Heh heh heh heh, in the chuckling laugh of a possum. That wuz funny

  25. avatar Joseph says:

    Most of them DO NOT come already cleaned and lubricated. In face, some even say in the manual to clean and lubricate the firearm before first use. Zero credibility, stopped reading at that point.

  26. avatar Aaron says:

    well, the only thing you absolutely must do before shooting it is to load it!

  27. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

    If it is going to be carried I like to have 500 rounds through it before I carry it.

    I have had some defects uncovered during the 500 round break in that would not have been good had they happened in a self defense situation.

  28. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    First thing buy some ammo, lots of ammo. You’re going to need some trigger time.

  29. Make sure it doesn’t explode!

  30. avatar SurfGW says:

    First thing to do BEFORE buying a gun is examine your circumstances and BUY A SAFE to keep it from getting stolen.
    Break-ins are up and guns are second in priority for thieves after prescription drugs/opiates. Also, consider access by your children or visiting children.

    1. avatar Ardent says:

      A safe is most certainly not a prerequisite to owning a gun. For that matter, a permanent address isn’t a prerequisite. To the point that a person has considered their circumstances and decided a gun is for them, they’ve pretty well done the due diligence.

      Do you keep power tools, household chemicals, and your car keys in a safe? How about your swimming pool and 5 gallon buckets? All things that kill more children than guns…think about it.

  31. avatar George says:

    What was the question? I just bought a new pistol? What to do next?…..
    Hummmmm…. How about buy ammunition for it? Go home read your manual ?

  32. avatar TommyJay says:

    My first gun, a Springfield, I took straight from the store to the range, and it worked fine.

    All my other new guns got a cleaning first. One definitely had heavy grease inside the barrel. Glad I cleaned that one first.

  33. avatar Ardent says:

    I note, with a little concern, that no one has specifically mentioned a safety inspection. Over the years I’ve seen everything from a Mossburg with the locking recesses cut too shallow to retain the lugs under firing pressure to a NAA mini revolver in which the rifling stopped half way through the barrel leaving an obstructed bore. I once ‘repaired’ a new in box SW Bodyguard.380 that came from the factory with the magazine protruding over an inch too far due to a lump of polymer slag attached to the internal part of the mag catch so large it wouldn’t allow a magazine to be seated (the fix was to cut it away with a pocket knife, but there is no way this pistol was test fired at the factory as the included literature attested).

    I’ve seen guns from major manufacturers that even came with shot targets attesting to their accuracy that were in such condition as to make firing quite impossible.

    While I’m inclined to say the first thing to do with a new gun is buy ammo and shoot it, experience has taught me to give them a good once over first to ensure they are safe to fire.

    Furthermore, for my own protection, I never consider a gun to be a weapon until I’ve seen it loaded, fired and cycled.

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