Andrew Magill [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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You just bought your first handgun? Awesome! Welcome to the club. You can now take your place among fellow gun owners with a handheld, which is pretty much most of us.

If this is your first time, though, you need more than just the gun. Whether you’ve bought a handgun just for shooting pleasure or for self-defense like concealed carry, home defense or all of the above, just getting the gun itself isn’t enough.

What else do you need? Here are 6 accessories that are pretty much non-negotiable for safe ownership, safe shooting, and so on.

1) The Right Ammunition

Ammunition comes in two flavors: practical and practice. The former is for self-defense, hunting or other purposes; the latter is for punchin’ paper at the range.

Most people get full metal jacket ammunition, usually referred to as FMJ or hardball, for range use. If you’re going to shoot steel targets, it’s recommended that you get frangible ammunition. Frangible ammunition is made of a sintered material (a powder heated until it runs and is poured into a mold) that shatters, pulverizes or otherwise breaks apart upon hitting a hard surface.

Either/or makes good practice ammunition, but you’ll find FMJ more easily. It’s also cheaper.

fmj range ammunition ammo
FMJ 9mm ammunition (Dan Z for TTAG)

The standard of self-defense ammunition is jacketed hollow point or JHP ammunition. For the first-time handgun buyer, it’s recommended to pick up a box of practice ammo whenever you buy range ammunition.

JHP ammunition. Credit: Azx2/Wikimedia Commons
DO NOT put FMJ rounds in a pistol you’re using for self-defense when you’re carrying it or when it’s doing home defense duty. Only use hardball at the range, and don’t listen to anyone saying anything about “world wars” this or “the army” that.

Hardball ammunition has a terrible track record of stopping hostile personnel when used in a handgun and it tends to over-penetrate. Use the right tool for the right job.

2) Cleaning Gear

Just like other machines, guns need care and maintenance. The good news that if you acquire more handguns in addition to your first gun, the cleaning kit can be used for those too if they’re of the same caliber. A lot of people, for instance, own more than one 9mm pistol, and if you have a 9mm kit…you’re good to go.

Hoppes cleaning kit. Credit:

A good starting place for the first-time handgun owner is the old-school Hoppe’s cleaning kit. They have a rod with patch and brush attachments, and come with some patches, cleaning solvent and oil. They’re usually about $10 or less and the damn things work.

That said, spending a few more bucks for an OTIS kit with their RIPCORD…definitely worth it. A number of different companies make a pull-through bore cleaner, but OTIS’s RIPCORD is the best.

An OTIS cleaning kit. Credit:

A Hoppes’ BoreSnake isn’t a bad way to go either.

You’ll also want cleaning and lubricating solvents. Many are made, many are good. You’ll want to experiment until you find the one that works best with YOUR gun.

It’s like car guys and motor oil. Everyone has the brand they like most due to their experience. I like Castrol GTX; I’ve tried the others, but all my cars have run best with it so that’s what I stick to. As to guns, there are a number of cleaning solvents, lubricants and rust guards out there. A good starting point is an all-in-one compound, which cleans and lubricates at the same time.

RemOil is a great example. It’s been on the market a very long time and does the job for not too much dinero.


Ballistol is another. Everything I just said about RemOil applies, except Ballistol is plant-based rather than petroleum-based.


And then we have CLP (for Clean, Lubricate, Protect), the all-in-one compound that the military uses.

Break Free CLP. Credit:

I use RemOil for cleaning and wiping down the surface of my pistol for protection, and lubricate the barrel lugs, slide and frame rails of my pistol with Hoppe’s silicon-based lubricant. But that’s just me.

3) Secure Storage

You need a secure place to keep your gun. The newbie may not have the funds for a full-blown safe. While best-practice is to certainly acquire a safe, getting a lockbox is at least a good start.

You can pick one up for as little as $30 in most hardware or big box stores, and it will securely lock up a pistol. If your concern is keeping them out of little hands, make sure to put it well above arm’s reach…and save up for a decent pistol safe.

A SentrySafe fireproof lock box – $20 on Amazon (Credit:

Another good idea is to hard-mount it to furniture or the floor of a closet, if possible. Many lock boxes will have bolt holes in the bottom to make this easier. This can deter a potential thief.

The comments section will probably have some objections as to use of a lock box instead of an actual safe, and they’re right. You should invest in a quality safe…eventually. But for your first gun, and here’s the point, a lock box is A) a lot better than nothing, and B) affordable. Many people don’t have a lot of excess cash when they buy their first handgun, so it’s a good start.

4) Hearing and Eye Protection

Ear pro. You need to protect your hearing. Period. All the great old gun writers like Jack O’Connor and Elmer Keith had to lip read by the end of their lives, and Field and Stream’s David Petzal has written at length about his hearing loss. He wears hearing aids and is almost deaf. Some folks really dislike him for various reasons, but we can all agree that not wearing ear protection is stupid.

The best hearing protection for shooting is a set of electronic muffs.

Walker’s electronic ear muffs, under $20 at Amazon (Credit:

However, not everyone is going to be able to spend on a really good set. What to do in the meantime? Get a set of ear muffs and some ear buds, disposable or otherwise. Get the highest Noise Reduction Rating you can on both, preferably over 30. Best practice for non-electronic hearing protection is to use muffs and ear buds at the same time for the utmost in hearing protection.

The typical gun shot produces more than 160 decibels of noise. Instant hearing damage occurs at 140 dB. So get some ear pro before you go shooting.

Courtesy Amazon

Eye pro is a must, too. Nothing is worth risking your vision and an inexpensive pair of protective eyewear can be had almost anywhere.

5) Targets

You’ll need targets and a target stand as well, because no one got seriously good at shooting blasting cardboard alone. Target stands range from cheap to expensive.

Here you have a cheap T-bar. You slip some cardboard in, paste a target to it and have at it. They work pretty well, but – in my experience – they don’t last an incredibly long time.

Credit: Birchwood Casey

Here you have a target stand that’s a bit more substantial.

Credit: Birchwood Casey

You insert a couple of 1x4s into the sleeves on the bottom, and can put up a silhouette target or whatever you want. A bit more expensive, but also more durable.
As to targets, there are many out there. Silhouette targets galore; IDPA, IPSC, QIT, so many that it would take years to describe them. To start with, just get some cheap bullseye targets.

6) More Magazines

Lastly? Get some spare magazines (assuming your first gun is a semi-automatic).

Dan Z for TTAG

Because the answer to the age-old question, “How many magazines do I need for my gun?” is always, “More.”

Anything else you can think of that the first-time pistol buyer should get? Sound off in the comments!

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  1. Jokingly-A NOTE FROM YOUR WIFE! Article has sound advice. All the right tools to help with your new found obsession! More is BETTER. Enjoy.😁

    • No kidding. Not too long ago, I was showing a relative my selection of AR-15s that are typically disassembled and locked away (I live in CA), and my wife walked in. She gave me a look and said, “so…when did you get those?”

      (sheepish grin)

    • My father-in-law had gotten an FFL some years back, and told me he could get whatever I wanted. So, I ordered a pistol from him, and he called the house and told his daughter that he has a package for me. She asked me what it was, so I told her about the pistol. Her last words to me for about 3 mos. was, ‘You bought another gun?’

    • If my wife ever looks askance or comments negatively on my gun and fishing purchases I just grin and say “Should we go through the bank account and add up all the clothes and shoes purchases in the last 6 months?”

      But at this point we have mostly gotten beyond all that. As long as the bills are paid she buys her stuff, I buy mine and any commentary is just joking around with each other.

    • Great advice. I was using an old toolbox until my brother showed me they make range bags with large somewhat insulated pockets to stow empty guns still hot from firing, plus have all space and pockets for mags and ammo, targets, the whole shebang. Well worth the money.

    • Second the range bag suggestion. Do not go with the chineseum NRA bag if you want to carry more than couple of boxes of ammo. After trying several range bags I found that old bowling bag works best for my hand gun and ammo carry/roll needs. It also confuses the hell of my neighbors who see me as I load my van with a guitar case with a rifle, tennis racket pack with an AR pistol or a Vz. 58 folder, bowling bag and bunch of .50 cal ammo boxes.

  2. 1. Another pistol
    2. A revolver
    3. A rifle
    4. A shotgun
    5. Contact info for your representatives to fight gun control legislation
    6. A boat large enough to hold all of your guns in case #5 doesn’t go well

  3. 1. Make sure your homeowner’s insurance covers firearms.

    2. If you plan use it for self-protection, familiarize yourself with the local laws regarding carrying, stand your ground, castle doctrine, etc.

    • Yes. This. I recently took a CCW renewal class and it covergun laws, recent DGU, recent court cases. This is how we become better POTG; not just shooting straight, but not gaining knowledge so we don’t get in legal/ethical trouble.

  4. I finally got away with those standard push-rod cleaning kits. I now use Bore Snakes for all my guns and have never looked back.

    • This. They work well and do not scratch your barrel at all. Do not scratch your barrel with a rod. A bore snake is too cheap not to have.

      • Carbon fiber cleaning rods are not cheap, but they don’t scratch either and can do things that pull through cords can’t, like slugging the barrel to find out its true dimensions. I use Boresnakes for everyday maintenance and Tipton rods and jigs+brushes for deep, thorough cleaning.

        • Also your wife/girlfriend probably has a mesh bag for washing her bras. Don’t tell her what you are doing with it.

      • I don’t (I don’t think they even can be cleaned). The length of the “rope” is long enough to absorb whatever particulates are being removed and still leave the barrel clean.

        • keep one rod long enough for when a case gets stuck in the breech after being fired. Has happened to me 2x this past year and I’m so glad I don’t throw things out. Have been using bore snakes for 6+ years now, I used to wash them, now I don’t and I figure the caked in grease and oil just help clean things better 🙂

        • I bought two smooth steel rods at Home Depot, cut them to 26″ length, and chamfered the ends to remove any sharp edges. One is slightly under .22 in diameter, and the other is slightly under .30.

          These single-piece rods are now my squib clearance tools. Came in handy on more than one occasion. 🙂

  5. If you plan to carry that handgun, then you need an appropriate holster which securely holds the handgun and COVERS THE ENTIRE TRIGGER GUARD.

    And if you are going to carry that handgun in a holster somewhere around your midsection, you also need a good-quality gun belt that will cost in the neighborhood of $50 to $150.

  6. I’d like to ad a couple of more items:
    1. A high quality holster.
    2. Training. Preferably certified NRA or law enforcement.

    • My must-have list would be [in order]
      1. Training (even if you don’t have a gun yet; at least be an informed consumer)
      2. A defensive pistol and at least 3 magazines
      3. High quality ammo for carry and training
      4. A quality carry holster/mag caddy and belt combo
      5. A reputable safe to store your equipment
      6. Electronic earpro and quality eyepro

    • Concur. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, and learn how to be safe. After you learn that, you can choose to learn to be a target shooter, operator, 3 gun superstar, etc. How many of us have been at a public range and had to correct a newbie from doing something dangerous, like sweeping people with the muzzle or handling a gun with a closed action away from the firing line?
      #2 is protective gear.
      #3 Training should include how to select proper ammo.
      #4 safe storage, but just about any new gun comes with at least a cable lock
      #5 cleaning equipment- sure, but a class should teach you the proper way to not damage the crown and ruin the gun.
      #6 targets are available at any range on demand. Away from a range, a piece of paper taped to a cardboard box will do fine (toss dirt in the bottom if windy). There’s a billion available online if you want to print something special.
      You don’t need to start with extra mags. I have guns that I’ve had for years that only have the original mags, and I have others that I carry and use for carry and action shooting that have a couple dozen. Save your money for ammo, practice, and training and get extra mags when you need to have lots of readily available ammo or use you gun enough to start wearing them out.

    • Yes, I have purchased it online within the past year
      I use the small pump spray bottle and refill it from the bottle shown above.

    • CLP is available in various size bottles in liquid form. Small, medium and even gallon jugs. Bought my last small bottle at Bass Pro Shop.

  7. Does anybody actually buy frangible ammo for shooting steel? I just make sure I have good quality steel angled down and I have glasses and some distance.

  8. Apparently I am a cheap b*stard.
    I have two small bottles from the Dollar Store. One has motor oil, the other has Auto transmission fluid. Instead of a bore snake I use a length of weedeater line. Hooked to pull wipes through. A couple of old toothbrushes and the kit is complete. It all fits in the small pocket of my range bag.

  9. Before you get the targets you need a quality holster, spare magazine Pouch along with a solid gun belt and don’t go cheap.

    BTW, nice picture of a Black Talon, I doubt that the new pistolero will be encountering too many of these.

  10. Magazines. I was scrolling down to comment before even reading the article. Magazines. You can never have too many magazines. I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut when seeing people buy their first guns at the gun store, but I always end up saying, ” buy mags. You should buy some magazines”. That’s the only comment I allow myself to make, other than maybe saying something like, that’s a good choice or that’s a good one or I’ve got one too. Buy more mags.

    • Nah, I don’t buy extra $40+ magazines until I know I like shooting the pistol. Seriously. If I take it to the range once and hate it, I’m not dumping money into mags or holsters. I’ll trade/sell, get a different pistol and move on…
      My carry guns I have at least 5 mags for, my favorite pistols have 6 mags+.

  11. Frangible ammunition is made of a sintered material (a powder heated until it runs and is poured into a mold) that shatters, pulverizes or otherwise breaks apart upon hitting a hard surface.

    Every time I think the author could not get more ill/un-informed, I am proven wrong yet again. It is I guess a ‘tribute’ to the modern educator they can produce a child that can vomit out complete r-tard garbage without any shame or embarrassment. He should have failed creative writing in 5th grade, not allowed into middle school, let alone farther.

    At least I didn’t have to spend more than 10 seconds reading – before the stupid burned so bad I could abandon the visual vomit.

    PS: TTAG should be getting a tax credit for keeping Mr Hoober around, even if you’re just paying him with stuff the food pantry has thrown out.

      • At your fingertips there is (nearly instant) access to information.

        Like the author, it would behoove you to learn how to use google, duckduckgo, ask(jeeves).

        “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”- Dean Wormer

        • If you’re going to type all those words about the author getting something wrong, maybe it’s not too much to ask (since you know so much) that you also mention what that thing is.

          You could’ve done that in less time than it took to be a dick about it.

          I’m no metallurgist, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn last night, but Ill take a stab at what you’re too cool to explain: What the author described is not sintering, but casting.

          He does seem to have a habit of making silly errors like that (silly in the sense that there was no need for that kind of explanatory detail in the article and getting it wrong does more damage than just leaving it out).

      • @Kevin:
        Some uncivil people have no manners. Where I come from, it is perfectly okay to ask a question, if you don’t know the answer. And a civil person will answer your question. It’s one of the ways information is passed from person to person (as in schools). You asked, so here is your answer:

        Unlike what was described erroneously above, sintered material is material (e.g. metal) in powdered form that is pressed into a shape in some sort of a press. The shaped object is then heated (“sintered”) in a furnace until the powder particles adhere to each other to form a solid shape. An example is tungsten carbide, which is used to make cutting tools and is very hard. Frangible bullets are made of material that is partially sintered meaning that the particles are only partially adhered and can break apart when a sufficient amount of force is applied, as when the frangible bullet hits a steel barrier at high speed.

        • Aha! I did get it right.

          I didn’t know that tungsten carbide was sintered, though. That’s cool beans. I’ve only come across the term in reference to sintered bullets (and I also hadn’t thought about the part where they’re *partially* sintered so as to be purposefully weak) or laser sintering.

  12. Cleaners and lubricants sold in sporting goods places & gun shops are about the most expensive crap there is. Go to an auto parts store and get something like the following:
    Lubricant – Mobil One Synthetic
    Cleaner/Solvent – Brake Cleaner

    • RGP,

      Important question if that handgun will ever be in extreme cold: will that Mobile synthetic motor oil get too thick and prevent proper action in extreme cold?

      I honestly do not know the answer. I figure many gun oils are specifically designed to stay reasonably “thin” (continue to flow easy) in extreme cold.

      Of course we have to wonder if anyone would ever leave their handgun out in extreme cold and then expect to use it before warming it up.

    • Depends on how extreme cold we’re talking. If not Arctic winter cold, just pick the lightest weight. Or use dry lubricant like Hornady One Shot.
      Some of the gun care specific, vegetable oil based cleaners / lubricants thicken by itself even at room temperature given enough time.

  13. If the intent is to use the gun for SD, the most important thing you need is the mental attitude to actually shoot somebody. Other wise you’re just wasting your time and money.

      • “They” have Never been involved in a DGU. Mentally being prepared to KILL someone. Is the part that determines if you live or die in a DGU. It is also the most difficult to prepare for. It is much easier said than done.

  14. And you show the guy in the top picture using generic ear plugs. I would NEVER use those. Extremely hard to get those to fit snug and not nearly as good as a quality set of muffs.

    • Use what’s good for you. I have generic “christmas tree” style plugs as backup for my electronic muffs. Used them plenty of times just fine.

  15. I would add “range time” and a good coach to work with. Then there is a good holster and training material from a couple of good sources and maybe possibly a class or two.

  16. Good list for a complete beginner. I use Ballistol and I’m happy I made the switch(kept my locks from freezing last winter at -24°)! And it won’t kill you…being old all the chemical damage rears it’s ugly head-like skin cancer😫

  17. I try to start with 5 spare magazines. I hate practicing with “load a magazine, shoot a magazine, then repeat”. I much prefer load 5 magazines (usually w/10 rounds), shoot 5.

    Just me. But it seems to work better.

  18. Many people seek reflexology for stress related conditions, tension headaches, migraines, digestive issues, arthritis, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, menstrual disorders, and chronic pain. When attending a session with a reflexologist, you will be expected to fill out information about your health history that will help them customize your treatment. It is important to be honest when filling

  19. Another important procedure would be to know all parts of your gun by name. Along with this also know how to breakdown and put back together. Enjoyed your other tips for 1st time users. Solid,Sound and Top Notch Advice.

  20. Pick up a J&J concealed leather holster so you can practice when you go to the range with your choice of holster . Whether it’s an iwb or a owb you must be aware of how long it will take you to draw and to bring to aim at Target

  21. I would consider a thorough search for an excellent, high-quality, compatible holster as a Major necessity/priority that should be listed here as well; even if you’re one who doesn’t necessarily plan to carry; you still need to have one available to you, along with the rest of your accessories and equipment…. Just Because—

  22. I use Hoppes to both clean and lubricate my fire arms never had an issue. As for ammo, try a few different manufacturers and see what shoots the best. My Sig works great on Sig and Hornandy critical defense ammo.

  23. How about a Magula loader for loading rounds into the magazines. Costs around $35.
    They’re available at most gun stores and many sporting goods stores. Made in Israel.
    Two types. The Uplula model handles 9mm to 45 cal rounds. (Also loads .380 rounds. ) The Babylula is for .22 rimfire. Makes loading quick and easy.

  24. You have to have a good holster. I have a Comfort Tec belly band! Works great for concealment and I can wear it with leggings or shorts also!
    MORE MAGS!! when you think you have enough….buy more!!
    Know the laws!!!
    A good safe!!! We have 2, his and Mine! I have more pistols, he has more long guns!!
    This is from a gun enthusiast woman!!


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