buying a new gun
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By Joe Bartozzi

Exact numbers from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System won’t be available for at least another week, but by all indications, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of new gun owners. Many could be owners who never held a gun until they stood in line, waited among the crowds and finally got their firearm.

Now, they’re home. They might also be quarantined.

Not to worry. Each new gun owner is now part of the more than 100 million Americans who own and use their firearm safely and responsibly every day. There are practical steps every gun owner can take today, even in quarantine, to learn to use their firearm safely and effectively.

Know the Four Rules

The first thing every gun owner should know, and commit to memory, are the four fundamental safety rules for firearm handling. They are:

  • Always point a firearm in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Keep it unloaded until you’re ready to use it.
  • Know your target and what’s around it, including beyond it.

There are more. NSSF preaches the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety. After the first four, they are:

  • Use correct ammunition.
  • If the gun fails to fire, keep it pointed in a safe direction. Unload it, then inspect it.
  • Always wear eye and ear protection on the range.
  • Before shooting, ensure the barrel is clear of obstructions. Never look down the muzzle end of a firearm.
  • Don’t alter or modify your firearm and have it serviced frequently.
  • Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of your firearm.

All gun owners must consider safe storage options for their home. Guns, when not carried or in use, must be locked and kept beyond the reach of those should never possess them. That means keeping every firearm inaccessible to children, prohibited individuals and those at risk of harming themselves. NSSF and our partners at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offered a few tips for navigating the stressful times and urge anyone feeling alone or struggling to reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Secure Storage

Safe storage options will differ from owner-to-owner and will likely change as lifestyles change. Each gun owner must assess their needs and which method meets those needs. NSSF has videos that will help guide new owners to reach the decision on which method works best for their situation.

The most basic, yet effective method, is to use the cable lock manufacturers include with every new gun. This lock, when properly used, will run through the firearm’s action, rendering it inoperable. NSSF’s Project Childsafe regularly provides firearm safety kits to law enforcement containing a free cable lock. In 20 years of this program, over 38 million kits have been distributed to more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies. If a gun owner needs a lock, they can be found with most police departments or can be purchased inexpensively at a local firearm retailer.

Other options are available too, including lockboxes, small key and digital combination entry safes, biometric safes and traditional upright safes for storing multiple firearms. NSSF urges all gun owners to responsibly store their firearms.

Read the Manual

Gun owners must also read and thoroughly understand the user manual included with the new firearm. If the firearm purchased was used, most manufacturers have their user manuals available on the internet. Read the manual and understand it. It is critical each gun owner knows how to safely load and unload their firearm, engage safety mechanisms and always apply the four fundamental rules of firearm safety.

If local or state orders don’t limit travel, NSSF strongly urges all new gun owners to familiarize themselves with their new firearm. Find a local range and tell those working there of the new purchase. Most range operators want to assist new gun owners to a safe and positive experience with their firearm.

Get Training, Even Online

Find reputable and qualified instruction. This is where local firearm ranges excel. Nearly all of them offer some type of introduction to firearms. NSSF provides many ranges the First Shots program that introduces new owners to firearms. NSSF has resources ready to help at It has a section dedicated to New Shooters and an interactive map to learn Where to Shoot.

New owners ordered to stay at home have resources available too. Ryan Cleckner is a well-respected name in the firearm industry. He’s is a former Army Ranger sniper, firearm attorney and author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook. He established and recognized that right now, many new gun owners won’t have the chance to get to a range. That’s why Cleckner updated his Gun University’s Gun 101 page so new owners could learn from his blogs and video demonstrations how safely handle a gun, learn about different types of firearms, how to unload them and find qualified training.

New gun owners should know they are welcomed into our community of law-abiding gun owners. We care. We care about growing responsible, passionate and safe citizens who carry and use their firearm lawfully and without incident every day. More information is available on the firearm industry’s Real Solutions for Safer Communities to provide proven and effective answers to firearm safety. Additionally, gun owners can learn more about the community of gun owners at NSSF’s Gun Owners Care.


Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

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  1. Also, now that you own a gun consider joining the NRA, Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Citizens Committe 2A, etc. Join the fight.

  2. I foresee a number of firearm “incidents” with all the new firearm owners we have now. More gun owners is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but as we all know, the inevitable result will be people never handling a gun before are gonna do stupid stuff. And the dems with their media ally’s already have the headlines written!

    • OTOH, gun accident numbers are continuing to stay low and we theoretically have noobs all the time (just not necessarily in panic mode).

      Just sayin’.

      And, thank G-d that NJ governor has effectively banned sales and transfers by stopping access to NJ’s system. Think of the lives saved. (sigh)

    • Seems to me that anybody who’s just now buying their first gun wouldn’t be the type of person who’d be prone to fiddling with them a lot. More likely they’re the types to leave it unloaded tucked away in the closet. So probably not a lot of NDs from this crowd.

  3. If you know someone who has just decided to become a gun owner(because of the pandemic?), a little basic training is in order. Sadly, people who were anti gun are now buying firearms and have little, none, or the wrong safety knowledge to even own a firearm. Please, even if the guy is a POS, an inlaw, or worse(daughter’s boy friend), try to meet him/her half way and get him/her/them some safety training.

    People that buy a gun because they are scared(of media reports) could be their own worst enemy. People like this almost always “know” better than others.

    Do not show them how ignorant they are, that just gets their back up. Show them standard safety practices and if you can, go over defense law in your state, so they have an idea what they could be in for. Shooting someone over taking the last few packages of TP off the shelves at the market is not a good defense.

    • Most people unfortunately only know about guns from Hollywood. And Hollywood is not only a poor teacher but I often refer to their examples of what NOT to do.

  4. Find a place. Even if it’s at a range and shoot a couple down range without ears. Just to understand what it feels and sounds like. Most likely you won’t be wearing them if you have. A SHTF moment. The last thing you want is to be startled by the reaction when you or your loved ones life is on the line. Be Safe Maintain OP SEC and as always Keep Your Powder Dry.

    • YES Give your self permanent hearing loss NOW in case you have to defend yourself late.

      That is the dumbing thing that I have ever heard. Go back to your parent’s basement, stay there and shut up

    • Your pathetically stupid advice is why no one should take anything online seriously, especially firearm training.

      • @ D & @Dave How many times have you shot a firearm without ears? Ever? My guess is Never. Most likely never shot one outside the range. Make no mistake “boys”. It can be done and has been done by 100’s Thousands of people. From long before you were born. How you will react in a SHTF moment. Will be severely limited if you react poorly to the experience. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve shot more times without ears than both have you will shoot with them. Millions of hunters have shot Billions of times without ears. Ears weren’t even a thing until indoor ranges became popular and even that took some time. Can it cause hearing loss. Yes. Over time. Still better than Your surprise reaction and flinch getting you Dead. Grow some boys…
        Now for the questions of the day…Do you Hunt with ears? Have you Ever shot a firearm without ears?

        • There is a big difference between HAVING TO shoot with out ears, and doing so just for the experience.
          Having taken people to the range who’ve never shot before, I can tell you that even with hearing protection, the bang is, at first, jarring.
          So, no, don’t encourage anyone to shoot without protection, “to get used to it.”
          And yes, I have shot firearms without ears. I was in the Army in the 60’s, no ears then, tinnitus now.

        • @darkman, you are a moron.
          By your rationale, you can really be prepared until you’ve shot, without ear-pro, from an enclosed box, like a hallway. That’s just moronic. If you really want to prepare yourself, “boy”, then you aren’t shit unless you routinely live-fire duel with random people, in a conex box.

          Yes, I have shot (way too much) without ear pro.

          Yes, I do hunt with ear pro (and/or a suppressor).

          Yes, I do snap on a pair of electronic ear pro the few times I have heard something in the house and wanted to check it out.

          To recap: you are a moron. Stop internetting and go back to spewing bullshit in the gun shop.

      • Darkman said to shoot a “couple”(2) not a couple of hundred. This is not the best way but it is a way. If a couple(2) would produce permanent hearing loss than many of us would be deaf. I think the best way is to take a new shooter to a range and they will figure out on their own just how loud the sounds can be. After all, they are shooting ranges, one should expect loud sounds. Years ago hearing protection was not as proliferated as it is now and since it is so available it is best to encourage others to wear hearing protection.

  5. A message to all new liberal Dem gun owners.
    1. load gun
    2. point at dick & pull trigger
    3. works better then abortion & will help rid the planet of future little liberals!

    • 1. Load gun.
      2. Stick gun in trouser waistband while leaving finger on trigger.
      3. Call ambulance and hope you haven’t hit your femoral artery.
      4. Referring to 3. If there is a strong stream of bright red blood, don’t bother praying to your $deity as you will be meeting them in person very shortly.

  6. Good to see some articles here in TTAG reminding us all of the basics, geared particularly toward newcomers. Always a good thing.

    • If one of these new gun owners use Google, TTAG is usually at the top or near the top of the search results. Some of these comments are rude, disrespectful or even straight up malicious.

      I have reached out to the few newbies I know of and at least gave them the basics. How to load, unload, point in a safe direction, finger off the trigger until ready to fire, use in self defense only if the bad guy is posing an immediate threat, etc. I have taken several female co-workers to the range, several said they would be future gun owners. I hope they tooled up after the range time but before all this.

      • Did you give them advice on when they can shoot, when they can not? Where to aim? How many rounds to shoot? How to use cover and concealment, how to deal with spouse and children during a lethal encounter? and hundreds of other necessary facts?????

        There is a lot more to armed defense than you mentioned and a short trip to the range.

        • A trip to the range is already a big deal for a newbie. I’m sure Jeff provided the appropriate amount of education for a first experience. There’s always more to learn, no matter what level of expertise you have. I myself had 20+ years of shooting and firearm restoration under my belt when I finally began to learn handgun armoring (I’m now a Glock armorer), and it was a couple more years before I opened up my world beyond lever- and bolt-actions to learning the AR platform and how to build them. And then there’s the entire legal aspect, to which you referred. It’s a lot of information.

          When I took my wife to her first instructor-led course, she was almost overwhelmed at just the aspect of remembering the Four Rules and how to properly handle, load, unload, holster, unholster, aim, and put rounds on target. That was a two-day course. Subsequent courses and trips to the range have helped, but sometimes the basics all by themselves are a lot for someone to absorb and retain. Not everyone is an Operator.

        • Brah, a five minutes with me and the nubs are rocking a MAGA cap backwards, Wiley X goggles, Peltors and fast roping upside down from ze choppa sreaming “Fuck yo red dot! ” while dishing out 600 headshots per minute from their wheelguns and smoking a cigar with a war face that strikes PatMac dead at 5km like a 6.5 to the brain pointblank.

          And that’s just if they watch my YouTube channel.

          Your nubs aren’t doing that in under 10 mikes? Do you even instruct?

  7. Joe Bartosi: Print out 1000s of your article and distribute them at gun dealers, along with the info to sign up for this blog. The new gun owners aren’t HERE to read your article.

  8. Have a buddy who just bought his first firearm slightly ahead of the panic rush. I’ve been shooting with him, and he’s ex-military, so he already knows the basics of safety (e.g., 4 rules).

    First thing I did was point him to local laws @ and compare / contrast with my local laws in AZ (to underscore the extra hoops that he had to go through to get his gun).

    He’d like to carry (eventually), so I shared some pointers from areas where I had a bit of a learning curve (e.g., shopping for belts and holsters). I pointed him to Federal HST so he’s got defensive rounds on hand; he also got a few boxes of range ammo, but no idea when it will be practical for him to visit a range. In the meantime I sent him a link to order some snap caps to practice manual of arms and dry fire.

    Also made him watch the Tex Grebner video to introduce the need to develop safe handling skills before carrying (don’t muzzle yourself, trigger discipline, etc.).

    Finally, told him to practice taking his gun apart and putting it back together. I don’t think he’s even picked up cleaning supplies yet, but it’s never too soon to get familiar with the inner workings.

  9. Hi Folks.

    The most important tip for a new gun owner is to get some kind of training with an accomplished gun owner, with an emphasis on safety followed by the fundamentals of shooting.

    I’d bet the first few minutes/hours of gun handling with live ammo produce the most accidents. Having the right person there to guide would help immensely.


  10. How about advising them after checking and verifying the gun is unloaded to cycle the action a few hundred times to get things worn in. Some guns can be unreliable for their first few hundred rounds.

  11. Don’t forget weapon insurance , like , or other type weapon insurance companies ,
    some local in state

    courts will get involved if ever use weapon in self defense

    always nice to have weapon safe , trigger locks of course , most new weapons have one in case

    stay safe , stay alert , good luck , God Bless America

  12. Why do people keep trying to write their own version of the “four rules?” From the Gunsite plaques:

    All guns are always loaded
    Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy
    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
    Always be sure of your target


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