How to Buy Your First Gun – What You Need to Know

by Joe I

How to Buy Your First Gun

What are you going to do? Are you going to rush out and buy one? And will you buy some ammo when you get the gun? Are you just going to head out to the range and start shooting? Figure it out as you go? Buying a firearm is a huge decision and one that can have far-ranging implications. Many people, like myself, grew up hunting and were introduced to firearms at an early age. I was shooting a BB gun by the time I was 4 years old, and I received a bolt-action Remington .22 for Christmas when I was 6. I routinely walked out the back door and into the woods and hunted rabbits and squirrels by the time I was 8 or so.

My father introduced me to deer hunting at about the same time, and I was using one of his .243s to hunt deer by myself when I was 10. Dove and quail hunting were regular activities, and I started out using a 20 ga., but changed to a 12 ga. when I bought my first shotgun. Plinking and target shooting were common activities at my house and my friend’s houses, and a .22 revolver was my first handgun. I used it for plinking for the most part, but did do a little hunting. Larger caliber handguns came later, and a fascination with Elmer Keith and his adventures influenced me to obtain and shoot the big bore handguns he wrote about.

I shot the .44 magnum, the .45 acp, and later the .357 magnum. My point is that I had a natural progression, a culture if you will, of hunting and using firearms my entire life. To me a firearm is no different from a hammer or other tool, and has no inherent danger in and of itself. It was the tool I had always used to do the things I loved doing. My father taught me to shoot as a child, and he taught me the basic safety rules one must follow with a firearm.

Always assume that every firearm is loaded, always point the barrel in a safe direction, never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire, and never fire at anything you can’t identify. These rules kept me safe as a child, and were so totally ingrained into my consciousness that I always check to see if a gun is loaded no matter the circumstances, even if I am looking at a gun in a sporting goods store. And I vividly remember getting my butt busted when I didn’t practice safe and proper pointing etiquette. It’s the ground or the sky, nothing in between, my dad always said.

Obviously, if you grew up the way I did, there won’t be anything I can tell you that you probably don’t already know, and this article will only refresh and encourage you. But for the new person just being introduced to firearms, there are some issues to be addressed. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume you’ve decided you want a handgun for protection. What should you get, revolver or semi-auto? What is the best caliber? What kind of bullets do you need to buy? How about practice? Safe handling?


Before shopping for a handgun it is best to do a little research to help you make a decision on what firearm best fits your unique circumstances. A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder that revolves around a barrel. Most revolvers have 6 shots, and then have to be re-loaded by swinging out the cylinder, ejecting the empties, and putting new cartridges in each cylinder one by one. This is a fairly slow process but can be increased in speed by using speed-loaders.

The revolver is tough, rarely malfunctions is not likely to fail or jam, and is not very picky about what cartridges it shoots. The pistol is a repeating firearm that has one chamber and barrel and fires each time the trigger is pulled, and the next cartridge is loaded by a mechanism powered by the previous shot.

Pistols have magazines that hold more cartridges than a revolver, routinely 15 or more, and can be reloaded quickly by inserting a new magazine in a well usually in the grip of the firearm. Some autos are particular about specific types and brands of ammo, and one must decide which better fits the purpose they have. Generally speaking, for self-defense the pistol is usually the better choice, and for hunting the revolver usually performs the best.

Of course, each one overlaps, and some people prefer a revolver over a pistol and vice versa. As for caliber, the choices are numerous, but the well-established preferences in the US are the 9mm, .40 S&W, and the .45 acp. Any of these three would serve the average person well, and there are a large variety of manufacturers of each caliber, but Glock, Kimber, Ruger, Colt, S&W, Springfield, and Taurus dominate the pistol market, and S&W, Ruger, and Taurus dominate revolvers.

All of these makers have excellent handguns, and personal preference is usually the deciding factor. Seek advice from friends, go on the internet, research as much as possible, go to the gun store and handle a weapon, shoot one if you can, and then decide on the make and model that best fits you. For people who are elderly, or who have trouble with recoil, .22 cal. revolvers and pistols are viable alternatives and Ruger, S&W, and Taurus make excellent revolvers while Walther, Baretta, Ruger and Browning make great .22 pistols. There are other alternatives as well, and many people like the Warsaw Pact pistols and find them workable and very affordable. The options are almost limitless, so do the research.


Once you’ve decided to buy a specific firearm, the next step is actually purchasing one. There are gun shops in almost every small town and urban area in the United States. Wal-Mart, Gander Mountain, Cabelas, Academy and other national chains sell firearms as well, though there is something to be said for purchasing at a gun shop from people who are willing to go the extra mile for you after your purchase.

Provided you don’t have a criminal record, domestic abuse problem, restraining order, or mental issues, you will likely be able to purchase a firearm. Some states have additional requirements, but the minimum requirement for buying a firearm is to fill out an ATF form which information is then called into an FBI database for approval. This usually takes only a few minutes, although local and state laws may have cooling off periods before one can actually take delivery of a firearm. Once you get the firearm home, read the user guide, and learn to break down the firearm for cleaning.

The owner’s manual will provide the details, but just about every model handgun has a youtube video showing one how to take apart and clean the weapon. If one encounters problems, a quick trip to the gun shop where the weapon was purchased usually resolves the issue.


Now, you’ve bought your firearm, learned to take it apart and clean it, so what’s next. There are common sense rules and precautions that pertain to firearms. For one thing, once a gun has been fired, you can never get the bullet back. EVER. So it is of the utmost importance that one learn and practice safety when using and handling a firearm. When cleaning your weapon, always make sure it isn’t loaded.

If it’s a magazine-fed weapon, not only remove and check the magazine but open the chamber or bolt and check the barrel as well. When you pick up or take a firearm from someone, assume it is loaded. Check to see, don’t take someone’s word, and don’t worry about offending someone. If one can be offended by safety practices, you need to disassociate yourself from them. Never point a firearm in an unsafe direction, or at something you don’t intend to shoot.

Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot and you have acquired a target. And never shoot at a noise or at something you can’t identify, and make absolutely sure you know exactly what the target is before you shoot. Most firearms accidents I’ve seen or heard of are from people who shoot before identifying the target, or who shoot themselves or others through improper gun handling. To reiterate, you cannot get a bullet back once it has been fired. Always think and practice safety.


There are many types of ammunition, and each type has a specific use, although there is a crossover and redundancy in many types of ammo. For example, one type of ammo might be good for both hunting and self-defense. But ammo specialization is the norm these days. I don’t want to delve into the specialty types of ammo in this article(such as shot), but want to keep the discussion centered on what most people use day-to-day.

There are three basic types of ammo we will be discussing here, one is FMJ(full metal jacket) another is JHP(jacketed hollow point), and the third is JSP(jacketed soft point). Full metal jacket consists of a soft core(usually lead) encased in a shell or harder metal, jacketed hollow point has a hollowed-out pit in its tip that causes the bullet to expand or mushroom when it hits a target, and jacketed soft point has an exposed tip of lead that expands when it hits a target.

Each bullet is designed for different things. Although not all-encompassing, for the most part, FMJ bullets are best used for practice(they are cheaper, too), the JHP is best for self-defense, and the JSP works best for hunting. FMJ for practice and JHP for self-defense are usually the best fit for most people, but one does need to practice occasionally with JHPs just to test their skill and the weapon that shoots it. Most military rounds are required by the Geneva Convention to by non-expanding FMJ bullets, so most military surplus will be just that.


Now you have your gun and your ammo and know your safety rules, so you’re ready to get started. What should you do? Go to the range and wing it? Hope someone is at the range who will show you how it’s done? Pray for a miracle? NO. The single most important thing a new shooter can do is learn from someone who is an expert. For some people who might be a trusted friend, but for most this is going to be a firearm’s instructor.

Most states have concealed carry laws, and instructors are in just about every town and city in the US. Most gun shops have a list of firearm instructors, most NRA Certified, who teach the safe handling and shooting of firearms. For more money, there are excellent organizations like Frontsite that will teach shooting and tactics. The Appleseed shooting program is nationwide, and there is no reason for someone not to get the proper training before using a firearm.

Now that you’ve had the training, you can visit your local range and hone your skills. It is unethical to hunt or shoot without practicing regularly, and one should make the commitment to become proficient with a firearm before ever buying one. And besides, if you can’t hit what you’re shooting at, what good will it do you.

A firearm doesn’t make a great club, so get a baseball bat if you can’t commit to being as good a shooter as possible. Any normal person has the inherent ability to become proficient with a firearm. Most cases where people are not proficient are due to confidence and self-esteem issues, and practicing and learning to shoot a firearm well usually solves the problem.


I really wanted to mention gun shows under the purchase topic, but after giving it much thought, I decided gun shows needed its own section. Just about every city in the United States has gun shows at least 4 times a year. If you are an NRA member, there is a section in the monthly magazine that lists gun shows in the part of the country the magazine covers.

If not, your local rifle and pistol club will know, and the shows are widely advertised. An internet search for gun show and the city will also yield results. Once you’ve found the time and place, decide on your arrival time. There are two strategies to buying guns at the show, and one is get there early, and the other is to come to the show pretty close to the time when it’s closing.

You will get the best selection if you come early, and the best price if you arrive a couple of hours before closing time. Be ready to bargain on price, as many folks who go there enjoy bargaining and have their prices marked up so they have some room to bargain. Just don’t pay list price. Besides firearms, there are tons of accessories at gun shows, and ammo is usually plentiful and better priced than at gun stores.

But the buyer should still beware, as I’ve seen some prices way higher than Wal-Mart, for instance. Other accessories like magazines, scopes, sights, slings, clothes, and knifes are also in abundance, so one can still find useful items even if unable to obtain a firearm.

Another possibility at gun shows are private sales. If you walk around, you will notice people carrying firearms for trade or sale. It is legal in most, but not all, jurisdictions to buy firearms from an individual without having to fill out ATF forms or get ATF phone approval. Check your local laws.

Just make sure you get a bill of sale for the purchase, and that you get the person’s driver’s license number and place of employment. If someone is not willing to give you information on themselves, it is possible the firearm may be stolen, or that they have a criminal record, so just forget it. No amount of money saved is worth the hassle of buying a stolen firearm. Firearms are also routinely advertised in most newspapers, and private sales are allowed, but again, check local laws and take the same precautions you would when buying at a gun show.


Firearms ownership is a big step, and there are issues that come with owning a firearm that are unique. Legal issues can arise when one uses or owns a firearm, and one had better learn and study the laws in the jurisdictions they inhabit or visit. Many cities and states have restrictive laws on carrying a firearm, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. Several people this past year have run afoul of New York City’s restrictive gun laws, and face automatic prison sentences if convicted.

All these things said it is a right of Americans to own firearms for protection, recreation, hunting, and fun. And we as Americans should be proactive and exercise our rights lest we lose them. And there is an old saying that fits my perspective on firearms ownership, “God created Man(and Woman), but Samuel Colt made them equal”. Sic

Sic semper tyrannis.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Nice write up, well though out and structured.

    From my experience, I would steer a new person away from the gun show venues until they know what they are buying. Some issues are never known until you actually put bullets in a weapon and try to fire it. I found this out the hard way when I bought a Franchi 12 ga pump at a show several years ago. The weapon looked nice, no major wear on the weapon. I got it to the range and it wouldn’t feed rounds consistently. The verdict was a weak magazine spring, an issue that never would have surfaced until adding ammo and cycling it which is not allowed at a show. Just about every firearm could have some quirk like this that you would never know until you get it to the range.

    One other thing about buying used firearms. Most of the time, you can call into your local police department (NOT 911) and ask them to run a serial number on a weapon to check it against their database of stolen weapons. It’s not 100% fool proof as many people fail to record their serial numbers and keep them somewhere other than the location of their weapon so when it gets stolen they have no number to give the police.

    That is another take away I would give to new users is to record the number somewhere as you really should do for all “sensative” or high value items you own: TV’s, Computers/laptops, cell phones, tablets, firearms etc. Basically anything you own over $300 or so, if it’s got a serial number, record it and keep it somewhere safe.

    • tommy2rs says:

      One thing I do with firearms is dust some talc, chalk, baby powder or even flour into the serial numbers then photograph them with the bill of sale. The talc brushes out easily and makes the serial number readable. Awkward on some guns yes but worth trouble if it’s ever needed.

    • oHIo,
      I agree on newbie’s at gun shows. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) absolutely applies. The mix of folks at gun shows are no different than the general population, and it is likely that some of the sellers are attempting to unload lemons, so a new owner needs to take along a friend who knows what to look for.
      Keep in mind also that there are minimum age restrictions on buying and selling firearms. You must be 18 to purchase a long gun, and 21 to purchase a handgun. These may seem like silly restrictions, but at least for now they are the rules and need to be followed.

  2. There is a glaring error in this article, and that is the description of auto pistol magazines: “routinely 15 [rounds] or more”.

    The vast majority (probably 99% or more) of autoloading handguns have a capacity of 11 rounds or less.

    The only handguns that support a magazine capacity of 15 rounds or more are full-framed 9mm (ex: Sig P226 – up to 18 rds), some compact 9mm (ex: Sig P228 – up to 15 rds), a couple of full-framed .40 (ex: Springfield XDm – 16 rds), and a smattering of rimfire (ex: Kel-Tec PMR-30 – 30 rds .22 magnum).

    The benefit of autoloading pistols is the ability to reload quickly…not the mag capacity.

    • Tinfoil Hat says:

      Sigh. Never fails SOMEBODIES gotta comb every comma, space, noun verb and adjective in a good firearm article to find a “glaring” defect. It was a great article, and the round number prevalence had zero bearing on the overall substance of the article. So I just have to ask you: How many times did you eagerly scan the article looking for something b*tch about before settling on that tidbit?

      • axelsteve says:

        Tinfoil. Amen Brother!! My wife had a great aunt who was a retired teacher.ANd for the rest of her life she thought that she was the appointed grammar cop. She would correct grown men and women on there grammar.I never could stand that self righoutes hag.If she was alive now she would probably be driving a prius.

        • Cosmolined says:

          This is just joking with you, but did you know you capitalized the N on And? ROTFL, God Bless, Cos

      • I agree it is a good piece of writing, intended for people new to firearms. With that being said, passing along incorrect information to people who are new to firearms is a problem, even if it seems trivial to you; it may not end up being a trivial fact to someone else. Nothing wrong with factual corrections as long as the person is polite and constructive in pointing out the error.

      • Prudent says:

        Play Nice Hat….. your flame is showing! At the “Retreat” I reacted rather robustly to a guys comment on wearing a ‘hoody’ as a way not to gain attention on the street. My flame popped up too. “..Glaring…” mayhaps is a stretch. Your right.

        This post subject is kinda redundent. Don’t we all know it. I still read through it twice and it was a good reminder and motivator …. affirmation don’t ya think?

      • riverrider says:

        you go tin!

      • Muddy Fork says:

        My thoughts exactly! I knew someone would have the bust his balls over that. And for those who are scratching their head on the Wal-Mart references for handgun sales; they do sell them in Alaska and as I understand they are seriously considering bringing them back to select stores in the lower 48 states. Sorry California, don’t think you will be on that list.

    • axelsteve says:

      Being in Komradfornia. The average semi auto is 7 to ten rounds because the guncommies won`t let you have hi cap mags.Unless you are law enforcement.Most 22 semi`s are 10 round mags.

      • Cosmolined says:

        Muddy Fork:
        The funny thing about the magazine limits here is, once the manufacturers figured out they could make smaller framed weapons to fit that amount of rounds, the Legislators whined
        because the weps were more concealable! ROTFL!!! Cos

    • Buuurr in Ohio says:

      “Blurb May 24, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      There is a glaring error in this article, and that is the description of auto pistol magazines: “routinely 15 [rounds] or more”.

      The vast majority (probably 99% or more) of autoloading handguns have a capacity of 11 rounds or less.”

      Huh? What’s that based on? I haven’t fired a Glock or Springfield that hasn’t had at least 15 round mags… Mine XDm 9 mm Compact has a capacity of 16. Yes, that is a compact. In full-mode it has a 19 round capacity.

      Maybe what you meant to say was that there are a lot of autos out there that are used for C&C and they have single stack mags with 11 rounds or less (not the vast majority or 99% – that’s ridiculous. Unless you live in California. Do you live in California?) for easy waist band function.

      “The only handguns that support a magazine capacity of 15 rounds or more are full-framed 9 mm (ex: Sig P226 – up to 18 rds), some compact 9mm (ex: Sig P228 – up to 15 rds), a couple of full-framed .40 (ex: Springfield XDm – 16 rds), and a smattering of rimfire (ex: Kel-Tec PMR-30 – 30 rds .22 magnum).”

      No. Not true. You can get basically any size magazine capacity for any gun up to a 100 if your state law allows it. Many states have 33 round limitations. Here in Ohio it is 20.

      “The benefit of autoloading pistols is the ability to reload quickly…not the mag capacity.”

      Huh? So it is better to reload faster while an attacker is unloading on you then to have an extra 8-13 rounds in a mag? Someone needs to tell law enforcement and the FBI they are using too many bullets.

      • Puts me in mind of the Florida Sheriff not too long ago who replied to a reporter questioning why they fired 28 rounds into the perp to bring him down that the reason why it was 28 rounds was because it was all of the ammunition the two deputies had in their pistols. Quantity is a class in itself.

    • Blurb,

      You’re funny… kind of.

  3. riverrider says:

    joe, great job! so much better than the “you must buy THIS gun ” posts…..only thing i’d add if i might, is don’t forget gunbroker. it has saved me hundreds, maybe thousands and sometimes a gun i wanted wasn’t available locally, but i was able to find/buy it friday on gb and pick it up at my ffl on monday. awesome post!

    • I agree – most posts just focus on pitching one gun.

      It’s important to consider your unique situation (family, home, environment, etc) when purchasing a firearm.

      Nice job Joe.

  4. My old Daddy had three simple rules for us kids when it came to guns:
    Don’t aim at it if you ain’t gonna shoot it.
    Don’t shoot at it if you ain’t gonna kill it.
    Don’t kill it if it ain’t gonna eat you or you ain’t gonna eat it.

  5. Tinfoil Hat says:

    Awesome article! For sure one of the best, most comprehensive, common sense writings on the subject. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Joe I,
    This is really a good and well written article as it offers great guidance to the individuals who are not gun savvy. I know far too many who own guns and have very limited knowledge in proper usage of them. If they follow your advice they will avoid many pitfalls along the way.

    I too had the good fortune of having a Father who taught me the same as your Father taught you. I thank him every time I have the opportunity to go to the range or find myself in the field.

    I think you should write more articles for The Pack as you have an excellent writing style.

  7. Good article. Gunshows for modern arms are not legal in NJ, RI, and Wash DC.

    I always recomend trying, if possible, any firearm model/caliber you intend to buy. I have seen people with “too much” gun that a dealer who happens to like it talked a green horn into. I’ve seen it many times.
    (I still have thirty rounds of 7mm Weatherby dumped in the garbage.) A salesman at a local shop was partial to that rifle and cal. If you’ve little or no experience, start with a 22lr.
    Almost everyone I let shoot my SIG228 bought one or a 229.

  8. Also ask your FFL guy about private sales , he may also sell guns but will most likely know people of good reputation that do . Depending on your state tax levels , it may be worth it to buy it over the internet to avoid sales tax . I have ordered a few from and saved some money for a new gun , even with the FFL fee . In my state you fill out the form and after a quick phone call , you walk out the door with it . Fast and easy .

  9. Cosmolined says:

    Joe I:
    Simply an OUTSTANDING intro to weps! If we voted on best article, you’d get mine. God Bless, Cos P.S. I didn’t get my .22 until I was 9.

  10. Excellent article for people with no gun knowledge, however a couple of misnomers in descriptions. I have always been taught that “pistol” is the term used to describe hand held firearm. Pistols can come in several types, a single shot, a revolver or an auto loader. My first pistol was a Stevens single shot, my next one was a top break Hopkins and Allen five shot 32 short caliber, my next revolver was a Colt single action six shot solid frame fixed cylinder that had to be loaded and unloaded on chamber at a time, my next revolver was a Smith& Wesson 32.20 and my first swing out cylinder style of six shots. My best friend at the time had a Harrington and Richardson nine shot revolver you had to pull the cylinder pin out, drop the cylinder and punch out the empties with the cylinder pin one at a time, reload and reinsert the cylinder and replace the pin. Along the way I also had a five shot 1849 Colt pocket 31 caliber black powder and percussion cap pistol. My first auto loader was a Colt Woodsman long barrel ten round magazine pistol. I have had auto loaders from a five round magazine all the way to the Browning Hi Power so pistols can come many ways and it is handy for one who has no firearms knowledge to know the difference lest they wind up with an old French eight mm pinfire LeMat revolver at a bargain since no ammunition is available. This happened to me recently when a friend with no firearms knowledge and too busy for me to counsel showed up with one he got at a bargain price of only one hundred bucks. His feelings were hurt when I told him it was an expensive paper weight.

    • Harold,
      I concur with your definition, in that in general a pistol is a small, hand held firearm, also called a handgun. In general they come in four types: hinge or bolt action (generally single shot specialty firearms), and the more common revolver and semi-automatic or auto-loader. Revolvers typically come in two types, single and double action, which describes the function of the trigger and hammer. Semi-autos come in too many configurations to name with various types of decockers, one or more safeties, and a plethora of sights.
      Probably the most important single thing Joe mentioned in the article was to use your manual, with perhaps supplemental YouTube information because in the end, the only part of the firearm that really makes it safe is the grey matter between the ears of the owner, and your knowledge of the guns operation and the attitude to ALWAYS practice safety.

      • I have often been asked by neophytes when they have been made aware from other sources that I possess firearms to allow them to handle them and to shoot them. I always tell them it is not safe to let anyone other than my wife or myself to handle the firearms and they are personal possessions just like the money I may or may not have in my pocket and that to ask me to see and to handle the firearm is akin to asking me to allow them to count my money. Makes some of them mad but so what. I then have to describe the difference between a responsible and an irresponsible firearms owner. I then tell them that YouTube has numerous videos on firearms that will pretty well educate them on various firearms. I suggest that they visit several firearms dealers who will be happy to demonstrate their wares, answer questions and even to debate the issues between various firearms. I have no desire to debate my preferance for metal weapons over plastic ones nor do I want to own an AK or M4 of any type since this does not fit into my personal reference area. As is stated in the post above by OP, the part of the firearm that makes it safe is the gray matter between the ears of the handler. Over the years as the antigun hysteria has heightened with the ill informed and downright stupid people getting all of the publicity the average person who was not properly brought up as a child with firearms is less and less knowledgeable and more likely to enter into the hysteria of the antigunners. When I was a teen and a young man, you could openly display a firearm in public here without any hysteria. Now society has been inflamed to the point that if you should happen to step out your door with a rifle, you will hear some loon shout, “He’s got a gun, he’s going to kill someone”. This is the main reason why I practice such a low key demurral about mine. It is not necessary for me to have the latest and the newest weapon since the ones I do possess function perfectly, I am used to how they perform and what their limitations are. There are a number of licensed, regulated, etc people that are teaching firearm familiarity and safety and some even have ranges to fire at. Although I often disagree with some of their statements, they are the ones a person should seek out to familiarize themselves with firearms. One of the local range owners around here (only place you can legally shoot at here anymore due to the hysteria) was absolutely flabbergasted when I showed up one day with an ancient Smith & Wesson tip up revolver with the removable cylinder to practice different loadings with. He had never seen such a thing and was unsure if it were safe to shoot. I was surprised that he was not familiar with the firearm since they once were so popular in the American west and told him if he ever saw the film, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” with Clint Eastwood, he would have seen old Clint very effectively using such a firearm and actually swapping an empty cylinder for a loaded one.

      • OP, you ever see one of those old pistols that resembled a revolver but instead of a magazine it had a straight envelope type of magazine that moved from one side to the other to align the round with the chamber. I believe it was a Hotchkiss designed pistol. Neither a revolver, nor an autoloader but like the single shot Stevens dropping block pistol I had once, it was still definitely a pistol.

    • Lloyd P says:

      A gun which can be held / fired with one hand is called a handgun. A pistol and a revolver are two different types of handguns. Revolvers are often misnamed pistols but this is incorrect usage of the wrod as a pistol by definition has a chamber that is integral with the barrel. This includes the semi-auto pistols mentioned in this article as well as single shot pistols, break action, muzzle-loader etc. The revolver on the other hand is not a pistol, but has a chamber that is separate from the barrel in a revolving cylinder.

      • When it is fired, the chamber on a revolver is indeed integral with the barrel or you would have one hell of an accident like I did when the chambers on a 44 Colts Army 1863 model crossfired on me and nearly tore my arm off besides the lead splatter burning my fingers. You can digress all day long about the definition of integral but since every revolver I have ever seen has had the cylinder mechanically locked into position aligned with the bore so that qualifys as integral.

  11. Steve A says:


    Great article for a new gunbuyer! I wish I’d had something like this all those years ago. Like you, my Dad started me off young, but we had to keep it on the sly. My Mom was very, very anti-gun. It wasn’t until I was 19 my Dad bought me my own “first gun” as a graduation present, and I could openly keep it in the house. I was in my mid 20’s before I ever looked to buy another, and that started one heck of a snowball. I made a lot of mistakes early on, buying the latest toy, or the neatest looking guns, most of the time on impulse. It was an expensive learning curve. Now, I use almost every step you outlined, and of them all, research in my opinion is the most important, followed very closely by handling the firearm. If I can rent one and shoot it first, that’s gravy, but most places near me don’t have a range. Still, a person should approach gun buying like they would a new car or computer, yet most don’t. But I think if they can follow the steps you outlined, they’d be leaps and bounds ahead of the game.

  12. Need to write about the 5th or 6th or 10th firearm to buy, having learned from buying some that were not the best choices after all.

    • Prudent says:

      JC … don’t they call the “not the best choices” SAFE QUEENS? or trade goods? I gotta a number of em. How about You?

  13. On buying your first gun, I would like to point out that down is the only safe direction. I see so many people shooting into the air. Apparently they never heard “I shot an arrow in the air. It came to earth I know not where. Check out this link. The fatality mentioned her was a little girl sitting on her porch watching fireworks. Check this site

    • Jim,
      Down is not the only safe direction, and in some cases it may be the most unsafe. When we teach our NRA classes, the first rule is “Always point the muzzle in a safe direction”, and then we have a discussion on what that means. The safe direction is the one that if the firearm accidently discharges, will cause the least amount of harm or damage. Outdoors on our range, it’s obvious, down into the dirt or down range at the backstop. In our clubhouse/classroom with its concrete floor, that can be another matter. If you live in a dwelling where people are below you (a downstairs apartment or your finished basement) then a discharge could well be devastating when pointed down. The main thing about muzzle direction is that we should all learn muzzle awareness and practice situational awareness when handling any firearm, loaded or not. Then again, until you check the gun yourself, it is always assumed to be loaded. As Joe mentioned, no one should ever get upset when someone is practicing safety.

    • Does ‘pointing down is the only safe direction’ also include pointing down when ‘down’ is concrete? An A-D over that is certainly not a safe spot for a bullet to go.
      As for those you’ve seen shooting into the air- obviously the act was intentional, not an A-D, and that is irresponsible, since the trigger was intentionally pulled.
      In a ‘normal’ situation, keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction can include the clouds overhead so long as the finger is off the trigger, and hopefully chamber empty- except in training exercises, which are a different situation. Of course, we have to realize that a ‘safe’ direction never includes pointing it at a person any time other than a defensive moment.
      Let’s all practice safe gun handling and always be thinking of it constantly while around weapons, even if not in our hands. On the range, every person is a Range Safety Officer (RSO) whether designated by the Range Master or not.

  14. d2 prep says:

    Joe, great job. I have several people I am sending your article too that have asked my advice.

  15. Lloyd P says:

    A very good article Joe. Very well written with a lot of pertinent information. This is one that can be passed on to others looking for or thinking about purchasing a firearm. I’m also fortunate that my dad taught me about shooting & respect for firearms. I wish he had taught me about ear protection! Years ago people said your hearing would come back and the ringing would go away. Wrong! Hearing protection is a must. Also training. In years gone by there were not so many avenues for good training. Now there really is no excuse for learning bad habits through lack of training. I do suggest visiting a gun show. Preferably the newbie should go with a trusted friend who is knowledgeable. This is not to say a purchase must be made at the show. But they are fun and there are a lot of guns to look at – generally. There are helpful people and often more knowledgeable than guys behind gun counters. If anyone is interested in a good way to locate local face-to-face firearms for purchase in your area check out . It is a great resource. Good job Joe.

  16. It’s not allowed to own priviate gun in China.

    • Roy Patterson says:

      If Obama and his left-wing, socialist and communist friends have their way, it will be that way here soon. Support the NRA.They are the only real group with any power standing up for the Second Admindment.

  17. village idiot says:

    Thanks everyone, I rally appreciate the feedback and compliments. River, you are so right, and my intention was to mention the internet option for buying, but somehow it slipped my mind. Good thing it didn’t slip yours. And the ear protection that Lloyd P mentioned is important as well. That never crossed my mind, thanks Lloyd.

    Ohio Prepper and Harold, I did struggle with the semantics, and I certainly won’t disagree with what yall said, but sometimes one can get too technical. My intent was to educate and inform to the best of my ability the first-time buyer, especially women, and I didn’t want to turn them off with complicated terminology, or too many choices. I limited them to the modern revolver and semi-auto pistol. There is certainly a place for single-action revolvers, single-shots, and blackpowder handguns, but not in the scope of this article.

    In other comments over the past few months, it became apparent that many preppers who post here wanted to buy a handgun but had little if any real-world experience with them. Bam Bam got her Glock, MtWoman is interested in a purchase, and so is Conmaze. I realize there have been articles on buying a specific firearm, and much good advice from individuals like River, Jarhead, JP, Hawkeye, OP, Harold, and Cos. Not counting MDs contributions, and others too numberous to mention. But what I wanted to do was have an all-inclusive article that one could print off and kind of follow the blueprint before making a purchase. That’s what I was shooting for. In retrospect, it is by no means perfect, but the additions made by the Pack will do much to make up for the imperfections. Thanks, again, Wolfpack.

    • My sole purpose in pointing this out is to prevent someone who is not knowledgeable about firearms from getting bamboozled like my friend with the LeMat. A lot of unscrupulous people out there are selling junk in the guise of something special like the “rare” damascus barreled shotguns. I was at a gun show about thirty years ago when at the table next to the one I was shopping at a fellow was doing a hard sell to some young guy and assured him he could indeed fire Magnum loads in the 12 gauge damascus barreled shotgun he was trying to sell him. The young guy looked over at me and seeing my expression, he declined the purchase. He caught up with me outside when we were eating lunch and my brother in law and myself gave him a short education in firearms. He left well convinced that the only damascus weapon he would ever buy was a sword. These people are out there and I see them on armslist and other forms from time to time. As far as an earlier comment about the difference between a handgun and a pistol, they are definitely one and the same.

    • riverrider says:

      well done joe.

    • Cosmolined says:

      If’n I knew it was you, I’d of known you are a weapons person.
      Great Job Village! Your ability to explain things leaves me truly
      in awe! God Bless, Cos.

      River, yep. There’s one in every crowd. Just think of the folks
      you help and ignore the few. Cos

  18. alikaat says:

    Thank you, Joe… from someone in the process of learning most of what you have covered here so well.

    My education has been very piecemeal… I grew up in a military family, but as a girl, was not given hands-on experience – that was left to my brother and male cousins on Sunday afternoons. Kinda resented that (maybe more than kinda). But I was surrounded by gun talk. So, when as a teenager, I had friends whose parents were willing to take me along when they went to their local range or back pastures of their property, I jumped at the chance… and felt vindicated to find that I was more than pretty good at it, even from the start. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction when my friends and their parents expressed surprise that I was as accurate as I was without having been taught by anyone before. Maybe some of that gun talk at home sunk in… or maybe it was just spite. Not sure! Any ways, it was fun. Over the next five years or so, I made every effort to practice whenever the chance presented itself, and learned to track and hunt deer and small game during the same time frame. That was even more fun. Then, I left home and went to college. Life changed.

    Now, many years later, I find that old skill slowly returning after a couple of decades of no practice and some good friends willing to again take me along with them to the range to get some practice and experience a broader range of weapons. Also, since I was not given the chance to learn as a youngster first-hand, I’ve been making sure my children get safety training and age appropriate hands-on practice at a local club and with a very experienced prepper friend along with his children.

    Your post is extremely thorough and well written, and I’ve printed it out and will share it with my prepper family and children.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. I hope it helps many more people find their way to practice this vital skillset that we have the right and responsibility to exercise with care, skill, and the appropriate training.


    • village idiot says:

      Thanks, Cat, and truly my article’s main focus was toward folks who were either unfamiliar with firearms by choice, or who never had the opportunity due to circumstances. I especially wanted to help the women who post here. It is with some disappointment that I’ve only had feedback from one woman so far as I can tell. I hope many women, and men as well, have copied the article and will use it to guide them through the process. And after reading Mike’s article on Canadian gun laws, we should all be thankful we have the opportunity to buy firearms, and take advantage of our rights.

      • While it is true we still maintain some of the rights, we have to keep an extremely close watch on some of these yahoos that are trying to abrogate those rights. Just recently the mayor of NYC a very antigun type has convinced some of the politicians to attempt to withhold Federal funds for our state of Illinois unless the state adopts NYC type of gun laws. What in the hell business is it of him to worry about what goes on here.

        • riverrider says:

          harold, he is among a group of mayors against guns. funny thing is most if not all of these guys are charged convicted or under indictment for crimes themselves. those crimes include fraud, extorsion, embezzlement, pandering prostitution, drugs etc. i guess crime is okay as long as a gun isn’t involved.

  19. JP in MT says:

    Joe I:

    Good article. A well rounded basic primer.

    Note on buying a used firearm from anybody: make sure you 1) know what you are buying, and 2) understand that there is no warranty by the seller unless specifically stated. Most of these guns (especially at gun shows) are sold in AS IS condition.

    Another note: Buying a firearm is NOT like buying anything else. You can’t take it back if you don’t like it. (There are a FEW, rare exceptions, but don’t expect it.) If the weapon is defective and it is bought new through a licensed dealer, they will most likely assist you in sending it in for warranty work. The same goes for ammunition, so make sure you know what you are buying!

    So if you are new to firearms and have questions…ask. As a person who does a fair number of gun shows, I am always willing to talk with people and give them my opinion and understanding of what would work best for them, even if it’s not something I have for sale. But a failure on the customers part (like buying your 5′ tall/90 lb. wife an Airweight .357 Magnum snubnose revolver for her 1st gun) is NOT the seller’s fault! Same goes with ammunition, make sure it will fit your gun! If you are looking for a holster, bring the gun (I just laugh when someone says “Do you have a holster that will fit a 9mm?” and doesn’t even know the manufacturer let alone the model).

    If you have a club or a store with a range, use it. If you are new to the range/area, tell the people there and they will treat you well and keep things slow. If you act like you know what you are doing and then show you don’t, they will get upset!

    Also remember that all guns in a caliber aren’t the same. A 9mm in a full sized pistol (like a SiG 226) is going to shoot the exact same round with a different felt recoil than smaller framed pistol (like a Ruger LC9).

    • village idiot says:

      Really good advice, JP. Gun shows and private sales are for the more experienced buyer. All new buyers should get a weapon manufactured by a good company from a reputable dealer. I hesitated giving any advice on gun shows, but these things are now a such a huge part of our culture I felt I needed to. Thanks.

  20. ThePikey says:

    While I was raised with guns in the home, and my father drilled the concept of gun safety into my head when I was 4 or 5, I didn’t actually get around to actually owning a gun until a year ago.

    These are the steps that I took:

    1) I decided that a 12 gauge shotgun would be a useful tool to own.

    2) I found a 12 gauge shotgun that was in my price-range

    3) I bought it, and ammo

    4) I went shooting.

    Later, I decided that a pistol of some sort would also be a useful tool, so I reapplied the same steps.

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