I still remember everything about the day I knew I was going to buy my first handgun.
I was out for a run on a long, quiet road when something felt weird.
This was the third time I had seen this same truck, and each time it was driving slower and slower…
I yanked out my ear bud and kept an eye out behind me. They had stopped.
One guy was getting out of the car and coming towards me. I pushed the stroller faster. I had a knife on me, but there were three of them and one of me.
Fear and adrenaline washed over me. I knew I had to start moving faster. I started running as fast as I could until I made it to a stoplight where other cars could see me. The men were gone.
I turned around and they had gotten back into their truck and slowly drove by me. I made eye contact with one of them and instantly had a sick feeling in my stomach.
Looking into his eyes, I knew that just a few moments before, I had been in danger. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t in a bad part of town. Danger came to me. My husband was at work. The police were several minutes away. If I’d had to fight these men I couldn’t have done it. I’d have failed to protect myself and my baby. There was nothing between us and these men but my will and a tiny knife.
I had a knife when I needed a gun. That day, I decided to buy my first handgun.
Buying your first handgun is a lot like buying your first car.
It’s exciting, and you feel more like an adult.
But, just like buying a car, you have to do your homework.
It requires training and regular maintenance.
There are regulations, licenses, and possible registrations you’ll need to be aware of.
A gun is a tool like a car, hammer, chainsaw, or blowtorch. All of them can be used to harm others, even kill. But they serve other purposes beyond their potential use as lethal weapons. Guns have a higher status than these other tools, though, because they are more effective weapons.
There are two reasons to buy your first handgun – recreation and defense. There are a variety of handgun shooting sports today, including target shooting, hunting and more.
I like to shoot. It’s a lot of fun.
But I bought my handgun to protect myself and my family. It’s so that if someone tries to harm me or a loved one, I can can stop them.
The thought of potentially killing any person for defense is disturbing, ugly, and harsh – just like the reality of a life or death situation you didn’t ask for. If you can’t wrap your head around that, you shouldn’t own a gun.
And for the Record, Some People Shouldn’t Own a Gun
If you aren’t willing to train to use it properly, you shouldn’t own a gun.
If the government says you are barred from owning a gun, sorry, you shouldn’t own a gun.
If you think you might be a danger to yourself or others, you shouldn’t own a gun.
If you know deep down you could never bring yourself to use it if you had to, you shouldn’t own a gun.
Still Here? Awesome. Let’s Get Started.
Know the Law of the Land
Gun laws vary by state. You may need to know if how to carry it out of the store, if you are required to have a lock or safe, where and in what condition you can store it. You need to know what the laws are concerning open vs. concealed carry if you want to carry it on you.
You also need to know the laws of your state and any state you travel through.
It doesn’t matter if you didn’t know about the in’s and out’s of some state’s regulations, Johnnie Law will still bust you.
A good resource for this is Gun Laws by State.
When you go to shoot at the range or handle a gun in the store you need to know about gun safety before you pick one up.
The people at the store/range aren’t going to insult you by asking you if you have ever picked up a gun. They are going to assume you know what you’re doing until you show them otherwise. If you don’t practice good gun safety they will let you know immediately and they’ll be blunt. They will hate you, they’ll never forget, and you’ll have to find a new store.
You can avoid a lifetime of dirty looks by remembering the following 4 words: Treat, Never, Keep, Keep.
Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Never point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Keep your weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
These aren’t my rules. These are the Marine Corps’ rules and they’ll keep you safe.
Maybe your chosen handgun doesn’t have a safety. That’s fine. Just remember the rules and what they stand for – responsibility and situational awareness.
Know what your gun is pointing at. Imagine there’s a burning hot laser coming out of the barrel of your gun at all times. Make sure it doesn’t accidentally cross over anybody.
Before you buy your first handgun, you need to know what you plan on using it for.
Are you going to keep it in your bedroom for when something goes bump in the night?
You’ll want the biggest caliber you can comfortably shoot. You don’t need to worry as much about weight when you aren’t carrying it around all day.
Are you going to take it with you when you go for a run?
You’ll probably want something very light and compact so that it can fit in a running belt.
Will you have it on you when you go to the grocery store, work, and social events?
You’ll probably want something in the middle. Something you can easily conceal beneath your clothing but is big enough to get the job done.
That’s why people who own guns often have more than one. They’re like shoes. You wouldn’t go hiking in stilettos. You wouldn’t wear hiking boots to a black tie affair.
Go to a Gun Store with an Attached Shooting Range
These places will usually let you rent guns to test on the range. There are a couple of things you should be looking for.
First is fit. Your hand should wrap around the grip (the handle) so it sits against the meaty part of your hand. Your finger should have no problem wrapping your index finger around the trigger. You want to have the trigger in the center of your fingerpad so it would run right through the middle of your fingerprint.
You shouldn’t have to change how you hold it to pull the trigger, push the magazine release button/lever, or change the safety.
Like with cars, bigger is probably going to be more comfortable. The bigger the frame of the gun, the less recoil (kick) you’ll feel because the frame absorbs recoil. Semi auto pistols also absorb recoil through the slide.
The two things that determine recoil are the caliber of the bullet and the size of the gun. If you’ve got a big caliber, like a .45 but a big gun like a 1911, the recoil will be manageable. If you try to shoot a small framed gun chambered in (made to shoot) a large caliber your hands will take a beating.
In fact, shooting anything out of a gun that can fit in the palm of your hand isn’t going to be fun because your hand absorbs so much of the recoil.
So know that the tiny gun you keep with you on a run is going to be less fun to shoot than the gun you keep in the bedroom.
Test out several sizes of guns. Try full size, compact, and sub compact handguns until you find the one you like.
I can’t tell you what’s best for you. You have to test it out for yourself. But I can tell you what I like and trust.
I like Springfield XDs. In particular, the XD Mod 2 chambered in 9mm.
It has a tab that pops up when there’s a round in the chamber.
It has a safety on the trigger and grip. It also rocks a shape and texture that feels great even in my tiny, little baby hands.
Now it’s time to buy. You have a few options.
Buy from the Gun Store.
If the prices aren’t bad and the counter guy/gal was nice, you might just want to buy it there. They’ll run a background check, and depending on state laws you might walk out with it that day.
Gun Show – The most fun way.
Go online, look for a gun show in your area, and buy a ticket. Get there early before everyone else scoops up all the merchandise. Walk around the different vendors’ tables. When you see what you want, make sure you find the lowest price for it in the room. When you’ve found that vendor with the low price, now comes the important part. You walk up to the table and ask to see the gun. You look over the features. You don’t mention that today is the day you are going to buy your first gun. Act like you are well versed in the ways of gun show dealers. Maybe you ask to see it in bi-tone or solid black. Then you look at the price, look the vendor dead in the eye, and say these exact words – “How much wiggle room is there on that price?” Then hold. Look deep in his soul like you’re staring down a wolf. Live and die on this day. Hold. Whoever looks away first loses.
Boom. They shave something big off the price. Say “OK” and shake on it.
You just got a deal like a gun owner for real. You’ll sign some paperwork while they run your background check and you’ll have time to savor your victory.
Find a local FFL dealer. They will have to run your National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) with the FBI. You’ll need to let them know you want to have an online gun shipped to them so they can transfer it to you.
Go to an Online Gun Store.
Pick your gun and add it to the shopping cart.
Select the FFL Dealer where it asks for the shipping address.
Enter your info and CC number
Pick it up at the FFL when it arrives.
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