Saturday, January 1, 2011

Selecting and buying your First Gun - Gun buying 101

Selecting and buying your First Gun - Gun buying 101

Obviously if "IT" happens, one of the critical components is protecting yourself and loved ones.  The clear weapon of choice is the gun, however surprisingly in this crazy world, one of my friend's homes is among one of the homes in the US that is still firearm free.  He has just has not been a gun person, but seems to want to make the commitment.  He asked for some pointers so I thought this would be a great article.

State Firearm Card
Applying for a state firearms card is your first step and is easy, cheap and highly recommended whether or not your want to be a gun owner right now.  Usually it only requires a visit to your local county sheriff's office, filling out a form that asks you about 50 different ways whether you are insane or a criminal, and finally paying a fee of around $10-$25.  The Sheriff runs a criminal background check on you to assure you are not a trouble maker.  In my county, it takes about 3 days for your background checked gun license to appear in the mail, however I know in other states it can take as long as 30 days.  I recommend getting your firearms card done now for a number of reasons.
  • First if you do see "IT" coming, you will have a chance to go down and buy a weapon and ammo if you already have your card (some states will not allow ammunition purchase without a firearms card).
  • If you didn't have a firearms card by the time "IT" starts happening, chances are you won't get one in time to purchase a gun.  
  • Having the card also opens up the options for you to legally poses a firearm that has been rented or otherwise borrowed in most states (see your local laws) and allows you to shoot at gun ranges.
  • Note - some states require that you have a firearms card to handle a firearm
  • Some states only require a firearms card for handgun purchases, but not rifle or shotgun.
  • It makes you legal.  The last thing you want is to be on the wrong side of the law from day one and once stabilization happens you want to assure you are legally in the right to have a gun.
Learning to Be Safe and Shoot
The next thing is to go to a gun range with a friend who can spend a little time to educate you on proper gun handling safety and let you shoot a few of his guns.  The other option is to rent a gun from the gun range and some instructor time to assure you are safe in handling and shooting.  Most gun ranges allow you to rent a gun if you have a State Firearm Ownership/Purchase card - laws differ by state.  Some will even let you rent the gun for a couple days to go hunting...etc off site.

Considerations for Your First Gun
Everyone wants a handgun as their first gun, but I believe your first gun should be a rifle or shotgun.  Starting with a longer barrel makes it so much easier from a safety and learning perspective and even as you advance, the long barrels will always be easier to shoot more accurately than a pistol.  For rifles it should be a light kicking caliber (non-magnum rifle caliber) and for shotguns a .410 gauge; both providing very mild recoil.

Twenty-Twos (.22LR) are great fun and versatile gun, however if you are looking for a gun with some knock down power to also provide home defense, a larger caliber is recommended.

Semi-auto rifles and handguns are a lot of fun, however they do without question require more training to effectively use them for defense.  After my training with the Israeli Special Forces, I realized as much time as I had spent with semi-autos, you have to train regualrly with them to be effective and accomodate for jams, or malfunctions.  With lever and pump action guns, jams are very rare and if one round doesn't go bang, then you simply cycle the action and you are ready to go again. Revolvers, are even easier, just keep pulling the trigger. I have seen people safely and un-safely fumbling with semi-auto rifle and pistols because of malfunctions more times than I care to mention.  Remember when the shit gets pressed through the fan, you already have enough to worry about and the simpler your gun is, the easier it will be to use in a crisis.

Lever Action Rifle
A great first gun that would fit the bill for anything from home defense, hunting, to survival is the all purpose Henry Big Boy .38 Special/.357 Magnum Lever action rifle. .38 Special/.357 Magnum rounds are also pretty inexpensive and about the same as 9mm, but far cheaper than .40, .45, 10MM and other larger calibers. Lever action rifles are infallibly reliable and extremely easy to use and shoot.  The Henry holds around a dozen rounds, is simple and easy to use, and very accurate. You can shoot the near-recoil-less .38 Special rounds, or heavier .357 Magnum rounds out of the same gun - this is a gun that has near non-existent recoil that still packs a big punch.  As a plus, if you pick up a 357 magnum revolver later on, you can share all the ammo between the guns which is a huge plus from any perspective.  Almost any hollowpoint round will be an excellent home defense round.

870 Wingmaster Shotgun

.410 Shotguns
If you want to go the shotgun route, a .410 is a extremely viable, versatile, and popular defense and hunting round with a extremely light kid friendly kick.  Many of us gun people started with .410 shotguns as kids and they are a fun to shoot.  Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 Series pump shotguns are priced inexpensive and are extremely reliable and Stoeger makes some nice inexpensive double barrel shotguns.  The .410 gauge is very versatile and can shoot everything from light high count (#8 shot) for junk birds, to BB for small game, to the very effective buckshot and slugs for home defense.

Pistol vs Revolver
If you are planning to get the training and permits for a concealed carry license or you are dead set on buying a handgun as your first gun, I recommend a revolver instead of a semi-auto pistol. Revolvers are safer because for some reason everyone expects them to be loaded and that is not the case with semi-auto pistols.  Revolvers are really simple to make safe, open cylinder, and remove bullets - semi-auto pistols require a 7 step clearing procedure to be safe.  Auto-pistols take a fair amount of practice to use effectively, and effectively, but revolvers are simple to use. Additionally, most new shooters can shoot a revolver more accurately than a pistol from day one.  One of my all time favorite revolvers is the Ruger GP100.  The 4" barrel is an excellent choice that is a little heavy but still concealable for everyday carry, but is plenty accurate for hunting and target shooting purposes.  For a lightweight concealed carry gun the Ruger LCR (Pictured - Light Carry Revolver) in .38 Special or .357 Magnum is a hard option to beat and can be purchased with integrated red dot projection laser sight which makes the gun a confident point and shoot option for those that simply do not want to practice often.

Semi-Auto Pistol
If you decide to throw all my advice to the wind and buy a semi-auto pistol anyway, DO NOT BUY A GUN WITH A SAFEY LEVER!  Buy a Glock, they have three integral safeties - I recommend G19 - 9MM.  Glocks have proven themselves as the most reliable gun made and I can say from person experience that their service is top notch.

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