Your first gun is the most exciting gun you will ever buy. Mine was a Norinco HP9 pump shotgun I still have to this day (tricked out a bit).
“I want one” is a good enough of a reason to buy any gun, but a more informed rationale can lead to a better buying decision that may save you time, heartache and money.
Before you run out and drop big money on a gun, think about these points:
What is your end goal with the gun? Casual plinking, competition, collection, hunting, wilderness protection, practice for an armed profession? Having this end goal in mind, have you done the research necessary to determine the suitability of the gun you are interested in for it’s intended end purpose?
Do you understand the full manual of arms of the gun you are buying? This is how to load, make ready, make safe, fire, unload. Different guns function differently and it is important to know before you buy if the manual of arms are appropriate for your intended use.
Try before you buy, and it is definitely worth it to visit a range like The Shooting Edge and try out all the different guns you are considering buying. Be sure to ask the Range Officer to show you how to go through the entire manual of arms for a gun and don’t just base you assessment on how it shoots.
How we’ll do the guns features gel with you? This is a very personal question and there are multiple variables to consider and trade off. Universally are ergonomics with mechanical features like optics, triggers, fire selectors, mag releases, bolt/slide stop/releases, charging handles, grips, hand-guards and stocks.
Secondary to that (in my opinion) are cosmetic issues related to fit and finish. There’s no gun so ugly I won’t shoot – which is probably why I’m a Glock guy.
With respect to features, it is also good to spend some time researching potential upgrades. Whole most guns are good enough stock, it can be a lot of fun and improve your performance by upgrading your gun as well.
What ancillary equipment are you going to need? A case to transport at a minimum. Optics, magazines, personal carrying equipment (holsters, slings, mag pouches). Ancillary equipment costs can add up and it’s good to think about them BEFORE you get into shooting.
How commonly available are the guns, spare parts and ancillary equipment you are interested in? This is especially a huge concern in Canada, since many items simply aren’t available due to the small market size.
Do you know someone with hands on experience with the gun you are thinking of buying? Most commercially available guns function well, but guns have problems from time to time, and knowing someone who can fix a problem can save you a trip to the gunsmith, shipping the gun back for service, or hours of Google and YouTube searches.
How mechanically savvy are you? Not only will you need to mechanically diagnose basic problems with your gun, you will have to disassemble and reassemble your gun to clean, maintain and upgrade it.
Some guns are mechanically very simple requiring no tools, some are more advanced and involved. Do some research to see how difficult it is to disassemble, reassemble, and upgrade a gun and assess if it is within your ability to do so.
This is especially important if buying used, as without warranty support, you may have to figure out how to get a non-functioning used gun operational on your own.
How reputable and how established is the gun you are looking to buy? Certain manufacturers are known to produce poor quality guns, prone to failure. Even established names like Glock, Sig Sauer and Remington can release new models of established guns with problems requiring recalls or fixes.
Generally, big names in the industry either release solid, reliable guns or excellent customer service to remedy problems. It is worth researching warranty coverage of guns before you buy them.
Can you afford the ammo to practice with that fun? If you are new to shooting pistols it can be very expensive to learn to be good shooting .45 ACP. The basics of marksmanship are cheapest to develop with a .22LR and having a spare .22 gun is a great way to take new shooters to the range.
With respect to ammo, do you know if the gun you are looking to buy has compatibility issues with various brands/types of ammo? Not all guns and not all ammo are created equal and there are nearly an infinite combination of guns/ammo to pair with.
Some guns won’t function with some brands or style of ammunition and it can be very frustrating to have a brand new, gun that won’t function properly because of a bad ammo/gun combination. (Magazines also factor into this equation, since very common points of failure are comparability with guns, mags and ammo).
How committed are you to training with your gun? YouTube tutorials are a great start to master the fundamentals of shooting, but hands on, live fire training with a knowledgeable expert is best. Even at a cost, it is much cheaper in the long run to pay for professional training to develop good habits with shooting fundamentals.
Bad habits are easy to learn and hard to unlearn. It may take a lot of trigger time to unlearn bad habits, and that translates to money spent on ammo to re-learn the basics.
Shooting is a lot of fun, but it also can be very expensive and at times, frustrating. Planning and problem solving are very important skills any prospective shooter new to have to keep the costs and frustration to a minimum.
Hopefully these pointers will steer you in the right direction on your journey into the world of shooting.
See you on the range soon!