Your first gun

Gun rules:

– Treat ALL guns as they were loaded
– Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
– Always keep your finger of the trigger until ready to shoot
– Be sure of your target and what it is beyond it

Why start with the rules, you may ask? Guns are not toys. They can be (and are) used to kill. Every year I hear or read about about people shot and mauled or worse killed by an “accident”. It is critical to always be mindful of the rules to prevent such “accidents”. Ask yourself, how you will feel if you shoot your loved one by “accident”, how it will change your life. Now read the rules again.

Now that you are familiar with the gun handling rules, ask yourself if you are ready to end someone’s life. Granted, it will be in the gravest extreme, when you or those dear dear to you are in a clear and present danger. However, are you willing to trade someone else’s life for yours? Do you understand the legal and emotional implications it will have on your life? If your personal beliefs prevent you from using deadly force, then you need to come up with a personal protection schema that does not involve you potentially shooting someone.

If you are at peace with your decision to use a deadly force for the personal defense if necessary, then your first step in the process should be joining NRA. Much can be said about National Rifle Association, both good and on a rare occasion not, but one thing is certain – they are the best advocate for responsible gun ownership and your ability to defend yourself with a firearm. They provide many resources and benefits for responsible gun owners and I strongly believe that every gun owner should be an NRA member. By the way, one of the benefits NRA provides with their yearly membership (which of this writing is about mere $35 a year with discounts available) is automatic insurance of $1,000 for your firearms. So go ahead and join NRA online now.

Now, that you are a fellow NRA member, you should learn firearm and shooting basics. The best way to do that is to take an NRA Basic Pistol Course from an NRA certified instructor in your area. They are very inexpensive and can be found here: http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx

If this option is unavailable in your area, then visit a local pistol shooting range or a gun club. You can find them here: http://wheretoshoot.org/.
Almost always they will have an instructor available to conduct a Basic Pistol course for you. Take this opportunity to become familiar with the shooting range and people running it. You will need to practice your shooting skills on a regular basis at a range after all.

I do not normally recommend using friends as the only instructors, simply because as a beginner shooter you can not be sure if they know how to teach basic pistol skills in a safe and effective way. It does not mean that you should refuse an offer from a friend to take you shooting. I would always encourage it as long as your friend is a responsible person who will ensure that both of handling firearms in a safe manner. It simply means that you should still take a basic pistol course from an instructor who has been teaching folks such you for a long time and can be very effective in helping you learn foundations of good shooting. The instructor will also be able to tell about applicable federal and state laws in your area. It is VERY important to be aware of rules on what firearms are allowed in your state, how to keep them, how transport them, etc.

Word of advice: before you attend your first training, invest in ear and eye protection. Basic shooting glasses can be very inexpensive (under $10) and are required at any reputable range. Same goes for ear protection. Disposable ear plugs can be found for under $1 a pair. However, I highly recommend spending some money and buying electronically controlled ear muff protection. These have come down in price drastically and can be found for under $40 for a basic set. They muff the shooting sounds, but amplify regular speach, whic. This makes them extremely convenient during call, when you want to hear your instructor or range officer loud and clear.

Now it is time to decide on your first gun. With time you will realize that not a single gun can satisfy all of the possible self defense scenarios. There is a time and place for a revolver, a semi-automatic pistol, a shotgun, and even a carbine. However, since vast majority of threats in a home defense scenario can be effectively mitigated with a handgun, let us look at those. The first basic choice you need to make is between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. Ideally, you will get a chance to handle and shoot both types during your basic pistol course. You will learn about design differences between them including round capacity, loading, triggers, safety, etc. I am impartial to revolvers and recommend that a first time handgun owner gets a revolver. Why get a revolver instead of a modern semi-automatic with lighter trigger and much higher capacity? There are many reasons and I’ll just list a few. Chief reason is that I believe a first time gun owner will not have enough skill and practice to handle semi-auto gun malfunctions when (s)he is half awake at 3AM and a sound of alarm fills the house and andrenaline. A spouse not interested in learning about guns, might find a revolver to be easier to operate as well. Revolvers tend to be more court friendly if it comes down to that. So, which revolver should you get? I suggest Smith and Wesson, Ruger, modern (2005 +) Charter Arms, Taurus. A very good option would be to find a used Smith and Wesson or Ruger in good condition with maybe some holster wear, but excellent bore and tight action and then have it serviced by a gunsmith. This will give you an excellent revolver at an excellent price (in my opnion certainly better than new Taurus or Charter Arms). Suggested caliber and barrel length: .357 with 4 inch barrel. For home defense concellability is not a concern, so get a full size revolver that will offer you more options. While, as you see below, I think .38 caliber ammo should be used for home protection, being able to shoot .357 gives you more options, should you ever need to shoot a bear that wandered into your backyard (note: if you don’t know it yet – both .38 and .357 ammo can be shot from .357 revolver, but not the other way around). Given the same round 4 inch barrel has more rifling and barrel length to build gas pressure to spin bullet to a higher speed than say a 2 inch barrel can. It also puts a bit more weight in the barrel, thus helping to reduce recoil. On possible downsides, a pistol with longer barrel is easier to wrestle out during hand to hand fight and it might be a bit too heavy to hold for small frame folks who do not excercise. However, I would not recommend to go with anything less than 2 1/4 in barrel for a home defense revolver. Revolvers with shorter barrels also tend to be made for concealed carry and as a result be smaller and hold 5 rounds as oppose to 6 or 7. Note that .38 revolver might be a little less heavy than .357 due to having a slightly less beafed up frame. My personal favorites are S&W model 686+, 619, or 620 with 7 round capacity.

As one of two important accessories I highly recommend laser sights. Do not buy cheap sights for $20-80. They will waste your money and put your life in danger when a serious situation arises. Go for expensive, proven laser sights, such as Crimson Trace or one of their major competators. Crimson trace can set you back a couple of hunder dollars, but it will give the best of the breed and provide with some perks such as 1hr video tutorial on using the sights (tactics, benefits, pitfalls). Since most of CT sights replace your factory grips, you can get some money back by selling your old grips online. I will say that unless you can afford a good, reliable, and reputable sight, do not get it at all. Note that while it very is helpful, thousands of folks survived just fine wthout one. This is not unlike paper map vs a GPS or sliced bread vs a uncut loaf. And of course always remember to practice often with your iron sights (this might come in handy if your laser does fail for some reason – dead batteries for example) ! Even CrimsonTrace folks remind us of that.

Much can be found on the web about what kind of ammo one should choose for a revolver to be used for home defense. I would recommend to stick with .38 +P hollow points in 125 grain, .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point (aka FBI load), or maybe 110 grain .357 hollow points if you find recoil manageable and can hit targets consistently. If you find all of the above too much, then consider .38 lead hollow points in 125 grain made by Federal. They are a bit hard to find and might be somewhat expensive, but have a solid reputation. Try to practice with ammo similar to what you have for self defense. For example, if it is .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point then practice with .38 159 grain +P rounds. They do not have to be hollow point of course, which will make them less expensive. Make sure to run 200+ rounds of chosen self defense ammo (or at least as much as you can afford) through your revolver to ensure it functions flawlessly with it. Your gun might function perfectly with practice ammo you use, but fail to operate properly with your self defense ammo, if it has harder primers, etc.

Another accessory to invest into is a good flashlight. Do not buy $5 flashlight from eBay This is an important item. Choose with care.There is a lot that can be said about flashlights, many to choose from. However, sticking with brands such as SureFire or Fenix should serve you well. Visit http://www.candlepowerforums.com to learn more. IMPORTANT: always get lithium batteries for your flashlight.

Now that you have chosen a gun (be it a revolver or a semi-automatic), you need to go and buy… a safe, or better yet a small safe and a lockable ammo cabinet before you buy the gun or the ammunition. You have a responsibility to ensure that your firearm and ammo do not fall into wrong hands, especially children. You would not want to be shot with your own gun either, should a burglar find it in your suck drawer as you walk into your door. There are many good safes out there now in all price ranges (50-1000+), sizes (5x5x2 up to room size) and mount options (in wall, floor, on top of flat surface, etc). Locking mechanisms vary as well: traditional lock and key, mechanical push button ( simplex lock with 1024 possible combinations), battery operated electronic lock with button combination and key backup, battery operated biometric with key backup, combination locks just to name a few. Your choice will depend on your budget, mounting options, etc. Dot not forget that you need a separate lockabale box or safe to store your spare / practice ammunition. If you practice regularly, you would want a few hundred rounds on hand, so that you do not have to keep on buying them one or two boxes at a time while at a range. Some ranges might not even sell ammunition and there were times when it was in a very short supply and hard and expensive to come by.

So now you took a basic pistol shooting course, have a safe, and a gun. So what’s next? Well, you should be practicing your shooting skills. Frequency of course depends on your schedule and other commitments you might have. However, remember that you have this gun in case to protect yourslef and your loved ones from a deadly assault, so do not think for a second that shooting 20 rounds once a year is good enough. My humble opinion is that 50-100 rounds monthly is an acceptable minimum, but do consult with your pistol instructor. Also, please realize that shooting at paper targets from a perfect stance in perfect lighting is not likely to be how you will be shooting when you have to defend your life in a real scenario. So, take the the NRA’s Personal Protection Inside Home course to better prepare for a real life scenario including what to do when police arrives and what you can do to avoid the armed confrontation in the first place.

In conclusion I would like you to remind some words that will keep you and your loved ones safe:


– Treat ALL guns as they were loaded

– Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
– Always keep your finger of the trigger until ready to shoot
– Be sure of your target and what it is beyond it

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