Lock And Load: 8 Tips For Success As A First-Time Gun Buyer

Getting into the sport of hunting or target shooting may seem simple enough; however, becoming a gun owner is anything but a cut-and-dry, simple process. Even if you're only interested in self-defense and a small-caliber pistol, guns are a controversial, complicated issue. As a first-time buyer, it's important that you be aware of some of the hurdles you may face, so you can overcome such obstacles without incident and get to the point where you can enjoy being a responsible gun owner, partaking of the sport of your choice.

1. Know Your Gun Laws

While you probably don't want to voluntarily break any federal or state laws, you also don't want to get your hopes up or spend any money until you're fully aware of how gun regulation affects your area. Know what you can and can't do and especially what type of identification and permits you need when you have your gun with you. Although the rules and regulations on a gun range might be obvious, you'll need to know about transporting your personal weapon(s) to and from the controlled areas, possession in other states, including conceal and carry for handguns, along with possible purchase and sale restrictions.

2. Join A Club Or Range, Where You Can Practice

There's a major difference between learning how to fire a weapon from a book and from hands-on experience. At a range, you should be able to practice using guns of different sizes, calibers and with a variety of grips, so that you can discover what you're most comfortable and accurate with. Also, a gun range will brief you on the important safety issues you should always keep in mind.

3. Look For Your Level Of Caliber

As a newbie, you need to consider the caliber of weapon you work with as you look at guns for sale from a place like Wilcox Bait & Tackle, at least until you become more proficient and practiced. Generally, someone new to firing weapons should start with a lower caliber, to minimize the recoil (the backward movement created by the momentum of firing) they have to negotiate. If you can't completely contain the recoil, the accuracy of your shooting can be significantly compromised. Additionally, recoil can be hard on your body, particularly the hands with pistols and the shoulders with rifles. It doesn't matter if you're shooting for sport, hunting or in self-defense: The accuracy of your shot is far more important than the caliber.

4. Stick With A Common Caliber

Especially if you'll be needing a lot of training and/or practice with your new gun, you don't want to have to pay too much for your ammunition or for it to be difficult to obtain. Stick with the more common and readily available ammo, to avoid shortages and unnecessary expense.

5. Bring A Friend Who Knows Guns When You Shop

No matter how hard you train or study, having someone with you who has previously purchased weapons will give you a distinct advantage when you shop for your own. Most especially if you're looking at used guns, which could have reliability and accuracy issues, you don't want to purchase a gun that doesn't serve your needs, including keeping you safe and helping you to improve with every practice round. A certain model may be too complicated, heavy or have an overbearing recoil and even the smallest nuances of firing will have a big impact on your level of satisfaction and skill, making an experienced companion a necessity as you shop.

6. Opt For A Gun That Feels Right In Your Hands

Whether you're buying a gun for sport or self-defense, you never want it to feel awkward or hard to control when you're holding it. It's also important to consider the size and configuration of the gun if you're going to keep it on your person (if your state allows for conceal and carry). While the exposure to various weapons you'll have at the range should introduce you to a specific gun that feels comfortable, they may differ somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer and based on other variables. Tell the shop owner or sales clerk where you look to buy a gun that you'd like to try to find something that fits the size of your hand, your physical capacity to handle the mechanism and whatever else you're looking for in a gun. If it doesn't feel right in your hands, keep looking until you find one that does.

7. Physically Prepare Your Body For Firing Weapons

Particularly if you intend to engage in a lot of shooting for sport, target practice or hunting, you should physically prepare your body for what you're going to put it through. Unless you're already in top shape, sore arms, hands, shoulders and even legs can be problematic, even more so for first-time shooters. The more conditioned your body is, the better you'll be able to manage the weapon, along with likely having far fewer aches and pains the day after shooting. Look into exercises you can do to strengthen and condition the different muscle groups involved with shooting, loading, slide retraction, etc.

8. Know How To Properly Clean And Store The Guns You Buy

The accuracy of your new gun directly depends on how well you take care of it; therefore, cleaning and storage should be a top priority. If you're trained at a range, they should demonstrate proper disassembly, cleaning, reassembly and inform you about the best storage conditions. Refer to the owner's manual that comes with your new purchase or ask detailed questions of the person you buy it from, if the gun you choose is pre-owned. Of course, in consideration of storage, the weapon should, ideally, be under lock-and-key, where only you (and other qualified adults) have access to it.

Don't rush into buying a gun, as it should be a highly-calculated and educated decision. The more you know about guns, the laws governing them and being a responsible owner, the more seamless your purchasing experience will be.