Tips for New Gun Owners from the Experts

At one time, everyone was a beginner with a gun. What advice did someone give you starting out? What did you learn from experience? Leave your advice in the comments below. We’ll share the best advice in our newsletters and on social media.

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17 comments on “Tips for New Gun Owners from the Experts

  • I’m armed for home defense and I’m a certified NRA instructor. (No kids in the house). I’ve worked out the most likely logistics inside the home and have defensive shooting positions and strategies in place. I’m a fan of shotguns in the home, i like my revolver too. I practice weekly because if you’re gonna shoot, you absolutely have to be familiar with your gun, and, make your first shot count. I also care about ammo not penetrating interior or exterior walls. You’re responsible for where every bullet ends up.
    Above all, reinforce your house. You Want to Prevention more than you want Self Defense.
    Look online for my new book, At Home In the Real World, by Suzy Meyer

    Reply
  • I would echo most of what was said above. Most important is to Memorize the Four Rules (thanks to Jeff Cooper)

    1. All guns are always loaded — treat them that way!
    2. Never point the muzzle at anything you do not wish to destroy.
    3. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire.
    4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

    My training was not professional. I was self-taught. I read books and magazines. (Such as: “A Pistol Shooter’s Treasury”) Occasionally I shot with a friend. I was smart but not a smart-aleck, and I was dedicated, and I approached firearm training with the respect it deserves. I proceeded very cautiously and deliberately, each step of the way. I Never, Never, Never hurried up or was in a rush to start shooting. For me, shooting was like fishing. Be calm, be patient, prepare carefully and deliberately, allow no distractions. When ready: concentrate, aim, fire. I soon got to where I could hit the target quite well. Now, this was 35 years ago, and it was all about target shooting with one hand. As time progressed, I got into combat shooting. Again, it was books and practice. The only time I had a coach was when I started DCM and learned to shoot the M1 Garand.

    Finally, for new shooters: Beware of Tacticool Tommy! These days, there are guys out there who present themselves as the best there is. Before you pay the fee, ask the instructor to give you a quick verbal summary of the basics of safety. If he doesn’t start with the Four Rules, walk away. He does not know safety at all.

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  • Bruce Dollins says:

    I went deer hunting with my stepfather when I was about 16 year old. We took a couple of 22’s with us just to target practice with, but never did fire them. They were loaded and kept in the cabin that we were staying at. When it came time to leave the deer lease we loaded the car with all the guns. In the process of loading the guns I asked my stepdad if he unloaded the the 22’s and he said that he did. Well when when we got home I was to clean the 22’s. On one of the rifles it had a slice release by the trigger guard and when depressed it released the slide. But for some reason I was just going to pull the trigger and then pull back on the slide. Something told me not to do it. I pressed the release leaver and a 22 bullet came flying out of the gun. I got up and check to see were my mother was and I was glad I didn’t pull the trigger. If I had the bullet would have through the wall and hit my mother in the back. I lost a lot respect for my dad that day and learned that guns don’t think or talk. As the old saying goes, treat all guns as they are loaded.

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  • Jim Chamblin says:

    I was introduced to firearms as a child by my WW1 vet father. It was drilled into me to treat every firearm as if it was loaded, never to point a firearm at anything I didn’t intend to shoot, and never to shoot at anything I didn’t intend to kill. These three things instilled in me the respect that firearms deserve and the importance of using them responsibly. Along with this I was taught how firearms worked and how to handle them safely. Later, I became a NRA member and a CCW permit holder.

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  • Michael Zecchino says:

    If you’re going to invest the time and money in learning how to safely handle and shoot a weapon, spend a little extra to secure that weapon when it’s not being used. A small lockable box or safe goes a long way to keep it out of hands of anyone you don’t want touching it, “peace of mind” especially when you have curious little children around your home.

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  • Turning 70 the 25th of this November has an impact on how firearms were handled back in my day. Being born and raised in South Texas by a Dad who idealized the lifestyles of the 1800s was certainly noteworthy. For Christmas Santa brought me a BB gun when I was 6 years old. My brother, who was 4, got his own as well. We’re talking 1953. When I was 12, I had a matching pair of 22 pistols that I wore in holsters. I would go hunting in the woods for a half day or more at a time and it wasn’t any big deal. There were loaded guns of all types 24/7 at home and never any problems in those days. I suppose all of this is irrelevant in today’s world, but, I just wanted to share it.

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  • Allen Henderson says:

    Never point muzzle of gun at anything you are not going to shoot. This includes yourself. Point gun down or away from others, regardless if loaded or unloaded.
    Always treat the gun as loaded and ready to fire, even if slide is open.
    Always remove clip and eject cartridge from chamber prior to passing gun to others.

    Reply
  • Greg Martinez says:

    Get instruction from an NRA Certified Instructor that you feel comfortable with. We are trained to show you how to be successful from the first time on the range. Not everyone is comfortable with every instructor, so make sure you have a re pore with the instructor of your choice.

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  • Any time there is a failure to reject, unload and inspect the barrel. A recent misfire lodged a round about half an inch inside the barrel. It would properly chamber the next round. If it would have been an inch farther, I would have never of noticed and fired the next round with potentially disastrous results.

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  • Sandra Milholland says:

    1) Invest in an in-depth educational course from a licensed, reputable firearms instructor. 2) Read every word of your state’s gun law book — underline it, dog-ear it and re-read as needed. Gun laws change all the time; stay current. Invest in a LawShield attorney. Practice, practice, practice.

    Reply
    • Great advice, Sandra! Know your state’s laws and practice.

      I liked these 2 books: The Laws of Self Defense (Branca), and Self Defense Laws in 50 states (Vilos). Reading these sent me to Pennsylvania’s section on SD law. It takes work, and there’s a lot of ambiguity. That’s one reason I joined US Law Shield.

      Reply
  • Best thing I learned right off the bat was that a regular belt won’t cut it! You’re going to need a reinforced gun belt to carry the extra weight. There are plenty of good ones for any style, but I can personally recommend the ones from Kore. Good for dressier clothes, and the infinitely adjustable buckle is incredible! I’ll never wear an ordinary buckle again.

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  • Texas Rancher says:

    First, review the literature. Select a few brands in your price range to check out. Review caliber information; if you aren’t sure, ask the sales person. Don’t rule out any firearm until you’ve checked it out. Consider only those features important to YOU. Consider availability of ammo for your choice. Non-popular calibers are harder to find. Of special note: .22 caliber is for “plinking” and target shooting, not for self defense. When you need it, you don’t want to have to reload five times to stop someone!

    Second, ignore all “advice” from friends. It’s shocking how many buy a firearm just because they saw it in a movie or another friend of theirs owns one. I remember the sudden appearance of all the “Dirty Harry”, long barrel .44 magnums that came around.

    Third, time to actually shop. Pick up each weapon. Hold it in your hand, hold it as though ready to fire. How does it feel? Is it heavy on the front end? Heavy in the back or “balanced” feeling? Keep in mind, when it’s loaded, that balance can shift. When you pull it up, how does it move to your “aim” place – that spot where you are looking down the sights without hunting for them. I’m not sure if that’s from practice or just a weapon that fits your hand and build better, but something I always check for. Some places have a shooting range for trying out a weapon; that’s a real plus if you are new to shooting! Some offer a return policy.

    Fourth, DO NOT go into debt to purchase your weapon. Don’t get a loan, skip a payment or empty your savings. Putting it on a credit card is fine if you can pay it off in two months or less. Remember, you will be buying the weapon, ammo, cleaning equipment and supplies, holster, and probably a gun safe of some type. You will also need eye and hearing protection. Anything from ear plugs up to electronic shooting ear muffs.

    Fifth, Get PROFESSIONAL instruction! A professional can look at your stance, your hand hold, how you aim, breath and pull the trigger – they will spot your problems and correct them BEFORE they become habit (and hard to break).

    Sixth, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF YOUR WEAPON! Remember, you are standing on the safe end (hopefully). The sales person will advise you if they think the recoil might be a problem for you. I’ve seen tiny women shoot .44 magnum pistols without problem. I’ve seen big men shoot the same pistol and the recoil was too much. Of course, it’s not a weapon I would recommend to anyone as a “first weapon”, though – they are heavy.

    Seventh, STUDY the laws of your state and area (if the area laws are more strict). In most places, you cannot shoot closer than 300 feet from any home. This rules out areas of 5, 6 or 7 acre tracts.

    Eighth, YOU are responsible for your bullets after they leave the weapon. While your effective range might be 25 to 50 yards or more, the range the bullet can travel is up to a mile (or more for rifles). Be SURE of where your bullets will go AFTER they go through the target (or if you miss) BEFORE you fire the first one!

    Ninth, everything I forgot to mention!

    Tenth, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and then practice some more!

    Reply
  • Don’t spend your money on some super fancy gun or accessories. Instead, get yourself a decent gun that fits your hand and spend your money on instruction. If you aren’t training with your firearm, you have no business carrying it. Train like your life depends on it, because it does.

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  • my Uncle Joe taught me to always check a firearm and empty the breech
    before showing it to a friend. He also taught me that if the friend did
    not perform the same check when I handed the firearm to him,
    to consider not handing him another firearm.

    Reply

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