Walking into a gun shop and purchasing your first gun for the first time is an experience all its own. Most savvy shoppers do hours of research and shooting ahead of time to learn what gun is right for them and their purpose. But what happens when it’s time to take that gun home? A lot of first-time gun buyers know exactly what they need to get as far as a gun, and exactly what they want to do with it, but it’s a much more difficult thing to know what you need after you have the gun and what exactly to do next. Here’s a look at what new gun owners should consider buying and doing to make sure they have a future of safe and responsible gun ownership ahead of them.
Things to Get…
One of the keys to responsible gun ownership is having a safe and secure way to store your gun when it’s not in use or being immediately carried. This goes for competition guns, range guns and carry guns alike. If there is company, or even other family members, in your house an unsupervised firearm is a risk to any untrained hands who may find it. Guns are also at risk to being stolen, whether you’re in or out of the home.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options for gun owners to secure their firearms that fit different lifestyles. Large, extravagant cases may serve for diehard firearm enthusiasts and collectors, but there are also easy-access bedside options and smaller safes to fit in smaller spaces.
Eye and Ear Protection
Having quality eye and ear protection is a must for any gun owner. While there are incredibly affordable options that get the job done, depending on your intent, the investment in high-quality gear can save a lot of headache down the road.
Your eye pro is going to depend a lot on the sport you’re playing. Different lenses will protect your eyes on a sunny day, accentuate the orange of a skeet bird, or provide good contrast far downrange. There are also different sizes of glasses and lenses, different style and different polarization, it’s a big world to explore and there is a lot to learn.
There are also a lot of different options for hearing protection. Outside, some shooters will be comfortable just using earplugs, although this may prove to let in too much sound for many. Earplugs are available as both standard, affordable “squishies” and as custom-fit hearing protection; the custom-fit protection can be rigged with electronics to allow sounds in up to a certain decibel, and are frequently more expensive than the even the equivalent outside-the-ear protection since they must be fit to a shooter’s ear. At indoor ranges, it is generally recommended that shooters use both earplugs and over-the-ear protection.
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One important thing about having a gun and training with a gun is maintaining it. Different guns require different levels of maintenance depending on their use. Every gun owner will have basic maintenance to do such as cleaning, but even that varies dependent on the firearm, even down to the model. In order to keep your gun in good running order, putting together a gun cleaning kit is essential.
Most owners find it helpful to have more than one kit. Having some basic supplies on the range may come in handy during competition or intense training sessions, while having a more complete kit at home for deeper cleaning is important, especially if guns are stored for any length of time. Different environments also cause different problems; more humid environments are going to cause metal guns to rust more quickly, for example.
Transporting your gear safely and legally is important, and in competition or intensive training situations, it can save you a lot of time and effort to have the proper gear to transport the items you need. What defines a good range bag will vary based on your needs.
For the average shooter, who has just selected their first handgun and needs an easy way to transport it and their gear to the range, spending money on an expensive range bag out of the gate is probably unnecessary. As long as you have a case to safely, securely and legally stow and transport your firearm, then using even a backpack to transport eye and ear protection, gun cleaning gear, and other basic range day necessities are possible.
The benefits of investing in a good range bag are mostly organizational. The Gaston J. Glock Style range bag our editor carries, for example, came with two pistol sleeves, magazine pockets, a shoulder strap and shoulder loops, and is made from a durable material similar to CORDURA with a very easy to open flap. This makes organizing the many magazines necessary for matches, along with a safely holding a pistol and a backup pistol, ammunition, and other accessories much easier and makes the match or range day run smoother.
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No matter what you’ve purchased your gun for, you’re going to need some accessories to go with it. Maybe that’s just a holster, maybe you also need a pile of equipment to compete with, but regardless buying the right gear the first time can save you a lot of time, trouble, and money in the long run.
Doing the research and learning about quality accessories can also be a point of safety. For example, some holster designs have a history of poor safety records, others may not stay in place, or may be dangerous to reholster in.
Many times, taking a class from a qualified instructor on whatever it is you’re interested in participating in can teach you a lot not only about what accessories you need, but about how to choose the right ones.
With training, practice, and competition comes the inevitable need to purchase ammunition. Buying ammunition from a reputable manufacturer is important, as poorly loaded ammunition can cause firearm malfunctions that could be dangerous.
Selecting the proper ammunition may require a lot of research, for activities that require incredibly precise shooting, or very little research. For example, those who have purchased a defensive firearm can use queues such as those on Winchester’s “Train & Defend” line, where the boxes are clearly marked “Train” and “Defend,” to determine what ammunition they should use for what.
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If you are purchasing different ammunition for training than what you are using in self-defense or competition, it’s important to practice some with the ammunition you will be using defensively or competitively too. This will tell you if the firearm works well with the ammunition, and how it may differ in felt recoil or point of impact from the ammunition you are using in practice.
Things to Do…
Join a Range
Once you have your gun, you need a place to learn and practice. While some people have the benefit of their backyard, that’s just not a safe or legal place to shoot for many. Finding a good, safe, local gun range to join can really make a difference in your ability to learn and your ability to shoot well.
There are both public and private ranges, indoor and outdoor ranges, and every range has its own set of rules and courtesies. When you’re shopping for a range, there are a few things you can look at to determine whether or not the range is right for you.
Find out what kind of safety standards they have. Indoor ranges usually have range officers on patrol all the time, while some outdoor ranges expect members to manage themselves. For quite ranges, where you will probably be the only one shooting, this isn’t a big deal, but at crowded ranges not having range officers can be dangerous.
Ranges also vary greatly in price. A nice indoor range is likely to be more expensive than an outdoor range, a range that is just a big open field with a couple berms is going to be less expensive than a full sporting clays facility.
Finding a safe range that fits your needs and your budget is an important first step to becoming a successful, responsible and well-trained gun owner. Shop around and find out what is in your area before committing.
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Sign Up For a Class
Training is an important part of being a safe and responsible firearms owner. Sometimes it’s possible to take a class before purchasing your first gun, but regardless, ongoing training is a must.
Signing up for a defensive class with your firearm, unless it is specifically manufactured for competition, can teach you about how to safely store and handle your firearm at home, even if you’re not planning to use it for defensive purposes. A good defensive class will also discuss some of the legalities in your state, which may help when it comes to transportation of your new gun.
For those who are strictly interested in competition, a class on your chosen sport can teach you basic courtesies and the flow of matches, so that you can go into your first match in the know. The class should also cover how to safely handle your firearms at these matches.
Finding a reputable instructor can be difficult. While many ranges will have their own training programs, finding someone who teaches a specific sport can be a hassle. A lot of times, your best bet is to show up at a local match and talk to the people there about where to get training and how the matches work.
Meet New Friends!
One of the great things about being a gun owner is the number of other friendly and enthusiastic people out there who share your hobby. Whether you choose to participate in a shooting sport or just hit the range on occasion, there are opportunities to meet new people with shared interests.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.