For (Recent) New Gun Owners

This is a short post with some links and it’s prompted by the unprecedented run on guns and ammo.

Disclaimer: Nothing I say here is meant as definitive advice on the subject of guns, gun handling, gun shooting, etc. Do your research. All I’m doing is providing some links.

Regardless of the reasons, most stores who sell guns have experienced something unique: waves of gun buyers — many of them, first-time buyers — cleaning them out of their stock. Again, I stress, many of those buyers are first-time buyers.

Wait . . . I said “regardless of the reasons”, but some of my readers in countries where they don’t have the choice (freedom) to buy guns are probably wondering if everyone in the US has gone nuts.

Very quickly: people aren’t buying guns to shoot COVID-19 viruses. No. There is another reason. In short, think “Venezuela” . . . are they right? I don’t know. Plus, I’m biased because “Venezuela” or not, I like the option to protect myself with something more than my disarming wit and good humor. 

Anyway, back to new gun owners.

First of all, learn safety. And by safety, I mean safety in both handling and storing guns.

Lots of videos out there; watch a few of them.

Here’s a quick summary of what I learned from others:

Whenever you pick up a gun, assume it’s loaded.

Even if you KNOW it’s not loaded, assume it’s loaded.

Whenever you pick up a gun other than to shoot it, clear it. For a revolver, you swing out the cylinder and make sure it’s empty. For a pistol, you eject the magazine, cycle the slide locking it back in the open position, and use your finger to make sure there’s no bullet in the chamber. Same for shotguns and rifles (mechanisms vary, so familiarize yourselves).

If you just watched someone else do that and they hand you the gun with the magazine inserted and the slide closed, you clear the gun, repeating the process. As you go through the process, impress upon the person who handed you the gun that they are putting themselves and you at risk. Meaning, you shouldn’t hand a gun to anyone (for whatever reason) with the slide closed and the magazine in (if it has a magazine). Rather, you clear the gun, leave it open, and watch them go through the process of clearing it just as they watched you go through the process.

There are other suggestions regarding how to store a gun depending on why you bought it.

Some locales legislate gun storage and safety (and are real dicks about it).

If you bought the gun for fun, buying a safe to keep them in is a great idea and almost a must. If it’s for protection, you need to decide between various systems designed to eliminate unauthorized access (especially to kids). We’re lucky By design, we have no kids, so my precautions are probably different than those of smart and conscientious parents. But I still recommend a safe of some kind (some are designed to be both safe and allow for quick access).

OK, that’s that.

Now, most people who just went out to buy a gun did so for protection and/or defense of self and property (someone has to safeguard the mountains of toilet paper in the garage).

But, guns are not magical things. It’s like with knives and chainsaws; a kitchen knife won’t make you a great cook any more than a chainsaw will turn you into a lumberjack. A gun won’t make you an expert — or even a mildly competent — shooter.

You may not be able to go to the range just now because you’re sheltering in place, but you should still familiarize yourself with the gun.

Many instructors say this involves handling the gun (again, making sure it’s not loaded) and probably dry-fire practice (again, again, doubly making sure it’s not loaded). There are many videos with opinions on dry-firing guns (HERE) and unless it’s a rimfire weapon, and if it’s of recent vintage, it’s probably OK to dry-fire. Check with the manufacturer.

Basically, dry-fire is pulling the trigger so that the striker, hammer, or firing pin actuates. (Again, safety first: experts suggest buying things that you can use to ensure the gun is safe and unloaded as you practice with it — watch the videos) You hear a click as opposed to a loud BANG and you don’t get the recoil, but you build muscle memory for the process of picking up the gun, possibly taking it off safety, and pulling the trigger. All things that will serve you well in time of stress when you may not have the time or luxury of going through a checklist.

Note: some models of guns have CO2 replicas you can actually shoot BBs out of and are a bit more realistic to practice with (FOR EXAMPLE).

However, experts also say you should get some time at the range so that you are familiar with how the gun behaves and feels when fired. In theory, this would involve putting hundreds of rounds through the gun, but for the short-term, you just need to know what to expect when you pull the trigger. (some national or state forests allow shooting practice with a backdrop, but clean up after yourself if you’re lucky to live in such a place)

I could go into being mentally prepared and being able to shoot someone, but that’s something you have to contemplate before you or yours are in danger. Just know that people with experience in such matters will tell you that failing to follow through might make the crappy situation multiple times worse because the bad guys will have no qualms. 

OK . . . the reason for this post is that I defer to experts and/or people with a lot more experience than I do.

Here then, are the top gun channels I follow.

Paul Harrell — If you are only going to watch one channel, this would be my strong suggestion. He covers lots of stuff in methodical and some say boring — but I don’t find it so — presentations. It’s likely he has something about guns and ammunition similar if not exactly the same as what you bought.

Lucky Gunner — this is the video channel of the ammunition shop. The guy covers lots of topics and I’ve found it useful even if he’s a lot more focused on more tactical aspects of gun ownership than what I’m likely to get involved with. He also has a blog that covers many of the same things.

The Yankee Marshal — this guy covers a broader range of topics (including politics) so pick and choose what you are interested in. That said, I like his approach to gun ownership and he makes good points on a number of subjects.

Precision Gun Reviews — Chances are, the new gun you bought has been reviewed here. I like hearing the discussions and what they concentrate on when evaluating a gun.

The Military Arms Channel There are many reasons I like this channel. And, there’s useful information about civilian guns and ammo.

Gun Sam Revolver Aficionado — if you are new to guns, I very much hope you bought a revolver (although chances are, you wanted a “cool” gun and bought a pistol). But, if you bought a revolver, here’s a suggestion for a channel to watch (there are many others).

OK, if videos are not your thing, here are three blogs I follow (in no particular order): (marked private; requires asking)

Edited to Add: I can recommend one other blog that carries lots of cured information on guns and other subjecte:

There’s a lot of information there; pick and choose what you are interested in.

Note: all of these channels are — by definition — pro-guns. Watch them for the technical and practical information and if you so desire, ignore the rest. Also, resist the impulse to comment. YouTube comment sections are a bit like . . . well, the worst thing you can imagine . . . doubled.

I mentioned ammunition. I seldom buy in stores because I prefer buying in bulk (cheaper) even though some idiot on TV might be inclined to say something like “he has thousands of rounds!” trying to scare the uninformed. Of course, right now you are out of luck as far as bulk ammo goes . . . sure, you might find it, but it ain’t cheap.

Here are my three sources for online buying:

That said, my local Gander Outdoors had cheap range ammo a month ago (17¢ per round, but they are probably cleaned out by now), and there are many local gun shops you can check with. Don’t hoard; it’s unlikely you will ever face a defense situation, and even if you do, most are resolved with 3-4 shots. By the way, my home defensive weapon is a 20 ga. loaded with #3 buckshot.

Many people probably bought 12 ga. shotguns . . . I hope they have strong shoulders because they kick like mules, especially if practicing with defensive loads like Double Ought buckshot (which, by the way, will easily penetrate multiple walls, so make sure you don’t miss your target).

One final thing; again, you might not be able to right now, but eventually — when we can all go out again — find a range and find an instructor or someone who knows what they are doing. Meaning, get instructions from someone familiar with guns and especially someone who understands what your aims are with owning a gun.

Unfortunately, gun owners are like other people . . . some are jerks. In fact, many gun channels right now are being dicks toward new gun owners . . . but many more have recent videos specific to help new gun owners with their purchases.

Same in real life. Most gun owners are happy to share what they know. Still, I recommend a few basic gun courses if you’re not steeped in the “gun culture” and are just now dipping your toes.

And, remember: in the words of Matthew Quigley, “this ain’t Dodge City and you ain’t Bill Hitchcock”.

I’m all for people owning guns and being able to defend themselves but what I don’t want to see is a spike in accidental shootings and then have people blame me for being a “gun nut”.

Guns are tools and toys. Regardless of the reason you bought your gun, you and everyone around you will be a lot happier if you master it to at least a basic level of competence and practice an almost anal level of safety.

Get help, get familiar with it, practice safety, safety, safety, enjoy the toy aspect of it when you can, and here’s hoping you’ll never have to use it as the capable defense tool it is. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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