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Welcome to the oft misunderstood world of firearms! In the first part of this three-part series, you will be introduced to the basics of firearms ownership. Part two will introduce you to the art of selecting a gun and assist you in understanding what kind of firearms training you should seek. And lastly, we will review an array of handguns that could be considered for those of you wanting to carry concealed.

* So, where do we start? Let’s explore what you need to know before actually purchasing a firearm.

Addressing Anti-Gunner Rhetoric

The truth is there are so many misconceptions and preconceived notions regarding firearms that guns and the gun culture may be one of the greatest enigmas of modern times. For example, it’s important to remember the saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It does not think; therefore, it can’t point itself at a human being, nor does it have the ability to pull its own trigger. When used in self-defense, a gun is a non-living mechanical tool of last resort.

Prior to purchasing a firearm, do your own research and educate yourself. Keep an open mind; alleviate your apprehension by engaging firearms owners, instructors, and your local law enforcement communities. This will help you weed out fact from undocumented fiction and guide you down the path best suited for you on your journey into firearms ownership.

It should be noted that being ignorant to all applicable laws you must follow is not an excuse. Stay apprised of the laws that govern firearms purchasing, ownership, and concealed carry. Check federal, state, and local municipality websites to keep apprised of new and updated laws; this is your responsibility, ignorance will not cover your derriere.

Reasons For Buying a Firearm

You must decide why are you buying a firearm. Is it for protecting you and your family while you are home? Is it for hunting your first deer, rabbit, or wild boar? Do you want to join your spouse when s/he goes to the range for target practice? Or do you want a firearm for concealed carry? Once you nail down your purpose for buying a gun, then you need to take a deeper dive.

Getting Acquainted 

Go to a gun shop and range. The first time you don’t need to shoot if you are uncomfortable, just observe. If you go onto a range with another person, even if you choose not to shoot, you are still required to follow all of the rules of the range! So get familiar with them. I have listed a few of the rules below, but for more info you can go to the NRA website and peruse a more in-depth review of range rules.

Although going to a gun shop with someone you know who is a gun enthusiast is a great idea, a better idea is to go onto the range for the first time with a firearms instructor or range safety officer. These men and women have been trained and are more experienced to provide instruction to a new shooter.

Finding an Instructor

So now you’ve visited a gun shop and range. What’s next? Find a reputable instructor. Your local range can refer you to one of their classes or to a private instructor who can train you either in a class or in a private one-on-one session. Instructor rates vary, but always keep this question in mind: “How much is YOUR LIFE worth?” Can you place a dollar amount on your life? Remember, the cost of training with the proper instruction is priceless!

Being a firearms instructor, I’m going to suggest private one-on-one training sessions to get started. This will provide you, as a new shooter, with the most thorough instruction for your needs.

When you first contact a reputable instructor make sure s/he will cover the following elements of training:

  • You should first be trained on the rules of safe use, handling, and storage.
  • Tell your instructor what your goal of firearms ownership is and ensure they will provide you with the ability to train on a variety of models for the purpose in which you desire to train.
  • Your instructor should train you at a range with a gun shop that offers gun rentals on a variety of firearms.
    • This will hopefully allow you to narrow down the firearm that feels the most the comfortable in your grip, that you can manage confidently and comfortably while shooting.
  • Another important requirement of your firearms training should include awareness training.
    • Your awareness training should include the four states of awareness: Unaware, Aware, Alert, Alarm.
      • This type of training can be life saving.
      • The key is knowing when to take notice of a possible threat, how to differentiate between inappropriate behavior and imminent life threatening behavior, and if and when to take action using your firearm as a tool of last resort to save your life and the life of another human being.

Time in the Range

Now that you are ready to step onto the range, follow your instructor’s direction. As mentioned above, here are a few rules of engagement you must follow when on the range:

**Rules of safe and responsible firearms handling include the following:

  • Before handling any firearm, always consider it loaded. Even if you witness someone else checking and establishing the gun is unloaded, if you handle it after them, you must still consider that firearm loaded, until you yourself has established it unloaded. Someone else may have overlooked something. So anytime you handle a gun, in your mind — it’s loaded.
  • Always point your firearm in a safe direction. Never have the muzzle of the gun pointing at anything that you are not willing to destroy once you pull the trigger.
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger and outside of the trigger guard.
  • Know your target and beyond.
  • Ensure the gun is safe to operate, if unknown have someone with knowledge of the firearm check it for you.
  • Only use the correct ammunition for the gun. Cross-check the ammunition markings with the markings on the firearm.

Aim, Fire

Now, you are ready to take your first shots! Part two will give you an overview of what to expect from your instructor and your training, and how to differentiate the best fit firearm for your needs. Stay tuned!

*The information provided is a brief overview for responsible, safe, and practical gun ownership. It does not however substitute for actual firearms training. Visit your local range, engage a Certified NRA Firearms Instructor, and read as much information as you can before making any purchase or training decisions.

**The rules listed above for handling firearms, is NOT a replacement for Basic Firearms training with a professional firearms trainer, or, at a minimum learning from an experienced shooter. It is a starting point of considerations to those new to shooting and firearms ownership.