So You Want To Buy a Gun... Part 1
So you want to buy a gun... And by making that decision you are joining the roughly 37 - 50% of Americans who have also chosen to own a firearm. The reason to buy a firearm is personal. I will get into a few of those reasons later in this series of posts, because the reason you want a gun should affect your choice of which gun to purchase. But before we get too far, let's start at the beginning: Get training.
No matter how much time you spend reading stuff like what I write or talking to your gun-owning coworker or watching Dirty Harry, there is no substitute for dedicating time to learning about firearms and firearm safety. Just like how you didn't learn much about probability (or "sabermetrics") from watching Moneyball, you probably won't learn much about what it actually means to be a safe gun owner from observing anyone else. Odds are good you'll benefit greatly from a training course. And with so many courses available, there's a chance you'll find one that fits your schedule. OK, I'm done with the stats puns, now onto training options.
Training comes in many forms. Depending on the course, it may focus on safety alone, or marksmanship + safety, or defensive tactics + safety, or concealed carry + safety, or... You get the point. Safety is always a priority in any good training course because it is always a priority when owning a gun. Great training will help you feel more confident in handling a firearm safely, which is why I recommend seeking out some level of training before you even purchase a firearm.
A note about instructors: Most instructors are "pro" in something other than teaching, since teaching firearms safety won't exactly help a person achieve Scrooge McDuck status (a.k.a. diving into a pile of gold). Their passion is what drives them, and in my experience instructors love to help their students achieve their goals. Do you know what your goals are for training? Have you talked it over with your family or a trusted friend - why do you want to buy a gun in the first place? These are good questions to have answered going into the training course you select, since it will help your instructor help you.
Some training courses that may be of interest to you:
- FIRST Steps - a great place to start! This is a 3 hour time commitment, you can read more by clicking on "more information" on this page. Basically, they will cover safety topics and some fundamentals in this classroom-based course, which is a critical element to being a responsible gun owner. I have taught the rifle version of this class to kids and adults alike, and in my experience the people taking the course always learn something new.
- Basics of Pistol Shooting - a new format in 2016, this course has an online component covering safety, parts of a handgun (pistols and revolvers), more safety, "how to select" a handgun, range etiquette, and safety. Did I mention they'll cover safety in this course? Then there is a range day where an instructor will review safe gun handling and storage techniques and help with on-the-range fundamentals. This course appears to be similar to the online Hunter Education course I took to qualify for a hunting license, with an online component and a field day. Expect to dedicate about 12 - 18 hours to this, depending on the time you spend in the online portion. You can read more about it by clicking on "more information" on this page.
- Women on Target - This is a female-only training course that I've never attended but heard good things about! It will cover safe gun handling, safe storage, and more. More info is available here. This course is typically a one day event at a range, and is offered with less frequency than the Basics of Pistol Shooting or FIRST Steps, so if Women on Target interests you, start planning now for when the next course pops up.
- NRA Defensive Pistol - Typically this is a course taken after you have a basic pistol training under your belt. I haven't personally taken this course, though I plan to. The description says the course "teaches the knowledge, skills, and attitude to carry and use a concealed pistol ethically, responsibly, and with confidence." I would expect this class to be of particular interest if you think you want a firearm for self-defense purposes. You can read more about it by clicking on "more information" on this page.
- Project Appleseed - Barbara Baird of Women's Outdoor News gave a positive review of her training day with a rifle at a Project Appleseed in Missouri event. A good friend of mine also attended an Appleseed event in Virginia with his wife and they both learned a lot about the Second Amendment and rifle shooting.
- Locally-Run Training - Check with your local gun club or gun store. The NSSF has a great website called WhereToShoot.org and you can search based on your shooting interests to find a range within a certain distance of your home. I have found gun clubs in the past by literally typing into Google "rifle club near me" and it worked! Frequently these clubs will have training courses - just look for a calendar of events or email the club secretary.
As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact me.