Stepping into a gun store for the first time can be daunting. From pump-action and auto shotguns to revolvers and semi-auto pistols, it's easy for one to feel overwhelmed. To make the process a little easier and more enjoyable, we have some tips to help you find the perfect firearm.
First and foremost, you should decide what type of firearm you wish to buy. We've talked about this before on our blog, but it's worth mentioning again that firearms can generally be broken down into one of the following categories: rifles, pistols and shotguns. Each type has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Pistols, for instance, are easy to conceal and offer a high level of maneuverability, whereas rifles offer greater stopping power and longer distances. What you select should reflect how you intend to use your weapon (self-defense, hunting, home defense, etc. . .).
Bring Your CCW License
While having a concealed carry weapons license is not a prerequisite for purchasing a new firearm, it will often expedite the process. Normally, when you purchase a firearm from a licensed, authorized FFL dealer, he or she must submit your application to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – and in some of these cases, further review by the FBI or ATF is needed. The “Brady exemption,” however, allows certain individuals (e.g. CCW license holders) to bypass the federal background check when purchasing a firearm. So if you have a CCW license, bring it when you go shopping for a gun.
Check the Grip
When shopping for a new firearm, take a moment to hold it and see how the grip feels. Certain pistols, especially those manufactured with poly grips, have a tendency to feel smooth and slick. This may seem harmless enough, but having a firm grip is critical for safely and accurately shooting a firearm. If your hand slides across the grip, you won't be able to hold it firm enough to shoot accurately. Of course, you can always purchase add-on grips for just about any pistol on the market, but it's better to choose a pistol with a solid, well-made grip to start with.
Check the Trigger
In addition to the grip, you should also check the trigger of any firearms that you are thinking about purchasing. If the trigger is too light, it may lead to an accidental discharge. This is particularly common in double-action pistols in which the hammer is cocked back. Because less force is required to pull the trigger, it's easier to shoot – but at the same time there's also a greater risk of an accidental discharge when it's not properly handled. Beginners should stick with firearms with a solid, moderate trigger pull.
Check the Sights
Last but not least, check the sights when choosing a new firearm. Assuming the firearm is new, the manufacturer should have already sighted it in for standard use, meaning you don't have to adjust it. Unmodified pistols typically have fixed sights, often consisting of two bars towards the rear of the firearm and a single, centered bar towards the front of barrel. The principle behind fixed sights such as this is that you line your target up so it's in the center of these bars, keeping them straight and aligned at all times.