Buying Your First Handgun - NSSF Let's Go Shooting

Buying Your First Handgun

By Barbara Baird

The time is here and now. You have made the important decision to purchase your first handgun.

Maybe you’ve taken a class that introduced you to the shooting sports, or maybe this idea has been taking root for a long time? For whatever reason, you’re ready to purchase your first handgun.

Even if you know which gun you want to buy, it’s helpful to go through this checklist to see if it truly fits your needs.

Why do you want to purchase a handgun?

Is it for target shooting, personal defense reasons, or other reasons? If the reason is personal defense, have you thought of all the legal ramifications of carrying a gun? Are you ready for this huge change in your lifestyle? Do you know all the laws and what you’ll need to do to obtain a permit to carry?

Is your home in a gun-friendly environment?

Can you legally own a gun? Check the rules and regulations of your state, your city and even the rental agreement for your living quarters.

You have two choices — semi-auto or revolver. Which one do you want?

Although some people say that revolvers are practically malfunction-free, you need to be completely comfortable with your choice. If you choose a semi-auto, you’ll need to practice clearing the gun of any malfunctions. If you want to shoot a revolver, you may need to investigate speed loaders and how to use them, so you can have more ammo available quickly, if needed.

What caliber should you buy?

The answer depends on why you want the gun. Talk to people you know who shoot for whatever reason you want to shoot, and find out why they choose their firearms in certain calibers.

What do other people, especially of your size and stature, choose for a firearm?

Here’s where you want to be nosy. Ask your friends and fellow shooters what they shoot and why. Ask them about the cost, too. 

Can you rent guns or shoot other guns to check them out?

Once you’ve compiled a list of guns that you want to try out, visit a range that rents guns and try them out. Or, if you know a friend who has that firearm, ask if he or she will go to the range with you. Buy the ammo for that gun.

Have you shot any firearms that you particularly like?

Guns are like shoes. If you like the fit and function of one model, you might like another one in the same make. But, you might not. Think about the guns you’ve shot and make a list: Like, Don’t Like.

How will you carry this gun?

Do you need to address the type of holster you’ll need for this gun? Or, if it’s for concealed carry, do you need to check out other ways to carry this firearm?

Where will you keep this gun?

When you’re not using this firearm, where are you going to store it securely? Do you need to purchase a safe for storage, or lockbox of some type?

How much can you pay for a firearm?

Handguns come in a wide range of prices. It’s best to know how much you are able to afford before you go to a store and choose one you cannot buy.

After you purchase your first handgun, go to to find tips and resources to help your journey as a responsible firearm owner, find a firearm trainer to help you increase your skills and knowledge, and give the shooting sports a try.