Seven Tips for Buying Your First Firearm

More than 13 million people bought their first firearm since 2020 according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Meanwhile, interest in gun ownership, the shooting sports and self-defense remains at an all-time high.

So, you’ve decided to purchase your first firearm, but aren’t sure where to start. Walk into a popular gun shop and all the choices available to you may feel overwhelming. But, no need to worry. Taking time to consider a few key points and educating yourself will help you make the right choice and be on a range shooting in no time. Just follow these seven tips when considering to buy a gun.

  1. Determine “Why” You Want a Gun – It may seem obvious, but this one rationale is critical to set you on the course to purchasing the firearm that is right for you. What do you want to use the gun for? Maybe you simply want to enjoy going out target shooting with friends or family, or you want a gun for self protection or hunting. Maybe you want to get into competitive shooting. First identifying your motivations for purchasing a firearm is key.
  1. Determine “What Type of Gun” You Want – Once you know why you want a gun, then you can determine what type of gun would be best for that activity. There are three basic types of firearms to consider:
    • Handguns – Whether a semi-automatic or revolver, these guns are smaller firearms with shorter barrels and are highly accurate at close distances. Because of their size, handguns are easier to carry and to store, making them a favorite choice for personal carry or as a self-defense firearm. They are also great for plinking targets and competitive shooting.
    • Rifles – Rifles have longer barrels with twisting grooves, or “rifling” as it is called, inside the barrels that put spin on the bullets they fire to help them fly more accurately over longer distances. Rifles can have a variety of actions including break-action (single or double shot), lever-action, bolt-action or semi-automatic. These guns are most popular for target shooting, long-range competition and hunting.
    • Shotguns – Shotguns also have long barrels, but they typically lack rifling and are smooth inside. Instead of cartridges loaded with a single projectile or bullet, they fire shells full of “shot or pellets” that travel together down the barrel and upon exiting the muzzle, spread out to create a larger shot pattern. Some shotguns are break-action and can have a single or double barrels, while most cycle rounds by pump-action, manually working the forend back and forth or are semi-automatic, meaning they fire each time you pull the trigger until the shotgun is empty. Shotguns are great for shooting competitions, shooting clays, bird hunting or simple target shooting.

      *Firearm and ammunition terminology/language can be helpful when researching products. A glossary of common terms (not all inclusive) can be found on
  1. Check Your State Laws – Make sure you do a cursory check of reliable sources on the internet to make sure you understand the laws affecting firearms purchases in your state, as every state has its own rules/regulations. In most states, if you are not a felon, have not been dishonorably discharged from the military, have not been determined by a court to be mentally ill, and are a legal U.S. resident, and are of a certain age, you are permitted to buy and own a firearm. If you’re still not sure on the laws, before attempting to make a purchase, visit a local gun shop near you. Most gun shop staff are friendly and helpful in guiding first-time buyers on the proper steps to buy a firearm in their locale.
  1. Find a Reputable Gun Shop – Along those lines, research local gun shops that boast a knowledgeable staff and offer a broad selection of firearms for you to look at and decide. There are a lot of choices so you will want a trusted salesperson to help you whittle your choices down to that one gun that is right for your first purchase. Some shops even have ranges and rent out or offer loaner guns so you can try a certain type or model of firearm before you finalize your decision.
  1. Making the Purchase – Once you’ve decided on the firearm you want to buy, every state requires some form of government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, military ID or passport so they can confirm your identity and run a background check. You will also need to complete an ATF Form 4473 to confirm your information and eligibility so it can be run through the federal background check system. Some states will also require you to complete a similar state form as well.
  1. After the Purchase – After you’ve bought your gun, it’s a great idea to sign-up for a firearms safety or introductory shooting course, where you can learn all the dos and don’ts of handling and storing firearms and become proficient with the safe operation and enjoyment of your new purchase.
  1. Additional Considerations – In addition to choosing the best ammunition for your shooting purposes, you will also want to buy a gun case to carry your firearm in and keep it protected, a safety lock so nobody can fire the gun when it is not being used by you and even a gun safe to safely secure the firearm when it is not in use.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be out at the range shooting and enjoying your new firearm in no time.

Resources to help get you started: