First gun purchase Selecting Your First Gun the Ultimate Guide
Gun Safety

Selecting Your First Gun: The Ultimate Guide

So you decided to buy your first gun. What do you need to consider and what do you need to know before your first purchase?

We’re going to assume you know how to fill out the forms and other requirements for firearm purchases because those vary from location to location.

That means we’re going to look at the features you should consider having in a firearm and other considerations.

What You Should Consider About Your First Gun

Your first gun is a very special achievement. The reasons why you purchase one can range from a rite of passage to concern for your safety and the future. But either way, when you go to buy your first gun there are a lot of options.

Which one should you choose? Why are there so many different models? Why are there so many different prices?

All of these questions are important, but they can all be answered by what role we want the firearm to fill and how we will maintain it.

Let’s start off with the role it will fill.


A firearms role is the major factor that determines what we should buy. Since this is your first gun we have to assume it must fill multiple roles primarily self-defense and other more practical tasks.

We can buy guns that are more fun to shoot after we square ourselves away, but our first priority should be our safety and the safety of others.

There are two major groupings of guns: Long-arms and sidearms. But usually, they are called rifles or shotguns and pistols/handguns.

Each group has its strengths and benefits that determine which situation it should be used.


Rifles and shotguns are very versatile. Many designs are used for hunting and pest control. Others are used for self-defense and home defense.

You have a little more leeway in what shotgun or rifle to use for hunting but home defense and self-defense have specific requirements.

Home defense shotguns Selecting Your First Gun the Ultimate Guide

For rifles, it’s best to have a semi-automatic for home defense. This allows you to have enough margin of error when dealing with a home invader. They are easier to use and control than pistols while offering better terminal performance when compared to handguns.

Shotguns for home defense can either be pump-action or semi-automatic, with the pump action requiring more effort to master. Loading the shotgun also takes more effort than more popular semi-automatic rifles.

Both rifles and shotguns are going to be the primary tool used in more rural areas inside and outside of the home. This comes from legal restrictions in cities but if you can use a rifle in your apartment it’s better to use a rifle chambered in 5.56 with home defense loadings.


Pistols are the king of concealed carry. They allow you to keep a gun with you and modern versions have a pretty good capacity so you can defend yourself against multiple assailants more easily than lower capacity pistols.

This means you should consider using a semi-automatic handgun instead of something like a revolver. While revolvers are reliable, they are harder to maintain than a semi-automatic handgun. They also need to be sent to a gunsmith if they malfunction. Semi-automatics on the other hand can usually be fixed by the end-user.


The next major consideration is the ammunition your gun needs. One of the things your gun needs to function is ammunition. This means whatever gun you select should be in a common caliber.

Check your local ammunition providers to see what is readily available and check online to see which calibers are common.

This will usually be 5.56×45 for semi-auto rifles, 9mm for handguns, and 12 gauge for shotguns.

While these are the ideal options, sometimes availability will determine what you can and cannot get. This makes alternatives like 308/7.62×51 for rifles, .45 ACP for pistols, and 20 gauge for shotguns close seconds.

The ammunition you use also is determined by whether you are going to use it for hunting, self-defense, or practice.

Spare Parts

The next consideration for your gun is how easy it is to maintain it. While basic cleaning and maintenance don’t take too much effort you also have to consider parts replacement.

Having worn parts or damaged/broken parts means your gun won’t run reliably or won’t run at all. Being able to easily get replacement parts or have them on hand is incredibly important for the long-term use of the gun.

If your gun needs to have specialty-built parts to fix it then you have a novelty gun or historical piece. This is okay but for your first gun, it is not recommended.

For the model of gun you choose, find out what parts wear the fastest and get spares for them.


This is where things become more nuanced. External safeties are necessary on shotguns and rifles but not pistols.

A rifle or shotgun usually does not have something to protect the trigger when not in use. This means manual safety is required to prevent an accidental discharge otherwise known as the gun firing by accident.

A safety on a shotgun or rifle needs to be easily accessed by you so you can turn it off and on fluidly. This comes with practice and a safety’s location.

For pistols, this is less of a problem. This is because a pistol should be paired with a quality holster that keeps foreign objects out of the trigger guard.

Many pistol designs feature an external safety or even multiple safeties. These add complexity to the gun and take more time to get used to when you’re practicing with it. This can be dangerous if you are using the pistol for self-defense.

If you are not constantly practicing turning off the safety, you run the risk of not turning it off under stress.


While buying a gun will normally lead to purchasing another gun it’s good to have long-term plans for your first gun.

It allows you to grow with the gun by adding additional accessories that will widen how the gun performs. This can be easier to see sights like red-dot sights or more importantly flashlights.

The ability to mount flashlights is extremely important for self-defense. This is because it helps you to deal with a wide variety of lighting situations. We rarely have consistent lighting in our day-to-day lives. This means we have to be able to identify a threat before we consider engaging it.

Having the ability to upgrade or otherwise modify a gun with ease should be considered so you don’t have to purchase a new gun as your skills grow.


Firearms are amazing tools. They factor into many aspects of self-reliance and can add some security to our lives.

Choosing the right one is not as easy as ordering a meal. A lot of thought should go into your decision.

Additionally, you should also seek training to understand what you need to know to properly handle a firearm. Training will also help you get better at using and manipulating your firearm. This, with owning a quality gun safe, will help increase your safety and the safety of those around you.

Trent Gardner
Trent Gander has been in the firearms sphere for almost a decade, learning and growing with the changing times. He has been writing professionally on the subject for almost six years.

author avatar
Derek Finegan is a web designer who likes to shoot his stress out in a shooting gallery. Descended from the finest Irish immigrants of the 19th century, he ended up in the god-forsaken, Americana-at-its-finest mid-western town. Deciding to move on and see the world, he packed his bags and went on a roller-coaster ride. He has gotten as far as the Internet, and he intends to stay there for a while. Derek is a fan of firearms, but his favorite is the cold, cold blade. One might disagree with him, but it is tough to contradict a man with that big of a machete collection in the living room.
April 19, 2022
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