Before You Buy a Firearm for the First Time

Some first time gun buyers can find the process of purchasing their first firearm intimidating. There are so many things to consider.

Even if you already know the primary reason for purchasing a firearm, you still need to decide on the type of gun, brand, model, ammunition, feel in your hand, recoil, and where to buy.

We strongly encourage first time gun buyers to consider the following before making their first firearm purchase.

Know Your Local Gun Laws

Every legal age American has the right, per the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, to keep and bear arms. However the reality is that every state, county and/or city may have laws and ordinances dictating who may own firearms, what firearms may be owned, and how those firearms may be used.

first time gun buyers should always know local gun laws

The United States legal system expects every gun owner to be aware of, to understand, and to follow the gun laws in their area. Examples include how much ammunition a magazine can hold, how a gun may be legally transported, and whether or not you are expected to retreat when someone breaks into your home.

Ignorance is not a defense. Make sure you understand local, state, and federal gun laws before you make your first purchase.

Seek Opinions but Expect Them to Vary Widely

Every gun owner will have their own opinions regarding firearm brands, models, ammunition and accessories.

Therefore it's important to get a variety of opinions from different sources such as friends, family members, gun shop staff, shooting range staff, and others.

first time gun buyer at gun shop

Weigh their opinions, take notes, but be sure to do your own research. An informed buyer is a better buyer.

Do Your Own Research

The Internet has a wealth of free firearm-related information. However, the amount of information and the fact that anyone can post just about anything, can make Internet research overwhelming for a first-time buyer.

Just like you would do if you were researching anything else, look for reputable sites such as:

  • This First Time Gun Buyer website
  • NRA (National Rifle Association) websites – there are many
  • NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation)
  • Gun manufacturer websites
  • Ammunition manufacturer websites
  • Federal, state, local government sites for firearm laws and ordinances

If you're searching the Internet regarding opinions you've heard, don't be afraid to look for second, third, or even fourth opinions. However, please remember the Internet is filled with all sorts of information varying from the wanna' be experts to fact-driven, research-based content.

Visit Your Local Shooting Range

Consider visiting one or more local indoor or outdoor shooting ranges before you purchase your first firearm.

Many shooting ranges will allow you to rent firearms during your practice sessions. Renting is a great way to try a variety of firearms and ammunition to determine what you like best before you make your purchase.

many shooting ranges allow gun rental

Be sure to tell the staff about your level of experience with a firearm. Some ranges may require that you learn how to properly handle the firearm during your time there so as not to endanger other patrons. Also, do not take rental items off the shooting range property.

Read more: Shooting Ranges

Visit Multiple Stores

Just because you walk into a store selling firearms does not mean you have to buy something. When you visit, ask the staff questions. Visit multiple stores. Then compare their suggestions and product offerings to determine which store you felt most comfortable with overall.

As a courtesy to each store and their staff, be sure to let them know if you are not yet ready to make a purchase. Be respectful of their time and their need to assist other customers, particularly those who are there to make a purchase.

visit various gun shops before you buy a gun   visit various gun shops before you buy a gun

You don't have to decide on a specific firearm make and model before you walk into a store. But you may find your experience easier if you have narrowed down what you think you might like; such as, the type of gun (pistol, revolver, rifle, etc.) and know what you are going to use it for.

If you're ever at a shop and feel pressured to purchase one type or brand over others, leave and visit another shop.


Anyone who has obtained a driver's license knows that a certain amount of training and study is required before you can be fully licensed to drive. This is to ensure that everyone is aware of and understands the driving laws in their area and to promote increased safety for all drivers who share the same roadways.

Firearm ownership is different. As of January 1, 2020 only six states and the District of Columbia require individuals to undergo firearm safety training prior to making their first purchase. This number may have increased since then.

firearm instructor

Consequently, for most states, it is up to the firearm owner's discretion as to whether or not to receive some sort of firearm training.

We recommend that all first time gun buyers practice responsible gun ownership and take a training course in their area.

Safety, Storage, and Consideration of Family Members

Before purchasing a firearm, consider whether or not you will take a training course, how you will store the firearm, and how you will communicate to your family that a firearm will be in the home.

safely store firearms

It is very important to store firearms in a safe place – ideally in a gun safe. You must make the firearm inaccessible to anyone who may not know how to operate it safely, to any unauthorized user, and even to criminals. This includes children, family, friends, guests, disabled people, people with mental health conditions, etc. In fact, depending on the circumstances and the laws in your local area, there may even be criminal or civil liability if someone is harmed as a result of your improper storage of your firearm.

Additionally, ammunition should be stored separate from the firearm.

We strongly encourage all first time gun buyers to be responsible, to consider the safety of others, and to take steps to secure the firearm.

Read more: Gun Safety

Could you pull the trigger?

Gun ownership is a serious matter and it comes with many responsibilities. Many first time gun buyers, find it beneficial to make purchasing a firearm, a multi-step process. They may begin by taking one or more training courses, visiting shooting ranges that offer gun rentals, and discussing gun ownership with family and friends.

If your motivation for purchasing a firearm, is personal protection, you should strongly consider whether or not, you could actually pull the trigger in an emtionally-charged, fear-filled situation. Using a firearm – even if in defense of yourself, your family, or your property – is a serious matter. Once you discharge your gun and hit your intended target, there is no going back.

Some first time gun buyers may believe that merely brandishing a firearm will be a sufficient deterrent to a criminal. While that might work in some situations, the "fight or flight" reflex might actually escalate matters in other situations. For instance, a criminal may take your gun away from you or pull out their own gun in response to yours.

If you are hesitant about gun ownership, there is no shame in admitting to yourself that you might not be ready for your first gun purchase.

Ultimately, before purchasing your first firearm, we urge you to ask yourself, "Am I ready and able to accept all of the resposibilities of gun ownership?"


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Please note: this site cannot be relied upon to provide legal advice, Should you need legal advice, please seek a qualified local attorney.

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