Things to Consider Prior to Purchasing Your First Handgun
A few months ago, I bought my first new car. No more hand-me-downs, no more dealing with other people's problems, no more anything other than fresh-smelling upholstery and an engine that runs like clockwork. I know you are probably saying to yourself, "New car? I came here to read about new firearms! What is this guy yapping about?" As always, I have good reason to begin my post this way.
The first thing I did before considering which car to purchase was consider my needs. Luckily, that did not take very long. I needed a reliable car with better-than-average fuel economy that would get me to work and look good while doing it. I also wanted a car that is fun to drive, which helped me narrow down my options. Still, there were an ungodly amount of choices to make. Car or truck? Automatic transmission or manual? What can I afford? Could I have afforded the Dodge Challenger that I wanted? Of course, but it would have made no practical or financial sense.
After narrowing my choices to about three different models, it was time for some more research. I looked at just about everything in order to decide which car was the right car. I compared all sorts of specifications and previous consumer reports until I decided on a model that I was sure would present the least amount of mechanical issues while still meeting my other requirements. The test drive that followed served only to cement my choice.
Everything that came next involves researching prices, calculating costs and similar financial matters. Obviously, price will be a big part of the decision when it comes time to pick up a pistol, but these aspects of buying a car do not quite translate to a firearm purchase and so their discussion will be left for another time.
So why did I spend a few precious minutes of your life discussing my car buying experience? Because the experience, from uncovering needs and completing research to performing test drives and making a final decision are the same steps one should follow when purchasing their first handgun. If you do not believe me, then keep reading. Oh, and if you do believe me, keep reading anyway.
Step One: Why Do I Need (Or Want) a Handgun?
Just as you would before buying a car, you must make a decision based on your needs. Before buying my car, I decided that I needed something suitable for use as a daily driver, which meant it needed to be reliable and possess good fuel economy. Obviously, you will not be buying a handgun hoping to get 40 miles per gallon, so why would you buy a handgun?
The reasons people purchase firearms can vary widely and range from the simple purpose of collecting to more serious purposes like personal protection. As such, the first question you must ask yourself is, "What will I use my handgun for?" Once you have answered that question, the selection process can move forward.
Unfortunately, answering that question only serves up a slew of new ones.
Step Two: What Considerations Should I Make?
Once you have decided on the role your new handgun will play, a whole new can of worms is opened. Those looking to do nothing more than begin a collection really have no limitations – buy what you want. But perhaps you are purchasing a handgun that will be used for competition shooting. If that is the case, you will be best served by making considerations regarding barrel length, sight options, ergonomic grips and the like. These features, in addition to many others, can make or break a competition pistol.
Those looking to use their handgun for self-defense have an entirely different set of considerations to make. Perhaps the most important is caliber. Typically, larger calibers are better for self-defense due to their increased stopping power and tendency to inflict lethal wounds. Additionally, whether or not you will be carrying the handgun concealed will inevitably become a factor, as will reliability and ease-of-use. When your life is on the line, you want something that is simple to operate and perform when it is called upon.
Of course, you must also decide between a revolver and a semi-automatic. Both types have the capability of serving most needs, but have pros and cons just as well. In general, revolvers are more reliably than semi-automatics, a quality that stems from their simple operation. That is not to say that semi-automatics are unreliable. On the other hand, semi-automatics generally have larger capacities and provide faster reload times. As with everything else, there are many considerations you must make when deciding.
Once you have made these considerations, certain models will emerge that fit your needs while others get the boot. Now, it is time for research.
Step Three: Research Different Models That Suit Your Needs and Considerations
After deciding on my needs and making certain considerations when selecting my car, a few models stood out. If you remember, my next step was to research these models by comparing specifications and consumer reports. You should do the same thing after choosing a few potential winners in the handgun department.
Research the company. How long have they been around? What is their track record? Research the models. What does one offer that another may not? How did each perform in ballistics testing? Completing extensive research is sure to aid in making your decision. Fortunately, not all research is boring. Nothing beats a test drive.
Above all else, you should arrange a trip to a firing range and test fire any handgun you are considering purchasing before you buy it. You would not buy a car before test driving it and you should by no means buy a handgun before doing the same. What appears to be the perfect handgun could very well be much to your disliking upon firing. Here is a quick example. I am a fan of FN firearms. Naturally, I was a fan of the FN Five-Seven. Thankfully, I did not buy one because when I had the chance to fire one; it was not at all what I was expecting.
After completing research and test firing your choices, you should be ready to make a decision.
Step Four: Shop Around and Buy
There is not much to this step. Find out who has the best prices and buy the handgun that you decided fit all of your needs and considerations. Congratulations, you are now a handgun owner. Unfortunately, step four is not the final step.
Step Five: Familiarize Yourself with Your Purchase
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at the number of people that purchase a handgun for self-defense, lock it away in a safe and never touch it again. What happens when you actually need it?
I cannot stress the importance of practice enough. Make sure you understand exactly how the handgun operates. Make sure you understand how all safety features work. Practice dry firing the handgun. Take it to the range and put live ammunition through it. Do whatever it takes to familiarize yourself with it in order to ensure a safe and proper handling when it comes time to use it, no matter how it is used.
At this point, you are probably expecting me to offer a few suggestions as to what handguns would be suitable for a first-timer. Unfortunately I am not going to do that. The right firearm for me is not the right firearm for you. I did not spend all this time writing an article detailing the steps one should take when buying their first handgun to turn around and tell you to buy a Glock 17. So read the article, reread the article and then apply the knowledge you have learned. Then come back and I will suggest something for your second purchase.