Friday, June 22, 2007

Ballseye's Firearms Training And Tactiics 3 - Acquiring Your First Firearm

You have decided to take up shooting, and you already have learned the firearms safety rules, and you have learned some firearms nomenclature, and you have signed up to receive instruction from a person who has been certified as a firearms instructor. Good for you, you have gotten started.

There is now a decision to be made about which type of gun to buy yourself. If you are lucky, your instructor will supply the firearms with which you will learn to shoot, and he/she will have a good selection on hand for you to try out. Maybe you are already done with the training and ready to buy a gun for yourself. Maybe you have not yet started the training and need a gun to get through it. Whatever the situation, if you want to get your first gun I have some suggestions to help you out. Note I said gun as opposed to gun(s). Sure you can bring multiple guns right away. You can go for lessons in which an instructor wants to teach you how to shoot them all in the same class, or if done with your classes you can you can go all out and buy a as many as you can afford, but that is not what I think works best. So what do I recommend? I recommend getting that first gun, keeping it simple at first, and after you become somewhat proficient with that one type of firearm you learn how to shoot others. In other words go to take a class on pistol shooting, or revolver shooting, or rifle shooting, or shotgun shooting, but not a class on all aspects, at least not for your initial training. Or if done with your classes get yourself one type of firearm and make yourself proficient with it before moving on. Keeping it simpler at first will make it easier throughout the learning process even as the process becomes more complicated; and note the learning process with firearms is an ongoing one, it does not end after your initial familiarization classes.

Starting with one gun will not only keep the learning process simpler, it will also keep your selection of firearm for the class simpler; or will keep it simpler for you to become more proficient after the initial class has ended. It also will be much less expensive at first, meaning the price of additional firearms can be stretched out over a longer time period, and that you will have more money for range time and ammunition purchases.

Now, if you go this route, you need to decide which type of shooting you want to learn first in order to determine which type of firearm you need to buy. It would be good to ask your instructor for some recommendations, not so much as to brand, but as to the type and the specifications within that type that he/she suggests to accomplish the type of shooting you will be doing. In other words, if you are going to learn how to shoot primarily for self defense while legally carrying a concealed firearm (always do anything with firearms legally), then you will want to learn how to shoot a handgun. If instead you want to learn how to shoot because you plan to start duck hunting, or clay pigeon shooting you would want to learn how to shoot a shotgun. Likewise if you were going to learn how to shoot to be able to go out on your first elk hunt, you would likely want to learn to shoot a rifle. Once you have figured what general type of firearm you need from among the rifles, shotguns, handguns, you will then want to figure out which more specific type of firearm you want to buy.

The breakdown from 'General Type of Firearm' to more 'Specific Type of Firearm' (of those commercially available) goes something like this:




Now taking rifles as an example, there are more things to consider.

Rifle Sub-divisions: Among the rifles the next choices are: muzzle loader or breech loader. Muzzle loaders being akin to rifles used by the pioneers. These are broken down generally into percussion or flintlock. If you go more modern, which would be my suggestion, then your set of choices would be modern rifles that shoot either centerfire or rimfire cartridges. This would then be followed by action type, such as: bolt action, semi-automatic, or lever action. Then you would decide on the caliber you would want to shoot, one that would be suitable for the purpose at hand. These are fairly general distinctions about which anyone who is an instructor can give you reasonable information; and you can get many more opinions at the range and out of gun magazines and forums. Still though, you should make up your mind based upon the recommendations you receive, don’t let someone else pick for you.

After you have something general in mind, then comes the fun part of actually selecting a firearm based upon things like: brand name, reliability, how it feels in your hands, of what the stock is made, the type of finish used for the gun (stainless steel, blued steel, Parkerized{a black military style finish that is supposedly more rugged than bluing}, and so forth), how much ammunition it holds, whether or not it is legal in your area, and unless you are much better off than me financially there is always price to consider.

Shotguns: The above also goes for Shotguns, which come in the same basic action varieties as do rifles; but there are also double barreled shotguns that come with side by side and over/under barrels.

As for handguns, there basically are revolvers and pistols. Revolvers are all, as far as I am aware, multiple shot handguns, having a cylinder that holds from about 5 to 10 cartridges in individual chambers. The cylinder revolves bringing a fresh cartridge in its chamber in line with the barrel for each new shot. Commercially available pistols, in general, come in various actions from single shot, to bolt action, to semi-automatic. Those that are repeaters are usually box magazine fed, the bullets get loaded into the magazine, and the act of firing the pistol results in a fresh round being entered into the pistol’s single chamber, which is at the back end or breech end of the barrel, ready for the next shot. You usually can also load a pistol with a single shot directly into the magazine, and this is one of the reasons IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO PROPERLY MAKE SURE A GUN IS LOADED OR NOT WHEN YOU HANDLE IT.

My recommendation is to keep the first gun simple, no matter what basic type you pick from among the rifles, shotguns and handguns. I also strongly recommend you buy as high a quality firearm as you can afford. Bear in mind that buying quality does not necessarily mean you have to buy a firearm with every option that is known to mankind. Just buy pretty much a basic model of the one you have decided upon. I will say though that one decent option some recommend is an adjustable sight. With a rifle these sights are a must, with a shotgun it depends on the type of shooting being done, and with handguns, at distances out to 15 yards, it should not matter much one way or the other for your first gun. I do not recommend telescopic sights on a beginner's firearm. Get to shoot it well with iron sights, then proceed to optical glass sights, it will just get you to be a better shooter overall.

Once you have decided which gun to buy, buy the gun from a local reputable dealer. I say to do this from a local dealer because that way you can check out the gun before you buy it, whereas if you buy from an online dealer, you only see the gun after you have bought it. I also say, go to a reputable dealer, this so you do not get hosed. Check around and compare prices for the same exact gun. Then check out the gun itself. Does it feel good in your hands, does it appear to be blemish free, does it operate properly, is it easy to take down for cleaning, and so on. Have the dealer demonstrate all of this to you, and handle it yourself (presuming you have already learned firearms safety and how to properly handle a gun). You may want to ask someone who is more knowledgeable about guns to accompany you to the gun store, you might even ask your instructor. Then once purchased, take it to the range as soon as possible after purchase and test fire it; if you have not yet learned how to shoot, wait to do this with your instructor. Some gun stores have their own ranges where you can shoot used models, or loaner guns they have in stock. If you are buying a new model they have in stock, see if they also have a loaner you can shoot first, to see if you like how it handles, before buying the new one – this of course presuming you already have learned to shoot somewhat or have your instructor with you.

You may be getting the picture that should you go to a firearms shooting class, you will want to be able to go to a basic class where the guns will be supplied by the instructor, then after you learn how to shoot somewhat well, you buy your own. This is my recommendation as I find that buying one first, then learning how to shoot, is often a mistake. Learn how to handle and shoot safely, then go out and make your decision on which specific gun to buy, it is better to buy while somewhat knowledgeable.

I don’t think that I mentioned yet whether or not to buy a new gun or a used one. Used firearms are often great deals, but also can be big headaches if they were not well maintained. Sometimes it is easy to tell if they are in good shape, other times it is not so easy. A new gun is less likely to be a headache, at least in my experience. New guns usually come with warranties, and manufacturers almost always have parts in stock for currently available new guns, and you are just about assured that the new gun you are buying will handle modern day ammunition pressures whereas some old guns cannot handle modern ammunition. Yes I strongly recommend a new gun for your first purchase.

Of course, if someone like dad, granddad, or uncle Ernie, is giving you an old and well maintained gun for your first one, be very happy, and use that one. Sometimes shooting doesn’t get much better than learning how to shoot with a gun that has been passed down through the family (but remember make sure the gun is safe and fully functional before shooting it). My daughter and my son both learned to shoot using my guns, and there are not many things better at making me feel as if I did something really good for, and with, my children than passing along the knowledge of how to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

In a future rant, I will probably give much more specific info on acquiring a gun, and how to choose different types, and how to check out used guns, but for now I am keeping it simple for the beginner. Of course the beginner may have some questions, and that is one way to use the comments section of this blog. Until next time, enjoy safe shooting.

All the best,
Glenn B