This is a quick beginner’s guide to buying your first gun.
In this in-depth guide you’ll learn…
- Find Right Firearm
- Find Right Ammo
- Gun Storage
…and much more.
So if want to go from gun rookie to gun slinger, this guide is for you.
Let’s get started!
5 Main Types of Guns
These are the 5 gun types you’ll most likely buy.
- Long-barreled guns (16+ inches)
- Require support from your shoulder
- Designed for short-to-long range (50 – 500+ yards away)
Rifles are mostly used for hunting, target shooting, and precision shooting.
- Long, smooth barrels (18+ inches)
- Braced against the shoulder
- Fires shells
- Designed for short range (0 – 75 yards away).
Shotguns are primarily used for hunting (mostly birds) and self-defense.
- Handgun with a revolving cylinder.
- Small ammo capacity (usually 6 round capacity)
- Designed for short range (0 – 25 yards away)
Revolvers are primarily used for leisure shooting and home defense. Although a better option for home defense and self-defense would be a…
- Handgun with a magazine
- Larger ammo capacity (7+ rounds)
- Designed for short range (0 – 25 yards away)
Semi-automatic pistols excel in self-defense due to their portability and rate of fire.
- A shorter rifle under 26 inches in length
- Designed for short to medium range. (0 – 300+ yards away)
The same uses as a rifle. But personally, I’ve found pistol carbines to be the best home defense weapon.
You get the mobility of a pistol and the accuracy of a rifle…in one package. Check out my best .45 ACP carbine guide for recommendations.
So that’s the 5 main types of guns. But…
Which Gun Type Should You Choose?
To find your answer, ask yourself two things:
What’s your intended use?
Then ask yourself:
Will you practice with firearm?
More specifically, will you clock in consistent range time? Or will it just collect dust in your gun safe?
This is a crucial question. The reason?
You see, you’re probably buying your gun for a practical use: hunting, self-defense, or home defense.
And if we’re ever put into a stressful situation — like a home invasion — we need to be ready to use our weapon.
Your mind stops working when its stressed.
Meaning, you’ll be heavily reliant upon ‘muscle memory’ to save your life. And how do you build muscle memory? Clocking in range time.
And you can only clock in range time if you ACTUALLY use your gun. That’s why many gun experts recommend choosing a gun you’ll actually want to use.
Otherwise, you’ll be unprepared to save your own (and your families’) life.
With the ‘buy a gun you’ll use’ in-mind, it’s time to look at some…
Choosing a gun can get quite complicated and contradictory.
So many options, but which one to choose?
That’s why I’ve written these guides sorted by use. That way, you can quickly find a proven gun for your use.
Here’s the list:
- Best .338 Lapua Rifle Guide
- 3 Best .300 AAC Blackout Rifles
- Glock 32 .357 SIG Review: The Best Defensive Carry?
Found a gun you like? It’s time to figure out…
How To Buy A Gun
This is an easy 5-step process, starting with…
Step #1: Figure Out Your State’s Firearm Purchase Requirements
Each state has different laws. But in general, here are the necessary requirements:
- Age: 21 years or older. Some states allow for 18 year olds to buy firearms
- Record: Not convicted of a felony
- Mental Health: Not mentally incompetent
If you pass these basic requirements, then look at your state’s gun laws. You can either use NRA’s Gun Laws By State system or Wikipedia’s summary.
After you’ve figured out your state’s law (hopefully with no problems), it’s now time for…
Step #2: Choosing A Purchasing Method
You’ve got one of two options:
- Locally: Go to a local gun shop or individual and buy it. Or…
- Online: Use this guide and buy your gun from a trusted online source. The deals and stock are better online.
In either case, you’ll still have to choose a firearm type, model, caliber, and pass state requirements.
However, if you choose to buy a gun online, then watch Compulsion84’s video on buying a gun online or proceed to step #3-5 for a text-based version of the process.
Step #3: Find A FFL Dealer Near You
Why do this?
It’s required by law.
Guns are a regulated item and they can only go to dealers that are licensed by the United States to import firearms.
You need an FFL dealer to receive your firearm. There are recommended FFL dealers by online retailers, but I’ve found them either:
- Too far away
- More expensive (than local options)
So, what do you do? Find a local FFL dealer.
First, use Gun Broker’s FFL Dealer finder and find a dealer near you.
(Alternatively, you can google “FFL Transfer” + “Zip code” to find a FFL dealer near you).
Together, it should look similar to this:
Second, call the local FFL dealer store and ask if they can transfer ‘new’ guns.
Some stores ONLY do used guns or specific firearm types…so be sure to check. Otherwise, you’ll make a costly (and time-consuming) mistake.
In the end, you’ll have found a local FFL dealer that’ll transfer your firearm for around $25 to $50 dollars.
When you have selected a local FFL dealer, move onto….
Step #4: Input Local FFL’s Address For ‘Ship To Address’
So for example, if your FFL dealer’s transfer address is this:
You’d paste that in the ‘ship to’ address box like this:
Make sense? Good.
Afterwards, fill out the billing information and pay for your order. When you do, you’ll be given a confirmation number. This leads to…
Step #5: Copy Your Confirmation Number
Copy your confirmation (or tracking) number and send it to your FFL dealer either by phone or email.
Next, ask your FFL dealer to forward a copy of their FFL license through email or fax to the online gun store you’ve just ordered from.
That way, the gun store can ship your gun to your FFL dealer.
Once the gun has been successfully shipped to your FFL dealer, the next steps will happen:
- They’ll contact you to pick it up
- You’ll fill out a few legal forms (ATF 473, state forms)
- They’ll conduct a background check (takes a few minutes)
If everything goes smooth, you’ll be charged the FFL dealer transfer fee ($25 – $50 plus tax) and be given your gun.
And boom. You’ve got your first gun! But what about bullets?
Speaking of bullets, what’s the first image that comes to mind when you read ‘bullet’?
Something like this, right?
Well, that’s not a bullet. A bullet looks like this:
So…if that’s not a bullet, then what is it? A cartridge.
What Is A Cartridge?
A cartridge is the ammo. It includes the:
- Primer (starts the explosion)
- Powder (the explosion)
- Case (holds the ammo together)
- Bullet itself (projectile)
Here are the individual components:
Together, it looks like this:
Still with me? Good. Let’s move onto finding…
The Best Caliber For You
Time to get find the proper caliber (or round) for your firearm of choice, so you can start shooting.
Here’s the breakdown with the 3 main firearm types:
Best Pistol Calibers
Here are the 3 most popular pistol calibers:
- .45 ACP
- .22 Long Rifle
Which pistol caliber should you choose?
It depends on your use. Here’s the 3 main uses broken down:
Best Overall Pistol Caliber
Go with a 9mm.
- Kicks less
- Very reliable
- Lower stopping power
The 9mm is often called the ‘best pistol caliber’.
It’s no wonder why:
The FBI, police, and militaries all over the world use it. It’s a great caliber.
Best Self-Defense Pistol Caliber
Go with a .45 ACP.
- Greater stopping power (95% compared to 9mm’s 90%)
- More accurate
- Bigger (Smaller magazines)
- More recoil
The surprising part?
According to Greg Elliftrtiz’s study, the .45 ACP is 11% more likely to hit vital areas compared to the 9mm with greater stopping power.
Best Pistol Caliber For Learning
If you’re looking for a great learning cartridge, then go with a .22 Long Rifle (22LR).
- Virtually no recoil
- Weaker (low stopping power)
This caliber is perfect for teaching people to shoot or small game hunting.
So that’s all there is to pistol calibers. How about shotguns?
Best Shotgun Calibers (Or Gauge)
Here are the 2 most popular shotgun calibers:
- 12 gauge
- 20 gauge
Which shotgun caliber to choose?
This is highly dependent on your use. Let’s break it down.
Best Overall Shotgun Caliber
Go with the 12 gauge.
- More powerful
- Greater distance
- More recoil
This is great for home defense or hunting.
Best CQB Shotgun Caliber
Go with the 20 gauge.
- Less Recoil
- Better Handling
- Better for shorter statured people
- Less power
- Less Distance
That said, I personally wouldn’t recommend the 20 gauge. Why? Because it goes against the primary reason for buying a shotgun: power and spread.
The 12 gauge offers both of those things with deadly stopping power.
Best Rifle Calibers
The 3 most popular rifle rounds:
- .223 Remington (5.56x45mm NATO)
- .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO)
- .30-06 Springfield
But the question is:
Which is the best rifle caliber? Let’s break it down.
Best Short-To-Medium Range Rifle Caliber
Go with the .223 Remington.
- Limited Distance (100-300 meters)
The .223 is the most popular AR-15 cartridge. It’s been used in the close quarter jungles of Vietnam with great success.
But how about ranged shots? You’ll like the next recommendation.
Best Long Range Rifle Caliber
The .308 Winchester is what you need.
Let me explain:
- Travels Far (100-600 meters)
The .308 is commonly used in AR-10 rifles. U.S. snipers uses a military version of the .308 (7.62×51mm NATO) cartridge in a modified AR-10 (M110) to great success. A great long range caliber.
Speaking of long range calibers, what if you do some hunting? This chart by Basspro should help:
So to make a long story short:
Don’t stress about choosing a caliber. Just choose one that fits your gun and see how it works for your uses. Then, figure out…
Where To Buy Ammo Online?
The question is:
Should you buy ammo locally or online?
The answer’s simple:
Buy from whatever is cheaper.
But from experience, you can get MUCH better deals on ammo if you find a good source.
You can save an average of 50% or more on bulk ammo online than buying it in-store (even with shipping).
And that’s why 53% of gun owners buy their ammunition online — it’s WAY cheaper. But what stores give you the deals?
The Best Places To Buy Ammo Online
- Palmetto State Armory: Best for bulk ammo cases (1000 rounds).
- Lucky Gunner: Best for smaller rounds sizes. Shipping is fast.
So these are my top two.
Some other great ammo sites are Brownells, Sportsman’s Guide, and Cabelas.
Pro Tip: Price check multiple sites to find the best deal.
A quick tip:
Before you order any ammo online, make sure to check in with your local gun laws. Your state might have special requirements for ammo.
Which brings us to the final phase of the beginner’s guide to guns…
Storing Your Firearms For Safe (And Quick) Access
It’s now time for gun storage.
Here’s the recommended solution for…
If you’re using your gun to protect your home from thieves, then you’ll need a fast-to-access (and secure) gun storage option.
For this, you’ve got one of three options:
- Magnetic gun mount: This uses a magnet to store your gun. It has no security features. Its advantage is tactical insertion.
- Concealed furniture: Put your gun in benign, cheap-looking furniture. Again, no security features, but it does hide well in plain sight. Or finally…
- Quick Access Gun Safe: This is if you have children in your house or don’t have any tactical places to put your handguns at.
Pro Tip: If security is a concern, go with the Fort Knox PB1 safe. If budget is a concern, go with the Stock-On GCB-500.
Whatever option you choose, just make sure it’s easy-to-access and hidden in plain sight. For rifles, you’ll have to use a more expensive safe.
And that’s all there is to getting started with guns!
Super simple, right?
The next steps would be to get basic firearm training and clock in range time. Both of these options are best done locally.
Or you can get a quick primer from Lucky Gunner’s Intro series:
With all that said, I hope you’ve found this guide useful. If it was, let me know in the comments below.
If you have any suggestions or questions on getting started, comment down below. I’ll constantly be updating this guide in the future!