ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BUYING YOUR FIRST HANDGUN
Interested in buying your first handgun? Making the choice to purchase your first firearm is both an exciting and potentially confusing time. Where to look, what to look for, and what steps are needed to purchase a firearm does not have to be overwhelming. With the right information and resources, buying your first firearm can be a very exciting and successful experience. Our guide outlines the various steps to take, factors to consider, and processes to expect when bringing home your first firearm.
STEP 1: KNOW FIREARM DIFFERENCES
First things first- you should familiarize yourself with the key differences in firearms, to better understand what firearm you want or need. Looking for home defense or wanting something you plan on taking with you as you leave the house? Want something compact or do you want something with a longer barrel and more power?
There are currently five different classifications of handguns, all possessing unique characteristics in terms of rate of fire, loading technique, and caliber used. While that may seem like a lot, they are broken down in the following different types of handguns:
- Single shot pistols
- Multi-barreled pistols
- Semi-automatic pistols
- Automatic pistols
For those looking for an easier gun to shoot, a full sized handgun may be the way to go. The Glock 19 may be wise if you want a trusted and commonly named firearm that is both a great weapon for home defense and concealed carry, while a Glock 17 may be better for those who are not as interested in conceal carry at the present time.
Beginner Tip: Having a full-sized handgun makes it easier to shoot since there’s more mass to absorb recoil, a larger area to grip, and a longer sight radius from the front sight to the rear sight.
In 2021, the best-selling firearm was the Glock 19. While Glock sold many handguns, so did Springfield, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Taurus, and the thousand other handgun makers in the U.S. For the full list of the highest selling guns in 2020 you can find that here.
(Link : https://www.gungenius.com/top-selling/)
The team at PewPew Tactical put together a great list of the best handguns for beginners on their website for a deeper look into specifics, reasonings, and considerations. (Link): https://www.pewpewtactical.com/best-handgun-beginners-home-defense/
State Tip: For those of you in handgun restricted states like California…Glock Gen 3 is another option if Gen 4 & 5 are hard to locate.
STEP 2: FIND A GUN DEALER
Choosing a gun dealer is the next step when considering a firearm. A simple search for Gun Dealers and Firearm sales near you is a good place to start. Finding one that offers a wide range of firearms, knowledge, and information is the first step. Availability of stock, and of course pricing is also important.
Websites like GunBroker.com provide information on Federal Firearm Licensed Dealers with a “search by zip code” feature. We like the ability to check fees, pricing, Transfer Fees, and contact information all in one spot.
Beginner Tip: It’s best to call ahead as some locations require an appointment or forms to purchase any firearm.
STEP 3: KNOW THE FORMS
When you get to the Gun Shop, you’ll be asked to fill out a Form 4473. This form is a transaction record for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or “ATF,” and is required in order to purchase a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer or “FFL.”
The form will ask questions such as:
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Are you a fugitive from justice?
- Are you purchasing the firearm for another person (that is, making a strawman purchase)?
The form also requires you to provide information about yourself such as:
- Date of birth
To purchase a handgun from an FFL, you must be at least 21 years of age. Once you’ve correctly filled out the form, the sales clerk will ask you for your ID. This is generally a valid government-issued photo identification card or state-issued license or permit to carry a handgun.
Beginner Tip: Your ID MUST Match your current home address and sometimes they will require an additional form of proof such as a bill, or other document with your name and address- better arrive prepared!
STEP 4: SAFETY
Once you’ve found your firearm, completed the forms, and paid the fees for the gun and any other associated fees (based on where you live), the next step is: Safety.
Be sure to get all other necessary items to safely store your firearm! A holster with quality retention will ensure that your new gun won’t be going anywhere if you are carrying it, and a quality gun safe or lockbox will keep it out of unwanted hands when you aren’t around! When looking at gun safes, there are a few areas to consider:
- Where will you be storing the gun/safe? Chances are your first safe doesn’t need to take up an entire wall or room- so something small could be a good place to start
- What Type of safe are you wanting? There are safes that can be mountain to furitnature, stored in a drawer, or bolted to the ground.
- What locking system do you want? There are key locks, combination systems, electronic codes, and even biometric (fingerprint readers)- all with various pros and cons.
There is a great Pro/Cons list of various gun safes on NRA Family’s website for help on deciding. All in all, there are several trusted gun safes for under $200 that can align with your home safety needs.
Gun Safe link: https://www.nrafamily.org/articles/2018/1/16/how-to-choose-a-gun-safe
Beginner Tip: Consider asking the firearms realtiers what gun safes they stock and or suggest- they are in the business of knowing what works bs what new gun safe fads are out there!
Additionally, be sure to buy defensive hollow points, and a cleaning kit too! Maintenance and the right ammo and storage are all a part of being a gun owner, and a first gun, will need your focus to properly store and maintain the weapon.
STEP 5: KNOW YOUR STATE LAWS
Some would say this should be the first step, but not all States follow the same general guidelines- thus considering how your State works with gun ownership is something to also consider.
Some States require a waiting period from the time you purchase the gun, to when you can pick up and possess the firearm.
States Imposing Waiting Periods for Purchases of All Firearms:
Giffords Law Center outlines those waiting periods as follows:
- California – 10 days
- District of Columbia – 10 days
- Florida – 3 days or the time it takes to complete required background checks, whichever occurs later
- Hawaii – 14 days
- Illinois – 72 hours
- Rhode Island – 7 days
Firearm Safety Certificate
Two states—California and Washington—require prospective firearm purchasers to first obtain a certificate showing that they have completed required firearm safety training. California requires this for all firearms, Washington requires it only for semi automatic rifles.
There is an online Firearms Safety Certificate training guide to help you prepare for the exam.
Purchasing your first firearm is the start of your firearm and carry journey. While our guide is aimed to help get you started off on the right foot, it does not replace asking information from a trusted source, friend or family member who has owned a weapon, and looking into your specific needs and plans for gun ownership.