Helping Someone Buy Their First Gun


Most of us have friends who are not nearly as gun savvy as we are. Some of them have friends who (perish the thought) don’t even own a gun.

How can we as the subject matter expert, help these people come into the fold and buy an appropriate choice for their needs?

The simple answer is be quiet and listen to their needs/desire for their first gun.

Ask pertinent questions regarding how they came to recognize the desire/need for themselves, and what factored into them deciding to join the gun community.

By starting the conversation by listening, you will learn a lot. You may learn they have false ideas.

They may have done great research. But you will certainly learn a lot more about their motivation, which is likely significantly different than yours.

Once you know the why, then next thing is to explore the options they have considered.

I will look at two common reasons for buying a first gun: buying for concealed carry and buying for home defense.

Buying for Concealed Carry

Many people are looking at the world around them and figuring out that with defund the police, stand-down orders and antifa violence, they are the only ones they can really count on in an emergency.

It is quite common for people with this new revelation to want a concealed-carry gun.

That is far from a bad choice, but how can we help them find the correct option?

The worst thing we can do is take out our carry gun and justify our purchase by telling them to buy what we have.

The next worst thing would be saying, most police use a GLOCK 17 or 22, so that is what you need too.

Some people are revolver people. Others like semi-autos.

Neither camp is right or wrong, it is a matter of personal preference and using different keys to open the same lock. 

I have 20 years of concealed carry experience and I routinely carry a full-sized M&P 9mm, two spare magazines and a back-up gun.

I carried a GLOCK 17 for years and it worked well, but I figure out the blocky nature of the GLOCK grip caused me to reposition my hands between shots.

The rounded ergonomics of the M&P eliminated that.

For the new shooter, it will be much simpler having someone explain some of the why’s of comfort and recoil control as they sample various platforms.

They can let their hands tell them what might work for them and more importantly what doesn’t.

A really good choice would be to learn about their shooting experience.

Find out how they want to carry the concealed gun, then help them to figure out what works for their experience, strength, hand size and recoil tolerance.

The simplest way to do this is to take them to a gun store to test hand fit as well as form-factor for concealment.

Once this first step is done, help them to test-fire the options that seem to work well at the gun store.

Sending three to five rounds downrange will quickly eliminate the poor ergonomic choices and can help determine their effective accuracy with that gun.

handgun in hand in holster

Buying for Home Defense

For many people, the carry choice also works as their home-defense gun.

But, for those who do not plan on carrying, it opens up lots of additional possibilities.

A GLOCK 43-sized gun might be the carry choice due to ease of concealment. That isn’t a concern with a bedside or nightstand gun.

A Smith and Wesson Longslide is just as comfortable sitting in a drawer as a GLOCK 43.

In addition, some people choose an AR or a shotgun as their home-defense option. There are pros and cons of any choice. 

My personal opinion is the deafening sound of an AR being discharged inside the house is not worth the gain and there is also a huge overpenetration issue to consider.

That being said, I have a suppressed AR pistol (subsonic .300 Blackout) as a bedside gun.

For me, an AR in a pistol caliber or some of the subsonic options (.300 Blackout or .458 SOCOM) makes more sense than 5.56 NATO.

It is also partly a function of if you live in a high-rise condo or in a two-story single-family home on 200 acres.

The condo is much less AR (5.56) friendly, in that thin walls may put neighbors at risk.

The other side is, almost anyone stronger than a six-year-old girl can successfully handle an AR.

The shotgun option is much more complicated. I would strongly suggest a tactical (+/- 18”) barrel as they are much less cumbersome.

Then, the decision of caliber needs to be decided.

If the gun is to be used by all members of the family, 12-gauge might not be the best choice, especially a pump gun.

In my opinion, 16-gauge and 28-gauge are completely out. Load selection is poor and tends to be very expensive compared to 12-gauge or 20-gauge.

The 20-gauge is a very useful choice when people of varied sizes and skills may need to use it.

The hitting power is still quite strong and in non-youth models, the weight of the shotgun greatly offsets recoil.

The barrel also needs to be on the shorter end here, as a 24” barrel makes for difficult use in the tight confines of a home.

But the biggest issue with any choice in shotguns will be making sure all users can handle the ergonomics of the gun and recoil of the shells.

There are .410 Bore choices as well. If that is all the recoil someone can handle, it can be a useful choice.

That being said, it has a lot less hitting power than 20-gauge. It has all the size disadvantages of the larger choices with fairly anemic stopping power.

I would almost suggest that a .410 revolver (Taurus or Smith and Wesson) might be the better choice if .410 is the chosen load.

With these, you get a smaller platform to wield and very similar hitting power compared to the longer barreled options.

You also have the flexibility of choosing .45 Colt loads as well. 

woman looking at new handgun at counter

My First Gun

My first gun purchase was a GLOCK 17. I bought it because I was not planning to carry (I was not able to due to age).

It was a home-defense and target-shooting option. Considering those desires, it was a fair choice.

If I had been planning on using it for carry purposes, it would have been poor for me at the time.

Later, as I became involved in the daily carry of a gun, I chose much smaller choices.

As I matured and decided I would work to make a large gun practical, I came to realize (for me) carrying a full-sized pistol was not difficult or awkward.

That evolution took several years and several gun choices before I stepped up to full-sized carry.

The good news is, the smaller options work very well as my BUG.

What was your first gun? Let us know in the comments section below!

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