There are many types of guns available for purchase in the United States, the most common ones being rifles, pistols, and shotguns. But even within each of those categories, you will find a wide variety of options. The first question you need to ask yourself when purchasing your first firearm is “What do I plan to do with this gun?” In this article, we will discuss the most common uses of guns, and which type of gun is best for each intended use. We will also look at examples of these guns and what you can expect to spend on your first purchase, not only on the gun itself, but on ammunition and training as well.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that there are approximately 13.7 million hunters in the United States. Of those hunters, 12.7 million of them use either a rifle, shotgun, or pistol to hunt with. What you plan to hunt will determine what gun you want to buy. Generally, hunting mammals such as deer, elk, hogs, rabbits, and squirrels will require a rifle with a scope. If you plan on hunting birds such as ducks, turkey, geese, or doves, you will want a shotgun. The reason for this generalization is simple. When you hunt mammals, you camouflage yourself and wait for the animal to walk close enough to you to get an accurate shot. When you shoot at a bird, however, it is usually flying (except for turkeys). When you fire a shotgun shell, it disperses many small rounds as opposed to one round, like a rifle does. The spread of a shotgun shell is more effective at hitting a smaller, moving target than a single rifle round would be.
Some of the best hunting rifles are made by Remington, Marlin, or Henry. Some popular shotgun brands are Remington, Mossberg, and Benelli.
Concealed carry is one of the fasted growing categories of gun ownership in the United States today. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, there are 14.5 million concealed carry permit holders in the United States today. In fact, 2016 was the largest increase in a single year, with 1.73 million new concealed carry permits issued. There are also 11 states that do not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon, so the statistics do not provide a complete picture of the number of adults carrying concealed weapons.
I do not recommend anyone pursue their concealed carry permit until they are comfortable and confident handling a handgun. This requires many hours of training and many rounds fired at a range. Once you are comfortable handling a gun, the next step is to find a concealed carry course offered near you. A quick Google search can usually produce a number of classes that are being offered. Each class is slightly different because each state’s carry laws are slightly different. Your instructor will give you the best information based on your state laws. Most classes will be a combination of classroom instruction, an overview of gun laws in your state, and hands on shooting or “qualification”. Some states require you to qualify with the type of gun you will be carrying (pistol or revolver). Also, check the cost of your concealed carry courses around you. Most courses cost around $100.
Once you have your concealed carry permit, you will need to decide what type of gun you want to carry. The two choices you have are a semi-automatic pistol, or a revolver. There are benefits and drawbacks with each choice. The semi-automatic is the weapon of choice for the majority of CCW holders. The biggest benefit of the semi-automatic is its larger magazine capacity. A Glock 23, for example, can hold 13+1 rounds (13 rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber). This is more than twice the capacity of most revolvers, which usually hold five or six rounds, at most. However, semi-automatics are more susceptible to malfunctions such as misfeeds and jams. Revolvers, because of their simple mechanics, do not jam or misfeed, and are therefore more reliable than semi-automatics. That is not to say that a well maintained semi-automatic pistol is expected to jam, just that it is possible.
The last consideration you need to make is how to conceal your newly acquired pistol. A good holster is the first thing you need. There are a number of holster options to choose from, including shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, and pocket holsters. But the most common is the waistband holster. For this, there are two categories to choose from. A holster that sits inside of the waistband (IWB), and one that sits outside of the waistband (OWB). An IWB is more concealable but can be uncomfortable at times when sitting. The OWB is much more comfortable but will not conceal as well as an IWB. You should also consider wearing a long shirt or jacket to cover the gun in its holster, to make it truly concealed.
The final category of gun ownership I will address is home defense. Many people don’t feel comfortable carrying a gun on their body every day, but want one at home to protect their family in the event of a break-in. For home defense, a rifle, shotgun, or pistol can all be used. Your comfort level with firearms, and you home situation play important factors in which gun you decide to use. We will look at the pros and cons of each type of firearm.
A shotgun makes a great home defense weapon because it can be fired without much aiming. A typical home invasion shooting happens within about 7 feet, from homeowner to intruder. At 7 feet, a shotgun loaded with buckshot or birdshot can be fired from the hip, or an unaimed shot from the shoulder, and be devastatingly effective. Because of this, shotguns are popular for home defense. In a home defense situation, I would recommend a short-barreled shotgun with a pistol grip for maximum maneuverability within your home.
If you choose to use a rifle for home defense, there are some things you need to consider. Rifles fire a high-power round, compared to both shotguns and pistols. The higher muzzle velocity means that a rifle round fired inside a home has the potential to pass through its intended target, as well as through walls, doors, windows, etc. If you live in an apartment, or in a home with children or other adults in the home, you might reconsider using a rifle as a home defense weapon. Rifles do, however, have some benefit if used in the right situation. The AR-15 fires a .223 caliber round, which is a lower power round than most rifles. That means that it is less likely to pass through its target and do unintended damage. The AR-15 also holds 30 rounds in its magazine, far more than most shotguns or pistols can hold.
The most common firearm used for home defense is still the pistol. Both semi-automatics and revolvers are used for this purpose. One feature that many people like in a home defense handgun is an attached aiming laser, or an attached flashlight. These products can be purchased and added to a handgun to increase its effectiveness in a home defense situation. The handgun has many advantages over both the rifle and the shotgun. Mobility and maneuverability are far and away better with a handgun. However, with the shorter barrel on a handgun, proper aiming is much more important. That’s why laser aiming devices such as Crimson Trace are so popular. You just place the red dot on your target and pull the trigger.
With any firearm that is kept at home, it’s important that you store your guns in a safe manner. Many companies make bedside safes that you can quickly access your home defense handgun in the event of a break-in.
The cost of guns varies widely, but you can expect to spend at minimum several hundred dollars. An affordable, quality concealed carry pistol, such as the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm currently runs about $400 – $500. You can buy it here. A hunting rifle or shotgun will be a little more expensive than that, a Remington Model 700 chambered in .308 caliber will run you about $500 – $600 You can find one here. If you plan to purchase an AR-15, for home defense or just for target practice, plan on spending anywhere from $500 – $1200 currently. Click here to purchase your first AR-15.
Ammunition is another major cost to consider when owning a firearm. Ammunition costs have gone up considerably over the past 8-10 years. They have come down some over the past year but are still relatively high. The larger the round, the more expensive ammunition will cost. .50 caliber BMG rounds cost about $1.00 per round, while .22 LR rounds can be as cheap as $0.04 per round. If you plan on shooting often, it’s a good idea to buy ammunition in bulk. You can often get it for a lower cost per round that way. Purchasing your bulk ammunition online through sites like Lucky Gunner allow you to search for the lowest cost per round and save by buying 500 or 1000 rounds at one time. The downside of buying ammo online is that bullets are heavy, and you often have to pay expensive shipping costs.
Almost everyone knows someone who owns a gun, or multiple guns. If you are thinking about buying your first gun, talk with the people you know and ask for their assistance. Most responsible gun owners are more than happy to help you with your first gun purchase.