Advice For The New Gun Owner


This is advice for the new gun owner. (If you’re reading this in the future, the year 2020 saw us fighting a pandemic. You obviously survived it if you’re reading this, and the infected obviously didn’t take over the planet as expected. Or did they?)

So You’re A New Gun Owner

Let me preface this post by saying it is not meant to scare you. My intent is to share with you what millions of responsible gun owners know so that your experience will be a pleasant one. Many hard-learned lessons over the years have shaped our understanding and use of firearms, so there’s no need for you to make the same mistakes others have had. So, welcome to our fraternity and read on.

The 2020 pandemic which, at the time of this writing is still raging, brought to light many inadequacies that we ignored for many years. For instance, rather than food, clothing, etc. it was apparently determined that toilet paper would become the coin of the realm upon the total collapse of society. It also seemed to make people realize that they and they alone were responsible for their personal safety. So, along with household essentials, Americans decided it was time to gun up. 

Safety Is Paramount

A gun is nothing more than an assembly of metal, wood, and/or plastic to form a tool. Like any tool, how it is used determines how safe it is in the hands of the user. Doubtless, when you purchased your gun, you received little, if any, instructions on how to use it. Maybe you took the time to read the owner’s manual. Probably not. Maybe you only got as far as how to load your new gun. In any event, there are certain things you have to always be cognizant of when handling your or any gun.

We’ll start by getting you knowledgeable about the rules of safe gun handling.

Colonel Jeff Cooper defined the four rules of firearm safety that responsible gun owners live by. You probably know that rules are normally created because someone did something that resulted in, shall we say, a sub-optimal outcome. With firearms, this could be anything from minor embarrassment to death. So read and heed what the good Colonel wrote.

“All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.”

How many times have you heard of someone “accidentally” shooting themself or someone else while cleaning or handling an empty gun? We all know you can’t shoot something with an empty gun, so how does this happen? Obviously, it’s because the gun wasn’t actually empty. Anytime you’re handling a gun, always treat it as if it is loaded. Never assume a gun is unloaded. Never accept someone’s word that a gun is unloaded. If someone hands you a gun and tells you it’s unloaded, check it yourself. If you’re unfamiliar with the gun, have the person handing it to you show you that it is unloaded.

“Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)”

Never, ever point a gun at anything you do not plan to shoot. Remember, all guns are always loaded. Always be thinking about the consequences should that gun discharge. Where is that bullet going to go? And remember, bullets can pass through things. Know the path that bullet is going to take and what it will hit on its way to Mother Earth.

“Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule.”

Whether picking the gun up, drawing it from a holster, or just holding it in your hand, keep your finger off the trigger until you have made the conscious decision to fire the gun. That decision tree includes positively identifying what you are going to shoot, knowing everything in the path that bullet will take, and the outcome of firing that bullet.

And finally,

“Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.”

Remember that decision tree we talked about? Never shoot at movement, sounds, or anything else you haven’t positively identified as something you want a bullet to strike. 

Those four rules are immutable. Follow them and your gun ownership experience will be a pleasant one.

Get Training!

So now that you’re practicing safe and responsible gun handling, there are a few more things you need to know. I covered what a good instructor can do for you in this blog post a while back. But here are some of the things you need to know.

For starters, it’s important that you fully understand how your gun works mechanically, and what all the various levers and buttons do. In almost every concealed carry class I’ve taught there’s a new gun owner with a brand new gun that doesn’t know how to work it. You have to know your gun to truly responsibly handle it. 

Marksmanship, the dark art of making bullets go where you want them to, didn’t come included with your gun. This is something you have to learn and practice. And practice. And practice. Properly holding the gun, lining up the sights, breath control, trigger squeeze all contribute to making holes appear where you want them to. (If you’re a new shotgun owner, don’t believe the “all you have to do is point it and pull the trigger” advice you may have gotten from the gun counter guy.)

What type of ammunition to feed your new gun is also something you really need to know. Trust me, there’s a lot of advertising hype out there that ranges from merely hilarious claims to outright dangerous ones.

And while you can certainly find material on the interwebs, nothing compares to having a knowledgeable instructor to guide you.

So be safe, stay virus-free, and welcome to the club!




The Tactical Pirate

View posts by The Tactical Pirate
President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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