At the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic, people started to freak out and guns started flying off the shelf. We have an influx of new gun owners from disaster… and to add fuel to the fire, with these nationwide riots going on and people realizing that the police won’t always be able to help you… as the old saying goes, “when seconds count, police are only minutes away.” More and more people are buying guns at a record pace to be able to defend themselves and their families. With all of this new blood, I wanted to make an article with advice that I have for new gun owners and to go over the safety rules of firearms. If your an experienced shooter, this is all bread and butter, but if you know someone about to purchase or has recently purchased their first defensive firearm, send this article to them.
You are making a very important purchase if you haven’t made it already. You are most likely making a purchase that your life and your family’s lives could count on one day. While 99.9% of your life, you will never have to use a gun, that 0.1% time that you have to use your gun for self-defense could be 100% of your life. So do your research and make sure that the gun you get is reliable. Don’t just go out and buy the cheapest one you can get, save up and buy a reputable gun, do your research.
Don’t just get a gun and think you’re safe, you need to train!! I get very irritated when someone owns a gun and doesn’t shoot it at all or often enough, especially with handguns. Handgun shooting is a very perishable skill and if you don’t shoot enough, you will lose the ability to shoot well. Pair that with the stress of being in a home defense situation, you will miss your shot. If you have purchased a rifle, make sure it’s sighted in. Having a rifle, or a gun that’s not sighted in, is just irresponsible.
Now that that rant is over, most importantly… have fun! If you don’t have fun shooting, you won’t shoot, and if you don’t shoot, you won’t be a proficient shooter. Shooting is exhilarating! You are very literally holding a controlled explosion in your hands within arm’s length of your face. It gets really fun if you get into long-range shooting. Once you get to about 300 yards and more so 400 yards, you will see the steel target move before you hear the sound of the bullet hitting the steel. It makes me smile every time! And if shooting fast is your thing, that can also be a lot of fun. Especially if you get into competitions, you can meet a lot of cool people and have a good time doing it.
Also, something that I learned the hard way, is never to make an impulse decision. I had a nice Bravo Company upper and because I wanted a free float rail instead of a massive quad rail, I sold the upper and bought a PSA upper instead, not that PSA isn’t good, but BCM back then was the gold standard. Knowing what I know now, I could have made it a free float rifle with the handguard I want in 30 minutes or less. Don’t just buy something because it’s the latest and greatest, let it prove itself. I sold that complete BCM upper for $300. I took a $300 loss on it just to have what I wanted. Wasn’t worth it.
Some other general advice I give to people is to own a few extra magazines. You don’t have to go all out and have 7 or 8 or 20 mags but have at least 3 or 4. Magazines should be considered disposable. You won’t be picking up magazines during a self-defense situation.
For rifle purchasers, MLOK is the way to go for a handguard, not keymod. MLOK is proven to be more durable and consistent, as well as the army is moving to it and less stuff is being made for keymod. If you can get a free-float keymod handguard on a good deal, it will work just fine, but more and more stuff is being made for MLOK, not keymod. For those of you that don’t know, MLOK, Keymod, and Picatinny rails are how you mount accessories to your rifle.
Dry fire is a great way to practice the fundamentals of shooting without costing you anything. I am a much better shooter when I dry fire more often. To dry fire, you do break some of the safety rules so you have to be extra careful to have absolutely no ammo in the same room. Dry firing has made me a much better shooter fundamentally and has helped me get better at different shooting positions. Do it once a week, focus on the front sight alignment and trigger control.
Finally, competitions are a great way to test your skills. You may think you are a good shooter when shooting on your own or with some friends, but once you go to a competition and have a timer and are competing against other people… your mechanics seem to disappear and you all of a sudden forget how to do a reload. Competition is a great way to see your weaknesses come through and see what you need to work on. If you don’t want to do a competition, get a timer, and start timing yourself, you would be amazed at the stress you put on yourself to go faster when you are being timed. USPSA competition finder can be accessed here. It’s worth the drive of an hour or two to attend a match. (EDITOR: Don’t psych yourself out. Come willing to learn, and let them know it’s your first time. They will squad you with their best teachers and other new shooters, GURUNTEED)
As long as you follow the safety rules, you will be fine handling guns minus some sort of catastrophic failure.
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
- Never point your gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are aiming at your target
- Know your target and what is beyond it
And my personal rule is physically to check the chamber when unloading your gun. I have pulled the charging handle on an SKS before, thought the gun was empty, followed rule number 2 in case the gun went off and aimed into the hillside across my creek, and pulled the trigger, nothing happened, pulled the charging handle again and out comes a live round with a light primer strike. I got lucky and was a ghost for about 30 minutes before I touched the gun again. So check the chamber. But the other 4 rules are the universal gun safety rules. As long as you treat every gun as if it were loaded, not aim it at your friends or animals thinking it’s funny, keep your finger off the trigger so you don’t accidentally pull it in case your gun is loaded, and don’t shoot off into the abyss, you will be fine. The first three rules are pretty straight forward, the fourth one, not so much
Rule number 4, know your target and what is beyond it. What this means is that if you put a cardboard target up on flat land and shoot it, the bullet doesn’t just stop, it keeps going. Shooting into a hillside, burm, ground, etc. stops the bullet from traveling further than you intended it. This also translates to self-defense uses. The bullet will possibly go through your intended target, or miss, go through your wall, your neighbor’s wall, and hopefully not hit your neighbor, so it’s important to have good self-defense ammo to help with this for home defense situations. Identify no-shoot lanes in your own home to minimize the risk of hitting something behind a thin barrier (drywall).
First Attachments for your Firearm:
There are many things you will want to put on your gun, most likely before you even start shooting you will have an idea of what you want your gun to look like. It can look like whatever you want it to, but these are the things you should have first.
- A light
A light source is number one because you can’t shoot what you can’t see. This is also only for any gun that MIGHT have the possibility of being used in a home defense situation. If it’s a competition gun for your first gun, that’s a different story, but we are focusing on practical gun uses, so home defense equals you NEED a light. You need to KNOW your target can’t do that in the dark without a light. Nothing would ruin your day more than shooting a family member because you couldn’t identify them. Good luck in prison too.
I will be doing an article on LPVO vs Red dot eventually, but for this, you need a way to aim your gun. So that means either iron sights, an LPVO, or a red dot. Irons are fine if that’s what came with your gun and you can only get a light or a red dot, get the light and stick with irons. Irons are very easy to use especially at close distances. However, if you want to upgrade to a nicer sight like a red dot or LPVO, get a red dot sight. Mainly because they have a better price to performance ratio. You can get a good, dependable red dot for $250 or less very easily. An LPVO you are looking at upwards of $400-$500 starting. Red dots have an easier learning curve and are very reliable at a much lower price point, which is why I recommend red dots to new shooters for home defense. You can use an LPVO for home defense, but you need a little more training than a stupid simple RDS.
3. A sling
A sling is a personal preference. Some may want them on a home defense gun in case the burglar gets too close and tries to overpower you and take your gun. Some may want it if you have a kid or a dog in one hand, or even if you get injured in one arm, you can use your sling as extra support. You may not want a sling because in the middle of the night it might get in the way. It could cause a malfunction for us lefties or you might just fumble with it and have it slow you down. It’s a personal preference but if you have this gun also for a bug out/boogaloo/shtf/ whatever else you want to call it, you will need a sling to carry your rifle around. Also, in case you haven’t figured it out, slings are only for rifles, not for handguns. Handguns, however… do need a good holster. Form fitted Kydex is best. Skip the nylon Uncle Mikes. Trust me.
The biggest thing about having a gun is that it is a big responsibility. While it’s a big responsibility, it can also be a LOT of fun! When it comes to being serious, make sure you have a light on your self-defense firearm and don’t impulse buy things… try to do some research if time allows it. Don’t go into a gun store relying on the guy behind the counter to suggest the perfect gun for you. Know what you need before you go in, there are too many gun store workers that give out bad information and recommend their favorite gun, which might not be what you need.