7 Things You Should Know Before Buying A Handgun

7 Thing you should know before Buying a Handgun

There are plenty of things to think about when buying a handgun.  In fact there are so many things to consider you could read multiple books and not know everything.  Here are just a few basic tips for buying a handgun.

What will you use the gun for?

Hand gunBefore buying a handgun consider what you’ll use it for.  Many people enjoy target shooting, or better know as plinking.  Others are interested in self-protection.  Then there’s competition shooting.  Whether this is your first handgun or 10th you should know what you want to do with it. As all handguns aren’t made equal.


Are you buying it for target practice only?  If so what kind of targets?  How far will you be shooting?  If all you want to do is target shoot a .22LR maybe perfect for you.  Size also matters less if you aren’t worried about concealing your gun.  Nor does it matter if you can’t find a good holster for this gun.


Are you looking for self-protection?  Do you plan on concealed carrying your gun?  The answered to these questions make a big difference on the size and caliber of your gun.  You most likely don’t want a .22LR for self-defense.  On the flip side if you plan on concealing your gun it will be pretty hard to cover up a .44 Desert Eagle.


If you plan on competition shooting, that leads to a whole different type of gun.  It really depends on what competition you want to shoot in. You’ll need to know the competition rules and classification you are lan to shoot in before you buy a handgun.


Know Your Local Laws

You should always know your local gun laws.  Each state has different requirements for buying a handgun.  Some cities even have more laws than the state does.  Nebraska requires anyone purchasing a handgun to get a pistol purchase permit first.  This is just a $5 background check good for 3 years.

The city of Lincoln has certain misdemeanors that exclude you from owning a gun in the city.  All though you can own a gun the rest of the state.  The permit is good for the whole state so you may be approved for a permit even though you can’t own a gun in the city you live.  Omaha requires you register all handguns, unless you have a Concealed Carry Permit.  Other states have magazine capacity laws, and at least one state has a restriction on having hollow point ammunition.

Types of Hand Guns

buying a hnadgunThere are two basic types of handguns.  The revolver and the semi-automatic.


Revolvers seem to be the easiest to use for new owners.  You load ammo into the cylinder and fire.  It’s almost that simple.  There are two trigger options for shooting a revolver.

The first one is called a double action trigger.  This is where the first shot requires a long trigger pull that pulls the hammer back for you before you shoot.  This can feel funny to some shooters since the next shot will have the hammer already pulled back. When the hammer is back the trigger pull will be much shorter causing it to feel different from the first shot.

The next trigger is call a single action.  This is where you must pull the hammer back before you can shoot.  Once the hammer is back the trigger will feel the same every time.  Many people like this for a safety issue since as along as the hammer isn’t pulled back the gun can’t be fired by accidentally pulling the trigger.

Glock handgunSemi-auto

The semi-automatic handgun is the other type of gun.  Semi-auto’s have more movie parts, and hold their ammo in a magazine (not to be confused with a clip).  Most of them have a slide on the top that you pull back to chamber a round and make it ready to fire.  When you fire the slide comes back automatically and chambers the next round for you.  Since you still have to pull the trigger again before it will fire these are only semi-auto.

There are two classifications of semi-auto handguns.  Hammer fired and striker-fired.  Many hammer fired guns have either the standard double action trigger, or they have a double action single action trigger where the first shot acts like a double action and every follow-up shot acts like a single action trigger.  The striker fired guns have a double action only trigger.

Popular Calibers

Handgun AmmoThe most popular handgun calibers are (smallest to largest) .22LR, .380, 9mm, .40 S&W, 45ACP, 10mm, 38SPL, .357, 44 magnum. So you have a size picture.  The calibers are labeled in the size of bullet diameter.  You will notice some listed in inches and others listed in millimeters.  This is because the 9mm, and 10mm where designed for guns that where first build in country’s that use the metric system.   You may realize that the 10mm, .38SPL, and .357 listed after the .45ACP in order of size even though the bullet is smaller around.  This is because they have a larger case than the .45ACP.

The 3 most common calibers for semi-auto handguns are 9mm, .40S&W, and 45ACP.  While you could spend hours learning ballistics and the finer points on what makes them different.  The fact is they are all good calibers for self-defense, and all around shooting fun.  The 9mm does have a slight advantage over the others when it comes to cost.  If you are looking of a self-defense gun that is cheap to practice with, 9mm is the way to go.

Try them out

buying a handgunMany ranges offer gun rentals.  When you figure out the guns you’re interested in buying, its a great idea to spend a few dollars and rent one to shot.  Many times just handling a gun in the store doesn’t tell you enough.  You can get a slight feel of the trigger in the store, but shooting tells you exactly what you need to know.  Sometimes a gun that feels good in your hand doesn’t shoot well for you.  Firing a handgun will let you know how much recoil it has.  Not all handguns of the same caliber have the same recoil.  If you don’t have a range near by to rent a gun from, at least see if any of your friends have a few different guns they will let you shoot.

Find the right dealer

There are plenty of places that will sell you a gun.  However finding a place that will take time with you is priceless.  Many gun stores treat their customers poorly and rush you to a sale.  Stay away from these.  Walmart sells firearms but most their sales associates only know what the tag says.  Many of the large outdoor sporting stores aren’t much better.  When you find a dealer that will spend time with you explaining buying a handgun, get it from them.   Even if the cost is $50 more than somewhere else.  That time they spend with you is worth the extra cost.  Plus if you have a problem you know they will be there to help you.

Get Training

Whether you are buying your first gun or 10th gun you need training.  It’s possible to go to the range every day and figure out how to shot it, hitting paper ever every time.  However, there are only so many things you can do with practice.  Unless your goals are to hit the same size target from the same distance every time you’ll need training to learn the secrets that allow you to make those difficult shots.

There are plenty of places to get training.  Most people start with their concealed carry permit.  This training can be ok.  Places like the NRA, and Massad Ayoob are great places. You can also look for local instructors like Ben Branam at Modern Self Protection, and ranges like Nebraska Shooters offer training.  You can even get internet only training from sites like Pantrao Productions.  If all else fails there are plenty of Podcasts that  teach you about firearms.   Just make sure when you find an instructor that they are themselves dedicated to taking training.  You should never trust an instructor that thinks he knows it all.  They rarely do.  Also make sure you feel safe with the trainer you select.  He should follow the rules of gun safety.


If you keep in mind these 7 things when you are buying a handgun you won’t regret your purchase.  Whatever the reason you buy a gun.  Owning a handgun should be fun and enjoyful.   If you do your research and think about what you really want you’ll enjoy your gun for a long time.  As with every purchase it’s all about the knowledge of the item.

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