By Travis Pike – NRA firearm instructor and Marine Infantry veteran
Purchasing a firearm is a big step in someone’s life. If you’ve never owned a firearm this is a major, even life changing, event. New gun owners tend to make a few mistakes. I know this as a concealed carry instructor and I see new shooters at my course all the time. Here are the top ten mistakes I see new gun owners make the most.
#1. Using a Cheap Holster or Sling
This is the worst. I understand being on a budget but a cheaper can holster can be dangerous in a multitude of ways. A cheap nylon holster that is designed to be universal is a very poor option for carrying a gun. The same goes for some Chinese made nylon sling that proclaim itself tactical. Both can be dangerous and unreliable.
A poor holsters offers horrid retention and can be downright dangerous when it comes to carry a firearm concealed. It accidentally coming out is a major issue. Let’s not forget the potential for the holster’s material getting inside the trigger guard and pulling the trigger. A poorly made sling maybe cheap, but is likely to break with Chinesium bending and cheap materials tearing and fraying. My suggestions for a quality budget option? The Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling and an Alien Gear holster are both affordable and quality pieces of gear.
Related: DIY: Bedside Holster System
#2. Getting a Light Trigger Job
If you are a sport shooter then a light trigger can be very beneficial to you. For self defense though a light trigger isn’t always the best option. In a stressful situation too light of a trigger may cause you to have a negligent discharge. Secondly a light trigger means you’ve changed the gun from stock. The gun is proven to work with stock parts, is it proven to work with a trigger job? Is the trigger reliable? Did competent gunsmith install it? If not you may face reliability issues as well. A half pound AR 15 trigger is not a good option for a home defense rifle.
#3. Trying to Replace Skill with Accessories
No matter how many do dads or gizmos you attach your rifle, handgun, or shotgun you won’t be a better shooter. You are likely making your weapon heavier, and doing nothing to make you better. A good shot is going to be a good shot regardless of accessories. The only way to buy skill is to buy, training, and hitting the range.
Related: Futuristic Looking Rifles and Guns
#4. Forgetting (or not learning) the Fundamentals
You always fall back to the lowest level of training you have mastered, and that should be the fundamentals. Learning the fundamentals is the necessary building block to becoming a better shooter. Shooting fundamentals are divided into proper sight picture, sight alignment, breath control, trigger pull, grip, stance, and follow through. Mastering these fundamentals seems boring, but is the key to success when it comes to safely handling guns.
#5. Not Securing a Firearm(s)
Buying a firearm isn’t just buying a gun. There should be room in the budget for ammo, a holster or sling, and a way to secure it. It doesn’t have to be a full on safe, but at the very least a lock that goes through the action. This doesn’t prevent theft, but keeps anyone from easily accessing the gun. If a gun is not in your direct control it needs to be secured in some manner. Be it a safe, a lock, or completely disassembled.
#6. Not Understanding Ammunition Types
There are wide varieties of different forms of ammunition for different purposes. Using a type of ammunition outside of it’s purpose can be dangerous. Self-defense firearms should be loaded with self-defense ammunition. Good hollow or soft point ammunition, it prevents over penetration. A full metal jacket load will zip through a target and have the potential to harm others. Hollow point, frangible, and soft point ammunition is less likely to overpenetrate and harm others.
Related: How And Where To Store Ammo
#7. Buying the Wrong Firearm
So to be clear there is no objective wrong firearm. However, there is wrong firearms for certain purposes and certain people. For concealed carry your best bet isn’t going to be a S&W 500 Magnum revolver. In some cases a person with reduced hand strengths or arthritis may be served better by a revolver than automatic if they can’t effectively rack the slide. At the same time a 12 gauge shotgun is great for home defense, but smaller people may have trouble handling it.
Buy a gun that fits your purpose, your skill level, and your physical needs. Never go too big, that’s dangerous. If you can’t handle a particular firearm effectively then you can’t handle it safely.
#8. Relying on a Manual Safety
A manual safety is designed as a secondary mechanical safety. The primary safety is the 6 to 8 inches between your ears. Your brain and ability to be a safe gun handler is way more important than any manual safety. Manual safeties can and do fail, ask Remington about their Model 700 safety. It may be comforting to have a firearm with a manual safety but do not simply depend on that safety to keep your firearm safe.
#9. Forgetting to Maintain the Gun
A gun doesn’t need to be cleaned each and every day of the week, even a carry gun. However, guns need to be cleaned on occasion. Not only when they’ve been fired, but when they’ve ben exposed to the elements. This is especially true for concealed carry guns who may be exposed to sweat or pocket lint. I’d clean a gun exposed to the world at least once a month if concealed carried.
A dirty, and rusty gun that goes click when you need it most is seriously dangerous.
#10. Not Memorizing the 4 Safety Rules
The 4 Gun Safety rules always apply. During my time in the military before every range we recited the 4 safety rules. To this day they are scorched into my memory. I end the article with these 4 safety rules to get the point across as best I can. If you follow these rules you’ll be safe with each and every firearm. These four rules were written by Gun Guru Jeff Cooper.
- All guns are always loaded.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
- Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified
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