Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Make Your First Firearm Purchase

Choice is something that are all very thankful that we have the liberty of. However, too many choices can pose a dizzying amount of frustration when we are trying to limit our purchase to one ideal selection. A quick search of the internet reveals that there are between 750-1700 firearms manufacturers, over 200 handgun calibers/cartridges, with at least as many rifle calibers/cartridges to select from. With this many choices, how can you decide which one is right for you?

Certainly, there are decisions one has to make. Let's start with the easy questions. What do you intend to use the weapon for? If your answer is plinking or target shooting, this can drastically narrow the field. Consider the length of your normal range. Will you be shooting at other ranges that offer a longer distance to shoot at? Will you use the weapon for hunting? Is it primarily going to serve for self-defense or home defense? Are you intending to defend your home against ground squirrels or the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Each caliber has features that make it desirable for a specific purpose. A .22 or .22 long rifle (lr) has very low recoil, is readily available, and quite inexpensive. The firearms that shoot .22 caliber are also very inexpensive. In addition, there are modification barrels and actions available for many other firearms that allow a shooter to convert their firearm into something that can shoot and cycle .22 lr for practice purposes. Large calibers or what I will call specialty calibers like the .338 lapua magnum, or the .50 BMG, might be attractive for intimidation factor alone, but can cost nearly $7/shot. The firearms that shoot these calibers often start at over $5,000. Cost alone might deter someone from even considering these firearms for any legitimate use.

Hunting brings it's own unique considerations. In many parts of the country it is advisable to carry a sidearm in addition to a hunting rifle. The sidearm can be added protection against predators that may stalk you like prey while you are stalking your own kill. A hastened attack from a cougar may not leave you enough time to pull the rifle off of your shoulder, cycle a round into the chamber, and place an accurate shot in self-defense. A handgun on the hip, or in a chest rig, gives you easy access to a place a quick round on target and might be the difference between personal injury or taking out the animal attacking you.

Then there is the consideration of recoil. Larger calibers have more stopping power in most instances, but along with stopping power comes a heavy recoil. For a small person, recoil can be a very strong deterrent from the desire to purchase, "too much gun."

Largely, a firearm decision comes down to your personal decision about what you will use the firearm for. For a first purchase, a shotgun is an excellent choice that allows for hunting, home-defense, and target practice without breaking the budget. Different barrels make it possible to hunt waterfowl as well as large game and the sound of cycling the action on a pump shotgun is understood in every language as a sign that the person behind the weapon means business.

No matter what you are considering for your first purchase, there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips. There are recoil charts posted on the internet that can give you an idea of what you can expect to feel. My recommendation is to search your local sporting good store and see what ammunition is readily available. Bare counters and shelves above certain calibers can indicate that the caliber is unpopular or that ammunition will be hard to come buy. Look at the prices of the ammunition of the calibers you are considering. Do you plan to shoot a lot? Remember that every time you pull the trigger your spending money. How much do you want to spend for a day at the range?

Don't be afraid to lurk firearms forums and see what experienced shooters like and don't like about specific manufacturers. Like anything else you will get what you pay for and there's probably a reason that discount .45 auto loader is only $100 while the one beside it costs ten times that. In the end, it's up to you what you will go home with. Make sure you get what you want by asking yourself the right questions before hand.

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